Tag Archives: Alto Adige

Wine Review: St. Michael-Eppan, AA Sauvignon "Sanct Valentin" DOC 2013

St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon "Sanct Valentin" DOC Image courtesy of St. Michael-Eppan

St. Michael-Eppan, AA Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” DOC
Image courtesy of St. Michael-Eppan

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, there is just no other wine that comes to mind than St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” DOC 2013 ($34)¬†ūüėČ So, that is the wine that we are going to review today.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! ūüėČ

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Sauvignon Sanct Valentin was very good: it had an expressive bouquet with tertiary aromas well under control (thanks to its being aged mostly in stainless steel) and a great, coherent mouthfeel, where its high ABV and gentle smoothness were perfectly balanced by its intense sapidity and zippy acidity.

Rating: Very Good and Recommended¬†Very Good¬†‚Äď $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape Variety and the Appellation

Sauvignon Blanc is a white-berried grape variety originating from France.

Recent DNA analysis has identified a parent-offspring relationship between Savagnin (an old white-berried variety that is common in the Jura region of France) and Sauvignon Blanc and, there being much earlier documents mentioning Savagnin than Sauvignon Blanc, the former is believed to be the parent of the latter.

DNA results also support the thesis that, contrary to common belief, Sauvignon Blanc did not originate from the Bordeaux area, but rather from the Loire Valley in France, where documental evidence dates back to 1534 (compared to 1710 in Bordeaux).

However, it is interesting to note that, when Sauvignon Blanc was grown in the Bordeaux area, it spontaneously crossed with Cabernet Franc to create Cabernet Sauvignon.

In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in the 1970s and soon became the most widely grown variety in the country, especially in the Marlborough region.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 ‚Äď for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Producer and the Estate

St. Michael-Eppan is a cooperative winery that was founded in 1907 by 41 grapevine growers in the Eppan (AKA, Appiano) area, in the north-east Italian region of Alto Adige, and has by now expanded to encompass 340 farmers.

Out of the more than 1,000¬†HA of vineyards in the Eppan area, St. Michael-Eppan¬†manages 380 HA where both white-berried varieties (Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, M√ľller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Gewurztraminer)¬†and black-berried varieties (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Lagrein and Schiava) are grown.

The composition of the soils where St. Michael-Eppan’s vineyards are located is a mix of glacial moraine debris, limestone gravel and alluvial soils.

The Sankt Valentin vineyard, which sources the grapes for St. Michael-Eppan’s premium “Sanct Valentin” line,¬†measures 18 HA and is located at 1,800-2,035 ft (550-620 mt) above sea level on limestone gravel soils in the Eppan Berg area.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” DOC 2013.¬†As discussed, ‚ÄúSanct Valentin‚ÄĚ is the flagship line in St Michael-Eppan’s wine offering. The Sauvignon Sanct Valentin is available in the US where it retails at about $34.

The Sauvignon Sanct Valentin 2013 is a whopping 14.5% ABV and is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes harvested from 10 to 28 year-old vines at an elevation of about 1,970 ft (600 mt) above sea level in proximity to the town of Eppan/Appiano (in the Bolzano district). 90% of the wine is fermented in stainless steel vats and then aged for about 6 months on its lees, with the remaining 10% being fermented and aged in wood casks.

As usual, for my reviews I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher. For your own structured wine tastings, consider downloading our FsT Wine Tasting Chart!

In the glass, the wine was straw yellow and viscous.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with pleasant aromas of nettle, lime, grapefruit, herbaceous notes, boxwood, a touch of butter and mineral hints.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV, smooth; acidic and tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of grapefruit, lime and mineral notes. Its finish was long and its evolutionary state was ready (i.e., wonderful to enjoy now, but it might become even better and more complex if it rests two or three more years in your cellar).

Frittata Primavera – Recommended Wine Pairing

Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige Terlano Sauvignon "Quarz" DOCWell, it has been quite a while since our last food pairing post, so time to catch up on things…

Today we will pair Francesca’s frittata¬†primavera with a proper wine.

As we did in the past, we will base our choice on the ISA wine paring criteria: should you have missed my post about them, you may refer to it to get a better idea of what these are.

We will therefore start by identifying the main qualities of the food we want to pair a wine with, which in the case of the frittata are: latent sweetness, fatness, some greasiness and latent acidity due to the use of tomatoes; also, we can classify Francesca’s frittata as a dish with medium structure.

St. Michael Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon "Sanct Valentin" DOCAs we know, using the ISA wine pairing criteria, these qualities are going to dictate the corresponding characteristics that we want our wine to possess, which are (in the same orider as above): good acidity, tastiness/minerality, decent ABV and smoothness, plus the wine we seek should be medium-bodied or thereabouts.

In light of these desired characteristics, our choice has fallen on a Sauvignon Blanc. In an effort to spread the knowledge that Italy also produces quality wines from international varieties, we will focus our recommendations on a few Italian 100% Sauvignon Blancs that are definitely worth trying out, if you have a chance:

Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige Terlano Sauvignon “Quarz” DOC, a delicious wine that ages for 9 months on its lees (partly in steel vats and partly in wood barrels) and boasts a pleasing bouquet of citrus, Granny Smith apple, exotic fruit, herbs and minerals

Vie di Romans, Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte Sauvignon "Piere" DOCSt. Michael Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” DOC, a very good wine from the winery’s flagship “Sanct Valentin” line, that ages for 6 months on its lees (88% in steel vats and 12% in wood barrels) and has fine aromas of citrus, grapefruit, white flowers, herbs and iodine notes

Vie di Romans, Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte Sauvignon “Piere” DOC, a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc made of grapes harvested from a vineyard with an excellent density of 6,000 vines/HA that ages for 7 months on its lees in steel vats and seduces the senses with a captivating bouquet of lemon, tangerine, sage, almond and minerals

Manincor, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Lieben Aich” DOC, a very interesting wine that undergoes spontaneous fermentation through the use of natural yeasts, ages on its lees for ten months in oak barrels and has elegant aromas of citrus, exotic fruit, herbs, white flowers and minerals

Manincor, Alto Adige Sauvignon "Lieben Aich" DOCVilla Russiz, Collio Sauvignon “De La Tour” DOC, an elegant wine that ages¬†for 7 months on its lees in steel vats and¬†possesses a complex bouquet of apple, kiwi, white flowers, citrus, herbs and iodine notes.

Enjoy, and as always, if you happen to try out any of these wines,  let me know how you like them!

Wine Review: Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein "Abtei Muri" Riserva 2007 DOC

Today’s review is about a northern Italian red wine that I particularly love (Muri-Gries,¬†Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva DOC 2007 – $38) which¬†is made from an Italian indigenous grape variety that in my view undeservedly gets too little attention in the wine world:¬†Lagrein.

Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein "Abtei Muri" Riserva DOC

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Abtei Muri was an extremely good, marvelously smooth, fruit-forward wine with supple tannins and good structure, an ideal companion to a red meat dinner. I think that with a couple more years of evolution under its belt, this wine may become truly spectacular: I will have to look for one more bottle from the 2007 vintage, if I can find one!

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended, given its great QPR Outstanding Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

The earliest mention of Lagrein is contained in a 1318 document found (of all places!) in Gries, near Bolzano, and surprisingly it refers to a white wine, that researchers have not been able to identify yet. Instead, the first reference to the red Lagrein that we know dates back to 1526.

Recent DNA analysis proved that Lagrein is a variety that is indigenous to the Alto Adige region of Italy, that it originated as a natural cross between Teroldego and an unknown variety and that, among other cool facts, it is a sibling of Marzemino and a cousin of Syrah!

In Italy, Lagrein is mostly grown in the northern regions of Alto Adige and Trentino. Outside of Italy, Lagrein can be found in California (Paso Robles) and Australia.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 Рfor more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Appellation

A few words about the appellation. Alto Adige is a portion of the northern, mountainous region of Italy known as Trentino Alto Adige that is close to Austria and produces several wines of excellent quality, including indigenous Lagrein and very good Schiava and Pinot Noir among the reds and excellent whites ranging from Riesling and Sylvaner to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Given the great quality of the wines from this area of Italy, it is somewhat sad to notice that they all come from¬†one single appellation¬†that encompasses the entire Alto Adige area, known as¬†Alto Adige DOC. It is true that this macro-appellation includes a few subzones (among which¬†St. Magdalener,¬†Terlaner¬†and¬†Valle Isarco) but still, one appellation with over 20 permitted grape varieties??? Talk about the importance of terroir… ūüôĀ ¬†So, as of today one can mostly rely on the seriousness and commitment to quality of many Alto Adige producers. Personally, I hope that at some point¬†at least certain of those subzones may be upgraded to self-standing appellations, focusing only on the grapes that are best suited for that specific subregion.

About the Estate

Muri-Gries is currently a Benedictine monastery in the village known as Gries near the town of Bolzano (Bozen), in the northeastern Italian region of Alto Adige. The original building was erected in the XI century as a fortress and kept that purpose until 1407, when it was gifted to Augustinian canons who had lost their monastery due to a flood and it was converted into a monastery. Grapevine growing and winemaking started in 1845, when the monastery passed on to Benedictine friars, who had been ousted from their monastery in Muri, Switzerland, and who eventually settled in the Gries monastery, which changed its name to the current Muri-Gries. As of today, the Benedectine friars still take care of the monastery and its vineyards.

The monastery owns nearly¬†30 HA (75 acres) of vineyards (80% of which are Lagrein)¬†and 52 HA (131 acres) of orchards, beside some 45 cattle, which make the monastery essentially self-sufficient. Even part of the wine made in the monastery is earmarked for the friars’ own consumption.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now move on to the actual review of the¬†Muri-Gries,¬†Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva DOC 2007¬†that I recently tasted.

For starters,¬†“Abtei Muri” is the flagship line¬†of the monastery wine production. This premium lineup comprises four wines: the Lagrein that we are about to review, a Pinot Noir, a white blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio, and a sweet Moscato Rosa.

Our Abtei Muri Lagrein was made from 100% Lagrein grapes and was fermented in steel vats and then aged for 16 months in barrique oak casks. It is 13.5% ABV and it retails in the US for about $38, which (as you will soon find out if you keep reading) is great value for this wine.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red with purple hints and thick when swirled

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with aromas of blueberry, blackberry, black pepper, tobacco and licorice.

In the mouth, it was dry, warm, smooth; quite fresh, with deliciously supple tannins, and tasty. The wine was full-bodied and perfectly balanced. The mouth flavors were intense and fine, with nice correspondence to the aromatic palette and hints of blueberry, blackberry and black pepper. It had a quite long finish and its evolutionary state was ready (that is, perfectly good to enjoy now, but will probably evolve even more with two or three years of additional aging).

WiNews: Elena Walch's Pinot Noir "Ludwig" 2010 Wins XII Italian Domestic Pinot Noir Competition

StefanoJust a quick flash to alert you about a piece of news that an Italian producer that I am fond of has been kind enough to share with me.

The 2010 vintage of the “Ludwig” Pinot Noir made by Elena Walch (the Alto Adige winery whose Riesling Castel Ringberg we have recently reviewed) is the fresh winner of the XII Italian Domestic Pinot Noir Competition, which is really exciting news as well as a tangible recognition for Walch’s commitment to quality production.

I hope I will be able to lay my hands on a bottle of the 2010 Ludwig soon so I can publish a full review!

Wine Review: Two Italian Dry Rieslings Made by Elena Walch and Abbazia di Novacella

I am writing this review with some trepidation as I know that most likely it will be read by fellow wine blogger and friend Oliver who authors the very enjoyable and educational blog The Winegetter (if you do not follow him already, I sure think you should!) and, most importantly, is definitely an authority when it comes to Rieslings! I think I know that his preference goes to German sweeter Rieslings, while the two wines that I am going to review today are both Italian dry Rieslings from the Alto Adige area of the Trentino Alto Adige region.

And now on to the reviews of the two wines that I tried. As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

1.¬†Elena Walch, Alto Adige Riesling “Castel Ringberg” 2010 DOC (12.5% ABV; ab. ‚ā¨15 in Italy)

Elena Walch, Alto Adige Riesling "Castel Ringberg" 2010 DOCElena Walch is one of my favorite producers of white wines from Alto Adige and, let me say it upfront, her Castel Ringberg did not disappoint me!

This is a¬†single vineyard¬†wine made of 100% Riesling grapes grown in the Castel Ringberg vineyard near the town of Caldaro. It was fermented and rested on its lees exclusively in stainless steel tanks. Unfortunately, although other Elena Walch’s wines are available in the US, this wine does not appear to be, which is a shame.

In the glass, the wine was straw yellow and quite thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with pleasant aromas of petrol (very discernible), followed by grapefruit, citrus, pear, minerals and herbs.

In the mouth, it was¬†dry,¬†quite warm,¬†smooth;¬†fresh¬†and¬†tasty, with¬†medium body. The wine was¬†balanced, with¬†intense¬†and¬†fine¬†mouth flavors that trailed the wine’s bouquet. It had a¬†long finish¬†and it was¬†ready¬†in terms of its evolutionary state.

Overall, a very pleasant, fresh dry Riesling with a captivating bouquet.

Rating:¬†Very Good¬†Very Good¬†– ‚ā¨

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2.¬†Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige Valle Isarco Riesling “Praepositus” 2009 DOC (13% ABV; ab. $35 in the US)

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige Valle Isarco Riesling "Praepositus" 2009 DOCThis wine is part of Abbazia di Novacella’s premium line “Praepositus”. It is made of 100% Riesling grapes, grown in vineyards with an¬†outstanding density¬†of 6,000 vines/HA and harvested for 2/3 in October and 1/3 in December (late harvest). It was fermented in stainless steel vats and aged in bottle for 9 months before being released to the market.

In the glass, the wine was straw yellow with greenish hints, quite thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of petroleum, grapefruit, lime and Granny Smith apple.

In the mouth, it was dry, quite warm, quite smooth; fresh and tasty, medium-bodied. The wine was balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors. It had a long finish and was ready as to its evolutionary state.

Overall, another very pleasant dry Riesling, although it personally impressed me a touch less than the Castel Ringberg, especially due to its narrower bouquet.

Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good Р$$


(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

At any rate, two Italian dry Rieslings that I would certainly recommend and that I am pretty sure would not disappoint you.

That’s all for today! As always, if you have tasted either one (or both!) of these wines, make sure to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

A Valentine to Two Readers: St Michael Eppan, AA Pinot Grigio "Sanct Valentin" 2010 DOC Reviewed

St Michael Eppan, Alto Adige Pinot Grigio "Sanct Valentin" DOCEssentially, this post is a valentine for two of our readers who, on different occasions, asked questions about Italian Pinot Grigio wines: Jeanette of wonderful Africa-centric blog Global Grazers where readers may learn many facets of African cultures, food and wine, and Frank, the author of the excellent wine blog Wine Talks, where he reviews quality wines in an effective, concise and clear fashion Рa pleasure to read. If you are not following these two great blogs already, you should definitely go check them out: chances are you are going to like them a lot.

Anyway, let’s get to our review of St Michael-Eppan,¬†Alto Adige Pinot Grigio “Sanct Valentin” 2010 DOC ($30).

The Bottom Line

Overall, a very good wine and a quality product of Pinot Grigio grapes.

Rating: Very Good and Recommended Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

Let’s start with some general information about Pinot Grigio, AKA Pinot Gris, as a grape variety. Pinot Grigio is a color mutation of Pinot Noir whose origins can be traced back to the XVIII century in both Germany and France. Pinot Grigio is said to have been cultivated in Northern Italy since the XIX century. Pinot Grigio is a grey-berried grape with generally high sugar levels and moderate acidity. In Italy, for some reason, Pinot Grigio came into fashion in the late Ninenties/early two thousands, a trend that has been fueled by booming exports especially to the UK and the US of mostly inexpensive and lackluster wines made out of an overproduction of this grape variety. This phenomenon somewhat tarnished the reputation of Pinot Grigio, which was often associated with a cheap, mass-production type of wine, until in the last few years it started falling out of favor.¬†Fortunately, some quality Italian Pinot Grigio is still made, particularly in the regions of Friuli, Alto Adige and Veneto (grape variety information taken from¬†Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz,¬†Allen Lane¬†2012).

Our Detailed Review

In this review, I will share my tasting notes for one of such quality wines: St Michael-Eppan‘s Alto Adige Pinot Grigio “Sanct Valentin” 2010 DOC. As you may know, “Sanct Valentin” is the flagship line in¬†the wine offering of Alto Adige’s solid winery St Michael Eppan. The Pinot Grigio¬†Sanct Valentin¬†is¬†available in the US where it retails at about $30.

The Pinot Grigio Sanct Valentin is made from grapes harvested from 15 to 20 year old vines at an elevation of about 500 mt/1,640 ft in proximity to the town of Appiano (near Bolzano). One third of the wine is fermented in new barrique (small oak) casks and two thirds in used ones, where the wine rest on its lees for 11 months, then 6 months in steel vessels.

My review is based on a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting sheet (for more information, see my post that provides a detailed overview of it).

In the glass, it poured a warm straw yellow, and it was thick when swirled, indicating good structure.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, fine and complex, with aromas of pear, white flowers and citrus coupled with hints of butter, white pepper, flint and oaky notes.

In the mouth it was dry, warm and creamy, with pretty good acidity and noticeable minerality, which made it a balanced wine with good structure. The wine had a pleasantly long finish. In terms of its evolutionary state, it was ready, meaning that it can definitely be enjoyed now and can possibly evolve even more with one or two years of additional aging.

Happy Sanct Valentin, everybody! ūüėČ

Spaghetti alla Carbonara ‚Äď Recommended Wine Pairing

Les Cr√™tes, VdA Chardonnay Cuv√©e Bois DOCThis wine pairing post for Francesca’s mouth-watering Spaghetti alla Carbonara has been long overdue – apologies if it took me so long, but my Italian spumante series in view of the end-of-year festivities kind of got in the way ūüôā

Without further ado, let’s now get to it: picking up where we left off in response to a prophetic question from Chiara (the gracious and posh image consultant who authors the¬†“effortless style” blog Kiarastyle) in the comment section of Francesca’s recipe post, my suggestions are to either pair it with a structured Chardonnay with some oak-aging, good acidity and minerality¬†or go for a red wine with good acidity,¬†gentle tannins and ideally some minerality, such as a Pinot Noir from the North-Eastern region of Alto Adige.

St. Michael-Eppan, A.A. Chardonnay Sanct Valentin DOCThere is not much to say that is not already widely known about the two grape varieties that I picked, since they are both international varieties (as opposed to grapes indigenous to Italy). However, something worth mentioning is that¬†in regards¬†to Chardonnay you will notice that my recommendations span pretty much across the entire Italian territory, literally from Valle d’Aosta to Sicily, while¬†my Pinot Noir choices focus on one specific region, Alto Adige.¬†This is because, while Chardonnay has been very successfully grown in different terroirs in North, Central and even Southern Italy, the same is not true for Pinot Noir, whose best results are attained in the region of Alto Adige first and foremost, and then in Lombardia and Valle d’Aosta. This is hardly a surprise considering how finicky a grape variety Pinot Noir is compared to the great versatility and adaptability of Chardonnay grapes.

Elena Walch, A.A. Beyond the Clouds DOCWith that said, let’s get down to the recommendations, starting from our mini-tour of Italy showcasing some of my all-time favorite Italian Chardonnays:

  • Les Cr√™tes, Valle d’Aosta Chardonnay Cuv√©e Bois DOC from Valle d’Aosta (100% Chardonnay; in my view a phenomenal wine with a wonderful bouquet of wildflowers, jasmine, pineapple and¬†butter – hats off to the producer who invested the energy and resources necessary to achieve a density of 7,500 vines/HA in the vineyard used to create this magnificent wine)
  • St Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Chardonnay Sanct Valentin DOC from Alto Adige (100% Chardonnay; with scents of Mirabelle plum, butter, vanilla and almond)
    Castello della Sala, Bramito del Cervo Umbria IGT
  • Elena Walch, Alto Adige Beyond the Clouds¬†DOC from Alto Adige (“predominantly” Chardonnay blended with other white grape varieties based on a proprietary recipe; with scents of peach, pineapple, almond, butter and vanilla)
  • Jermann, W? Dreams¬†Venezia Giulia¬†IGT from Friuli Venezia Giulia (97% Chardonnay, 3% other grape varieties kept it a secret by the winery; with aromas of Mirabelle plum, citrus, vanilla and a smoky hint – a special note of merit to the producer who achieved a density of almost 8,000 vines/HA in the vineyards used to create this excellent wine)
  • Tenute Folonari, La Pietra Tenute del Cabreo Toscana IGT from Toscana (100% Chardonnay; with scents of peach, butter, honey, hazelnut and flint)
    Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT
  • Castello della Sala, Bramito del Cervo Umbria IGT from Umbria (100% Chardonnay; with fine aromas of wildflowers, pineapple, Mirabelle plum, butter, vanilla¬†and hazelnut)
  • Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT from Sicily (100% Chardonnay; with complex and elegant scents of wisteria, peach, apple, honey, butter, vanilla, hazelnut¬†and chalk)

Finally, these are some of my favorite Italian Pinot Noirs for their quality to price ratio (note that all of the wines below are 100% Pinot Noir):

  • Elena Walch, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Ludwig¬†DOC (with scents of rose, wild strawberry and plum)
    Elena Walch, A.A. Pinot Noir Ludwig DOC
  • St Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Pinot Nero¬†Riserva DOC (with aromas of wild strawberry,¬†raspberry and soil)
  • Manincor, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mason DOC (with scents of wild strawberry, raspberry and cranberry)
  • Hofst√§tter, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mazon Riserva DOC (with aromas of wild strawberry, cherry¬†and cranberry)
  • Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Blauburgunder Abtei Muri Riserva DOC (with scents of wild strawberry, cranberry and¬†plum)

That’s all for now – enjoy some good wine and as always let me know if you get to try any of these wines!

Muri Gries, A.A. Blauburgunder Abtei Muri Riserva DOC

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana – Recommended Wine Pairing

To complement Francesca’s yummy spaghetti all’amatriciana, I suggest that you pick a medium-bodied red wine with good smoothness, acidity and tannins. My ideas are either a Rosso Piceno from Central Italy or a Lagrein from the North East of Italy. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Rosso Piceno is one of the 15 (as at November 2012) DOC appellations of the Marche region in Italy. The regulations of this DOC require that the wine be made out of 35-70% Montepulciano grapes and 30-50% Sangiovese grapes, provided that the use of other black-berried grapes is permitted up to a maximum of 15%. The regulations also prescribe that it be produced in an area surrounding the towns of Ascoli Piceno, Pesaro-Urbino and Ancona, while the territory for the variant “Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC” is a much smaller area near Ascoli Piceno.

As to the main black-berried grapes that make Rosso Piceno, Montepulciano is a grape that is indigenous to Central Italy and that is extensively cultivated in several Central Italy regions, such as Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria and Lazio to name a few. Due to the ample supply of Montepulciano grapes, the quality levels of the wines that are made out of it unfortunately vary significantly, so buyer beware: you have to do your homework first and pick the best producers if you don’t want to be disappointed.

As to Sangiovese, well, everybody knows Sangiovese, right? It is one of the most renowned Italian grape varieties which is used in the making of several signature Italian wines, from Brunello di Montalcino to Chianti and from Vino Nobile di Montepulciano to Morellino di Scansano. It is also indigenous to Central Italy and is one of the most widely cultivated grape varieties in Italy, especially in the regions of Toscana, Umbria and Emilia Romagna. Varietal wines made out of Sangiovese grapes tend to have fairly aggressive tannins when they are still “young” and are generally best enjoyed after a few years of aging, when time takes care of taming them. Even in this case, given the massive quantities of Sangiovese that are produced, quality levels of the wines made out of such grape variety tend to be inconsistent and knowledge of the various appellations that allow its use and of the specific wineries is important to avoid unsatisfactory experiences.

Moving on to the actual recommendations, in my view these are some of the best Rosso Piceno out there in terms of price/quality ratio: Velenosi, Rosso Piceno Superiore “Brecciarolo Gold” DOC (70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese; ¬†with aromas of wild berries,¬†vanilla, pepper, tobacco and nutmeg – as we are used to doing, kudos to the owners of this estate who invested resources and energy to achieve a commendable density of 5,000 vines/HA); De Angelis, Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC (70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese; with scents of cherries, blackberries, plums, blueberries, soil); Bucci, Rosso Piceno “Tenuta Pongelli” DOC (50% Montepulciano, 50% Sangiovese; with aromas of rose, blackberries, raspberries, plums, tobacco and minerals); Le Caniette, Rosso Piceno “Rosso Bello” DOC (45% Montepulciano, 45% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; with scents of blueberries, redcurrant and minerals – even in this case, we would like to praise the owners for a very good density of 4,500 vines/HA); and¬†Cantine di Castignano, Rosso Piceno Superiore “Destriero” DOC (70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese; ¬†with aromas of dried flowers, cherries and minerals).

Now, a few words about Lagrein: this is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northeastern Italy. Its use is permitted in several of the eight DOC appellations of the region, among which the appellation “Alto Adige DOC”, whose territory encompasses an area surrounding the town of Bolzano and which requires that Lagrein-based wines be made 85% or more out of Lagrein grapes.

Among the best Lagrein’s for their quality and price point are Manincor, Alto Adige Lagrein “Rubatsch” DOC (with scents of wild cherries, plums, licorice, slightly oaky); Erste + Neue, Alto Adige Lagrein “Puntay” Riserva DOC (with aromas of blueberries, cherries, coffee, slightly toasty); Cantina Bolzano, Alto Adige Lagrein “Perl” DOC (with scents of violets, wild berries, ink); Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein DOC (with aromas of violet, blackberries, blueberries, chocolate, ink); and Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro, Alto Adige Lagrein “Spigel” DOC (with scents of violets, blueberries, blackberries, wild cherries, cocoa). Note that all the above wines are made out of 100% Lagrein grapes.

As always, if you happen to try out any of these wines or would like to suggest a different pairing, feel free to share it with us by leaving a comment below!