Tag Archives: Marche

#OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Central Italy

With some delay, here is part 3 in my series about my tasting experience at the OperaWine 2015 event in Verona last month. On this post we will focus on my tasting notes for the wines from Central Italy. As you will see, lots of winners here.

For my general notes about the event and my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northwestern region, please refer to the first post in this series. For my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northeastern region, go to the second post in this series.

1. Emilia Romagna

Ermete Medici, Gran Concerto Rosso Brut 2011Ermete Medici, “Gran Concerto” Rosso Brut 2011 ($N/A/€12): an extremely interesting Classic Method sparkling Lambrusco Salamino which matured for 30 months on its lees and was disgorged in 2014. The nose is immediately catchy with aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries, violets and fresh toast. The mouthfeel is refreshing and pleasant, smooth with good acidity and sapidity, just slightly astringent tannins and flavors of wild red berries (strawberries and raspberries), yeasty notes and mineral hints. A great choice to surprise your guests at a Spring or Summer party out on the patio. Very Good Very Good


Drei Donà, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore “Pruno” Riserva 2010 ($35/€23): a very good single vineyard Sangiovese with an intense nose of black cherry, black currant, violet, licorice and a mineral note preluding to a medium-bodied, smooth mouthfeel with already supple tannins and flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, coffee and licorice. Very enjoyable. Very Good Very Good

2. Toscana

Le Macchiole, Messorio 2004 ($190/€150): an excellent varietal Merlot which shows in my view the potential of this too often undeservedly bashed variety. A great nose reminiscent of violets, black cherry, blackberry, wet soil, Mediterranean brush, aromatic herbs, cocoa and graphite notes precedes a luscious, full-bodied mouthfeel with high ABV, intense sapidity and firm, just slightly astringent tannins together with flavors that precisely follow the aromatic profile. Long finish. Spectacular, perfectly ready now but fit for cellaring for another few years  Spectacular

Le Macchiole, Messorio 2004

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2005 ($150/€160): wow. Perfectly aged, with ten years of maturation behind it, the Ornellaia 2005 performs and enchants like a Berliner Philharmoniker symphony: captivating aromas of wild berries, licorice, herbs, Mediterranean brush, pinecone and sweet tobacco on the nose leave way to a structured, spellbinding sip whose perfectly contained power and silky smoothness are masterfully counterbalanced by gentle and refined tannins and juicy sapidity supporting delicious flavors of wild black berries, aromatic herbs and licorice lingering in your mouth in a very long finish. Spectacular  Spectacular

Tenuta dell'Ornella, Ornellaia 2005

Felsina, Fontalloro 2011 ($46/€38): a young but already very enjoyable varietal Sangiovese with a delicious nose of plum, black cherry, aromatic herbs, soil, potpourri and a balsamic note. In the mouth it is a big, full-bodied red, with substantial but already fine tannins, good acidity and all-around smoothness accompanying flavors that nicely match the wine’s aromas. It will perform even better after a few years of judicious cellaring. Very Good Very Good

Felsina, Fontalloro 2011

Testamatta, Colore 2005 ($550/€600): I am a bit puzzled by this wine, I have to admit. I mean, by all means it is a good, even very good red blend (it has Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino in pretty much equal parts) but… 600 euros for a 0.75 lt bottle? Seriously? I don’t know, as much as I like it I could think of several different combinations of absolutely outstanding reds (plural) that I could invest those 600 euros into instead of coming back with just one bottle in my hands… But then again, who am I to judge their pricing policies. Anyway, the nose was very pleasant with aromas of black cherry, plum, licorice, tobacco and aromatic herbs and the mouthfeel was equally enticing, full-bodied, big, gently tannic and smooth, with nice correlation between flavors and aromas. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Testamatta, Colore 2005

Carpineto, Cabernet Sauvignon “Farnito” 1997 ($30/€19): This varietal Cab that the producer made available for tasting with the benefit of 18 years of aging and maturing was a real treat. Its intense nose was appealing with aromas of black cherry, plum, green peppers and a minty note. Its mouth lent itself to some interesting considerations, particularly in terms of how age-worthy this wine is: despite 18 years in the barrel first and in bottle later, the wine was still incredibly freshly acidic and still had muscular tannins, all of which suggests that the wine will continue to benefit from additional cellaring: my sense is that in five more years it will be even better than it is today. The wine was moderately smooth and tasty, with flavors that closely followed its aromatic profile and a medium finish. Great value for money. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Carpineto, Cabernet Sauvignon Farnito 1997

3. Marche

Umani Ronchi, Cumaro 2007 ($40/€20): a very good varietal Montepulciano with an appealing nose of red berries, tart cherries, aromatic herbs, leather, cocoa and licorice followed by a full-bodied sip that is smooth and gently tannic and provides flavors of raspberries, wild strawberries, dark chocolate and aromatic herbs. Very Good and appropriately aged Very Good

Umani Ronchi, Cumaro 2007

4. Umbria

Lungarotti, Rubesco Torgiano “Vigna Monticchio” Riserva 2005 ($45/€28): a delicious single vineyard Sangiovese/Canaiolo blend with a great nose of cherry, red flowers, sweet tobacco, chocolate, aromatic herbs, mushrooms and a mineral note of graphite. Its mouthfeel is perfectly round and smooth, with silky tannins and flavors of cherries and chocolate. Perfectly aged to its full maturity. Outstanding Outstanding

Tabarrini, Sagrantino di Montefalco “Colle Grimaldesco” 2009 ($50/€32): Tabarrini is a producer who has succeeded in showing the different terroir of their vineyards in their single vineyard wines. This one has a captivating, intense nose of black cherry, licorice, dried roses, aromatic herbs and a mineral note. In the mouth it is big, full-bodied, with high alcohol and muscular but gentle tannins; it is smooth and tasty, with flavors of spirited black cherries, licorice and rosemary notes. Very Good Very Good

Caprai, Sagrantino di Montefalco “25 Anni” 2010 ($80/€55): in my view 2010 is still way too young a vintage to adequately showcase the qualities of this great Sagrantino and unfortunately it ends up penalizing its performance a bit. The nose was pretty closed and shy, with notes of ripe plums, violets and quinine as well as a toasty note; in the mouth it is big, with abundant structure and alcohol but still a bit edgy, with muscular and astringent tannins and flavors matching its aromatic profile. It needs more time resting and maturing in the cellar, until it develops into the great, coherent wine that we all know and have repeatedly enjoyed. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

5. Lazio

Falesco, Montiano 2007 ($40/€30): Falesco is one of the producers who have been at the forefront of Lazio’s wine renaissance, thanks also to the ability of owner-winemaker Renzo Cotarella, one of the best in Italy. Their Montiano is an outstanding varietal Merlot with an intense, elegant nose of roses, black cherry, black currant, aromatic herbs, licorice, cocoa and black pepper. In the mouth it is structured and silky smooth, with supple tannins and matching flavors of black cherry, black currant and licorice that linger in your mouth in the wine‘s long finish. In my view, 2007 is at or near its top now. Outstanding and very good value Outstanding

Masciarelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo "Villa Gemma" Riserva 20046. Abruzzo

Masciarelli, Montepupulciano d’Abruzzo “Villa Gemma” Riserva 2004 ($77/€55): a nice nose reminiscent of forest floor, mushrooms, potpourri, black cherry, black currant, tobacco, licorice and a barnyard note goes hand in hand with a great, structured and smooth sip with gentle albeit slightly astringent tannins and flavors of black cherry, licorice, dark chocolate and aromatic herbs. Long finish. Outstanding and perfectly agedOutstanding

Wine Review: Oasi degli Angeli, "Kurni" Marche Rosso IGT 2008

A few nights ago, I was in Milan (Italy) and I went to dinner with a friend of mine to an excellent restaurant that I will review in a future post.

Beside eating wonderfully, my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a very special Italian red wine that I had noticed on the wine list, had never had before but had heard and read excellent things about: the fabled, divisive, extremely rare to find Oasi degli Angeli, “Kurni” Marche Rosso IGT ($100) from the Marche region.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Kurni is a great wine and a very special one, one which in my view does not leave whoever is fortunate enough to get to taste it indifferent: it is a wine that forces you to pick a side, either you like its style or you do not. Personally, I liked it a lot, I am glad I got to enjoy it and I found it a pleasure to drink, worth seeking out if you come across it and want to treat yourself to something really special.

Rating: Spectacular and Special Spectacular – $$$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Estate

A few words about Kurni and the vineyards it comes from: it is a wine made of 100% Montepulciano grapes harvested from about 10 hectares only of Montepulciano grapevines trained as free-standing plants (according to the bush vine training or “alberello” style) with an average age of 65 years and an astounding density of up to 22,000 vines/HA(!) which allow an annual production of just about 6,000 bottles. The Kurni ages for 20 months in new oak barrique barrels.

About the Grape

Before we continue, let’s focus for a moment on the Montepulciano grape variety. First off, let’s dispel a possible source of confusion: although the name refers to the Montepulciano area near Siena (Tuscany), the Montepulciano grape variety is an Italian indigenous variety that originates from the Abruzzo region.  Consequently, it is important NOT to confuse Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (which is a Tuscan appellation whose wines must be made of 70% or more Sangiovese grapes) with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG (which are two appellations from Abruzzo whose wines are required to be made out of at least, respectively, 85% or 90% Montepulciano grapes).

Montepulciano is a grape variety that is widely planted across central Italy (about 30,000 HA), especially in the regions of Abruzzo, Marche and Molise. Beside Italy, it is also grown in California, Australia and New Zealand. It is a grape variety that results in deeply colored wines with robust tannins, that are often used in blends. On account of the wide diffusion of Montepulciano grapes, the quality levels of the wines made out of them varies considerably – hence, caveat emptor: you need to know which producers to trust and buy from. (Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

Our Detailed Review

But let’s get back to the wine that we are going to review in this post. Retailing in the US at about $100 a pop, the Kurni is by no means an inexpensive wine, nor is it an easy to find one, but let me say it up front in my view it is one that is worth the investment if you come across it and have the inclination to “invest” that kind of money in a bottle of wine. But let’s get down to it using 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.

First off, the bottle of Kurni we had was a 2008 vintage with a whopping 15% VOL ABV, so it is no wine for the faint of heart. 😉

In the glass, the wine was ruby red and (as you may expect) thick.

The nose was intense and fine, with complex aromas of ripe cherries, raspberries, plums, roses, vanilla, sweet tobacco, licorice and cocoa.

In the mouth the wine is between dry and medium-dry (see more on this below), definitely warm and super silky smooth; fresh, with tame but very present tannins and quite tasty. The wine is full-bodied and balanced (although certainly leaning toward the “softness” side), intense in the mouth (you truly have to taste it to believe this: its concentration is incredible, it is just like an explosion of ripe, sweet red fruits and cherry jam in your mouth!), fine with corresponding mouth flavors and a long finish; its evolutionary state is ready (which means that you can certainly drink it now, but it will get even better with a few more years under the belt – if you can wait!)

As a side note to the tasting, I think it is important to underscore that a notable characteristic of a relatively young vintage of this wine (such as 2008) is the discernible mouth feel of latent sweetness of the Kurni, which (as indicated in the tasting notes) places it somewhere in between a dry a semi-dry wine. In the Italian wine aficionado world, there have been endless discussions as to whether this latent sweetness is due to fairly high residual sugar levels or instead the significant extent of smoothness and explosive fruit flavors of the wine.

In an interview, Kurni’s enologist defined his wine as a dry wine, therefore supporting the latter of the above two theories. Also, vertical tastings of several vintages of Kurni have reportedly confirmed this interpretation in that older vintages would taste drier than younger vintages (which would not be possible if the wine’s latent sweetness were due to higher residual sugars). Having said that, I think it would be helpful if Oasi degli Angeli made the official residual sugar level of the Kurni publicly available (I have not been able to find this information anywhere online), as this could put an end to the debate.

Oh, and by the way: should you not trust my opinion – would you? really? 😉 the Kurni 2008 was awarded the top rating by both the ISA Duemila Vini wine guide (5 bunches) and the Gambero Rosso wine guide (3 glasses).

If you have had a bottle of Kurni before, let me know which side you are on! 🙂

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!

Green Bean, Olive and Goat Cheese Quiche – Recommended Wine Pairing

Francesca’s delicate green bean, olive and goat cheese quiche can be successfully complemented with a medium-bodied white wine with good acidity and either effervescence or noticeable minerality.

Based on the above, my suggestion is either a quality Prosecco or a Pecorino. Let’s quickly discuss each of these two wines and include some actual recommendations.

Prosecco. Among the average consumers both in Italy and abroad, there is a lot, and I mean A LOT of misinformation about Prosecco. Let’s try to get some facts straight regarding this much talked about wine.

Italy, like other countries, produces several sparkling wines which are made either according to the Classic Method (also known as “Methode Champenoise“, because it is the traditional production process of French Champagne) or according to the quicker and cheaper Italian Method (also known as “Methode Charmat” or “Metodo Martinotti“), which is known to maximize primary (or varietal) aromas although it generally sacrifices the wine structure and the finest perlage. Franciacorta DOCG and Trento DOC are examples of two Italian appellations that are reserved to Classic Method sparkling wines.

Prosecco, instead, is a white wine that can be made either in the still or sparkling version: for the purposes of this quick overview, we will only focus on the sparkling wine variety, which is also the one that generally yields the best results in terms of quality. So, Prosecco sparkling wine is generally made according to the Italian Method (although there are a few exceptions, such as Valdo‘s Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico Numero 10 DOCG, which is a solid 100% Glera sparkling wine made according to the Classic Method) in the three appellations which permit production of such wine: Prosecco DOC (which encompasses a larger territory in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia), Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG and Prosecco di Asolo DOCG (which both encompass a much smaller territory near the town of Treviso, Veneto).

Prosecco is made from 85% or more Glera white-berried grapes, which are also known as Prosecco grapes, although nowadays Prosecco is technically a trademark for the wine, and no longer the name of the grape variety. Prosecco sparkling wine can be made available in in any of the following varieties, as far as residual sugar content is concerned: Brut, Extra Dry, Dry and Demisec. Under no circumstance, should Prosecco be confused with Asti Spumante, which is a totally independent and different sweet sparkling wine made according to the Italian Method within the homonymous DOCG appellation in the region of Piemonte, Italy, out of Moscato Bianco grapes: it simply has nothing to do with Prosecco.

Hoping to have somewhat set the record straight for Prosecco, let’s move on to acknowledge a few among the best Prosecco sparkling wines that are available on the market. This is a particularly important exercise because unfortunately, due to the worldwide notoriety that Prosecco wines have recently attained, there are producers that just tried to seize the opportunity and put out there a lot of really low quality Prosecco at a very cheap price point, which is something that has been tarnishing Prosecco’s reputation in the eyes (but especially in the mouths!) of those consumers who happened to purchase any of such inferior quality labels.

Among the best Prosecco’s on the market are Adami, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “Bosco di Gica” DOCG (95-97% Glera grapes/3-5% Chardonnay grapes, with aromas of wisteria, pear, apple, peach, Mirabelle plum and herbs); Bepin De Eto, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with scents of rose, wisteria, apple, pear, peach, bread crust and minerals – commendable is the investment made by the owners to achieve a very good density of 4,000 vines/HA); Marsuret, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “San Boldo” DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with aromas of mint, broom, elder blossoms, apple, citrus and minerals); or Montesel, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore “Riva dei Fiori” Brut DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with scents of elder blossoms, wisteria, pear, apple, lime and minerals). One last noteworthy mention is much deserved by the more expensive, exquisite Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG by Nino Franco: a 100% Glera Italian Method Prosecco made in the finest sub-zone of the appellation (called Cartizze) and displaying fine aromas of jasmine blossoms, passion fruit, citrus, herbs and minerals.

Pecorino is a wine made 85% or more from Pecorino white-berried grapes, a variety that is indigenous to the Marche region in Italy and that had almost completely been abandoned because of the limited productivity of Pecorino vines.  Fortunately for us all 🙂 in the early Eighties Guido Cocci Grifoni, a winemaker in the Marche region, became aware of a minuscule vineyard owned by an old farmer which still had a few Pecorino vines, which he bought and transplanted in his own vineyard thus saving this grape variety from extinction and starting commercial production of Pecorino wine in the Nineties. If you want to know more about Pecorino grapes and their rediscovery, check out this interesting write up on Tenuta Cocci Grifoni’s Web Site (after you open the PDF file, keep scrolling as there is an Italian version first and then one in English).

Remarkable Pecorino wines to definitely try out if you come across them include Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Offida Pecorino “Colle Vecchio” DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with aromas of chamomile flowers, acacia and jasmine blossoms, hay, apple, caper and minerals); De Angelis, Offida Pecorino DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with scents of chamomile flowers, broom, hay, melon, citrus and minerals); Le Caniette, Offida Pecorino “Io sono Gaia (non sono Lucrezia)” DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with aromas of broom, apricot, exotic fruit, wax and minerals – to Le Caniette’s owners credit, they have invested energy and resources to achieve a very good density of 4,000 vines/HA); or Moncaro, Offida Pecorino “Ofithe” DOCG (100% Pecorino grapes, with scents of white flowers, elder blossoms, apple, citrus, almond and minerals).

As usual, enjoy and please share your experience if you decide to try out any of the above wines or if you wish to suggest a different wine that you think would go well with Francesca’s green bean, olive and goat cheese quiche!