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Archive for October, 2010

Alright, training wheels off.  Let’s try something a little more advanced.

Now I don’t mean advanced as in you need sommelier schooling to appreciate the wine, I mean it requires a little context.  Today’s wine is not a fruity, light aperitif, nor a bulky, oak-water behemoth. It’s something, well, just different.  To begin its list of oddities, it’s from Lazio – Rome’s province.  Not much notable wine is made on the outskirts of the Eternal City, save for the wonderfully named region Est! Est!! Est!!! and a few other simple whites.  Its grapes are commonplace, in terms of quantity in Central Italy, prestige, and flavor.  The fermentation method is certainly old-school – which is fitting because the vines are tended to by the sisters of a Cistercian Abbey.  This is a wine worth contemplating.

The 2006 Monastero Suore Cistercensi “Coenobium” [$13 at Cork Dork Wine Co.] is a blend of Verdicchio, Trebbiano, Grechetto and Malvasia [Pronounced ‘Che-NO-bee-um’, Latin for ‘monastery’]  Winemaker Giampiero Bea employs a natural, hands-off approach with this wine – the juice sees extended contact with the skins during fermentation, using no commercial yeasts or additives, and no fining or filtering of the final product.  This kind of open-tank, natural yeast fermentation is usually associated with Belgian beers, especially Lambics.  The other techniques are more often used with red wines, as they introduce more oxygen into the winemaking process.  The wine certainly tastes a bit oxidative but not in the “half-empty bottle of white left in the fridge for two days” kind of way. It has a beautiful deep yellow almost light brown color, with an oxidized nose of preserved lemon.  The sip starts out with that same lemon citrus with a creamy, smooth mouthfeel.  Towards the end, though, it does a 180 to a more acidic, tangy, even coppery or petrol kind of taste that lingers for quite a while.  This is a unique wine.  Even if it weren’t as good as it is, I’d still recommend trying it just to discover the different kinds of flavors a white wine can deliver.

I first tasted this wine with Brian Daunheimer from Grand Pere Wines during a Thursday tasting at the Cork Dork.  After searching around online, $13 is an absolute steal for this bottle [most places, I found it retailing at $20 and up].  Drink it with your favorite white fish.

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Forgive the week-plus long absence, I was in NYC on a relaxing yet waistline-expanding vacation.  Time to get back into the swing of things with a solid Italian wine for fall.

I’ve previously professed my love in this forum for Salice Salentino – the blend of Negro Amaro and Malvasia from the Southern Italian province of Apulia.  It’s a wine that offers a usually fruit-forward profile of tart cherries and [depending on the Malvasia used] interesting hints of smokiness and earth.  It’s been compared to Pinot Noir in that it’s fairly lighter bodied and fruity, but Negro Amaro has a bit more bulk and definitely more noticeable tannin.  Also a plus is the fact that even the best are rarely above $20 retail.  It’s a slam dunk crowd pleaser if you spy one on the list at any Italian restaurant – here’s the Vallone ’06 Riserva on the list at Broders‘ at a pretty decent $34.

A couple of widely distributed examples I’ve recommended before are the Taurino Salice Salentino [usually around $9-12, a lot of MSP retailers carry it] and the Epicuro Salice Salentino [$5 at Trader Joe’s, one of the best values in wine I’ve ever found].  I spied a new one at Surdyk’s just before the sale started, and obviously, it’s a new favorite for me.

The 2008 Luccarelli Salice Salentino [I got it for $11.99 at Surdyk’s but I think it’s $8.99 currently on sale] offers an opaque dark red with ruby towards the rims and a pungent nose of blackberry-raspberry with some spice.  The sip starts berry-filled, almost sweet tasting framed by dusty-dry tannin.  It turns a little more tart and earthy towards the end, but it retains its fruit forward light body throughout.  It has a nice core of berry fruit, it’s smooth and simple – a steal at $8.99 if you can get it.  It’s a solid wine with any red-sauced fare.  I had it with this extremely basic eggplant pasta – great match.

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