This week we will sample a variety of Italian wine from four different important regions; Piedmont, Tuscany, the Veneto, and Abruzzo. The first three regions are likely the most familiar; Piedmont is known for powerful Barbaresco and Barolo; Tuscany for rustic Brunello and Chianti; and the Veneto for delicious Amarone, Ripassa, and Prosecco; Abruzzo, on the other hand, is known for outstanding value reds from the Montepulcianogrape and simple but thirst-quenching whites from Trebbiano. For the tasting we will try a Nebbiolo (that’s grown in legendary Barbaresco) from Piedmont, Chianti and “Super” Tuscan from Tuscany, Pinot Grigio from the Veneto, and Montepulciano and Trebbiano from Abruzzo. These wines are serious styles, yet all present great value.
Three of the producers for the tasting stand-out for excellence, history, and tradition; they are Cantina del Pino (Piedmont), Nicodemi (Abruzzo), and Ciacci (Tuscany). However, all of the producers represented this week are small-production, family-owned and operated, and make their wines from estate grown grapes.
Robert Parker says of Cantina del Pino: “This range from Cantina del Pinoand proprietor Renato Vacca is one of the most impressive I tasted this year. Every wine from this small cellar in the center of Barbaresco is fabulous. I can’t say enough good things about Cantina del Pino. I never turn down a chance to drink these wines, as they are exceptional.” Cantina del Pino is owned by Renato Vacca, who is the winemaker and great-grandson of the second owner of the winery. In the early 20thcentury, Cantina del Pino was founded by Domizio Cavazza who was the director of the Royal Enological School in Alba from 1888-1913 and purchased Ovello cascina (farmhouse and land) in Barbaresco. For the first time wine made from Nebbiolo grapes in the land surrounding the village was known as Barbaresco. Cavazza planted a Mediterranean pine tree in the region and the estate became known as cascina del pino, or winery of the pine. Upon Cavazza’s untimely death, Renato Vacca’s great-grandfather purchased the winery in the early 1940s. Today Renato makes wine from grapes that were planted more than 70 years ago; all of the wines are made within the Barbaresco appellation, all of the vineyards are managed by family (his parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends tend the vines), they do not use chemical fertilizers and have a strong respect for the environment. Their Barbaresco vineyards are planted to vines between 35-70 years old. Ovello Vineyard is their most famous property, which sits at an altitude of 300 meters and supplies “famous” Barbaresco producers including Produttori and Vietti withpremium grapes. Renato is a humble and honest winemaker who seeks to preserve the traditions of his ancestors. The Nebbiolo we will sample tomorrow night is newly-released (2010 vintage), but scored 90 points in the Wine Advocate and has a long life ahead!
Nicodemi Winery is located in Abruzzo, the central-eastern region that is due east of Rome and borders the Adriatic Sea. It is owned and operated by second-generation brother-and-sister team Elena and Alessandro Nicodemi, who have implemented modern trellising techniques that promote low yields to increase the quality of the wine they produce. They have also preserved the old-vine Montepulciano fruit that was planted at the winery many years ago. Nicodemi is located within the sub-region of Teramo, which, in 2003 was granted DOCG status. Today this ambitious brother/sister duo is a leader in the production of high-quality Montepulciano and Trebbiano in the region.
Tenuta Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona of Tuscany dates back to the 17thcentury. This ancient estate has 35 hectares of superior holdings in the prized Castelnuovo dell’Abate zone, including the “Pianrosso” vineyard (from which the best grapes are selected for their Brunello d’Montalcino) and the “Fonte” vineyard which produces grapes for the Rosso diMontalcino. They have planted Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot further south, grapes that, blended with Sangiovese, are used for the Ciacci Toscana that we will sample at the tasting. The vineyards are not “certified organic” although guidelines of organic agriculture are followed and only organic fertilizers are used (there is a cattle farm nearby for manure). In 1985, in the absence of direct ancestors, the property was inherited by Giuseppe Bianchini, who, with determination and pride, upholds the heritage of the property and maintains the traditions and culture that is part of the estate. Guiseppe passed away in 2004 and today his children, Paolo and Lucia, are at the helm of Ciacci Piccolomini.
Altogether there will be two whites and four reds to sample at this week’s tasting. We hope you will join us this Thursday night to explore some of Italy’s gems!
The specific wines for the tasting are:
Pasqua Vigneti del Sole Pinot Grigio IGT 2011– Tre Venezie, Veneto. 100% Pinot Grigio that fermented and aged in stainless steel. From the Veneto (or Venise) region of northeastern Italy, the Vigneti del Sole winery was established in 1925 by four brothers; Natale, Nicola, Riccardo and Umberto Pasqua. Today the company is run by third-generation members of the Pasqua family. The Pinot Grigio is pale yellow-green in color with a fruity nose of lemon, green apple, and suggestions of almonds. It is light-bodied, fresh and clean on the palate with crisp acidity and a balanced finish. An outstanding white for the money. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Tasting $11.99
Nicodemi Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2010– Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo. Made from 100% Trebbiano (a.k.a. Ugni Blanc, among numerous others) that fermented and aged in tank for 7 months. A fresh and lively white with grassy scents that combine with savory herbs and light notes of grapefruit, citrus, and honeysuckle. The palate is nicely textured withexcellent viscosity and complexity, especially considering the value. Bright acidity is mouthwatering and pleasant, and also makes it an ideal partner to food. Terroir and mineral hints are present on the finish. A well-made Trebbiano that offers balance and attractive ripe fruit flavors. Imported by Montecastelli Selections. Tasting $11.99
Nicodemi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG 2010– Teramo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo. The region of Abruzzo is located on the eastern side of central Italy (due East of Rome, in the lower “calf of Italy’s boot”) and borders the Adriatic Sea. 100% Montepulciano, old- and younger-vine grapes that aged for 8 months in Slavonian oak cask then 6 months in the bottle prior to release. The grapes are hand-grown (narrowly spaced, modern trellising creates low yields), hand-harvested and planted in high altitude (250 meters) vineyards. A terroir-driven style that is deep purple/red in color with wonderful, fresh aromas of tart berries, spicy cherry, and undertones of leather and earth. The palate is bright and juicy with balanced acidity followed by a flavorful, complex finish. An excellent value. Imported by Montecastelli Selections. Tasting $13.99
Rocca di Castagnoli Rocca della Rocca Chianti Toscana IGT 2010– Chianti, Tuscany. 100% Sangiovese from young vines that fermented and aged in stainless steel tank. Pretty, light ruby red in color. Attractive scents of ripe berry fruits such as raspberry, strawberry, and red currants and spice notes greet the nose. The palate is light-bodied, with fresh fruit flavors, mild acidity, and undertones of earth and minerals. It is very juicy and tangy, which makes it an ideal companion to food. Imported by Montecastelli Selections. Tasting $11.99
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Toscana Rosso IGT 2009– Castelnuovodell’Abate, Tuscany. A blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah from grapes grown at the estate in Massi, San Martino, Conte, Fonte, and Vigna Lago Vineyards. The vines average 5-15 years old. The wine fermented in stainless steel and concrete tanks, then aged for 4-6 months in Slavonian, French, and American oak barrels. A rustic, friendly Tuscan red with scents of cherry, black tea, and spice. It is approachable and full-bodied with excellent balance and bright acidity. An outstanding value. Imported by Indigenous Selections. Tasting $14.99
Cantina del Pino Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2010– Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont. Made in Barbaresco from 100% Nebbiolo, this fantastic “young” wine aged for 6 months in large oak barrels. Light red/rust in color withsubtle aromas of red apple, red currant, and cinnamon/spice. As it opens up, more complex scents emerge of baking spices, forest (pine, cedar, flowers), black tea, and terroir notes. The tannins are still firm, and apparent on the attack, but settle nicely with air and reveal balanced fruit flavors and bright, juicy acidity. 90 Wine Advocate– “The 2010 LangheNebbiolo is fresh, vinous and a touch compact, in keeping with the general personality of the vintage. It is an energetic, taut Nebbiolo with many virtues, including tons of varietal character and focus. Sweet red berries, flowers and spices wrap around the finish. This is simply dazzling. The Langhe Nebbiolo is made predominantly from a parcel in Ovello that yields slightly bigger and juicier grapes, plus the second selection of fruit from the estate’s other vineyards. It sees a shorter period of contact with the skins and is made in a style that emphasizes fruit. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016.” Tasting $20.99