Down SouthSaturday, August 17, 2013 by: Vin Greco
Don’t think Florida or Georgia or Alabama. Think Calabria, Puglia, Campagna and Sicily.
We are seeing more and more wines these days from the south of Italy.
These are wines of character, sometimes with a certain rustic element to them, grown in a relatively hot climate, and made from varieties of grapes that we usually don’t see anywhere else in the world.
On next week’s Vintages release, there are roughly a dozen wines from the area coming our way.
Combine them with what is already on our shelves and we are provided with a good cross-section of what the regions have to offer.
Different grapes shine in each of the southern provinces, and most of them are red.
Still, Campania, located on the shin of the Italian “boot”, is the traditional source of some of my favourite whites, specifically Fiano and Greco (of course).
Currently, there is no Fiano in town, though the south-end store in Sudbury has 8 bottles of Miopasso, a Sicilian version for $14.95.
The next release features Terredora Loggia della Serra Greco di Tufo 2011, $17.95.
Terradora developed out of a split in the house of Mastroberardino, one of Campania’s best producers.
Supposedly one faction kept the name, but Terradora ended up with some of the best vineyards.
Aged on its lees, this highly esteemed wine has extracted peach, citrus and mineral notes with good intensity.
Sicily offers us Grillo. Grillo can produce high alcohol levels which is good when it is the base for Marsala, a fortified wine, but it can be challenging in a sipper.
The Di Giovanna Grillo 2011, $15.95, is very crisp and invites pairing with an oily fish, such as salmon.
On the regular list, Cavallina produces a Grillo/Pinot Grigio blend, just $7.70. For the price, it’s a good deal - some grapefruit notes, but also some depth on the mid-palate.
With red wines, the south shows its distinction.
Starting with Calabria, the toe of the boot, we have Cirò, a red wine made from the Gaglioppo grape.
At one point it was thought that it may have come to Calabria from Greece in antiquity; however, DNA testing indicates that it is an off-shoot of Sangiovese, a grape usually seen much further to the north.
There’s an earthiness to these wines, though some refinement may be creeping in as more modern techniques are brought to bear in the winemaking.
Joining the party on August 17 is the Ippolito 1845 Liber Pater Cirò Rosso 2010, $14.95.
Anticipate some herbal qualities on the nose, such as thyme, and cherry fruit and an earthy texture.
It could use an hour or two decanting before drinking.
The same house features Calabrise Rosso 2011, $19.95, which earned a very good rating from the Gambero Rosso guide in Italy.
Calabrise is Calabria’s take on the Nero d’Avola grape more commonly associated with Sicily.
A deep purple red, there are elevated aromas of plum and dark cherry followed by some sweet spiciness with ample richness and a pleasing aftertaste.
This could be compared with what Sicily has to offer.
Feudo Maccari Nero d’Avola 2011, $14.95, looks intriguing. Intentional low yields result in higher quality, and the wines have great potential.
This relatively new estate was created by Antonio Moretti, a producer of super-Tuscans, and so we can expect great care and, finally, high quality.
Expect top-notch flavour of red berry fruit in a finely structured and balanced wine.
There are a number of Nero d’ Avola options on the general list, from the Cusumano, $10.95, noted for dark fruit, mocha and vanilla spice, to the organic Angel from Giorgio & Gianni, $10.35, to the brawny Curto Eloro, $14.75, which apparently shows smoked meat, tar and plum on the nose!
As well, there are “Nero’ blends.- the Cavallina, $7.70, includes Syrah, the Cent’are, $13.65, incorporates Merlot, and the Montalto , $8.95. blends in Cabernet Sauvignon.
They will all vary according to the partnering grape, and invite comparison.
It is Puglia, the heel of the boot, that is home to three distinct red varietals: Negoramaro, Primitivo, and Aglianico.
The Negroamaro features prominently in Salice Salentino. The Taurino Riserva 2009, $14.95, impresses with a floral nose, light tannins and some earthy, leathery tones to accompany the cherry/plum notes.
It is tasty all the way.
Our Bay Street store has 7 bottles of the de-listed Solantico Riserva Salice Salentino 2009.
At $10.75, you ‘re saving over $4 per bottle.
It is dry, firm and bold, and begs for a fine roast of beef.
Primitivo is Zinfadel’s Italian alter-ego.
Stylistically, it is closer to its Italian stablemates than it is to the richly fruity Zins, even though they tend to have a decent amount of residual sugar.
One worth trying is the Papale Linea Oro Primitivo id Manduria 2010, $19.95.
It took gold at Mundus Vini 2012, and the Vatican actually purchased almost 10 cases following the election of Pope Francis.
Vintages describes it as being solid, juicy and round, smooth as velvet.
It is available at both the Great Northern Road and the Bay street stores.
On the regular list, check out the Doppio Passo Primitivo Salento IGT, $9.95.
The grapes are picked in stages to ensure ripeness, and the wine is finished in French oak.
It is a generous wine with a plum and blackberry bouquet with flavours of plum and chocolate on the palate.
The Girolamo Capo di Gallo Aglianico 2011, $18.95, rounds out the Pugliese stable, though it may be more commonly found in Campania or Basilicata (Italy’s arch or instep). As British wine expert, Jancis Robinson, writes, “It makes firm red wines with real savour that is somehow more mineral than animal or vegetable yet they do not lack fruit, and have great structure that promises a long and generally rather glorious life.”
The Girolamo undergoes malo-lactic fermentation which softens the acidic element, and then is aged in French oak for up to 18 months.
The result, an harmonious wine redolent with blackberry plum and almond, along with some leathery tones.
Moving north of the southern borders to Umbria, I must point out the Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino 2006, $19.95. In all of the LCBO there are only 5 listings for this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon has 752.
I have only had this wine once, and at the time it was still too young – or should have been decanted to breathe for at least 4 hours.
This one is apparently ready now, but will hold for a few years.
British wine merchants Berry Brothers and Rudd have this to say: “Sagrantino of Montefalco has one of the lowest maximum yields at 48 hl/ha, and must be aged for 30 months pre-release,
of which 12 months must be in wood - increasingly French barriques. It is a garnet-red with muscular tannins and full body, a subtle scent of violet petals, an aroma and bouquet reminiscent of blackberries.”
This is a wine to respect – and to enjoy.
So, next time you’re thinking “south”, forget the mint juleps, and pick up some great Italian wine.