Italy


For last weekend’s Pizza and Movie Night — the film was Force Majeure — the wine I selected was the Selvapiana Vigneto Bucerchiale 2010, Chianti Rufina Riserva, a 100 percent sangiovese wine fermented in stainless steel tanks with natural yeasts and aged in small French oak barriques. Rufina is the smallest wine-producing entity of the Chianti region, but probably the best-known of the sub-zones. It is also not contiguous with the rest of Chianti or Chianti Classico, lying to the east of Florence in an area singled out for mention by Cosimo III Grand Duke of Florence in his edict of 1716 as one of the zones of superior production. Shielded by the Apennines to the north but accessible to a maritime breeze, Rufina is cooler than the areas of “regular” Chianti to the west. Its relative isolation has kept the wines of Rufina more obscure than Chianti Classico but also less expensive. The ancient estate was originally a summer retreat for the bishops of Florence and then for the families of Florentine merchants. It was purchased in 1827 by Michele Giuntini Selvapiana and is now operated by the fifth generation of his descendants. The estate’s 250 hectares include 60 hectares dedicated to vineyards, 50 to olive groves and 110 in woodland.

Selvapiana Bucerchiale 2010, Chianti Rufina Riserva, aged 15 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is an intense dark ruby hue shading to medium at the rim; first out of the glass are aromas of loam and brambles, sandalwood and cloves, with touches of graphite and lavender; the bouquet gradually opens to notes of smoked oolong tea, dried red and black cherries and cranberries and an undertone of iodine and iron, all elements that segue seamlessly to the palate. The wine offers a suave surface over stellar acidity and a vibrant structure that hums like a struck tuning fork; at almost five years after harvest, this sangiovese wine feels young and vigorous, though there’s no mistaking the dry dusty tannins and the finish that embodies the power of lithic austerity. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now, with hearty fare centered on roasted or grilled red meat, through 2022 to ’26. Excellent. About $35.

Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

I needed a lively, flavorful yet spare red wine to drink with a pasta dish made rich with guanciale and lots of Pecorino cheese. I found what I was looking for in the Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco 2012, Langhe, Piedmont. Made by Luca Corrado, the estate’s fifth-generation owner, the wine serves as a kind of cadet version of Vietti’s Barolo Castiglione. The vines, averaging 35 years old, are treated in the same manner, though Perbacco represents a selection of younger vines and wines more suited to a shorter aging period. Perbacco, consisting of 100 percent nebbiolo grapes, ages four months in small oak barriques, 20 months in casks — that is to say, large barrels — and two months in stainless steel before bottling. The color is deep ruby shading to violet/brick red at the rim; aromas of dried currants and cherries are woven with notes of lavender and tobacco, briers and brambles, dried orange rind and black tea. While the black and red fruit flavors are generous, the wine’s structure is lean and racy, a bit rooty and branchy, and the wine benefits from clean acidity that feels chiseled for keeps. Nothing plush or voluptuous about the tannins either; the impression here is of a finely sifted and honed entity that can be depended on to contribute framing and foundation for the wine, no questions asked. The finish offers hints of tar, bitter chocolate and graphite. Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco 2012 is neither an oak-’n'-tannin blockbuster nor a fruit bomb; rather, its spare, carefully calibrated elegance lends a sense of the grape’s rightful scale and character. It cut through the richness of the pasta dish like a plow through loam, like a prow through sea-spray, like a crow through an autumn breeze. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $25.

Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.


Sangioveto was once a term for the grape commonly known as sangiovese, the red wine stalwart of Tuscany. The Badia a Coltibuono estate in Tuscany honors the heritage with a wine named for that ancient denomination, so today we look at the Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscano 2009, Toscano I.G.T., a 100 percent varietal wine that exhales an autumnal breath combining all that’s attractive and seductive about the meadow, the woodland and the vineyard. Depending on the year, the wines age from 12 to 18 months in French barriques, 25 percent new; the grapes are hand-harvested and ferment on native yeasts. Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscano 2009 offers a dark ruby hue shading to brick-red at the rim; notes of leather, cloves, loam and some rooty, smoked black tea permeate an element of macerated red and black cherries, currants and plums; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of lavender, violets and bitter chocolate. The effect on the palate is a bit woody and briery; it takes 30 or 40 minutes for the wine to find balance and integration, after which it succeeds in delivering lovely purity and intensity of the grape’s essentially ripe but minerally character, with touches of figs and balsam, orange zest, graphite and burning leaves, all upheld by racy acidity that doesn’t quit and chiseled but softening tannins. Rabbit, quail, pheasant? Veal roast, leg o’ lamb, pastrami sandwich? Bring ‘em on, I say. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Production was 750 cases. Excellent. About $60.

Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

The Sicilian estate, Tasca d’Almerita, with vineyards at various locations on Mount Etna, dates back to 1830. It is operated now by Count Lucio Tasca and his sons Giuseppe and Alberto. The white wine under review today is made from a little-known indigenous grape, the carricante, and perhaps it’s the volcanic soil in which the vines grow, but this wine is unique. The Tascante Buonora 2013, Sicilia, made all in stainless steel, offers a pale straw color and notes of damp straw and heather, grapefruit and spiced pear, jasmine and yellow plums; a few moments in the glass bring out touches of quince, ginger and dried thyme. A few moments more, and you begin to appreciate the savory and saline elements that provide the wine with its foundation and dimension; it’s clean, fresh and bracing, with a crisp, lively presence, yet deeply imbued with earthy-limestone-seashell qualities; it’s a wine of both the marshy, sea-blown shore and the rocky uplands. For all that, there’s something chaste, delicate and chiseled about it. 12 percent alcohol. We happily consumed this bottle last night with a pasta LL made that was pappardelle with kale, baby leeks, mint, ricotto and walnuts. Drink through 2016 or into 2017. Excellent. About $20, and Worth a Search.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

The Campofiorin red wine from Argicola Masi, produced since 1964, tends to over-perform for its price range, making it a must-have when My Readers are confronted with a platter of pappardelle with rabbit sauce or beef Carpaccio or a veal or pork haunch roasted with garlic and rosemary. Hmmm, venison, too. The Masi Campofiorin 2011, Rosso del Veronese I.G.T., is a blend of the typical red grapes of the Valpolicella region — corvina, rondinella and molinara. It’s made in a fashion similar to the great Amarone wines, that is, after it is vinified — turned into wine! — it is fermented again on the semi-dried grapes of the same variety. After that, the wine aged 18 months in barrels, 2/3s in 90 hectoliter Slavonian oak botti — big-ass barrels; 90 hl equals 2,377.5 gallons — and 1/3 in 600-liter new French oak casks, barrels of 158.5-gallon capacity; by comparison, the standard French oak barrique holds about 59 gallons. The point is to allow the oak to be a shaping but not dominant influence on the wine. The color is dark ruby, opaque at the center; aromas of dried raspberries, black cherries and plums, potpourri, sandalwood and cloves, all knit by notes of iodine and iron, seque to the mouth as a wine that features spiced and macerated black and red fruit flavors deeply imbued with the permeating factor of slightly dusty, finely-sifted tannins. Acidity is electric, almost pert, and it drives the dryness through a finish that becomes a bit austere. Give this a few minutes in the glass and it brings in hints of orange zest, oolong tea, loam and leather, all powered by a dynamic lithic element. The alcohol content is 13 percent. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $18, a Remarkable Value.

Imported by Kobrand Corp, Purchase, N.Y. A sample for review.


Blithe but many-layered, the Masi Masianco 2014 is a blend of 75 percent pinot grigio grapes and 25 percent verduzzo delle Venezia, an unusual combination that earns the wine a designation of “delle Venezia I.G.T.,” meaning that it lies outside the usual regulations for the Veneto region. Masi Agricola is well-known for its firm, traditional Valpolicella and Amarone wines, but this excursion into freshness and immediate appeal comes high on the Summer-drinking rankings. Fermented in stainless steel and briefly aged in barriques — small French oak barrels — for suppleness of texture, this delightful quaffer offers a pale straw-gold color and up-front aromas of roasted lemon and lime peel, fennel, caraway and thyme and bare hints of pineapple and grapefruit; the whole effect is of absolute freshness highlighted by a note of green leafiness. Masi Masianco 2014 is quite dry, very crisp and lively and exhibits citrus and stone-fruit elements borne on a tide of chalk and flint minerality and chiming acidity; the finish is elegant, subtle and a bit austere. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 as a charming aperitif or with fresh seafood, chicken salad and other picnic fare. Very Good+. About $15, a Terrific Value.

Imported by Kobrand Corp, Purchase, N.Y. A sample for review.

Now run by the fifth generation, the Vietti estate, in the Langhe region of Piemonte, fashions wines — primarily red — that reflect traditional methods with modern techniques. The Vietti “Tre Vigne” Barbera d’Asti 2013, made completely from barbera grapes, was fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged 14 months in a combination of small French oak barrels, the standard 59-gallon barrique, and large casks of Slovenian oak. (Winemaker is the estate’s owner Luca Currado.) The color is dark ruby, almost opaque at the center; aromas of red and black currants and plums permeated by notes of graphite and loam and woodsy touches of underbrush and dried porcini. These qualities segue seamlessly from nose to palate, with an infusion of red cherries, where the wine offers fairly dense but navigable tannins — dusty, granitic and clean together — and bright, zesty acidity that keeps it notably lively without crossing the edge to screaming and shrill. The wine is quite dry but attractive, engaging and delicious. We drank it — yep, the whole damned bottle — last night with a lasagna featuring tomatoes and sausage with plenty of basil and parmesan, mozzarella and fontina cheeses. 14 percent alcohol. Now through 2017 or ’18. Very Good+. About $17, representing Good Value.

Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in the nose and on the palate, and if you’re looking for a wine that fulfills those criteria for a reasonable price, stray no more but attach yourself to the Peter Zemmer Punggl Pinot Bianco 2013, from Italy’s far northeastern Alto Adige region, also known as S├╝dtirol, “south Tirol,” for its proximity to Austria. Indeed, surnames and place-names are amorphous in these foothills and ranges where political affiliations and boundaries, which have shifted over many centuries, can be less important than family ties and reputations. Made completely from pinot blanc grapes and aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and large oak casks, the Peter Zemmer Punggl — that’s not misspelled — Pinot Bianco 2013 offers a pale gold color and intriguing notes of straw, dried thyme, orange blossom, grapefruit and spiced pear, all impeccably and delicately woven and tied off with touches of lime peel and flint. In the mouth, this sleek lovely wine is dry, lean, crisp and racy, with depths of limestone minerality to support its juicy, spicy yet elegant citrus and stone-fruit flavors that bear, at the heart, a tincture, a bell-tone, of wild red currant. Sunny, leafy, with personality to spare, this is one to drink all Summer long and into the Fall as a charming aperitif or with roasted or grilled fish or, perhaps paradoxically, with charcuterie or veal Milanese. 13.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $18.

Imported by HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.


From an estate that traces its origin in Italy’s Marche region to 1871 — pronounced “MAR-kay” — comes the Garofoli Macrina 2013, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, made all in stainless steel from 100 percent verdicchio grapes. This is a versatile and appealing white wine that offers a pale gold color and enticing aromas and flavors of roasted lemon and yellow plum infused with notes of dried thyme, almond skin and verbena. The whole effect is spare, savory, saline and bracing, as fleet acidity and a scintillating limestone element lend essential vibrancy and energy. It feels coastal and wind-swept. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2015 with grilled shrimp, seafood risottos, fish stews or as an attractive aperitif. Very Good+. About $14, marking Great Value.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

The Zenato estate was founded in 1960 by Sergio and Carla Zenato, just east of Lake Garda, and focused from the beginning on the white trebbiano di Lugana grape. Today, the property makes a variety of wines, including the red Valpolicella Classico and Amarone. The estate is now operated by Sergio and Carla’s daughter Nadia and son Alberto, who have introduced a new wine to the Zenato roster is the Alanera Rosso Veronese, today’s Wine of the Week. Alanera means “black wing.”

So, the Zenato Alanera 2012, Rosso Veronese, is a blend of 55 percent corvina grapes, 25 percent rondinella, 10 percent corvinone and 5 percent each merlot and cabernet sauvignon. That latter percentage of grapes associated more with Bordeaux or California or indeed Tuscany instead of the Veneto is why this wine carries a Rosso Veronese designation rather than Valpolicella; merlot and cabernet sauvignon are not allowed in “official” Valpolicella at any level. Fifty percent of the grapes were dried. The wine aged 12 months in 300 to 500-liter tonneaux and 100 to 150-hectoliter tanks, meaning fairly large to quite large vessels — 100 HLs equal 2,641.7 gallons — and no new oak, these barrels all being two or three years old. The wine is a dark ruby color with a purple tinge at the rim; scents of ripe black currants, blueberries and plums are permeated by notes of licorice, lavender and violets, with a penetrating graphite element, the overall impression being spicy, roasted and a little fleshy. It’s quite dry but succulent, a bit velvety on the palate but buoyed by bright acidity and pert flint-like minerality; and boy is it tasty, with its black fruit flavors touched with fruitcake and oolong tea. Moderate and slightly chewy tannins lend heft from mid-palate back through the clean, chiseled finish. A very manageable 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

Imported by The Winebow Group, New York. A sample for review.

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