Italy


Some wines grow more detailed, revealing more dimension and intrigue, as the moments pass. Such a one is the Strasserhof Sylvaner 2015, from the Valle Isarco in Italy’s northeastern Alto Adige-Sudtirol region. The grapes fermented in and the wine aged seven months in 75 percent stainless steel tanks and 25 percent large oak barrels. The color is a pure light gold hue; aromas of spiced pear, quince and ginger feel slightly honeyed and earthy, while a few minutes unfurl notes of lime peel and limestone. The wine is quite lively and frisky, almost prickly on the palate, and though silky-smooth feels slightly sanded, as if a gentle hand applied strokes of delicate sandpaper. More time induces hints of peaches and jasmine, along with beguiling touches of wood-smoke and exotic spices, banana and fig; the lean, lithe finish adds spare elements of lychee, petrol and flint. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with trout sauteed in capers and brown butter, pike quenelles, seafood risottos or, taking a different approach, roasted chicken. Excellent. About $22.

Vias Imports, N.Y. A sample for review.


Looking for a fine-grained, robust red wine to accompany the braised meat dishes and roasts that will surface on our tables as the months slope toward Autumn and, down the road, Winter? Or even just burgers and hearty pizzas and pasta dishes? Try the Niro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015. The color is black-purple shading to a vibrant violet rim; true to the nature of the montepulciano grape, the intense and concentrated scents and flavors of black raspberries and currants are permeated by notes of cherry skin and stem, lending a hint of bitterness and austerity; a few moments in the glass unfurl touches of loam, black tea, orange zest and cloves. The wine ages first in stainless steel and then in large oak casks, resulting in an effect of freshness, vivid acidity and enough wood influence for a sturdy structure. Mildly dusty tannins contribute to a pleasing velvety texture, driving through a finish packed with graphite and black fruit flavors. 13.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $18.

Imported by Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Fla. A sample for review.


Salina is one of the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily. Composed of six volcanic peaks, the island comprises only about 10 square miles. While Salina claims to produce the world’s best capers, the island is also notable for sweet wines made from the malvasia grape. In 2013, however, Tenuta Capofaro, a property owned by Sicily’s Tasca d’Almerita, produced the island’s first dry malvasia. I recently tried the Capofaro Didyme Malvasia 2016, Salina, and it’s one of the best white wines I have tasted this year. (“Didyme” is the ancient name for the island.) Made all in stainless steel, the wine displays a very pale straw-gold hue and arresting aromas of preserved lemon, bee’s-wax, melon and figs; a few moments in the glass unfurl notes of greengage, almond skin and camellia. Bright acidity, a necessity considering the grape’s tendency toward fatness, lends lift, litheness and energy to a dense and vibrant texture that seems filled with sunlight; flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pear, touched with an aura of salt marsh and green leafiness, are framed by a sense of spareness on the palate, all leading to a burnished finish polished by sea breeze and heather. 12.5 percent alcohol. We were intrigued and entranced by this wine, which served as a fine accompaniment to salmon marinated in olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice and given a juniper berry rub, then seared in a cast-iron skillet. Now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $25, and Worth a Search.

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


Sometimes a wine is so perfect for the purpose that it doesn’t matter what it is or where it came from. That was the case with the Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige. I assembled a snack yesterday, a bagatelle of hard salami, Manchego cheese, some wholewheat flatbread crackers and a dab of Dijon mustard — simple and humble — and opened this bottle of red wine about which I knew really nothing. A little research told me that the wine, from a cooperative established in 1906, is a blend of 95 percent schiava grapes with 5 percent lagrein, made in a combination of stainless steel and large old oak casks. The vines range in age from 30 to 70 years; the vineyards go up to 1,640 feet elevation. Though the wine offers a great deal in the way of personality and character, nothing here is over-extracted or unduly emphatic. The color is bright medium ruby-cherry, like a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting, conveying a sense of that essential timeless radiance; aromas of wild cherries and raspberries are permeated by notes of almond skin and apple peel, sage and tobacco. The wine is lean, lithe and supple on the palate, very dry and quite spare in its deployment of red berry fruit amid furrow-plowing acidity and a burgeoning element of graphite-tinged tannins and minerality, but lightly, even delicately applied. 13 percent alcohol. A reticent, completely confident wine that keeps you coming back for another sip; I could drink it every day. Excellent. About $24.

Imported by Omniwines Distributing Co., Flushing, N.Y. A sample for review.

We’re still drinking rosé wines at our house, and I hope you are too. For the Wine of the Day, No. 298, I’m featuring a well-made, attractive and unusual rosé from Sardinia. The Serra Lori Rosato 2016 was made by the Argiolas Estate, founded in 1938, and is designated Isola dei Nuraghi IGT. The name does not indicate a specific region but rather the entire island of Sardinia and smaller islands off its coasts, intended for wines made from grapes that typically fall outside the normal appellation categories. The term “Nuraghi” refers to the unique conical stone towers found throughout the island, structures built between about 1900 and 730 B.C. Made completely in stainless steel, Serra Lori Rosato 2016 is a blend of 50 percent cannonau grapes, 25 percent monica, 20 percent carignano and 5 percent bovale. The color is a moderately robust copper-coral pink; aromas of fresh strawberries and mulberries are highlighted by notes of pomegranate, cloves, iodine and seashell, with a distinct accent of dried Mediterranean herbs. Medium body on the palate — nothing ethereal here — juicy red berry flavors and vibrant acidity and limestone-like minerality mark this as a rosé appropriate for all sorts of fare, from tapas and fresh seafood through grilled fish and pork tenderloin to a multitude of picnic snacks like deviled eggs, fried chicken and duck, pork and rabbit terrines. On the other hand, you can drink it straight, as an aperitif, just with a handful of nuts or crackers. Winemaker was Mariano Murru. Lots of personality and character for the price. Excellent. About $15, representing Great Value.

Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

One of the most meticulous producers in Alto Adige is Alois Lageder. Now run by the sixth generation, on biodynamic principles, the winery’s pinot blancs, pinot grigios and gewurztraminers consistently earn high marks on this blog. For 2015, a hot year in northeastern Italy, owner Alois Clemens Lageder and winemaker Jo Pfisterer fashioned a pinot grigio with a difference. The Alois Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto Adige, is a blend of juice from grapes that were pressed immediately after picking with fruit that was left on the skins for several hours. The result is a pinot grigio that offers more body and more nuance in nose and mouth than just about any other version of the grape that I have tried. The color is very pale pink-copper-topaz, like the last hue of a fading sunset; aromas of heather and broom, spiced pear and lemongrass, almond blossom and lilac waft subtly from the glass; a few moments bring out notes of ginger and quince, with a highlight of crystallized lime zest, all of these elements etched in fine detail. The wine fills out on the palate, adding a dimension of depth and heft unusual for pinot grigio, yet retaining an almost ethereal quality; crisp with vibrant acidity and a scintillating quality of flint-like minerality, the wine invites sip after sip through to a finish distinguished by limestone, apple peel and a hint of almond skin bitterness. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 or ’19 with seafood risottos, seared or roasted fish or with a variety of fish or game terrines. Excellent. About $25.

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

I don’t think you’ll find a better gewürztraminer at the price, so look for this model diligently — that is, if you like the grape variety. Not everyone does, because it can be assertively floral and spicy, but I’ve been a fan for 30 years and more; the Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, Südtirol/Alto Adige, would be a good place to start if you’re not familiar with the grape. The wine hails from that part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire where borders between countries may be marked by road signs and lines on maps, but the ties of language, culture, families and agricultural practices are more important on the local level. In fact, many wines from this area of northeastern Italy bear labels with indications in Italian and German, and the appellation is listed, as you see, as both Südtirol and Alto Adige. The Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, made all in stainless steel, offers a riveting nose of an unabashed floral nature, through it’s never cloying or overwhelming. Notes of jasmine, rose petal and lilac are wreathed with hints of lime peel, lemongrass, damp flint and heather in a heady, seductive amalgam. Also unabashed is the vital stream of bright acidity that lends the wine terrific appeal and drinkability, though the texture is not only crisp and lively but almost soothingly talc-like, both elements poised in exciting balance; subtle flavors of spicy, baked stone fruit (with a slightly exotic touch of lychee) continue through a finish that’s sleek with chiseled limestone minerality. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20 with roasted pork shoulder or charcuterie, with seafood stews or risottos. A remarkably pure and intense gewürztraminer for the price. Excellent. About $16.

Weygandt-Metzler Importing, Rhinecliff, N.Y. A sample for review.

vermentino-web
The Olianas Vermentino 2016, Vermentino di Sardegna, is frankly one of the most beautiful wines I have tasted this year. Its making, along biointegrale methods, is meticulous. Twenty percent of the grapes are harvested slightly early and fermented naturally in stainless steel tanks and clay amphora. This portion is then used to produce spontaneous fermentation in the remaining 80 percent of the grapes. The blend ages five or six months in a combination of 70 percent stainless steel and 30 percent tonneaux, usually about 900 liters (237.75 gallons), so little of the wine has actual contact with wood. The result is a vermentino of shimmering purity and intensity that features a very pale straw-gold hue and penetrating aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, roasted lemon, grapefruit and lemongrass and back-notes of flint and damp limestone. The texture is seductively talc-like in softness yet taut and lean with crystalline acidity and river stone minerality, all wrapped in a bracing sea-salt and grapefruit pith finish of startling acuteness and nervosity. A few moments in the glass bring in hints of quince and ginger and a strain of dried meadow flowers and herbs. 13 percent alcohol. Drink this vermentino, a wine that feels truly alive and vital, through 2018 with grilled fish, seafood risottos, goat and sheep’s-milk cheeses. Excellent. The price for this remarkable performance is a mere $15, representing Terrific Value.

Cline Sisters Imports, Sonoma, Calif. A sample for review.

Sometimes you just want a decent robust red wine to down with your pizza or burger and not have to furrow your gentle brow about whether or Contrade Negroamaro 2015 FRONTnot you should be drinking it. Such a one is the Contrade Negroamaro 2015, a 100 percent varietal wine from Italy’s Pulgia region, way south in the heel of that complicated peninsular boot. Contrade — implying an enclosed vineyard — is a second label from Masseria Li Veli, whose products regularly show up on my radar for their moderate prices and excellent cost/value ratio, but the Contrade wines are something else. The wine aged briefly in oak — a mere three months — so what we get here is largely the grape itself in all its rustic, full-blown, black leather jacket glory. Let’s not make huge claims, but this wine’s black cherry, blueberry and mulberry scents and flavors, woven with notes of loam, sage and bay-leaf, lavender and bittersweet chocolate, its structure of soft, dusty tannins and vibrant acidity, layered with subtle tones of granitic minerality, provide a direct expression of the negroamaro grape and a gratifying quaff for whatever purpose you anticipate, especially, as I mentioned, as accompaniment to hearty pizzas and burgers — cheese and bacon, please — full-flavored pasta dishes and grilled meat generally. 13.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $10, making a Terrific Bargain.

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

tommasi
Here’s a Summery pinot grigio to remind you that the grape doesn’t have to produce bland, insipid, watery wines intended for mindless consumption. Tommasi “Le Rosse” Pinot Grigio 2016, Delle Venezia, displays a pale straw-gold hue and offers pleasing aromas of heather and sea salt, roasted lemons and almond blossom, white pepper, verbena and quince, all seamlessly meshed with zephyr-like ease and delicacy. The wine is quite sprightly on the palate, surprisingly dense and lithe; totally dry, it builds nuances of dried Mediterranean herbs, lemongrass, spiced pears and a kind of sunny-leafy quality that makes it eminently attractive and drinkable. From mid-palate back through the finish, a tide of limestone and flint minerality seeps in for crystalline structure. A comfortable 12 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2017 and into 2018 with grilled shrimp, tuna tartar, virtually any roasted or grilled fish, preferably pulled right from its watery lair before being cleaned and thrown on the fire. Excellent. About $17, representing Real Value.

Imported by Vintus LLC, Pleasantville, N.Y. A sample for review.

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