Piedmont


Welcome back, Weekend Wine Sips, after a two week hiatus! “Thanks, FK, glad to be back!” So what do we have in store today? “Well, FK, since this segment of BTYH took some time off, I thought I’d assemble a vastly varied group of 12 wines that should appeal to just about every taste and pocketbook as well as hitting diverse regions.” Sounds good, WWS, can you be more specific? “Of course! We have four white wines, three rosés and five reds, and we’re looking at two regions of Spain, Argentina, Italy, Alsace, different areas of California and Washington state.” Sounds exciting! “Thanks! I think our readers will find a lot to ponder and enjoy.” And as usual –? “Right you are, FK! No tech notes, no history or geographical info, just quick, pithy, insightful notes and remarks that grab the essence of the wine and shake it out on the table!” Ah, perhaps I wouldn’t have put the case exactly in those words, but what the hell! “Indeed! And I say, let the show begin!” Don’t forget to mention, as per FTC regulations — “Oh, damn! These wines were samples for review.”
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Viña Reboreda 2011, Ribeira, Spain. 11.5% alc. 40% treixadura grapes, 20% each godello, torrontés and palomino. Pale straw-gold color; clean, fresh aromas of roasted lemons and spiced pears permeated by hints of dried thyme and limestone; taut, bracing acidity; texture indulges in lushness that feels almost powdery, like electrified talcum powder; citrus and stone-fruit flavors persist through a finish that pours on the limestone. Very Good+. About $13.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. 100% semillon grapes. Pale straw-gold with a faint greenish cast; fig and pear, green pea, hint of grapefruit; sleek and smooth but with a touch of wildness in its weedy-meadowy quality; ripe and almost luscious but quite dry, crisp and lively and truly spare and high-toned; hint of almond skin bitterness on the finish. Extraordinary power and character for the price. Production was 1,000 cases. Excellent. About $16, marking Tremendous Value.
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Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Pinot Gris 2009, Alsace, France. 100% pinot gris. 13.5% alc. Medium straw-gold color; beguiling bouquet of pear, peach and melon heightened by jasmine and cloves and a tinge of honeyed grapefruit; quite spicy and lively in the mouth, just this side of exuberant yet a wine imbued with the dignity of limestone and flint; slightly sweet initially but shifts smoothly to bone-dry through the mineral-and-grapefruit flecked finish. Drank this with the soup made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. Excellent. About $20. How can they sell it so cheaply?
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Jordan Chardonnay 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 13.5% alc. 100% chardonnay. Clean, fresh, spare, elegant; lovely balance and integration; pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors permeated by ripe slightly spicy stone fruit and hints of ginger and quince; seductive texture that’s almost cloud-like yet enlivened by crystalline acidity and an inundation of liquid limestone. Very dry, a bit austere through the finish; one of the most Chablis-like of California’s chardonnays. Excellent. About $29.
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Viña Zorzal Garnacha Rosato 2011, Navarra, Spain. 13% alc. 100% garnacha grapes. Entrancing bright cherry magenta; pure raspberry and strawberry, touches of watermelon and mulberry; dark, more full-bodied than most rosés; notes of briers and slate for an earthy undertone. Quite charming, but nothing light or delicate. Very Good+. About $13.
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Heller Estate Merlot Rosé 2011, Carmel Valley, Monterey County. 100% organic merlot grapes. Light cherry-violet color; raspberry, mulberry and melon with a touch of pomegranate; very stony and spicy, with hints of damp slate and dusty herbs; vibrant acidity keeps it lively and thirst-quenching. Lots of personality. Very Good+. About $21.
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Lasseter Family Winery Enjoué 2011, Sonoma Valley. 13.2% alc. 73% syrah, 24% mourvèdre, 3% grenache. Entrancing shimmering pale salmon-copper color; delicate, spare, elegant; dried raspberries and cranberries with hints of melon and pomegranate, backnotes of cloves and orange zest; quite dry but subtly ripe and flavorful; “I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows”; pert acidity, slightly stony but not austere. Quite lovely rosé. 570 cases. Excellent. About $24.
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Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 2010, Barbera d’Asti Superiore. 14% alc. 100% barbera grapes. Medium cherry-ruby color; a beguiling mélange of smoky and sweetly ripe red cherries and red currants with hints of blueberry and mulberry; undertones of violets and potpourri and gentle touches of briers and graphite-like minerality, with a smooth segue into the mouth, all elements supported by moderately chewy tannins, bright acidity and subdued granitic earthiness. Excellent. About $15, marking Great Value.
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Lasseter Family Winery Chemin de Fer 2010, Sonoma Valley. 14.8% alc. 49% grenache, 38% syrah, 13% mourvèdre. Medium ruby-purple with a hint of violet at the rim; wow, smoke on silk and tattered on briers and brambles; graceful, balanced and integrated but gathers power and dimension as the moments pass; luscious and spicy blackberry, raspberry and blueberry flavors but not over-ripe, held in check by a taut spine of acid and sinew of dense and dusty tannins. Love this one. Excellent. About $40.
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Candaretta Windthrow 2008, Columbia Valley, Washington. 14.6% alc. 36% syrah, 29% mourvèdre, 18% counoise, 17% grenache. Very dark and dense in every way; deep ruby-purple color; spiced and macerated blackberries, black currants and plums with an undertow of blueberry; smoke and a charcoal edge, leather and graphite; touch of earth and wet dog; incredibly lively and vivid, royal tannins and imperial acidity. Drink through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $50.
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Nickel & Nickel Darien Vineyard Syrah 2009, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 14.9% alc. 100% syrah. Classic in shape, proportion and tone; dark ruby-purple with a violet-magenta rim; volcanic in its elements of smoke, ash, graphite; tar, leather, fig paste and fruitcake; black currants and plums, very spicy, very lively; finely milled tannins, dense and chewy; long dry, earthy finish. Drink through 2019 or ’20.
Excellent. About $50.
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Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2009, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. 14.2% alc. 85% petite sirah, 15% field blend of at least 16 other grape varieties. Just what petite sirah should be. Deep ruby-purple color; dark, dense, ripe, packed with dusky blackberry, black currants and blueberry scents and flavors; plum jam and an intensely highlighted dusty graphite element; smoke and ash, leather and tar; robust and rustic, with large-scale but palatable velvety tannins. Bring on the braised short ribs or the grilled pork chops with cumin and chillies. Now through 2017 to ’19. Excellent. About $80.
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I know, you’re thinking, “F.K., why don’t you just call this weekly series Saturday Wine Sips, since you seem to have so much trouble getting the thing written and posted on Friday?” Well, because Friday is the lead-in to the weekend, and I think of this series as brief reviews of wines My Readers would like to find for their weekend (moderate) drinking enjoyment. So I miss by a day here and there! So what!

A group of Italian wines today, whites and reds from Tuscany and Piedmont, including one of the best wines made from vermentino grapes that I have encountered; there’s also an excellent Dolcetto and Nebbiolo. As usual with the Friday Wine Sips, even when I post on Saturday, I deliberately keep matters brief and decisive by striking to the heart of the thing and eliminating the usual data about history, specific geographical matters, winery personnel and so on. What you read is what you get. The Poggiotondo wines were samples for review; the others were tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
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La Scolca White Label Gavi 2010, Piedmont. 13% alc. 100% cortese grapes. Pale straw-gold color, faint green highlights; spiced lemon with a touch of lemon balm, hints of almond and almond blossom, peach and pear; crisp, lively, alert; pleasing texture infused with limestone-and-shale-like minerality; spicy finish. Very attractive for drinking through the end of 2012. Very Good+. About $18.
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Poggiotondo Vermentino 2011, Toscana. 13.5% alc. 100% vermentino grapes. Radiant pale gold; fresh and floral as a spring garden; yellow plums and thyme, roasted lemon and pear; clean, bracing sea breeze and salt marsh astringency; quite spicy, very dry, scintillating acidity and limestone-like minerality supporting ripe stone-fruit flavors; long spice-thronged finish. Now through 2013 or ’14. One of the best vermentino wines I have encountered. Excellent. About $20, a Notable Value.
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Poggiotondo Rosso 2010, Toscana. 12.5% alc. 40% sangiovese, 30% merlot, 30% syrah. I was not as impressed by the Poggiotondo red wines as by the Vermentino, but I definitely liked the Rosso better than the Chianti. Simple and direct and tasty; gushes with spicy red and black fruit scents and flavors balanced by bright acidity and sleek, moderately chewy tannins; the finish adds leather, briers and brambles. A decent quaffer for red sauce pasta dishes, pizzas and burgers. Drink through the end of 2012. Very Good. About $11.
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Poggiotondo Chianti Cerro del Masso 2009, Toscano DOCG. 13% alc. 80% sangiovese, 10% merlot, 5% each syrah and colorino. A curious marriage of bland and harsh; takes rusticity to the edge of roughshod. Sangiovese deserves better. Not recommended. About $15.
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Marziano Abbona Dolcetto Dogliani “Papa Celso” 2009, Piedmont. 14% alc. 100% dolcetto grapes. Dark ruby color with a violet-magenta cast; warm, fleshy, meaty floral bouquet, spiced and macerated red and black currants and plums, undertones of lavender and leather; quite earthy, with touches of moss and underbrush, a little spare and austere yet almost succulent in texture, almost velvety; a graphite-like strain of minerality through the finish keeps it in line. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $30.
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Marziano Abbona Barbera d’Alba “Rinaldi” 2009, Piedmont. 14.5% alc. 100% barbera grapes. Dark ruby-purple; leather, plums and mulberries, briers and brambles, a little fleshy and floral; very dry, packed with dried spices and dried red and black fruit flavors; fairly foresty, burgeoning underbrush, austere from mid-palate back through the finish where it picks up some granite-like minerality and a bit of heat. Now through 2015 to ’16. Very Good+. About $30.
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Marziano Abbona Nebbiolo d’Alba “Bricco Barone” 2009, Piedmont. 14% alc. 100% nebbiolo grapes. Classic. Deep ruby-purple; tar, earth, violets and truffles, rosemary and its bit of resiny astringency, black currants and plums; full-bodied, dense, very dry, jammed with finely milled and sifted tannins, graphite elements and woody spices; touches of fruitcake, potpourri and bitter chocolate; long, spun-out finish. Demands rabbit fricassee, game birds, venison. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $30.
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The Sovrana Barbera d’Alba 2009, a single-vineyard wine made by the estate of Beni di Batasiolo, is a “new style” Barbera, that is, it’s aged in small oak barrels — 12 to 15 months — instead of the traditional large old casks. The controversial process — sides have been drawn, insults hurled throughout Piedmont — imparts a different range of aromatics to the bouquet, and yet what a winsome and seductive range that is. Sovrana Barbera d’Alba 2009 offers an incredible perfume of dried cloves and sandalwood, lavender and potpourri and pomander, dried red currants and raspberries with a tinge of ripe mulberries and plums, layered with dusty graphite, all quite penetrating and evocative. In the mouth, matters take a more serious turn; the wine is intense and concentrated, displaying heaps of backbone and grit and vibrant acidity, along with dense, chewy, slightly grainy tannins and, finally, tightly-knit flavors of black cherry, red currants and tart mulberries. The finish brings in more earthiness and granite-like minerality with hints of iron and iodine. Give it some air and give it food; this is no smacky-mouth sipping wine but a beverage intended for a salt-strewn medium rare rib-eye steak, a veal chop grilled with rosemary and garlic or, as we tested it last night, with spaghetti with sausage meatballs, basil and peas, a Jamie Oliver recipe. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $20.

Imported by Boisset America, St. Helena, Ca. A sample for review.

Today we look at seven wines chosen to satisfy the sense of freshness and renewal that comes — or should come — with Spring. In fact, it’s gently raining in my neck o’ the woods at this moment, and all the shades of green in the backyard are pulsing with color. These are mainly delicate wines made for sipping or matching with food more refined that we consumed in Winter, what we had of that season, anyway. There’s a delightful Moscato d’Asti, two wines made in different fashions from the torrontés grape — and I deplore that fact that almost all importers have dropped the accent from torrontés — a robust little Côtes du Rhône red for when you decide to grill burgers, and so on. (I also deplore the fact that WordPress will not allow me to post Macon with a circumflex.) As usual with Friday Wine Sips, I include no technical or historical or geographical data; the idea is incisive notices designed to get at the heart of the wine quickly. The order is by ascending price. With one exception, these were samples for review.
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Callia Alta Torrontes 2011, Valle de Tulum, San Juan, Argentina. 13.5% alc. Not as shamelessly floral as many torrontés wines are, a little more restrained, even slightly astringent; but refreshing, cleansing, chaste, also quite spicy and savory; hints of lemon and lemongrass, zinging acidity and flint-like mineral elements. Screw-cap. Very Good+. About $9, a Raving Great Bargain.
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Trumpeter Torrontes 2010, Mendoza, Argentina. (Rutini Wines) 13.5% alc. Heady jasmine and honeysuckle, orange rind and lemon zest, mango and hints of tarragon and leafy fig; very spicy, very lively, lush texture balanced by crisp acidity; the finish dry, spare, focused. Very Good+. About $13, a Real Value.
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Michel Torino Malbec Rosé 2011, Calchaque Valley, Argentina. 13.5% alc. A beguiling rosy-light ruby color; strawberry and red cherry with touches of peach and rose petal; a darker note of mulberry; bright acidity with a crystalline mineral background; delightful and a little robust for a rosé, try with charcuterie or fried chicken. Very Good+. About $13, representing Good Value.
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La Petite Fontaine 2010, Côtes du Rhône, France. 14% alc. 60% grenache, 20% syrah, 15% cinsault, 5% carignan. Dark ruby color; fleshy, spiced and macerated blackberries, black currants and plums; smoke, briers and brambles, plush but somewhat rustic tannins, very earthy and minerally. Simple and direct, tasty; for burgers, grilled sausages and the like. Screw-cap. Very Good. About $13.
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Luca Bosio Moscato d’Asti 2010, Piedmont, Italy. 5.5% alc. Exactly what you want Moscato d’Asti to be: clean, fresh and lively, with notes of apple, orange and orange blossom and a hint of lime peel; mildly but persistently effervescent, a winsomely soft, cloud-like texture balanced by fleet acidity; initial sweetness that dissolves through a dry, limestone-laced finish. Truly charming. Very Good+. About $17
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Verget Terres de Pierres Macon-Village 2010, Maconnais, France. 13% alc. A lovely expression of the chardonnay grape; fresh and appealing, pineapple and grapefruit laced with jasmine and cloves, quince and ginger; very dry but juicy, sleek and svelte, borne on a tide of limestone and shale; makes you happy to be drinking it. A great choice for your house chardonnay. Very Good+. About $18. (Not a sample; I paid $22 in Memphis.)
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Trimbach Riesling 2009, Alsace, France. 13% alc. Pale straw-yellow; apple, fig and lychee, camellia, hints of pear and petrol; brings up a bit of peach and almond skin; very spicy, crisp and lively, svelte and elegant, nothing flamboyant or over-ripe; delicate flavors of roasted lemon and baked pears; long limestone-infused finish with a touch of grapefruit bitterness. Excellent. About $25.
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Borgo Maragliano is a small producer of classic “champagne method” sparkling wines in the Loazzolo area of Piedmont, between the towns of Alba and Asti, farming only 15 hectares — just under 40 acres — of moscato, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. Don’t miss this estate’s Giovanni Galliano Brut Rosé 2005, made from 100 percent pinot noir. Now the 2006 and ’07 are also in the United States of America, but this ’05 is drinking beautifully now and may serve as testimony that these wines benefit from five or six years aging. (The vintage is printed on the back label in small type.) The color is a light copper-pale onion skin hue; the bead is an exhilarating upward surge of tiny bubbles. Aromas of orange zest, raspberries and dried red currants open to notes of biscuits, cinnamon toast, almond blossom and almond skin, with its hint of astringency, all woven into a tremendously beguiling bouquet. This rosé sparkling wine is the epitome of elegance and restraint, its flush of dried red fruit flavors and subtle spice buoyed by bright acidity and lavish layers of limestone and shale-like minerality; a touch of austerity on the finish completes the impression. 13.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25 to $32.

Imported by Le Vignoble, Cordova, Tennessee.

I included the Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2006 in my Best Wines of 2010; I wouldn’t be surprised if the version for 2007 makes it onto my Best Wines of 2011.

There really is a marchesi at this property, and he is Alberto Cisa Asinari di Gresy, as charming and unassuming a personage as one could wish to meet or desire to emulate. The historic property. Monte Aribaldo (24.86 acres for dolcetto, chardonnay, sauvignon blamc), surrounds a 19th Century hunting lodge built by Alberto di Gresy’s grandfather in the commune of Treiso d’Alba. Alberto di Gresy, born in 1952, took over the operation of the property right out of university and began producing wine, instead of selling grapes to other producers, in 1973. Another vineyard nearby, Martinenga (59.28 acres, mainly nebbiolo, and the source of the wine we consider today), has been in the family since 1797; this is the location of the central winery. A third vineyard, La Serra consists of 27.21 acres of moscato, barbera and merlot, while the 6.38-acre Monte Colombo is for barbera and merlot.

My first note on the Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2007 is “how lovely.” Those are not the two words that one would apply to many Barbarescos these days, producers leaning instead toward hard tannins and blatant oak. And even though this wine aged six months in new French oak barrels and 14 months in Slavonian oak casts, it came out utterly smooth and mellow, balanced and integrated. The color is medium ruby-garnet; aromas of spiced and macerated red currants and plums and mulberries are wreathed with dried spice and potpourri, a touch of orange zest and black tea, and backnotes of violets and loamy earth. Lovely indeed. Vibrant acidity cuts a swath on the palate, lending the wine engaging vivacity while supporting elements of dried black and red fruit, cloves and sandalwood and a hint of nebbiolo’s tarry depths; fine-grained tannins and any oak influence are completely absorbed, giving the wine seductive firmness and suppleness yet not overwhelming its spare elegance. A beauty for drinking now through 2016 or ’17 with small roasted game birds or fricassee of rabbit, though I sipped a glass most happily with my cheese toast at lunch this week. Alcohol content is 14 percent. Excellent. About $50.

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

Not many winemakers or proprietors go into politics, but Luigi Einaudi (1874-1961), who founded the Einaudi wine estate in Piedmont in the 1890s at the age of 23, became Italy’s first president in 1948. One assumes he invested the office with more dignity than some of his successors, but never mind that. Certainly his descendents have thrived; the well-respected estate now consists of 12 properties or farmsteads (poderi) totaling 321 acres, of which 124 are under vines. The company, best-known for its single-vineyard Barolos, is operated by Luigi Einaudi’s granddaughter Paola Einaudi and her son Matteo Sardagna; winemaker is Beppe Caviola.

The dolcetto grape is little grown outside Piedmont; there used to be some in California (still?) and paradoxically the oldest dolcetto vines in the world, according to Oz Clarke, are probably in Australia. Dolcetto does not take well to oak aging or to attempts to pump it up into a bigger, more significant wine than it ought to be. Fittingly, then, the Poderi Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani 2010 was given no oak but aged eight to 10 months in stainless steel tanks. Aromas of black and red currants are permeated by hints of dried cherries and dried orange zest, smoke and tobacco, rose petals and a touch of oolong tea. The wine is quite dry — I always wonder how the grape got its name, “little sweet one” — and packed with dried black and red fruit, dried spices and dried flowers; it’s a trove of potpourri and spice box effects enlivened by keen acidity and a pass at earthy minerality. I drank a few glasses one night with lamb chops in an anchovy-caper sauce, and the match was terrific. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2012 or ’13. Very Good+. Prices around the country average about $17, though I paid $21 in Memphis.

Imported by Empson USA, Alexandria, Va.

Porcini risotto isn’t very photogenic, but I’ll include an image of LL’s triumph anyway, because what it may lack in picture-power it more than made up for in the intensity of flavor. Most recipes assume that the home chef in the United States of America is not working with fresh porcini mushrooms, but LL had ordered a pound of porcinis from Mikuni through GiltTaste.com, and they were delivered by UPS overnight. For broth, she used veal stock, though veal is usually verboten in her food philosophy, and she apologized profusely to the Gods of Baby Animals, but, prego, did it ever give the risotto deep richness and flavors to bolster the deeply earthy mushrooms. I think this was the best version of porcini risotto that LL has made, at least in my experience.

To drink with the porcini risotto, I went to a nearby wine and liquor store and bought a bottle of Moccagatta Nebbiolo 2007. I first wrote about this wine, also a purchase, in December 2009. (Marc de Grazia Imports, Winston-Salem, N.C.) Here’s that review:

The Moccagatta Nebbiolo 2007, from Piedmont’s Langhe region, represents the entry level wine for the Minuto family’s Moccagatta estate, founded in 1952. Made from 100 percent nebbiolo grapes (from young vineyards) and aged a scant six months in old barriques, the wine offers the typical nebbiolo aromas of tar, smoke, violets, spiced plums, damp leaves and moss and gravel. Flavors of macerated black currants and blueberries are draped on a spare, taut structure whose bright acidity cuts a swath on the palate. Nothing opulent or easy here; the wine is an eloquent expression of a grape at a level of purity and intensity that’s especially gratifying from vines that are less than a decade old. Dried heather and thyme seep through the bouquet after a few minutes in the glass, as the wine gets increasingly spicy, dry and austere, with touches of old paper and dust. While the Moccagatta Nebbiolo ’07 doesn’t display the dimension or detail of Moccagatta’s more expensive single-vineyard Barbarescos, it’s an admirable statement of a grape variety and winemaking philosophy. Best from 2010 or ’11 through 2015 to ’17. Bring on the pappardelle con coniglio. Excellent. About $25.

The first difference between the bottle we tried at the end of 2009 and the bottle we tried a few days ago is the price; initially $25, now it’s $23. The second difference is a subtle shifting in balance toward gracefulness, clarity and balance. Make no mistake, this is a nebbiolo wine deeply imbued with the grape’s signature smoky, tarry, dusty graphite-laden tannins and earthy-herbal-rooty character, yet give it a few minutes in the glass — I should have opened it 45 minutes before we sat down to sanctify ourselves at the altar of porcini risotto — and it delivers a bouquet so alluring that it’s practically deliriously seductive. As far as aromas go, one feels almost a sense of physical size to these packed-in elements of lavender and licorice, violets and sandalwood, cloves and fruitcake that generously expand to include macerated plums and blueberries. This sensuous panoply seems to seep inevitably into the wine’s dense, chewy structure, modulating somewhat the rigor of its mineral-flecked tannins and elevating acidity. One might even call it elegant, while not neglecting its fairly severe, leathery finish. The Moccagatta Nebbiolo 2007 was perfect with the porcini risotto; it was as if two earthy and elemental modes of being were speaking to each other in their disparate ways. This is what good eating and drinking are all about. Still Excellent. About $23.

Label image (modified) from tastingnotes.dk.

In honor of tomorrow’s Mother’s Day celebration, I offer notes on a quartet of inexpensive or reasonably priced sparkling wines — not that the worth of our mothers is to be calculated in dollars but, rather, in tears and joy — that will bring a little lift to the occasion of a lunch or dinner, a party or reception. The style and tone of each of these is different and capable of creating its own mood. There’s still time to hie thyself to a wine store and pick up a bottle or two for the sake of maternal love and obligation. These were samples for review. Image from armymomhaven.com
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The Caposaldo Prosecco from Italy’s Veneto region is an exhilarating Prosecco — the name of the grape and the wine — that sports a very pale straw/gold color and a seething plethora of tiny glinting bubbles. Caposaldo Prosecco is fresh, clean and lively, with whole shoals of limestone and steel buttressing notes of almond and almond blossom, orange rind and lemon and a delicate hint of pear. Heaps of vitality and energy, currents of crisp acidity, very dry, with a pert, stony finish. Quite charming. 11.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+ About $14, representing Good Value.
Imported by Kobrand Corp, Purchase, N.Y.
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The unusual blend of the Trapiche Extra Brut, Mendoza, Argentina, is 70 percent chardonnay, 20 percent semillon and 10 percent malbec. Made in the Charmat method of second fermentation in tank, this sparkling wine offers a radiant light gold color and an entrancing bouquet of dry, dusty acacia and and sweet, honeyed jasmine, orange zest, green apple and roasted lemon. This sparkler is very dry, brightly crisp and delicate, in fact downright elegant, as if its lustrous limestone-damp shale minerality were etched to transparency with silver leaf. Notes of citrus and toasted almond reveal a hint of something spicy, wild, leafy and tropical in the background, a tiny element of unexpected and intriguing exuberance, as well as a bit of buttered toast. How could Mom not love it? 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $15, a Great Bargain.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, N.Y. (Tasted twice in the past six months with consistent results.)
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Made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes in the champagne method, the JJ Vincent Cremant de Bourgogne delivers a tempest of tiny swirling bubbles in a very pale straw color with a slight greenish tint. This is incredibly clean and crisp and lively, with vivid acidity and scintillating lemon-lime and limestone elements (and a hint of green apple) carried by a texture that’s paradoxically crisp yet almost creamy. Though the wine is close to austere in its resolute limestone and chalk-like minerality, it’s saved from being daunting by a suave, elegant tone, refreshing lemony fruit highlighted by touches of ginger and spice (and, I suppose, everything nice) and a trace of sweet floral nature. Delightful but with a slightly serious edge. 12 percent alcohol. So close to Excellent, but still Very Good+. About $20.
Frederick Wildman & Sons, N.Y.
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The Vigne Regali Cuvée Aurora Rosé is made in the champagne method from pinot noir grapes grown in Piedmont’s Alta Langa region.
This is lovely, charming and elegant. The color is lightly tarnished copper over silver salmon scale; the foaming surge of tiny flecking bubbles is deliriously mesmerizing. First one sniffs smoke, red raspberry and dried red currants; then come orange rind, a touch of lime sherbet, melon ball and a slight yeasty, bready element. The wine is crisp, dry, lively, clean and fresh, a tissue of delicacies that add up to a supple, engaging structure — close to sassy yet almost creamy — buoyed by an increasingly prominent limestone minerality. The finish brings in hints of cloves and pomegranate and a smooth conjunction where limestone turns into damp shale, and a final winsome whiff of rose and lilac. 11.5 percent alcohol. Bound to be a crowd-pleaser. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Banfi Vintners, Old Brookfield, N.Y. (Tasted twice in the last six months with consistent results.)
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Coppo made its reputation, from the early 1900s, with Moscato, the ubiquitous low-alcohol, lightly-sparkling sparkling wine of Piedmont’s province of Asti. Located in the city of Canelli, the center of Moscato production, Coppo chugged happily along also producing Barbera d’Asti) until the family’s third generation busted the traces in the 1980s and began growing the “international” varieties cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay and using French barriques for maturing their wines. Quel difference, n’est-ce pas? as they say in Italian. So many producers of Barbera wines have succumbed to the lure of French oak since Giacomo Bologna launched his Bricco dell’Uccellone 1982 (released in 1986) that the question whether aging in 225-liter French barriques actually makes a better wine or just a woodier and therefore more structured wine never arises. Still, whatever caveats apply to intention and method, I was impressed by these examples of Coppo’s wines made from barbera and nebbiolo grapes, both contemporary and respecting their heritage. (For the record, I tasted the range of Giacomo Bologna’s recent releases last year in Asti, and I found the reds undrinkably oaky and tannic, but, man, people were standing in line to try them.)

Coppo recently changed American importers — now with Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa, Ca. — giving me an opportunity to try several of their products, two Barbera d’Asti wines and a chardonnay from 2007 and a Barolo from 2005. There’s also a Moscato, but I’ll save that for a post on that genre — “Is Moscato the New Prosecco???” — coming soon or at least on a time-line that embodies in fitful episodes the concept of sooniness.
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The Coppo L’Avvocata 2007, Barbera d’Asti, was made from 100 percent barbera grapes (as it must be by law) and aged six to eight months in 2,500- to 5,000-liter French oak casks, that is, barrels that are much larger than 225-liter Bordeaux-style barriques. The color is dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim (where the wine touches the curve of the glass if you tilt the glass). Scents of black currants and plums are packed with dried spices and flowers with a backnote of oolong tea, for an effect that’s intense and concentrated as well as being, in the mouth, smooth and mellow. Still, there’s a structure of firm, dusty, fairly chewy tannins; earthy, graphite-like minerality; and vibrant acidity wrapped around ripe and dried black fruit flavors permeated by lavender and potpourri. Quite attractive in a manner that blends seriousness with sensual appeal. Now through 2013 or ’14. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Very Good+. About $15.
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The Coppo Camp du Rouss 2007, Barbera d’Asti, on the other hand, matures in French barriques, 20 percent new barrels, for 12 months, and one feels more oak and tannin in the wine from first flush to final finish. The color is a little darker ruby, even unto ebon, than its cousin The Attorney, and the bouquet is amazingly fragrant with flowers, black olives, black tea and licorice, black currants and plums, all framed by woody spice that makes no pretense of nuance. Drenched with flavors of spiced and dried black and red fruit, Camp du Rouss 07 is vigorously earthy, notably dry to the point of some briery and underbrush-like austerity on the finish, and it certainly bears a more rigorous tone and sense of dimension than its cousin. While it’s no old-fashioned manifestation of the grape, with all the flaws and favors that old-fashionedness implied, this is a Barbera d’Asti of some class and distinction, best to drink from 2012 through 2015 to ’17. Alcohol content is 14.2 percent. Excellent. About $20.
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While Camp du Rouss may be a modern interpretation of Barbera d’Asti, the Coppo Barolo 2005 is a relentlessly traditional model of the genre. The nebbiolo grapes for Coppo’s Barolo come from around the commune of Castiglione Falletto, whose soil tends to produce fruit that adds weight, vigor and longevity to the wines. Coppo Barolo 2005 fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged 30 months in 2,500-liter French oak casks. The wine seems a compound of ink and dust and granite and tar; traces of dusty potpourri, dusty fruitcake and dusty dried baking spices offer mitigating softness amid the intense and concentrated, macerated and roasted black fruit scents and flavors and the unassailable buttressing of (yes) dusty, shale-like tannins. It’s a wine of character and dignity, brooding but not truculent, enlivened by essential acidity and a few nuances — after an hour’s coaxing — of (yes) dusty rose petals, smoke and violets; an earthy wine, but clean and somehow fresh and invigorating. Best from 2012 or ’13 through 2020 to ’22. Alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Excellent. About $85.
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