Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “il vino dal tralcetto” 2010

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2010

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2010

One of my favorite Italian wines is without a doubt, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. That is to say, it’s the Montepulciano grape, made in the region of Abruzzo. Don’t confuse it with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano from Tuscany, which is Sangiovese-based. The region of Abruzzo is centrally located on the Aegean (Eastern) coast of Italy nestled between Marche, Lazio and Molise. This is a wine that is not known for being especially age-worthy, or usually terribly complex. Some do age it, but it doesn’t really develop that much. It’s typically enjoyed young and is rich, spicy, ripe and bright. And that is why I love it. It is a quality wine, and a quality grape.

Save for Pescara and Teramo in the north, most Montepulciano’s are DOC-level wines. I’m good with that. I don’t have to break the bank, and I am as happy with it at a Trattoria accompanying a bowl of Carbonara as I am at home with one of my own concoctions. Its copious fruit means I can also enjoy it on its own. They pack a lot of flavor value per dollar.

This is one I find at my local shop, and quite concidentily I saw a magnum of it proudly displayed as decoration at a local trattoria today. It is an attractive bottle,  from its hand-written font, uneven-cut pleated paper, and straw ribbon tied to the neck with a stick. What is this a stick of, and I wonder is there any significance to it other than decoration?

The nose speaks of cherry, smoke, spice and a little black olive. Even a bit of tea now that I give it another whiff. On the palette is pronounced ripe plum and cherry and more spice, with bright but well-integrated acidity, and a medium body and finish. This is an estate-bottled Riserva, which indicates it is vinified and bottled on the same property the grapes are grown, and aged longer in oak though the oak too is well-integrated and fairly neutral. You can also see the age in the color of the wine, as its moving towards garnet on the rim. While DOC Montepulciano does not often see aging to the point that it can be labelled a Riserva, it certainly adds some nuance. And this is still in a weeknight wine budget. It was delicious with my sausage ravioli and pesto. It fits a rich white sauce as well as a red. I paid $14.99. You can probably find it for less. ABV is 13%. A very enjoyable wine! Can anyone tell me what “dal Tralcetto” means? I had a hard time finding the answer to that question online.

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Gilles Bonnefoy Vin de Pays d’Urfe Roussanne de Madone sur Volcan 2008

Gilles Bonnefoy Vin de Pays d'Urfe Roussanne de Madone sur Volcan 2008

Gilles Bonnefoy Vin de Pays d’Urfe Roussanne de Madone sur Volcan 2008

Yesterday was an amazing day for me in the wine world. None other than THE Hugh Johnson came to our office to do a tasting with us. I’m so glad I wasn’t ill or on vacation, as the email came in just that morning. He and Jancis Robinson MW are in town to promote the latest edition of the amazing World Atlas of Wine. He was incredibly friendly and charming and we all enjoyed chatting with him and tasting some of our range with him for a while.

Hearing him talk about his passion for wine and writing about it also inspired me to get back to the blog without any further delay. Today’s wine is another I purchased in a marathon sale from Last Bottle Wines in July. I have never had a pure Roussanne on its own, let alone one made in the Loire, so this was a great opportunity to dive in and see how it fared on its own and from a region not known for it. Often just a white grape blended into more famous Rhône wines like Châteaneuf-du-Pape in the south and those of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph in the northern Rhône, it held up just fine without the help of all the other grapes. The grape gets its name from the gold color of the skin when ripe. The wine gets its name from the volcanic soil of its terroir and the statue of the Madonna that stands at the peak. Factor in the steep south-facing slopes of the ancient volcanic pic, and you have prime grape-growing conditions. And with that aspect, all grapes are hand-harvested. While it is a nice Rhône tribute, this wine is appelated as a Vin De Pays d’Urfé, located in the central Loire.

Lemon-gold in appearance, it had mineral, stone and tropical orange fruit notes. While it had pleasant crispness and acidity, it also had some creaminess and body, and a medium finish. There’s a little tannin so I’m guessing this and the fuller body and golden color meant it spent some time on the skins.  The winery is certified organic and biodynamic. They also make a lovely Gamay under this ‘Sur Volcan’ name, the 2010 which I enjoyed recently.

At $9 (at the special sale price) it was a steal as the average price online is $23.

Learn more at their website (fluency in French would help)

Chateau Ferrande Graves (white) 2010

ChIateau Ferrande Graves 2010

ChIateau Ferrande Graves 2010

Being both a writer and a fan of rich, flavorful reds lends me one disadvantage: the potential to seem biased. So, I thought it was time to show you all that I still love a good white wine. Sure, I’ve covered them before. But probably not as much as I could. Today I’d like to tell you about a lovely white Bordeaux I had last night. Purchased in a marathon sale from Last Bottle Wines, this was the first to arrive at my doorstep and it was just what I was in the mood for last night. You can’t pair red with everything. Well, almost…

Fully lemon in color, this wine comes from the large catch-all appellation, Graves AOC. Located just southeast of Bordeaux city along the Garonne river, it includes the more famous AOC of Pessac-Léognan (where the only non-Medoc first growth Château Haut-Brion resides) and the highly renowned sweet white wine-producing AOCs, Barsac and Sauternes. Sauternes is where Premier-Cru Supérieur Château Y’Quem resides.

While not as famous, its regionally-appellated reds, whites and sweet wines are still very well-regarded and for that reason, quite affordable. For example, great sweet white wines are also made in the appellations of Cérons AOC and Graves Supérieur AOC. Thriving in the gravel soils, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the reds, usually blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. And Château Ferrande Graves 2010 is your typical white from the region – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon with a medium body and finish thanks to the Sémillon, but still crisp and refreshing thanks to the Sauvignon. Both the reds and whites of Graves AOC are more modern and forward than their austere Prémier Cru counterparts. I think this is a good thing and allows the appellation a bit of its own identity.

Graves is also the origin of Claret, the oft-traded Bordeaux wine of the middle ages and hence, is often considered the birthplace of the fine red wines of Bordeaux. It derives its name from the gravelly soil, where wine-making thrived long before the marshy areas of the Medoc were deemed suitable for viticulture. At the sale price I paid only $13 which is affordable indeed for such an enjoyable wine.