Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Indigenious Varietals of Italy

“Indigenous” varietals refers to grapes which only or mainly grow and thrive in one particular region and the wines produced from those grapes.  Conversely, what are known as “international” varietals, such as Cabernet or Merlot, etc, etc, etc, are varieties of grapes that grow and thrive in many countries and areas. You can find Cabernet or Merlot, etc, in just about every known area where wine is produced.

Mountainous terrain, volcanic soils, innumerable microclimates, and an ancient culture of winemaking make Italy the most diverse country in the world of wine. This diversity is reflected in the fact that Italy grows the largest number of native wine grapes known, amounting to more than a quarter of the world’s commercial wine grape types. There are about five hundred known varietals from Italy.

Whilst most of the popular red wines from Italy, such as, Nebbiolo (Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara etc), Babera, Dolcetto, etc, as well as many of the white varietals, can technically be considered indigenous varietals, however, they are wines and varietals that are widely known and consumed by most wine drinkers around the world. In this piece, I want to focus on some of the less known areas and varietals which I love and which are gaining some notoriety here in the US. Today, I am just focusing on some of the reds, but I will cover the whites in another piece.

I personally love the indigenous varietals from the north.  Like Pinot Noir and how it thrives in cooler climates, which gives the wine’s fruit it’s delicacy and freshness and beautiful vibrant acidity, the wines from the north of Italy are similar. The flavors from some of the varietals have deeper and darker black fruit flavors than many pinots, but they have that similar vibrant, racy acidity which makes them some of the best “food wines” that I have ever tasted. The fruit is so dense and pure. Certain areas like the Valle D’Osta region will occasionally use Pinot Noir , but the indigenous grapes, Fumin and Petit Rouge,, are a couple of the more commonly used varietals from that region. I love the wines from that region.

Some of the northern areas which I love are Valle D’Osta ,  Friuli  Venzia Giulia, Veneto, Tentino-Alto Adige, Emilia Romagna, etc, Some of the varietals from their respected regions  are Fumin, Petit Rouge, Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Refosco, Lambrusco, Shiapettino, etc, etc, etc.

Most of the high quality wines from these areas are produced in very small quantities, which is good. Better fruit. Maybe we can entice our esteemed owners, William and Patrick to bring in a couple more of these little gems.

The wines from the north of Italy pair great with the rich foods native to the region such as risottos, braised meats, rich, creamy pasta dishes, game meats, sautéed mushrooms, truffles, salumi and cheeses, etc, etc, etc. Ooh. I’m getting hungry!

In this piece, I am just going to cover the smallest fraction of Italy’s indigenous varietals and the wines produced from them.
I am going to focus on some of the wines that we sell here at Harry’s Wine Market.

Like Pinot Noir, I feel that the appreciation and enjoyment of these wines is a natural progression for most wine enthusiasts. When drinking big and bold wines and modern style wines, such as California Chardonnay or big, modern styled Cabernets Sauvignons, etc, etc, etc, they can tend to have big pronounced flavors, often due to the use of new oak barrels. New oak barrels, whether used for whites or reds, can often add toasty, smoky, mocha, vanillin and buttery type flavors that are easily detectable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those wines. I love many of them myself.  It’s just that sometimes one will eventually tend to gravitate towards the wines that have certain subtleties and nuances and purity of the native fruit, which can be so enjoyable. The pure, delicate fruit flavors combined with other subtle nuances, whether it is spicy or an earthy type of flavor profile is what makes these wines so enjoyable.

As Italy is known for it’s fine cuisine, most of their wines and even spirits are made to drink and be enjoyed before, during or after a wonderful meal. These wines are just fabulous to pair with the cuisine popular to the area where the grapes are grown. 

Here are some selections we have here at Harry’s to help you get started on the wonderful and most enjoyable journey into the rare, indigenous varietals of Italy.

2011 Feudi del Pisciotto, Frapatto
Frapatto is a wine from Sicily. I love Frapatto.
It has a ruby red color. The bouquet and flavors are fresh with red fruits and sweet spices..The mouth has a good balance: It is round but with good acidity and a lingering finish. Bott. $25.99 / Case $280

2013 Fratelli Alesandra, Pelverga,
This unique wine is produced only in the commune of Verduno,with the rare,indigenous grape variety Pelaverga Piccolo. It looks particular since its color; but the most fascinating peculiarity is the unmistakable scent of spices,especially pepper,that is the reason of Speziale.
Indulge yourself! Bott. $22.99/ Case $237

2011 Foradori Teraldego
This is one of my absolute favorites. Elizabetta Foradori’ is the winemaker. She is one of the heralded women winemakers of today. This wine is from Trentino-Alto Adige in the north of Italy. This area is widely known for it’s white wines, mainly Pinot Grigio, but the reds are fabulous.

The Foradori Teraldego is dark garnet, almost purple but not inky, with the aroma of dark fruit layered with smoke and earth. On the palate it is fresh and lively. The finish is long with a light tannic feel and beautiful velvet like texture. 

The price of this wine, to me, is in the sweet spot. It’s in the Goldie Lox Zone of the price/quality ratio. To get a wine of this quality, at this price?......pssh….forget about it! Are you kidding me? You must come in and try a bottle.

Try this wine with a big, juicy veal chop and maybe some sautéed Portobello mushrooms or try it with some Mushroom Risotto or try it with some Veal or Lamb Osso Bucco or with some Rabbit Stew or with some Ricotta Gnocchi or Pasta with a silky cream ragu.….or……...try it with a Bacon Cheeseburger and Cheese Fries with a side of brown gravty! Just try it!! Bott. $25.99 / Case $280

2010 Punta Crena Tsasco, Rossese
Varietal characteristics include bright wild strawberry, blackcurrant and other forest fruit flavors, along with enticing rose and black pepper aromatics. Modest of alcohol and vibrant of acid, Rossese shows intense fruit aromas when young, and does quite nicely with a slight chill, though I prefer it at room temperature. Bott. $23.99 / Case $259.

2007 Paolo Bea Sagrantino
The Paolo Bea Winery estate is one of the finest in Italy. Paolo Bea is a very traditional producer of fine wines. He has a great commitment to terroir’ and old fashion wine making techniques. Each bottle provides an indication of the total produced that year. The wines, made organically without pesticides or herbicides, are robust and complex. Unfiltered, their slight sediment content only serves to enhance their rustic nature. Filtering can remove a lot of the natural flavors. It is dense and spicy with hints of licorice, dark chocolate and cherries.  Bott. $79.99 / Case $863.

Again, this is a tiny fraction of the indigenous Italian varietals, but it’s a great place to start.

Please chime in to give me any feedback or thoughts on these wines. I would love to hear your opinions.. Thank you very much.

Scott M. Tiberi
Harry’s Wine Market

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