Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Rosso di Montalcino’

Wine Discovery Pack

November 19, 2019 Leave a comment

My relatives, a young couple, are getting into the wine. In search of what they like, which they still have to determine, they are starting the process of discovery – taking notes, making records of what they like and don’t like – something which will definitely lead them to the right path.

I wanted to help them, so I decided to create a special wine set, which I called the Discovery Pack – 6 wines which can help the beginners to identify their preferences – yes, it takes a lot more than 6 wines to figure the wine world out, but still, it is a guided start as opposed to the pure trial and error.

While working on putting together a good learning set of wines, I came up with the following criteria to decide on what wines to include:

  • The wine should be reasonably priced, so I set the limit at $20 per bottle. Yes, you can find well drinkable wines under $10 – but finding such wines is quite difficult. Yes, I could go higher, but a lot of expensive young wines are simply not drinkable, they need to age, and besides, expensive wines might not be what the young family might be excited about.
  • The wines should be mainstream wines – there should be no problems finding these wines anywhere in the US. It doesn’t make sense to offer someone an amazing bottle of wine which will be impossible to find, as the idea is to help with finding the favorites, and then being able to buy the wines again with ease.
  • The wines should be representative of their region or styles. It is easily possible to find unique and amazing wines in any price range – however Bobal, Trepat, Teroldego, or Schiava, no matter how tasty, are hard to find and always a hit or miss exercise. Once you are a bona fide wine lover, you do as you pleased, but when you are just learning, missteps might have long term consequences – once someone decides “oh, I don’t like this type of wine”, it might take a very long (if ever) time to reverse that sentiment.

Okay, so the playing field is set. Let’s see how I managed to address my own requirements.

First, I decided that it will be all red wines set. A typical wine lover’s evolution is sweet – red – white – dessert, so red is a good starting point. There is some sort of uniformity between major red grapes, at least texturally – any whites will be all over the place (think of a range of expressions of Sauvignon Blanc: Sancerre – Italy – New Zealand – California – Chile). Red wines are easier to deal with. Secondly, I wanted to offer a trip around the world – not necessarily easy with only 6 bottles, but I tried.

My first selection was the easiest for me – Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah California ($10-$12). This wine is a solid, you-can’t-go-wrong choice in the $9.99 – $11.99 price range. The recommendation here is not the style or the region so much as the particular wine. It typically has good amount of fruit, nicely restrained and perfectly drinkable upon pulling out the cork. Always a safe choice when in doubt; will work perfectly with a casual Friday dinner or a Saturday BBQ. On a wider scale, California Petitte Sirah is a good grape to be familiar with – yes, you can always find renditions that require long aging, such as Retro or Runquist, but on the other hand, you might get lucky with Turley or Quivira.

Wine #2 is another favorite which first and foremost represents itself – Original House Wine Red Blend ($9.99). The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and other red grapes. In the older days, the wine was designated as Columbia Valley, Washington – now it seems to be saying just “American wine” on the website, however, the back label indicates Walla Walla, Washington. In any case, at around $9.99, this is an excellent wine – supple, fruity, bold – but not overboard. You can build upon this wine as it can be an introduction into the well-made blends, and it can be also a nice introduction into the Washington wines.

Wine #3 – Las Rocas Garnacha Catalayud Spain ($15). If you are familiar with this blog, you could easily predict that Spanish wine will be on the list – but you probably were expecting to see Rioja or Ribera del Duero wine. I went with Garnacha, known outside of Spain as Grenache because, in the under $20 price range, both Rioja and Ribera del Duero are hit and miss. Yes, I can find drinkable examples of Rioja under $20, but there are so many insipid Rioja wines in that price range that it will not do anyone any good. Garnacha is a much safer choice – there is a good level of consistency in this price range. Las Rocas Garnacha is a good example, with  a core of red fruit over the medium body. Easy to drink and at around $15, nobody needs to break the bank to enjoy another Monday night. This wine is selected to be more of a representative of style, grape, and the region, so you can continue trying a variety of Garnacha wines, maybe eventually graduating with Alto Moncayo Aquilon or even Clos Erasmus.

Wine #4 – Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone France ($15). There is absolutely no way France can be left outside of such a discovery portfolio. When it comes to France, the most obvious options are Bordeaux or Burgundy, however, Burgundy just doesn’t exist in under $20 price category, and Bordeaux will be extremely inconsistent. Besides, I wouldn’t recommend Bordeaux and Burgundy to the beginner wine drinkers. However, Cote du Rhone is an entirely different story. Cote du Rhone wines, which are typically a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (so-called GSM blend) in various proportions, are easy to drink. They are soft, simple, loaded with tasty cherries and plums smothered over medium body. Saint Cosme, which is a very good producer, simply represents the region here. Delas, M. Chapoutier, Guigal, Perrin, and many others offer reliable choices in the same price range. GSM blends can be found everywhere throughout the Rhone, so after you establish your palate with Cote du Rhone wines, you can graduate to Gigondas, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and then slowly embrace the Northern Rhone.

Wine #5 – Ciacci Collosorbo Rosso di Montalcino Italy ($19.99). The Discovery pack must include Italian wine, isn’t it? Choosing one Italian wine based on the 3 criteria set here is very far from easy. To stay under $20, Chianti, Salice Salentino, Montepulciano represent far better options than most other Italian regions. However, Chianti and Montepulciano can be hit and miss, and with Salice Salentino you will be limited to 1-2 choices your wine store will offer – if you are lucky. The original plan was still to go with Cecchi Chianti Classico, highly recommended by John Fodera – however, the wine didn’t make it into the stock, so I decided to go with the so-called baby Brunello. Rosso di Montalcino as a category is well approachable, offering wines which are unmistakably Italian with all of the cherry, leather, and tobacco notes – and easy to drink while young, without the need to cellar them. I might be bending the rules on this wine just a bit because while I got it at $19.99 here in Stamford, it might be a bit more expensive in many places. Well, it should be possible to find Rosso di Montalcino wines under $20, so we are okay here. And then the Rosso offers a graduation pass to the Brunello di Montalcino, and then maybe a jump to the Super Tuscans.

Wine #6 – Alamos Malbec Selección Mendoza Argentina ($16.99). There were multiple contenders for the last spot in our discovery set – Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa. Australia, Chile, and South Africa don’t offer consistency in this price range, and while New Zealand reds can be available under $20, it really doesn’t offer much of the selection. I decided to go with Malbec, as it is usually something most of the beginners can appreciate, with its soft dark fruit and vanilla notes. There is also a level of consistency associated with Argentinian Malbec, and $15 – $20 range allows for the higher quality wines such as this Alamos Malbec Selección or Trapiche Broquel.

Here you go – my 6 wines discovery set. Now, I have a question for you, wine buffs, snobs, and aficionados – what would you offer for the beginner wine drinkers as a learning introduction into the world of wines, also based on the three principals I outlined? Don’t be shy – comment away! Cheers!

 

Perfection, or When Everything Works Together…

October 1, 2018 12 comments

Il Poggione Rosso and EVOOIf you are into the wine and food (or food and wine, whatever your preferences are), I can safely bet you were looking for that climactic moment of combining the food and wine to reach the new, higher level of pleasure. Yes, I’m talking about that “oh my God” moment when your taste buds experienced that already exceptional bite of food becoming something beyond exceptional in combination with the sip of the wine. By the same token, if you were looking for that moment, I’m sure that more often than not (actually, a lot more often than not) you couldn’t find it – those beautiful pairings are often equally evasive.

Here I want to share with you my account of recent encounter with perfection, that climatic experience if you will.

A few months ago I got a box in the mail (one of the little perks of the wine blogger). Inside, there were a bottle of wine, a bottle of olive oil, a jar of sea salt and a recipe – for Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Bistecca all Fiorentina is a dish coming from the Tuscany (Florence) and depending on the historical account, it traces its origins either to the 16th or the 19th century – well, the history of Bistecca all Fiorentina is definitely not something we will be talking about here, so let’s move on. I’m sure you understand that “Bistecca” simply stands for the “beef steak”. However, the recipe calls not for any steak, but specifically for the porterhouse or T-bone steak, which should be simply prepared rare or medium-rare over the charcoal. As the recipe is very simple, here it is in its entirety:

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 (1.5″ thick) bone-in porterhouse steaks (3.5 lb)
1/4 cup Il Poggione EVOO
Tuscan sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 sprigs rosemary

Get the charcoal ready. The distance between the hot charcoal and steak should be about 4 inches (10 cm). The steak should be at the room temperature before you start grilling (it should be out of the fridge for about 10 hours to get to the room temperature). Grill steak on one side for 5-8 minutes, flip it with tongs (no forks of any kind!), salt the top surface with Tuscan sea salt and pour some olive oil. Cook for another 5-8 minutes, then stand the steaks on the bone and cook for another 5 minutes. Take it off the heat, put it down to rest, salt the other side and put some olive oil on it. After 5 minutes of rest, you can slice and serve your steak. See, can it get any simpler?

Now, it is time to talk about the perfection.

First, the perfection started from the exceptional meat. In addition to what I already described, the box contained a gift card for Pat LaFrieda. The story of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors started at the beginning of the 20th century when Anthony LaFrieda arrived at the USA and opened his first butchery – you can read the rest of the story on Pat LaFrieda website. Whatever the story is, the proof is always in the pudding – or on the fork in this case. I have to honestly tell you that I never had a better a steak than this – the meat was sublime and was simply melting in the mouth – a good start for the perfect experience.

The second element of the perfection was, of course, the wine – 2016 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino (14% ABV, $27, 12 month in large oak barrels). Tenuta Il Poggione is one of the oldest producers in the Montalcino area, started to make Sangiovese wines – now known as Brunello – at the beginning of the 1900s. Today, it is one of the largest wineries in Montalcino, with 1500 acres, out of which more than 300 acres are under vines and 170 acres planted with olive trees (that Il Poggione EVOO in the package was superb).

The wine actually happened to be one of the best Rosso di Montalcino wines I tasted in a long time. The key word to describe this wine is finesse – it had a welcoming nose of the tart cherries, medium intensity, and a hint of the herbs. That profile perfectly continued on the palate, where delicate fresh cherries were joined by sage and rosemary, with clean acidity and excellent balance. Definitely one lip-smacking, delicious wine (8+).

Let’s not miss any details – we are talking about perfect pairing here. As the devil is in the detail, there was one more element  – little, but essential – to this amazing pairing, besides superb meat and outstanding wine. The last element? Tuscan sea salt. This was not some random sea salt – this one was Tuscan Sea Salt from AG Ferrari, listing the following ingredients: “Italian sea salt, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, sugar, fresh sage, ground black pepper” – this Tuscan Sea Salt became the bridge which connected the flavor of the seasoned meat with the perfectly aligned flavor profile of the Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino, delivering the genius pairing and an amazing experience.

I have to honestly tell you – I tried to replicate this experience two days ago – and failed. I used the same Tuscan Sea Salt, but I had a steak from the local supermarket butcher shop (1/3 of a price compare to Pat LaFrieda), and the wine was 2015 Collosorbo Rosso di Montalcino. The steak was simply not good (happy to be blamed for it as a cook – but I cooked the one from Pat LaFrieda too). The wine was okay, but a lot fruitier than Il Poggione, thus the pairing simply didn’t work. Which once again proves my point about the evasive nature of a great wine pairing.

Did you have any climactic food and wine pairing experiences you care to share with the world? Or maybe you want to recount the worst moments? Will be happy to hear about it either way. Cheers!

Benvenuto Brunello, or Notes from Brunello Deep Immersion

February 2, 2014 4 comments

This is not a quiz post, however – let me start with the question: what do you think of Brunello di Montalcino, the noble wine made out of the Sangiovese? Well, technically it is Sangiovese, but in practicality Brunello di Montalcino is made out of the grape called Sangiovese Grosso, sometimes simply called Brunello. When people need to provide an example of the best Italian wines, the triple-B, Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello, are the very first names which cross oenophile’s mind, so this is the Brunello we are talking about here. So, what is your experience with Brunello?

To carry the denomination of Brunello di Montalcino DOC or DOCG, the wines must be made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes, and age at least 2 years in oak casks, and then at least 4 month in the bottle (at least 6 month for Riserva designation), but many producers age it for a lot longer. First time Brunello wines can appear on the store shelves is 5 years after the vintage date.

There are tons of books and web sites with countless pieces of information about the region, the history of the wines, the food, the people – I’m not going to simply repeat all of that. However, I can’t resist to share this magnificent picture of the Montalcino, as it was shared by the Brunello Consortium – I generally only use my own pictures in the blog, but this is soooo beautiful!

MOntalcino Panoramica Source: Brunello Consortium

Montalcino Panoramic. Source: Brunello Consortium

To celebrate the release of 2009 vintage, The Consortium of the Brunello di Montalcino Wine (Cosorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino), an association of all Brunello producers, arranged the series of seminars and tastings in New York and Los Angeles, and I was fortunate enough to attend the event in New York – hence this post where I’m sharing my impressions. Before I will get down to the details and inundate you with tasting notes and pictures, let me share some general notes and observations (yes, you can call it an executive summary):

  1. According to the representative of the consortium, 2009 was a “4 star year” as opposed to the 5-star, such as 2007 or 2001 (or upcoming 2010). In 2009, growing season had rainy spring, but good hot and sunny September, which helped with overall quality.  2009 Brunello supposed to be more approachable at the younger age (my note: some were, and some were very far from being approachable).
  2. Some interesting facts:
    • There are 90 clones of Sangiovese used in the production of Brunello di Montalcino.
    • Montalcino is a large region, so different areas of Montalcino region produce different wines, due to vastly different soils and climate conditions (what is Italian for Terroir?) Unfortunately, those different areas are not indicated in any way on the label – you actually have to know the location of the vineyards for each respective producer to know what to expect. The special guide produced for the show had very helpful tiny maps showing the approximate location of each and every winery represented in the guide.
    • The use of oak (type, duration, etc) is changed from vintage to vintage.
  3. I actually think that while deemed approachable, 2009 still needs time. Few of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Brunellos which snuck into the tasting, showed up just magnificently.
  4. The 2012 vintage of Rosso di Montalcino, a simpler, typically less oaked wine, also made out of Sangiovese Grosso, is showing up in the stores. This wines should be ready to drink now (but many will age well too, depends on the winemaking style).
  5. Based on the tasting, I much preferred 2011 Rosso di Montalcino over the 2012 – don’t want to think too hard about the reason, but if you are looking for delicious bottle of a good Italian wine to drink now, 2011 Rosso di Montalcino might be “it”.
  6. Don’t know if this is a trend (and definitely don’t want to be spotting any trends), but in this tasting, there were surprisingly large number of corked bottles. I had to call out at least two bottles, and with another three I ate my words, only mumbling “aha, this is good”. I do attend trade tastings regularly, and this is not normal. I rarely drink Brunello, so if anyone who is reading this actually drinks a lot of Montalcino wines, I’m curious to know your opinion. Bottom line here – trust your palate. If you think the wine is corked, most likely it actually is!

Now, let’s talk about the seminar. Both the seminar and the tasting were, of course, about Montalcino wines. The difference is that during the seminar you are sitting down and listening to the presenter(s) as opposed to walking around with the glass and the book in your hand – but most importantly, you have enough time to completely analyze the wine – color, nose, palate – everything at your own pace, one by one. Here are my notes regarding the 8 wines presented during the seminar, in the order of tasting:

DSC_0515

2009 Capanne Ricci Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $54.99, aged 3 years in large oak barrels plus bottle age). Drinkability: 7
Color: Garnet color
Nose: Very pronounced and intense, with cherries and leather
Palate: Austere, just powerful tannins, some good background acidity. Way too tannic to be appreciated at the moment.

2009 Col D’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $55, aged 3 years in Slavonic and French oak casks plus 12 months in the bottle). Drinkability: 7+
Color: Bright ruby
Nose: Touch of plums
Palate: Nice cherries, much softer than the previous wine, can be drunk right now

2009 Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (15% ABV, $75, aged 3 years in oak). Drinkability: 8-
Color: Dark garnet color
Nose: Spectacular, intense, with a lot of bright fruit.
Palate: Cherries and lots of bright fruit, has a lot going on. Still needs time, but very enjoyable already.

2009 Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $70, aged 36-40 months in oak, 8-12 months in the bottle). Drinkability: 7-
Color: Dark ruby
Nose: Overall quite restrained, with a hint of cherries
Palate: Cherries and then tannins and only tannins on the palate. The tannins feel over-extracted – this wine might never open.

2009 Pinino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14% ABV, $50, aged 30 months in Slavonic oak). Drinkability: 7
Color: Garnet with brick-ish hue
Nose: The fruitiest nose of all. Cherries and blueberries.
Palate: Cherries and tannins. Tannins overly intense in front of the mouth, and somewhat uni-dimensional.

2009 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $69.99, aged 12 months in new and old french barriques,  18 months in large Slavonic oak barrels, at least 12 months in the bottle). Drinkability: 7+
Color: Garnet.
Nose: Nice and balanced, with the hint of cinnamon and coffee.
Palate: Nice, open, with bright cherries and more manageable, but still aggressive tannins. Can be enjoyed now, but still needs more time.

2009 Il Grappolo Fortius Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $N/A, aging in oak barrels plus bottle age). Drinkability: 8
Color: Garnet with brickish hue
Nose: Very promising, elegant, with cherries and raspberries.
Palate: Beautiful, lots of fruit, ripe cherries, present but not overpowering tannins. Best of tasting.

2009 Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $55-$60, aged 12 months in French oak barrels, then 24 months in large Slavonic oak casks, 12 months in the bottle). Drinkability: 7
Color: Garnet with brickish hue
Nose: soft and expressive, but shows off alcohol
Palate: nice fruit, sour (very sour) cherries, pepper in the back is a bit out of place. Aggressive tannins.

For the walk around tasting, I did my best to taste as many wines as possible, before my palate gave up (it is very hard to taste only red, intensely tannic wines – remember, there were no whites)  and the place got really really crowded. I used the same system of plus signs (+, ++, +++) as I do in the trade tastings – of course with few of the ++++ exceptions. Below is the list of most exceptional wines I experienced in the tasting:

2009 Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – beautiful! +++

2007 Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! ++++

2009 Belpoggio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – very nice, approacheable

2012 Belpoggio Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful fruit, open, herbs

2011 Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino DOC – integrated, beautiful! +++

2006 Camigliano Gualto Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – beautiful! nice depth, density. +++

2011 Capanna Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful, open +++

2011 Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino DOC – one of the most unusual. Intense strawberries on the palate.

2009 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – nice, good fruit +++

2007 Il Poggione Vigna Paganelli Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – excellent, powerful and balanced

2011 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino DOC – excellent, great fruit +++

2008 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – probably the most delicate, beautiful fruit, tobacco in the back ++++

2008 Podere Le Ripi Lupi Sirene Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! beautiful! open! ++++

2006 Podere Le Ripi Lupi Sirene Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! ++++

2009 Podere Le Ripi Amore & Magia Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful! complex, Crème brûlée (no sugar!) on the palate ++++

2008 Podere Le Ripi Bonsai Rosso di Montalcino DOC – wow!

2007 Ridolfi Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – very good! needs more time +++

2009 Sasso di Sole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – excellent fruit! +++

2004 Sasso di Sole Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – plums, cherries, wow! Perfect complexity, both nose and palate ++++

2011 Sasso di Sole Rosso di Montalcino DOC – spectacular nose, good fruit, tobacco, earthiness +++1/2

2012 Talenti Rosso di Montalcino DOC – tobacco, complexity, balance! +++

2009 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – sweat and beautiful! +++

2008 Uccelliera Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! stunning! ++++

2012 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino DOC – great! tobacco, fruit, exellent! +++

2011 Verbena Rosso di Montalcino DOC – wow! ++++

2011 Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso di Montalcino DOC – excellent! +++

2012 Voliero Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful! +++

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And we are done! But before we part, I have to leave you with the drool picture, the one which makes the oenophile’s heart race:

Old Brunello wines. Source: Brunello Consortium

Old Brunello wines. Source: Brunello Consortium

This was a great experience, and I’m already looking forward to welcoming Brunello 2010. I have a sneaky suspicion it will be pretty tasty… Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: