WINE OF THE WEEK #120
another month is coming to an end, and I have learned 2 very important lessons about white wine from Italy.
1. Wines from sicily, try them!
2. Whites from the north are stubborn and difficult, but pair them with the right dish and you might unlock a feast of flavors.
I hope our last wine, the cuvée Fontanavigna form winery Terre del Principe will learn me something new as well.
The unknown white grape this time is Pallagrello Bianco.
Before you continue reading, you have to say Pallagrello again 3 times with your Don Corleone voice. Do it.
Pallagrello Bianco is a grape that is only grown in the region of Campania, and its main characteristics are:
- very small berries
- very easy on gaining sugar during ripening
- low on acidity
It is funny how almost all grapes that I’ve tried this month, seam to lack acidity, yet truly deliver!
Let’s see if this one does the same
What a dark dark wine. The color is deep, golden, almost caramel like. The juice is vibrant, clean (thus filtered) and very alive. My first impression, and I might be wrong, reminds me of an oaky new world chardonnay. It looks heavy, but let’s see…
A full nose is meeting my expectations.
There are hints of banana, thin pineapple, chalk and also something cold and milky which is weird.
However, next to the fruit components and this awkward cold sensation, I also get a lot of sunshine. There is hay, grilled cheese, dried apricots and even sesame seeds.
Hmmm… the wine is falling away a bit.
A nice and soft attack is followed by a good amount of acidity. White pepper, peaches and again apricots are what I am having. This wine has a very round mouthfeel, and what they said was true : the acidity is overall a minor player in the tasting experience.
This feeling reminds me a lot of a Marsanne, a Roussanne or even better : Viognier.
The end of this wine is fantastic. It tastes exactly like creme brulee with an apricot pudding!
So, all in all, I think this is a wine that will please a lot of new world Chardonnay drinkers and old world Viognier drinkers. The “sad” news is that these are not my kind of wines, and for a price of €16, this wine is a lot of money for me.
Will please a lot of wine drinkers, definitely!
My cup of tea, not really.
Getting a gold medal, no.
Getting a silver medal, … maybe.
Getting a bronze medal, … it’s not that bad.
P.s.: If you try this wine yourself, put it in a decanter. This wine tastes a lot better on the 4th day, than on the first day.
WINE OF THE WEEK #119
I should have planned my trip in Italy better as you can see on the map below. First stop was Piemonte, second stop Sicily, and now I am heading up north again, to Friuli. Sigh…
Friuli is a region in the north east of Italy, very close to Slovenia, and both regions share grape varieties and even vineyards together. There are Italian winemakers who grow grapes in Slovenia and vice versa.
The wine I have for you today is a wine from the Ribolla grape, also known as Ribolla Gialla or Rebula in Slovenia. The wine maker is Polje and Collio on the label is one of the best sub-appelations in the region of Friuli.
Since the grape is rather unkown, I am not going to write some vague comments or information that I’ve found here and there.
Let’s just dive in, and see what the grape tastes like, and moreover, what summer activity would fit a glass of Ribolla.
For a young wine like this, I think the straw color has an amazing depth.
Thick legs shows that the wine has a nice viscosity as well. I expect some power and expression!
I feel like we are going on the Arneis tour again. Very subtle and complex aroma’s arise from my glass, with no fruit component up front.
I smell wet clay, fried parsil, nuts, fennel, anis and white chocolate. There might be some apricots or white peaches, but I’m just not sure.
All things considered, this wine is a lot more open than the Arneis, but still very dense and difficult to approach.
One thing is for sure, this wine has lots of acidity. My face just went funny for 3 seconds.
There is no question that this wine is super well made. The high acidity is very well balanced with a more smooth mouthfeel, and the wine just comes across very elegant. What I don’t get are the flavors. The wine tastes like a flash of white light, after which you are in a dark place with no color.
However, when the wine heats up, the darkness goes away and more of the smoothness comes across, and creamy nutty flower notes appear. But still, too little flavor.
On the finish, as on the nose, there is more expression coming through. A very nice sweet lychee flavor, whipped cream with lemon, hay, caramel, and the list will continue I guess…
What is extraordinary about this experience is that this wine whispers. It is so overly complex and intense that you can’t hear it out loud, but when you take little sips and give it your full attention, it whispers nice little words into your ear. It is so interesting to discover, almost with a blindfold on, the terroir and the history behind this wine. That is the only way to communicate with this bottle, and that is why I would drink it on the beach under the moonlight at 3am when it is still 24°C outside on a hot night.
The combination of intensity and smoothness is really great, but the wine is too stubborn.
This could be one of those love/hate grapes for me, so I am going to go silver on this wine, but with a little wink.
WINE OF THE WEEK #118
time for the next stop in Italy : Sicily
And we make our stop at the winery of the new cult wine maker out there amongst natural wine lovers : Arianna Occhipinti.
We are tasting her SP68 Siciliy Bianco wine from 2012
This wine is a blend of 50% Moscato di Alessandria and 50% Albanello, it has had 15 days of skin contact which is highly unusual for a white wine, and above that, the wine is unfiltered. So next to the normal flavors, we should also have a bit of dryness from the skins (tannins) and some extra funk because of left-over sediment.
About the grapes then.
Moscato di Alessandria is described in the wine literature as a sort of dumb member of the Muscat family. Where the muscat grape is associated with sweetness and highly interesting and flirty aromatics, the Moscato di Alessandria is more of bulk grape providing only sweetness and sometimes it even serves as an eating grape. But, it also is one of the oldest species of the Moscato family and its natural habitat is the Mediterranean Sea. So it is at home in Sicily.
Albanello on the other hand is a grape that is almost extinct. It served to make dessert wines in Italy, but because it is super hard to cultivate, and because it ripens so late, wine makers switched to other grapes. The only place where you can still find Albanello is in Sicily.
This is about all the info that I could find, so we are going into the unknown with 2 original grapes form Sicily, but both with a lot of issues and a “bad” reputation.
Let’s see what Arianna Occhipinti and her magic hands have done with the wine:
A 2012 that looks like resin! It has a deep golden color, almost with a brown filter over it, and although it looks rather shiny, you can see that the wine is unfiltered.
Haha! The nose puts an instant smile on my face, as the aromatics are alive and kicking : white grapes, quince, melon, flowers, lemon.
You really don’t have to make an effort at all. The nose is so pure, so fun and elegant it should be a perfume.
And if you swirl, there is a dark horse in play. A bitter, dusty, cold minerality cuts through the nose and energizes the wine like a cold and rainy day during a hot summer.
On the mouth, it is the minerality that plays the most important role. The wine is fresh, crunchy, very juicy and drinkable and a true pleasure to drink. You would almost forget it contains alcohol. Flavor wise, there is not so much going on, but the wine is just instant pleasure.
On the finish however, the wine is absolutely amazing.
The tannins really come through and the wine just tastes like a top quality jasmine tea with hints of lemon, green tea, orange peel and yeast.
This is absolutely a stunner.
Wine can be very boring, or just a beverage, but sometimes, it is just the best sensory experience you can ever have. This wine contains earth energy, sunshine, laughter, drama, balance and intelligence. Go out there, and get it!
Arianna, I admire you.
WINE OF THE WEEK #117
Hi dear friends,
I have opened the first white Italian wine for you, and I decided to start with the wine from the region that is most familiar to me : Piemonte. We start with the Roero Arneis 2011 from Nizza Silvano.
Now, this theme is not so focused on the winemaker, but more on the often unknown grape variety. Off course, while tasting, I will be able to see if the wine maker has gone for a more classical style or if he or she has done something funky with the grape.
Arneis is unknown grape variety because way back in time it was only planted in Piemonte as a secondary grape to add some balance and elegance to the big boys we all know : Barolo & Barbaresco. Because wine making evolved, Arneis became less and less necessary to make balanced red wines in Piemonte, and it got almost extinct. Luckily for us, a high demand for white wine in the eighties helped Arneis to survive and now it has it’s own DOC in 2 regions : Roero (Piemonte) and Langhe (right next to Piemonte).
Arneis suffers from low acidity and low yields. The good part is that the low yields give a lot of concentration to the wines, and thus the low acidity is less of a problem if you drink the wines young and unoaked. When you age your wine in oak barrels, you really need acidity and lots of structure to counterbalance the power of the oak. So a bad idea with Arneis.
Arneis tends not to be very fruity or overly expressive, but rather subtle and shy but it can develop rather complex aroma’s if we can believe the experts. Let’s just taste this wine and see what it can bring to the table and even better, let’s discover at which summer activity I am going to take a bottle with me.
The color is very attractive, alive and vibrant. I would say it looks like apple juice from a green or golden apple. Pale yellow, with a hint of green.
I guess this must be one of the most difficult noses I have ever had. The nose is exactly the opposite of complex, and the only thing I can think of as a description is “white wine” : which will not impress you I guess… :)
I think I am not far off when I say this smells like apple juice with peaches.
The more I swirl, and the more the temperature of the wine rises, the more subtle notes I am starting to discover : clay, fresh hay, basil and honey.
So after all, it is an interesting blend between vibrant fruits, and more earthy - sticky notes. But, you have to sniff like a mad man to get some aromas out of your glass.
What they say is true, the acidity of Arneis is low. With a closed and concentrated, difficult nose like this, I expected an acidity punch in the face … but the wine gods are more gentle this time.
In the mouth, I have got a bit of the same issues if I’m honest.
The wine does not open up like I want it to, and when I keep on searching for flavors, it gets too hot in my mouth and shows some balance issues with an unpleasant alcohol feeling in the throat.
Surprisingly, the very long finish with nuts, peaches, honey and a nice minerality show that this wine has got concentration, body and potential.
To be honest, I don’t like this wine at all. It is one of those experiences where you and the wine can’t find any common ground for a good wine party. But, on the other hand, I think this can be a fantastic wine with sea food, goat cheese or even some light charcuterie, and that’s what I would pair the wine with : a light cheese & meat plate.
But, the wine itself just does not do the trick for me.
Since every wine review is a personal opinion, I am going for a bronze medal, but don’t let that scare you to try a Roero Arneis one day.
Theme of the month - UNKNOWN FROM ITALY, white - May 2013
Hey ho friends,
the first of may is a sunny day, and I am extremely wanting the summer to start. I can already imagine me and my wife chatting over a light lunch, laying in the park on a sunny sunday afternoon with a book or enjoying some grilled fish on the barbecue with family or friends.
I strongly believe that you can pair a wine with every activity, no matter what you do, how early or how late, and with the summer activities so close by, I want to dive into a country that is still one big mystery to me : ITALY.
I am going to uncover some of the unknown italian white grapes, and hopefully we will find the right summer activity to pair them with.
So, these are my tickets to summer pleasure:
From left to right, we have:
- POLJE, DOC Collio, Friuli, Italy - Ribolla 2011 (€14,80)
- TERRE DEL PRINCIPE, IGT Terre del Volturno, Campania, Italy - Pallagrello Bianco 2010 (€16,50)
- NIZZA SILVANO, DOCG Roero Arneis, Piemonte, Italy - Arneis 2011 (€11,45)
- OCCHIPINTI, SP68 Sicilia Bianco 2012, IGT Sicilia, Italy - Moscato D’Alessandria & Albanello (€16,65)
As you see, I had to push my budget a little bit, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun, right?
See you soon with a ray of sunshine in my glass.