An Early New Year’s Resolution

The following post contains affiliate links, but all the opinions contained herein are my own.

For those of you that have read this blog for more than a heartbeat have no doubt been able to glean a thing or two about my wine tendencies. First, I am a bit of a champagne guy (perhaps an understatement). Second, I do not hesitate to get my Pinot Noir on (so much so that I have declared 4:30 to be #PinotTime on Twitter).

Third, I have tried not to (OK, that is a lie), but I have let it slip a few times my relative disdain for Italian wines. Most of the derision has been directed at Italian white wines, particularly my favorite whipping grape, Pinot Grigio. In a nut shell, I do not understand why the Italians insist on producing oceans of rather nondescript, bland, flabby whites that do not go well with food and are perhaps even worse on their own.

Yes, I know that is harsh, but the French (and increasingly Oregonians) seem capable of producing amazing wines using the same variety, but using the French pronunciation: Pinot Gris (yet another facet of my wine “profile”—I am a bit of a French wine snob).

I know.

I can be a narrow-minded jerk.

I get that a lot.

I have not been all that enamored with Italian reds either, but for different reasons (and yes, I know that I am treading on sacred ground here). I classify Italian wines into three rough categories: Relatively thin and soulless, over-extracted and stewed, and ridiculously expensive.

Most of the Italian wine I have enjoyed over the years have come from that last grouping, but I bought them before the relative price explosion of higher end Italian wines over the last decade or so (to be fair, most mid to higher end wine prices have gone through the roof—forget about buying any decent Burgundy even if you are independently wealthy, which certainly does not describe me).

As a result, I have pretty much written off Italian wines altogether, other than the occasional Chianti, I rarely even consider Italian juice.

wine.com

In the last few months, however, I have come across a few wines that have chipped away at my rather well-entrenched views on wines from the boot.

First, there were a few wines from Le Marche—a region on the Eastern part of the country that I sampled back in May. Then there were two wines from Elena Walch from Alto Aldige in the North, that went quite a ways to try to reverse my blanket assessment of Italian whites.

And just a few weeks ago, I received a wine to sample from Sicily, off the toe of the “boot” in the far South:

2012_Siciliana_NeroDAvola_Front2013 Siciliana Nero d’Avola: Retail $13. Translucent ruby color with plum and strawberry on the nose. Tart cherry and a hint of vanilla on the palate. I do not have a ton of experience with Nero d’Avola, but it is clear that I need to have more. This seems to be a fairly versatile wine with plenty of pairing opportunities. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

I am constantly searching for a relatively inexpensive ($10-20) that we can drink during the week, and this certainly fits the bill. Many domestic wines in this price range are usually overly fruity—what I refer to as a “fruity mess” but this Italian wine, has fruit, certainly, but it is in balance with the other elements of the wine (acidity, tannin, etc.).

Listen, this wine will not cause a vinous epiphany, but it did cause me to make an early resolution: I am determined to explore other regions of Italy (particularly Sicily), searching for wines like this that will pair well with pasta, barbecue, and pizza.

This wine is available at wine.com, and they are offering a few specials this month:

Get $10 off your orders of $125+ at Wine.com. Use code: DEC125. Valid 12/1-12/31.

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Nero d'Avola, Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to An Early New Year’s Resolution

  1. Can I suggest you, besides I know very well that your favorite grape is Pinot Grigio, you try Ribera del Duero wines? Of course if you did not taste them yet. I am leaving you guys a link just in case you want to take a look to their site. Happy coming year DC and to all your readers and wine fans.

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  2. It appears you and I received some of the same wines. I am working my way towards them but had many samples ahead in the line up. My husband once believed there was no good Italian wine in the US because they kept it all for themselves. Boy have I had fun proving him wrong again and again. He is now fully converted. If you lived closer I would do the same for you. Until then may I recommend going to your favorite local boutique wine retailer and ask them for a Ripasso, the younger sibling of Amarone and a lot less expensive. You should be able to find an outstanding Ripasso for $20ish; perfect for weeknight drinking but good enough to weekends, friends and parties. Italy is filled with outstanding red wine! As far as white goes….the search continues!

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    • I am on a mission to get through all the samples on hand by the end of the year—not sure it will happen! As for Italian wines, I know there are some good ones out there, but I feel like they are in a sea of mediocrity. For me, French wines are much easier to navigate. Hopefully, I will make a bit of headway into Italy this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. talkavino says:

    So was that a covered up rant about Italian wines, or an actual New Year’s resolution?
    I have a suggestion for you. Come to New York on February 5th for the Gambero Rosso event, and actually embrace best of the best in Italian wines. Well, don’t expect Gaja or Masetto to be pouring freely, but still – you will be able to experience a great range of excellent Italian wines. Give it some thought…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beth says:

    My friend Cindy Cosco, Passaggio Wines, makes a great, small-production Pinot Grigio from California. Layers of fruit, more complex than most Pinot Grigios I’ve tried, not your typical, blah Italian Pinot Grigio. I am a bit like you that I don’t drink or like many Italian wines, but as you saw in my last post, I am trying to make an effort, too. 😉

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  5. What you need is a trip to Italia. Italian wines are sooooo much better when you drink them in Italia. Cin Cin!!

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  6. aFrankAngle says:

    Gotta love bang-for-the-buck wines like this one.

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  7. Being from Oregon, let me see if I got this straight. Oregon produces some fairly good Italian wines but mislabels them with the French pronunciation? Newbie here! But learning more and more! I actually sampled a wine at a grocery store from the wine steward the other day, lol! I’m sure you cringe at that thought instead of me being in a tasting room. 😀

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    • It is actually more of a “style”. Usually, when you see a domestic wine called “Pinot Grigio” it is made in the Italian style (which I find rather bland and uninteresting). When you see “Pinot Gris” (same grape, different language) it is likely made in the French style which I find more opulent and tasty. Would love to go wine tasting with you, actually!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You like champagne? You’re a snob? I have learned so many new things about you!

    I do have a Nero d’Avola in my basement now that some random Italian guy picked out for me, so I’ll have to check it out.

    Like

  9. Lynn Millar says:

    I was watching a travel show to Italy and the ‘host’ said “oh Brunello is so much better than Chianti” – being one who is okay with Chianti when quantity and lots of food are in order – I thought I’d try it – found it – expensive and only okay tasting. Thus, I enjoyed your take on the wines. (Except, I haven’t found an Oregon wine I’m crazy about.)

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    • Brunei really needs some time—rarely is it approachable on release (at least the good ones)—but they are really getting up there in price! We will have to chat about Oregon, but honestly, you live among some of the best wineries in the country already!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. jimvanbergen says:

    I am a big fan of Elena Walch’s wines, and an even bigger fan of wines from the Alto Adige after spending some time there. There are some great wines coming from that region. I hope you have the time and patience to find some more. Maybe I can make an effort to being a few to #WBC15? 🙂 Cheers!

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    • Yeah, I have been wanting to go to Alto Aldige for years, but since both of our boys went/go to a French Immersion school, we usually go to France to reinforce their language skills. We hope to branch out more soon—Croatia is on the far horizon….

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  11. Duff's Wines says:

    I have had the pleasure of converting many Italian-o-phobes to the wonders of Italian wines. I do agree that they are best consumed while in the boot. I love ’em perhaps for some of the reasons that others don’t – a little country-seque. The reds can be thin and over acidic but if you know what you’re looking for, you can avoid those. The Ripassos are a nice starting place as suggested and plain old Dolcetto di Dogliani is cheap and tasty.

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    • I am not really an “Italian-o-phobe” so much as a “I-already-have-too-many-areas-to-obesess-about-to-add-another-phobe”. I also feel that there is a wider range on the quality scale in Italy—it seems knowing producers is paramount….

      Liked by 1 person

  12. oakywines says:

    Dear Drunken cyclist,

    I was a bit of a French snob myself. If you have travelled through Bordeaux it is impossible not to fall in love with their wines. The place is magical! For a long time I only purchased St Emilion’s wines and told my husband on a number of occasions about my dreams of living in Bordeaux and buying a small vineyard. However, I have come to realize that Bordeaux is to a wine lover like Disneyland is to a child.

    Any wine lover must be open to taste wines from all regions and all varieties of grapes. Only then we can really keep ourselves in a little box. There is so much to learn!

    Have you taste “Moscatel de la Marina” by Bodegas Enrique Mendoza? The wine is made using Alexander grapes that have grown in Alicante for over 2000 years. I met their head viticulturist and thought a lot about a comment made by Jasper Morris head buyer at Berry Bros & Rudd in St James Street, London.

    Jasper, In a BBC documentary, explained that people are always good indicators of the wine quality; it is the passion of the makers that would determine how good the wine can be not the region.

    Please taste Moscatel de la Marina and Meet Enrique Mendoza

    And don’t forget to let me know about your experiences.

    Love your blog.
    Kind regards
    Mariela @ oakywines.com

    Like

    • Thanks so much for the comment Mariela! I agree that one wants to avoid being trapped in a box, but as you say there is so much to learn out there! I would add that it is impossible to learn it all, so I try to keep some sort of focus (although the 1600+ bottles in the cellar might suggest that i am failing even at that!).

      Like

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