A little less than a year ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to not only trying more Italian wines, but to also have more of an open mind when drinking them. For as long as I can remember, I have eschewed wines from Italy for a couple of reasons. First, most of the wines that I could actually afford tended to be over-stewed acidic train wrecks (the reds) or insipid, bland, and flabby (the whites). Second, I have spent most of my time in France trying to get a handle on the myriad French wine regions (and in doing so also picked up the inherent French disdain for Italian wines).
Since I have been writing this blog, I have come across scores of people who have challenged my opinion on Italian wines and called me off track, mis-guided, or worse. So I have made a concerted effort to try more Italian wines this year, and this is my latest foray. (Yes, it is now November, but it is never too late to keep a resolution, right?)
The first wine comes from the central Italian region of Montefalco, which is roughly equidistant from Rome and Florence. While the estate has existed since the 13th century, vines were not planted there until the end of the 19th century. The wine was sold off as bulk for close to a hundred years until 1979 when the company began bottling their own wines.
2011 Antonelli San Marco Montefalco Rosso: Retail $25. 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 15% Montepulciano. A medium ruby-red with some good red berry fruit on the nose–not overly complex by any means, but approachable. This follows through on the palate with some nice fruit upfront followed by some depth on the mid-palate. A nice, albeit brief, finish. This wine will not set your hair on fire, but it will have many fans around the table, where it belongs. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
The next three wines come from the Marchesi Fumanelli family, which has been making wine in the Veneto (northern Italy) on their Squarano estate since 1470. (That gets a Whoa.) the family operated business has 78 acres of exclusively estate grown fruit, making it one of the largest producers in Valpolicella.
2011 Marchesi Fumanelli Terso Veneto IGT: Retail $35. 50% Garganega, 50% Trebbiano Toscano. I have not hidden my disdain for Italian white wine on this blog–mainly due to a general lack of acidity and rather boring flavors. Well. I might just have to alter that stance after this wine. Lightly golden with apricot, granny smith apple, and just a hint of mint waft out of the glass, and flavors of white peach and maybe some fennel seed greet the palate. All those flavors, and yes, acidity, are really impressive–I even double checked the bottle to make sure that it was indeed Italian (yeah, my skepticism runs deep). All of this with a lingering finish? I’m all in. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Marchesi Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore: Retail $30. 40% Corvina, 40% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella. A wine made from the same grapes used to make Amarone, but this wine is made in the traditional way, not by the appassimento process (where the grapes are first dried before pressed and fermented). Fairly dark with cassis, pine, and a bit of anise. On the palate, not surprisingly, there are many of the flavors and some of the richness of its more prestigious brethren: dark berry fruit with plenty of “oomph”. I went to an Amarone tasting in October and was very impressed. This wine, from the same region and the same grape varieties is no slouch either. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2008 Marchesi Fumanelli Amarone della Valpolicella: Retail $80. 40% Corvina, 40% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella. I was recently at a Amarone tasting at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. where I learned a boatload about the appellation. This was not one of the dozens of wine I tried that day, but maybe it should have been. Fairly dark, with ripe red berry fruit, accentuated by fruit cake cherry (I am a fan of fruit cake, by the way). This wine needed air and time, but once it had both, Whoa. Rich and full on the palate in a fabulous way. It took a bit to get there, but this gets another Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
The last wine (at least for now) comes from Umbria, the perhaps less well-known neighbor of Tuscany. The wines of Umbria tend to be a bit more rustic than those of Chianti, but pair exceedingly well with Umbrian cuisine (as one would imagine).
2011 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso: Retail $25. 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 15% Colorino. I drank this over a couple of days–the first day it was largely fruit driven with raspberry and blueberry fruit, but lacking a bit on depth. The following day, the fruit was still there, but there was a marked increase in depth and complexity. I thought I was not really going to be all that excited about this wine, but I did a near 180 in the last 24 hours. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
A few more tastings like this, and I will be well on my way to a new-found appreciation of Italian wines. Who knows? I might even opt for them over the French (not all the time, just once in a while…).