A couple of years 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, it seemed like one needed to spend a rather small fortune on a bottle of Italian wine to be assured of a quality quaff (and I am only talking about the reds–I avoided the whites altogether). 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.
2014 Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano DOC: Retail $20. 96% Sangiovese, 4% other local red varieties. Not the most transformative wine on the planet, but there are times that you just want a glass of wine, leaving the transformation for another day. This wine has fantastic fruit, with a touch of depth, and is completely approachable now. The fruit is at the forefront on the palate, accompanied with a raspberry-like tanginess. This is not a gangbuster. It is not a monster. Nor is it worthy of a “Whoa” but it is a Monday night marauder, a wine that will exceed your expectations on a weekday work night. And that is worthy of a salute. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
2012 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Retail $33. 100% Sangiovese. Inviting aromas of black cherry, cassis, and beef jerky (I don’t eat it a lot, but when I do? Whoa!), the palate is initially chock full of fruit, but it quickly yields to an earthy, spicy, and savory blend that screams for some sort of animal flesh. I apologize to the vegans in the crowd, but this wine requires meat. I am about to partake on the move of my life (yes, even more monumental than the journey from New York to the San Francisco Bay), and I can’t help but think that this wine would be perfect in my soon to be new home. This would pair fantastically with Texas Barbecue (even though I have had it only once), but it would not be thusly limited. Pizza, hot-dogs, hamburgers, and the vast array of pastas. This is a home cook’s dream…. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2010 Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia: Retail $30. 90% Sangiovese, 10% other local red varieties. A truly classic Chianti Classico: dried fruit and flowers with some spice, tobacco, and earthiness. On the palate, notes of dried cranberries and cherries, but this give way to balanced acidity, considerable earth, and just a bit of funk. A photo-typical “food wine” that would be a fantastic pairing with a variety of foods. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Cecchi Toscana Sangiovese IGT: Retail $18. 90% Sangiovese, 10% other local red varieties. Fruit and earth combine on the nose rather harmoniously leading to a really pleasant wine. Red and black berry fruit with a touch of heft on the mid-palate end in a somewhat grippy finish with an admirable finish. Listen. This is not a wine that you are going to keep around for you newborn’s graduation, it just isn’t. But it should be one that you keep around for that dish of hastily made pasta or take-out pizza that you ordered once you got the pre-school kid to finally fall asleep. Just pray they don’t ring the door bell. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Tenuta Ammiraglia ‘Massovivo’ Vermentino Toscana IGT: Retail $15. Pale yellow color with candied lemon rind and peach blossom. Greeted immediately with bright acidity and a bit of viscosity–there is nice weight and an above average finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2012 Mazzoni Piemonte Barbera DOC: Retail $18. Unlike many wines these days, this 100% Barbera neatly straddles the line between Old and New World styles. Up front, there is plenty of fruit aromas: cassis, raspberry, and blackberry predominate. These persist on to the palate where there is an initial wave of fruit, but this is quickly followed by some mouth puckering acidity to balance out all that juiciness. There is not really much in the way of tannins to speak of, but this wine really doesn’t need it–it is well-balanced and fun to drink now, either on its own while catching up on some reading, or with a robust meal and several friends. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Terlato Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali: Retail $25. I have not hidden my general disdain for Pinot Grigio, but this is impressive. Nice tropical notes of melon and even pineapple. On the palate very nice with fruit and depth. Could be the start of convincing me to rethink Pinot Grigio. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio Alto Aldige DOC: Retail $18. I have to be honest. When I see the words “Pinot Grigio” on a label, I usually cringe. Thus, I opened this with more than a bit of trepidation. No need. Lemon, lime, and a bit of pine, interestingly, great tartness, a bit of zing, and a lasting finish. Yowza. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.