Splendor in the Glass

Arturo Ciompi's blog on wine

Italians and a touch of the Brits

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Clock icon March 26, 2014

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The Sagrantino grape has been making wine headlines in recent years. Many people think that this grape will bring the kind of fame to the province of Umbria that Nebbiolo has brought to Piedmont and Sangiovese to Tuscany. And they may be right! The Lunelli family, producers of Ferrari Método Champenoise in Trentino, have now invested in the village of Montefalco, where Sagrantino is king. Still a very small production wine, it was given the Italian government’s highest rating, the DOCG – sort of a quality assurance – in 1992.

  • 2007 Montefalco Sagrantino, Tenuta Castelbuono $36 srp

Dark, purple color with slightly lightening rim. Impressive red fruit impressions on the nose with overriding roasted sensations mingled with tar and smoke. Enormously attractive with great purity of expression. The flavors are forceful and strong, reminiscent of a brilliant young Cabernet in its raw power. But at almost seven years of age, the tannins are still formidable and one has to wonder how soon, or if, they might subside. Still, for a steak, boar or truffled risotto, this packs a wallop and will please tonight. Fans of Petite Sirah might seriously want to give this a try. Drink now-2024 (?)

90/100 points

zardettowine-e1356376125192-225x300Prosecco (and Moscato) are big buzz words in wine these days. It wasn’t always so. Even 20 years ago, Prosecco was still pretty much a hand sell. Today, it flies off shelves and there is plenty of mediocre product to go around.

One brand that has been consistently good is Zardetto. Their bread and butter Prosecco bottling has been made since 1969 and continues to bear the qualities that have pleased customers for decades.

  • Zardetto Prosecco DOC Treviso $16 srp

Pretty straw-yellow color. Very fragrant and clean with apricot, floral and banana impressions. Although overt, the bouquet remains vibrant and pinpoint, neither heavy nor dull. Flavors are soft and sweet but remain agile and relatively refreshing. When in doubt, Zardetto is always a good choice for casual sipping.

86/100 points

7269Madeira usually brings thoughts of sweetness, the founding fathers imbibing after a meal and the unfortunate Duke of Clarence who was supposedly drowned in a vat of Madeira by his younger brother – the future Richard III! (“Death, where is thy sting,” as W.C. Fields once said of a similar idea …) But most people don’t give Madeira a thought at all and that is a true shame. Today’s wine is a Malmsey, the richest and sweetest version of Madeira, made with the Malmsey, aka Malvasia, grape. This is a wine that, once inhaled, will thrill most anyone with its unmistakable richness of bouquet.

  • 10-Year-Old Malmsey Madeira, Blandy’s $30 srp (500 ml.)

A burnt sugar, caramel and molasses bouquet that is like no other. Intoxicating in a non-drunken sense, this wine is a joy to smell. Elements of fig-laden nuts emerge as well upon aeration. Although sweet to drink, the wine has a complexity and flavor interest that reaches far beyond the underlying sweet nature. I love drinking this wine with nuts – walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts that I crack myself. (Shelled nuts will do.) It may be a bit pricey to put over vanilla ice cream, but you’ll have a memorable and, perhaps, never greater treat than this! Will last for weeks after the stopper is removed. Drink now-forever!

92/100 points

img_4598People often ask me, “What’s your favorite wine?” It’s sort of like asking, “What’s your favorite country?”! But within a country’s regions, I often have a favorite choice – especially where real value is concerned. In Tuscany, home of spectacular Chiantis and Brunellos, one wine stands out to me for quality and price. That wine is Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. Sometimes, I think I should keep this a bit of a secret. But because of its rather complex name, and the fact that many people confuse it with another wine called Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, there may still be time to allay my fears! Seriously though, this wine, made predominantly from a special clone of the Sangiovese grape (called Prugnolo Gentile [Prune-YO-lo Gen-TEE-leh]; how pretty a name is that?), makes a very special red with so much character and flavor that you might want to give it a try. Today’s version is made by a venerable estate which, under new ownership, now uses only the Prugnolo Gentile grape in its wines. (The DOCG law permits up to 30% of other varieties.) Usually, other indigenous grapes are used, but occasionally “foreigners” such as Cabernet and Merlot pop up. Regardless, I have yet to taste a Vino Nobile that did not strike me as a wonderfully individualistic wine. This is God’s little acre for magical reds.

  • 2011 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Avignonesi $29 srp

A nose that is more reminiscent of perfume, rather than just an inviting smell. The heady fragrance has elements of cherry compote, spicy-minerally elements, licorice and leather. One comes back again and again to its haunting bouquet. Juicy, chewy fruit on the palate. Nicely extracted and dry with cherry, wild herbs and dark tea-like flavors. There is an elegance and decidedly “European” fruit that satisfies but doesn’t shout. Delicious already, but will improve through 2019.

92/100 points

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