Italy

Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Long ago, we used to buy a well-made Chianti Classico from an anonymous cooperative for a price low enough to make Charles Shaw blush. When we wanted to treat ourselves to a better wine, we would step up to a Brolio Chianti. We didn't have a lot of money and we never went wrong trusting the Ricasoli family to make an excellent Chianti at a fair price. Chianti has come a long way since Baron Bettino Ricasoli came up with the original formulation in 1872. That recipe called for a minimum of 70 percent Sangiovese and allowed a couple of white grapes in the blend. The rules have been rewritten extensively and now even allow 100 percent Sangiovese as well as blends with Bordeaux grape...Read More
Luce wines turn toward the future

Luce wines turn toward the future

As one of the first super Tuscan wines, Luce was the joint vision of the Marchesi de' Frescobaldi and the late Robert Mondavi. Blending the Montalcino clone of Sangiovese with Merlot, they created a red with supple vigor and friendly tannins that was immediately met with popular and critical success. More than two decades have passed, and Luce remains a powerful alternative to the best Brunello di Montalcino. In recent years, however, the Tenuta Luce delle Vite estate has branched out with a more approachable and affordable second level wine called Lucente. They are also changing the way they age their Brunello. When Luce's technical director, Stefano Ruini, passed through Boston recently, we sat down to taste the latest releases and discuss changes at the...Read More
Sweetest season calls for wines to match

Sweetest season calls for wines to match

North Americans used to love sweet wines. We used to love them so much that we became ashamed of our preference for residual sugar. For the last few decades, every casual wine drinker on the continent would insist, “Oh, I only drink dry wines”—as if that preference made them more sophisticated. Leaving aside the fact that residual sugar in a wine can be a highly subjective experience, anyone who always insists on bone-dry wines is really missing the boat. So it's a pleasure to see that Piemonte-based Italian wine giant Zonin (www.zoninusa.com) is bringing the full line of its Castello del Poggio wines to North America as part of its “Hello Sweet Life” campaign. Since Zonin took over the estate based in Asti in 1985,...Read More

Zucchi oils exemplify art of blending EVOOs

To blend or not to blend? We'd like to believe that the world's best olive oil is pressed in Jaén province in Spain from Picual olives. That's the oil we like on a Caprese salad made with fresh mozzarella and garden tomatoes. But more than a thousand cultivars of Olea europaea trees grow around the Mediterranean basin, and most are used for making oil as well as for cured and brined olives. Which really are best? Every Spaniard, Italian, Greek, or French person believes that the best oil comes from the family olive grove. They are right because it's a matter of taste. Surprisingly, most olive oils are blends. They might be blended at harvest from groves with many cultivars. They might be blended after...Read More

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano re-emphasizes terroir

Judging by the wines from the nine producers who visited Boston, Montepulciano winemakers have returned to native Tuscan blending grapes. DOCG rules permit up to 30 percent non-Sangiovese grapes in Vino Nobile. In truth, more than half the wines I tasted were more than 90 percent Sangiovese. And those producers blending in other grapes have largely stopped using Merlot. Instead, they opt for Canaiolo (which softens the acidity of Sangiovese), Colorino (which provides color and structure), and Mammolo (which gives a velvety violet note). Since each producer presented three to five wines between the technical tasting and a dinner, my full tasting notes would be overkill here. Suffice it to say that Montepulciano superstars Boscarelli (poderiboscarelli.com), Dei (cantinedei.com), and Poliziano (www.carlettipoliziano.com)—along with Antinori-owned La Braccesca—continue...Read More

Reassessing rich reds of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Less oak, more Sangiovese. In a nutshell, that's the good news about the latest releases of Vino Nobile di Montepulchiano. Having just celebrated the 50th birthday of the D.O.C., the wine makers of Vino Nobile are converging toward a distinctive modern style. Nine leading producers visited Boston on a tour just ahead of ProWein in Dusseldorf and Vinitaly in Verona. Following on the heels of glowing coverage in Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, it was a chance for the small region to shine without the distraction of comparisons to Tuscany's other major Sangiovese areas: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and even Morellino di Scansano. Traditionally known in the Montalcino area as Prugnolo Gentile, the Sangiovese grape is almost ideally suited to the clay and sandy soils...Read More

Radicchio di Treviso: sweet winter crunch

We've written about the beautiful Venetian city of Treviso as a center for Prosecco DOC and the birthplace of tiramisù, but it's also home to one of our favorite winter vegetables. Radicchio Rosso di Treviso IGP is the blanched winter chicory indigenous to the region. Treviso radicchio generally comes in elongated, slightly pointy, tightly packed heads. But as Lucio Torresan of Park Farm (actually, Azienda Agricola Tenuta al Parco) shows above, field-grown radicchio looks little like the market product. Those big red and green weeds he's holding “are so bitter that even the goats won't eat them.” When Torresan and his workers get done with the field-grown plants, though, they will be tender and sweet, with just a slight residual bitterness. Magic in the dark...Read More

Limestone mountains loom over Jerzu vines

Famed for its local strain of Cannonau, the vineyards of Jerzu grow in a massive natural amphitheater scooped out of the side of a limestone range. The basin ascends from sea level to 750 meters, and the soils are all a mix of soft limestone and crumbly schist. The photo above shows the ridge and the hillside village of Jerzu. The industrial site in the foreground is the Antichi Poderi Jerzu cooperative (www.jerzuantichipoderi.it/en/), which produces 1.8 million bottles a year. The predominance of limestone subsoil at Jerzu means that the vines have to live with scarce water that drains away underground. This drainage carves out great cavern systems for spectacular spelunking. On the outskirts of nearby Ulassai, the Grotta di Su Marmuri (www.grottasumarmuri.it) is open...Read More

Mamoiada and its wines evoke primal power

The little community of Mamoiada sits at the foot of the two highest mountain ranges on Sardinia, the Gennargenti and the Supramonte. It is known for two powerful forces: ancient vines of Cannonau and atavistic carnival masks. The most famous masks are the Mamuthones, shown here. The pre-Christian figures perform in ritual ceremonies that mark the turn of the agricultural calendar from the dark of winter toward the season of spring growth. The parade through Mamoidada predates Lenten carnivals. Men dressed in these shaggy black sheepskins with primitive wooden black masks dance slowly through town, each laden with more than 30 kilos of bronze bells. The figures appear first on January 17, the feast of Sant' Antonio Abate, when the people of Mamoiada dance around...Read More

Design and wine shine at Hotel Su Gologone

Hotel Su Gologone is a destination for design fans as well as wine-lovers. The whitewashed stucco walls and terracotta floor tiles serve as a blank canvas for an explosion of color. Potted geraniums and bright folk art dot every corner of the sprawling property. Bougainvillea crawls up the walls, its blossoms dangling overhead. Immense fig trees provide shade to outdoor patios and dining areas. The guest rooms, which range €121–€287 per night, are virtual galleries of local crafts—hand-loomed bed coverings, ancient pottery, brightly glazed ceramic folk art, furniture fashioned from local juniper wood, charmingly naïf paintings. Su Gologone began in 1967 as a small restaurant serving food next to the mountain spring by the same name. Since the location was remote, the family opened a...Read More