Back in NY, Linda and I learned a lot about French wine one night at Camaje. It was a key event in our wine tasting history that clearly showed our interest in learning about wine from all around the world. But we haven’t really replicated that tasting for other countries/regions. Sure, we’ve dabbled in Argentinian Malbec and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but we’ve never spent the time to go through a country and their geographical and varietal nuances.
We’re attempting to change that this month with our venture into Italian reds. Instead of our friends at Bevmo, we made new friends at K&L Wines. K&L only has 3 retails stores in California, but they negotiate directly with wine owners rather than distributors to secure great wines at various prices. Linda and I walked into their store with a print out from their website of highly rated wines under our $25 price point as back up, but the sales associate politely folded it back up and began selecting 4 classic red wines from all of Italy. We walked away with wines from Campania, Piedmont, Tuscany, and Sicily.
Unlike French varietals that often find a home in California vineyards, these Italian wines have grapes named Nebbiolo, Frappato, and Aglianico. I have no idea what they will taste like and that’s awesome. I studied Ancient Rome in college and wrote my senior thesis on the end of Roman Britain. Yet I know very little about Ancient Roman use of wine except that all Romans of all classes, including those outside of Italy, used wine in their daily lives. Sounds familiar…almost.
So the candidates for this month’s tasting are the 2007 Contrade di Taurasi Aglianico, 2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo delle Langhe, 2006 Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria, and the 2008 Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino. The Italians have a similar system to the French when it comes to appellations. There are 4 classifications of wine from Italy: VDT, IGT, DOC, DOCG. VDT stands for Vino da Tavola and qualifies as wine from Italy. It’s the equivalent of table wine. IGT means Indicazione Geografica Tipica and describes wine from a certain region that’s better than table wine but doesn’t follow the strict guidelines of the next two classes. DOC and DOCG stand for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita) and get very specific to appellation and wine style. These wines are subject to government laws aimed at encouraging consistent quality wine-making. 3 of our wines are DOC and 1 is IGT. There’s a printed label around the neck of the DOC bottles to signify their quality.
Now we do have some experience with Italian grapes, and that is from Sangiovese, the dominant grape in Chianti Classico. We’ve had Sangiovese from California vineyards as well as in certain red blends. Sangiovese does appear in our Tuscan Rosso di Montalcino so we’ll have some frame of reference will we blind taste test later this month. Either way we’re really looking forward to tasting these reds and will keep the Ancient Roman quotes to a minimum – IN VINO VERITAS.