Our blind tasting this past Easter introduced two things: Italian reds and our blog to some of our friends. Both went pretty well, probably because we drank a lot of wine and really enjoyed it. Opinions definitely differed on what finished in first, but there were 3 wines that stood out for future purchase.
We told our friends nothing about the wines except that they were from Italy. They were really excited to taste our selections from K&L Wine but were a little intimidated to provide comments and descriptions. We made it easy on them to just name a price they would pay for the wine again. No need to associate orchard fruit or spice, just plain economics.
In case you didn’t see our first post and primer on Italian wine, check it out here. We didn’t get too involved with Italian varietals so here’s the quick low down courtesy of thewinearray.com. The most well known Italian red grape is Sangiovese – expect happy-to-say-hello cherry fruit, yummy tobacco/spice, and potentially some orange flavor. Our tasting also included Aglianico (inky tones plus chocolate yielding a cigar-provoking effect), Nebbiolo (spices, roses, cherries, licorice, tar, truffles), and a combo of Nero d’Avola (dense fruit in addition to some spices) and Frappato (black cherry and cracked pepper).
Starting with the Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino (i.e. Sangiovese from Piedmont), Linda and I didn’t agree. Our friends also went as high as $20 and as low as $7.99. The Rosso was one of Linda’s favorites, citing traditional tasty red wine flavors like cherry. Its biggest strength might have been its balance and smooth operation, encouraging Linda to describe it as great when mildly hungover. She gave it a price of $22. Sadly, I didn’t share her opinion. There was an earthy factor that threw me off, an almost dirty water smell. My negative reaction actually made Linda re-pour the wine for a second taste. No change. While the second taste forced the decision into overtime, I pegged it at $15, keeping it off the favorites list with a retail price of $22.
Retail: $22, Linda: $22, Chris: $15 = No Deal
Next was the Nebbiolo delle Langhe from Barbaresco. I had high hopes for the Nebbiolo since I had tried a similar wine at Zero Zero recently. It had a rich quality that I hadn’t experience in Italian wine. Unfortunately our wine didn’t meet our expectations. I got earthiness. Linda got minerality. We both experienced a poor finish (sticky almost but quick) and a lack of fulfillment. Retailing for $18.99, the Nebbiolo delle Langhe misses the mark of me ($18) and Linda ($12).
Retail: $19, Linda: $12, Chris: $18 = Nope again
The Taurasi Aglianico brought us back to the wonder that is Italian wine (Molto Lieto = It’s nice to meet you). This skewed high with our guests as well as us, bu just misses the mark for future purchase. I thought this was the most complex wine of the 4. It kept me sniffing and sipping more and more in order to unravel what was under the hood. It “smelled of age” which I initially described at dusty water smell (not to be confused with the Rosso dirty water smell). Later, I got spice, tannin, minerality berry, and smoke. Linda also experienced the natural smells – earth, dirt, ground – but also couldn’t place some of the odd flavors – licorice, fennel? I enjoyed the guessing game and would buy it again for $25 while Linda thought the schizophrenia was a result of poor quality and gave it $15. Retailing for $22, we pass.
Retail: $22, Linda: $15, Chris: $22 = Nope, Strike 3
Finally, we arrive at the Sicilian combo of Frappato and Nero d’Avola in Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Our guests didn’t prefer this blend, but Linda and I definitely wanted more. It was the one wine I went back to during the night until it was gone. Like other reds, you experience the cherry flavor up front with smoke/spice later, but this wine had a peculiar sweetness to it. It took me a while but ultimately I settled on the flavor of a strawberry “Fruit by the Foot” (not to be confused with the plastic tasting Fruit Roll-Ups). Linda pictured herself drinking more of it in an outdoor cafe in Italy. Sign me up too. It retailed for $23. I would do it again for $29 while Linda was a little lower at $25. All that matters is that Sicily won our battle of Italian reds.
Retail: $22, Linda: $25, Chris: $29 = Oh Yeah.
Quick side note – it’s really fun to try completely new varietals. We’re planning our tasting for next month with this in mind.