Friday, August 20, 2010

Three "Must Try" Italian Whites

Easily the least well known white grape variety to completely surprise you, Arneis has been quietly grown in northern Italy, in the Piedmont region, for centuries. It was once blended into Barolo to soften the tannins and harshness of the nebbiolo grape. Now that Barolo producers have switched to 100% nebbiolo wines Arneis has been bottled on it's own. The best examples seem to come from the Roero Hills, northwest of the town of Alba.

Guidobono has been one of my best kept secrets for a few years now. This winery produces excellent Barbera, and Nebbiolo, but their Arneis is the star!. Arneis is often described as being highly aromatic with forward pear and apricot aromas; palate stimulating with it's generous, refreshing acidity; and also mouth-filling with aromas that pass straight into the flavor profile. This is an outstanding example of this grape variety and compares to wines costing much, much more...a terrific value!

2009 Guidobono Arneis: under $17

Most of visitors to the small medieval town of San Gimignano rarely realize that a delicious white wine is produced here. The vineyards are planted to vernaccia grapes and, from my experience, finding good examples can be very difficult. The trick is always buying as fresh as possible, the wine should not spend any more than a year in the bottle. 

This is a 2009 vintage from Palagetto and it blew me away the first time I sampled it. Rarely does this varietal come packed with this much flavor and body. Typically, I find them bland, thin and lacking, but this one had exceptional flavors: great, tangy acidity and a nice array of Golden Delicious and Granny flavors.  

2009 Palagetto Vernaccia di San Gimignano: under $13

This blended white is a new project for the Cotarella brothers, Renzo and Riccardo, enologists and owners of the Falesco Winery. Falesco acquired a hillside vineyard site just south of Orvieto and found it an ideal region to grow both Vermentino and Verdicchio.

These two two grape varieties are perfectly suited to blending together. Vermentino typically suffers from underwhelming acidity with ripe Meyer Lemon-like fruit flavors and Verdicchio can often have an abundance of puckering acidity with green apple-like fruit flavors. Together, these varietals fold into each other to produce a very complex wine. This is a 50/50 blend and has not been barrel fermented.

2008 Falesco Vitiano Bianco: under $12 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Break a leg!

Normally a good luck wish, this phrase has taken on a new meaning for me lately. Sadly and more accurately, tragically, I fractured both my Tibia and Fibula in a fall on a golf course in May. Three long months have passed and I am just now able to get back to enjoying a glass of wine and contributing to this blog.

The painkillers served their purpose, but the price of their use meant not being able to enjoy wine with my meals. Once the pain became discomfort I was able to "Say No to Drugs" and pour something fun and friendly into my wine glass. My choice was made easy one afternoon when my eye caught sight of a stack of one of my favorite Gascogne whites: Domaine de Cassagnoles. 

This wonderfully refreshing white was the perfect antidote to several heat waves that New England was suffering through this summer. While the "Phridge Photo" to the left shows just one bottle, I recommend having at least one other bottle just behind it.

If you search for this wine you will see two labels: the normal bottling and their Reserve. For close to five years these wines were a regular feature at my store, Caruso Wine & Spirits in San Francisco. While I do enjoy the Reserve bottling, a wine created entirely from Gros Monseng grapes, I drank the less expensive and more casually styled normal bottling more often, a classic blend of Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes. These varieties of grape may not seem familiar to you but their flavors are. The subtle, delicate herbaceous aromas and flavors will make you think of a  light bodied, citrusy sauvignon blanc.

The bottles I found came with a convenient Stelvin Closure, those new screw caps, making it easy to just re-seal it and put it back in the fridge and enjoy it over several days. Look for it to sell for under $10.