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The Cellar: Italian Wines for Summer

Saturday, July 21, 2012

 

At a recent ‘Evening with Wine’ blind tasting event featuring the diverse wines of Italy, the second most favorite red wine, beaten only by an Amarone, was a $16 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. The tasting also featured a slew of great white values from this great wine nation including wines made from the interesting varietals Cortese, Vermentino and Lambrusco. The tasting proved something I have always said; just because it is inexpensive that doesn’t mean it can’t be good. There are a lot of well-made Italian wines out there for under $20. The following are two examples.

2010 Argiloas Costamolino Vermentino

Compared to its size, no country is covered with more vines that Italy. They literally grow grapes in all the nooks and grannies of the country – and they have done so for thousands of years. So much so, that when the

Greeks occupied what is now Italy they called the country ‘Oenotria’ – the Land of Vine. One of the reasons grapes can grow all over Italy is because of its unique geography. It’s long, slim shape ensures that cooling sea breezes are almost always present. The mountain range that cuts through the length of the country ensures elevation, which in return ensures precipitation. Combining these elements with presence of fertile soils makes for among the best grape-growing conditions in the world.

One of the best things about Italian wine is exploring some of the thousands different varietals they grow and make wine from there. Vermentino is one of these varietals indigenous to the island of Sardinia. Located just north of Cagliari, the Argiloas winery is a father and son operation that focuses on native varietals. Their 2010 Costamolino is made primarily from the late-ripening Vermentino grape. A portion of this wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, a process during which tarter tasting malic acids are converted into softer and rounder lactic acids. This is done to add a fuller mouth-feel and richen the flavors from citrusy to more tropical. This wine has lovely citrus and pineapple flavors with a touch of honey.

2008 La Valentina Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

The Italians love their wine. In fact, they like it so much that they currently top the consumption index with the average Italian drinking more than 17 gallons of wine a year (!), compared to the average American who

drinking just over 2 gallons a year. While the country has traditionally been the European source of cheap, so-called jug wines, things are slowly changing. A generation ago only a tiny portion of producers bottled their own wines, with the majority being sold in bulk. Thankfully, in the past 20 years Italy has experienced a shift that focuses on quality instead of quantity.

One of the regions that has seen an increase in overall quality is the Central-East region of Abruzzi. Here, the red grape varietal Montepulciano rules the landscape making a very friendly and easy drinking red. These deeply colored wines are often dry and soft with moderate acidity and plenty of fruit. All these factors, combined with the often reasonably price (well under $20) and it is no surprise that Montepulciano D'Abruzzo is becoming a favorite among American wine drinkers. La Valentina is one of the better producers in the region. They keep their yields low and hand-harvested late to achieve optimal ripening. Look for dark fruits, a hint of spice in a juicy frame.

Enjoy!

Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at [email protected]. And as always, don’t forget to follow GoLocal’s Wine Cellar on Facebook and sign up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.

 

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