NOVEMBER 2018 ITALIAN WINE CLUB

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Depending on your current comfort level with Italian wines, this may seem a redundant title. There is so much diversity to explore from Italy that perhaps much of this will be very new to many of you, our Club Members. That’s why you’re here after all! But even for those who’ve had the opportunity to dig much deeper into the subject, I expect these four wines might provide a few ‘wows’ and maybe even an excited ‘what the?’ From a complexly perfumed and spicy red, made from a grape known only for sweet and simple sparkling rosés, to a sparkling rosé in appearances only that will make you forget a whole generation of mediocre reputation. On to a next level expression of a white grape that is, itself, bound for next level recognition and lastly a wine with a truly unique character and sense of place, despite the lack of concrete evidence of its origins. We sure hope you love them as much as we do. They are meant to challenge as much as they delight, and to create a sensorial memory that inspires the desire to learn and to try more.

WINE NO. 1
Torre Dei Beati ‘Giocheremo con i Fiori’
Pecorino
Loreto Aprutino, Abruzzo 2016

GRAPE
PECORINO – We are witnessing the early stages of the Pecorino revolution! That is to say, the grape is just coming into its own as a very high quality mono-varietal wine, following in the footsteps of it’s neighbor Verdicchio. Predominantly grown along the Adriatic coast in Marche and Abruzzo, Pecorino was once nearly lost in a sea of Trebbiano but has now demonstrated that it’s potential for complexity and versatility make it a virtually untapped force to be reckoned with.
GROWER
Nestled in Loreto Aprutino, this family run organic farm is a stunning place to behold. In a mystically beautiful location that the Albanesi family call home, this farm enjoys a tropical coastal climate near the Adriatic Sea that is also cooled in the shadow of the snow capped Gran Sasso Mountain. The Albanesi family are leaders in the research and clonal work for their local grape varieties and in natural farming techniques alike and they feel their wines are the best way they can share the beauty of their land with others. The name Torre dei Beati means the Tower of the Blessed, borrowed from a local historic landmark.
GLASS
A nose full of fresh spicy ginger, roasted almonds and celery salt. Wafts of white flowers; Not the little dainty ones, think rich southern goodness like magnolia and gardenia. The palate carries all those same distinct notes, remarkably, with some extra layers of white tea, bee pollen and a beeswax texture. And Oh, that Pecorino is a wiley one. Is it really by word association alone that this wine has a cheese rindiness about it? So unfair. Notice we’ve not even mentioned fruit flavors yet? Pretty cool that the fruit provides the B side in this wine. Citrus rind, tart apples and under-ripe figs round out this surprisingly complex treat.
SIDE NOTES
“We will play with flowers.” Yep, that’s what it says. Painted by their lovely daughter. All of the Torre dei Beati labels express their love for life and free spiritedness, which is equals to their respect for nature and their environment. Open this wine up and give it a moment to breath, it will really start to flower with some oxygen and as it warms a bit.

WINE NO.2
Paltrinieri ‘Radice’ Pét Nat
Lambrusco di Sorbara
Modena, Emilia Romagna, Italy 2017

GRAPE
LAMBRUSCO DI SORBARA – This clone of Lambrusco is the most planted and was often used as the ‘structure builder’ for the old Lambruscos. It’s problem, they thought, is that it lacks the iconic deep purple coloration to make it commercially viable. Nowadays, as Lambrusco is being made and accepted in a new light, it’s become a catalyst to help people get beyond their preconceived notions. All the acid and structure one could want, in a pretty rosé color to boot and none of that grape soda headache juice of old.
GROWER
Alberto Paltrinieri, nicknamed ‘Paltro’, and his family has been doing their thing for three generations here and feel like the groundwork done is finally starting to come together. Not that they’re expanding or anything like that, they are simply seeing people truly take a much deeper interest in the potential behind a great Lambrusco. Paltro has been unwavering in his dedication to excellence in his Lambruscos and he and his wife Barbara are the ultimate champions of down home hospitality. The Radice, as delicious as it is, is the gateway wine to the rest of their more serious bottlings.   
GLASS
Looks pink, smells more like white, tastes like a red. Point of fact, this actually is considered a red wine. Snap peas, dried flowers on the nose with a hint of pickled ginger (maybe it’s the just color.) There’s that little bit of pleasant yeasty fermentation smell too which is visually evident from touch of cloudiness as well. Crisp pink grapefruit, tart plums and watermelon rind sprinkled with a dash of both salt and pepper. Lambrusco can bring the entire gamut fruits and after those more aggressive flavors subside, I absolutely adore that you’re left with a whimsical touch of blueberry jelly beans on your tongue.
SIDE NOTES
The stylized vineyard design is always compelling and clean, but the back label is where things get tough; Lambrusco can be more confusing when more information is provided. Lambrusco di Modena refers to the province, where Lambrusco di Sorbara is the grape. Ancestral Method is synonymous with Pétillant Naturel. More spritzy than bubbly, a white wine glass is the right call here.

WINE NO.3
Sottimano ‘Maté’
Brachetto
Nieve, Piedmont, Italy 2017

GRAPE
BRACHETTO – Brachetto d’Acqui is one of the more delightful sweet wines in Italy, neighboring the more famous Moscato d’Asti (which I generally find less alluring, by comparison.) In this format it is light in alcohol, soft in bubbles and high in visceral exuberance from those engaged in a glass of it. Here, however, in the rarest of examples of Brachetto as a dry red wine I find that things go up a notch into rollicking euphoria.
GROWER
Don’t let this particular wine and it’s eccentric character fool you, the Sottimano family is one of the most celebrated producers in Barbaresco. Their approach is a blend of classic technique, minimal intervention but with modern sensibilities. The results are seriously amazing and some of my longtime favorite Barbarescos. They capture every bit of the terroir driven nuance one could expect out of their Cru sites and showcase some of the more soulful ageworthy Nebbiolos around. If that’s your thing, and of course it should be… seek them out.
GLASS
Rose petals, summer ripe raspberries and more rose petals. Swirl, sniff, repeat. Intoxicating. Now, it’s entirely possible that something this floral on the nose may be off putting to some (how dare you) but I am confident the burst of almost Burgundian tart cherries and the ground pepper will help you come to terms with all that. Better still, as much as this wine is incredibly thought provoking and downright enjoyable on its own, it’s also an incredibly versatile food wine as well. Throw something rich and fatty at it and you’ll be amazed where it will take you. The acidity is strong with this one.
SIDE NOTES

Why no mention of the grape here? It’s truly very rare for Brachetto to be a dry red wine as opposed to the aforementioned sweet pink. Labeling it as such would simply make things even more confusing. There is not even a basic classification to provide a hint as to what’s inside, simply the vineyard name Maté. This one is our little delicious secret. Shh.

WINE NO.4
Chessa
Cagnulari
Usini, Sardegna, Italy 2016

GRAPE
CAGNULARI – This grapes origins is still up for debate. Either it’s related to the native Bovale family of grapes in Sardegna, of which I have yet to have an equally compelling wine. Or it’s genetically close to Graciano from Spain. Which, it would seem, is chock full of surprises as good number of California producers very recently discovered their beloved Mourvedre vines are none other than our little friend from Spain. Oops. Sardegna’s major red grape variety, Cannonau, is actually Garnacha (Grenache) from Spain, so the latter would surprise no one. What is surprising is some massive missed opportunity in Spain where Graciano as anything beyond a minor blending grape is all but unheard of.
GROWER
Giovanna Chessa is a champion for Usini, its unique island terroir and its local grape varieties. The soil composition in the NW corner of Sardagna (mainly limestone) is very different from the rest of the island (hard granite composition.) Chessa will be the first to point out the major differences in her wines compared to others because of the limestone. Her Vermentino has a depth of beautiful aromatics seldom rivalled anywhere, and this, her Cagnulari, is one of the very few exceptional examples of the grape. Again, with a wave of exotic aromatics that are singularly unique.
GLASS
Equal parts baked blackberry, boysenberry pie and savory, briney black olive tapenade. The nose is deceptively bright and sort of confectionary, riddled with uniquely persistent clove spice, fennel seed and wild herbs just jumping out of the glass as it opens up. The mouthfeel carries much more weight and saturation but it’s not a heavy wine by any means. It hits your senses seemingly all at once followed by a long and lingering umami balancing act. Here again is a wine that makes you search deep into your recollection rolodex usually determining that you’ve never had anything quite like it. Winner.
SIDE NOTES

The image of the sun is a modern reflection of Giovanna’s soulful approach to wine and Isola dei Nuraghi is simply the local dialect for the Island of Sardegna. This new vintage has just arrived to us by boat from Italy and is a bit shy at first. Open it up, maybe pour some in glass (or decanter) and let it breath for at least 20+ minutes. The difference will be night and day.