OCTOBER 2018 ITALIAN WINE CLUB

THE FOUR CORNERS

WINE NO. 1
Ottin Petite Arvine
Aosta, Valle D’Aosta
2016

GRAPE

PETITE ARVINE – ALTHOUGH THIS GRAPE WAS BROUGHT OVER THE BORDER FROM VALAIS, SWITZERLAND, IT IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT VARIETIES FOR THE AOSTAN VITICULTURAL IDENTITY. WITH SUCH LITTLE WINE THAT COMES FROM THIS DIFFICULT GROWING REGION, IT’S BOTH IMPORTANT AND IMPRESSIVE THAT QUALITY OF THE WINE MADE FROM PETITE ARVINE IS CONSISTENTLY STELLAR.

GROWER

THE LONG, NARROW AOSTA VALLEY FORMED BY THE RIVER DORA BALTEA IS THE CONNECTING LINK TO FRANCE AND SWITZERLAND. FROM THE POSTCARD STUNNING ITALIAN CORNER OF THIS CROSSROADS PRODUCERS LIKE ELLIO OTTIN WORK VINEYARD SITES ON INSANELY STEEP, TERRACED HILLSIDES OVERLOOKING THE NARROW VALLEY BELOW. AOSTA EVEN HAS AN ANNUAL EVENT CELEBRATING ‘HEROIC VITICULTURE’ AND THE GRAPES GROWN IN SUCH EXTREME CONDITIONS. OTTIN PRODUCES A WHOPPING 700 CS OF THIS WINE AND WE’RE MORE THAN HONORED TO SHARE IN THE DELICIOUS RESULTS OF SUCH HARD WORK.

GLASS

HONEYDEW MELON, CHAMOMILE AND SWEET LIME LEAF. ROUND AND SUPPLE FOR SUCH A HIGH ACID AND MINERAL LADEN ALPINE NATIVE TREAT. MINTY AND FLINTY ON THE FINISH. THE MOUNTAIN WINES OF NORTHERN ITALY LIKE THESE ARE ALWAYS SO DISTINCT IN THEIR PROFILE. THE BEST ONES SHOWCASE THE FACT THAT ALTHOUGH THEY MAY HAVE SHORTENED GROWING SEASON DUE TO THEIR ALTITUDE, THEY ALSO OFTEN GET SOME VERY HOT SPELLS AND STRONG SUN EXPOSURE. ACHIEVING RIPENESS IS NOT THE CHALLENGE ONE MIGHT ASSUME FOR THIS VALLEY.

ON THE BOTTLE

VALLEE D’AOSTE IS THE FRENCH SPELLING FOR THE REGION, AS IT IS THE COMMON LANGUAGE AND MAJOR CULTURAL INFLUENCE IN THIS CORNER OF ITALY. AS IF READING ITALIAN WINE LABELS WASN’T DIFFICULT ENOUGH. IN FACT MANY WINES ALONG ITALY’S NORTHERN BORDERS HAVE LABELS WRITTEN BILINGUALLY. DON’T WORRY, WE’LL WALK YOU THROUGH IT.

WINE NO.2
Ronchi di Chialla ‘Ribolla Nera’
Schioppettino
Colli Orientali, Friuli 2015

GRAPE

SCHIOPPETTINO – THERE ARE A GOOD NUMBER OF GRAPES IN ITALY WITH STORIES LIKE THE RAPUZZI’S WORK TO SAVE A NEAR LOST GRAPE VARIETY, BUT NOT ALL SHOW THE POTENTIAL THAT SCHIOPPETTINO HAS. THE SECOND YOU READ TASTING NOTES FROM THE LUCKY FEW WHO GET TO TRY ANY OF THE SMALL NUMBER OF THESE WINES, YOU SEE ‘TASTES LIKE THE NORTHERN RHÔNE.’ FROM NEAR EXTINCT TO COMPARISONS TO THE WORLD’S BEST SYRAHS? THAT IS SOMETHING WORTH MONITORING.

GROWER

RONCHI DI CIALLA IS HERALDED FOR BEING THE CHAMPION OF THIS GRAPE VARIETY THAT HAD BEEN SWEPT ASIDE AND NEAR FORGOTTEN (MORE SWEPT ASIDE IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS) MAINLY DUE TO ITS NUMEROUS GROWING CHALLENGES AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, ITS LOWER PRODUCTION YIELDS. THE RAPUZZI FAMILY SET THEIR MINDS TO REPLANTING IT AND CREATING SOME SPECTACULAR SCHIOPPETTINO WINES OVER THE YEARS DATING BACK TO THE LATE 70’S. NOWADAYS IT HAS BECOME A BIT OF A SHINING STAR AMIDST THE LIMITED AMOUNT OF HERALDED RED WINE IN THE REGION, AS FRIULI IS MOST OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH AND PRAISED FOR ITS WHITES.

GLASS

BLACKBERRIES AND SOME DEEP VIOLET NOTES WITH LOTS OF FRESH CRACKED BLACK PEPPER SPICE, ITS MOST NOTABLE NATURAL CHARACTERISTIC. MEDITERRANEAN GARRIGUE HERBS, LIKE ROSEMARY AND THYME, AND A CLEAN EARTHY MUSHROOM IMPRESSION. DRINKS QUITE SIMILAR IN PROFILE TO THE SOFTER SIDE OF A NORTHERN RHÔNE SYRAH (SEE!) THOUGH, TO NOTE, THAT EMBLEMATIC PEPPERY QUALITY IS INDEED A COMPONENT OF THE GRAPE, WHERE IN MOST OTHER CASES IT’S INDICATIVE OF THE INCLUSION OF THE STEMS IN THE WINEMAKING PROCESS. THIS IS THE LIGHTER STYLE AND LESS ‘SERIOUS’ OF THEIR SCHIOPPETTINO WINES AND BENEFITS FROM A SLIGHT CHILL ON THE BOTTLE.

ON THE BOTTLE

WHETHER OR NOT YOU FIND THE GPS COORDINATES HANDY HERE, DON’T LET IT DISTRACT YOU FROM THE IMPORTANT FACT: ALTHOUGH THE RAPUZZI FAMILY STILL REFERS TO THE WINE AS RIBOLLA NERA, BELOW THAT IT STATES A WINE MADE FROM SCHIOPPETTINO GRAPES. YOU’LL SEE THE WORD RONCHI AS THE VINEYARD SITE OR THE WINERY NAME OFTEN IN FRIULI, IT IS THE LOCAL DIALECT FOR A ‘HILL OR HILLSIDE.’

WINE NO.3
Cosimo Taurino ‘Notarpanaro’
Negroamaro
Salento, Puglia 2010

GRAPE

NEGRO AMARO – THE OTHER WORKHORSE GRAPE FROM PUGLIA. A REGION DRENCHED IN HOT HOT SUN, THIS GRAPE IS VERY WELL ADAPTED TO THE CLIMATE AND IS 6TH IN TERMS OF OVERALL PRODUCTION IN ALL OF ITALY. THAT KIND OF VOLUME, AS ONE WOULD EXPECT, DOESN’T OFTEN LEND ITSELF TO QUALITY, BUT THERE ARE CERTAINLY THOSE WHOSE FOCUS IS BRINGING THE BEST OUT OF THE GRAPE AS OPPOSED TO THE BULK.

GROWER

COSIMO TAURINO, I CAN CONFIDENTLY SAY, MAKES WINE THAT TRANSCEND MOST IMAGINATIONS AS TO THE QUALITY OF THE REGION. THIS SINGLE VINEYARD WINE, NAMED AFTER THE ORIGINAL VINEYARD THE FAMILY FARMED WHEN THEY STARTED OUT, IS MADE FROM 100% NEGRO AMARO WHICH SELDOM THE CASE. EITHER IT’S FOUND IN A JUICY BLEND WITH THE IT’S ALL PURPOSE NEIGHBOR, PRIMITIVO, OR THERE IS A CUSTOMARY ADDITION OF MALVASIA NERA TO ADD SOME LIFT TO IT’S OTHERWISE BROODING DISPOSITION. CLEARLY THIS WINE IS BOTH THE EXCEPTION AND EXCEPTIONAL. SIDE NOTE: YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY TIME YOU READ IAN D’AGATA, AND I’VE ONLY JUST LEARNED THAT IT MEANT TO BE TWO WORDS AS OPPOSED TO THE WIDELY USED COMBINED ‘NEGROAMARO.’ DULY NOTED.

GLASS

DRIED CHERRIES AND CLOVES AND CINNAMON ALONG WITH THE SCENT OF SWEET LEATHER. MULBERRIES AND MAYBE JUST A TOUCH OF BLUE RASPBERRY (YES, THAT’S A THING, THOUGH TECHNICALLY CALLED WHITEBARK RASPBERRIES, AND THEY ARE NOT BLUE, SADLY) AND A PLEASANT BITTER BRINEY BLACK OLIVE NOTE THAT DELIGHTFULLY LINGERS ON THE FINISH. 2010 IS THE CURRENT VINTAGE, A RARE TREAT WHERE TAURINO FEELS THAT TIME IS AN EQUALLY IMPORTANT INGREDIENT FOR SHOWCASING WHAT HE WANTS THIS WINE TO EXPRESS. ALSO, NOTICE THE COLOR CHANGE WITH A GRACEFULLY AGED WINE LIKE THIS: THAT SLIGHT ORANGE HUE TO THE EDGE.

ON THE BOTTLE

NOTARPANARO IS WHAT IS REFERRED TO AS THE ‘FANTASY NAME’ WHICH IN THIS CASE, BUT NOT ALWAYS, REFERS TO THE SINGLE VINEYARD IN WHICH IT IS GROWN. THIS VINEYARD LIES JUST OUTSIDE THE MAJOR DOC APPELLATIONS IN PUGLIA AND IS THEREFORE SIMPLY CATEGORIZED AS AN IGP (IGT).

WINE NO.4
Giovi Etna Rosato
Nerello Mascalese
Etna, Sicily 2016

GRAPE

NERELLO MASCALESE – ETNA WINES HAVE PUT SICILY ON ANOTHER LEVEL IN THE MINDS OF WINE CONNOISSEURS- A DISTINCTION WELL EARNED. THE NERELLO VINES ARE A COMBINED ANOMALY OF INSANE TERROIR (SEE: LIVE VOLCANO), PREPHYLLOXERA AGE ROOTS (>150 YEARS OLD) AND CLIMATE VOLATILITY (E.G. WINDS, HEAT, ALTITUDE, SNOW… +LAVA!) AND THE RESULTING PRODUCT SOMETHING TO BEHOLD, MORE AND MORE EACH VINTAGE.

GROWER

GIOVI WINERY IS RUN BY GIOVANNI LA FAUCI, A MASTER DISTILLER WHO BUILT HIS FIRST STILL AT THE AGE OF 13. HIS PRIMARY FOCUS IS HIS GRAPPA, BUT HIS CARE AND ATTENTION TO SUBTLETIES IN AROMATICS AND TEXTURE DISTINCTLY TRANSLATES TO THE SMALL AMOUNT OF WINE HE MAKES AS WELL. HE FARMS HIS NERELLO VINES ORGANICALLY AND WITH ATTENTION AND RESPECT TO THE LUNAR CALENDAR, USING A SMALL AMOUNT OF SULPHUR AT BOTTLING FOR PRESERVATION. THE RISE TO PROMINENCE FOR NERELLO MASCALESE IS REFLECTED IN SOME VERY POLISHED AND MORE MODERN STYLE WINES IN THE MARKET, BUT IF YOU’RE A FAN OF THE MORE VOLCANIC EARTHY, GRITTY EDGED ETNA WINES, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN GIOVI.

GLASS

SLIGHTLY UNDER-RIPE STRAWBERRIES AND SPECK. YES, SPECK. EQUAL PARTS SMOKEY AND SALINE QUALITIES. BLOOD ORANGE AND WEIGHTY RED WATERMELON SPRINKLED WITH DRIED HERBS. THIS IS CERTAINLY A STEP BEYOND YOUR AVERAGE SUMMER SLUGGER IN THE PINK DEPARTMENT. TEXTURED AND COMPLEX AND A VERSATILE FOOD WINE, A TRAIT SURPRISINGLY UNCOMMON TO ROSÉ WINES. AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, LAND ON MT. ETNA AND THEREFORE NERELLO MASCALESE FRUIT, IS AT A PREMIUM; IT’S RARE TREAT TO HAVE A DELICIOUS ROSÉ WINE FROM SUCH A COMMODITY.

ON THE BOTTLE

ON MT. ETNA THERE ARE TWO WHITE AND TWO RED GRAPES ALLOWED. WINE UNDER THE ETNA DOC CAN BE A BIANCO, ROSATO OR ROSSO, THE LATTER BEING MOST RECOGNIZED. BUT IT SAYS DOP? THEY’RE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME: DOP REFERS TO A BROADER RANGE OF LOCALLY CONTROLLED PRODUCE, DOC REFERS SPECIFICALLY TO WINE.