Red Wines of Italy
By special request, we will be sampling and comparing some red wines of Italy. A fruity and bright Barbera d’Alba from Piedmonte, Ripasso Valpolicella from Veneto, both from the north. A rich earthy Primitivo from Puglia in the south. And three from central Italy: Rosso di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Valpolicella Wine Varietals: a blend of three regional native red grape varieties – Corvina, Rondinella and occasionally Molinara)
Ripasso is a red wine from the Valpolicella zone located north of Verona in the Veneto region of Italy.
This dry cherry-red coloured wine features medium balsamic, woody, spicy and fruity scents and offers a broad texture as well as fleshy tannins. Robust with lots of dark cherry, blueberry and mocha, plus earth and spice tones. A tasty treat with veal parmigiana, osso buco or beef fajitas. It’s a wine with sufficient stuffing to go with hearty foods such as stews, braised red meats, game and aged cheeses.
The term “Ripasso” sounds like and in fact means “repassed.” That refers to its production process whereby fermenting young wine -Valpolicella -with the crushed but drained skins and lees left over from Amarone production is added to the process to create a very full, rich red wine. Though it normally has a lighter taste than Amarone wines, which makes it easier to combine with food, and it is typically less expensive than Amarone.
The process of adding (or “repassing”) the lighter Valpolicella wine over the remainders of the “bigger” Amarone wine imparts additional color, texture, flavor and complexity to the Valpolicella wine. Also, it induces a second fermentation of the wine that increases the wine’s alcoholic content.
Rosso di Montalcino
Bright red cherries, stone fruits, smoke and tobacco are some of the notes that jump from the glass in the 2013 Rosso di Montalcino. In this vintage, the Rosso is bright, floral and medium in body, all of which make it extremely versatile.
Grape variety: 100% Sangiovese
Ageing: one year in oak barrels
Colour: dark ruby red
Aroma: hints of small red fruits, lingers at length
Taste: intense, harmonious, reasonably warm and suitably tannic
Rosso di Montalcino is found in the same defined area as its bigger brother, the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Both are situated in the heart of Tuscany, in central Italy. This DOC was created in 1984 in order to make the most of the fruit from younger vines of new plantings. The idea was to create a fresher style of wine that needed considerably less ageing time (one year with only six months in oak) than its sibling. This would enable producers of Brunello to make money while waiting for their DOCG wine to age, as well as declassify any Brunello that had been ageing for two to three years but had not quite reached the required standards.
A similar enterprise was undertaken in Montepulciano, with the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC helping out producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.
Today this wine is revered for its great distinction, depth of black cherry and wild-berry fruit, and careful use of oak revealed in a hint of spice and vanilla., it is a full-bodied wine crafted from pure Sangiovese
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a red Italian wine made from the Montepulciano wine grape in the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy. It should not be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Tuscan wine made from Sangiovese and other grapes
Flavours of blackberry, cedar and mild spice aromas; ripe, mouth filling jammy black cherry/berry fruit
Barbera is Piemonte’s “go to” wine, an everyday wine while the Barolos age.
Barbera is delicious and moderate in price. Barbera grows in a variety of soils and climates throughout Italy. It is durable and disease resistant. A stand alone varietal.
Tannins are low and acidity is high so very food friendly, try Barbera with almost any food: hearty pastas and risottos, salumi, red meats, stews, braised beef and cheeses. Expect your Barbera to have a ruby color with of ground herbs, jam, dried plums, cherries, straw and hay, berries, black pepper and cloves.
Barbera wines often reach 13 to 14.5% alcohol, ripe and rich.
Primitivo of Puglia:
it’s Zinfandel, Briary and brambly fruit, modest tannins, usually with good acidity in a round, easy going style. While subtly different from Zin, and usually with less alcohol, the finest Primitivo will be right at home in a line-up of comparably priced Zins! Even though Zinfandel and Primitivo are the same, they are not identical. The wines enjoy such differing terroir, rootstock and viticultural practice, that there are distinct differences.
Primitivo is a bit lower in alcohol, with darker, earthier fruit. Zinfandel, because of a heavier reliance on new oak in California, tends to be more marked by sweet, toasty notes and the spicy accents new oak imparts. In general, it seems that Primitivo is a lighter, fresher wine than Zinfandel,
With its bold aromas of blueberry, blackberry, and dark cherry, Primitivo from Puglia is certainly similar to any old BBQ-friendly Zinfandel. What it brings is complexity and savouriness not found in those in-your-face summer wines. There’s an underlying earthiness, with herbal and woody elements, red licorice, and buttery creaminess.
and a wine for another day…
Negroamaro of Puglia:
One of the great grapes of Puglia, the black bitter, as Negroamaro translates, has benefitted immensely from the modernization of the southern Italian wine industry. Previously responsible for leather and slightly spicy wines, more recent examples have revealed a wonderfully perfumed wine, rich with dark fruit and still retaining a vegetal hint that adds complexity to the sometimes velvety palate.
Barbera D’Alba Superior 2011 Cantina Del Nebbiolo DOC- Piedmonte
#363002 5G/L $15.95 14.5 %alc
Local favourite dinner wine, most widely planted grape in Piedmonte, and often slightly rustic
Colour shockingly magenta, light bodied and alcoholic
Big, dark, rich and vibrant with zippy acidity; soft tannins and agreeably cherry fruited.
Cherry, fig, chocolate, licorice, black berry, raspberry flavours
Valpolicella- Tommasi Ripasso 2012 DOC – Veneto
#910430 13 G/L $22.95 13% alc cheaper, younger Amarone
Intensely flavoured, thicker texture; Rich smoky, dried cherry, licorice, and black cherry
Chianti Classico- Rocca delle Macie 2012– Tuscany
#741769 6 G/L $18.95 13% alc
Orangey-red colour – Sangiovese and Merlot blend
Cherry, tea leaves, spice, plum tomato, oregano, grilled savoury herbs, typically dried berry fruit
High acid – slight peppery edge. Low tannin
Rosso Di Montalcino – Fattoria dei Barbi 2012 DOC, Montalcino, Tuscany
#397430 6G/L $19.95 13.5%
Cheaper, younger Brunello – 100% Sangiovese
Ripe, rich and robust
Blackberry and currant / cassis, woodsmoke, black cherry, espresso, tar and herbs, bitter almonds on the finish
#395368 9 G/L $17.95 14% alc
Zinfandel- Medium-full bodied, super dark colour
Licorice, jammy spice, dark cherry
Thick, concentrated black berry jam, raspberry, cedar, nutmeg, clove, black pepper, chocolate, espresso, coffee, tar, savoury and spicy.
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Farnese
#512335 11 G/L $12.95 /1500 ml 12.5% alc
Easy to cultivate/ high yields
Deeply colourd, plush juicy grape
Ripe mouth-filling black fruit, black berry, black cherry, smoky, licorice, and mild spice
Soft velvety tannins, softly plummy and freshness
The four official tiers of Italian wine classification:
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is the highest classification for Italian wines. It denotes controlled (controllata) production methods and guaranteed (garantita) wine quality. There are strict rules governing the production of DOCG wines, most obviously the permitted grape varieties, yield limits, grape ripeness, winemaking procedures and barrel/bottle maturation. Every DOCG wine is subject to official tasting procedures. To prevent counterfeiting, the bottles have a numbered government seal across the neck.
DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) is the main tier of Italian wine classification, and covers almost every traditional Italian wine style. There are around 330 individual DOC titles, each with a set of laws governing its viticultural zone, permitted grape varieties and wine style.
IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) was introduced in 1992, to allow a certain level of freedom to Italy’s winemakers. The IGT classification focuses on the region of origin, rather than grape varieties or wine styles.
Vino da Tavola: means ‘table wine’ in Italian, and represents the most basic level of Italian wine.
This useful but unofficial term emerged in the 1970s, to describe a particular set of high-quality Tuscan wines which were precluded from claiming DOC or DOCG status because they broke traditional Italian winemaking norms (foreign international grape varieties were used, and the wines were often matured in small, new oak barrels). Several of these wines earned global recognition and astronomical price tags – hence ‘Super Tuscan’.