Sunday, May 8, 2011

Some Sexy Italians . . .

The old and the new are both exciting in Italian wine at present. Iconic regions of pedigree like Barolo are seemingly producing as wonderful wines as ever, while numerous less well known regions, like Mt Etna in Italy, are just starting to gain cachet in the world of wine. Below are two wines that I’ve really enjoyed while out and about of late.

2001 Gastaldi Barolo – Retail RRP - $90 – Consumed at 121 BC, a wine bar in Sydney. Of the classic tar and roses flavour profile for Nebbiolo, this is very much tar dominant. It’s from the Serralunga d'Alba commune and accordingly is a powerful and tannic rendition of Barolo, even at 10 years of age. It opened up nicely over 2 hours, revealing increasing savoury complexity with time. Tremendous length on the finish. I’d love to see this wine in another 10 years.

2006 Benanti Rosso di Verzella Etna – Retail RRP - approx $45 – Consumed at Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney for our anniversary dinner ($88). Mt Etna. As both a volcano I’ve been reading about since high school Ancient History, and a volcano that is also still very active, it is a fascinating place to be growing wine (a random lava flow at vintage must pose the odd difficulty). That it is a high altitude, cooler climate site in Sicily, making wines from unfamiliar grapes like Nerello Mascalese just adds further interest. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese, and 20% Nerello Capuccio.

When I try a new varietal or style of wine for the first time, I find it natural to try and reference it against wines I’m more familiar with. My initial assessment is that this wine was something akin to a cross between a Cabernet Franc and a Nebbiolo. The reality though is that it was none of these things and was both complex and unique. It had a sense of weight but was light on its feet. Good acidity with a nice touch of grip, all lead to a lovely sense of texture. Flavours included cherry and plum, earth, tar, and a touch of barnyard funk, and finally an appealing herbal grassy note. A great food wine and the seal of approval from the Missus. My first Etna and it certainly won’t be my last.


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