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Why Italian Varietals?


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Randall,

In another response, you mentioned your love of Italian varietals and your interest in producing California wine with these grapes. My question is why do you think Italian varietals will grow successfully in California, to the extent that they result in wines of similar quality to the microclimates in Italy?

I understand there is a substantial amount of vini di tavola produced in Italy, but there are also a substantial amount high quality wines available. I just don't believe that Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Barbera, etc., produced in California will ever be able to compete directly with their foreign counterparts.

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Dear Futronic,

Don't be too sure that we (the collective we) will not someday hit a homerun w/ sangiovese, barbera or nebbiolo. Stranger things have happened. I am in fact holding out more hope for the southern reds - nero d'avola, negro amaro, malvasia nera, uva di troia, aglianico etc. and not necessarily for "great" wine but for wine that is good, honest and good value. Granted, we will likely not be able to improve upon the terroir of the indigenous area, but every so often, one comes across an "underachiever" grape variety, that for whatever reason is just not that successful on its native turf. Perhaps the variety has had a lot of virus (as was the case w/ viognier a few years ago in Condrieu) or the clonal selection has gone to hell (which was the case throughout Europe in the '60s and 70s and '80s) or people have just lost interest. Occasionally, I will run across (and this is always serendipitously) something that just works in a strange and different way. Not necessarily better than the Old World counterpart, but different (and that is a miracle!). It really just takes a tremendous amount of trial, error and imagination. RG.

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Ummmmm...Sangiovese has not done all that well in CA so far. Good luck on nebbiolo, the perennial contender with pinot noir for the most difficult grape on earth award. It is true that there are those fog-bound areas of the CA coast that have done well with pinot, and certainly better than Oregon has done, but I wonder if the real estate that might sustain nebbiolo is not (a) in damn short supply, and (b) already planted to pinot. Even in Italy, when nebbiolo is planted outside the Barolo and Barbaresco zones, it produces a pleasant, but ultimately thin and relatively simple, quaff. Barbera is a toss-up, but it seems unlikely that CA can deliver the quality of the Piemonte at a competitive price. I support your belief in the southern varietals.

Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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Peter Dow (of cavatappi ) in Wa state has done the only acceptable version of nebbiolo I have ever had outside of Italy. It was a young and obstreperous colt. The southern varietals seem far better suited to the Ca turf.

over it

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