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Tasting Italian Tradition


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Classic Italian Wine Tasting

Special Reserve June 16th 2005

Italy, the world’s largest wine producer, may be the first to suffer from the wine globalization process washing vineyards and wineries like an unstoppable Tsunami. The large amounts of wine produced and Italy’s reliance on export are driving tradition, character and variation into financial black wholes of no return. Small producers are blinded by momentary dollar signs flashed in front of their eyes in exhibitions like Vinitaly, and unique areas are abused by powerful investers with one thing on mind.

Wine tasters are mislead to term wines as fruity, acidic or tannic; neglecting the geological flavors and the complexity of taste. The very basic ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine flavors, spices and herbs, are pushed aside by seductive fruits to match modern yet one dimensional and often shallow nouveau wines. Magnificent flavors of spices, herbs, minerals and nuts are either neglected or ill matched. The new world wine making techniques are well aware of this convenient situation and are quick to abuse it.

Following is a tasting of some wines that reflect a somehow surviving tradition of Italian classic flavors tasted June 16th 2005.

Insolia-Chardonnay, Sicily, Pasqua 2002.

Take the wines nearly golden color and write Insolia on the label, then try to sell the wine, Not easy. The Chardonnay on the label may have aided the sales of this wine but, luckily, had little effect on the Insolia. A medium bodied complex texture backed up by mild acidity and a pleasant roughness created by a combination of fresh Mediterranean herbs and soft spice. The aftertaste is dominated by mild spice and fresh green nuts. Not one bit of fruit is showing at this stage allowing a full expression of the Insolia and providing one of the best partnerships to Mediterranean fish.

Drink 2005-2006.

Costamolina,Vermentino di Sardegna, Argiolas 2002.

Shifting from the third largest Mediterranean Island to the fourth largest, the resemblance is of regional character. Lighter and smoother than the Sicilian Insolia in the mouth, this wine is of a round character smooth gentle herbs and a rough spicy finish that seems to linger for quite a bit. May be less enjoyable on its own but proves wonderful with food.

A fresh Plat de Mere on Ice would be a fine accompaniment for the Vermentino

Drink 2005.

Cervaro, Antinori 1996

The oak had finally subsided on this one and now proves as massive by all means.

7-8 seconds in the mouth and this giant explodes with plenty of gentle flavors of dried fruits, mild herbs and mild spice that creates the complexity of this unique wine.

The oak was a bit dominant in the aftertaste and remained so for some time.

This is a long complex, ripe combination of a more earthy Chardonnay and Greccheto currently achieving perfect Balance.

Enjoy on its own or with an aged Pecorino Sardo.

Drink 2005-2011.

Valpolicella Valpantena Pasqua 2002

A medium to light bodied distinctively simple wine with just the right amount of green and spicy flavors to provide some interest and a food friendly combination.

Fresh pasta in a creamy herb sauce will do very nicely with the Valpantena.

Drink 2005.

Barbera d’Asti Michelle Chiarlo 2001

Remaining in the North of Italy, Chiarlo’s Barbera may prove the exact opposite to jammy new world wines.

Sharp distinctive flavors backed up by a massive acidity, soft barely ripening berries and a herb dominated finish.

Medium bodied yet well expressed with enough acidity to keep this wine two more years.

Tartuffe flavored Caciota, a fine Reggiano over 3 years old or a well-tuned Carpaccio are a good match to this Asti.

Drink 2005-2008.

Chianti Castiglioni 2000

A well structured and perfectly balanced Chianti with mild spicy oak, good acidity and complimenting dried peaches. The wine proves a bit soft due to age and should be consumed soon.

Try it with pasta and basil.

Drink now.

Nero D’Avola Morgante 2001

This grape variety tends to have a fairly shallow first impression driving producers to combine it with shiraz or cabernet.

Morgante’s small size and good marketing allows this expression of 100% Nero D’avola providing a soft medium bodied feel ending with some pleasantly bitter notes. Breathing allowed some more balance though a good steak with white wine mushroom sauce would have complimented the wine quite nicely.

Rosso di Montepulciano Carpineto 2002

A fine creation by Carpineto providing character, strength and complexity wrapping this fairly medium bodied wine. The oak is standing out more than it should but I believe Carpineto intended it to be a part of the show with the correct oak used to join the roughness of the young Canaiolo.

Beautifully drinking after proper breathing and will remain so a couple or so years.

Enjoy with a good grilled steak.

Brunello di Montalcino Campogiovanni 1999There are many reasons not to open a young Brunello but Campogiovanni seem to master the word balance.

A beautiful nose with hints and refection of a great Brunello, soft spice, mild oak, fresh and dried herbs, all complimented by blueberry and raspberry juice softly immerging after a few minutes of air. The wine continued to evolve shifting from herbs to fruits and spice revealing layers and complexity.

Amazing balance controls the explosions of flavors in the mouth. Layers of soft and hard tannins are complimented by soft spice, dried herbs, tobacco and traces of dried fruits. The fine acidity of this wine will allow further development of the ripe flavors until 2010.

A long finish turn this enchanting wine even more enjoyable.

Drink 2008-20012.

I pray that ego and merchants will lead the distinctive flavors of the Italian wine to better-controlled smaller quantities with as little need as possible to profit from mass production

Andre Suidan

I was taught to finish what I order.

Life taught me to order what I enjoy.

The art of living taught me to take my time and enjoy.

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Thanks for the list and notes, Andre.

Certainly Italian wines are subject to the same commercial pressures as any other wine region. I suggest the Slow Food Wine Guide as a source for wines of quality that express their terroir and varietal character.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Andre, I could not agree more with your first comments. However, most of the wines you list are from some of the very people leading the way down the path you decry. Argiolas, Antinori, Chiarlo and Morgante are perfect examples of producers with no regard for terroir, while Pasqua is neutral industrial wine. At least your Brunello producers have some respect for terroir.

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Thanks John,

I am not familiar with the S F wine guide and will be looking into it.

Greetings Craig,

We continue to agree.

Once the customers will seek the traditional flavors, those who will survive this fashionable yet short thinking era, will be the ones who preserve Italy's authentic flavors.

They are like politicians in that sense. They have the power and will do anything to keep it. Mondovino had a nice peace on Frescobaldi in that sense.

Pasqua is nothing but a merchant producing from all over Italy, yet, wines like the Insolia from Sicily and Valpolicella are quite traditional in their flavors.

Morgante are doing a good job on their Nero D'Avola and their small size will enable them to continue doing so.

Argiolas had enabled the export of Sarignan flavors elswhere than the tourists crowded at their beaches. I was not impressed with their "big" wines so much as from their simple Vermentino - let us direct them with their marketing and the whole island might profit.

Cervaro is one of the very few authentic Antinori terroir expressions. The new generation again needs to be guided.

Chiarlo loves the show. This is both reflected in his vineyards and wines. Note his new joint venture with other producers to make a "super-wine".

That's what we need - another Opus One....

Carpineto are talented modern winemakers yet their Montepulciano may be the closest thing to the flavors of the vineyards.

The wine I tasted was surely in oak - can't miss that. No doubt Carpineto is probably the extremist from this bunch.

Campogiovanni are consistantly doing a very good job and I salut them.


This is a fight worth fighting on all frontiers and the main battle field are the dining rooms.

Andre Suidan

I was taught to finish what I order.

Life taught me to order what I enjoy.

The art of living taught me to take my time and enjoy.

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