Mar
25

Tasting Italian Wines with the Young Sommeliers Part 1

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Today, we brought together a group of young wine professionals to share some of the wine discoveries we brought home with us from our October trip to Italy.

We pared down the tasting list to 12 wines, just to make it more manageable AND keep everyone’s attention.

The first trio of wines were from Dolceacqua in the western reaches of Liguria, Italy.  Hidden in the inner, mountainous territory away from the sea, Dolceacqua still seems stuck in time.  The town itself is quite small & like the surrounding villages of the area not so westernized yet.

The hillsides are steep, rocky, terraced & vertically remote.  The roads to the various nooks & crannies are narrow, wickedly winding & quite rugged.  If you want anything up in the vineyards, you have to take there by road.

It is therefore no wonder that the majority of what was once vineyards, today lay fallow.  The hills are filled with these ghost vineyards & they serve as a reminder how much passion driven, back breaking work it must take to farm, constantly repair & harvest them.

In addition, we were totally shocked to find out these vignerons lost at least 40% of their crop in 2019 to wild animals–such as deer, boars & badgers.

WINE #1   2015 TENUTA ANFOSSO Rossese di Dolceacqua

Upon my very first taste of their wines, I instantly knew I had to go for a visit.  What I didn’t realize then, however, was how small this winery is in production AND how breathtakingly steep their vineyards truly are.  (A real clue was from on our previous visit to Punta Crena & Paolo Ruffino showing us with his hand & arm how much steeper Dolceacqua vineyards really were in comparison to how steep, their own steep mountainous vineyards are).  I became even more fascinated.  The estate is today run by Alessandro Anfosso (the 6th generation of his family).  Anfosso owns & farms 5.5 hectares of vineyards—2.5 hectares Luvaira (planted in 1905), 2 hectares Poggio Pini (planted 1888) & 1 hectare Fulavin (planted in 1977 & 1998)–all mainly flysch soils.  This particular bottling is a blend of all 3.  50% de stemmed & fermented in stainless.  We love the undeniable savoriness which the Anfosso wines innately.  Rather than berries, dark cherries & fruit nuances, the Anfosso red wines have earthy, musky nuances with a roasted chestnut, fresh compost, slight wild sage core, which we find so compelling & provocative.  In this day & age of a growing availability of more “correct”, bordering “safe” wines, these thankfully instead represent a unique, indigenous grape variety (mostly old vine), grown in a very unique niche of the wine world (remote, steep, bordering unforgiving) with thankfully its own “voice”, ALL at more reasonable prices than offered by many of Italy’s trophy red wines.   

 

WINE #2  2018 PERRINO TESTALONGA Bianco

Our original intent in showing the Perrino Testalonga wines was to showcase VERY authentic, old school made wines from the Dolceacqua DOC. ( I would consider the Tenuta Anfosso wines authentic too, BUT Perrino Testalonga uses old barrels in their fermenting & raising of their wines (meaning NO stainless steel); foot stomping; NO temperature control & VERY limited use of SO2).  While that may be admirable in theory & print, the resulting wines are very wild, untamed, rustic & NOT scientifically perfect.  That is okay by me, as long as the wines are good!  Unfortunately their RED Dolceacqua wine we brought back was sadly corked.  We still, however, showcased their 2018 Bianco–100% Vermentino–from the lower terraces just above the winery.  It was wild yeast fermented in 6 to 7 year old 225 liter barrels, NO temperature control, fermented until there is no sugar left.  A small amount of SO2 November to June only to stabilize the wine.  The wine is aged in bottle for 1 & a half years.  In 2018, there were only 200 bottles produced.  (Please keep in mind they only own but 2 hectares).  As one can readily see by the color, the wine is on the orange side, BUT without the tannins & therefore bitterness in the finish.  Yes, it does have oxidative nuances & therefore not for everyone.  I liked the wine.  AND, it was a reminder of how small, artisan wines were made in the old days, pre-stainless steel.

 

WINE #3  2018 Giovanni Montisci “Modestu”   

Leave it to my cousin Mike to bring some kind of thought provoking wine to the tasting to share & create more conversations.  Well, this is just not any wine.  The visit to Giovanni Montisci was the highlight to our trek to Sardegna a couple of years ago.  While they are most world renown their Cannonau de Sardegna red wines, their Modestu (dry Moscato) is their most startling & explosive.  It is so exotically aromatic–a combustible mix of the very outgoing exotic lime blossom/ star fruit/ tropical fruit/ slightly honeyed nuances of the Moscato grape variety with the stone/mineral core from the 60 year old vines, planted in the sandy-granite-clay in the vertically remote (2100 feet elevation) of their 2 hectare (only .7–Moscato).  In addition this wine has a very thick, bordering oily unctuality which is both quite unique & very compelling.  This wine is dry with lots of swag & a somewhat piquant finish.  How does Mike get these wines that is the final question?  Thank you sir for always sharing.

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