fine Italian Red Wines for april 2012

Wine for april - Under $25

Arnaldo-Caprai, Montefalco Rosso 2007 (about $24)

The Arnaldo-Caprai winery was founded in 1971 when Arnaldo Caprai purchased 12-1/2 acres of vineyards in the rolling hills around the Umbrian hill town of Montefalco. Now in the hands of his son, Marco, the estate has grown to approximately 135 acres of vineyards. Marco’s emphasis on quality and innovative approaches to winemaking have made the Arnaldo-Caprai estate, along with the Paolo Bea winery, one of the region’s most celebrated and respected estates.

While several diverse grape varieties are grown on the estate such as Grechetto, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot and Pinot Nero, the real star of the show is Sagrantino. Sagrantino is an indigenous red grape variety unique to the Montefalco region. It is a sturdy, thick-skinned and late-ripening variety that produces dark-colored wines with prominent tannins and acids.

For years, the lowly Sagrantino grape languished in obscurity. But through varietal research, technological innovation and improved vineyard management techniques, the Arnaldo-Caprai estate took the lead in elevated the formerly neglected Sagrantino grape to the top ranks of Italian grape varietals. The estate’s top-quality Sagrantino di Montefalco wines are produced exclusively from Sagrantino grapes and have received much critical international acclaim. Marco Caprai was part of a small group of dedicated producers that were primarily responsible for having Sagrantino di Montefalco wines upgraded from DOC to DOCG status in 1992.

Montefalco Rosso wines are not Sagrantino wines per se, but rather are blended wines that include some small amount of Sagrantino. They have their own DOC appellation. The regulations for this little known DOC specify the production area, the mix of eligible grapes and the aging requirements in order to qualify for Montefalco Rosso DOC status.

Bottle of 2007 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso wine.The Arnaldo-Caprai estate’s Montefalco Rosso consists of 70 percent Sangiovese and 15 percent each Sagrantino and Merlot. The Sangiovese and Merlot are harvested in mid to late September while the late-ripening Sagrantino is harvested the following month. After fermentation, the wines are combined and aged in wood barrels (30 percent of which is in oak barriques) for one year. The wine then spends an additional four months in the bottle prior to release for sale.

It is a ruby red in color and a gentle swishing of the glass releases rich and intense aromas of cherries and red berries with a hint of kitchen spices. It is a medium to full-bodied wine that is mouth filling and extremely generous with dark fruit and cassis flavors. The ’07 Montefalco Rosso has great structure with its opulent fruit flavors balanced with good acidity and soft tannins. There’s lots of subtle dark fruit and plum jam flavors on the finish.

The three varietals work well together with the Sangiovese providing acidity and rich fruit flavors while the Sagrantino adds structure, tannins and hence, longevity, to the mix and the Merlot softens the austere Sagrantino while adding color and a fruity bouquet. The wine is assertive and intense without being aggressive or overbearing and is a great value at this price.

The ’07 Montefalco Rosso is highly versatile wine that goes well with a variety of red and white meats, game, cold cuts and aged cheeses.

Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners.

Sagrantino wines and the wines of Arnaldo-Caprai in particular are being celebrated in April with a series of dinners and wine tastings in New York City. See Eataly and Marco Caprai.

Wine for april – $25 and over

Fattoria La Lecciaia, Brunello di Montalcino 2004 (about $40)

The Fattoria La Lecciaia (lah leh chai’ ah) is a relatively new winery by Tuscan standards but has in its relatively short existence become well established in the Tuscan wine scene.

Fattoria La Lecciaia was started in 1983 when Mauro Pacini purchased a small parcel of prime land not far from the ancient Tuscan town of Montalcino where its neighbors include some of the oldest and most celebrated Brunello producers. In 2000, La Lecciaia expanded its vineyard property with the acquisition of acreage in Campagnano near Grosetto in southwestern Tuscany and now has approximately 38 acres under vine.

About half of the winery’s acreage under vine in the Montalcino area is devoted to growing Sangiovese for the production of Brunello wines. But it also produces a range of Sangiovese-based wines including a Rosso di Montalcino, several Super-Tuscan wines as well as an entry-level Toscana Sangiovese Montalcino.

The folks at La Lecciaia have hit a home run with their ’04 Brunello. 2004 is one of the greatest vintages ever for wines from the Montalcino area. While the spring was a little cool, moderate rainfall and a warm and sunny September combined to produce Sangiovese grapes of exceptionally high quality. Given this outstanding vintage and the fact that Brunello wines are generally among Italy’s most expensive wines in any vintage, its difficult to find a Brunello of this quality, intensity and depth of flavor at anything even close to $40 a bottle.

La Lecciaia’s Brunellos spend at least 3-1/2 years in oak casks and a minimum of 4 months aging in the bottle before release for sale. Bottle of 2004 Brunello di Montalcino from La Lecciaia winery.

La Lecciaia’s ’04 Brunello has a deep red color with black reflections and a purple rim. It has a rich and complex bouquet highlighted by plush aromas of dark berry fruit with a hint of cedary spice. The wine is medium to full-bodied, rich and generous but with an understated elegance. Deft, fresh cherry fruit flavors accommodated by smooth, sweet tannins segue into a smooth, silky finish. While ready to drink now, this wine will age gracefully for another decade.

This wine will pair perfectly with a standing rib roast, lamb or filet mignon. Or better yet, serve it with a traditional Tuscan dish, Pappardelle al Cinghiale – yes, that's wild boar!

Imported by Monsieur Touton Selections, Ltd.

©Richard Marcis
April 8, 2012

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