great Italian red Wines for december 2012

Wine for december - Under $25

Tasca d’Almerita, “Lamuri” Nero d’Avola Sicily 2009 (about $15)

Tasca d’Almerita is an aristocratic wine estate in Sicily with deep roots, so to speak. Founded in the 1830’s, it has served as a benchmark for Sicily’s finest wines for over a century. Even in Sicily’s dark period of winemaking in the latter half of the previous century, Tasca d’Almerita was producing and exporting quality Sicilian wines when most others were content to produce dull and insipid wines for local consumption or use as blending wines.

Much has changed since then. The overall quality of wines in Sicily has improved dramatically and Sicily today is producing some of the most compelling wines in all Italy. While the wine quality bar has been raised in Sicily, the wines of Tasca d’Almerita have continued to evolve and improve and its wines consistently get top marks from wine critics. Tasca d’Almerita was named the “Italian Winery of the Year” in the 2012 edition of Vini d’Italia and is a serial recipient of Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchieri (“three Glasses”) awards.

Tasca d’Almerita is Sicily’s largest and, arguably, most famous winery. Tenuta Regaleali, the winery’s flagship estate, is located in central Sicily approximately 50 miles southeast of Palermo. But Tasca d’Almerita owns four other estates spread throughout Sicily and which collectively have about 1,500 acres under vine. The Tasca d’Almerita estate cultivates a number of indigenous Sicilian and “international” varieties but its foremost varietal is Nero d’ Avola which is the primary varietal for a number of the estate’s most famous wines.

The Nero d’Avola grape is grown almost exclusively in Sicily and is the 2009 “Lamuri” Nero d’Avola Sicily by Tasca d'Almeritaprimary grape in Sicily’s best wines. Literally translated, Nero d'Avola means the “black of Avola” after the town of Avola in the south of Sicily where the black-skinned grape was originally grown. Nero d’Avola is vinified on its own or partnered with Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese or Syrah to produce supple wines with pronounced flavors and soft tannins. It is the epitome of a flavorful Sicilian red wine.

Tasca d’Almerita’s 2009 “Lamuri” is made entirely of Nero d’Avola grapes harvested in late September from 15 year old vines. It is an aromatic wine with intense notes of black currants and sour cherries intertwined with sweet kitchen spices. It is rich, lush and smooth with ripe cherry, plum and peppery flavors backed up by soft tannins and restrained acidity. It has a long, gratifying finish infused with herbs and balsamic notes that keeps you coming back for more. This wine delivers much more than what one would expect at this price.

It pairs well with rich pasta dishes and grilled vegetables as well as barbeque, grilled sausages and roasted lamb.

Wine for december – $25 and over

Marcarini, “La Serra” Barolo 2005 (about $48)

If there is any such thing as “Barolo royalty” then the Marcarini estate is it. Established in the 1850’s in the commune of La Morra in the heart of the Barolo country, the Marcarini estate has through innovation and enlightened vineyard management techniques over time earned a well-deserved reputation for turning out top quality wines.

The Marcarini winery produces Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera and a few white wines in addition to its prestigious Barolo wines, all of which are distributed worldwide into a growing international market. The Marcarini estate has 42 acres under vine and includes two historic vineyards - Brunate and La Serra - which are the sources of the estate’s two acclaimed Barolo wines and after which the wines are named.

While the two Barolo wines share some of the same attributes they are exceedingly independent.  While the two vineyards are contiguous theyMarcarini La Serra Barolo label have different microclimates so that the characteristics of the grapes produced on the two parcels differ. Wines from the La Serra vineyard tend to be more aromatic, softer, rounder, less tannic and, hence, more accessible than those from the Brunate vineyard even though the two cru wines follow essentially the same vinification and ageing protocols.

The 2005 La Serra Borolo from Marcarini is a classic La Serra Barolo. It is intensely aromatic with scented aromas of dried flowers and cloves. It is finely textured with generous and rich bright red fruit flavors dusted with kitchen spices. The wine is medium-bodied with discreet tannins and a fresh, fruity and dry finish. I found the combination of ripe fruit, vibrant acidity and soft tannins to be quite engaging. It is also more accessible than other more tightly-knit, tannic Barolos. It doesn’t require long ageing and is ready to be enjoyed now.

Serve this elegant wine with those special-occasion dishes such as braised veal shank with herbs or lamb stewed in fennel.

©Richard Marcis
November 20, 2012

To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews

Copyright 2008-2016, Richard Marcis. All rights reserved.