best Italian red Wines for july 2012

Wine for july - Under $25

Cusumano, "Benuara" Sicilia 2009 (about $17)

Cusumano is a family-owned estate run by the Cusumano brothers, Alberto and Diego, who assumed day-to-day operations of the winery from their father in 2001. While the winery’s land holdings in Sicily have expanded and its reputation flourished since then, the fratelli Cusumano have not lost sight of their origins.

While the winery’s operations are based in Partinico, which is a short distance southwest of Palermo, the Cusumano estate today owns over 1,000 acres of vineyards spread over seven parcels in the western and southern regions of Sicily. They grow both indigenous varieties such as Nero d’Avola and Insolia as well as classic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. Their different holdings enable them to match each grape variety with its ideal soil type and groBottle of Cusumano Benuara Sicilia 2009wing conditions.

Cusumano’s Benuara is named after the small, red flower that grows throughout the Mediterranean area and that is discretely displayed on the wine’s label. The 2009 Benuara is a blend of 70 percent Nero d’Avola and 30 percent Syrah grapes that are hand-harvested in late August and early September. After fermentation, the wines are aged in a combination of steel tanks and large oak barrels.

The ’09 Benuara is a striking Sicilian wine, dark and brooding in color, full-bodied with an enticing rustic edge to it that hints at its warm Mediterranean background. This Nero d’Avola and Syrah blend is softly textured with fine tannins and dense dark fruit flavors that complement classic dishes of southern Italy such as grilled red meats, roast lamb or pork, tuna steak and hearty pasta dishes. 

Instead of the traditional cork stopper, this wine utilizes the Vinolock stopper, which is a glass stopper with a plastic seal. This stopper not only works well but also makes for interesting conversation at a dinner party as guests ask to examine the Italian-cool stopper.
Imported by Vin Divino Ltd.

Wine for july – $25 and over

La Querciolina, “Istriciaia” Maremma Toscana IGT 2007 (about $30)

There seems to be something about the wine industry that encourages Italian brothers to join together and enter the business. Like the Cusumano estate in Sicily discussed above, the La Querciolina (lah qwer’ chee oh lee’ nah) estate in the Maremma wine region is managed and operated by two brothers, in this case Luciano and Lorenzo Sassetti.

In 1999, the Sassetti brothers purchased land in the coastal Maremma wine region of southern Tuscany, about a 2-hour drive southwest of Florence. With a hot Mediterranean climate, cool evening breezes, mild winters and quiet, sunny autumns, this is a prime area for growing grapes. Some of the most famous Super-Tuscans wines are produced here. These wines can consist of anything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Alicante and just about any blend of varieties in-between. They typically have powerful structures with opulent fruit flavors and good acidity and are usually sold with a Maremma Toscana IGT or Toscana IGT designation.

The Sassetti brothers had to start almost from scratch. They had to clear the land, replant the grape vines and renovate the wine facilities before they could set to work producing quality wines under the Maremma Toscana IGT appellation. The name “Istriciaia” (is trih chai’ ah) is derived from the ItaliaLa Querciolina, Istriciaia Maremma Toscana IGT 2007n word istrice, which mean porcupine. If you look at the label displayed in the photo at left, you can see a drawing of a porcupine skulking about under the grape vine leaves.

La Querciolina’s 2007 Istriciaia is primarily Sangiovese with a splash (18 percent) of Ciliegiolo, a local red variety that typically imparts a liveliness and freshness when blended with other more austere varieties. The grapes are harvested in September and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine then spends a year ageing in small barrels before bottling and release for sale. 

This wine is as stylish as its wine label. It has a velvety, caressing texture and assertive dried cherry and kitchen spice flavors. It is medium-bodied with polite tannins, pronounced food-friendly acidity, and a freshness that follows through in the finish. This is a classy Tuscan wine that is the perfect accompaniment to grilled red meats and aged cheeses like Pecorino or Parmesan.

The wine develops more complex flavors as it breaths, so I recommend decanting and/or opening at least one hour before serving.
Imported by Massanois Imports.

©Richard Marcis
July 12, 2012

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