best Italian Wines for june 2012

Wine for june - Under $25

Santadi, “Villa Solais” Vermentino di Sardegna 2009 (about $13)

The Santadi winery (or Cantina di Santadi as it’s formally known) is one of southern Italy’s most exciting wineries. Located in the Sulcis area on the scenic southwestern corner of the island of Sardinia (Sardegna), this 250 member cooperative winery is dedicated to producing quality wines derived primarily from local indigenous grapes like Vermentino, Nuragus and Carignano. The internationally renowned wine consultant, Giacomo Tachis, oversees operations and under his guidance, the wines of Santadi have garnered critical acclaim throughout Italy and around the world.

Vermentino is a late-ripening, white grape variety that is not particularly well known outside of southern Europe. But this variety flourishes on Sardinia and produces lean, crisp wines with subtle but enticing aromas, fresh pear and lime flavors and crisp acidity. These wines are generally unoaked and should be drunk within a year or two of release so as take maximum advantage of its crisp acidity and subtle aromas.

The 2009 “Villa Solais” Vermentino from Santadi is a blend of 70 percent Vermentino and 30 percent Nuragus, another of Sardinia’s famous white wine varieties. The grapes are picked in phases starting in early September from the vineyards of selected members of the Santadi cooperative in the lower Sulcis district. This relatively early harvest is designed to preserve the aromatics and crisp acidity of the grapes.

Cantina di Santadi, 2009 "villa Solais" Vermentino di SardegnaThe hand-harvested grapes are soft-pressed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures. The wine is left in contact with the lees (dead yeast, pulp and other left-overs from the pressings) for several months before bottling to increase the flavors and complexity of the wine.

The 2009 “Villa Solais” Vermentino di Sardegna has a pale, straw yellow color with delicate and subtle but persistent aromas of citrus and white fruit. Fine-spun pear, green apple and lemon-infused flavors glissade across the tongue backed up by Vermentino’s signature acidity. There are no rough edges here, just ripe fruit and juicy acidity. The finish is long and clean with a pleasantly bitter note. A delightful wine for summer sipping or for any time of year for that matter.

This wine is a natural match for seafoods, entrée salads and white meat dishes. It is also a crowd-pleasing aperitivo with which to start the festivities.

Imported and distributed by Empson USA.

To read reviews of other wines from Sardinia, see Sardinia Wines.

Wine for june – $25 and over

Mastroberardino, Taurasi “Radici” 2006 (about $52)

Mastroberardino is one of the most storied and well-known wineries in the Campania region. Established in the mid-1700’s, it is one of the region’s oldest wineries. While the winery gives a gentle nod to its long history it’s primary focus is on the future and exhibits an innovative and energetic spirit. It is generally regarded as one of the region’s – and southern Italy’s – premier wineries.  

One of the Mastroberardino winery’s major achievements has been the revival of Campania’s long-neglected indigenous varietals, especially the white varietals Fiano and Greco di Tufo. These respected varietals were once at risk of becoming extinct and the fact that they are even produced and available in any well-stocked wine store today is due in no small measure to the hard work and pioneering initiatives of the Mastroberardino family. Both Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo received prestigious DOCG status in 2003.

However, the real star of the show is the estate’s Taurasi Radici produced from Aglianico grapes. While Aglianico is grown widely throughout southern Italy, it is in the Taurasi zone, along with the Monte del Vulture zone in the Basilicata region, that the Aglianico grape achieves the pinnacle of perfection. This late-ripening grape produces full-bodied, velvety textured and long-lived red wines that are frequently referred to as “the Barolos of the South.”

Taurasi’s production zone consists of the area around the historic town of Taurasi in Campania’s province of Avellino. Taurasi gained DOCG status in 1993 and regulations require that wines from this appellation must be at least 85 percent Aglianico from the province of Avellino and the remaining amount must consist of otherMastroberardino, 2006 Taurasi Radici permitted local red varieties. The wines must also be aged for at least three years with at least one year in wood.

First produced in 1968, Mastroberadino’s Taurasi Radici garnered immediate praise and quickly became a local classic. The word “radici” means “roots” in Italian and connotes Mastroberardino’s intimate connections to the local area as well as the winery’s initiatives in preserving Campania’s ancient indigenous grape varieties.

The 2006 Taurasi Radici is made entirely of Aglianico that has spent two years in a combination of oak casks and smaller oak barrels (barriques) and an additional year ageing in the bottle prior to release. The wine has a pronounced ruby red color and a gentle swishing of the glass releases waves of black cherry, plum and kitchen spice aromas. It is full-bodied with soft tannins supported by a strong acidic backbone. There is a seductive blend of black cherry, blackberry and other dark fruit flavors that segue into earthy licorice and tobacco flavors. The finish is long, clean and persistent with sweet tannin notes.

Mastroberardino’s 2006 Taurasi Radici is big, complex and intense and is the ideal companion for roasted meats, spicy dishes, game and medium-aged cheeses. It is an age-worthy wine that while ready to drink now will only benefit from additional time in the cellar.
Imported and distributed by Winebow.


©Richard Marcis
May 23, 2012

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