Two Great Italian Wines to Complement the “Shoulder Season” Between Summer and Fall

Here are two very enjoyable Italian wines appropriate for the “shoulder season", that time of year when daylight hours are growing shorter and summer is ending but the sun-splashed days indicate that it’s not yet fully fall. It’s the time of year that seems to straddle summer and fall.

Presented here are two relatively inexpensive but thoroughly enjoyable wines - a delightful Dolcetto and an exceptional Rosé (called Rosato in Italian) - that will fit right in with any variety of occasions in this “in-between” season.

Wine for september - Under $20

Giacomo Grimaldi, Dolcetto d’Alba 2011 (about $15)

Dolcetto is an early-ripening grape that like other similar varieties produces wines that are soft, fruity and acidic with mild tannins. As such, they generally do not benefit from long bottle ageing. Dolcettos are very popular in Italy, particularly in the Piedmont region where they are produced, and many Italians use them as their everyday, go-to wine. It is a fixture at daily dinner tables and for entertaining close friends while they hold their more celebrated and full-bodied Barolo and Barbaresco wines in reserve for special occasions and/or for sipping later during cold winter days. Dolcettos are relatively inexpensive, food-friendly and reliable wines that are, like the people that produce them, forthright and unassuming.

2011 Giacomo Grimaldi Dolcetto d'AlbaDolcettos are generally very food-friendly wines. They are fruity wines that have some acidity and tannins but not enough of either of these elements to restrict the available food options. While Dolcetto is rich enough to drink with tomato-based pastas, pizzas and meat dishes it also won’t overwhelm more subtle seafood dishes.

The Giacomo winery was founded in 1930 but its real story doesn’t really begin until the mid-1990’s when the current owner, Ferruccio Grimaldi, began acquiring additional vineyard properties in prime Barolo zones while also commencing bottling wines under his own label. The Giacomo Grimaldi estate currently has about 25 acres of vineyards in the communes of Barolo, Monforte and Novello.

The grapes for this Dolcetto wine come from Grimaldi’s Monforte vineyards. The hand-selected grapes are vinified in stainless steel tanks with constant stirring of the contents for three days. Following the malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks for 9 months before bottling.

The resulting wine has a rich bouquet with enticing fruity aromas, pleasant acidity and Dolcetto’s signature slightly bitter aftertaste. For a wine that didn’t experience any wood ageing it is surprisingly full-bodied with a velvety, dense texture and ample tannins to hold everything together nicely.  

This is a thoroughly engaging and food-friendly wine that scores high on a quality-to-price basis. There are more recent vintages of this wine on wine store shelves that are also worth considering.

Wine for september – over $20

I Custodi, “Alnus” Etna Rosato 2012 (about $22)

There is perhaps no wine more evocative of summer pleasures than a good Rosé (or Rosato as its called in Italian). But just because Labor Day has passed and summer is about to officially end doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy the pleasures of Rosé wines.

Rosé wines are made from red grapes; the juice is clear and the color of the wine comes from the contact with the grape skins while it’s fermenting into wine. Rosé wines can range in color from a pale, almost transparent pink to a dark color closer to a light red than pink. It all depends on the flavor profiles of the grapes utilized in addition to how long the wine is kept in contact with the grape skins; the sooner the wine is drained away from the skins the paler it will be.

I Custodi is a premier producer located in the volcanic Mount Etna 2012 I Custodi Alnus Etna Rosatoregion of eastern Sicily, an up-and-coming wine region. Two native grape varieties are used in the production of I Custodi’s “Alnus” Etna Rosato wine - Nerello Mascalese (80 percent) and Nerello Cappuccio (20 percent).

Nerello Mascalese (neh rel’ loh mahs kah ley’ zeh) is a little-known variety that is grown almost exclusively in the Mount Etna region. It is a deeply colored, thick-skinned variety that contributes gritty tannins and vibrant acidity to the wine.

Nerello Cappuccio (neh rel’ loh cah pooch’ cho) is another indigenous red variety that contributes spicy aromas, red berry flavors and perhaps a touch of elegance to the Etna Rosato blend.

The grapes are hand selected and then soft-crushed. After a very short maceration the wine is drained off the grape skins and then aged in cement vats for about 5 months. The wine spends an additional 2 months ageing in the bottle prior to release.

The first thing you note about the wine is its relatively dark color, closer to ruby than to pink. It has delicate yet energetic red fruit and floral aromas with a lush, velvety texture unusual for a Rosé-style wine. Its prominent red berry flavors are backed up with notes of kitchen spices on the finish. It is elegant and structured and would pair well with most every item on the menu, from appetizers to salads and first courses. It even has the stuffing to pair with pork or veal dishes. And, of course, it’s enjoyable on its own.

This is a seriously classy, top-notch Rosato wine that might even win over people who don’t like traditional Rosé wines. Think of it as the Rosato that’s not a Rosé.


©Richard Marcis
September 8, 2014

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