for those who like big red italian wines any time of year

Wine for August – under $20

Leone De Castris, “Maiana” Salice Salentino Rosso 2013 (about $14)

The Leone de Castris winery in Italy’s Puglia region has an exalted pedigree. It was originally established in the small village of Salice Salentino by a Spanish Duke in 1665 and is reputed to be the oldest winery in Puglia.

However, the Leone di Castris’s modern wine history dates to the late 1920’s when Piero Salvatore Leone assumed responsibilities for the family winery. He replanted the vineyards, renovated the winery and ageing cellars and implemented new technological processes he learned from his travels in prime wine producing areas in Italy and France. During Piero’s tenure the winery released Italy’s first rosato (or rosè) wine in 1943 and in 1954 the first Salice Salentino DOC wine.

Today the winery produces a wide range of red, white and rosato DOC wines as well as Salento and Puglia IGT wines. It specializes in traditional wines made from native Puglian varieties like Negroamaro, Primitivo and Verdeca. The winery is one of Puglia’s largest with about a thousand acres of vineyards and total annual production of 2.5 million bottles the majority of which are exported to countries around the world.

The “Maiana” Salice Salentino is one of several Salice Salentino wines produced the Leone de Castris estate. The Maiana is made primarily of Negroamaro with the addition of 10 percent Malvasia Nera, both harvested from 35 year-old vines in a relatively small 15 acre vineyard. Negroamaro is known for the dark colors, tannins and berry-like flavors it imparts to wines while Malvasia Nera is valued for its rich and perfumed aromas.

 Rosso from Leon De Castris wineryThe 2013 Maiana is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then aged in large previously-used French oak casks for 6 months before being bottled. It then rests for 3 months in the bottle prior to release for sale.

It is a delicious, full-flavored, rich red wine that offers up intense dark cherry and kitchen spice aromas like clove and allspice. The flavors are up-front and opulent with a medley of plum, dark cherries and earth with sweet tannins with a touch of spice. The wine has substance and structure without being heavy or alcoholic.

This wine offers outstanding value for its relatively low price. It is ideal paired with braised short ribs and lively dinner conversation on a sultry summer evening.

Wine for august – $20 and over

Giacomo Grimaldi, “Le Coste” Barolo 2007 (about $57)

The conventional wine wisdom is that a bold and warm wine like Barolo is best when served during winter’s chill, the perfect wine for fireside conversations and winter’s hearty meals. But the truth is that there are no hard and fast rules about which wines to serve when the temperature rises or plummets. It’s more a matter of personal preference than weather.

Properly aged Barolo wines typically have bright berry fruit flavors with silky textures, good food-friendly acidity and assertive but ripe tannins. So what’s not to like regardless of whether it’s the heat of August or the chill of December? A good rich and bold Barolo, like Giacomo Grimaldi’s 2007 ”Le Coste” Barolo, is a delight to drink any time of year.

The Grimaldi family has owned the Giacomo Grimaldi winery since 1930. However, it wasn’t until Ferruccio Grimaldi assumed responsibility for the family’s wine business in the mid-1990’s that the winery began in earnest to market estate wines under its own label. At the same time he began purchasing other prime vineyard properties in close-by communes and ramped-up the winery’s scale of  operations.

The Grimaldi estate currently has 25 acres of vineyards and produces a typical lineup of Piemontese wines that includes Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Barolo. But it is the Barolo wines that have garnered the most accolades for the winery. About 60 percent of the winery’s total vineyards are devoted to the production of Nebbiolo for its Barolo labels.

The Le Coste vineyard is a historic Barolo cru that has long been considered one of the most prestigious in the area. After the Nebbiolo grapes are harvested from the Le Coste vineyard they undergo fermentation in temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks. The win2007 "Le Coste" Barolo by Giacomo Grimaldie then ages for 24 months in small, French oak barrels (barriques), about half of which are new and the other half previously used. The wine then rests for an additional 8 months in stainless steel tanks before bottling.

The total output of this cru is relatively limited - only about 4,000 bottles are produced in any given year.

2007 was an excellent vintage in the Piedmont region with Robert Parker assigning a 97 rating to the vintage and Wine Spectator a 95 rating. The long and warm growing season was balanced by cooler temperatures at harvest time that resulted in rich and opulent but structured wines with good ageing potential.

The 2007 “Le Coste” Barolo from Giacomo Grimaldi is a knock-your-socks-off wine that holds nothing back. Intoxicating aromas of sweet black fruits and coffee merely hint at how it’s going to end up on your taste buds. The robust Le Coste vineyard character is supplemented by a deep core of fully-developed plum and black currant flavors with a velvety texture that caresses your palate. The finish is enhanced by dark cherry and sweet spice flavors. It’s broad, rich and structured and a crowd pleaser of the highest order regardless of whether it’s August or the middle of winter.

©Richard Marcis
July 21, 2015

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

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