Two Fine Italian Wines to Start Off the New Year 2015

Wine for january – under $20

Tenuta Sant’Antonio, “Scaia” Corvina Rosso 2011 (about $12)

This is a classy and enjoyable red wine from the Sant’Antonio winery in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is made exclusively of Corvina grapes harvested from 3 to 10-year-old vines in Tenuta Sant’Antonio’s vineyards. It is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks - no oak barrels or casks are utilized in the production of Scaia (ska yah) Corvina.

Corvina (also known as Corvina Veronese) is a late-ripening, thick-skinned grape variety with a blue-black color that is valued for the deep color, structure and delightful flavors it imparts to wines. Corvina is most often blended with other, mostly indigenous, Veneto grape varieties to produce the Veneto’s famous Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone wines. But wines made exclusively of Corvina, such as this one, are increasingly finding favor with wine enthusiasts captivated by the flavors and elegance of wines produced from this variety.

2011 "Scaia" Corvina Rosso from Tenuta Sant'AntonioThe Scaia is nicely textured with an intense mouthfeel reflective of the Corvina variety. It is medium to full-bodied with loads of dark fruit and kitchen spice flavors. The tannins are modest and integrated so there are no rough edges here, just pure fruit flavors of plums and dark cherries. It is an expressive wine with an inviting style that will keep you coming back for more.

The Scaia comes with a Vino-Lok glass stopper in place of cork. While easy to remove, the concept of glass wine bottle closures is new enough that it will elicit comments of surprise and curiosity as it is passed around for inspection among guests.

This enjoyable wine is very affordable and flexible. It goes well with a variety of dishes such as risotto, poultry and white meats, most pasta dishes and vegetable soups. It is an excellent companion to a simple roast pork tenderloin with rosemary.

Wine for january – $20 and over

Garofoli, “Grosso Agontano” Rosso Conero DOCG Riserva 2008 (about $27)

While the white wines of the Marche region of Italy have a well-deserved international reputation, the region also produces some excellent but not especially well-known red wines. Prime among these is Rosso Conero, an aromatic, rich and full-bodied red wine made from the Montepulciano grape that can with some ageing achieve distinction. The riserva versions can carry the prestigious DOCG designation on their labels.

The Rosso Conero DOCG regulations require that at least 85 percent of the wine must come from Montepulciano grapes while up to 15 percent can be Sangiovese. The regulations also require that Rosso Conero DOCG wines must be aged for at least 2 years before release for sale in the market and must also have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5 percent.

Montepulciano is an interesting grape variety. It is grown primarily in the Marche and Abruzzo regions and to a lesser extent in areas further south in Puglia, Calabria and Sardinia. These areas have mild or moderate-hot climates with long growing seasons necessary for the 2008 "Grosso Agontano" Conero Riserva from GarofoliMontepulciano grape to reach full maturity. It produces wines with dark and intense colors, robust structure, prominent tannins and good ageing potential.

As an aside, it may be worth noting that the Montepulciano grape is not related in any way to the city of Montepulciano in southern Tuscany.

The Garofoli winery is the oldest family-owned winery in the Marche region with origins that date back to the late 19th century. While family-owned it is a large operation with annual production in excess of 2 million bottles, a large portion of which is exported to Europe and other foreign countries - including the U.S.

Garofoli’s 2008 Grosso Agontano (ah gon tah’ no) is comprised entirely of Montepulciano grapes from the estate’s vineyards. The wine is aged for 18 months in small oak barrels (barriques) and then spends an additional 12 months ageing in the bottle prior to release for sale.

This wine is for those who like big wines - and then like to crank it up a notch. The first clue to its intensity is its dense, almost impenetrable garnet red color with some purple-red notes on the edge. With a gentle swirl, intoxicating blackberry and blueberry aromas fairly leap out of the glass. It is a dense, full-bodied wine with assertive plum and spice flavors accented with a pleasing balsamic note. The wine’s assertive tannins are balanced by a pleasing roundness and fullness attributable to the extended ageing in barriques and the passage of time. The Grosso Agontano’s finish is intense and persistent with trailing notes of blackberries and plums.

Its under-$30 price tag constitutes a real bargain for such a vigorous and generous wine. It is best paired with red meats, beef stews and richly flavored game dishes.


©Richard Marcis
January 6, 2015

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