Di Majo Norante, "Don Luigi" Riserva Molise DOc 2011 (about $33)

Italian Wine for november, 2017

The tiny region of Molise, bordered by Abruzzo, Campania, Lazio, Puglia and the Adriatic Sea, is perhaps the least recognized sector of the Italian wine scene. While there are a number of wineries here that produce some red, white and rosato wines, primarily from Montepulciano, Aglianico and Trebbiano varieties, production is small-scale and almost exclusively for local consumption and/or the bulk wine trade. Consequently, the wines have little consumer recognition or visibility in the U.S. or any other major wine market for that matter.

There are, of course, a few exceptions to this austere assessment with the major exception being the star producer Di Majo Norante.  Their wines typically receive good marks in the international wine press and are widely distributed throughout Italy and the rest of Europe as well as the U.S.

While this estate has cultivated grapevines since the 1800’s it wasn’t until the mid-1960’s when the Di Majo family built a modern cantina and replanted the vineyards that they started producing and bottling their own wines. They have from the beginning focused on producing quality wines and toward this end employ the renowned enologist, Riccardo Cotarella, on a consulting basis to assist them in their quality initiatives.

The Di Majo Norante estate has approximately 210 acres of vineyards and produces a number of red, white and rosé (rosato) wines of a distinctive character from primarily traditional southern Italian varieties like Montepulciano, Aglianico and Tintilia for the reds and Falanghina, Greco and Moscato for the whites.

The Don Luigi Riserva is Di Majo Norante’s flagship wine and is named after Don Luigi Di Majo Norante, the patriarch of the estate. Made primarily of Montepulciano with a splash of Aglianico it is a richly aromatic, flavorful and full-bodied wine that is a frequent recipient of Gambero Rosso’s coveted Tre Bicchieri award.

2011 Di Majo Norante, "Don Luigi" Riserva Molise DOCMontepulciano is a red grape variety grown extensively throughout central and southern Italy and most prominently in the Molise and neighboring Abruzzo regions. Named after the historic town of the same name in southern Tuscany it is, oddly, not used in any of the wines produced there. The variety is prized for its deep color and naturally high acidity and tannin.

The late-ripening Montepulciano grapes are harvested in late October from the estate’s 15-acre Martarosa vineyard. In order to enhance the wine’s color and flavor compounds the grapes undergo a month-long maceration in contact with the skins and then fermented in stainless steel tanks for 2 weeks. The wine is subsequently aged in new French oak barriques for 12 months and bottle-aged for 6 additional months prior to release for sale.

The 2011 Don Luigi Riserva has a dense purple hue and an intoxicating bouquet of ripe cherries and currants overlaid with kitchen spice notes. It has good body with rich black fruit flavors framed with good acidity and a distinct tannic backbone. It is a well-made, flavorful but elegant wine with nothing over-ripe or accentuated, just an exceptional balance of fruit, acidity and tannins complemented with a pleasant alcohol accent on the long finish. It’s a fully mature, food-friendly wine that’s ready to drink now.

This robust wine should be paired with hearty pasta dishes, grilled sausages or steaks, hearty stews or roasted lamb. Oven-roasted winter vegetables also easily comes to mind as a table companion as does eggplant parmigiana.

More recent and equally desirable releases – such as the 2013 vintage - are also available on wine shop shelves.

Distributed by the Winebow Group.

©Richard Marcis
November 7, 2017

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

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