fine italian wines for the month of October

Wine for the Month of October—under $25

Morgante, Nero d’Avola 2006 (about $15)

The Nero d’Avola grape is Sicily’s best red variety and is grown almost exclusively in Sicily where it is vinified on its own or blended with other varieties. Nero d’Avola typically produces opulent wines that are definite, intense and bursting with ripe fruit flavors and muted tannins. And the wines of Morgante show just what can be done when care and attention is lavished on this variety.

Morgante Wine LabelThe Morgante estate consists of about 500 acres of vineyards located about 50 miles inland from Agrigento (famous for its ancient Greek temple ruins) in southwest Sicily. Although the Morgante estate has been growing Nero d’Avola for generations, it is only in the past decade that they decided to get really serious about their wines. In the late 1990’s they hired the famous consulting winemaker Riccardo Cotarella and, while the family is heavily involved in running every aspect of the winery’s operations, the wines do reflect Cotarella’s wine-making talent.

This 100 percent Nero d’Avola undergoes fermentation in stainless steel tanks, is aged judiciously in small oak barrels for a brief 4 months and then spends 4 months in the bottle prior to release for sale. It delivers ripe fruit that is international in appeal and backs it up with Sicilian weight and structure.

Morgante’s ’06 Nero d’Avola has a beautiful, dense, purple hue. This vineyard gem is big, ripe and swaggering and suffused with opulent notes of ripe blackberries, prunes and spices followed by a warm, mouth-filling, rich taste that is balanced with good acidity. With its muted tannins this is not a wine to lay away – best to drink it over the next couple of years.

This assertive wine should be paired with robust foods. Prime rib or roast pork easily comes to mind as well as does a good hamburger. Eggplant parmigiana or pasta with pesto would also be good.

Morgante also produces a more intense and concentrated version of Nero d’Avola called Don Antonio, which is considerably more expensive than the regular Nero d’Avola. On a value-to-price basis, their regular Nero d’Avola is one of the best on the market

Available at Calvert Woodley and The Wine Specialist.

Wine for the month of October – over $25

Moccagatta, Barbaresco  “Bric Balin” 1998 (about $43)

Barbaresco is one of the great wines of the Piedmont. Produced from 100 percent Nebbiolo, Barbaresco is typically a serious and complex wine that can age gracefully for decades.

Moccagantta Barbaresco Bric Balin 1998Out of the many Barbaresco producers, one of my favorites is Moccagatta. With a relatively small 30 acre estate spread over several vineyards around the villages of Barbaresco and Nieve, the Moccagatta estate produces three quality Barbarescos – Cole, Basarin and Bric Balin – which differ dramatically in style and character. The Bric Balin is a modern-style Barbaresco and arguable the best of the three. It’s as elegant, intense and Italian as a personal visit from Gina Lollobrigida.

The ’98 Bric Balin is garnet red in color with brick-red highlights and heady varietal aromas. The full, austere but elegant flavors are tinged with Piedmont gravitas. Aged for 18 months in partially new oak barriques, the wine is full bodied with ample tannins and a complex finish that makes every sip immensely pleasing. This wine is ready to drink now but can also be tucked away in your cellar for at least another decade.

Barbarescos are considered a good match for haut cuisine dishes of red meat, game birds and aged cheese. If you have the money, try pairing the ’98 Moccagatta Bric Balin with a truffle dish such as veal medallions with a truffle sauce or if you’re feeling especially decadent, truffles with fried or scrambled eggs.

While a quality Barbaresco is never cheap, this is a great opportunity to buy a ready to drink now, quality Barbaresco without having to dip into your stressed-out 401K.

Available at MacArthur Beverage.

Note – prices indicated are generally the lowest available and will vary from store to store. While in stock at time of writing, stores may sell out of the selections so availability is not guaranteed. Call to check on price and availability before making the trip.

Richard Marcis
October 12, 2008




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