fine italian wines for the month of April 2009

Wine for april – Under $25

Seghesio, Dolcetto d’Alba “Pajana” 2006/07 (About $20)

Typically tucked away at the bottom of the restaurant wine list as if added as an after thought, placed well below the more famous and popular Barolos and Chianti Classicos, are the humble Dolcettos. Traditionally known for their fruity, slightly rustic and ready to drink nature, Dolcetto wines are generally perceived as pleasant, even charming but not memorable wines.

But some talented producers in the Piedmont have been working hard to change the popular perception of Dolcetto. By taking the Dolcetto grape more seriously and lavishing the same care and attention on it as they do for their more prestigious Nebbiolo and Barbera varietals, these winemakers have been successfully producing Dolcetto wines with personality and character.  Consequently, there are now more varied and interesting styles of Dolcetto available ranging from the light, fruity, inexpensive, traditional version to more modern styles that are big, bold and more structured with intense flavors. Regardless of style, Dolcettos will typically still have softer tannins and lower acidity compared to other red wines from the Piedmont.

The Seghesio family has been producing premium red wines in Montforte d’Alba for over a century. The Cascina Pajana (pie yah’ nah) estate is one of the most distinguished wine areas in the Piedmont and Renzo Seghesio uses it exclusively for production of his best red wines.

This single vineyard DSeghesio, Dolcetto d'Alba "Pajana" olcetto is a charming, seductive wine not spoiled by astringent tannins or overweening ambition. Deep, dense ruby in color that borders on purple, it has good legs and big, beautiful aromas redolent of dark, over-ripe berries. Fruity and full-bodied, it is smooth and velvety with mild tannins. There are plenty of mouth-filling dark berry and plum flavors with hints of bitter almonds that linger on the finish. It’s wines like this that will move Dolcetto to the top of the wine list.

Surprising for a wine this young, it does throw some sediment (probably due to limited use of fining and filtration), so it should be decanted before serving.

This wine has sufficient acidity to make it a great accompaniment for risotto and pasta dishes with meat or mushroom sauces as well as grilled vegetables.

Where can I buy this wine?   Available at Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Pearson’s, Arrowine, Wine Specialist and the Italian Market (Arlington).

Wine for april – $25 and over

Santadi, Carignano del Sulcis Riserva “Rocca Rubia” 2005 (About $27)

The Cantina di Santadi Winery is located in the Sulcis area of the scenic South-western corner of Sardinia. Santadi (as the winery is commonly referred to) is a small production, 250-member cooperative established in 1960. The winery’s initial wine offerings weren’t particularly exciting and it wasn’t until several years later that it launched an ambitious program to emphasize production of quality wines based primarily on the local indigenous Vermentino, Nuragus and Carignano varietals. Toward this end, Santadi hired as a consultant the renowned winemaker Giacomo Tachis, famous for his role in producing Sassicaia and other great reds of Tuscany. Under his tutelage, the wines of Santadi have garnered critical acclaim in Italy and around the world.

The Santadi wines that have received the greatest critical acclaim are the red wines made from the local indigenous Carignano grape.  The Carignano grape is a hardy, Santadi, Carignano del  Sulcis Rioserva "Rocca Rubia"prolific grape varietal that is naturally high in tannins with lively acidity. While small amounts of Carignano are planted in Tuscany and the Marche regions it is in the hot and dry Sulcis area of Sardinia that Carignano has found its ideal growing environment. It is the area’s most popular grape variety and Santadi produces a number of highly regarded Carignano del Sulcis (pronounced cah ree n’yah’ no dee suhl’ chis) reds, one of which – the acclaimed Terre Brune – is a consistent recipient of Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award.

Santadi’s Carignano del Sulcis Riserva “Rocca Rubia” is 100 percent Carignano. It is a dark, brooding ruby red color. It has intense and persistent aromas of dark fruit with notes of cedar and kitchen spices. The Rocca Rubia is rich and full-bodied with a velvety and nuanced mouth feel. It has good structure with well-integrated tannins and earthy, baked fruit flavors that clearly speak of the warm Mediterranean climate of its home. This complex and opulent wine is ideal with lamb dishes, pasta with sausage, stews, grilled meats and game as well as aged cheeses. At this price it is one of best bargains in the wine world.

Where can I buy this wine?   Available at Calvert Woodley.

Note – prices indicated are averages of generally available retail prices 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.  It is best to call to check on price and availability before making the trip.

©Richard Marcis
April 8, 2009



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