two fine italian wines for the month of June 2009

Wine for june – Under $25

Duca Carlo Guarini, “Vigne Vecchie” Primitivo Salento IGT 2004 (about $19)
This relatively inexpensive wine comes with a pedigree. The Duca Carlo Guarini estate in southern Puglia dates back to the 10th century and the Guarini family can trace their ancestry back to a knight in the First Crusade. The estate is dotted with historic buildings and ancient fortifications dating back centuries.

The Duca Carlo Guarini estate is located in Scorrano, a little town lying on a gentle hill just south of the larger town of Lecce, the southernmost major town in the Salento peninsula known as the  “heel” of Italy. The estate is large – over 2,000 acres – and the vineyards share the property with commercial olive groves, grain production and sheep farming.

The Primitivo grape thrives in this area of southern Puglia. The hot North African winds that sweep across the peninsula help prevent grape mold while the variation between the hot daytime temperatures and the cooler evening temperatures allow the grapes to develop slowly and more fully.

So that’s the background. Now about the wine. The wine is made entirely from Primitivo grapes grown in a Duca Carlo Guarini vineyard called Vigne Vecchie (which means “old vines”)Duca Carlo Guarini, "Vigne Vecchie" Primitivo Salento IGT 2004.  It has a deep purple color that borders on black and ripe fruit and blackberry aromas with just a hint of aromatic herbs evocative of its Mediterranean origins.

There is nothing shy or reserved about this wine. It has a firmly structured presentation that coats your mouth with deeply concentrated blackberry, dark currant flavors and spicy fruit nuances that follow through in the finish. It also has a good tannic structure that complements its remarkable density.

This wine needs to breath so I recommend opening the bottle at least two hours before serving it with roast meats, game or aged cheeses.

Wine for june – $25 and over

Tasca d’Almerita (Regaleali), "Rosso del Conte" Conte Di Sciafani 2004 (about $40)
Tasca d’Almerita is another aristocratic wine estate with deep roots, so to speak. Founded in the 1830’s, it has served as a benchmark for Sicily’s finest wines for over 100 years. Even in the 1950’s and 60’s when Sicily developed a well-earned reputation for producing dull and insipid wines in bulk for use for blending, the Tasca d’Almerita estate swam counter to this tide of mediocrity and continued to produce wines of quality and distinction. Obviously, today with Sicily producing some of the most compelling wines in all Italy, the quality bar has been raised but Tasca d’Almerita wines continue to garner awards. For example, in 2009 Tasca d’Almerita was the recipient of two Tre Bicchieri (“three Glasses”) awards from Gambero Rosso, one of which was for the ’05 Rosso del Conte.

Rosso del Conte (“red wine of the Count”) is one of Sicily’s most famous reds. It is a blend of Nero d’Avola (neh’ roh dah’ voe lah) and other indigenous varieties. It has been produced by Tasca d’Almerita since the early 1970’s. For years, Rosso del Conte set the standard and was the guiding spirit for today’s high-end, quality Sicilian wines.

The Nero d’Avola grape is grown almost exclusively in Sicily where it is vinified on its own or used as a blending grape. It produces supple wines with pronounced flavors and soft tannins.

The ’04 Rosso dTasca d'Almerita, "Rosso del Conte" 2004el Conte is a blend of 95 percent old-vine Nero d’Avola and 5 percent Perricone. After fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels for one year, 50 percent of which were new oak. The wine then spends an additional year in the bottle prior to release for sale.

The ’04 Rosso del Conte is outstanding. Big, luscious flavors of blackberry, currants and spices get a lift from a French oak accent. Medium to full-bodied with soft tannins and a velvety texture, it is already evolved and ready to drink now but will only improve with a couple more years of bottle age. Serve with roast pork, grilled lamb or even pasta with pesto.

My recommendation? Go out and buy one or more bottles now.

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
June 20, 2009



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