fine italian wines for the month of July 2009

Wine for july - Under $25

Marcarini, Moscato d’Asti 2007 (about $19)

“Vivacious” is perhaps the most apt descriptor for this class of sweet, slightly bubbly, aromatic dessert wines made from the Moscato grapes grown in the area around the town of Asti in Italy’s Piedmont region.

Moscato d’Asti is a sweet, low-alcohol (usually 5 to 5-1/2 percent) frizzante wine made from the Moscato grape variety.  Frizzante is a great Italian word to indicate a drink that is lightly-bubbly or spritzy rather than sparkling. Moscato is less sweet, less fizzy, less alcoholic, less expensive (usually $12 - $20) and just generally superior to Asti Spumante, the better known sweet wine from the same area. Moscato d’Asti should have a mild sweetness counterbalanced by a vibrant acidity with apricot, honey and pink grapefruit flavors.

2007 Marcarini, Moscato d'AstiMoscato d’Asti should be served chilled as a before-dinner drink (an aperitivo), to accompany dessert or for sipping as an after-dinner treat on a summer evening. It goes well with fresh fruit, pastries, panettone, hazelnut cake and soft cheeses such as Caciatto or Castelmagno. For a real treat, try Moscato d'Asti splashed over fresh strawberries - it is a sublime wine and food match. Moscato d’Asti is best drunk young, usually within two years of vintage date.

Established in the 1850’s in the commune of La Morra, the Marcarini estate has established a reputation for turning out top quality - primarily Barolo but also Dolcetto - wines. The Moscato d’Asti is the latest addition to their wine list and the Moscato grapes are sourced from their Sergentin vineyard.

The wine checks in at 5.5 percent alcohol and is light straw yellow in color with green and gold highlights. It is delightfully aromatic with loads of fresh fruit aromas that caper from the glass. Delicately effervescent and sweet without being cloying due to its vibrant acidity, it is a hard-to-resist thirst quencher.

For those who have not yet experienced the pleasures of Moscato d’Asti, this wine will be a revelation.

Where can I buy this wine?  Available at Calvert Woodley, MacArthur Beverages (’08 vintage) and Wells Discount Liquors (Baltimore).

Wine for july – $25 and over

Clerico, “Arte” Langhe Rosso 2005 (about $50)

Domenico Clerico is one of the most respected and innovative Barolo producers. Located in Monforte d’Alba in the Piedmont region, he has long been a practitioner of the “modern” style of Barolo winemaking that involves designing Barolo wines that mature faster and are less tannic and austere than Barolos produced in the “traditional” style.

He has also experimented with non-traditional blends of which the 2005 Arte is a good example. First produced in 1983, Clerico’s Arte is the original “super-Piemontese” wine.  Clerico’s initiatives paralleled those of Tuscan winemakers experimenting with red wines whose vinification techniques and varietal compositions did not adhere to the rigid DOC requirements for that region and that gave rise to the “super-Tuscans.”

Thus, while Clerico’s Arte is Nebbiolo-based it has a small amount (10 percent) of Barbera added for color and acidity. It is the addition of the Barbera and vinification procedures that clash with Barolo DOC parameters that preclude it from being called a Barolo. Consequently, it carries a Langhe DOC appellation and while it has the backbone, fruit and tannins of a Barolo, it is also more approachable and elegant than most Nebbiolo wines from the Serralunga Valley area of the Piedmont.

2005 Clerico, "Arte" Langhe RossoThe 2005 Arte has an intense ruby red color with garnet overtones and classic Nebbiolo aromas of plums, raspberries, vanilla and spice. But it has it’s own complex and fascinating personality that distinguishes it from the Barolo crowd.  It is rich, plump and full-bodied with soft, well-integrated tannins that seem to coat your teeth. It is well structured with good acidity that will stand up to hearty meat dishes and aged cheeses.

While the ’05 Arte by Clerico invites comparisons with Barolo wines it also stands on its own as a wonderfully complex, elegant wine

Where can I buy this wine?  Available at Calvert Woodley, (Gaithersburg), MacArthur Beverages (’01 and ’06 vintage) and Curious Grape (’01 vintage; Arlington).

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
July 15, 2009



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