fine italian Wines for the month of august 2010

Wine for the Month of August — under $25

Tenuta Oppida Aminea, “Caucino” Sannio Greco 2008 (about $19)

The Sannio, an area of fertile plains and high mountains that is rich with history, tradition and culinary pleasures, is directly inland from Mt. Vesuvius and the Amalfi coast in the Campania region. With fertile land, reliable sunshine and a temperate climate, it is an area ideally suited for growing grapes.

The Sannio district has a centuries-old tradition of winemaking that predates even the ancient Romans who sung the praises of wines from the Sannio. Despite this area’s long history of winemaking, contemporary Sannio producers are not encumbered by traditional approaches. The Sannio area is dotted with enterprising winemakers that utilize well-equipped cellars and state-of-the-art facilities to produce some outstanding wines.

2008 Tenuta Oppida Amine, "Caucino" Greco SannioThe Oppida Aminea estate is a good example of this progressive approach to winemaking in Sannio. It is one of four estates (others are in Franciacorta, Tuscany and the island of Ischia) owned by the Fratelli Muratori group based in northern Italy. The goal of each of the four estates is to produce quality wines that reflect the character of their respective regions.

The Greco Bianco grape is one of southern Italy’s best white varieties and is widespread throughout the region. In the hands of talented producers it makes crisp wines with intense aromatic bouquets but that also have good weight and substance.

The 2008 Oppida Aminea “Caucino” Sannio Greco is comprised entirely of Greco Bianco  grapes sourced from the estate’s 23 acre vineyard in the Sannio zone near Benevento. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel, spend four months ageing in large oak casks and three months in the bottle prior to release for sale.

The wine has a muted straw yellow color. Gentle swishing in the glass releases effusive aromas of white peach, lemon custard and toast. It is a full-bodied white with a textured but not ponderous mouthfeel. Healthy doses of peach and grapefruit flavors with a hint of pineapple roll across the tongue. It is a structured, balanced wine with good body and alcohol, just enough acidity and a long, juicy finish. A great wine to accompany those end-of-summer meals or any time of year for that matter.

Goes well with pasta dishes, seafood, soups and fresh cheeses.

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Circle Wine and Spirits, Cleveland Park Wines and Rodman’s (Connecticut Ave. NW).

Wine for the Month of August —$25 and Over

Argiano, "NC" Non Confunditur Rosso Toscano 2007 (about $25)

This is one of the few Italian wines (or any wine, for that matter) I know of that is known simply by it’s initials. In this case, the initials “NC” stand for “Non Confunditur”, a Latin term taken from the Argiano crest and which was the motto of one of the former owners.

Founded in 1580, the Argiano estate has deep roots in Tuscany, so to speak.  Located on a hill about 6 miles southwest of Montalcino in south-central Tuscany, the estate currently has approximately 120 acres under vine on prime south-facing land. Ownership of this prized estate passed through a succession of noble families before 1992 when it was acquired by Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano of the eponymous Cinzano Vermouth family.

Single-minded in her devotion to crafting quality wines with international appeal, the Countess modernized the wine-making facilities and hired some of Italy’s most-renowned enologists and supervisors. The end result is that the Argiano estate has in recent years turned out impressive wines in a modern, accessible style. In addition to Non Confunditur, the estate also produces a well-regarded Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino and a Super-Tuscan, Solengo, that have established the estate as a bright star in the wine world constellation.

The NC wine is a Super-Tuscan blend of traditional French and Tuscan varietals.  2007 Argiano, "NC" Non Confunditur Rosso ToscanoSpecifically, the ’07 NC is a blend of 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent each Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah. The Cabernet Sauvignon adds concentrated fruit and tannins while the Merlot and Syrah provide sweet flavors and density, respectively, that engage the acidity and earthiness of the Sangiovese.

So as to enable each of the four grape varieties in the blend to retain their individual personalities, they are fermented in separate tanks.  After fermentation, the wines also spend a year separately ageing in a combination of barriques and traditional large oak casks. Only then are the individual wines blended and spend four additional months in the bottle prior to release for sale.

The end result of this process is pure Italian sunshine in a bottle – a round, medium-to-full bodied wine that delivers loads of dark fruit and berry flavors with muted tannins and an impressively long, lingering finish. It is an elegant and delicious wine that has already evolved and is ready to drink now but will also age gracefully for several more years in the bottle.

It is a great wine at this price point. If you are still skeptical, I should note that Wine Spectator magazine included the ’07 NC as one of its top 100 wines of the world for 2009 (ranked #80).

This wine goes well with roasted vegetables, grilled steaks, lamb chops and aged cheeses.

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Calvert Woodley, A. Litteri (Morse Street, NE), MacArthur Beverages, Rodman’s (Wisconsin Ave, NW), Pearson’s, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, (Gaithersburg, MD), Longmeadow Wines (Hagerstown, MD), I.M. Wine (Fulton, MD) and other area stores.

For reviews of other affordable Super-Tuscan wines see top super-tuscan wines


Note – prices indicated are averages of retail prices in the local market as of the date of this posting. Individual prices will vary from store to store and some wines may be on sale so prices may be lower than indicated above. 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
August 15, 2010

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