best Italian Red Wines for June 2011

Wine for june - Under $25

Falesco, Merlot Umbria 2009 (about $16)

The Falesco winery is located in the small town of Montecchio in southwestern Umbria. It’s  vineyards straddle the regional border with Latium (Lazio in Italian), extending from Lake Bolsena in Lazio to the hills of Orvieto in Umbria. Owned and operated by the brothers Renzo and Riccardo Cotarella, Falesco is one of the fastest growing wineries in Italy and the highly regarded winery has contributed significantly to the wine culture of the region. Since the vineyards are located in both Lazio and Umbria and the winery is in one region while the cellar is in the other region, the winery has almost single-handedly advanced the wine cultures and reputations of both regions.  

Renzo and Riccardo are highly respected winemakers and both have contributed to developing Falesco’s outstanding wine reputation. Riccardo, the older brother, is one of Italy’s most famous consulting winemakers and counts dozens of major wineries in central and southern Italy as his clients. Renzo, meanwhile, is a first-class crafter of Italian wines and serves as technical director for all of Piero Antinori’s wine operations. While the Falesco winery produces white as well as red wines, its reputation rests primarily on its high quality red wines like its powerful Montiano wine as well as some excellent value wines such as its popular Vitiano wine.

First introduced in 1999, the Umbria Merlot wine is a relatively new addition to Falesco’s extensive lineup of wines.  It is 100 percent Merlot and the grapes come from the estate’s vineyards in the hills south of Orvieto. The grapes are harvested in September and fermented in stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine is aged in small oak barrels for 6 months and then spends an additional 3 months in the bottle prior to release for salFalesco Merlot Umbria 2009e.

With a deep ruby red color and complex, elegant black fruit and cassis aromas accented with some kitchen spice notes there is no denying the wine’s instant appeal. And with lots of seductive blueberry, black fruit and vanilla flavors, the taste certainly doesn’t disappoint. Ripe acidity and muted tannins add vibrancy and structure that nicely balance the rich, lush fruit flavors of the Merlot. The finish is long and silky. Put all these together and on a quality-to-price basis you have a wine that is positively super.

This wine just begs to be served with a slightly spicy Thai chicken appetizer or a roast rack of lamb.

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Total Wines and More, Rodman’s, MacArthur Beverages, Calvert Woodley, Circle Wine and Spirits, Wells Discount Liquors (Baltimore), Corridor Wine and Spirits (Laurel) and other area stores.

Wine for june – $25 and over

Cantina di Santadi, “Shardana” 2005 (about $35)

The Cantina di Santadi is located in the Sulcis area of the scenic southwestern corner of the island of Sardinia. This gently rolling stretch of land overhanging the Mediterranean coastline is the first part of the island that visitors see when flying or sailing into Sardinia from the south.

Cantina di Santadi is a prominent cooperative winery of approximately 250 members dedicated to producing quality wines from primarily local, indigenous grape varieties. The winery’s quality-driven initiatives have benefitted substantially from a long-term consulting relationship with the renowned consulting winemaker Giacomo Tachis, a native of the island famous for his role in producing Sassicaia and other great super-Tuscan wines. Giacomo Tachis was recently named Decanter Magazine’s Wine Man of the Year 2011.

The Shardana wine is a joint venture between Santadi and U. S. wine importers Neil and Maria Empson. It’s a good if not great match of winemaking talents and marketing skills. The outstanding seafront vineyards, extensive knowledge of the Carignano grape and considerable winemaking skills of the Santandi winery combined with the winemaking talents and marketing expertise of the Empsons have proved to be a mutually beneficial combination.Cantina di Santadi Shardana 2005

Shardana is a blend of 85 percent Carignano and 15 percent Shiraz. After fermentation, the wine spends 12 months ageing in barriques. The result is a very dark and intense wine with black cherry fruit flavors and subtle notes of vanilla, figs and kitchen spices. This full-bodied Carignano delivers plenty of fruit, structure, balance and polished tannins. It’s rich and concentrated but with sufficient tannic backbone to keep everything in balance. While the ’05 is ready to drink now it has the stuff to age well for quite some time. While this wine is not exactly cheap, on a quality-to-price basis it’s a real winner.

The Shardana is a great companion for aged cheeses and roasted red meats. Open at least two hours and decant prior to serving. 

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits and MacArthur Beverages.

To view reviews of other wines from Sardinia see A tasting of red wines from sardinia

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 9, 2011

To read other wine reviews, see Monthly Wine Reviews


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