Fine Italian Wines for april 2010

Wine for april - Under $25

Fattoria La Lecciaia, Toscana Sangiovese Montalcino 2005 (about $12)

The Fattoria La Lecciaia ( lah leh chai’ ah) is a relatively new winery by Tuscan standards but has in its relatively short existence become well established in the Tuscan wine scene. La Lecciaia was purchased by its current owner, Mauro Pacini, in 1983. La Lecciaia has approximately 38 acres under vine in the prestigious Montalcino area and has as its neighbors some of the oldest and most celebrated Brunello producers. In 2000, La Lecciaia expanded its vineyard property with the acquisition of acreage in Campagnano near Grosetto in southwestern Tuscany.

Fattoria La Lecciaia 2005 Toscana Sangiovese MontalcinoAbout half of the winery’s acreage under vine in the Montalcino area is devoted to growing Sangiovese for the production of Brunello wines. But it also produces a range of Sangiovese-based wines including a Rosso di Montalcino, several Super-Tuscan wines as well as an entry-level Toscana Sangiovese Montalcino.

The 2005 Toscana Sangiovese Montalcino is an exceptional wine at its price point. A deep purple color leads to fresh, fragrant and vigorous aromas of plums and cherries. It is medium-to-full bodied with a concentrated medley of ripe purple fruit and blackberry flavors that caress the palate.  It is well-balanced with good acidity, modest tannins and a lingering finish. I think it is just plain delicious when served with a plate of pasta, vegetable lasagna or a pizza or go more upscale and serve with a veal roast cooked in milk.

Wine for april – $25 and over

Tenuta San Felice, "Vigorello" 2001 (about $30)

The Tenuta (“farm estate”) San Felice is a modern, up-to-date, diversified winery that has deep roots in Tuscan history. It is located in the small town of Castelnuovo Berardenga, near Siena in the gently-rolling hills of the southern-most portion of the Chianti Classico zone. The winery takes its name from an 8th century church on the property.

San Felice has been intimately involved in the Tuscan wine scene for centuries and has in recent years played a prominent role in the development of Tuscany’s Sangiovese-based wines. For example, in the early 1920’s the estate was one of the primary founders of the Consorzio dei Chianti Classico. The Consorzio with its famous black rooter emblem (called the Gallo Nero) was established to protect and promote Chianti Classico wines.

San Felice’s “Vigorello” wine has a distinguished pedigree. Introduced in 1968, it was the first initiative in the Chianti Classico zone to produce a quality wine made entirely of Sangiovese grapes, a sharp break with the prevailing custom of producing blended wines in the Chianti fashion. It was a benchmark wine, a forerunner of a new category of wines that came to be known as Super-Tuscans. While the first vintage was made entirely of Sangiovese, the winery experimented with different blends and subsequent vintages of Vigorello have been blends of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot.

In 1984 the estate expanded its holdings with the acquisition of the highly-regarded Campogiovanni vineyards in Montalcino where they now produce some acclaimed Brunellos. They also acquired Tenuta Perolla in the up-and-coming Maremma zone in western Tuscany.  Since being acquired by the European financial conglomerate Gruppo Allianz the San Felice estate has expanded its reach and is now a diversified winery that also produces olive oil and runs a retail enoteca as well as an upscale tourist hotel complex.

San Felice’s 2001 Vigorello is a blend of 45 percent Sangiovese, 40 Tenuta San Felice, "Vigorello" 2001percent Cabernet and 15 percent Merlot. It has a deep purple color that leads to enticing, complex aromas of black cherry fruit, plums and toasted nuts. It’s taste follows through with an impressive underlying core of plums, mocha and sweet black cherry fruit flavors. Even though it is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months the wine doesn’t have an “oaky” taste or character. Rather, it has soft tannins and a generous finish. While this wine’s ripe fruit character give it an international flavor it is also persuasively Italian with its structure and composition, a wine with vigor as its name implies. At approximately $30 a bottle, this wine is a real bargain.

The Vigorello wine pairs well with a wide variety of vegetable and meat dishes. It is superb with pasta and other tomato sauce based dishes or risotto with mushrooms and herbs. But this wine also pairs well with a variety of meats, especially steak, veal dishes such as veal marsala and game. It also goes well with aged cheeses. For a real treat try it with herb-roasted tenderloin of beef or pappardelle with hare sauce.

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 14, 2010

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