Fine Italian Wines to Drink in May – Before the World Ends!

You may have read in the paper that some are predicting that the end of the world will occur this coming May 21st.  Based on readings of the Bible, they predict a cataclysmic fire and brimstone ending.

I don’t know. Should we be worried? Some of us may have had a sense of foreboding as we sit idling in overheated cars on the Beltway while ensnarled in a massive traffic jam. Moreover, these traffic jams seem to be occurring more frequently. Maybe that’s how the world will really end, not in a cataclysmic, doomsday scenario but as a result of a massive traffic jam with coast-to-coast gridlock that causes the end of life as we know it.

In any event, I propose two wines to drink this month, one a great Dolcetto for about $21 and a super super-Tuscan that normally retails for about $40.  Both wines are ready to drink now and since I’m not one that likes to take chances, maybe it’s best to play it safe and drink both these wines before the 21st.

Just kidding! You will enjoy these wines now as well as in the future.

Wine for may - Under $25

Massolino, Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 (about $21)

Dolcetto is both the name of a variety of grape and the name of the wine made with that variety. It is grown primarily in northwestern Italy in the Piedmont region. While Dolcetto also grows in other regions of northern Italy as well as Australia and California, Dolcetto does not travel particularly well and Dolcetto from the Piedmont is generally regarded as the finest expression of Dolcetto. This despite the fact that in the Piedmont region Dolcetto has to compete for prime growing space and attention from producers that also grow more prestigious varieties such as Nebbiolo and Barbera.

Dolcetto is an early-ripening grape and like many such varieties produces wines that are soft and fruity with mild tannins. As such, they generally do not benefit from long bottle ageing. Dolcettos are very popular in Italy, particularly in the Piedmont region, and many use it as their everyday, go-to wine. It is a fixture at their daily dinner tables and for entertaining close friends while they hold their more-prestigious Barolo, Barbaresco and even Barbera wines in reserve for special occasions.

Not only is Dolcetto relatively inexpensive - generally retailing from $15 to $25 a bottle - but its ripe fruit flavors and pleasant acidity mean that it is very flexible and adaptable to many types of food. For example, a Dolcetto will generally go well with simple pasta or seafood dishes. Dolcetto won’t overpower these simple dishes even though it also complements more robust dishes such as tomato-based pasta and meat dishes. With soft tannins, clean acidity and fruit-forward flavors, Dolcettos are not only food-friendly and easy to drink but also engaging.

2009 Dolcetto d'Alba from MassolinoMassolino’s Dolcetto d’Alba comes from their family-owned and operated estate in the small wine-centric village of Serralunga d’Alba, which is approximately 10 miles south of Alba, the region’s unofficial wine capital. The Massolino family owns approximately 40 acres of prime vineyard property. From this relatively small holding they produce a variety of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto wines as well as some Chardonnay and Moscato wines. They know how to craft quality wines. The crown jewel of the estate is its highly regarded single-vineyard Barolo Margheria, a frequent recipient of Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchiere award.

However, they also take great pride in their Dolcetto wine. Massolino’s Dolcetto d’Alba is fermented and aged in stainless steel. It has a deep red color with dark fruit aromas that follow through to a silky-soft mouth feel with an overlay of soft tannins. Unlike some other Dolcettos, this is a full-bodied wine with good texture and definition. The wine’s ripe cherry and blackberry fruit flavors and light spice notes are perfectly balanced by the wine’s bright acidity.  For those not familiar with Dolcetto wines, this well-made, utterly delicious Dolcetto will leave you wondering, “How did I miss this?”

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Rodman’s, Calvert Woodley and IM Wine (Fulton, MD).

Wine for May – $25 and over

Poggio al Tesoro, “Sondraia” Toscana IGT 2006 (about $40)

Although Bolgheri is a small village in the coastal Maremma region of Tuscany, it is very much in the major leagues of Italian wine. It is home to some of Italy’s greatest red wines, wines with boldface names like Sassicaia, Guado al Tasso, Le Macchiole and Orneliaia, to name just a few.

Bolgheri is where the super-Tuscan wine revolution began in the late 1960´s when Bordeaux-style wines like Sassicaia and Grattamacco were created.  These pioneering initiatives were rewarded with great international acclaim that forever changed the Italian wine scene. Their successes proved that Italy could produce world-class wines from international varieties like Cabernet and Merlot. In recognition of these pioneering initiatives, the Bolgheri wine region was subsequently rewarded with Bolgheri DOC and Sassicaia DOC designations.

The primary red grape varieties grown in the Bolgheri region are Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. These international varieties have adapted extremely well to the sunny but mild and dry Bolgheri climate and they produce powerful but elegant wines of astonishing complexity. Other varieties grown here include the traditional Bordeaux varieties of Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. While Sangiovese plays a major role in most Tuscan wine regions, in Bolgheri, Sangiovese takes a back seat to the French grape varieties.

The Poggio al Tesoro estate is a relatively new entrant in the Bolgheri wine scene. Poggio al Tesoro was formed in 2001 as a joint venture between two of the most important players in the Italian wine industry – the Allegrini family, a prominent wine estate based in Verona in northeastern Italy, and Leonardo LoCascio, president of the U.S.-based wine import firm Winebow. They utilized the services of the prominent, Tuscany-born consulting winemaker Alberto Antonini to assist with the winemaking. They now have about 75 acres under vine. The estate’s first production vintage was 2003 and they’ve been going full speed ever since.2006 Sondraia Toscana IGT from Poggio al Tesoro

Sondraia takes its name from the estate’s largest vineyard. It is made from a blend of 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and then aged in French oak barriques for 18 months. It then spends another 9 months in the bottle prior to release for sale.

Like other top-tier super-Tuscans, the 2006 Sondraia has a dark, intense, ruby red color with a slight purple edge. It has an extraordinary bouquet of cherries, dark berries and purple fruit accented by sweet balsamic notes. It has generous and warm red and purple fruit flavors backed up by mouth-watering tannins and acidity and a tight, focused finish. The wine has a pronounced round and smooth nature but is not flabby. It is full-bodied and offers power as well as elegance on a clean, slender frame. This wine goes especially well with filet mignon, barbequed or braised meats, roast lamb or porcini mushroom-based dishes.

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Calvert Woodley and MacArthur Beverage.

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
May 8, 2011

To read other wine reviews, see Monthly Wine Reviews
See also Top 10 Affordable super-Tuscan Wines


Copyright 2008-2016, Richard Marcis. All rights reserved.