fine italian wines for the month of september 2009

Wine for september - Under $25

Castello Monaci, Primitivo “Piluna” 2007 (about $14)

Primitivo, Zinfandel’s Italian cousin, thrives in the southern part of the Puglia region located in the “heel” of the “boot” that comprises geographic Italy. Primitivo has historically had a well-deserved reputation as a rustic, easy drinking and plentiful wine, much of which was consumed locally or produced for use as a blending wine. However, in recent years some quality-oriented producers have worked hard to change that reputation through drastic reductions in yields and better harvesting and vinification techniques. And their efforts have borne fruit, so to speak, in that the overall quality has greatly improved to such an extent that Primitive is now a rising star on the international wine scene.

Castello Monaci, Primitivo "Piluna" 2007Primitivos from a quality producer are earthy, opulent wines that generally offer high quality at very reasonable prices. If you’re not familiar with Primitivo wines, the “Piluna” Primitivo from Castello Monaci is a great introduction to the pleasures of Primitivo.

Castello Monaci is located just outside the small town of Salice Salentino in southern Puglia. Recently purchased by Gruppo Italiano Vini, Italy’s largest wine consortium, the estate has been completely restructured and updated but continues to maintain its regional identity by producing a range of classical Puglian red wines from indigenous grape varieties such as Primitivo, Malvasia Nera and Negroamaro.

“Piluna” means “pot of clay” in Greek and refers to the traditional containers in which the local farmers would store water. Produced entirely from Primitivo grapes grown on the estate’s vineyards, the Piluna is full-bodied with an intense and spicy character, firm tannins and black fruit with spice notes on the finish. It is a generous and engaging but firmly structured wine that is a pleasure from start to finish. This relatively inexpensive Primitivo is one of the best values in Italian wine today.

Serve with roasts, stews and game. Be sure to decant or open at least an hour before serving.

Where can I buy this wine?  Available at Calvert Woodley.

Wine for september – $25 and over

Terrabianca, Campaccio 2005 (about $28)

The Terrabianca winery is located close by Radda-in-Chianti in the heart of the Chianti Classico region in central Tuscany. The estate was acquired in the late 1980’s and substantially upgraded by Roberto and Maja Guldener, a Swiss husband and wife team that decided to change careers, move south and devote themselves to producing quality Tuscan wines.

Terrabianca, Campaccio 2005Terrabianca (which means “white earth” and refers to the chalky nature of the estate’s soil) produces a small number of highly-regarded Chianti Classico wines, such as Croce and Scassino. It also produces several IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines such as Campaccio, Campaccio Riserva and La Fonte produced from grapes sourced from both the estate’s Tuscan and Maremma vineyard properties.

The 2005 Campaccio is a blend of 70 percent Sangiovese and 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine spends 12 months in small oak barrels and 12 months in the bottle prior to release for sale to the public.

It has ample and elegant aromas of dark berry fruit. Medium to full bodied it is astonishingly rich with luscious berry fruit and soft tannins. This wine exhibits the best of the super-Tuscan wine revolution in that its generous fruit flavors have international appeal while its body and structure reflect its Tuscan patrimony.

The ’05 Campaccio is ready to drink now but will only improve with several additional years of age. Save this wine for that special occasion dinner, ideally one involving roast beef or venison.

Where can I buy this wine?  Available at MacArthur Beverages, Calvert Woodley, Pearson’s, Circle Wine and Spirits (’04 vintage), Morris Miller, Corridor Wine and Spirits (Laurel, MD) and other area stores.

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
September 6, 2009


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