fine italian Wines for the month of november, 2010

Wine for the Month of november — under $25

Azienda Agricola Villabella, "Montemazzano" Rosso Veronese 2005 (about $15)

Corvina, more formally known as Corvina Veronese, is the main red grape variety of the Veneto region in northeastern Italy and the major varietal used in the production of light and fruity regional wines like Valpolicella and Bardolino. It is also the primary varietal used for heavy-weight reds like Amarone and Recioto, two of Italy’s most concentrated and powerful wines.

To soften its tartness and tame its acidity, Corvina is often combined with varying amounts of other varietals like Rondinella, Molinara and Negrara to produce red wines with mild fruity flavors, good acidity and hints of almonds. Because it is a difficult grape to discipline, Corvina is not traditionally vinified as a pure varietal. However, producers have recently had some success in making barrel-aged pure Corvina wines that have texture, structure and complexity.

The Villabella winery was founded in 1971 and is today managed by the children of the original founders. Located in Calmasino on the southeastern shore of Lake Garda, it has about 560 acres of vineyards and produces all the classic wines of the Verona area such as Bardolino, Valpolicella, Soave and Amarone. It also produces some interesting IGT wines made from grape varieties indigenous to the area.

With the acquisition of Villa Cordevigo at Cavaion Veronese, the Villabella estate expanded their already sizeable vineyard holdings. This prime property includes an 18th century palazzo complete with a consecrated chapel encompassed by 250 acres of vineyards and olive trees. It is here that Montemazzano and some other specialty wines are produced.

Villabella "Montemazzano" Rosso Veronese 2005The Montemazzano Rosso Veronese wine is made entirely from Corvina grapes. The grapes are picked in late October, spend about 10 days macerating on the skins and fermenting in temperature-controlled vats and then 18 months aging in large oak barrels. 

The 2005 Villabella “Montemazzano” Rosso Veronese has a dark ruby red color with an aromatic medley of ripe plums and black currant fruit aromas. The flavors are rich, full-bodied and opulent with notes of dried fruit and spice. It is mouth-filling with considerable fruit flavors, subtle tannins and a generous finish. Fashioning a wine this opulent out of pure, unruly Corvina is a real tribute to patience and skill of the winemakers.

This wine goes well with dishes like risotto with shaved truffles, grilled meats, game, dishes with rich sauces and mature cheeses.             

Where can I buy this wine? Available at Circle Wine and Spirits but otherwise difficult to find locally.

Wine for the Month of november —$25 and Over

Librandi, "Gravello" Val di Neto Rosso IGT 2006 (about $34)

Calabria is probably the least well known of Italy’s twenty wine regions. Whereas Tuscany and Piedmont are names that roll easily off tongues of the wine-savvy, mention Calabria and you’re likely to gather, at best, blank stares.

For the uninitiated, Calabria is the southernmost region in mainland Italy and forms the “toe” of the geographic “boot” that comprises the Italian peninsula. It is a dry mountainous region with dramatic variations in microclimates between the warm, Mediterranean climate of the coastal areas bordering the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas and the cooler environs of the mountainous interior.

Calabria in many respects has an ideal environment for growing wine grapes as the mountainous interior receives adequate rainfall and the high-elevation breezes mitigate the deleterious effects of the intense Mediterranean heat. Naturally suited for grape growing, wines have been grown here for centuries and Calabria’s most famous wine, Cirò, is reputedly the world’s oldest extant wine

The vast majority of Calabrian wines are red wines and Gaglioppo (pronounced gah lyee oh’ poe) is Calabria’s main red grape variety both in terms of quantity and quality. It’s a prolific, hardy grape that holds up well in Calabria’s warm, dry climate. But the character of Gaglioppo wines can vary considerably from one area to another and, more importantly, from producer to producer. While much of Gaglioppo-based wines are rough, rustic and rarely exported, the right combination of location and winemakers can result in warm, tannic wines with good structure, rich exotic flavors and international appeal.

The Librandi estate is a family-owned winery located in Ciro Marina, a small town on the Ionian coast south of the Gulf of Taranto. While Librandi has been in the wine business for generations, it was only in the 1950s that the family decided to start producing and bottling  its own wines. The estate has approximately 580 acres planted with eight varietals that include both indigenous varietals like Gaglioppo and Mantonico and internationally popular ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Librandi is Calabria’s most well-known and recognized winery and has worked hard to put Calabria on the world’s wine map. Some of its wines, such as its Duca San Felice Rosso Riserva and Magno Megonio Rosso, have garnered international acclaim and recognition.Librandi, "Gravello" Val di Neto IGT 2006

The 2006 Librandi “Gravello” Val di Neto Rosso is a blend of 60 percent Gaglioppo grown in the Val di Neto vineyard south of Cirò and 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. After fermentation in stainless steel, temperature-controlled tanks, the wine sits in repose in small oak barrels for 12 months and then spends an additional 6 months in the bottle prior to release.

The wine is deep red in color with purple edges and generous aromas of prunes, plums and kitchen spices. It is full-bodied, well-structured with firm tannins and a nice combination of dark cherry flavors and earthy notes. Tony Quinn of Cleveland Park Liquor and Wines aptly describes it as “a wine with considerable weight and concentration.”  It’s a gorgeous wine that goes well with flavorful foods or can simply be sipped by itself.

This wine works best with hefty soups and pastas loaded with vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes and peppers as well as roasts, game and aged cheeses. Try it with a rich, flavorful lamb stew served on a bed of polenta or mashed potatoes.

Where can I buy this wine? Available at Cleveland Park Liquor and Wine but otherwise difficult to find locally.

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
October 27, 2010

Return to wines of the month reviews.


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