fine italian wines for the month of october 2009

Wine for october - Under $25

Taurino, Notarpanaro 2001 (about $20)

Cosimo Taurino, the founder of the Taurino winery, was one of the first producers from Puglia (located in the “heel” of Italy’s geographic “boot”) to bottle and successfully sell wines in the international market. When most of his colleagues were content to produce dull and insipid wines for local consumption or for use as blending wines in northern Italy and elsewhere in Europe, Taurino was producing reasonably priced, high-quality wines that found a ready market worldwide.  A dedicated winemaker and enthusiastic entrepreneur, Taurino helped pave the way for other Puglia producers to expand their market reach by upgrading their wine-making operations and quality of their products.

Notarpanaro (pronounced no tahr pah’ nah row) is made from the Negroamaro grape, a native variety that grows almost exclusively in Puglia. Negroamaro, literally “black bitter”, produces flavorful, rounded wines with mouth-filling fruit flavors and, as its name suggests, a pleasant bitter taste in the finish.

Taurino, Notarpanaro 2001Notarpanaro is a single-vineyard, estate-bottled wine produced entirely from Negroamaro grapes harvested from 20 year old vines in the Salento area. After fermentation, the wine is aged for three years in wood and then spends an additional three years in the bottle before release for sale. Think about that: six years between harvest and release of the wine for sale. Either the Taurino estate’s marketing goals are very opaque or the world just moves a little slower in Puglia than in, say, Napa.

Taurino’s 2001 Notarpanaro is a deeply aromatic wine with a deep, red color with just a hint of ruby on the edge. It’s a wine that speaks clearly of its warm Mediterranean patrimony with deep, ripe, earthy black fruit and plum flavors with herb and spice notes. It is medium- to full-bodied and very lush with ample fruit tannins and a balanced, spicy finish. This wine offers a lot for its price.

The 2001 Notarpanaro goes well with porcini risotto, pasta dishes with red sauce, stews and grilled or roasted meats.

Where can I buy this wine? - available at Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits, Pearson's Wine and Spirits, Corridor Wine and Spirits (Laurel, MD), Total Wines and More and Wells Discount Liquors (Baltimore).

Wine for october – $25 and over

Travaglini, Gattinara 2003 (about $32)

Gattinara is a red wine that takes its name from the small commune of Gattinara tucked away in the hills in the northern part of Italy’s renowned Piedmont region. Gattinara is produced from Nebbiolo grapes, locally known as Spanna, grown within the boundaries of the Gattinara DOCG zone.

Well-made Gattinara wines from quality-oriented producers such as Travaglini, Nervi or Antoniolo, share some of the best features of good Barolos or Barbarescos but are more approachable and sell for about half the price. Like other Nebbiolo-based wines, Gattinara wines have the requisite stuffing in the form of structure, tannins and acidity that enable them to age remarkably well.

The Travaglini estate is a family-owned winery located in the center of the hilly Gattinara zone. Established in 1958, the Travaglini estate now has 95 acres under vine and is the largest producer in the Gattinara zone. It has a small but solid line-up of Gattinara-based wines. Although they have been producing excellent Gattinara wines for over a half-century, it is only in the last decade or so that their wines have gained their proper recognition in the international markets.

The 2003 Gattinara by Travaglini is made from 100 percent Nebbiolo. ThTravaglini, Gattinara 2003e wine is aged for two years in different size oak barrels and spends another year in bottle before release for sale. Travaglini wines are easily recognized on wine shop shelves. Rather than using the traditional, steep-shouldered red wine bottle, Travaglini wines come in short, squat bottles with a unique curved shape designed to fit comfortably into the palm of your hand. The bottle shape is a form of branding that Travaglini has used since the early 1950’s.

Deep ruby red in color, the 2003 Gattinara has fetching, exotic aromas of dried fruit and kitchen spices. It is a full, ripe and concentrated wine but with a sultry, velvety character and a long, generous finish. A truly impressive wine that is ready to drink now but will develop still further with several more years of aging.

This wine pairs well with red meat and game dishes and rich meats such as roast pork or roast duck.

Where can I buy this wine? - available at Total Wines and More, Corridor Wine and Spirits (Laurel, MD), Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Rodman's (in D.C.), Morris Miller and Wells Discount Liquors (Baltimore).

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
October 8, 2009
Updated January 18, 2013


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