My friend and co-worker Tom Kaylor (the guy who pours your wine for you on Fridays) gave me one of my favorite birthday gifts this year, a book by wine writer Ian D’Agata called “Native Wine Grapes of Italy,” and I’ve been reading bits of it every night. Through my reading, I’ve realized that I really don’t know that much about Italian wine. Yeah, I’ve had my fair share of Chianti, Barolo, Brunello and Pinot Grigio, but if you think those four wines encapsulate Italian wine, think again. It is estimated that there are close to 3,000 different grape varieties used to make wine in Italy, and many of these wines deserve the same attention that their more famous peers get. We’re going to give several of those traditional and indigenous wines of Italy the respect they deserve at our tasting this Friday, December 12th.
You can stop by any time between 4 and 7 p.m. to taste five different and unique Italian wines, and the cost is just $5 to try them all. The highlight of the tasting will be the opportunity to taste the 2012 Frappato from Arianna Occhipinti, one my Top 5 wines of the year. The other four wines are fantastic as well. Stop by, taste some wines, learn a thing or two, and save some money — all tasting wines are 10% off by the bottle, 15% off if you mix six of them, and 20% off if you mix twelve or more of them.
1. 2013 Stefano Massone Gavi “Masera” (Piemonte): There was a time when Gavi was all the rage in Italy. Even though the wine comes from Northwestern Italy, it was served in countless seafood restaurants along the coast. As it became more popular and demand rose, many producers began making inferior versions. The Cortese grape is the one responsible for Gavi, and when yields are too high, the wine can be completely bland and boring. Stefano Massone has gone to great lengths to repair the reputation of this wine, and his Masera bottling is one of the best Gavi values in the world. With bright notes of grapefruit and green apple, along with some mineral richness, this is a great white wine and one that should appeal to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers.
2. 2012 Torre dei Beati Pecorino “Giochermo Con I Fiori” (Abruzzo): The Pecorino grape (from pecora, meaning sheep) is an ancient varietal that is said to have been domesticated from local wild grapes. The tiny Torre dei Beati Estate is mentioned in D’Agata’s book as one of the regions top three producers of this unique white wine. Beautifully aromatic, this one bursts out of the glass with aromas of pear, peach, citrus fruits and flowers leading into a zesty palate of bright fruit and mild mineral
3. 2012 Valle dell’Acate “Case Ibidini” Nero d’Avla (Sicily): Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most widely planted red wine variety, and it requires warmth and sunshine to thrive. The version from Valle dell’Acate, one of Sicily’s greatest producers, is full of charm and character. Fermented in stainless steel, it is a bright, medium bodied red with notes of fresh plum, cherry, smoke and spice. For fans of bigger Pinot Noirs, this is a great go-to and a great value as well.
4. 2012 Vecchia Torre Salice Salentino (Puglia): Salice Salentino is a wine that always brings me great comfort, kind of like a warm blanket on a cold night. Composed primarily of Negroamaro with smaller amounts of Malvasia Nera, this rustic red wine is full bodied, moderately rich, and quite easy to drink. Sweet cherry, spicy plum, and a slight taste of anise all make an appearance in this classic Italian comfort wine.
5. 2012 Arianna Occhipinti Frappato (Sicily): Arianna Occhipinti has become a seminal figure to a new generation of wine lovers. Her rise to prominence has been meteoric, and rightfully so: anyone who has met Ari will instantly vouch that her charming personality and positive attitude are contagious. Not only that, she makes one of the best Frappatos on the island of Sicily. Frappato is a really fun red grape that makes lighter styled, highly aromatic red wines, and Arianna’s is simply fantastic. Not cheap, but fantastic.