Tag: Italian wine

Pignolo – Not the Nut, But the Wine

Most foodies know that pignolo is Italian for pine nut.  So, it was a big surprise when Andrew the sommelier at Felidia’s in NYC asked us if we’d like to try a Pignolo -we thought he was joking.  He served us a 2000 Pignol from Bressan, a producer in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.  It was a great wine, having just the right notes of pepper and spice – it was med-full bodied but had sensational aromatics, with a nice after-taste of raspberry.  So, we were intrigued, and wanted to learn a bit more about the Pignolo grape. The grape is a native red variety grown predominantly in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy.  Besides being the same name as the pine nut, it also means “fussy” in Italian, which very much describes the grape. So, it is no surprise that Pignolo wines are somewhat rare, with just a few dedicated producers. But it’s worthwhile to try to find, since the wines are typically well balanced (flavors, tannins, acidity). Look for the Bressan wine (about $60), Jermann (about $30), Livon (about $30), or Moschioni (a top-end producer – expect to pay about $100).

Falanghina – Hard to Pronounce, Great to Drink

While wondering around one of the local wine stores a number of years ago, we stumbled on a white Italian wine with an unusual name in an unusual bottle from a producer in the Campania region called Taburno.  For a price of $17, it was worth a try.  Since that time, it is one of our favorite Italian white wine, especially for the summer months. The wine has gained in popularity over the last several years, as more and more people experience the unique characteristics of Falanghina, and many of us wine geeks write about it. This grape grows well in the southern Italian regions of Basilicata and Campania.  A great description of the Falanghina grape and its history can be found on Viviwine.com. They note that Falanghina was almost lost forever during a phylloxera plague, but was brought back to life by the Martusciello family in the 70’s. The wines from Basilicata tend to have riper flavors, and are more full-bodied than the Campania versions.  The Campania versions tend to be more acidic, and have a refined structure.  It is typically a medium to full bodied wine, having lots of aroma of honeysuckle, stone fruits, honey, but with some […]

Roero Arneis

We are always trying wines, white or red, that will match well with lighter meals of salad and fresh fish.  We have several “go-to” wines from Italy, including Arneis, a white Italian grape from Piedmont, Italy. There are a number of growing regions for this special grape, most commonly found in the hills of the Roero, northwest of Alba, where it is part of the white Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) wines of Roero. We’ve also had wines from Langhe made from Arneis, which are also delightful. Arneis means little rascal in the local Piedmontese dialect, because it is indeed a problem child to cultivate.  It’s not so surprising to find that there are only a few handfuls of dedicated growers and producers of Arneis, but they are generally worthy of finding.  The Arneis wines are crisp and light in color, but with a full body.  The nose is typically floral with hints of mineral and lemon or lime. The taste is pronounced pear and apricot, sometimes with hints of melon, particularly cantaloupe and honeydew. We’ve listed the Arneis wines as great bargain whites, with most coming under $20, but there are a few which range a bit higher.  Here […]

Rosso di Spicca – The Chateauneuf de Pape of Italy

We start this series of 20 under $20 with one of the best, most alluring, and maybe the most obscure wines of Italy.  Rosso di Spicca (Pronounced Row-So dee Spee-ka) is a Ovietano Rosso – a red wine coming from the Ovieto region of Umbria in central Italy.  Many people know the white wines from Ovieto, and there are many good, and a few great, Ovieto white wines.  The vast majority of the Ovieto white wines are under $20, so you will see a blog about these very soon. But most folks, even my go-to Italian wine merchant (Will at www.italianwinemerchants.com/) were a bit stumped by these hidden gem.  We first came across this wonder in the wine store attached to our favorite Italian market in Florida (Mazzaro‘s in St. Petersburg – as for Jeff). We were looking for an interesting red wine that would match well with an array of food flavors – and Jeff from Mazzaro’s said this was the best.  He was right. The Ovietano Rosso is a relatively new designation, being recognized as a DOC in 1998.  We coined it as the Chateauneuf de Pape of Italy because it is typically made from a blend of […]

Vermentino – Mr. Versatile

This is the first in our series, discussing some very interesting white wines from indigenous Italian grapes.  We are always on the look-out for serious producers who focus on quality, willing to spend time in the vineyard to control flavor, and willing to use more labor intensive fermentation techniques to make a final product which brings out the best in their production.  The best of these wines will sing along side of food, especially those foods from the same regions.  Our first posting is about one of our favorites – vermentino. Vermentino is a late-ripening white grape variety, and is the primary grape for white wine  in Sardinia, and to some extent in Corsica, in Piedmont under the name Favorita, and in increasing amounts in the Tuscany region.  Vermentino also shows up in wines from other regions, such as Colle Solato from Umbria (we’ll review this wine in one of our next postings). The  Vermentino wine which often gets the most attention is the DOCG Vermentino di Gallura which is produced in the province of Olbia-Tempio, in the north of Sardinia.  It’s a good wine with mildly-flavored seafood, but it is difficult to drink alone or with other stronger flavors.  A […]

The Italian White Wine Series: The Vermentino Grape

  This is the first in our series, discussing some very interesting white wines from indigenous Italian grapes.  We are always on the look-out for serious producers who focus on quality, willing to spend time in the vineyard to control flavor, and willing to use more labor intensive fermentation techniques to make a final product which brings out the best in their production.  The best of these wines will sing along side of food, especially those foods from the same regions. Vermentino is a late-ripening white grape variety, and is the primary grape for white wine  in Sardinia, and to some extent in Corsica, in Piedmont under the name Favorita, and in increasing amounts in the Tuscany region.  Vermentino also shows up in wines from other regions, such as Colle Solato from Umbria (we’ll review this wine in one of our next postings). The  Vermentino wine which often gets the most attention is the DOCG Vermentino di Gallura which is produced in the province of Olbia-Tempio, in the north of Sardinia.  It’s a good wine with mildly-flavored seafood, but it is difficult to drink alone or with other stronger flavors.  A classic Vermentino from Sardinia is straw colored (sometimes slightly green), […]

Wine Tastings – Interesting Italian Whites – Zenato Lugana

For a very long time, we very rarely chose an Italian white wine – in fact, we mostly avoided it, considering Italian whites as large production, mass marketed fruit juice.  About 7 years ago, we were at a Wine Spectator event.  The place was paced, and it was hard to get to the wines we had on our list.  We passed by a booth for Cantina Terlano, from Alto Adige – there was no line, so we decided to give their (mostly white) wines a try.  It was truly an eye-opening experience.  Most notable were the sauvignon blanc (called Quarz) and the Gewürztraminer.  The sauvignon was enticingly exotic in the glass, having herbal aromas with a slight exotic fruit overtone.  The taste was reminiscent of the New Zealand, with multilayered fruits of mango, papaya, lime and red grapefruit, but still a bit of sophisticated flint.  The acid balance was very refined, creating a harmonious opulence with a long and impressive finish.  We bought as much as we could find, and still drink the Cantina Terlano wines on a regular basis. Our goal has been to search out more of these small, dedicated producers who have found a niche for making […]

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