Happy Sunday! If you are managing through a “dry January” congratulations, you are in your last week of holding out. If you are like me who resolved simply to take a wine country trip every day through the bottle, making every glass an adventure, let’s go around the world with a few wine selections that may not be on your radar, but should be.
Though some may say Tuscany is the shining star of Italy, my heart is firmly planted in Piemonte. It had me at Nebbiolo, the region’s rustic, robust, red wine variety, then add in the white truffles of Alba, then add in festivals to celebrate both, and top it off with the home of the original Eataly, and I am hooked. Though the highly celebrated Barolo and Barbaresco get most of the region’s attention, the total area surrounding the two villages, also known as Langhe, showcases the rustic, robust variety with an easy approachability, sometimes coming from the same vineyard as Barolo or Barbaresco, just from younger vines or vines. From the Martinega vineyard within Barbaresco, Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Langhe Nebbiolo DOC ($25) reveals this lighter style, bringing subtle floral notes together with ripe red berry, sour cherry, crushed pomegranate, and subtle herb. Aged in concrete and stainless steel, allowing the freshness to be maintained in the fruit, with a touch of bottle aging to help round out the wine’s natural tannins.
The “King of Wine, and the Wine of Kings” also known as Barolo is concentrated, complex, highly structured, and highly celebrated as the rolling hills of the Piemontese region allow the full grandeur of the Nebbiolo variety to shine. It is simply beauty in a glass, especially when you give the wine time to age in the bottle, and then open in the glass. We enjoyed a 2012 Prunotto Barolo ($60) the other evening. Though some of the fresh fruit and floral notes had given way to dried, revealing dried rose petal, crushed cherry, dried blueberry, prune, and a hint of spice. We opened and enjoyed this special bottle with wonderful friends, sipping slowly, savoring it over the conversation, with laughter, and stories, making the beautiful dry wine that much sweeter.
On the northwestern border of Piemonte, Ghemme DOCG celebrates a similar rustic style of Nebbiolo Barolo and Barbaresco, with strict guidelines for aging, i.e. a minimum of 36 months of which 20 must take place in barrel, and 9 months in bottle before release. But, unlike some of the bolder Barolo wines that require several more years of bottle aging to soften, the Ghemme wines are often ready to enjoy upon release. Blending 90% Nebbiolo with 10% Vespolina, Torraccia del Piantavigna Ghemme DOCG ($45) showcases black and blue fruits, blackberry, blueberry, black plum, and cherry with a tart, slightly sour cherry note, highlighting beautiful acidity and a concentrated tannic structure in the wine. A perfect wine for braised beef or game pairings.
From the Salento region, in Italy’s Puglia, also known as the heel of Italy, between the Ionic and Adriatic sea, lies a fortified road marking the southern border of Masseria Li Veli which in the past separated the land of the Longobards from the land of the Byzantines. Masseria Li Veli is located on an ancient Messapian site with a history dating back to the 8th Century BC. Today, Masseria Li Veli showcases the history of the place with earthy, structured, Old World wines with character. Masseria Li Veli AKOS Susumaniello Salento IGT ($25) celebrates the historic, indigenous variety of Susumaniello. Dense and rich, with balanced tannin, and lengthy structure, the licorice, leather, and black and blue fruit-filled wine is ideal for pairing with roasted lamb or pork belly.
Hoping over to Portugal, and the Douro Valley to the land of Port wine, and stellar, hearty, concentrated red wines perfect to warm you through the winter months. Chryseia ($80) from the partnership of Prats & Symington showcases the field blend of red grapes typically used for making the fortified favorite, as a dry, bold, powerful wine. Meaning “golden” in Greek, the wine blends 55%Touriga Franca with 45%Touriga Nacional, revealing fresh red fruit, wildflowers, black licorice, dusty leather, and forest floor notes. This is the wine to pair with a steakhouse dinner of grilled ribeyes and dark chocolate cake.