As you know, I love all wine but I have a soft spot in my heart for Italian wine. While I enjoy the acidity and bright fruit flavors that most Italian wines exhibit, I love the passion that Italians, and particularly Italian winemakers, have for wine. It’s infectious. The Italians vinify varietals that 99.9% of the population has never heard of, including a number that date back to ancient Rome and the Greeks. The Italians do tons of crazy stuff with their grapes – the same grape could be vinified still or sparkling or left to dry on straw mats for sweet wine. Plus, the difference in wine culture from North to South is stark and reflected in the wines themselves.
As this year draws to a close and the New Year dawns, I can’t imagine celebrating the end of the old and the beginning of the new without a tipple of Italian wine. While I certainly enjoy Italian sparklers, New Year’s Eve belongs to the French. There is nothing quite like celebrating the new year with Champagne. Instead, I thought that I would focus on some of the amazing red wines out of Northern Italy, from areas like Valtellina, Tuscany and Umbria. These incredible wines will make a fine accompaniment to almost any meal in the New Year.
- 2006 Podere le Boncie “Le Trame” Chianti Classico (Tuscany, 100% Sangiovese, $46). This is the only wine made by Podere le Boncie. Headed by a female winemaker, Giovanna Morganti, Podere le Boncie produces a brilliant Chianti that is elegant and expressive of Sangiovese, reflecting bright cherry and earth.
- 2008 Luce (Tuscany, 45% Sangiovese and 55% Merlot, $93). Another Tuscan stunner. This wine resulted from the partnership of Robert Mondavi and the Frescobaldi family, who have been making wines in Tuscany since 1308. It’s a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, which provides roundness and lushness to the wine. Beautiful cherry notes with brambleberry, leather and spice notes.
- 2007 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso (Umbria, 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Merlot, $23). You may have heard of Super Tuscans but Super Umbrians are next! Umbria is located next to Tuscany and produces many fine wines. Arnaldo-Caprai is a leader in the Umbrian wine movement and the Montefalco Rosso is a gorgeous blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino (an incredibly tannic grape that is Umbria’s native grape) and Merlot. The wine is a big yet elegant wine with red cherry, currant and plum with hints of vanilla. A steal at $23.
- 2007 Palo Bea Rosso Montefalco Rosso (Umbria, 30% Sangoviese, 5% Montelpuciano d’Abruzzo and 65% Storico Vitgno Avtoctoni Montefalco Generato (also known as Sagrantino), $40). One of the most famed producers in Umbria. This family has been producing wines in Montefalco since the 1500’s and has incredibly exacting standards. While they employ some modern wine making techniques, they also continue to use centuries old natural winemaking techniques. This wine is big and bold, showing the influence of the Sagrantino (with the alcohol is kept in check), with violets, blue fruit, spice, cocoa and tobacco.
- 2004 Conti Sertoli Salis “Grumello” (Valtellina, Lombardy, old vine Nebbiolo $33). The family that makes this wine has been making wine for centuries. Starting in the 1860’s, they began bottling their wine to provide to their friends in the European nobility. The popularity of the wine led the family to vinify more and sell it to the public. The “Grumello” is made with one of the most noble of all grapes – Nebbiolo – producing an intense, tannic wine with notes of bright red fruit, flowers (reds and violets) and earth. Don’t be fooled by it’s pretty light color.
* photo courtesy of winecountry.it