When one speaks of “terroir”, there is obvious reference to the earth in which the vines are planted. But the roots of those vines go deeper still into the history and “sense of place” that defines a wine making region. This was made clear to me at two focus tastings I recently attended which introduced me to the Italian wine regions of Calabria and Puglia.
VINO California Grand Tasting – May 14, 2013 – Los Angeles
Seminar: “Call to Calabria: Discovering the Wines from the “Toe” of Italy’s Peninsula”
Calabria, located in the “toe” of Italy’s “boot”, is steeped in ancient history, surrounded by Mediterranean beauty, and a testament to locally produced wines paired with the local flavors of seafood, cured meats, salty capers and spicy pepperoncino. Over 90% of the regions wine production is red wine, much of which until recent years was transported elsewhere and used as blending wine. Now, however, Calabria is emerging as its own wine producing region with wines that are pure and honest expressions of where they come from. These wines share a unique flavor profile with plenty of character, earthiness, rusticity and approachable tannins….all at very affordable prices.
Our tasting was led by an esteemed panel of wine experts: Anthony Dias Blue, Editor-In-Chief, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Piero Selvaggio of Valentino Restaurant and Jonathan Mitchell of Locanda del Lago Restaurant. They spoke colorfully and expressively of the wines, the producers and the memorable food pairings they had experienced in Calabria and re-created in their restaurants.
Of the 7 wines we tasted, I scored them all highly, and would be delighted to have any of them in my cellar. I look forward to the future availability of these wines in local wine stores. Here are some of the highlights:
Azienda Agricola Biologica Santa Venere White Ciro DOC 2012 – Greco grape – crisp, fresh, good acidity
Statti Mantonico IGT 2010 – acacia, figs, green tea
Casa Vinicola Crisera SRL Nerone de Calabria IGT 2008 – 70% Norelo 30% Sangiovese – Dark, complex, leathery, robust, chocolate finish – pair with game
Cantine Viola Moscato Passito IGT Calabria 2010 – From Greco de Bianco on Ionian coast – Orange/Brown color, viscous, dried figs/raisins – pair with sweet ricotta or fustic desserts like fig/almond cake and biscotti
At the Grand Tasting the choices of wines to taste was overwhelming! Where’s a plate of pasta when you need it? By far, though, the most informative table I visited was that of US Import Manager, Stefano, who had so much wonderful info to share about Italian wine in general and in particular the wines of Beni de Batasiolo. Nestled in the heart of Piemonte in orthern Italy, they produce 7 different Barolos as well as wines made from Barbera, Chardonnay, Cortese, Dolcetto and Moscato.
Related links: Italy America Chamber of Commerce West (IACCW)
North American Sommelier Association presents: Puglia – featuring the wines of Tormaresca – May 20, 2013 – The Wine House, Los Angeles
The wine making region of Puglia occupies the “heel of the boot” that is Italy. Winters are short, the weather is warm, the Mediterranean Sea beckons. With 400 miles of coastline, Puglia has been named as one of the “top 10” tourist destinations for 2013. Tormaresca export manager, Vito Palumbo, regaled us with stories of a diverse history clearly reflected today in the area’s architecture, gastronomy and wine style. Like Calabria, the wines made here were sold as bulk wine, but during the 80’s and 90’s went through what Vito describes as a “renaissance”, with today’s production decreasing in quantity and increasing in quality. The area is 7400 square miles, and while heavily planted to vine, the focus is on the grape quality. Those grape varietals include Fiano, Chardonnay, Primitivo, Negroamaro, Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The two wine estates of Tormaresca, “Bocca de Lupo” in the Castel del Monte DOC of northern Puglia and “Masseria Maime”, in the southern DOC, Salento, are committed to producing high-quality wines with what they call “strong territorial identity”, at affordable prices and accessible in the American market.
The 2011 Tormaresca Chardonnay had unique salty notes from the soils located so near the sea. Lots of fresh fruit with a hint of minerality. Long finish.
The 2005 Masseria Maime Negroamaro, awarded 90 points by Wine Enthusiast, was a big, lush wine, complex, powerful with an earthy-licorice finish.
I actually enjoyed all 6 of the Tormaresca wines we tasted, and would not hesitate to purchase them for my cellar.
I’LL DRINK TO THAT!