Sunday, February 23, 2014

Matteo Correggia Arneis DOCG 2012 (Piedmont)

Go over the Tanaro River from Barbaresco, or north of Alba, and you are in Roero. As with their Piedmontese neighbours, Arneis, Barbera and Nebbiolo grow across the Roero communes, with a sprinkling of the 'international' varieties. Arneis is grown for sparkling and still white wines here, as well as being used for co-fermentation with Nebbiolo.

Matteo Correggia took over his father's mixed farm in 1985 and until his death in 2001 drove many improvements in the viticulture, winemaking, marketing and reputation of the Roero. Correggia now manage over 20 hectares of vines on mainly sandy soils, with the Arneis and Brachetto grapes given to the sheltered slopes.

Well known as a forward-thinking producer (though no mad modernist), it is not a surprise to see the 2012 Roero Arneis under a Stelvin Lux closure. The packaging looks good and so does the first impression given by this wine. Attractive to smell, this has pear, apple, white blossom and some lime on the nose and these carry through to the mid palate, along with some astringent and slightly bitter characters. This feels a bit too forced, pushing for flavour but copping extracted and boozy character. It holds together, just, on a first day of opening, but the astringency and alcohol dominates and the wine unspools by a second evening open.

Not a convincing argument for Arneis, to my taste, but fair value at $20.

Screwcap, purchase, $20, 13%, brought in by Beaune & Beyond, website here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Girlan Pinot Bianco 2012 (Südtirol/Alto Adige)

Cantina Girlan is a co-operative established in 1923, working with a wide range of Northern Italian white and red grape varieties as well as making blends of these. This wine is from their "Classici" range.

Ripe, balanced, pleasantly weighty and even-textured along the palate, this is a good value example of what Südtirol and Alto Adige can do with grapes like Pinot Bianco. The fruit is from Cornaiano and the wine is entirely about stainless steel fermentation and some aging in tank on lees. 

Aromatics are subtle, a gentle push up of apple, pear and pome fruit blossom, with most of the action on the front and mid-palate. Not exactly waxy, there is a smooth and silky texture here, more than a straight acid line. Alcohol is nicely folded in to the wine and does not show on the finish at all.

A good option for antipasti, seafood pasta, chicken dishes or roast pork with a potato gratin. I bought this from Prince Wine Store at $22 a bottle, and it is fine value there, but will often be in retail closer to $30 a bottle. 

Also a smart listing at Jamie's Italian in Canberra at $72 a bottle and described as "a favourite for any chardonnay drinker". That might suggest oak treatment (which this has none of) but is not a bad way to introduce new drinkers to the texture and feel on offer here. Quite a few restaurants in Australia listing Italian wines could do with looking to how that list translates Italian grapes and wines for an Australian audience.

Brought in by Bibendum. Purchase, $22, cork, 13% alcohol, website here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Giuseppe Quintarelli 'Primofiore' IGT 2007 (Veneto)

This is the entry point red from famed Amarone producer Quintarelli. There is Corvina and Corvinone here, but not Rondinella or Molinara grapes. Bringing up the rest of the blend is some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Some of the fruit spent time racked and boxed, as per Amarone method, prior to crushing and fermentation.

The name of the wine, 'Primofiore', means first press. Fruit destined for Quintarelli's Amarone barrels is crushed with the free-run juice sent to Amarone and some of the first pressings sent into the Primofiore. A kind of reverse Ripasso, in a way.

I wanted to like this, tasted without reading about the wine, alongside smoked ham, good bread and salads. There are red fruits of interest, mostly cherried in flavour, with a bit of an olive character. There is length and persistence here too, a light and brightly-acidic expression of the Veneto.

But fundamentally this wine is simply too green. There is a dominant green bean character pressing down on all other aspects of the wine, with capsicum spice threaded through as well. This mix of green smells and flavours, overweighting the red fruits, gives a sense of stuffing-absent, of under-ripeness verging on shrill.

There are better ways to spend $90 than on this wine. A fine producer, but give this one a miss.

$90, purchase, cork, 13.5%.

Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto d'Alba 2011 (Piedmont)

Serious Dolcetto here. A silky line, fuzzed up by well-extracted fruit tannin. Lots of length. As with the Sandrone Nebbiolo d'Alba, there is a beautiful lift of mouth-perfume here, on top of the floral and gently musky smells in the glass. Again akin to the Nebbiolo, there is a mixture of cherry and cherry stone characters in the wine, with no oak influence.

One of the best examples of Dolcetto I have tried - as much a Sandrone wine as the 'little, sweet one' of the variety. More interest, length, texture and layered flavour than a lot of basic Nebbiolo. Give it a decant. Try with a pork sausage pasta dish or pizza with cured meats. Fine value too.

$35, purchase, cork, 13%, imported by Bibendum, website here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Luciano Sandrone 'Valmaggiore' Nebbiolo d'Alba 2007 (Piedmont)

While I am still not convinced that Nebbiolo is for me, wines like this make a persuasive case for their place on the dinner table.

The 'Valmaggiore' in the name of this bottling is a reference to a single vineyard. There is not a long history of single vineyard expression in Piedmont, but many producers have headed down this path in recent years for at least some of their nebbiolo-based wines.

This 2007 has a beautiful, assured feel about it. Lithe and long, tannins ripple around the cherried fruit. Mouth-perfume. A lick of a cherry-pip, nutty character here that is really appealing. The absence of new oak shows with a clear expression of nebbiolo tannin that does not dominate the fruit. A well-balanced example of the quality to be had outside Barolo and Barbaresco bottlings.

Very easy to drink at the moment, though a few more years in bottle would not hurt either. Worth a purchase.

Cork, purchase, $90, 13.5% alcohol, imported by Bibendum, website here.

Pizzini 'White Roman' 2012 (King Valley)

This is a new white blend from Pizzini, with a different varietal mix and character from the initial release. Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Grigio are the varieties used. That mix says the very north of Italy to me rather than Rome, and I'd prefer a name less passing-off Italian geography than 'White Roman', but to give the Pizzini's their due, this is a successful example of an acid-driven but still textured white blend.

If anything, the gewurtz is muted here. Overall alcohol is labelled as 12%, so perhaps the gewurtz fruit was picked without the heady lychee & Turkish Delight aromatics it is capable of. Acid kicks off on the front palate and carries the wine through, with a wash of soft and generous fruit in the mid-palate. Citrus runs the line, but this is clearly about more than riesling drive. Lighter pasta with a chilli kick would be a good idea with this, or Cajun-spiced fish dishes. Would not go astray with a prawn sandwich either.

Drink now. Screwcap, $18.50, purchase from cellar door, 12% alcohol, website here.

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2010 (Tuscany)

I had hoped the 2010 vintage of Isole e Olena's Chianti Classico would come close to the quality of their 2006 release, which has been a favourite Chianti of mine. But not to be.

I looked at this over several nights and while it is likely to improve with time in bottle, it is medicinal, herbal and does not hold its shape from front to back. The fruit poked up more evidently on day three, but on the showing of this bottle it is a pass from me.

Cork, $38, purchase, 14% alcohol, brought in by Negociants.