Monday, October 25, 2010

Beechworth, King Valley, Glenrowan: 3 parts Italian

Got back last night from a weekend in Northern Victoria. The major drawcard was the first open day at Castagna in Beechworth. I consider the Castagna La Chiave straight sangiovese and the Un Segreto 'super-Beechworth' syrah-sangiovese blend some of the top Italian wines in Australia and have been purchasing Castagna wines for several years.

But the trip also meant I could look at the Italian wines of Chrismont at their new cellar door in the King Valley, and then cross the Hume Highway to look at the 1919 vines trebbiano from Booths Taminick Cellars at Glenrowan.

Highlights for me:
- the 2004 La Chiave sangiovese from Castagna has developed beautifully with years of growth still to come, though the Genesis syrah and Sparkling Genesis were the standout Castagna wines
- the Chrismont prosecco had all the dangerous drinkability of good cava, but their Barbera was the most impressive Italian in the range
- at $14 a bottle, sourced from trebbiano vines planted in 1919, with some attractive fruit and flesh on the midpalate, the 1919 Taminick Cellars trebbiano seriously over-delivers.

Each visit deserves a separate write-up, but the two days as a whole confirmed the prospects of three northern Victorian regions to make distinctive and interesting wines from Italian grape varieties.

The image, taken by Tammy, is of the 2008 Genesis syrah, looking out to the Castagna vineyard.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Colle Vecchio, Pecorino 2007 (Le Marche)

Just how many grape varieties are there in Italy? More than 350 varieties have authorised status, and estimates range widely as to how many hundreds (even thousands) there may be in total.

This wine, from the Marches (that coastal and hilly region of the centre, adjoining Umbria and Tuscany), is the first wine I have had from the pecorino grape. Pecorino, grown in Le Marche and a handful of other Italian regions, was a grape 're-discovered' by Guido Cocci Grifoni in the 1980s. An early ripening white grape, pecorino can develop rich flavours, textures and potential alcohol. Low productivity had caused its decline until the recent revival of interest.

This bottle started out showing cheesy characters, with passionfruit and pear carrying through the nose and into the palate. Nice, lingering phenolics, even a bit of tannin, takes you out (along with some oldish, slightly oxidised, citrus notes). Interesting wine, and could go well with antipasti such as grilled marinated vegetables or a seafood salad.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cantina dei Colli Amerini, Terre Auree 2009 Trebbiano (Umbria)

My sagrantino issues threaten hopeless bias in favour of the wines of Umbria, though the whites from there are still mysterious to me.

This wine, from Cantina dei Colli Amerini, is 100% trebbiano. There is lemon, lemon cordial, a note of Bickfords lime, some chalky/talc characters, and a refreshing finish. While it is a bit one-dimensional, the acids are layered, lengthy and add genuine interest to the wine. 12% alcohol.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spring in the vineyard

I quite like some of the dancing forms and shapes you can see in young vine shoots. This is a nine year old shiraz vine, taken tonight in the early evening.

The grafted sagrantino is waking up more slowly than everything else in the vineyard. The 2006 plantings of tempranillo and savagnin are all showing good early growth on those cane-pruned vines.
This photograph shows early shoot and leaf growth in the cane-pruned savagnin; looking like a good set of possible bunches.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Italian lamb, 2008 The Story Grampians shiraz

Sometimes for me it is easy to forget how well certain Italian dishes and Australian wines go together. Last night, a case in point: simple roast of organic lamb with rosemary, paired with the 2008 The Story Grampians shiraz. The lithe, savoury, bright aspects of the wine brought out the sweetness of the lamb and the crisp oily aromatics of the rosemary. More Grampians shiraz for me in this style, I think. The pairing would also have worked with the crisp sage and sweet, salty meat of a veal saltimbocca.

The simplicity and beauty of the single panel label, shown here next to developing fruit of a dwarf purple shahtoot mulberry, is also something to admire. And did I mention it is available for $22 a bottle and has good development ahead of it?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sotto la pergola - new Australian Italian wine blog

Twitter is good for all sorts of things. It let me know that a few days ago a new wine blog came on to the scene. Sotto la pergola, or under the vine, is the Australian blog for Italian wine importers Trembath and Taylor.

The first couple of posts, including one on closures in the Italian wine industry, show some of the benefits of having direct knowledge of the Italian wine scene. Italian wine (even more so than German?) can be a bit of a maze, as my slow rate of learning is showing me. Great to see people with years of experience (going since 1994 as importers) taking the time to share knowledge about their passions and their business.

This also reminds me that I wanted to do some profiles of importers and distributors of Italian wines for this site: Arquilla, Mondo Imports, Bibendum, Douglas Lamb Wines, as well as Trembath & Taylor, are just some of what is an active import scene.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Alinga 2009 Sangiovese (Canberra)

This is the first sangiovese I have had from the Four Winds Vineyard at Murrumbateman that provides fruit for the Alinga wines. Advertised as hand-pruned and basket-pressed, the fruit is from vines of the 'Yarra Yering' clone (no longer grown at Yarra Yering, if I recall correctly). I am unclear as to whether this clone is the H6V9 clone brought in from UCD Davis in the late 1960s, or of one of the later imports from Italy in the 1980s.

The wine is attractive. Very much at the lighter end of the colour and fruit-weight spectrum, it shows best without being too cold. Red fruits, slightly medicinal cherries, good acid and some clear tannin. On night two, it had put on weight in the bottle and went well with beef dumplings, showing less acid and tannin and more the characteristics of a generic dry red. While more clearly varietal when first opened, it went well with food and is decent value at $19 a bottle.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Poggiotondo Cerro del Masso 2006 (Chianti)

Poggiotondo, or 'round hill' makes several wines, including a Chianti Superiore and this wine: a blend of 80% sangiovese, 10% merlot, 5% syrah and 5% colorino. Alberto Antonini is responsible for managing the operation, following in the footsteps of his father Carlo, who founded the original Poggiotondo property (called Cerro del Masso) in 1969.

This wine, sealed with Diam, offers appealing Chianti freshness: a lightness of fruit, tangy acid and some good length. The blending components seem to fill out the fruit profile, adding flesh and structure. I would not have picked the 5% shiraz in this wine, which made me wonder what difference the shiraz made beyond the impact of the merlot and the colorino.

Tasted over two nights, the wine went well with home-made pizza. Perhaps the best match of wine and topping was with roast jerusalem artichoke, mashed with confit garlic and fresh thyme, spread over the base and then topped with cubes of organic bacon.

The image is of Alberto Antonini tasting Poggiotondo grapes.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Path life

The last four rows of grenache are to go in today. Lots of time at ground level, working planting spears and dormant vines into soil, mulching, guarding. Lots to see at ground level - this fungi from a path in the front garden (dryland Mediterranean) at home.