Sunday, March 31, 2013

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2006 (Tuscany)

A good chianti vintage and one of my favourite producers.

Red fruits, in the main. Not especially cherried, with some of the fruit-directness of youth melting back into beautiful, resolving tannins. At that lovely point of Chianti Classico aging where it is at its best with food, but a last glass, sipped after dinner, also works well.

This could be left until 2016 if you want it mature, but was so good with saltimbocca, garlic zucchini, potatoes roasted in lard & rosemary that my bottles might not make it. Handled the nutty sweetness of the sauce and the salty punch of the prosciutto so well. Pretty much spot on what I want in Chianti Classico.

Cork. Purchase. $36. 13.5% alcohol.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Foster e Rocco Sangiovese 2010 (Heathcote)

A wine recommended to me at the Heathcote Cellar & Store - surely one of the best venues showcasing regional wines in the country and a good reason to visit Heathcote.

This is the oaked sangiovese from Foster e Rocco, complementing the 'Nuovo' version and released later. Heathcote grapes and from a year at the end of a rough trot of hot vintages. There is some tasty cherried & raspberried fruit here, mostly fresh, a touch jammy. But the tannins show struggle: big, blocky, rasping across your mouth; and out of whack with the fruit. An example of sangiovese shading out of the pleasantly drying tannin spectrum and into harsh dessication. Time may be kind, but my suspicion is this will never come round.

Screwcap, purchase, $20-$25, 13.5% alcohol, website here.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sort of Sicilian

Reading Giorgio Locatelli's book Made in Sicily this morning got me thinking about Sicilian flavours. This recipe is not his, or traditional Sicilian, but works with Sicilian reds or grenache. Try using a pasta like strozzapretti or casarecce with this sauce, or bigoli if you want something longer.

Get a pot on for the pasta. Soak some sultanas in a cup with half hot water and half marsala. Heat a frypan and then take a handful of pine nuts to light gold, before tipping them out to cool. Then gentle heat into the frypan and start melting butter (about 45g per serve). Toss anchovy fillets, sage leaves, garlic & a fresh red chilli (chopped) into the butter. Cook slowly while the pasta water is coming up and then the cup or so of strozzapretti (per serve) or similar is cooking. Gentle heat will break down the anchovy, cook out the sage and colour the milk solids, without getting too much bitter and colour with the garlic.

When the pasta is just short of cooked, add the soaked sultanas to the frypan and mix some pasta water into the soaking cup. Use this to thin the sauce out, shaking the pan to emulsify. Don't worry you are losing the crispness on the sage. All part of the plan. Drain the pasta and tip into the pan with the sauce. Add more of the pasta water/soaking liquid mixture if it needs it. Cook out for a minute or two to let the pasta take the sauce. Add the pine nuts and a little black pepper. The sauce should be salty from the anchovies, savoury from the herbs and garlic and a little sweet from the sultanas and marsala, with the nut brown butter pulling it together.

Serve with a good Sicilian red wine, or some McLaren Vale grenache. No cheese. Maybe a little breadcrumbs if you use bigoli. Resist the temptation to use lemon juice in the sauce - you want the wine to bring the acid to the table.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Di Lusso Nebbiolo 2004 (Mudgee)

Mudgee might be the Neanderthal Man for Italian grape varieties in Australia, but has not yet had its William Golding to write a nuanced history, Inheritors-style. As was the case in Jane Faulkner's recent article in the Wine Companion magazine on Australian sangiovese, there is often a token paragraph acknowledging Carlo Corino and Mudgee being a starting point for Italian varieties in Australia (he arrived at Montrose in 1976, and by 1982 had three hectares of sangiovese, nebbiolo and barbera). But that token paragraph usually ends with some kind of statement that Mudgee has been an evolutionary blind alley - with no line drawn through to the experiences at Coriole, Pizzini, Castagna and others.

This blind alley idea is easy to repeat and hard for Mudgee to shake off. While Montrose continues, now under Bob Oatley's ownership, and makes Italian variety reds including sangiovese and barbera, it is perhaps di Lusso that flies the most Italian flags over Mudgee's brown soils. Di Lusso first picked fruit from their plantings of barbera and nebbiolo in 2002, with sangiovese and picolit first picked the following year. The range now also includes greco di tufo, vermentino, arneis, lagrein and aleatico. Unlike Pizzini, di Lusso have taken the decision to focus entirely on Italian grape varieties and blends.

This 2004 nebbiolo from di Lusso shows both promise and the hazards of young vines. There is nebbiolo flavour and tannin here, plumped up in colour and primary fruit by blending in some barbera. But those nebbiolo flavours look extracted and somewhat awkward, with dried orange peel sitting over something tasting like cherry cola. Varietal if you go looking, but not necessarily a wine I would pick blind as nebbiolo.

Perhaps time to go back to Mudgee for another look?

Cork. Cellar door purchase. Current release price (2011 vintage) $28. 13.6% alcohol. Website here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Primo Estate Joseph Moda Amarone 1993 (McLaren Vale & Coonawarra)

The two most important Australian 'Italianate' wines? For me, it is the Coriole sangiovese and Primo Estate's Moda 'amarone'. Both have a track record of success over decades, including refinements of source vineyards, techniques and styles.

The 1993 Moda is a blend of 80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. The cabernet was sourced from both McLaren Vale and Coonawarra, with the merlot from McLaren Vale. The 1993 was also the second Moda made by Joseph Grilli.

It may be an early example, but this bottle showed that key elements of the Moda 'amarone' style were in place from the beginning. There is a lot of development here, secondary and tertiary characters having overtaken primary fruit, but the structure of amarone-styled wines is there, as is the bittersweet flavour of the dried-grape tannins. Leather shows clearly, up against bitter chocolate and a faded note of berry compote. Perhaps a year or two into its dotage, but a good bit of Australian wine history in this bottle.

Cork. Auction. $45. 14% alcohol. Website here.