Saturday, June 29, 2013

Corte Sant'Alda "Ca' Fiui" Valpolicella 2008 (Veneto)

More Valpolicella.

Peppery spice, sap and stalk to smell. Fruit to the rear, but it is there, as are tannin and acid, tucked down under. If Valpolicella had a cool climate shiraz love child, this would be what it is like.

Which is not bad. Especially with braised lentils and cotechino sausage. No mustard fruits to hand, but a bright tomato pickle worked well in Cremona's stead. A touch of some dull, woody note, which could be oak or the mildest of cork taints. The final impression is somewhat underdone, the 12.5% alcohol shows as gaps in the weight and carry of fruit. A week more of good weather (or a different picking choice and winemaking style preference) would have made a more convincing wine.

Cork, 12.5% alcohol, $40, Mondo Imports.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Alpha Box & Dice 'Blood of Jupiter' 2008 Sangiovese Cabernet (McLaren Vale)

Higher alcohol does not preclude balance in sangiovese, but can make it hard to present a wine that tastes varietal. Which can be no big deal, if what you are aiming for is something other than varietal expression.

The 2008 blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon from Alpha Box & Dice rolls in at 15.4% alcohol. Whether dictated by the hot vintage McLaren Vale experienced in 2008 or a set of conscious choices I do not know, but the ripeness level is all here. The dominant impression is cherry cough syrup (Brondecon, to be precise), which kicks up into a spirited lift of cherry brandy at the end. Dark fruits all the way along.

Tasted blind, this seemed like a durif, with zinfandel as a second choice. Acid, tannin, structure and shape - none of these are what the wine is about. What you do get is a big pulse of soft, warm flavour. Would work for some, but I am not one.

Cork, gift, 15.4% alcohol, $30-35.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Quintarelli Bianco Secco 2010 (Veneto)

Continuing my recent run of wines from the Veneto.

The 2010 dry white from Quintarelli ended up on the same French bistro table (Pulp Kitchen in Ainslie) as the Tommasi Ripasso. With a plate of chicken terrine, chervil and a lemon relish, this was an outstanding bit of drinking and eating. Fresh bread and mushroom butter suited it well too.

Texture is the key here. 'Serious' Italian dry whites can be a minefield of overworked and underfruited, with the occasional cork claymore added in. This strikes that mesmerising balance of bright acid and waxy texture that the best garganega and trebbiano based wines can achieve, even before they age. Length and more length.

Quintarelli's blend of garganega, trebbiano, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and soarin is not a wine where you think fruit, as in 'lemon, pear, apple'. While there is some fresh lemon and a touch of lemon butter to smell and taste, what gets you is an insistence of even flavour, a sense of thoughtful purpose behind the winemaking, and a quiet voice saying 'now this is wine'.

Cork, $60, purchase, 12.5% alcohol.

Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella 2010 (Verona)

Australia's best known imported Ripasso would be Masi's 'Campofiorin'. Reasonably priced and fairly consistent in quality and style, Masi's offering is a good option to go to on Australian wine lists.

This 2010 Ripasso is from a family owned and run estate in Verona and makes a strong case to be as well-stocked and appreciated as Masi's pioneering ripasso. Viticulturists since 1902, the Tommasi family has over 135 hectares planted to grapes, 95 hectares of this in Valpolicella Classico.

Blending Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone grapes (Corvina being the major component of the blend), this wine hums along with a depth of purple, slightly cherried, fruit, gentle but bittersweet tannins, good length and a moreish character aligned with its reasonable (13% alcohol). Large Slavonian oak only. So drinkable. Not too much of anything, leaving plenty of room for food, but not lacking flavour or interest. Even-handed wine, and very easy to recommend.

Website here, $30, purchase from Boccaccio Cellars, cork, 13% alcohol.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Speri Ripasso 2010 (Verona)

A friend is sitting his Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) exam tomorrow in Sydney. Some last minute practice of WSET style 'structured tasting' across four lots of wine might have helped or hindered.  The tasting was 'double-blind' so no idea of what wines were in the overall set, let alone a particular bracket.

It was an interesting tasting, even if disconcerting. A bracket of four Spanish and Portuguese reds looked more Italian than Iberian. Then a bracket that turned out to be all Italian had the group thinking Spain and France. A delicate-fruit, jagged tannin Nebbiolo d'Alba looked like a Village red Burgundy or further down that tree, the tannins worked too hard for the fruit. A Brunello (2005 Banfi) looked Medoc-like in leafy flavour, oak and tannin (looked more sangiovese the more air it got). The fourth wine in the bracket, a Dolcetto d'Alba made with carbonic maceration technique, reminded us of carbonic maceration wines made from Monastrell in Spain or a good Beaujolais, more than Piedmont.

This Valpolicella Ripasso wine from Speri was a standout in the sneaky-Italians bracket. I thought of Spain first and foremost, due to the weight of dry extract the wine carries, which reminded me of Ribera or Priorat, and skin tannin like that of top-notch tempranillo. That inky, tarry extract flavour combines with deep, even fruit in the Speri wine, before the bittersweet and fine tannins finish it all off. Such good fruit in this, yet with a great sense of shape about it. Sure-footed wine.

Open three days now and still fine drinking. It gets a 15 day referment of the Valpolicella on the Amarone marc, before 12 months in oak. There is no sense of oak intrusion in this at all.

You should be able to find this at about $40, a bit less if keen. Sealed with a cork and 13.5% alcohol. A reminder of how good ripasso styles can be - combining some of the fresh fruit of Valpolicella with the depth & tannic interest of Amarone. Has gone well with lasagne but also by itself, sipped, with a book or film in front of the fire.