Here are my thoughts re last night’s Italian wine tasting at Frankie’s Italian Trattoria… I’ll start with this: when is the next one?? Because I had SUCH a good time and thoroughly enjoyed it – tasting new wines, presented by knowledgeable people, and good food, in a great space, with a friendly crowd… Definitely repeatable. The highlight of the wine list, for me, was the Ca’ Viola Barbera d’Alba. It stole my heart.
There were nine wines, in all. The evening began on a festive note, with a sparkling Bisol Jeio Cuvee Rose Brut – pink prosecco! It was lovely, crisp, not too sweet and with the flavor one hopes for from a merlot/pinot noir blend. It tasted like summer on the porch.
It was followed by a Greco white that did nothing for me – just not my favorite grape, and this one was no different.
Next, a new white (new to me) that startled me into a Wow! What a revelation – and I’m so sorry I didn’t snag a couple of bottles (and am fervently hoping that I find it on the wine list at Frankie’s.) What is this wonderful ‘new’ white? (Stop laughing. I told you it was new to me. I haven’t tasted ALL the wines, yet. But I’m working on it.) Apparently, I’m the last person on the list to drink this wine. When I researched it a bit, I encountered things like, “Italy’s first white wine to gain international repute,” and, “one of the top-ranking Italian whites today.” Well, I am blushing. And I’m also seriously disappointed that I’m so far into my dotage before tasting such a rich white wine. It’s crisp and flinty, with lots of mineral flavor and still manages to deliver lots of citrus fruit. Nicely done! The grape is Cortese, and the region is Gavi, in the Piedmont. This one is Broglia La Meirana. It’s not often (ok never) that I find a white wine I’d drink year-round. I’m a seasonal creature: I want red wine until it’s hot outside and then I want pink or white or sparkling. Chilled. Cocktails? Give me rum or bourbon until summer strikes, and then it’s all about the clear stuff. So. Back to the Piedmont.
Wow. There are a LOT of regions! A few years ago, I’d have found that completely intimidating…. because I’d have felt responsible to know them all, master them all, and be able to tell you which is the best known wine from each region. Well, no more. Today, I know that honey, it ain’t happenin’. So, having let that go, it just means there’s a multitude of fine wines, just waiting for me to pick a spot on a map and check it out! It’s like *Christmas* out there!
So, today: the Piedmont. Interestingly enough, this region handed over not only this great white wine, but also some of the superb reds that I already know and love from Italy. I just call them the B’s. If I choose one off a wine list, I know that even the mediocre ones will be nice. Barbera, Barolo, Brunello. I’d thought they were Tuscan, but apparently, I’m quite a fan of the Piedmont wines.
Enter into the mix: a taste of Argiano Brunello, from Tuscany. Oh, I was remarkably unimpressed. Lovely on the nose, and the initial taste was no surprise, rich and ripe as promised – and loads of tannins, which I enjoy, and then a beautiful finish. But absolutely nothing in the middle. Like it was hollow. I moved on. (But not before having it pointed out that I’d just dissed a fifty dollar bottle. Oops!)
Back to the Piedmont. Again. The next was Produttori Nebbiolo Langhe. It didn’t start or finish as well as the Brunello, but it had all the middle I was missing! Rich, full, dense, lots of personality. And the more I sipped, the more I enjoyed it. Excellent with food- it didn’t challenge the flavors, but it didn’t disappear in your mouth, either.
Food? Did I mention food? Good heavens: Louis turned out a feast to go with the wines… bruschetta (where he gets flavorful fresh tomatoes in January is a mystery) and olives and cheeses and oh my oh my fresh mozarella drizzled with balsamic vinegar… but I digress. Ahem. Wine.
Because then…. drum roll… I tasted the perfect wine. The Ca’ Viola Barbera d’Alba Brichet 2010 is my wine. (Well, it is now, because I bought some and took it home with me.) It’s not expensive, under $20, and boy it delivers. It’s rich and creamy – if wine were made with heavy whipping cream, it would be in this one. It’s dense, like a port, heavy and tannic, but still balanced. How do they *do* that?! I was over the moon. This wine was downright chewy. Sure, it was fine with the food, but it didn’t need food to complete it. I just love this wine. Did I mention it was my favorite? I may have.
It was hard to yank myself back to the present, and not just keep drinking the Barbera all night, but I moved on to taste the Fossacolle Rosso. Sharing the grapes with Brunello, this was like “Brunello Light”. It was easy, very drinkable, and light, lots of fruit, and most decidedly not empty in the middle. It wasn’t chewy and dense like the Barbera, but rather like the thin viscosity and light body you’d expect in a Beaujolais Nouveau. This is summer’s red wine, when you want something nice on the porch.
In a similar vein, came the Colosi Nero d’Avola. I was really expecting a bigger wine from this Sicilian grape. It was quite nice, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed to be served this anywhere, but it was too light for me.
Finally, we tried the Colpetrone Sagrintino di Montefalco. Smack in the center, Umbria delivers a really nice wine. The balance of light body and peppery fruit made it the perfect wine to sip while finishing off that last bit of cheese from the tasting plate.
Now – in the middle of all this pouring and tasting and munching and chatting, the sommelier mentioned to me that she believed the Argiano Brunello had been unfairly judged, and needed to breathe a lot more than it had been allowed. So, here we are an hour later, and she poured me another taste. People! Night and day!! The middle of that wine had finally Arrived. It was a beautiful thing. It was also out of my price range, so I just went ahead and savored the taste. Beginning, middle, long lovely finish, it was all there.
But you know I went back for my Barbera. Ca’ Viola, thou art mine.