Thursday, October 6, 2011

Italian Treasures

Sebastiano Rosa, winemaker, Tenuta San Guido (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Kobrand recently conducted a multi-city tour, tasting out their impressive Italian portfolio. Impressive may be an understatement when the lineup includes such revered names as Tenute Silvio Nardi, Michele Chiarlo, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari, Tenuta Sette Ponti and Tenuta San Guido (the estate that produces Sassicaia). Here are a few highlights from the tasting in Chicago.

The most impressive white was a wine that has been produced for more than 30 years, but is just now being brought into the US market. It's the Michele Chiarlo Roero Arneis "Le Madri" 2010. Chiarlo has always been known for its beautifully crafted Gavi, but this wine is even better. Though 2010 was somewhat of a problematic vintage in much of northern Italy, you wouldn't know it by this wine. Offering lovely spearmint and pine aromas with excellent richness on the palate, this is a great success, especially at its $22 retail.

Also impressive from Chiarlo is the 2009 Barbera d'Asti "Le Orme". This is a well made wine every year, but the 2009 contains more depth of fruit and offers greater complexity than most recent bottlings, thank to the addition of more fruit from their famous La Court vineyard. I don't know of another Barbera d'Asti for $15 that can stand with this one.

From the Il Cabreo estate of the Folonaris, the 2008 Il Borgo, is a marvelous Super Tuscan with an emphasis on elegance and not on power. Loads of cherry and currant fruit, delicate spice, polished tannins and beautiful acidity make for a gorgeous wine with ideal structure. This is certainly approachable now, but should drink at is best in 7-10 years.

 Emilia Nardi, Tenute Silvio Nardi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I've loved the wines from Silvio Nardi of Montalcino for years, as this is one of the most consistent estates of the area. The wines at this event were appropriately lovely, including the fruit-driven 2009 Rosso di Montalcino as well as two bottlings of Brunello di Montalcino from 2005- the normale and the Manachiara. While 2005 was not the most powerful year for Brunello, the wines from that harvest do display lovely balance; these examples from Nardi also display the precise bing cherry fruit and subtle herbal notes I always look for in these wines. Emilia Nardi has done a wonderful job at this estate over the past decade and is constantly looking to upgrade quality - she also has plans for another single vineyard Brunello to be released very soon. She's a lovely woman and a wonderful spokesperson for this district.

From Tenuta Sette Ponti, located in eastern Toscana, comes a Super Tuscan from the western reaches of Tuscany, namely the Maremma, located not far from the sea. The wine is the 2009 Poggio al Lupo, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante and Petit Verdot. You would imagine that a wine such as that would be a powerhouse, but you'd only be partly right. The wine is quite rich on the palate, but this is elegant with very good acidity and beautifully integrated oak. This is a sexy Italian red wine that is so appealing right now, but will display greater complexities in another 10-12 years - sort of like a beautiful woman!

Finally there is the matter of the 2008 Sassicaia. After all the transcendent press this wine has received over the years, how much can I - or anyone - add to the discussion? Well the 2008 is one of my all-time favorite bottlings of this wine and it's because it is one of the best balanced of any Sassicaia I've ever tasted. It's not like the wine isn't balanced in other years - the wine always offers great harmony of all its components. But the 2008 offer impeccable balance and structure that is rare even for this wine. Admittedly, this is not as powerful a wine as the 2006 or 2007, so if you favor intensity and power over finesse, you may prefer those years to the 2008. But I am a lover of balance and structure in just about any wine, especially when we're talking about Sassicaia. The 2008 is plenty big, but this year, I find a few extra layers of complexity in this wine, thanks to the ideal structure and backbone of this wine. I hope I have the opportunity to taste this wine in another 25 years (I do plan on being around that long).

All in all, a great day celebrating a superb collection of Italian wines!

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