Category Archives: Italy

Ziobaffa 2014 Pinot Grigio “Filmakers Edition”

Puglia IGT, 12% ABV
Certified Organic. Sustainable.
Bottled by Castellani
imported by Sage Beverages, Carlsbad, CA
$3.99 at the San Diego (Downtown), CA, store on 3 June

20170624_120413An organic, sustainable Pinot Grigio that’s years behind current vintage, comes in a funky bottle with a strange cork wrapped in plastic at Grocery Outlet for $4? What could go wrong?

To be short, this wine is inferior to $2.99 “2 buck Chuck” Pinot Grigio that I bought to use as cooking wine last week in almost every way. It drinks as over the hill and not coming back. It offers some oak and pear on the nose, pours a slightly golden, straw color and there’s a medium mouthfeel with green mango and sourness and that flavor carries through the finish, completely distracting from any positive characteristics the wine may have once offered. This is the first date that shows up bitter and incompletely recovered from his or her last relationship when your first conversation on the phone was promising.

This is a strong no go for me.

Eo 2014 Trebbiano D’Abruzzo

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC, central Italy; 12.5% ABV
produced and bottled by Azienda Collefriso
imported by Wine Appellations, LTD, Mill Valley, CA
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 June

I seemed to recall that I had seen Trebbiano-based wines only from the province of Veneto, but the Wikipedia page linked above says that

The Trebbiano family account for around a third of all white wine in Italy. It is mentioned in more than 80 of Italy’s DOCs (“Controlled origin denominations”), although it has just seven of its own : Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano di Aprilia, Trebbiano di Arborea, Trebbiano di Capriano del Colle, Trebbiano di Romagna and Trebbiano Val Trebbia dei Colli Piacentini and Trebbiano di Soave.

Perhaps the most successful Trebbiano-based blend are the Orvieto whites of Umbria, which use a local clone called Procanico.

As I’d expect from a wine grown farther south, this Trebbiano is a bit more robust that those I recall from Veneto, but it is still very Italian.

The wine tastes of yellow / white melon and pear, some green lime, and a slightly aspirin-like grape skin bitterness, with a somewhat fleshy mouthfeel, crisp lemony acid, and supporting, integrated minerality.  Anyway, I really like this wine for this price.  In terms of food pairing, it would fit in the same niche as a more crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  None of my bottle survived to be tasted the next day.

Also, the front label seems to indicate that the wine may have been made with organic grapes.  The back label doesn’t say anything on the subject.

Mergozzesi 2011 Barolo DOCG

100% Nebbiolo; 14% ABV; Piedmont, Italy
Imported by 8Vini
$12.99 at the San Diego (Downtown), CA store on 3 June

Mergozzesi Barolo 2011Curiosity got the better of me since I rarely drink Barolo and I missed out on the sub-$10 Barolo last year. I had to try this out after seeing it on a recent trip to the Bay Area where I couldn’t carry anything back so I sought it out while stocking up in San Diego (Downtown, though Pt. Loma has it).

Popped and poured through a Vinturi. Though very closed, the nose showed dark red cherry, licorice, and anise. At first taste, like many Barolos, it was clear that this wine required time to open up, and its inherent dryness and chewy tannins took over most flavors completely (not necessarily surprising from what I little I know of the varietal). I don’t drink a lot of (enough) red Italian varietals, but I did not expect any hidden deal of a Barolo from this bottle nor are you going to get it. 8Vini’s website describes its “great elegance, harmony and balance,” none of which was available at any time I tasted the wine. I would think this is almost what Barolo would taste like from the barrel or on the very, very young side and only one made from inferior fruit at that.

On Days 2 and 3, the berry flavors were more pronounced in the nose with riper fruit up front and on the mid palate and the wine had softened a touch. However, this is still a tannic, dry, fairly disjointed wine with off, vinegar-like flavors, thin mouthfeel and tannins (rather than flavor) dominating the finish. It just never came together regardless of its varietal or price point.

8Vini’s page is here: http://8vini.com/Mergozzesi_Barolo_pg.html

There is also a 2009 Barbaresco from the same Producer that I skipped out on but was sold out, for what that is worth.

Feudo Ramaddini 2014 Nero D’Avola IGT

100% Nero D’ Avola (could have some Syrah in it)

Imported by Wine Appellations, LTD Mill Valley, CA

$2.99 at San Diego (Downtown), CA store on 3 June

20170604_080508

The wine reminds me a lot of a simple, juicy Shiraz or even cheap Petite Sirah and not in a bad way. This is a simple, approachable, everyday wine with enough acid and tannin to balance the juiciness of the fruit that Nero is known for without it being flabby (it’s not *that* sweet) and leaves long, dark red legs in the glass. It’s fairly one dimensional but it’s also fairly intense due to the tannins but without the mouthfeel to match and with dark, ripe berries predominantly on the nose and on the palate. I don’t get any oak. It’d be a decent choice for a weeknight wine balancing out a fatty ribeye or other red meat or a party wine where BBQ is being served. It’s certainly not trying to be anything it isn’t.

It’s nothing I would recommend you go out of the way for since it drinks similarly to $8-10 Neros I’ve had, but it’s $2.99 Nero and drinkable at that.

Macarico 2010 Serre Delle More Vino Spumante di Qualita

Alto Vulture, Vini da Vulcano, Basilicata, Italy
100% Aglianico; 13% ABV
North Berkeley Imports
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store at least a few months ago.  No longer there.

This sparkling rosé arrived probably about 6 months ago, with two other NBI wines.  A couple people told me this was awful, so I had just let this bottle sit around unopened.  However, tonight I opened it, expecting to dump it down the drain, with a backup ready.  But I was surprised: I love it!

The wine was pleasantly aromatic, showing fruity flavors of cantaloupe / quince, red berries, and a dark red cherry close to a savory, almost-meat flavor.  It was well-carbonated and pleasantly dry and crisp.  It kept well over the evening in a stoppered bottle in the fridge.  More light tangerine flavor came out over time.

Volpe Pasini 2014 Ribolla Gialla

Delle Venezie IGT, northeastern Italy; 12% ABV
imported by Diageo “Chateau & Estate” wines
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 April.  Still there.

The last Ribolla Gialla I reviewed was quite good, so I had to try this one, too.  It is even more tasty, IMO easily worth the dollar more.

I find the wine a little closed straight from the fridge, but warmed up a little, it shows good intensity of lemony pear, yellow melon, white and yellow flowers, slightly astringent minerality and grape skin bitterness, green lime, and a little orange on the finish.  In trying to help customers, I usually ask if they want something more fruity like a Chardonnay or more crisp like a Sauvignon Blanc.  To me, this wine is somewhere in between, more fruity than most SB, and more acid than most Chardonnay.  Yum!

The next day, the wine had smoothed out and integrated, and had a viscous minerality.  It was more mellow but still delicious.

Two 2014 Pinot Grigios from Volpe Pasini

for both wines:
Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC, far northeastern Italy; 12.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 April. Still there.

As these wines came from the same producer and region of Italy, in the same year, with the same % alcohol, at the same price, I wondered whether they were actually the same wine in different packaging.  I am now pleasantly satisfied that they are not.

The Gri Vo’ (photo, right) has the duller label, but who knows, maybe it’s just understatement?  But no, the wine actually is the more dull of the two.  It’s still quite good, showing a hint of apricot that carries through the whole taste of more typical flavors of yellow melon, bright yellow grapefruit, and lime, with a sort of musty (from wood?) minerality and slight bitterness of grape skin.  This is a good wine for the price.

On the first day, I preferred the “Zuc di Volpe” bottling (photo, left).  It is more nervy and subtle, showing integrated floral, lemony, and minerally flavors in close succession, reined in by a slight touch of wood.

The next day, the apricot flavor in the Gri Vo’ integrated with other flavors to resemble tropical yellow fruit with a weight that surprises me in Pinot Grigio.  Still quite tasty.

In contrast to the Gri Vo’, the next day, the Zuc di Volpe bottling was still interestingly, subtly complex, but was rather dull compared to what it had been.  Gone were the bright acid and minerally structure.  Depending on whether you plan to drink it over more than one night, you might prefer the Gri Vo’.  In contrast to other blending experiments I’ve done, I could not find a blend of these two that really improved on either wine alone.

Both of these wines show their age just a little.  Drink them up soon, and there is certainly no reason to wait in this spring heat.

Cantina di Solopaca 2015 Aglianico

Beneventano Indicazione Geographica Protetta, Campania, Italy; 12.5% ABV
imported by 8 Vini, San Leandro, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 16 Feb

solopaca_2015_aglianicoI’ve enjoyed previous Aglianicos from the GO, so I thought this might also be interesting.  Turns out, not particularly on the first night.

The wine is a bit thin and tart, with flavors of ripe and tart red cherries, red / slightly purple plum, red table grape, and perhaps a hint of black olive.  It developed only a little more fruit with some time in a decanter, with maybe a little something floral.  So far, it’s neither interesting nor tasty.

A couple days later, however, the saved single-glass, screw-cap bottle was much better.  I guess at vintage 2015 it’s still a pretty young wine.  It was still on the acid side, but the fruit, of a zesty red raspberry and cherry, was more prominent, more full, and more complex.  It went well with cheese toasts with a layer of left-over red pasta sauce.  🙂

Giormani non-vintage Prosecco DOCG

Prosecco DOCG, Italy; 11% ABV
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store just before New Year’s Eve, 2016

giormani_prosecco_docgI bought this bottle because I’ve previously liked some Giormani offerings, and I wanted something to bring to a NYE party.  It turned out that my hosts were already quite well supplied, so I just brought this home, and opened it only this evening.  I find myself thinking it’s only okay.

On the palate, the wine is immediately pleasantly light-lemony, with perhaps some crisp white pear, but it then drifts into a sort of Sprite / 7-Up aspect of which I’m not that fond, finishing with some green grape skin..

I haven’t seen this DOCG offering since around the holidays, but a Giormani DOC Prosecco, $7 IIRC, is still around.

The next day, the wine was much the same, and I’m still not that excited about it as a way to spend $10.

Castel Pietra 2014 Pinot Grigio from Mezzacorona

Vigneti delle Dolimiti IGT, Trentino – Alto Adige, (northern) Italy; 12% ABV
$6 for 1.5L (magnum) at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 Nov

mezzacorona_2015_pinotgrigioI dimly recalled liking other white wines with the Dolomiti designation, so despite not really wanting a whole magnum of this wine, I finally got one toward the end of the recent fall sale.  It’s a fairly basic wine but a solid value in Italian Pinot Grigio.

At first, I found the wine a bit crisp and slightly bitter.  In addition to PG’s typical lightly dried straw, the wine tasted of less ripe lemon and skin of less ripe yellow grape, with assertive minerally structure.  After the second pour or so, some riper fruit of yellow pear and yellow grapefruit emerged to support the acid, but it was still fairly submerged by the crisp, minerally acid.

On the second night, after a couple more pours, this fruit emerged further to make the wine more balanced between fruit, acid, and minerality, and really quite enjoyable, especially as it warmed some from fridge temp.

On the third night, the wine is quite tasty and pleasant, adding a sort of orange-y flavor.  It’s not a particularly exciting wine, but it is well made and a good value for an every-day crisp white.