Category Archives: Italy

“Il Grigio” Vino Spumante Brut (Dry Sparkling Wine)

Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio; 11.% ABV
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori
$7 at the Oakland, CA, store on about 12 March

I’ve like the Collavini wines I’ve had before, so I had high hopes for this sparkling wine.  The fruit, ripe yellow with hint of green, was smooth and even, not very complex, with the acid and carbonation a little low. I found it okay but unexciting.

Collavini 2016 Ribolla Gialla “Turian”

Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, northeastern Italy; 12.5% ABV
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori, Santa Rosa, CA
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 Feb

I’ve liked Ribolla Gialla wines previously, so I couldn’t resist trying this fancier version.  It is a more impressive wine than the cheaper version ($5, I think) around GO these days but, to me, not quite $10 impressive.

On the first night, the wine showed medium-ripe fruit with crisp acid (lemon, apple / maybe pear, a little yellow grapefruit) that has a touch of something orange (orange, apricot?, passion fruit?), hint of green lime, bitterness of citrus pith, and chalky minerality.  It’s an elegant and nicely structured wine, but I would have been happier with a little more complexity for this price.

The second night, the fruit was more forward, the structure weaker, the flavors a little less complex although still tasty, and the acid a little stronger.  I preferred it the first night.

Collavini 2015 Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, northeastern Italy; 12.5% ABV
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori, Santa Rosa, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 Feb

It had been quite a while since I had seen any Refosco, and I was excited because I quite liked the previous ones.  This wine is younger, fresher, and a little lighter weight than previous examples but still recognizably and enjoyably the same grape.

Although this wine was promising immediately, I thought it needed 2:10 – 2:40 of air in a decanter to open.  It has mostly fruity flavors of medium-dark purple plum, black raspberry, and mulberry, with fruit soft and supple, backed by acid of hibiscus tea.  I found subtleties of licorice, prune, dark earth, orange, and Chinese 5-spice.

The next day, the saved screw-cap bottle still needed a couple hours of air for the fruit to darken and soften.  The fruit was perhaps slightly darker, more grapey / boysenberry / blueberry, but the wine was much the same.  I got second bottle today which I plan to drink in another year or so.

Collavini 2015 Bianco “Broy”

50% Friulano, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon Blanc; 13% ABV
Collio DOC, northeastern Italy
imported by Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori, Santa Rosa, CA
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 Feb

I recalled liking the Collavini 2013 Ribolla Gialla, although I haven’t tried the more recent vintage of this bottling, so I was excited to see from Collavini a Refosco and a couple fancier white wines: the “Turian” (another Ribolla Gialla) and this wine.  I was a little skeptical of the blend (the CA Chardonnay – Sauvignon Blanc blends I’ve tasted have been weird), but decided to get a bottle out of some combination of trust and curiosity.  🙂  I thought this wine was delicious!

Although the wine had a lovely nose, I found the first taste a little underwhelming, a strange combination of heavy-ish honeyed yellow flowers and fruit, stopped short by a bitter structure.  However, with some air, the wine opened to nicely delineated flavors of (as initially) honeyed yellow flowers, yellow pear / apple, white pear, hints of green herbs and lime, bitterness of the herbs / grape skin, and minerality close to the white pear.   There was quite a range of flavors, but the blend was seamless, with a nice fruit / acid balance.  While none of this bottle survived to the next day, I expect it would follow the typical pattern of becoming more fruit-forward, less structured, but still tasty.

Antico Ceppo 2015 Primitivo

Primitivo di Manduria DOC, Apulia (heel of “the boot”), Italy; 14.5% ABV
imported by Innovino International Inc., Tamarac, FL
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on ~25 Jan

This wine looked promising, and indeed, I liked it quite well for a tasty, every day, easily paired drink.  It’s pretty tasty right away, but IMO benefits from a couple hours’ air, when it shows a range of typical Zinfandel (same grape as Primitivo) fruits from red raspberry, to black raspberry, another softer dark purple fruit (mulberry? grape?), through to a slight bit of blackberry, finishing with zingy ripe acid.  For a southern Italian wine, it’s unusually fruit-driven, lacking much of (what I think of as) the usual stemmy / raisiny structure.  However, I found the fruit very tasty, and these qualities likely make it more appealing if you’re accustomed to CA Zinfandel.  Indeed, one person whose taste usually agrees with mine found this wine too sweet.

As much as I liked it on the first day, I preferred the saved screwcap bottle.  (I usually don’t drink a whole bottle in one night, and save the extra in a screwcap bottle, filling it up to the top and capping it when I open the original bottle.)  The flavors had become more accessible and integrated with the acid and earthy tannin, and the texture had become more fleshy.

This wine is now gone from the Richmond store, and I think there wasn’t that much of it available in the first place.  I apologize for lately reviewing only wines that aren’t around now, but the number of new, interesting-looking items has been pretty low lately.

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:

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


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.