Wine Review: Modern Italian Traditionalists

11 10 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

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Reunited with Italy.

I don’t know why, but before yesterday I hadn’t had a bottle of Italian wine for a long, long time.  I’m not a hater or a New World purist; I have a bunch of Italy in my cellar and rank certain Italian bottles and regions among my favourites in the world.  I’ve just been through a phase where nothing has drawn me to that corner of my wine racks in a number of months…there has always been something more enticing to my senses that has kept the country in the press box.  Well, no more:  in order to restore equilibrium to my wine world and reacquaint myself with one of the two traditional cornerstone nations of viniculture, I cracked a pair of Italian bottles last night and reminded myself of why Italy is viewed so loftily by grape lovers everywhere.

On the surface, the two bottles seemed to have very little in common:  one was playful pink bubbles, while the other was a legacy Chianti crafted to centuries-old founder’s standards.  But both in their own way were asserting their place in the often-calcified lore of Italian wine history.  The pink bubbles hailed from the province of Treviso in northeastern Italy, just north of Venice, the world home of Prosecco; but it couldn’t be called Prosecco by virtue of its hue and its choice to forego the region’s Glera grape (which was previously also called “Prosecco” in an attempt to be as confusing as possible), which took the wine out of the threshold criteria of the Prosecco classification. Even though it was produced by a generations-old Prosecco house, it wasn’t Prosecco, and it was OK with that, ambling on its merry mission to bring joy to those who opened it.  The Chianti was a modern take on a wine made to the recipe of a 19th century legendary figure, the one who first set down what it legally meant for a wine to be a Chianti.  While the first bottle gleefully acknowledged its place on the parallel track from history, the second not only embraced its history but walked in its footsteps.  In their own way, I admire each for their paths taken. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wine Review: 2007 Cogno Barbera d’Alba Bricco Dei Merli

16 05 2011

So the label's beige, coral pink and orange? It HAS to be good!

I haven’t had a Barbera in awhile, but it’s one of my all-time favourite red grapes, so it’s high time to change that trend.  Barbera is mainly grown in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy, which is much (much much) more famous for the Nebbiolo-based wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, which are some of Italy’s most prestigious and expensive.  While Nebbiolo is the show-dog grape of the region, Barbera is the lovable mutt who sleeps beside your bed at night; Nebbiolo is deep, complex, layered and pedigreed, while Barbera is rustic, juicy, fun and earthy.  Although Nebbiolo is what generates the most cash for winemakers in Piedmont, Barbera is what they drink at night.  Barbera is a great intro grape for those people who want to start learning what European wines are all about but have been used to the overt fruitiness of California and Australia:  it features ripe red fruit flavours that are eminently drinkable but also has the underlying flavours of the land and the ground common in the Old World, all thrown together with a bit of wildness, some colouring outside the lines.  All this, usually, for $15-$25 a bottle. Read the rest of this entry »