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Every drinker needs at least two types of red wine for summer. The first is a lighter style. Easy drinking, with juicy, refreshing flavors and great acidity. It should be cold when the cork is popped. The second kind is just as critical. A more formidable wine, with a bit higher tannin and an ounce of earth. This is for barbeques. For grilled veggies and meats at your vaccinated neighbor’s cookout. Although it shouldn’t be served as cold as the lighter red, the bolder wine should be able to take a chill - think cellar temp. And importantly, both should be rather affordable, as they’ll likely be opened while dining casually with friends and family. I'm talking under $20. Out of all the Italian reds I’ve tasted in 2021, I’ve narrowed down two, one of each kind, that fit the ticket… so unfold the lawn chairs, set up the Slip n’ Slide, and light up the grill! You’ve waited all winter for this.
In the “refreshing, lighter red” corner of the ring, hailing from Italy’s island of Sardinia, wearing a pink label with red and black writing, we have the Cardedu 2019 Monica di Sardegna ‘Praja’! (**Crazy applause - crowd goes wild**) If you enjoy Grignolino from Piedmont, this bottle would be great for you. Extremely fresh on the nose, with a mix of just-picked raspberries, blueberries, sprigs of Provencal herbs, and dark flowers. Over an hour open, aromas of black tea and mint shine through. On the palate, the wine has an aperitif-like profile. Flavors of blood orange, red cherry, and a mix of bitter but refreshing herbs create an appealing, easy drinking character. The wine is definitely chill-able, though it has some light tannic foundations. Grip is felt on the sides of the tongue and the tops of the cheeks. A long finish, shaped by appealing, strong acidity, noted with flavors of red fruits and black pepper. This is the type of wine I'd pair with cold cured meats, summer lunches, fish and vegetables.
***Please note, Cardedu '19 Monitca will be in stock on 5/26/21***
(Supporting this incredibly satisfying bottle of Monica, is the Cardedu 2019 Vermentino di Sardegna ‘Nuo’. This white wine is golden yellow in color, with zippy green highlights. It is zesty on the nose and herbaceous on the palate. A swishable texture makes for an exciting and engaging mouthfeel. Check it out below!)
The Cardedu winery on the Southeastern part of Sardignia is owned by Sergio Loi, a fourth generation winemaker. His vines have never seen chemical farming, and Sergio operates with low-intervention cellar techniques, like natural fermentation. The estate’s vineyards are planted throughout the region. Vines are planted to Sardinia’s crumbling granite coastal soils, as well as to “schist in [the] ragged-dry cliffs around Jerzu,” says Cardedu’s importer, Porto Vino. They go on to say Cardedu “isn’t overtly 10% [abv] hipster juice without terroir. It’s just wine that tastes more like the cool vintages Sergio enjoyed in the ’70’s.” Buy this in bulk - you’ll never have enough.
In the “bolder red for a BBQ” corner of the ring, hailing from the hallowed hills of Tuscany, wearing a modern blue label with black graffiti writing, we have Michael Schmelzer’s 2019 Gioventu Chianti! (**Equally crazy applause - crowd goes wild AGAIN**) The color of the wine shows a burgundy center, becoming a clearer, burnt red on the edges. The nose is bold, with complex layers of fruit and earth. Aromas of black cherry, dark red flowers, and crushed, loamy rocks are the core, with spicy, woodsy smells of milled black pepper and dried leaves right above it. The palate is focused on savory fruits of blackberry, cherry, and red citrus, freshened by a zing of clean minerality. Structure-wise, this wine has power, with long lasting acidity, and tannin on the top of the gums and down the tongue. An incredibly delicious wine to be paired with heartier fare from the grill.
(To back up the Gioventu, Schmelzer has brought along three of our favorite bottlings his winery, Monte Bernardi. The newly arrived 2017 Chianti Classico is a pungent Sangiovese, ripe on the nose and palate, with baking spices and earth mixed with red and black fruits. A serious tannic backbone supports great acidity. The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva Sa’etta is a dark wine - very complex with olives and dark fruits on the nose. The palate offers dried, rich plums and herbs surrounded by tamed acidity and chewy tannin. Finally, the 2016 Tzingana… the only current vintage super-Tuscan that Chambers offers. The nose is mineral driven, with forest-floor and scents of wild blue and red berries. The palate is bright with graphite and cherry. An exceptionally long finish draws out the wine’s tender structure. Read more about these Monte Bernardi wines below!)
Schmelzer bought Monte Bernardi, in the village of Panzano, in the early 2000s. The estate is certified organic, and began using biodynamic methods in 2004. A true believer in Panzano’s excellent winegrowing capabilities, he has 15 hectares of shale, limestone and sandstone soil planted with local and international varieties. Schmelzer recently added the Gioventu wines to his array of products. The Chianti comes from just north of Panzano, where the winemaker also gets grapes for Monte Bernardi’s Fiasco bottling. The Gioventu Falanghina should be available later this summer, with grapes from one of my favorite regions in the world, Campania’s Campi Flegrei coast. Ultimately, the Gioventu Chianti drinks way above its $15.99 price tag, and will enhance any type of food boasting grill-marks. Thankfully, you don’t need to give up weighty reds when the weather gets hot!
In the end, the Cardedu Monica 2019 and the Gioventu Chianti 2018 aren’t around to battle it out for the Best Summer Red title belt. They’re friends. Together they cover the drinking and dining contexts that exist during an active summer season. The Cardedu by the pool and the Gioventu by the Weber. Plan ahead, be ready, and load up your supply - Memorial Day will be here before you know it! David Hatzopoulos
Another fantastic vintage of this staple red from Monte Bernardi. 95% Sangiovese with 5% of Canaiolo Nero from estate vines in Panzano, Chianti. Wine is fermented naturally in oak and stainless steel before aging 18-24 months in oak. The nose is very fragrant, with notes of warm blueberry preserve, balsamic and freshly baked pie crust. Above those deep aromas, there are fresh red cherries and woodsy forest shrubs. On the palate, there are flavors black cherry, milled coffee beans, and a very lovely note of candied blackberry. The wine has a long finish of herbs and spice. Structure-wise, this Chianti has high acidity and healthy tannin. An incredible wine! David Hatzopoulos
A Chianti Classico Riserva that pushes tender dark fruit and fresh earth into leading roles. 100% Sangiovese from the Sa'etta Vineyard on the Monte Bernardi estate in Panzano. This single vineyard has southern exposure, boasts soils of shale and limestone, and maintains vines of 40(+) years of age. The area is described by the producer's website as having the "best position, exposure, and terrain on the estate." The choicest grapes are picked by hand from vines tended with biodynamic practices. Once moved to the winery, natural fermentation begins in large oak casks. After malo naturally occurs in Austrian and German oak, the wine ages in wood for 18-30 months. Bottle aging before release is a minimum of 12 months. The wine is unfiltered. Powerful and full, the color in glass is black at the core, with dark burgundy edges. The nose is a basket of fresh black olives, sage leaves, bushy stems of oregano, dried dark cherries and milled cocoa. Large ripe plums and dates are the foundation to a dish of flavors that also include less forward notes of Provencal herbs and subtle black tea. There is an overarching "of-the-earth" quality, aromatically and flavor-wise, that makes this Sa'etta '16 so comforting and pleasant to drink. It has medium acidity and a tempered, though engaging, chew. Please enjoy in 2020, but know that the wine has been made to develop well over many years. Sipped alongside Parmesan-polenta with sausage, shrimp, onions and tomato. Looking forward to revisiting today after a night open... David Hatzopoulos
**Arrives 5/26** Grapes are grown in San Vito, Sardinia, to soils of crumbling granite and red-tinted quartz. Fruit from these 10 year old vines is harvested in mid-September. Native fermentation is done in 1950s cement tanks. Wine ages in the same tanks for 5 months before being bottled unfiltered. If you enjoy Grignolino from the Piedmont, this bottle would be great for you. Extremely fresh on the nose, with a mix of fresh picked raspberries, blueberries, sprigs of Provencal herbs, and dark flowers. Over an hour open, aromas of black tea and mint shine through. On the palate, the wine has an aperitif-like profile. Flavors of blood orange, red cherry, and a mix of bitter but refreshing herbs create an appealing, easy drinking character. Like Grignolino, although the wine is approachable, and definitely chill-able, it has some tannic foundations. Grip is felt on the sides of the tongue and the tops of the cheeks. A long finish, shaped by appealing, strong acidity, is noted with flavors of red fruits and black pepper. This is the type of wine I'd pair with cold cured meats, summer lunches, hearty fish and vegetables. So happy with this lovely wine. David Hatzopoulos
Coming from vines in San Vito, Sardinia, planted to the region's grumbling granite soils, mixed with red-tinted quartz. Vine age is 10 years. Grapes harvested in late August and early September. In the cellar, the fermentation is natural, in stainless steel, including 6-8 hours of skins contact. The wine ages in 1950s concrete tanks before being bottled without filtration. This Vermentino has an incredibly special nose. A bouquet of herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary), with sliced, chilled yellow tomato slices and shaved parmigiana. The palate has tart, small yellow apples, lemon zest, and more green herbs. The structure is bright, with a swish of delicious, tender texture - ending with a long salty finish peaked with great acid. David Hatzopoulos
Gioventu Chianti comes from Michael Schmeltzer, the man behind our beloved Monte Bernardi wines. As expected, this wine is fantastic - worth so much more than the $16 price per bottle. From younger vines (planted in 2010) of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Ciliegiolo. After the grapes are crushed, the wine ferments naturally in cement tanks. Aging in also in cement and lasts 12 months. There is no fining or filtering before bottling. The color of the wine shows a burgundy center, becoming a clearer, burnt red on the edges. The nose is bold, with complex layers of fruit and earth. Aromas of black cherry, dark red flowers, and crushed, loamy rocks are at the core, with spicy, woodsy smells of milled black pepper and autumnal dried leaves right above it. The palate is focused on savory fruits of blackberry, cherry, and red citrus, freshened by a zing of clean minerality. Structure-wise, this wine has power, with long lasting acidity, and tannin on the top of the gums and down the tongue. An incredibly delicious wine! Paired wonderfully with taco truck carnitas and al pastor on day two... David Hatzopoulos
This is the only Super Tuscan we carry in the store, and an anomaly within the character. 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc, and 15% Petit Verdot. All estate grown fruit, picked by hand, from southern facing slopes. Natural Fermentation in steel, secondary fermentation in oak, with 18-24 months of aging in barrique and tonneaux before bottling. The color here is black cherry, especially dense in the center of the glass. The nose is minerally and bright, with a scent of crushed graphite. Additional aromas of soft vanilla bean, mosey forest floor, and fruits like cherry, blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry fill out the profile. The palate also carries that stony character, surrounded by rounder flavors of plum and dark cherry. On the finish, that lean taste of graphite reappears to add an earthy final touch. This is a tannic wine, but tender on the tongue with a soft middle. Acidity is refreshing and vibrant. What a beautiful wine! Complex and so tasty. Drink now or age 10 years. David Hatzopoulos