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The wines of Azienda Agricola Adalia are endlessly enjoyable, none more so than their very traditional Valpolicella. The wine is produced from a blend of Corvina and Corvina Grossa with small percentages of Rondinella and Molinara trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically. The grapes are destemmed and fermented with native yeast in 40 hectoliter oak vats on the skins for one week. Malolactic occurs naturally in stainless steel where the wine is rested for a few months before bottling. The nose shows tart red fruit and a bit of orange zest over herbal notes of sage, mint, and a whiff of pungent spices. The wine is light on the palate with bright acidity and restrained tannins offering a slightly bitter, mineral finish. Adalia’s Valpolicella is a perfect match for a herbed stuffing, roast turkey with gravy, green bean casserole, or for game meats prepared simply. Andy Paynter
Pietramore has produced a rare example of Montepulciano that has density and richness without being overwhelmed by new oak; in fact, this wine doesn't see any wood barrels at all. Produced from a vineyard of biodynamically farmed Montepulciano the grapes are crushed and macerated for two weeks during fermentation. 20% of the juice is bled off to increase the depth of flavor and the wine is then rested in steel for 6 months followed by a few months in bottle. The nose shows deep berry fruit, with resinous herbal tones of thyme and rosemary, and musky notes of fallen leaves and moist earth. The palate is rich with ripe, full tannins but lifted by acidity and balanced against red fruit with a clean finish. Really a lovely wine, all the more so for the conspicuous lack of new oak. Try it with bolognese, braised beef or lamb, roasted mushrooms, aged cheese, or kebas. Andy Paynter
Giovanni Scarfone, the driving force behind the stellar Bonavita estate in Faro Sicily, has made another stunning rosato from the 2017 vintage. Easily my favorite rosato every summer, (a category in which competition has become increasingly heated in recent years) the Bonavita rosato is produced from Nerello Mascalese with the inclusion of around 20% Nocera from a small vineyard planted in 2010. Despite only being macerated for around 12 hours, it has a deep ruby hue and the nose is redolent of zesty citrus fruit, bright cherries, wild mountain flowers, and hot stones. Quite full for a rosato with lots of acidity, noticeable tannins, and buoyant mineral flavors, the wine is both tart and smooth and is seriously refreshing. I think it is a born match for seared tuna steak dressed in orange and fennel but it will pair with all sorts of food. Try it with all of your spring and summer favorites and stock up before it's all gone! Andy Paynter
The Brecciaro cuvée from Bussoletti plays on a different characteristic of Ciliegiolo than many other wines made with the grape, emphasizing the grape’s particular soft texture. Ciliegiolo never yields a tannic wine but it also is never faint or airy on the palate. Brecciaro is fermented in steel and then aged for a year, about 70% in stainless steel on the fine lees and 30% in old French oak botti. The wine is then blended and held in bottle for another six months. The nose is redolent of roses, cherries, and ripe strawberries but it is the texture of the wine, silky with delicate acidity and whispery tannins, that is really appealing. It is certainly a more sultry expression of the grape. I paired the wine with braised pork shoulder but it would be excellent with risotto, creamy polenta dishes, duck breast, or sweet potatoes. Andy Paynter
Bussoletti’s Ciliegiolo di Narni “0535” is a fresh, easygoing red wine from central Umbria and shows exactly why I have fallen in love with the grape. Produced from a four hectare plot of younger vines planted facing north to encourage elegance over ripeness, the wine is fermented with ambient yeast in steel tank and bottled after resting for six months. The nose is rich with fresh red cherries and rose floral notes with delicate tones of black pepper. Juicy on the palate with restrained acidity and very little tannin, it shows more strawberry and raspberry fruit. This is a wine that can lift through richer foods: try it as a foil to creamy or cheesy pasta dishes, as a pairing for charcuterie, or enjoy it on its own. The lion on the label is a reference to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia which were inspired by images of the medieval castle in Narni (also pictured). Andy Paynter
The wines of Sardinia sometimes seem a world apart from the rest of Italy, showcasing a unique stable of indigenous grapes not found on the mainland. One of the most interesting is Monica, a grape that shows much more freshness and lift than most Cannanou or Bovale, while still maintaining real intensity of flavor. Cardedu, operated by the Loi family, has produced a lovely Monica from dry farmed vineyards, tended without herbicides or pesticides, and fermented on native yeasts in steel. The nose is intense with notes of rhubarb, strawberry, mint, wild sage, spice tones of black pepper, and a whiff of sea air. The palate is light (surprisingly so for its 13.5% abv) with fresh acidity and very little tannin, showing juicy red fruit and the same intense whirl of herbs and spice with a salty finish. Praja in the sardinian dialect means “the beach” and I can imagine it as being perfect for a beach side cookout. Try it slightly chilled this summer with grilled fish or better yet fish tacos, lamb burgers, sausages, briney foods like olives or feta, or with salads inflected with green herbs. Andy Paynter
Vermentino is one of the only varieties that is widely planted on both Sardinia and the mainland of Italy, though Sardinian examples tend to be more intense, with a savory and salty inflection. The Vermentino from Cardedu is produced from dry farmed vineyards, tended without herbicides or pesticides, and fermented on native yeasts with a few hours of skin contact in steel tanks. It is an intense white wine showing tones of wild mint and rosemary on the nose over orange rind, ripe yellow peaches, and hot sea air. The palate is quite full and dry, with mouthwatering acidity, juicy stone fruit, and a salty finish. A wild Vermentino well suited to fatty fish like sardines, cured cheese, spinach pie, gyro pitas with tzatziki, or herbed chicken. Andy Paynter
High atop the Murge Plateau in Puglia, Cantine Carpentiere is a small family-owned winery that produces two indigenous Puglian grape varieties: Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero. Made from 70-year-old Bombino Nero vines, this is the only rosato in Southern Italy that has DOCG status. At 450 meters above sea level, the vineyards are rich in limestone and surrounded by stone walls originally built to protect local flocks of sheep. Tannins from the maceration process make this a great food wine, but it retains its freshness and acidity from the 5-6% of white grapes that are naturally included in each cluster of Bombino Nero. Ripe watermelon and wild strawberries with hints of pepper, try pairing it with a salmon salad, orecchiette with broccoli rabe or even a juicy burger. Christine Manula
Dry Lambrusco rosato still seems to be a bit of a rarity, which is baffling when excellent examples like Corte Paglieri’s rosato are available. Corte Pagliari Rosato is a very traditional style of Lambrusco; made from organically farmed Lambrusco Sobrara grapes, it is re-fermented in bottle rather than tank and is made without the addition of sulfites. A deep bronze-hued ruby, the aromas of the wine practically jump out of the glass showing rhubarb, ripe cherries, and citrus zest with a deep violet floral tone. The palate is crisp and balanced with a very delicate bubble and very low tannin, notes of peaches, juicy strawberries, and a slight minty tone. While not suited pairing with the richest foods, this would be a perfect match for soft cheese, bitter veggies like fiddlehead ferns, fatty fish, roast chicken, or pork chops with rhubarb compote. Andy Paynter
Coste di Brenta Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is an easy going wine made from certified organic vineyards planted between 200 and 300 meters about 10 kilometers from the sea. The wine is fermented in steel and is raised in third passage barrels for around a year. It shows red cherry fruit with minty herbal tones, and a slight earthy note. Medium bodied with balanced acid and restrained tannin it is a juicy style of Montepulciano rather than being heavy or extracted. Try it with a rich pasta dishes, pepperoni pizza, a burger, or enjoy this delicious wine all on its own. Andy Paynter
Torre Nova is 100% Negroamaro from 30-60 year old vines grown on clay and rocky pebbles. The 2015 is quite light and a bit higher in acid than the last vintage, but it’s really pretty on the palate. Think tart cherries and red plums, it’s very herbaceous with a hint of nuts and pepper on the finish. Try pairing this with roast pigeon, a simply prepared fish or even beef tartare. Christine Manula
Named after Natalino’s wife Anne, this Negroamaro is from 30-60 year old vines grown on clay and chalk. At harvest, Natalino destems and presses the grapes 2 -3 times, puts it in cement tanks for five days of skin contact, racks the wine and then leaves it in cement from September to March. Before bottling, he puts the wine in stainless steel for a few weeks to refine and then adds a very low dose of sulfur at bottling. The result is a medium bodied wine with good tannins that tastes of dark cherries and cocoa, with a hint of nuts and pepper. Try pairing it with a traditional Pugliese dish like pasta with chickpeas and anchovies, slow cooked lamb with potatoes, or just throw a tuna steak on the grill. Christine Manula
“Nataly” is named after Natalino himself. The wine is fermented and aged in concrete tanks and underground concrete vats, with a very low dose of sulfur at bottling. It’s bit fuller in body than the Negroamaro with meatier tannins, juicy dark plums, violets, anise and a hint of pepper on the finish. Try pairing Primitivo with Spaghetti Puttanesca, Seafood Jambalaya, Short Ribs or hard cheeses like Edam or Smoked Gouda. Christine Manula
Pitch-perfect weeknight Nero d’Avola: light on its feet, with a vibrant acidity and ripe berry and juicy plum fruits. The bright, playful palate is balanced by just the right hint of dried herbs and spices to underscore any red sauce, pie or pasta. The Rossojbleo is dry farmed from about ten hectares of head-trained bush vines without the use of any chemicals or machines. Gulfi’s commitment to a manual harvest, along with organic practices in the vineyard and vinification using native yeasts, makes for a seriously satisfying young wine. And while this definitely holds up on day two, it’s pretty hard to resist finishing the bottle!
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Ju Quarto is sourced from a 60 year old vineyard planted over a decomposed volcanic sand, rich in iron and showing a red hue. The wine is vinified on native yeast in lined-cement, and rested in large barrels for around a year. It is a more delicate expresion of the grape with beautiful cherry fruit and red floral tones on the nose. The palate is light, almost airy, with bright acidity and very little tannin. Subtle rather than effusive it shows cherries, bay, and mint with a long elegant finish. I would pair it with less assertive food to better enjoy the delicacy of the wine; think leaner charcuterie, pasta, simply prepared fish, poached chicken, or with caprese salad. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Mozzatta is the most assertive cuvee from the estate, made from 60 year old vines planted on a “grey, clay soil,” that is a clay with some degree of incorporated limestone. Like the other reds it is vinified on native yeast in lined-cement (though with the addition of 20% whole cluster rather than being entirely destemmed) and then rested in large barrels for around a year. The result is a much more assertive style of Cesanese with more earthy flavors. The nose is brooding, showing pine needle and forest floor over ripe red fruit and black pepper spice. The body is quite full with grippy tannins and plenty of acidity thought it shows deeper flavors rather than extra weight on the palate. The finish is dry and quite mineral. Try it with grilled sausage, chops, rich vegetable dishes, carbonara or other full flavored pastas. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. Sourced from the same vineyard as the Passerina wines the estate produces, the 2015 Vicinale is the most approachable Cesanese from La Visciola. The nose carries hallmark flavors of tart and brambly red fruit with herbal tones of bay spice and pepper plant. The palate is quite light with whispery tannins, and tart, fresh acidity carrying plenty of red raspberry and cherry fruit with a slight menthol tone leading into a dry finish. As with all Cesanese wines I can't imagine enjoying this without food: give it a shot with margarita pizza, red sauce pastas, charcuterie, semi-firm cheese, or of course with pasta carbonara for a truly classic pairing. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Vignale plot was planted in the 1960s on a soil of mixed sand and clay. It is vinified on native yeast in lined-cement, and rested in large barrels for around a year. The Vignale shows a more definitely spicy nose with black pepper, allspice, and fruit tones of cherry and orange zest with dried bay leaves. The palate has a fairly rich texture with fine-grained tannin and restrained acidity, showing poise but with a bit more heft than the Ju Quarto. The Vignale will pair easily and widely; try it with everything from pizza and simple veggie dishes to carbonara, pork chops, or roasted mushrooms. Andy Paynter
Drogone comes from a small parcel of vines planted in 1964. The wine is aged for two years in older, large tonneau of French oak, and then for years in bottle — the 2007 is the current release. A wine of great depth and considerable density, it shares the elegance and finesse of all Madonna delle Grazie wines. It's very cool to taste the highest quality Aglianico that has some age; we're happy that it's still available at such a fair price. John Rankin and Jamie Wolff
Montenidoli is a landmark estate in San Gimignano famous for producing some of the most characterful, organically farmed Vernaccia in the area. They also produce a wonderful rosato of 100% Canaiolo (a traditional blending partner for Sangiovese) that is always a treat on a hot summer day. The wine has a delicate peach color and a very pretty nose with apples, cherries, red flowers, and lemon zest. The palate is crisp and dry with a soft texture and flavors of red apple skin, mint, cherries, and slight citrus notes. Really lovely and quite easy-going for Italian rosato, it would pair well with light salads, chilled soups, soft cheese or of course could be enjoyed all on its own. Andy Paynter
Lagrein is a grape that shares many similarities with Syrah: deep berry fruit, a savory smoky character, and distinct herbal tones. In the hands of Martin Gojer it yields a full-bodied wine that nonetheless captures a sense of alpine freshness. The wine is fermented with 70% whole clusters for four weeks with a submerged cap for the first two. It is then raised in old, small barrels for two years and bottled without fining or filtration. The wine shows savory aromas of ripe blackberry, turned earth, leather, tobacco, and black pepper. The palate is full and quite smooth, with grippy tannins, focused acidity, and more flavors of forest floor and rich black fruit. It is well suited to rich foods; try it with game meat or lamb, smoked sausage, cured cheese, hearty vegetable dishes, or with stew. Andy Paynter
Of all the wines made by Martin Gojer at Pranzegg, the Schiava is to me the most interesting. Schiava wines are often pleasant thirst-quenchers of little substance but Martin saw greater potential in his vines. Sourced from 50 year-old vines trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically, this is a more profound expression of the grape. The wine is fermented with 30% stem inclusion and macerates for 6 weeks in large conical vats followed by elevage in old oak and cement tank for 10 months. Tart cherries and raspberries leap out on the nose over aromas of lavender, black pepper, and slight hint of leather. The palate is medium bodied, with great acidity, delicate tannins and a lifted mineral finish. Martin described it as a “really charming full bodied wine that is on the other hand drinkable,” and I couldn't agree more. Try it with duck or wild boar, charcuterie, hard cheese, mushroom dishes, or rich pasta. Andy Paynter
The Ronchi di Cialla Rosato is made entirely from Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and in the few years that is has been produced has quickly become a feature on our shelves every spring. It is certified organic, fermented on native yeast in steel tanks, and bottled after a few months on the lees. Crisp and bright (a relative rarity for an Italian rosato) with flavors of red apples, watermelon and a light floral tone the wine finishes pithy and just slightly bitter. Great as an aperitivo it would also be well-suited for salmon (fresh or cured), cured cheese or olives, light salads, or duck prosciutto. Andy Paynter
Tasting Vinica’s Tintilia makes me wonder how this grape ever fell out of favor in Molise in the first place. It seems particularly well adapted to the high altitude vineyards of the region, showing a balance between ripe fruit and fresh acidity. The grapes are crushed at low pressure and allowed to ferment naturally in open top vessels before being held in steel tanks for two years. There is no temperature control at any point, which allows malolactic fermentation to occur naturally over time. The wine has a pleasant herbal tone of green pepper that peaks out on the nose over tart berry fruit, red roses, and moist earth. The palate is quite fresh and marked by bright acidity and soft tannins with a pleasant, earthy finish. This may not be a wine to cellar for ten years but it is a wine that casually conveys a sense of joy and is a carefree food pairing choice. Give it a try with rich pasta dishes, roast pork, stuffed mushrooms or open it at your next summer barbeque. Andy Paynter