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Category Archives: Italian wine

Wine of the week: Lamura Bianco Organica 2014

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lamura biancoOrganic and natural wines, despite powerful support, have never gotten much attention from consumers. For one thing, it’s difficult to tell the difference between organic and conventional wines, and especially when it comes to quality. Fortunately, the Lamura Bianco, a white from Sicily made with catarratto, has been a consistent organic value for years.

The Lamura Bianco ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is made with organic grapes (which is different from an organic wine); the 2014 vintage, despite its age, shows why Lamura delivers outstanding quality and value almost annually. Look for lemon and tropical fruit in a wine that is crisp and fresh, and with all of that topped off with the minerality one expects from a wine that will pair perfectly with seafood.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame, with one caveat. Older vintages of the white (though not of the other Lamura, a red) don’t always age well, and can taste tired and worn out. I haven’t noticed a pattern to this, and it may be because the wine suffers during its Dallas supply chain experience. If that’s the case, then you won’t have a problem with it in other parts of the country.

Wine of the week: Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2013

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Farnese Fantini SangioveseDuring last week’s judging at the Texsom International Wine Awards, another judge and I were commiserating about how difficult it had to become to find value in California, and just not at my price range. Fortunately, the judge told me, there is always Spain and Italy.

Which is about the best way possible to introduce the Farnese Fantini sangiovese ($10, purchased, 12%), an Italian red wine from Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast west of Rome. Cheap wine doesn’t get much better than this; it’s as if the last couple of years of premiumization and dumbing down wine never happened. The Fantini (Farnese is the producer) is surprisingly layered and rich for a $10 sangiovese, with almost sour cherry fruit, black pepper, and what the tasting notes call a wood flavor, an intriguing way to describe how sort of oaky it is.

The other thing I liked? That it tasted like sangiovese, but didn’t taste like the $10 sangioveses from Umbria, about two hours north or Abruzzo, or those from Tuscany, another couple of hours north. In this, we get a chance to taste terroir for our $10, and how often does that happen with cheap wine?

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame. Pair the Fantini with red sauce, of course, but don’t be afraid to try it with grilled meats and beef stews.

 

Wine of the week: Benedetto Chianti 2014

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Benedetto ChiantiOne of the problems with really cheap wine — the $3, $4, and $5 labels like Trader Joe’s Two-buck Chuck and Whole Foods’ Three Wishes — is that they don’t always taste like the grapes they’re made with. That is, they’re not varietally correct. The merlot tastes like the pinot noir, the pinot tastes like the cabernet sauvignon, and so on and so forth.

Which is not the case with the Benedetto Chianti ($5, purchased, 12.5%), a really cheap Italian red wine from Aldi. It tastes like Chianti — not “this Chianti is so good it made me cry” Chianti, but that’s true of wines that cost three or four times as much as the Benedetto. Call this the “man, this Chianti is better than I thought it was going to be” Chianti, which is never a bad thing for $5.

The Benedetto Chianti is simple and juicy, with a little tart cherry fruit. It’s softer than many Chiantis and doesn’t have the burst of telltale acidity, but there’s enough of the latter so that you can tell it’s Chianti if you’re forced to do a blind tasting. In this, it’s fairly priced at $5 — just enough less interesting than the $8 Melini, and obviously not as interesting as the $10 Caposaldo and Straccali.

And, for those of you who want to tweak the wine snob in your life, the Benedetto Chianti is DOCG, the second highest rung in the Italian appellation system. That it can be DOCG and only cost $5 says a lot about how the Italian wine business works, and why it’s as well made as it is.

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