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Category Archives: Italian wine

Wine of the week: Zenato San Benedetto 2012

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Zenato San BenedettoOne of the things that makes Italian wine so fascinating is its variety. You never know, literally, what you’ll find next. How else to explain the Zenato San Benedetto, a white wine made by a largish company that I had never heard of in more than 20 years of doing this?

That’s not unusual with Italian wine, where even the biggest companies are often little known. It’s also not unusual that their wines, like the Zenato ($12, sample, 13.1%), are worth knowing. This was a wonderfully pleasant surprise in what has been a spring of mosty dull, tiresome, and overpriced samples.

The wine is made with the trebbiano grape, the Italian version of the Gascon ugni blanc. But the flavors are different; none of the Gascon white grape, but white fruit (peaches?), a little citrus to flesh out the whole, and a soft, blossom-like aroma. It needs chilling, and an ice cube or two wouldn’t be out of place. If and when warm weather arrives in your part of the country, this is the perfect kind of wine.

It’s also an ideal wine to sip while contemplating this metaphysical question: Why do so many big wine companies in Europe making interesting cheap wine, while their counterparts in the states rarely do?

Wine of the week: Lungarotti Torre di Giano 2011

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Wine of the week:  Lungarotti Torre di Giano 2011The Wine Curmudgeon tries desperately not to let the wine geek inside him get out, but sometimes it’s very, very difficult. I know I need to taste more cabernet sauvingon and merlot, but, as my pal the Italian Wine Guy says, “If it’s got two grapes no one has ever heard of, you’re going to like it.”

Which bring us to the Lungarotti ($15, purchased, 12%), a white blend from Italy made with three grapes that mostly fall into that category — vermentino, trebbiano, and grechetto.  Wine drinkers might know one of them (vermentino isn’t all that rare), but all three? The wine geek in me was salivating. Trebbiano, of course, is the Italian name for my beloved ugni blanc, star of so many fabulous Gascon wines. And the grechetto may be the geekiest of all, a grape that has shown up in only one reveiw here in seven-plus years.

Best yet, the wine did not disappoint, even for $15. It’s a funky and fun blend that tastes more sophisticated than it should, a sign that someone took pride when they put it together. It’s clean and fruity (a little bit of lime zest?) and almost floral, but also crisp and refreshing. Floral wines, typically, aren’t that, another sign of quality. Highly recommended, either with seafood or on its own, and even for those who don’t have a wine geek hiding inside.

Wine review: Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Vecchia Modena Premium 2012

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Wine review: Cleto Chiarli LambruscoThe Wine Curmudgeon does not like red sparkling wine. This dates to an unpleasant experience with sparkling shiraz at a trendy Fort Worth restaurant and a waiter who knew a lot less about wine than he thought. The less said about it, the better.

Still, the only rule of wine is to drink as many kinds as possible, whether one likes it or not. So when the Italian Wine Guy said the Cleto Chiarli ($14, sample, 11%), a red bubbly from Italy, was one of his favorites, who was I to argue? And which demonstrates that you should always listen to people who know more than you do.

Because I enjoyed it, as quirky as it was. Quirky because it had very dark fruit, very dry, and even slightly tannic, hardly what Americans expect from the sweet and soft fruit Lambruscos that most of us know. It’s not for all tastes, and especially for someone expecting a sweet wine or a more conventional sparkler.

But if you want to try it, you’ll find a very well made wine with better quality bubbles than I expected and that is unlike almost anything else you’ve ever had. Serving it chilled wouldn’t hurt, and the tannins make it a better food wine than expected. And you might even like it, which is the best part.

One caveat: The bottle has an old-fashioned wire closure — the best comparison is a piece of clothes hanger holding the cork down — and not a sparkling wine cage. I used a screwdriver to pry it off, though I doubt that’s the traditional method.

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