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Tag Archives: Italian wine

Mini-reviews 68: La Scolca, Vina Decana, Santi, picpoul

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wine reviews picpoulReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

La Scolca Gavi Black Label 2012 ($45, sample, 12%): Some producers still make wine that needs to age, and this Italian white is a prime example. Drink it now, it’s a well-made wine, but nothing special, and certainly not for the price. Let it sit for a couple of years, and based on past experience, it will blossom with white flowers and spice.

Vina Decana Reserva 2009 ($7, purchased, 13%): Not the legendary $5 Decana that has all but disappeared from Aldi , but its more expensive sibling ($2 being more expensive for an Aldi wine). This Spanish red is a reserva, which means oak aging and more complexity. But not appreciably better than the $5 version, thanks to too much cabernet sauvignon and merlot in the blend. But it’s hard to beat the price.

Santi Valpolicella Classico Superiore Solane 2011 ($16, sample, 13.5%): Delicious Italian red with every note in the right place — red fruit, richness, and acidity. The catch? That $16 is a lot to pay for Valpolicella, no matter how tasty.

Moulin de Gassac Picpoul de Pinet ($10, sample, 13%): French white made with the picpoul grape is mostly on target, and price is fair, but it’s not quite it could be. This won’t stop you from enjoying its tart lemon fruit and touch of minerality, though.

Wine of the week: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2011

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Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book


Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco Many of us who were liberal arts students in the 1970s spent a lot of time with European history, and one of the things we learned is that national borders were flexible. Unlike the U.S., where we believe in mostly straight lines that are always the same, European borders have changed frequently over the past 500 years. A war, a new ruler, or a dynastic marriage, and part of one country would become part of another without any trouble at all.

What does this have to do with wine? A lot, actually, as only the Wine Curmudgeon would take the time to point out. Northern Italy wasn’t Italian the way we understand it for most of those of 500 years, but part of various German-speaking states, including the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Which means there is a tradition in Northern Italy of wine producers with German-sounding last names making wine with German grapes.

Alois Lageder does it, and so does the Tiefenbrunner family, as the pinot bianco ($15, purchased, 13%) demonstrates. Hence a label that says both pinot bianco and weissburgunder, the grape’s German name (which is pinot blanc in French) on it. Pinot bianco is softer and more floral than pinot grigio, and is much more enjoyable at the lower prices I write about.

This wine is an excellent example of pinot bianco. Look for green apple fruit with an undercurrent of something almost tropical, lots of white flower aromas, and a minerality and acidity that don’t overwhelm the wine the way they can in pinot grigio. That I bought a previous vintage, and paid more than I usually do, attests to the Tiefenbrunner quality. Highly recommended, even at $15.

Wine of the week: Melini Chianti Borghi d’Elsa 2013

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Melini ChiantiThis summer, the Wine Curmudgeon attended a big-time Italian trade tasting, which included five Chiantis from the Melini producer. None of them cost more than $25 or $30, which is saying something for big-time Italian trade tastings.

All of which means that the 300-year-old Melini knows a thing or two about making quality cheap wine, and the Borghi d’Elsa ($7, purchased, 13%) amply demonstrates this expertise. It’s a red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Italy, and every time I taste it, I’m surprised by how well done it is. Look for berry fruit, more black than red, clean and fresh, and just enough character — some tannins and earthiness — to let you know this is wine from Italy. It’s a simple wine, but as I have noted before, simple does not have to mean stupid.

The other that impresses me about the Melini Chianti? The company doesn’t waste money on the bottle, which is lightweight and without much of a punt. Would that other cheap wine producers did the same thing.

This is winter red sauce wine, and braised pot roast wouldn’t be so bad, either. If it’s not quite a $10 Hall of Fame wine, it’s still better than most of the $10 wine on store shelves, and shows just how much great cheap wine there is in the world.

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