WRITTEN BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE
When I started out in the retail wine business, in my former life, the most popular Italian wines were presented in a fiasco. You probably think I mean the wine industry was a fiasco. But I don’t. Chianti was nearly always packaged in a wicker basket, known as a fiasco. Chianti gave our meals a truly continental flavor and at a time when the wine selections in stores and in restaurants were in a category best described as “appalling” these Italian quaffers were most welcome. But the consumer in those days was confused by regions and grapes, and rarely knew whether Burgundy or Chianti was a grape variety or a geographical location. It wasn’t until the end of the last century that the distinction between Burgundy — the French region, and Chardonnay — the grape of that region, were clarified. And it’s been the same with Chianti — the region, and Sangiovese — the grape. Without Sangiovese we wouldn’t have Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino or any of the other superstar wines of Tuscany in Italy. But now our part of the world is being introduced to some amazing new wines out of regions of Italy even I thought I knew pretty well.
They’re giving me an entirely fresh Italian wine education.
Take for example, South Italy Imports (www.southitalyimports.net) in Bethlehem. They import and distribute the most unique wines coming out of southern Italy today.
I’ve tasted South Italy Imports’ portfolio of wines several times this past year and they really do find some nifty nectar from a country whose wines I thought I knew like the back of my hand. It seems that I knew them more like the back of my head!
Here are a couple from a producer called La Corsa which are ideal for the Holiday meals and for gifts since they are both under $20 a bottle in Pennsylvania.
La Corsa “Il Mandrione” Sangiovese ’07
This wine is full of the perfumes of wild berries, cherries, spices like thyme and marjoram and it has a rich, light tannic and mineral finish. The grapes are grown in the town of Orbetello in The Golden Valley in the Foothills of Tuscany. This is Sangiovese, the grape that is used in this very same region to make the famous wines of Tuscany called Chianti. But this is so much better than Chianti. The juice is fermented in steel and aged in medium toasted oak barrels for 18 months, followed by 6 months of bottle aging. A real stunner!
La Corsa Petit Verdot 2013
Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape, principally used in classic Bordeaux blends. It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, often too late, so it fell out of favor in its home region. When it does ripen, it is added in small amounts to add tannin, color and flavor to the blend. It has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into single varietal wine. But I have never tasted it from Italy. I didn’t even know it was grown in Italy! This wine is aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve the natural grape flavors and the freshness of the wine. As a result we have a bright ruby red wine with aromas of blackcurrant, and blueberry and what Stacey Binczak, director of operations and marketing, calls “mediterranean scrub.” It is a fabulous wine for lamb and stews. Binczak didn’t fall of her perch when I suggested chilling it for a few minutes in the fridge.
Phillip Silverstone’s column appears regularly in this publication. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly two-hour podcast heard exclusively on TuneIn radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online on Tunein at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4. “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining