City Cellar: An Italian 'rich man, poor man' wine trio
A trio of Italian reds just listed by BC Liquor Stores recently knocked my socks off. Not only were they well-crafted examples of a handful of Italy’s indigenous grapes, but they brought more dimension and slightly different character to common wine styles. The following are small-production, more hands-on versions of a Ripasso, Nero D’Avola, and Chianti, along with more budget-friendly suggestions of similar-styled wines for those still paying off Christmas bills. Try both versions of each to see how they compare and contrast!
Tenuta Chiccheri 2010 Ripasso | Valpolicella, Italy | $38.99
Corvina, Rondinella and Croatina are the red grapes that go into this one, but ‘Ripasso’ wines are just as much about method as they are about content. Once the wine is made, the finished product is again married with the leftover grape skins and pomace (or re-passed, just as it sounds) to allow extended maceration, added richness, flavour and all-around oomph! This process bumps up the ferment a touch, adding a tad more alcohol that can certainly weigh down some versions of the style. This ain’t one of those. This Tenuta Chiccheri outing is thoroughly jubilant with red fruit, basil, mint and so much cinnamon that I actually wrote the word twice in my notes! A cool, cool wine.
The Masi Campofiorin at $19.99 is probably the most famous example of Ripasso; a darker, heavier version that will stain your teeth and warm those cold, rainy nights.
Marabino Noto 2010 Nero D’Avola | Sicily, Italy | $26.99
Probably the most famous red grape of Sicily, Nero D’Avola can be as dark and inky as Shiraz and is commonly loaded with dark plums and pepper. My favourite versions, and this is one of them, err toward savoury notes like black olive and dusty, dried herbs while retaining the juiciness of those aforementioned plums and, oh, a pound or two of blackberries. Bonus points on this one for its thread of earthiness that’ll tackle even the most rustic pasta sauces.
If you’re looking to keep it under 20 bucks, Cusumano’s Nero D’Avola ($17.99) has a bit more weight and a little smack of chocolate on the finish.
Tenuta Cantagallo 2009 Chianti Montalbano Riserva | Tuscany, Italy | $29.99
In typical fashion for Chianti, we’re indeed talking about the Sangiovese grape, with its currants, rustic purple fruit and a good dose of oak ageing. This bottling, from a 200-hectare family estate, is SO elegant and features some sweet, sweet basil. The tannins are lovingly polished (think smooth sandpaper, compared to the really gritty kind), which lets all that fruit shine bright!
Want similar flavours, but with a little more grip and body? Gabbiano Chianti, at $14.99, is a steal.
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