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Welcome to V I N T R O S P E C T I V E

Posted By Joel on February 20, 2009

Vintrospective is voted by Ville in Italia as 2014 Top 15 Italian Wine Blog

March 17, 2012

Readers,

You may have come to know Vintrospective as having a focus on the wines of Italy. This will continue to be the case, however, Vintrospective will expand coverage to wine regions beyond Italy. There is no roadmap or plan for exactly how, except to follow the wines and write as I go. Hope you’ll come along.

Best,
Joel

***********************************************************************

Do you think about the place where your bottle of Italian wine came from, who made it, how it was made?  If you stop to consider these things you will begin to taste the unique cultural message which Italian wine offers.  The wine will tell you about the land where it was created.  It will invite you to drink the traditions and histories of the people that made it. That is good wine.  It’s always been like this, more or less.

Some would have you believe that understanding Italian wine is a technical undertaking.  It’s not like that, believe me.  It is impossible to understand Italian wine without an awareness of the culture, people and place that created it.   Only after we have a sense of these things does the technical stuff add value.

That its wine regions are beautifully different, distinct and many is Italy’s strength and its difficulty.  Her dazzling array of wines will both charm and bewilder you.  I suggest one approach: get to know Italian wine by your own sensory perceptions and experiences: you will create a real, personal wine culture independent of the professional wine press.

Don’t worry;  the wines have their own way of deciding the itinerary for you…  Are you coming?

In Sardegna: An Afternoon with Luca Fontana of Cantina Mesa

Posted By Joel on December 2, 2014

In Sardegna: An Afternoon with Luca Fontana of Cantina Mesa

NOTE: I traveled as a guest of Consorzio Carignano del Sulcis on an educational press trip to experience the Carignano wines of Sardegna’s Sulcis region.

mesa-luca-1While in Sardegna exploring the Carignano wines of the Sulcis region, I had the good luck to come upon Luca Fontana- a man filled with an enormous energy and passion for what he is doing … and for the place where he does it.

Luca is simply an extraordinary ambassador not only for the wines of Cantina Mesa, but for Sardegna, Sulcis and Carignano as well.

Cantina Mesa – the word Mesa in both Sardinian and Spanish, means table or dinner table – is the extraordinary creation of Gavino Sanna, a massively successful Italian advertising professional. Located on the mesa-seaside1south western tip of Sardegna, Cantina Mesa, the youngest estate in the area, having been established in 2004, produces 750K bottles from 70 hectares of vineyards.

The local climate is Mediterranean with little rain, most of which comes during winter. According to Fontana, to go even six months without rain water does not threaten the vines, but notes that the vines are sensitive to humidity related disease. Thus, the persistent wind plays a key role in drying moisture, keeping vines healthy.

mesa-winery1Naturally sandy soils of the area, relates Fontana, arise from ancient seas and are rich in limestone, skeletal, mineral and organic components that have bearing on the success of the estate’s wines.

Indeed, as the afternoon in the company of Luca progressed, it became clear to me that the cornerstone of Mesa’s philosophy is a kind of maternal love married to generosity, dedication and respect: Mesa’s wines are astonishingly good for the same reason your mother’s pasta tastes better than any other.

From the Mesa building itself which, through minimalist architecture, occupies an insanely gorgeous landscape in the hills around the estate’s principal vineyard in Su Baroni without disruption, to the tri-level winery inside, one of exceedingly modern design that cares for every aspect of the grape / wine process like a young mother caring for her infant child, the Mesa philosophy is pervasively tangible.

Although Cantine Mesa also produces wines from Vermentino, Cannonau, Syrah and Chardonnay, I will limit remarks here to Mesa’s BUIO and BUIO BUIO, the esates’s first and second label Carignano wines, respectively, and a mention of a special bottling, that of the estate’s Gavino, a wine I enjoyed tremendously:

mesa-buio1I am especially fond of Cantina Mesa’s wine BUIO – BUIO in local Italian dialect means dark - a wine that speaks with authority about its relevance and connection to “place”, a wine essential to the Sulcis experience. 100% Carignano fermented in stainless steel, inoculated with selected French yeast, followed by 2 months bottle ageing, BUIO pulls you into some kind of sublime seaside conversation with impressions of fresh berry, Mediterranean bush, and smoke.

Mesa’s first label wine, BUIO BUIO, which I adore, brings more depth to that conversation, warmer on the palate, heightened intensity, and a more structured frame. Impressions of wood and spice - though not at all overdone – find good balance against the wines richness. Rests a minimum of ten months in first / second passage barriques, followed by another four months in bottle.

A special mention for Mesa’s massively impressive Gavino, produced from a 65 year old vineyard of ungrafted alberello trained vines facing the sea. This moody, magnificent wine is, I believe, an anniversary bottling, and so may be, unfortunately, discontinued.

Mesa’s wines offer a unique, stylish, singular interpretation of Sardegna in voices that remain connected to and in harmony with Sardinian tradition.

The afternoon ended with a wish from Luca, a wish not for writing about wines or for market development, etc., but simply that we should, “come back to Sardegna, to Sulcis, to Porto Pino…with families…with dogs…whatever… but, come back”.

You can bet on that, Luca.

Related Post, The Enigmatic, Beating Heart of Carignano del Sulcis

La Fiorita Brunello: Metaphor for Harmony

Posted By Joel on November 13, 2014

La Fiorita Brunello: Metaphor for Harmony

la-fiorita-oliveros-cipresso-meAlong with a small group of wine lovers, I joined Natalie Oliveros and Roberto Cipresso in New York for an intimate luncheon and tasting of wines from their La Fiorita winery.

Located in Montalcino, Italy, La Fiorita produces earthy, rich Brunello, the kind that tempts fine wine lovers and Sangiovese geeks alike.

Cipresso, a self-described “wine tailor” interested in putting together different vineyard expressions of Sangiovese, explained that “…Montalcino is a magic mountain…” and that the expression of terroir is that “magic moment” when wine becomes emotion.

la-fiorita-brunello-2007Lunch kicked off with La Fiorita’s Rosato 2013 which was enjoyable and immensely drinkable, setting the right mood for what was to come.

Wines were served in a single flight during lunch, providing a great opportunity to taste each of the wines alone, compare them to one another, and to experience each one paired with wonderful food plates prepared by La Masseria:

La Fiorita’s Brunello 2007 is typical of the vintage with a soft, warm palate, sporting bigger tannins than the 2008, more muted fruit, while the Brunello 2008 set a deeper, darker tone, moody and magnificent (available in California, not yet on East Coast).

la-fiorita-brunello-pouringCipresso’s Brunello 2006 Riserva has gained even more harmony since my last tasting of that wine in 2013. Complex aromatics, mouth filling density, muscular yet supple. A long life ahead of that one. (for more on this particular wine, see my article, link below). The 2004 Riserva, on the other hand, is a more delicate, refined Brunello, ripe and silky tannins, super elegant with the lightness of fine Burgundy. Ethereal.

Cipresso is not so much interested in the macro view of Brunello as in exploring the possibilities of different growing areas. Interestingly, La Fiorita is a couple of vintages behind many peer producers as they prefer to hold their wines longer, meeting mandatory wood aging requirements for the denomination, but keeping the wines for additional aging in bottle – 30 months, in fact, for the Riserva bottling.

la-fiorita-brunello-2006-riservaAs a group, the wines are connected by unifying suites of ripe, fine tannins and an astounding harmony of elements that are at once both interdependent and independent, not unlike melody lines in the musical counterpoint of JS Bach.

A great tasting of La Fiorita Brunello, intelligent, selfless, wines of depth, beauty and structure, that serve to enrich all that we know about Montalcino and Brunello.

You can read more about La Fiorita and the Brunello 2006 Riserva in my related article here.

A Florentine Reverie

Posted By Joel on November 11, 2014

firenzeIt is more than once that I have contributed to the number of tourists who, between April and September, outnumber the local population of Florence, Italy.

Relax. I am not readying to prattle on about the history, culture, or art that, according to Wikipedia, draws two million visitors a year to Florence, the world’s 59th most visited city.

On the contrary.

What follows is great stuff that you never hear about … stuff that, in one way or another, has led me to something good to eat or drink while traveling in Florence.

firenze-finocchionaBut, today is such a rainy, overcast, chilly afternoon in New England that I shall first require a motivating energy to recount this Florentine reverie:

My mantra, please:

Travel with Venere to Florence.

OK: We can now proceed ;-)

Finocchiona

Yes, I know, in Italy it’s called a Panino. But, when I walked into a shop so hungry that my stomach was beginning digest itself, it was “sandwich” that my brain was screaming for. Now, to this point, I have never seen Finocchiona on anyone’s list of motivating reasons to travel to Florence. But, if you suspect that “food & wine geek” is a label that might even remotely apply to you, firenze-stormI suggest that this regional specialty pork salami, uniquely flavored with fennel seeds, should reside comfortably near the top of whatever short list you are keeping to justify getting to Florence.

Opportunities for the Unexpected, Romantic and Quirky

After a drive through the gorgeous hill country surrounding Florence, we meandered far enough to arrive in Anghiari, a fortified medieval hill town. On foot, amid gathering clouds, we followed winding stone streets upward, until arriving finally at Caffé Giardino del Vicario, whose backdoor opens to a panoramic vista high above the ancient town. What happened next can only be appreciated by those romantic and quirky enough to know that a glass of vino served at a ringside seat to a totally unexpected thunderstorm of biblical proportion is an opportunity not to be missed.

firenze-al-frescoAl Fresco Dining

One certainly doesn’t need to travel to Florence to dine al fresco. But, surely, Florence is one of the best cities in the world to enjoy that favorite pastime of open air dining. Whether at a sidewalk restaurant or in the hills above the city, dining al fresco is an essential part of the Florentine summer. If you are unmoved by the ambience of a countryside dinner taken amid olive groves, grape vines and cypress trees, well, check your pulse. You may be dead.

Wines of Macedonia NYC 2014

Posted By Joel on October 29, 2014

OK, indulge me for a moment:

Do the names Temjanika, Stanushina, or Vranec ring a bell?

HINT: No, they are not Eastern European tennis players ;-)

The three grape varietals Temjanika, Stanushina, and Vranec from Macedonia, along with Zilavska, do, however, score big when it comes to delivering unique and interesting wines.

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photograpy

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photograpy

At a recent Master Class and guided tasting for the Wines of Macedonia presentation held at Tocqueville Restaurant in New York City, I had an opportunity to explore some real gems from this still rather quiet wine region.

Although winemaking tradition in the area goes back to Roman times, it is only since the breakup of former Yugoslavia that that there has been a move toward privatization and incoming investment dollars enough to support expansion of wine production in Macedonia. Local bulk wine tradition of the 1950’s has been these days left behind for innovation and serious thinking about the making of world class wines.

Temjanika (synonym Muscat) wines I tasted showed elegant perfumes, some with floral / herb notes or hints of tangerine, orange peel, apricot, arousing muskiness, passion fruit or pineapple. All drank with good acidity and freshness, nicely balanced wines finishing with good persistence. Recommended with hot or cold appetizers, first courses, fish, dessert (Temjanika can be dry, semi-dry, or dessert wine).

The Vranec wines - the word Vranec (pronounced Vran-etch) means strong and powerful horse - were well-structured, communicating supple power, plump and expressive, with firm tannins. As a group, the wines offered rich, intense sensations of red and black fruit, some with impressions of jam, sun, smoke. Depending on wood treatment, notes of cocoa, herb, toasty oak. Finishes were with satisfying with lingering aftertastes. Enjoy Vranec with red meats, game, stews or aged cheeses.

From a purely market perspective, I appreciate that producers I spoke with are not keen to simply recreate a Cabernet or Merlot experience (international varietals grow happily in the region). Rather, producers are focused on expressing the uniqueness of Macedonia’s grape varietals and its terroir, aware that Macedonia can introduce wine lovers to varietals not to be had anywhere else.

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photography

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photography

Take, for example, Stanushina, a uniquely Macedonian vine little known outside of Macedonia and found, I’m told, nowhere else in the world. I tasted both Stanushina Barrique and Stanushina Rose from producer POPOVA KULA, both were astonishingly good. Pale in color and lighter bodied, both wines showed intense berry aromatics, notes of dried herb, rich flavors on the palate and drank in wonderfully fresh style.

Overall, I found the wines of Macedonia to be sensuous and smooth, with somewhat modern personalities in some cases, immensely drinkable and offering excellent value for money.

Perhaps as importantly as having arrived at a positive impression of the wines, I came away from the day’s presentation with the distinct feeling that healthy food, good wine and gracious hospitality are to be had by travelers to Macedonia’s wine country.

Wines Tasted / Recommended Producers:

    Whites

BOVIN Temjanika 2013
CHATEAU KAMNIK Temjanika 2013
POPOVA KULA Temjanika 2013
SKOVIN Temjanika 2013
STOBI Zilavka 2013
TIVKES Temjanika 2013

    Reds

TIKVES Barova 2011
SKOVIN Markov Manastir Vranec 2010
POPOVA KULA Vranec Perfect Choice 2012
POPOVA KULA Stanishina Barrique 2009, Stanishina Rose 2013
BOVIN Dissan Barrique 2011
CHATEAU KAMNIK Vranec Terroir 2011
STOBI Vranec Veritas 2011

Kudos to Melanie Young and David Ransom of The Connected Table for especially thoughtful coordination of this well-done event.