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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

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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?

Sardinia: Scenes from Sulcis, Wine, Food, Producers & Friends

Posted By Joel on February 15, 2015

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.

The following is part of a series of planned posts featuring the region of Carignano del Sulcis, its producers and wines:

The entire time we drove through Sardinia’s Sulcis region, Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” played in my head, as if it were somehow the soundtrack for exploring the Sulcis territory, its famous Carignano wines, food and culture.

In gathering some trip photos to share, it seems fitting that you might experience it that way, too :-)

* Song snippet from “Last Train Home”, a cut from the album “Still Life (Talking), by Pat Metheny Group, released 1987 by Geffen Records.

Two Wines, Snow, Hungry Birds

Posted By Joel on February 3, 2015

Given the recent weather, I am pretty certain, no matter where in the great New England outdoors you may be standing at the moment, that you are quite knee deep in snow. In my particular case, thigh deep, actually, and trudging through to fill a bird feeder with seed for our local fine-feathered friends.

I am thinking to introduce you to a couple of wines that, back indoors, brought some much appreciated sunshine - however virtual it may have been - to an otherwise snowy weekend:

vinarija-dingac-plavac-peljesac-2012-1Dingac Vinarija Pelješac 2012
I adore this somewhat geeky wine from the Pelješac (pell-yuh-shatz) Peninsula on Croatia’s rugged Dalmatian Coast. Produced from 100% head-trained Plavac Mali or Little Blue, Plavac is apparently a varietal cousin of California Zinfandel. Savory herb components are in good unison with the wine’s sweeter notes of wild berry, plum, and dried fig, underlined with delicious salinity, a taste / aroma profile calling to mind that of Carignano del Sulcis. Come to think of it, both do share a certain wildness of spirit. That humid conditions do not exist in the vineyard(s) has allowed the producer to forego spraying vines for mold. A flourishing yeast population kick-starts a wild fermentation conducted in stainless steel. Aged for one year in used oak.

vajra-barolo-albe-2009G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2009
Vajra’s Barolo Albe conferred a fitting level of refined drinking to a family sit down of rare-cooked lamb t-bone cuts, butternut squash risotto, and roasted asparagus, dinner taken by the woodstove on a recent and cold ass New England evening. On the feminine side of the Barolo gender-meter, this lovely wine gives up delicate notes of dried flowers, herbs, underbrush, hints of anise and cocoa, pleasantly ripe tannins. Blended from sustainably farmed grapes sourced from three different vineyards at altitudes of 400-440 meters, undergoes 30 - 40 day fermentation. The wine is aged ~36 months in Slavonian oak.

As an aside, both these wines, in their respective price ranges, bring serious value for money to the table. Poseur wines with inflated price tags: take notice. But, that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyway, yesterday brought another fourteen inches of snow. And I hear that Punxsutawney Phil, America’s weather forecasting Groundhog, on February 2nd 2015, the 129th North American Groundhog Day, predicted another six weeks of winter. Best I should pull on boots and thick wool trousers and head out to top off the feeder.

Jankara Vermentino di Gallura Superiore

Posted By Joel on January 18, 2015

Note: Jankara Vermention di Gallura Superiore was provided to me as a tasting sample. If interested, see Vintrospective policy about wine samples here.

May I suggest you to locate a writing pen, and with it, write on the palm of your hand the following:

JANKARA

Upon arriving at your favorite wine shop, open your palm to show the salesperson what you’ve written.

jankara-vermention-di-gallura-superiore-2If you have with you any luck at all, you may, at that point, be quite nearer to a taste of some astonishingly good Vermentino.

Vermentino di Gallura, to be precise.

Plenty of Vermentino grows elsewhere in Sardinia and on Italy’s mainland, too - Tuscany and Liguria come to mind - to produce what are, in most cases, impressively good wines. But, Vermentino from Sardinia’s Gallura production zone is an especially rich expression of that grape varietal.

The production zone for Vermentino di Gallura is located in Sardinia’s northeast. And though I haven’t yet personally visited the area, I understand it to be characterized by granite mountains, well-drained granite soils and the salty, Mediterranean wind, all of which together contribute to the particular taste and aroma of Vermention di Gallura.

Jankara is a young estate founded in 2006 by Renato and Angela Spanu, situated in the Gallura subzone known as Vena di San Leonardo or Vein of Saint Leonardo. The estate sits at 300 meters altitude and not far from Sardinia’s famed Costa Smerelda beaches. I believe 11 or so of the estate’s 20-something acres are under vine. The area around Vena di San Leonardo is said to be blessed with an especially excellent microclimate, influenced by nearby Lake Liscia and the island’s second highest mountain (Mount Limbara). Here, grapes thrive in the subzone’s cool nights and hot days, and stay exceedingly healthy thanks to the ever present wind which cools and cleans the air, keeping grapes dry and free of disease and pests.

jankara-vermentino-di-gallura-superioreI can tell you from conversations had with Renato while traveling on a bus visiting vineyards in Sardinia’s Sulcis, that his passion for Sardinia and Gallura runs deep: raised in the Gallura area, Rentato speaks about Sardina and Gallura with poetic passion as only a local boy could.

Jankara Vermentino di Gallura Superiore is produced from 100% hand-harvested Vermentino fermented in stainless steel, 6 months tank ageing, additional 2 months in bottle.

In the interest of artistic thinking, fairness, and democratic viewpoint, when writing about wines, I have avoided statements that suggest any particular wine is “the best” in its class or category. I am comfortable to keep it that way. But, I will say, with no reservation whatever, that Jankara Vermentino di Gallura Superiore … is not second best ;-).

Tasting Notes:
Intense yet mellow, with an impressive range of aromas and tastes: flowers, herbs, apricots, papaya, honey, almonds, fleeting notes of fennel and mint. Adore the rich, somewhat viscous palate. Satisfying acidity / minerality. Well-structured and nicely balanced, the wine finishes with a subtle, pleasantly bitter grace note and a delicious lick of seasalt.

Food Pairing Suggestions:
This wine was sensational with tuna steak and black sesame seeds. I am convinced this Vermentino can make a can of good octopus alongside bread and olive oil something to remember. I cannot imagine that anyone pairing the wine with sushi, sashimi, or maki cut rolls could possibly be unhappy with the result. Any shellfish I can think of at the moment alongside a glass of this Sardinian white seems an especially tantalizing idea. Crab meat on grilled buttered toast? Oh yeah. The wine’s herbal notes would bring good company to slices of mozzarella di bufala and tomato, scented with ripped basil and olive oil. In the mood for a more substantial entrée, perhaps? Jankara Vermentino di Gallura Superiore has the stuffing to be poured wherever chicken, rabbit or pork are served ;-)

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