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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


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.



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?

Cantine Ascheri Verduno Pelaverga 2012

Posted By Joel on August 13, 2014

This post is dedicated to the grape varietals I will ask you to forget: the likes of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, to name a few, whatever varietals command your usual attention.

cantine-ascheri-verduno-pelavergaDon’t worry. It’s only temporary. Forget them just long enough to discover something completely new about wine, perhaps a varietal you know nothing about.

Enter your favorite wine shop ready to resist the temptation to follow your usual path to familiar bottles. Wander the racks and aisles until you come upon an unfamiliar name, a region unknown to you, a bottle that piques your curiosity. Buy it and go home.

That’s how I came to know Pelaverga, a rare and totally charming wine from Italy’s northwestern hills in the region of Piemonte.

This particular wine, Cantine Ascheri Verduno Pelaverga, pours with pleasing crimson color. Between one sip and the next, air around the glass fills with ethereal scents of strawberry, cherry, notes of incense and of pepper. Berry fruit transfers to the palate along with a bit of subtle spice. Dry, clean, and warm in the mouth, harmonious, with ever-so-slight tannins. Delicate, almost shy at first, this wine achieves an even greater harmony hours after opening and into day 2.

Enjoy Pelaverga with soups and light stews, egg-based dishes such as quiche or sophisticated omelets, meat and vegetable kebabs, white flesh fish dishes. Am looking forward to try this wine with Asian plates, too, as I suspect the exotic incense / spice notes will be a nice compliment to flavors of that cuisine. Serve slightly chilled.

Every once in awhile, forget for a moment what you know in order to discover something which you don’t.

Random? Totally. But, sometimes random is where the party is ;-)

PS Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot… now safely recollected.

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

Posted By Joel on June 26, 2014

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

For those of you pursuing an indie do-it-yourself wine education (Really, who else can do it for you?), you might like to take time to explore one of the great and most important grape varietals of Italy’s south, Aglianico.

You’ll probably notice pretty quickly two confounding things about Aglianico: a) that you won’t find it in every wine shop and, b) that when you do, you will likely encounter Aglianico wines from varied regions such as Campania, Sicily, Molise, Puglia, and Basilicata to name a few.

tenuta-del-portale-le-vigne-a-capanno-2009-1All the aforementioned regions produce noteworthy expressions of Aglianico and you must try them eventually. But, do yourself a favor: begin your exploration with Aglianico from Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture to be specific (takes its name from the region’s dormant volcano Monte Vulture), or from Campania’s Taurasi appellation (named for one of the production area communities), as those two expressions of Aglianico generally set the bar for important Aglianico reference points.

Brief geography: Basilicata is that part of the Italian peninsula that forms the ankle on the boot. You can locate that pretty easily. With only slightly more effort, to find the area for Taurasi, zero in on the Province of Avellino in Campania and you’ll have the place (Hey, don’t complain, I did say “brief” geography, remember? It is do-it-yourself, afterall). Separated by just 40 or so miles, the very common denominator relating the del Vulture and Taurasi production zones is the volcanic soil on which they are situated and in which Aglianico seems to thrive.

I can offer a thumbnail sketch of how the Vulture and Taurasi wines compare: well, actually, I hate doing this kind of broad brush thing, because there are always exceptions, but as you force me:

Aglianico del Vulture wines tend to be wines of complexity and detail, with dark and red fruit tones underlined by mineral character (volcanic, right?) and firm, often dusty tannins, while Taurasi – again, generally speaking - is perhaps the more structured of the two, also has the mineral thing going on, a wine that can show incredible depth and a finish that can go on forever. When cellared, Aglianico wines from either del Vulture or Taurasi areas will reward your patience.

Descriptors for wines from either zone could include red cherry, black cherry, plum, violets, smoke, meat, leather, vanilla, cocoa, menthol and tobacco, and no, that is not a definitive list. Foodie’s will appreciate that Aglianico’s naturally high acidity makes it a great food wine (and also balances alcohol levels that can be north of 14%).

Recommended, reasonable price points and pretty good trade distribution as far as I know:

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture
Tenuta Portale Le Vigne a Capanno Aglianico del Vulture
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina

Bellini Chianti Rufina Riserva 2011

Posted By Joel on June 19, 2014

Bellini Chianti Rufina Riserva 2011

bellini-chianti-rufina-riserva-2011-outdoors-aBack in the day, Chianti wines were “in”.

And then … they were “out”.

But, at the moment, Chianti wines are enjoying a rather well-deserved resurgence in popularity among wine drinkers on either end of the generational spectrum. I mean, look, when you can Google (to “Google” has become a new verb, apparently) “hipster Chianti” and “dad Chianti” with results returned for either, there is something interesting going on.

After all, if there is one thing that dads and hipsters and most of the non-prozac demographic can appreciate it is quality at a good value point and many Chianti wines today are bringing it.

I met the Bellini Chianti Rufina Riserva in April during a guided tasting segment at Chianti NYC 2014 and based on that encounter, decided to score a couple of bottles when I came across the wine over the weekend.

The wine has a unique taste, dusty in a way, and is widely aromatic of cherries with subtle, evolving notes of tobacco, cocoa, eucalyptus and smoke. Plenty of vivid yet soft acidity, dry tannins in just the right measure. Harmonic all the way.

bellini-chianti-riserva-swordfish-a1That on Day 1 this Chianti Rufina Riserva rocked when enjoyed with a grill seared bone-in pork chop is probably no surprise so I won’t dwell on it. That on Day 2, cooled down to ~ 62 degrees , it had the range at table to be spectacular when served with grilled swordfish and eggplant dressed with chopped oil cured olives, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, capers, marinated artichoke hearts - is something else. (Warning: if your oeno-logic sense of adventure has you swinging wide to pair Sangiovese with anything but pasta and red sauce, this one may not be for you.)

Not hungry? No problem. Pour it anyway. Bellini Chianti Rufina Riserva plays a good solo act.

Sangiovese 90%, Canaiolo 5%, Colorino 5%, aged in traditional 20-40 HL oak barrels for 24 months.

Related Post Chianti, Version Cool

Where the Wine Trail Leads…

Posted By Joel on May 23, 2014

Where the Wine Trail Leads…

On a grey, drizzly morning I stare out the window, saddened at having just read the rather harsh remarks of a prominent wine critic about Sangiovese in Montalcino, Brunello and its Consorzio.

Is that what it comes to? A search for monochrome perfection? The unbearable boredom of greatness?

wine-trailStill staring outside:

I’ve known the richness of life’s blessings expressed only in a collection of days good and not so good; understood the depth of personal relationships through disappointment and happiness.

Did I boo my favorite tenor from the stage because I think his last year’s performance was better sung?

In a cosmos where everything runs in its own cycle of good and not so good, that we, as wine lovers, would criticize as wine follows the ups and downs of nature’s plan - even when produced year after year in the same place by the same people – seems absurd, contrary to wine appreciation and certainly to what should live in the heart of a wine lover.

Perhaps, when considering wine, we might take a lesson from a popular song artist who sings of loving the “perfect imperfections”*. If, as many have said, Sangiovese is a great communicator of terroir, then it stands to reason that Sangiovese will too be a great communicator of terroir even when conditions are not quite right, a talker of terroir’s perfections and, sometimes, imperfections.

I am not at all suggesting we tolerate badly made wine. Only that we recognize that, just as love demands forgiveness, wine requires tolerance for an acceptable range of quality variation.

You know. The good outweighs the bad.

I’ve often wondered where the wine trail leads. I still don’t know. But … if it leads to a place where days pass with predictably excellent sameness, full of well-behaved lovers and tenors who sing each song as well as the last, well, count me out.

*John Legend, All of Me
Photo borrowed from www.maremma-tuscany.com