Three Italian Whites That Get It Right

Three Italian Whites That Get It Right

As Spring makes its appearance where I like to walk along Frog Hollow Road, yellow flowers bloom, tractors cough awake from their winter rest, the season’s first bicyclists spin past coloring the landscape with bright, eye-catching outfits.

Spring also brings with it a gradual shift from hearty cold weather fare to lighter warm weather eating.

italian-white-barberani-pra-casaIn anticipation of summer’s bounty, mealtimes al fresco and leisurely aperitifs on the terrace, I recently road-tested a field of Italian whites: here are three that will not fail to appear on my warm weather wine list 😉

A Casa Falanghina 2007

Produced from 100% Falanghina grown in soil hosting deposits of sandstone and clay, vinified in stainless steel. This Campanian white shows aromatics of apple, pear, pineapple and papaya with traces of licorice and mint on the finish, vibrant acidity and good structure. A superb partner to shell fish or seafood – served either alone or in pasta or risotto – classic caprese salad, grilled vegetables, poultry, red or white pizza. $$.

Pra Soave Classico 2009

This 100% Garganega Soave hails from 30 year old vineyards and is vinified in stainless steel. With spectacular aromatics and super articulation, this Veneto white exudes terroir and personality showing honeydew melon, apple, pear, and flowers underscored by delicious minerality. Finishes with subtle whispers of citrus and almond. You’ll want this bottle close at hand wherever and whenever you find yourself with a picnic basket in hand: pair it with chicken or potato salad, dishes that feature eggs or cream such as classic quiche, savory pastry –Greek spanikopita will be a certain winner – grilled vegetables, certainly pasta primavera and, of course, seafood. This wine is a great entrée to Italian wines for lovers of French or West Coast Pinot Gris. $.

Barberani Orvieto Classico Superiore Castagnole 2009

A blend of typical Umbrian varietals – Procanico, Verdello, Grechetto, Malvasia, Drupeggio, (and, I believe, a splash of Chardonnay) – this Orvieto from Barberani is grown in distinctively chalky soil. Aromas of fresh hay, lime, and minerals are followed by flavors of pear, apple and lemon that rise with smokey minerality on a lively palate. Concludes with grace notes of almond and basil. A massively refreshing and harmonic wine that pleases with its natural softness and good structure. Fish, poultry, light pastas – try a satisfying plate of capellini with almond basil pesto – and vegetarian dishes will all rock with this wine, but this bottle is so full of nuance and class that it will play a good solo paired with elegant summer salads. $.

Note: A Casa, Pra, Barberani … imported by Vinifera Imports, Ltd., Ronkonkoma, NY

Featured Producer: Sportoletti


Be praised, my Lord, be praised with all your creatures,
especially our brother, Master Sun,
through whom you bring us day and give us light.
He is, Most High, a living sign of you,
so beautifully he shines with splendor bright.

— Canticle of the Creatures, St. Francis of Assisi

Sun and soul: an inspired combination in the area of Assisi in Umbria 😉

Umbrian producer Sportoletti brings us wines that shine with their own expression of sun, soul and Assisi character.

With 20 or so hectares of vineyards among the hills of Spello and Assisi, the Sportoletti family produces four different wines – 2 reds, 2 whites – as well as olive oil. Led by brothers Ernesto and Remo, Sportoletti uses a low yield / high density strategy in the vineyard, along with planting of selected clones. Riccardo Cotarella is consulting oenologist / winemaker.


sportoletti-assisi-rosso-1Sportoletti Assisi Rosso is made from Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet, grown at an altitude of about 400 meters. Soil consistency is sandy with a skeletal component deriving from the weathering of a marine sandstone / rock aspect. Average age of the cordon spur trained vines is about 18 years.

Fermentation is carried out over 10 – 15 days in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation is 100% completed and the wine is refined in wood over a few months.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A medium-dark ruby color, the wine has super-fresh scents of red cherries, red & black berries, herbs, and subtle spice notes. Excellent intensity of fruit on the palate, hints of cocoa and chocolate almond, and an alertness of character that reminds me of the way a top road bicycle handles when you take it through a tight corner at speed. Elegant tannins coax in a soulful, refined finish.

Food pairing suggestions: MEATS: roasted, pan-fried or grilled red meat & poultry; especially try: lamb chops with garlic and herbs; chicken or sausage cooked with sweet red and yellow peppers or fennel; PASTA: served with red sauce – meat or meatless- or with olive oil base, perhaps fusilli with peppers, onions, and sausage; POLENTA: suggesting meat sauce…with rabbit would be especially good as would “pollo cacciatore”.



When Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won Gold at the 1976 Summer Olympics she made balance look easy.

Sportoletti’s Villa Fidelia Rosso 2005 treats us to a similarly effortless expression of balance.

sportoletti-villa-fidelia-umbria-igt-2005-2Villa Fidelia Rosso 2005 is a Bordeaux blend made from massal clone Merlot – propagated from vine owned by Sportoletti for fifty years – and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc. Production vineyards lie at an altitude of 400m and have a medium consistency sandy type soil.

After 15-20 days maceration on the skins, temperature controlled fermentation, the wine is refined in French oak cask for one year and then in bottle for one additional year.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A deep garnet color beneath sexy aromas of dark cherry, raspberry, currant, tobacco, spice and subtle hints of flowers. Elegant and intense on the palate with a silky core of ripe fruit, impressions of menthol, and really well integrated, dusty tannins. Rich, persistent finish. Spectacular balance all the way through.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: roasted red meats, suggest roast beef or lamb; PASTA: red sauced pasta dishes, unusually good with a bit a cream added; and especially baked pasta: try rigatoni baked with sausage and ricotta cheese; POLENTA: recommend beef, lamb or veal medallions with rich wine / reduction sauce served over polenta; VEGETARIAN: consider a meatless “Bolognese” pasta dish or ratatouille vegetables over polenta. A touch of cream in either sauce would add richness for an especially nice meatless entrée with this wine; CHEESES: I like this wine with creamier cheeses like Tomme, Ricotta, Mascarpone, Camembert.


Lamborghini Trescone 2004

Lamborghini Trescone 2004, Umbria Rosso IGT

Ready to kick up your heels?

lamborghini-trescone-labelThe Trescone, one of Central Italy’s oldest folk dances, has traditionally been performed to celebrate the end of the harvest. And, in addition to the harvest, Umbrian folk have plenty to dance about: the region has wonderful wines, food, culture, and natural beauty.

You can learn more about the Trescone and Umbrian folk tradition at Gruppo Folkloristico Umbria Folk @

The Lamborghini estate named its wine Trescone after the “il ballo del Trescone” and is located in Umbria nearby the border with Tuscany, just south of Lake Trasimeno. Ferruccio Lamborghini – the automotive baron whose life, by the way, is quite interesting in terms of how he got from “here” to “there” – purchased the property while on holiday during the ’70s in a passionate response to the land’s beauty. Patrizia Lamborghini began managing the estate during the ’90s with a mind to raising the quality bar, making changes in the estate’s viticultural philosopy and practice(s), not the least of which were reduced yields and a fellow named Riccardo Cotarella (consulting oenologist).  The estate produces wines in a modern style that shine a light on typically regional Umbrian characteristics.

Lamborghini’s Trescone is made from 50% Sangiovese, 30 % Ciliegiolo and 20 % Merlot from vines averaging 20 years old. Located at 200m-500m altitude, estate vineyards are of calcareous clay, sand, and limestone.

The fruit marcerates on skins for 18-20 days and fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks.  The wine is aged in 500 litre French oak for 4 months.

Tasting notes / Impressions

The color is a deep purple-red, like plum fruit, with scents of raspberry, cherry, strawberry, herb, and spice. The wine has good weight on the palate, and notes of richly toned plum, black cherry, herbs, and vanilla.  Tannins are seductively soft and smooth, yet bring good structure to the wine that finishes dry with good minerality.  Nicely balanced, easy to drink.

NOTE:  This wine opened up beautifully with 30 minutes of air before drinking.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meat / Game:  veal, beef, porchetta, roast chicken or turkey, pidgeon, rabbit, especially try with pounded veal cutlets! Pasta: lasagne, pastas with meat based sauces or dressed with mushroom / truffle;  Cheeses: especially recommend ricotta salata, pecorino fresco.  This also is a great wine for eclectic experimentation with Indian or Asian dishes !


Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso 2006

Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso 2006, DOC

goretti-le-mura-saracene-montefalco-rosso-2006-thumbOne of Italian wine’s greatest blending partnerships – that of Sangiovese and Sagrantino – hails from the area of Montefalco, aka “il balcone dell’Umbria” or “The balcony of Umbria”, so named because of its dominant position at 400m above sea level from which one can enjoy panoramic landscapes of the Umbrian valley.

The marriage of Sangiovese and Sagrantino takes place under the Montefalco Rosso DOC that allows their blending and which, not unlike Super Tuscans, also allows a Montefalco Rosso to contain other varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Goretti company evolved out of Perugia during the 1960’s and during the early ’90’s became Goretti Wine Production Ltd, focusing on grape production and processing.  With new investment, the family established Fattoria Le Mura Saracene, a name inspired by the ruins of the Saracene walls and consisting of more than 9 hectares, at Montefalco.

The Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso is a blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino, and Merlot from east-west facing vineyards, approximately 8 years old, at 400m altitude.  Soil composition is of medium textured clay and limestone gravel.  At harvest there is emphasis on careful selection.  After fermentation, the wine is aged for 12 months in wood followed by 6 months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Warm and sensual in the mouth, with notes of ripe blackberries, currants, spice, roasted coffee, and tobacco.  Good acidity and overall balance. Rich, dark fruits persist and remain in harmony with tannins for a rich finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats:  Roasts of beef or lamb, poultry, or game;  Pasta: with red sauces;  TRY:  Pork loin kebabs wrapped with bacon, served with stuffed roasted peppers done on the grill or in oven; Cheeses:  Mature cheeses especially pecorino.


Argillae Orvieto 2007

argillae-orvieto-2007-jpg-thumbArgillae Orvieto 2007

Umbria’s most famous painter, Pietro Vannucci, aka “il Perugino” and founder of the Umbrian school of painting, is known for a compositional style of simple purity and symmetrical beauty.  One can only imagine he would have appreciated the classic structure and utterly harmonious proportions of the Argillae Orvieto.

Orvieto, Umbria’s most famous wine, is a blended wine of locally grown grapes that include Trebbiano, known thereabouts as Procanico, Grechetto, Malvasia and Canaiolo.  The upside of having a fairly broad palette for blending is that producers can tune this recipe to produce Orvieto wines of varying weight and richness.  The downside is just that:  there are Orvieto wines of varying weight and richness.

The Argillae estate is located in Umbria, northwest of the city of Orvieto, and is owned by the Bonollo, Di Cosimo, and Acenzi families.  Argillae makes several high quality wines, including the Orvieto, under direction of consulting oenologist Lorenzo Landi. A cornerstone of the Argillae philosophy is the notion that, in order to produce world  class wines, it is necessary to come by the “right territory”:  Argillae vineyards sit at 350-500 meters elevation situated on sunny hillsides with east-west exposure in soil of calcareous clay.  Argillae’s modern, multi floor cellar has a laboratory, areas for storing and refining wines, bottle storage, and also an area for wine tasting.

The blend for Argillae’s Orvieto is of Procanico, Grechetto, Malvasia di Candia, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes undergo careful selection in the vineyard – all pruning and harvest activities are conducted by hand.  The grapes are soft pressed, racked, and then vinified at controlled temperature in stainless steel.

Tasting Notes for Argillae Orvieto 2007:

A gorgeous color of summer straw, the wine offers appealing scents of flowers, pear, and citrus on the nose.  In the mouth, the wine has a satisfying round, fat, soft presence on the palate.  Good, crisp acidity and firm structure with a long, clean, fresh and fruity finish.

Food pairing suggestions:  This wine pairs nicely with almost all types of antipasti, seafood, vegetables and white meat.  It is especially good with fried octopus or marinated octopus salad, baccala, smoked salmon, or mussels.  Delicious with seafood risotto.  Superb with cool chicken salad with pear, walnuts, and grapes.