Tuta's Wine

Writing under the Influence

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Foradori 2009

February 12th, 2012 · Color, Country, Italy, Louis/Dressner, Red

What happiness to find exactly the style of wine we like in a new grape variety.  For me the first choice is usually red wine, light, fresh, and bright.   Mountain wines, grown where it is a little cooler.  Less sugar, less earth, more pebble and snap.

So with great pleasure, I stumbled upon Foradori, a wine made among the Dolomite mountains, just south of the Austrian border.   Elisabetta Foradori grows the teroldego grape — an ancient relative of syrah, named for the arbors which support the vines.  The teroldego appears in municipal records over the course of seven centuries.  It is profoundly local.  Unchecked, it can be too abundant for its own good and produces a lake of cooperative wine.  Totally pleasant with sausage, funghi and polenta at a roadside lunch.  But Ms. Foradori has long had a different plan, and by limiting production, she increases the intensity and flavor of the wine.

Vineyards are common throughout the Dolomites.  They are planted on the floodplains beneath the limestone walls on thin soils built from gravel washed downhill.  The limestone cliffs which line the valleys are heat sinks — soaking up the sun in summer and moderating the temperatures at night.  The valleys, winding like fingers among the peaks, offer some shelter from the wind and weather.

The Foradori vineyard is located in the Campo Rotaliano — a wedge of land formed by the confluence of the rivers Noce and Adige.  The region was swept by floods until the nineteenth century when engineers rerouted the Noce.  The water does not come now, but it has left deep beds of alluvial gravel.

We drank the simplest version of Ms. Foradori’s wine.  She has more complicated editions, aged in oak.  For me, the unmediated expression of the teroldego grape was  sufficient.   The color is a deep rural purple.  Lightly acidic, fragrant, ever so faintly bitter, and very direct.

A little less than $20.

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Tenuta Monteti Caburnio 2007

November 12th, 2011 · Uncategorized

So, we went to a wine tasting for “Italian Wines for American Tastes.”  Deeply unpropitious, I thought.   From Italy, we hope for authenticity, bright with acid, a little bitter, preferably poured from a cracked jug formed by Garibaldi’s mother.   But I will go to almost any wine tasting and, after a while, I saw what was meant.  Wines for an international market — that euphemism for the United States.  Wine freed from local tradition. Wines which are softer and more openly congenial.  And why not?  The sun is still the sun — the earth is the earth.  Rain.  Grapes.  Were things so uniformly wonderful in the past that we cannot risk an experiment?

A wine I liked that evening was the Tenuta Monteti Caburnio 2007.  The property is located in the Maremma, in Tuscany, close to the Tyrrhenian Sea, facing Sardinia and the western Mediterranean.  It is by legend the lonely place where Aeolus chained up his four winds: the Mistral, the Libeccio, the Sirocco, and the Ostro.  Not somewhere we would expect to find the cosmopolitan vines of Bordeaux.

But Tenuta Monteti is planted entirely in French vines:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and, that joker in the pack — Alicante Bouschet.  This is an urbane crowd, the very core of the Bordeaux blend.  The Alicante is a teinturier, a rare, red-fleshed wine grape.  It gives unequalled depth of color to any wine.  It was popular during Prohibition because it still delivered useful juice at the third pressing. An infantry soldier in that battle against intolerance.

In recent years, these Bordeaux blending vines have escaped on a kind of package tour of Italy.  Who knew they would find such a welcome?  The entire Tenuta Monteti operation is less than 10 years old.  The wine they make is rich with a fruit marmalade (fresh apricot and currants according to one of us) and a light hand with the  oak.  Full bodied, casual, knowing, and very free.   A wine on vacation.

There was a time when the phrase “Super Tuscan” meant that the sommelier was getting ready to deliver a terrible blow to your credit card for a wine of doubtful ancestry.  Not so much today.  This beautiful, largely unknown wine won’t hurt you at all.  I bought three bottles and was very happy.

About $18.

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Château de Nouvelles Cuvée Augusta Fitou

August 16th, 2011 · Uncategorized

Fitou is one of the most prominent of the AOC regions in Corbières, south and west of Marseilles and Montpellier, lying just inland from that final arc of the French coast which runs down to Spain and the Pyrenées.  “Fitou” comes from the ancient Occitan word fita  which means border.

In August two of us visited Château de Nouvelles in Tuchan.  This is a working property — dusty lanes, lots of heavy equipment — but there is a large house and, from somewhere unseen, the sound of children splashing in the piscine.  For people turning up late on a Friday afternoon, however, there is an ominous stillness.   

The land in Fitou is rough:  limestone hills, garrigue – the pervasive scrub land of the south — and, everywhere, vineyards spreading across the hillsides and bottom land.  Throughout the Corbières region, the wine, principally red, is based upon the carignan grape — a sturdy vine which grows upright, without support, in the style called goblet  — like roses trained as standards.

In time, a man appears.  Cheerful and voluble, middle-aged, he is passionate about his wine.  But we can only understand ten or fifteen percent of what he says, generally the part we already know.  One regrets not paying more attention in the eighth grade. 

Château de Nouvelles produces red wine — the staple for Fitou — and, less commonly, sweet wines, both red and white.  The red Fitou — we tried Cuvée Augusta — is forthright — fruit and oak in a very direct, gregarious expression.  The taste of the grapes in the glass is warm and candid.      The wine is aged in enormous foudres –  immense oak casks of great age rising to twice the height of a man’s head.

Wines which are based upon the carignan grape can taste a little plummy, dense and introverted.  Solemn in the manner of certain Spanish wines.  The Cuvée Augusta — 50 percent  carignan with the remainder grenache and syrah — is more welcoming and accessible.  Without breaking with the traditions of the region, the vigneron has produced a wine which is more broadly Rhône in style and appeal.

We tell our host we love his wine.  I try to explain the phrase “straight from the shoulder”  in halting French.  ”Epaule,”  I offer. He is quizzicalWe leave with half a case and have no problem finishing it all before the flight home.

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2009 Château Grand Renom Bordeaux

June 12th, 2011 · Uncategorized

Mais surtout, il reigne dans cet endroit un grand calme et une certaine quiétude propice au repos.

These words from an anonymous reviewer, enthusiastically describing her stay at Château Grand Renom, may tell us something about the pleasures of seeking out the unknown wines of Bordeaux — those which are perhaps moins renoms.  Without the pressure of high style and imperial presence, these wines bring their own sense of pleasure to us — a kind of Sunday morning relaxation.  Very propice au repos.

Bordeaux has always produced quantities of reliable table wine.  Labeled with sunny optimism as Grand Vin de Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur, these are cheap, friendly, and indispensable.  Grand Renom is produced in the village of Eynesse, close to St. -Emilion but, fortunately for our bank cards which are permanently chauffées — excessively hot from frequent use — not quite in St. -Emilion.

The wine comes from the region called Entre-Deux-Mers.  A little geography helps.   Bordeaux is largely composed of water and wine (with an ancient commercial city planted in the centre.)  The water consists of an enormous estuary, the Gironde, formed at its eastern end by two great rivers, the Dordogne and the Garonne.  The triangular slice of land between the rivers is Entre-Deux-Mers — between two seas.  All Bordeaux wines are said to be improved by a view of the water, and Grand Renom justly claims its place on the left bank of the Dordogne.

Entre-Deux-Mers is best known for white wine, but this one is red. (As a red wine from the region, generally poorly regarded, it cannot even describe itself as “Entre-Deux-Mers.”) It is merlot-based but remains light and floral, not broody or sweet.   And for a second act, it has that marvelous cocoa quality which comes from time spent in oak barrels.   In this case, not very much time.  The 2009 is entirely young but seems ready for an outing.

Under $14.00

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2007 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico

May 30th, 2011 · Uncategorized

In Tuscany in the year 1300, at the very beginning of the Italian Renaissance, three villages, lying along the troubled border between Florence and Siena, bound themselves into the Lega del Chianti, the Chianti League.   Few municipal decisions would mean so much to the history of wine.  The three villages, Gaiole, Radda and Castellina, formed a terzieri — the Italian word for three regions under common rule.  (English has the word “quarter” for similar reasons.)   For an emblem, they chose the black cockerel, still in use today in the greatly expanded Chianti region.

Because these villages were so often ransacked by the warring Sienese and Florentines, they offer few monuments beyond the churches –pievi if, like most, they had a baptistery — and the occasional castle.  Within the villages, there are stairs, cats, long views, hot summers, and the beauiful stone houses of indeterminate antiquity which are found all over rural Italy.   If the local princelings stole from the townsmen, they left the vineyards alone.  Over time the Lega del Chianti became the omphalos, the very navel at the center of the universe, for the production of fine wine from the Sangiovese grape.

In Gaiole, the Castello di Ama produces a distinguished Chianti.  We drank the 2007 Chianti Classico.  Sottile — one might say, smooth, subtle, suave — with that tart reserve which is the marker for well-brought up Sangiovese.  The tannin bite is moderate — Chianti without tears –and the taste of the fruit is cranberry with a softer flavor underneath — smoky and a little rich.  This one needs a steak, pan-roasted in olive oil and rosemary, but we will settle today for the front porch on an early summer evening.

About $38.

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2007 Serra Paitin Barbaresco

April 24th, 2011 · Color, Country, Italy, Piedmont, Red

Barbaresco.  The wine in a moment, but first let’s enjoy that wonderful name.

Bar bar bar is the sound the Greeks heard when they met the Medes and Persians and other strangers. They called these Βαρβαροι, hence barbarians.  (Hottentot –the name Europeans once gave to people living in southwest Africa also reflects the sound of the local language to an uncomprehending visitor.)  The Romans borrowed the word from the Greeks and used it to describe people living in north Africa — Berbers — and more generally non-Latin speakers, including the hordes already massing ominously in the north.

Barbaresco is the name of a village in Langhe in the Piedmont.  At some time it must have had a population of people from away, barbarians, who have long since happily mixed themselves into the Italian gene pool.  Barbaresco is famous for wines made with the nebbiolo grape (the little foggy one) and the 2007 Serra Paitin is a striking example.

Nebbiolo can make an austere, long-lived wine, dark with tannins and a natural forest bitterness — the Wotan of wines, second only to its even sterner neighbor Barolo.  These are great wines, especially with meat, but they are costly and a bit serious.  Best to bring them out for your father.

The Serra Paitin is lighter and more easily approached.  It is ready to drink now — perhaps it will get better in a few years but who can wait these days.  The nose is light with a little wood smoke; the taste is balanced, drying — those tannins — and brightly autumnal.  But the wine moves; it is mercurial and with a high level of acid, it is a fine match for roast lamb on the Paschal weekend.

About $25.00

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2009 Rozeta Corbières

April 3rd, 2011 · Uncategorized

Though apple and peach lie brilliant on the dark,
And mineral worlds on the dark sky shine,
And the red mouth breathes in; thine is mine,
And the careless Atlantic inhales the Thames, the Tagus
and the Seine,
– Memoirs of a Turcoman Diplomat, Denis Devlin

Fruit and darkness; darkness and fruit — these are the spinning poles between which, suspended like a child’s toy on a bit of rope, we find the taste of wine.  Darkness comprises the undertow tastes, the rattle of gravel and earth in our cheeks:  tannin, wood, and loam.  For many of us, the most fun comes from wines which plant their feet in both camps: refinement and the brusque bite of the land.  And, speaking frankly among friends, these wines will not cause shipwreck in our monthly accounts.

Corbières is a region in the eastern Languedoc — beneath the Pyrenées and west of Marseilles.  It produces great quantities of strong red table wine.  But the one we have today — Rozeta — is lighter than these.  Tart and very clean.  The wine has the fresh snap of a Rhône rosé, sour and stimulating, with just enough weight for the evening meal.

Les gens at Rozeta are known for their organic practices.  The wine is a blend of Carrignan (60 %) and equal parts of Grenache and Cinsault.    Carrignan can be wild and rough — a little outré — but here it is reined in by the other grapes which smooth off the corners and add softness.

To make such a light, rounded wine from Carrignan is a canny trick.  Carrignan is  awkward for the farmer:  prone to mildew, stems too thick for mechanized harvest, late to mature, strongly tannic … but it has one great virtue.  This variety produces grapes with riotous abundance.  As much as four times as much per hectare as Cabernet Sauvignon.  And it prefers a hot, dry season.  Easy enough to make a barrel of vin ordinaire, but a near heroic use of the land and weather to coax out a wine of substance and finesse.

About $22.

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2007 Rousset Les Vignes Côtes du Rhône Villages D. La Bouvaude

March 6th, 2011 · Uncategorized

Every biology student knows that King Philip Came Over From Great Spain (or kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.)   In our craving for order, wine  has its own taxonomy.  The AOC system (appellation d’origine contrôlée) which looks impenetrable is not really so hard to figure out.

Consider the AOC system for the Rhône wines, made in the great river valley running 200 kilometers between Vienne and Avignon.  For wine purposes, there is a northern and a southern end.  Syrah predominates in the north.  But we’ll turn south where the principal grape for red wine is grenache.

The broadest classification “Côtes du Rhône” requires that the wine must be based upon the venerable Grenache Noir grape (at least 40 %), supplemented by other local varietals (syrah, mourvèdre, carrignan) which certainly do not include merlot, sangiovese or cabernet sauvignon, merci beaucoup.

From Côtes du Rhône, it is the step of a child to “Côtes du Rhône Villages.”  Fewer than a hundred communes  are included on the list of approved villages.  A commune is the smallest administrative unit in French government, equivalent to a municipality but frequently very small with a few hundred residentx.  The required percentage of grenache increases to 50% with at least 20 % syrah or carrignan.  We are moving towards a more defined style from favored locations.

From here it takes but an instant to consider “Côtes du Rhône Villages” with the name of the village.  16 villages now have the right to place their names on the label in exchange for meeting more exacting standards, including a minimum alcohol level of 12.5 %.

At the top of the order are the noble crus of the southern Rhône, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage.  Very good; very expensive.

If we decide that the children need to go to college after all, we can circle back to one of the villages permitted to use its name.  Fabienne and Stéphane Barnaud produce  wine at their Domaine La Bouvaude in the village of Rousset-les-Vignes.  At 50 % grenache, 30 % syrah, and 20 % mourvèdre, this is a traditional blend with a deep fruit flavor, marked by candor and an easy, natural sweetness.  “Elevé en fût de chêne” –aged in oak– and the use of old vines contribute to an attractive dark quality.  With that cheeky fruit flavor out in front for all to see, I would serve “La Bouvaude” with cheese or an onion tart, pissaladière, sweet and slightly caramelized.

About $17.

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Fiano di Avellino Mastroberardino 2007

February 27th, 2011 · Italy, Red, Uncategorized

…he would as soon have thought of carrying an odour in a net as of attempting to convey the intangibilities of his feeling in the coarse meshes of language.  So he remained silent.

Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874).

Not all of us are as cautious as Gabriel Oak, the stoic farmer who loved Bathsheba Everdene.  In matters of wine, we chatter freely and swing our nets from side to side.  The subject is innately harmless, consequential only because we make it so.  Perhaps it is in discussions of the smell of wine that fancy is most free and truth sometimes left behind, shaking her head with reproach.

The white wine Fiano di Avellino from the uplands of Campania east of Naples is known for its fragrance. de Pascale, a wine store in the town of Avellino, gets it right:

Profumo elegante e sottile con sentori di pera quando è giovane che mutano in nocciola tostada col tascorrere degli anni

“An elegant and subtle nose with the scent of pears when young and changing to the smell of toasted nuts after some years”

The wine blog Decanter made a run of its own at the smell of Fiano:

A complex nose of honey, peaches and vanilla with a slightly smoky tinge.

We are clearly bracketing the target and closing fast.  A sweet smell — summery and full — with fruit turning to nuts in autumn.  We all have friends who progress in this way.

Fiano is a grape variety.  It is old in the way of grapes from southern Italy: a gift from the Greeks — at least by tradition — with antecedents in Phoenicia and points east.  After so much time, we speak of these grape varieties as autochthonous — intensely local and indigenous.

The taste of Fiano is slightly honeyed.  The Romans called it Vitis apiana — the bee vine  –not so much for its taste but because the vines attracted bees.   The Roman taste in wine ran to bitter, salty (not a modern favorite), and oxidized, like cooking sherry today, but these things are hard to know.  Despite a mercifully low alcohol level (12.5 %), Fiano has a dense, mature quality.  It can stand up to garlic and pasta, oil, tomato, and rosemary.  And especially to seafood, served in Posillipo, Naples, long after dark, within sight of water and distant lights.

About $20.

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Dupéré Barrera Côtes de Provence 2008

February 12th, 2011 · Color, Country, France, Red

Nous avons notre propre vision du vin, nous sommes dans le monde du vin sans être du monde du vin.

We have our own perspective.   We live in the world of wine without being entirely of it.

- Le Blog des Dupéré Barrera

One beloved model — or trope as we said in college –for winemaking is the family which makes wine on its own land.  This is the ancient dream from the Garden — a green place, hilly, the sun just on the horizon, with many generations at work together.  But it is a big world, and there are other visions at play among us.  One of the most intriguing is the young négociant who focuses on the winemaking side of things, buying grapes and remaining free to invent a mash-up of equipment, tradition, technique, and style.  In the world but not bound by it.

Emanuelle Dupéré, a singer, and Laurent Barrera, a geological engineer, abandoned their day jobs for wine school and went into the wine business in Provence in 2000.   Their wines rely on the traditional Rhône blend:  the workhorse Grenache with the lunatic uncle Mourvèdre,  the spicy aunt Cinsault, the sweet, daffy sister Syrah … we know this family.  To these are added a stranger to the region: Cabernet Sauvignon.  The young négociants bring an enthusiasm for craft.  Old barrels purchased from famous vineyards, great care in handling the young wine (no pumping, filtering, or fining) and close attention to the state of the moon.  (Don’t knock what you don’t understand.)

The result is rather splendid.  I tried the 2008 Côtes de Provence.  A Rhône without that briar-y rasp, that faintly nasal tone which is the taste marker for the region.  This one runs smooth and deep.  Blackberry is a reasonable estimate of the flavor, but what you will love is the authority and friendly grip of the wine.  The label promises Très Longue Macération — skins and pulp in contact with the fresh juice for as long as 7 weeks, the stems removed to limit the tannins.  The trombone qualities of the cabernet are welcome here — stabilizing and foundational.   Too international?  Have we strayed too far from local wine?  No, this is a free expression, built with care.  I gave myself up for lost and bought six bottles.

About $35.

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