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What To Drink Now: Italy, Spain and Greece

I am such a fan of old world wines, especially the classic Italian, Spanish and incredibly old (some dating back 5000 years) Greek varieties.  Here are a few I have been sampling lately while helping create the wine list for the soon to open Battuto Italian Kitchen.  Based on our taste tests these are sure to please both the aficionado and the novice.  A few additional selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Torcicoda_bottleTormaresca Chardonnay with Fiano IGT - Chardonnay is certainly not an unusual variety, but the indigenous Fiano is, adding elegance and earthiness to a mineral rich, very steely Chardonnay from the Puglia region of Italy.  The region terroir truly adds to the wine as the close proximity to the Italian coastline enhances the minerality and salinity characteristics in the wine making it a delicious wine to pair with seafood and shellfish.

Torcicoda Salento IGT, also from Tormaresca, is 100% old vine Primitivo, very similar to a Zinfandel, grown in bush trained or alberello vines in coastline vineyards best known for their rocky soils.  Filled with layers of black licorice, dried figs and ripe plum with lots of spice, this is a food wine to be enjoyed with hearty beef dishes and braised stews.

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio – Pinot Grigio can be a little all over the board, sometime very juicy and citrus filled, sometimes more subtle with layers of melon and apple.  Tiefenbrunner is definitely the later, filled with honeydew melon, ripe pear and a hint of sweet spice to create an approachable wine on its own or for pairing with spring salads and seafood.

Tenuta Arceno Chianti Classico - Sangiovese with a touch of Merlot and Cab from Tuscany, earthy and old world, yet still ripe with red cherry, plum, orange peel and leather notes that shine with anything from tomato based pasta dishes, to swordfish with olives and stewed tomatoes, to Italian sausage. Sangiovese can be a bit hit or miss, this one really stands out as an approachable wine on its own or with food.

ALPHA AXIA WHITE NVAlpha Estates Axia Malagouzia – An ancient indigenous Greek variety that was almost extinct when it was brought back to the forefront of Greek winemaking in the late 1980’s.  Alpha Estate takes this lively, very fresh and floral variety and adds a bit of punchy spice, a beautifully well rounded flavor profile and a creamy finish from a short period of aging the wine sur lie (on the yeasts.)

Alpha Estates Axia Xinomavro/Syrah – the Xinomavro variety leaped to the top of my list of favorites last year when I had a chance to visit Greece as a guest of New Wines of Greece, and Alpha Estates is one winery who really knows how to transform this big, tannic, expressive grape into a luxurious wine with a lot of earth, still a lot of tannin, but also rich black fruit, spice and leather with balance and true Old World character.  Adding 20% Syrah enhances the baking spice notes lingering throughout the wine, as well as adding ripe blackberry notes.

2007 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – The Banfi name is synonymous with Italian quality, especially when you get into their finer wines like their Super Tuscan blends, like their earthy and expressive  Summus and stellar Excelsus Caberenet/Merlot blend.  Their Brunello will also never disappoint.  100% Sangiovese Brunello from one of the most prestigious areas of Italy known for their silky, luscious, delicious wines. Filled with plum jam, ripe cherry, black licorice and tobacco. Powerful but round structure, with a long, persistent finish.

coltibuonoBadia a Coltibuono is a Tuscan winery in the heart of the Chianti region that has been producing wine since the Middle Ages, and has been run by the Stucchi Prinetti family for the past 150 years.  A completely organic winery, they are known for their high quality Chianti Classico wines and incredible Super Tuscan blends.  Their Chianti Classico Riserva brings in traditional Sangiovese flavors of morello cherry, orange blossom and pepper spice with hearty earthiness and a touch of wild flower notes. Highly concentrated and luscious, a great wine to enjoy with anything from tomato based pasta dishes to braised pork shoulder or grilled meat.

Bonus, if you are planning an Italian get away vacation, both Banfi and Badia a Coltibuono have guest accommodations at their gorgeous wineries that can include everything from lounging pool side to touring vineyards and ancient wine caves to learning everything you wanted to know about Italian cooking in chef led cooking courses.

Ribera del Duero has gotten a lot of press recently, benefiting from being named wine region of the year by Win Spectator, but don’t forget the region of Spain that has been a favorite for wine lovers for years, the dry and dusty region of Priorat that is known for creating rich, layered and elegant Garnacha based wines. Last week the winemaker for Morlanda, one of the prized wineries a part of the Heredad Collection of wines owned by the Ferrer family, Judit Llop was in town and I had a chance to be a guest for dinner with her.

GarboIn addition to her robust yet delicate 2007 Morlanda blend of Garnacha and Cariñena we had a chance to try a few new wines, including a brand new wine being introduced into Texas, Garbo, a nontraditional blend for the area of  Syrah, Tempranillo and Merlot from the nearby region surrounding Priorat, Montsant.  Filled with intense cherry, wild berry and balsamic notes with a touch of earthiness, pairing beautifully with hearty wild mushroom and truffle flavors.

 If you are more a fan of wines from Rioja, don’t miss Head Winemaker Diego Pinilla from Bodegas Bilbainas at Savor Dallas this weekend.  He is in town from the gorgeous Spanish region that put Tempranillo on the map and will be participating in the wine panel on Saturday at 2pm at The Melrose as well as pouring at the International Grand Tasting on Saturday night.