Thursday, July 3, 2008

First experience with a lovely southern Italian grape

Of all the world's wines, Italians are nearest and dearest to my heart. I could hardly imagine life without Bordeaux and the Rhone, and it may very well be the case that France produces the world's greatest wines. But Italians are my favorite - somehow, they suit me better than all others - their robustness, grace, and the same vitality you find in the food, the people, and the very land of Italy itself. And they are just a joy and a pleasure to drink. One of the world's great undiscovered wine treasure-troves is southern Italy: there is simply no other place on earth with such a diversity of delightful, unique grapes. And some of them are beginning to get their due praise. I stumbled upon one of these almost unheardof gems recently - I had never heard of Nero di Troia before I saw a bottle on the shelf, and for $5 I could hardly resist trying it. I actually had to look it up: more commonly called Uva di Troia, it is very popular in its native Puglia. And after tasting it, I am suprised it is not better known - this could be the southern Italian answer to Chianti.

Vini Coppa d'Oro, Nero di Troia, Puglia IGT NV
A clear but deep ruby in color. Heady nose of black cherry, but with perfumey floral notes. On the palate, deep black cherry upfront, with perhaps a touch of blueberry/blackberry, and overtones of plum, followed by nectarine, orange rind and floral notes, before a generous finish of spice. Medium-full in body. Lovely stuff. Unique - almost like a cross of Syrah and Montepulciano (the grape) - it has some of Syrah's concentration, headiness, and structure, but overlayed with Montepulciano's gracefull, delightful, and high-toned fruit. This is just the sort of delightful little wine you might find at a cafe in Italy - very fruit friendly, with a softness to it but also a rich depth. In fact, this is a fair challenger for Chianti. [Oddly enough, I have had one other grape in some ways quite similar to this: a hybrid called St. Vincent, which is grown in the Midwest of the US.] Fantastic little table wine for everyday drinking with Italian food. And it's even good chilled. I got it on sale for $5 - what it goes for elsewhere I do not know, but by far the best wine I've ever had for the price. Excellent (87 - 90). [6/21/08]