Two Of A Kind: One Piemontese Red; One Tuscan Red

Over the past several months, many of you have noticed the gradual expansion of our Italian section that now comprises many reds and whites from diverse regions of Italy. As we move ahead to spring, two favorite reds come to mind, and we want to highlight them for you. One is a profound, concentrated Tuscan Sangiovese to lay down for a handful of years. The other is a sexy, juicy, spicy but sophisticated Barbera to drink over the next few years with a wide variety of fare. Both come from small, artisanal producers deeply committed to expressing their terroirs.

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A Sexy, Stylish Piemontese Red
There are many places in the world I have visited only via their wines. While I’ve traipsed through southern Italy and Tuscany, I’ve not yet had the good fortune to visit Piemonte, home of some of my favorite wines. However, the best wines, unlike any other agricultural product, have an uncanny way of transporting one to their place of origin, and thanks to vintners like Piero Busso, I can visit Piemonte any time via the bottle. And while it’s not limited to Piemonte-you may have had similar experiences with Burgundy or Bordeaux or Germany-recently Piero Busso’s single-vineyard Barbera Majano immediately teleported me to northwest Italy as its warmth countered the cool air in the region and its suggestion of forest floor, smoke and assorted meats led me to feel at table in this land of rich, truffle-laden cuisine.

Barbera has an identity crisis. It ranges from cheap, insipid plonk to fancy barrique-aged renditions that can fetch over $100 a bottle. Historically, the more ‘noble’ Nebbiolo has overshadowed it, but given the respect it deserves, it can produce truly profound wines. I don’t want to place Busso’s Barbera Majano in some supposed hierarchy between cheap and cheerful and luxuriously flashy, so let it suffice to say it is serious wine that vividly captures the flavors of Piemonte. Farmed organically and harvested at optimal ripeness (without the over-ripeness of many a bruising uber-Barbera), this has a wonderfully concentrated core of pure red fruits. Piero, along with wife Lucia, daughter Emanuela and son Pierguido, are committed to pure vinous expression of their terroir, and their careful tending of the land and no-nonsense winemaking (fermentation in tank, followed by 10 months in large old barrels) allows the flavors of Piemonte to shine through.

There are only just over 700 cases for the entire world, so we are proud to have scored an allocation to offer you. So, next time you want to travel to Piemonte, and have neither the time nor the money, reach for a bottle of Piero Busso Barbera Majano and arrive there immediately in First Class!

On the nose, this is at once high-toned and earthy, with strongly licorice inflected red fruits combined with raw beef, truffles and a hint of smoke. An incisive burst of spice on the mid-palate fleshes out to opulent, sappy richness, while bright acidity immediately energizes the finish where hints of tar, cured meat and an echo of licorice linger. This month, only $189.00 ($15.75 per bottle) with our 25% off Case Special.

2006 Busso Piero Barbera d’Alba Vigna Majano
Red Wine; Barbera; Piedmont;
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A Most Unique Tuscan Red
The poetic and philosophical Elisabetta Fagiuoli of Montenidoli in San Gimignano has earned the respect of fellow winemakers throughout Europe for her pioneering accomplishments with the much maligned Vernaccia grape, as well as the loving, but uncompromising manner in which she tends her land (she has dubbed herself ‘nurse’ of her vines). However, other than ourselves, her small batches of finely-honed Vernaccia have remained in relative obscurity in the U.S. Perhaps most importers are not ready to the challenge the image of Vernaccia as mindless, insipid wine to quaff in Florentine cafes. Through Elisabetta’s wines, some of you have discovered the complexities and delights of seriously crafted Vernaccia, and we have enjoyed the journey with you. More on Elisabetta here.

However, perhaps Elisabetta’s most striking accomplishment vintage after vintage is her Sono Montenidoli Rosso. We feel this Tuscan red stands strong against the nearby, and more expensive Brunello di Montalcino, yet comes from what most still consider a cheap white wine appellation. Well, we do need to admit that Elisabetta’s property is second to none in the zone, with amphitheatric vineyards offering breathtaking views of San Gimignano on one side and Chianti Classico on the other. It is here that old vines of Sangiovese stand and effectively thumb their noses at Chianti vines that may not always live up to their potential.

Organically cultivated low yields of old vines Sangiovese with a drop of Canaiolo combine to create a truly formidable Tuscan red that can age as well as the finest Brunello Riservas, yet somehow possesses more grace and distinction than many wines from that commune, despite its obvious heft and profundity. Brooding aromas of subtle red fruits, forest floor, wood smoke and iodine creep from the glass in a now guarded, but engaging manner, demonstrating the potential for ravishing perfume years down the road. On the palate, it is tightly wound, with plenty of texture drawn from deep roots in rocky soil. (These terraced vineyards were in fact once under sea, and the fossil-rich soil seems to impart a mouthwatering savoriness). Taut, strong tannins reveal themselves on the finish. Once these tannins unravel, surely sappy rich fruit will burst forth. Deeply savory, smoky notes tie it all up. To drink now, we recommend 2 hours decanting, as well as a Flintstonesque bistecca alla Fiorentina along side it. This month take advantage of our 25% off Case Special.Patrick Mitten


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Filed under Italy, Patrick Mitten, Piemonte, Tuscany, Uncategorized

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