Back in the day, fifty years or so ago, "Dago Red" was a common term for blended wines that lacked a certain pedigree. Vin Ordinaire, as they say. Grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir were too classy for the monicker, I guess. Now we learn the term Dago can be a slur for people of Mediterranean origins and that is certainly not what we intend here. So field blends is what we will use to describe wines made from utilitarian grapes that none the less offer us a certain charm in their blending. That charm may reflect a comfort level familiar to us personally even if the wine lacks the finesse of fine wine.
We got the idea for this post because we want to offer up two new Italians that everyone should know about. The first truly fits into the field blend category. SASYR is a Tuscan IGT blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Syrah, hence the name, SASYR. It comes to us from a forty year old company called Rocca delle Macie. They are a collective of ten growers in Tuscany who all specialize in Sangiovese-blended reds. SASYR is just what you might expect a blend of that kind to be. Sangiovese is soft red berry wine and Syrah is a firm dark berry wine with an edge. This tastes like that combination.
For this post we did something we have never done before. We went to one of those peer-review wine tasting websites to see what the public thought of SASYR. Considering the crazy quilt, cross section of wine lovers everywhere, the report was predictable given the great differences in tastes. Some thought the wine was feminine while others (like me) thought the wine was more masculine. The wine is mostly Sangiovese which is generally soft but the Syrah can overcompensate with what it brings to the table. In my opinion this wine is not one to think about - pour it in the glass, bring out the burgers and chow down! This too is characteristic of field blend wine. No fanfare needed, just do it!
Our second Italian red is really too fine to be a field blend. Ruvei means "old oak tree." It is an 85% Barbera/15% Nebbiolo blend from Marchesi di Barolo, a prestigious 430 acre estate in Langhe, Piedmont. Like the Sangiovese of SASYR, this Barbera is emboldened by its blending grape, Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo is the great wine grape of Italy made into the greatest wine of Italy - Barolo. Marchesi di Barolo has been one of the premier Barolo makers for the past century. Ruvei is sourced from vineyards in Barolo, Barbaresco and Nebbiolo of d'Alba. So how could this one not be something special?
Both SASYR and Ruvei were opened for our tasting a couple weeks ago. We ordered the SASYR on the spot. When our vendor accidentally poured the Ruvei a little too heavily, we set it aside after briefly tasting it. When we remembered it a couple hours later we re-tasted it. It was lovely. It had opened up beautifully. That's when we ordered it. And that's the difference between fine wine and field blends.