Friday, July 30, 2021

Nino Negri Quadrio

Quadrio. Nino Negri Quadrio.  Or Nino Negri Quadrio Valtellina Superiore.  However you choose to identify it, this one is special.  Just a week ago the Fredrick Wildman rep was here tasting me on a few from his massive portfolio when I asked, "What's the best bang for your buck in your book?"  I expected nothing.  After all, these guys are paid to sell what they are paid to sell.  To my surprise he said, "Quadrio."

He went on to say the wine was a Nebbiolo-based red sourced from the slopes of the Alps in Lombardy of north central Italy.  He also said it shared much of the same character of similar wines from the nearby Piedmont region, the finest wine region of Italy.

The Nino Negri estate in Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy was established in 1897.  Prior to that establishment, the property was called Castello Quadrio di Chiura after a fifteenth century castle there.  Hence the current name, Quadrio.  The old castle now houses the company and the winery.

Lombardy has a thousand year history with the Nebbiolo grape, reason enough to expect quality there.  Nino Negri has four hundred acres under their control and a star winemaker in Casimiro Maule, the Gambero Rosso 2007 Italian Winemaker of the Year.

DOCG reds from Lombardy must be 90% Nebbiolo by law.  Quadrio is not a DOCG wine yet maintains that 90%.  If it were a DOCG you could bet its moderate price would be a several dollars higher.  

Quadrio spends twenty months in Slavonian oak, then four months in the bottle before it is released.  It exhibits a nose of dark berry fruit and baking spice with licorice and mint.  On the palate it shows the same flavors sheathed in a smooth and savory body with fine grippy tannins leading to a long dry finish.  The licorice and berry flavors linger to the very end.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Galea Sangria

We got to taste the wines of Galea of Spain a couple months ago.  The dry red dinner wines were great but a little too dry for local tastes.  The Sangrias, on the other hand, were true charmers.  Not only were they yummy on the palate but their crock-looking packaging practically screams, "Buy me!"

When you consider what passes for Sangria in the chain stores, offering Galea here was a definite no brainer.  It shouldn't even be considered to be in the same category as the mass marketed concoctions.  Galea uses legitimate certified organic vinifera wine grapes made in a less sweet style than the average marketplace plonk.  It even tastes fresh.

Galea Red is sourced from the Barcelona region.  The blend is Tempranillo-based with Merlot and Syrah.  It is organic, as we have already said, with dominant natural orange and cassis flavors.  And as you would expect, it is frizzante.

The white uses the historic grapes of Cava; Xarello, Macabeu and Parellada; sourced from Catalonia. The added flavors include passion fruit and citrus.  It tastes like white peaches.  Between the wine grapes, fruit and effervescence, this one is a real palate cleanser.

The rose features Tempranillo and Bobal grapes with tangerine and lemon and a little vanilla flavoring added.  This one is somewhat candied in character and seems less dry than the others.

All three Sangrias are 7% alcohol.  The red is recommended to be served with an orange and basil garnish.  Both the white and rose are recommended served over ice; the white with berries, lime and fresh mint; the rose, with a lemon twist and strawberries.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Il Ramato

"Ramato" means copper and "amato" means loved one so Il Ramato could mean "the copper loved one." Or something like that.  In any event this intriguing amber colored Pinot Grigio is more than just its veneer.  While its clothing is visually stunning, what's inside is even better.

As everyone knows, Pinot Grigio is perhaps the simplest of white wines, making it perfect for our hot summer days.  But Il Ramato doesn't fit that type.  It is sourced from the Friuli-Veneto Giulia wine appellation in the northeast corner of Italy where pinot is qualitatively better than elsewhere in Italy.  Sure it still has the mild flavor profile; but typically wine from this region has more character than you would expect.  This region is so esteemed by the wine world its white wines are valued on a plane with Piedmont and Tuscan reds.  

This is where things get really interesting.  Ramato isn't fruity in style like most pinots.  It's decidedly deeper and more savory than traditional Pinot Grigio and engages the taster with the long winey flavors Euro-wine lovers crave.  It's actually a throwback to winemaking from the early twentieth century when the inherent grape colors and flavors were allowed to shine.  

Here's some backstory - The pinot grape is actually a family of grapes each possessing a shared unstable genome.  It has a tendency to mutate, not only showing a variety of colors but sometimes showing that diversity all on the same vine.  Even striped pinot grapes are known to occur!

On any given day a half dozen different pinot types may be found in the local wine marketplace.  The types we are most familiar with are Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio but there are many many more.  

Now for a little known fact - Genetically, Chardonnay is even half pinot!

Anthocyanins are the phenolic compounds in plants that give color to their fruit.  Pinot Grigio grapes on the vine may be a light pink, bluish gray or a very light brown.  In the glass those phenolics provided by the grape skins give a wine its tannic grip that engages us when we taste.  The heart healthy anti-oxidants we get from phenolics is a bonus we all appreciate.   

Il Ramato pinot grapes are hand harvested before going into a twelve hour cold maceration.  They are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks followed by five months of aging on the lees with frequent battonnage.  It's in that five months of stirring the lees that this wine becomes what it is.  That chemistry both enriches the flavors and brings out the inherent colors of the grapes.