Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Back to school (Part 2)

So what did I learn in wine class this week? Tasting, let alone ascertaining the scent of, wines when you have a rotten head cold is an esperienza inutile. I could have been swilling warm Budweiser for all I knew. It's a shame, really. This week we did a giro grande of Italy, sampling red wines from tip to toe. We started with the Barbera grape in Piemonte (not far from where they are holding the Olympic Games) then a Merlot from Veneto (north of Venice). Next was a Montepulciano that I know well: it was a Rosso Conero from Le Marche (representing Central Italy) and finally a funny old grape from Puglia (all the way down south) called the Primitivo.

As I said, my taste buds and olfactory senses were out of service, so my judgement of all four was a bit skewed. But I can tell you what my classmates and teachers thought. Surprisingly, the best grade went to the Rosso Conero. Honest. I am disqualifying myself from a vote because I am impartial to wines from Le Marche. I think they're very good (and improving) in the taste and value category. But then I would say that as a (sometime) resident of the region. To me, the best one (outside of the Rosso Conero, of course) this week was the Merlot from the Veneto.

I wouldn't necessarily advise running out to buy these four, but if you ever find yourself in the area, pick up a bottle and try them for yourself. So, without further ado, the wines of the week are (The name of the wine comes first, the name of the cantina follows):

1.) Barbera D'Asti Nowood 2004 "Scrimaglio"... Piemontese wines are always good value. And the Barberas are no exception. But if you really want to impress go with the more famous red from the region, Barolo. The Barbera tend to have high tanin content and have a mildly acidic after-taste. Very mild though.

2.) Collio Merlot 2001, "Torriani" ... I'm a big fan of wines from the Collio region of the Veneto, bordering Friuli (if my geography is correct). But my favourites are the whites, like Tocai. This is a fine Merlot. Very smooth. One criticism from the class was the taste didn't linger on the palate. I think that's a snobbily harsh critique. This is a fine vino.

3.) Rosso Conero San Lorenzo, 2002, "Umani Ronchi". I really like Umani Ronchi wines. This is considered one of the premiere vintners in Le Marche, and the prices are rising abroad as demand grows. The esteemed Gambero Rosso, the same people putting on this wine course, are big fans of Umani Ronchi too. The San Lorenzo can be found from a UK distributor.

4.) Primitivo Artas 2002, "Castello Monaci"
This Puglian wine is very sweet and flavorful... maybe too sweet and flavorful if you want to taste your meal. But it's really smooth. At almost 15 euros a bottle, that's a bit pricey. If you like southern Italian wines, go for a Sicilian wine like a Planeta.

Thankfully, my head cold is almost history. Just in time. Next week is Giro d'Italia with white wines.

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