Ancient Roots, Modern Vines: Italy

  • Christian Navarro

Its traditions are ancient, but the modern nation of Italy is a relatively recent invention. Just as the United States was torn by civil war in 1861, the disparate Italian states were being unified under Victor Emmanuel II, whom the new parliament proclaimed king. The government declared Rome its new capital, yet the city-states of Milan, Florence, Venice, and Naples retained their unique cultural traditions and, of course, their ancient resentments. Today these rivalries persist among Italy’s vintners, who, from the Alps to the shores of Sicily, capture in bottles the rich diversity of the peninsula, its geography, and its people.

Avignonesi 1997 Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice
Due to its richness, layers of luscious and complementary flavors, and impeccable balance, this sweet Tuscan dessert wine has been declared by some the Chateau d’Yquem of Italy. Vin Santo, however, differs in its profile, which highlights flavors of unctuous caramel, fig, raisin, and sun-dried wildflower. ($250, 375ml)

Bruno Giacosa 2005 Barolo Le Rocche Falletto Piedmont
This incomparable producer owns vineyards in the Serralunga d’Alba, La Morra, and Barbaresco regions of Piedmont. Those who admire the massive flavors and incredible balance of Giacosa’s wines will not be disappointed by this Barolo, which shows layers of sweet raspberry, cocoa, dried rose petals, and roasted meat. ($320)

Ceretto 2004 Barolo Bricco Rocche Piedmont
Bruno and Marcello Ceretto carry on the tradition begun over 70 years ago by their father, Riccardo, and are known for their sublime bottles of Barolo and Barbaresco. This particular Barolo features Piedmont’s glorious essences of tar and rose as well as secondary notes of licorice and forest floor. ($260)

Donnafugata 2005 Mille una Notte Sicily
Since 1983, Giacomo Rallo and his wife, Gabriella, have been the owners of this major Sicilian estate, which was first planted to vines over 150 years ago. This offering—a typically beautiful Nero d’Avola—gives off a heady aroma of superripe blackberry and dried herbs, while on the palate powerful flavors of jam, graphite, and tar intermingle. ($80)

Fontodi 2007 Flaccianello della Pieve Tuscany
From vintage to vintage, this Sangiovese is consistently one of Tuscany’s top wines. The elegance and grace of the latest release—which shows flavors of sweet cherry, baked earth, white smoke, and cocoa—reminds one just how sophisticated Italy’s finest wines can be. ($110)

Principe Corsini 2004 Marsiliana Tuscany
The Corsini family has owned the Le Corti Estate since 1427; however, the Marsiliana Estate, which the Corsinis first began managing in 1760, did not come into the family’s portfolio until the 19th century, when they finally purchased it. This vintage of Marsiliana contains a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, 70 percent of which was aged in new French oak for 15 months. The result is a mouthwatering medley of plum, mocha, and smoke flavors. ($55)

Querciabella 2006 Batàr Tuscany
A beautiful and consistently excellent Tuscan white wine grown in the Greve region of Chianti, Batàr—a blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay—is often referred to as the Montrachet of Italy. This vintage is packed with flavors of white peach, white pepper, and tropical fruit. ($88)

Quintarelli 2000 Amarone Veneto
A true oenological wizard, Giuseppe Quintarelli often keeps his various wines in the cellar until he deems them worthy of consumption. Such is the case with this amarone, which exhibits a startling maturity for a just-released red wine. Its profile presents artfully integrated essences of bitter chocolate, licorice, tar, and kirsch. ($300)

Tenuta San Guido 2005 Sassicaia Tuscany
The definitive Super Tuscan, this legendary and revolutionary wine is produced by Tenuta San Guido, which is owned by the Incisa della Rochetta family. A blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Cabernet Franc, the 2005 vintage offers classic Tuscan flavors of dark plum, menthol, graphite, and leather. ($216)

Valdicava 2005 Brunello di Montalcino Tuscany
Owner Vincenzo Abbruzzese’s winemaking has earned Valdicava a permanent place among the top wines producers in Montalcino. The latest release of his outstanding Brunello has deep, concentrated aromas of tobacco and leather and earthy flavors of dried cherry and dried herbs. ($95)

Vietti 2005 Barolo Lazzarito Piedmont
Vietti winemaker and industry visionary Alfredo Currado passed away this year, leaving the estate in the capable hands of his son, Luca. The Nebbiolo grapes used to make this Barolo are sourced from 39-year-old vines in the Lazzarito Vineyard in Serralunga. This wine is aged for over two years, first in French oak barrels, then in ones of Slovenian oak, both of which add to the grapes’ sweet blackberry fruit and accents of tobacco and menthol. ($125)

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