Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: An Italian Spring Sipping Collection

I was sent these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.

There comes a time in every winter when you just cannot wait to put on a short sleeved shirt and not cover it up with long underwear, a turtleneck and a sweater. (For me, the proper word is "and" and not "or". I am not known for my warm blood in the Winey household.) You have spring fashion fever and you just can't wait for the spring fashions to hit the stores.

The folks at Banfi Wines understand this spring fever thing, at least as far as spring wine goes. They very kindly sent me a set of their spring release wines to review. So I put on a short sleeved shirt and started sipping.

bottle of Principessa Gavia Gavi Italian wineFirst up was Principessa Gavia's Gavi (2012, 12%, Italy). I probably would have liked it simply for the fairy tale story on its back label. A beautiful Princess (Gavia) falls in love with a guy her mean old father King doesn't like. So they elope to a little village in northwest Italy, and love the village's white wine so much that come clean about who they are. (I've seen a bottle of wine affect people in many ways...but this is a new one.) The King sees how happy they are and names the wine and the town after his daughter. Awwww..... The only problem here would be if the cute little fairy tale was actually based on a horrible wine. Fortunately, this is not the case. Gavi, made from 100% Cortese grapes, is a gorgeous Italian white. On the nose, it gives off green apple and mineral aromas. The taste is full of green apples and tart starfruit. It's got a perfect acidity to it that tames the fruit and gives the overall taste a little kick. One of my favorite Italian whites of all time. Run out and find this NOW. No wait - read the rest of this and then go.

bottle of chianti with fiasco straw cover
You thought of this
immediately when you
heard Chianti, right?
bottle of Chianti Classico Italian wineMoving along, I popped open a bottle of Chianti Classico (2010, 13%, Chianti Classico region of Italy). No, it did not come in a round bottle in straw basket, like Chiantis of old. (The bottle, by the way, is called a fiasco, which means flask and not a big old disaster.) Most Chiantis today are bottled in your more typical shaped wine bottle. A Chianti must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. I couldn't find the exact amounts, but Banfi describes this wine as having an absolute predominance of Sangiovese. The first thing you notice about it is the bouquet. It's strong! I could smell cherry from far away. As the glass got a little closer to my nose, there was also a tang of smoke and some oak. The taste was sour cherry with some smokey oak around it. There was a real earthiness to it as well. It feels lean and supple in your mouth, with the fruit flavor on the top of your tongue, and the woodsy warmth on the sides. The tannins were strong here and the oaky aftertaste was long. There is no doubt that you'd have to acquire a taste for this Chianti - don't give up after a few sips. I think it would go very nicely with grilled steaks, and now that grilling season is here, this is one to keep in mind.

bottle of Centine Italian wineCentine (2011, 14%, Tuscany, Italy) is a red blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It's a pretty garnet color and has a nose of blackberry and cardamon spice. The taste is of sun warmed black cherries with a hint of cherry cordial in it. It felt soft in my mouth, but the high alcohol contest made the finish a bit too warm and unbalanced. In my opinion, a little more Merlot would have opened up all the fruit flavors and still not have overwhelmed the oaks. Almost there..but in the end, just an "OK" wine.

bottle of Rosso di Montalcino Italian wineLast on my Italian journey was Castello Banfi's Rosso di Montalcino (2011, 14%, Italy). It is 100% Sangiovese and oh boy, did I have a hard time wrapping my taste buds around this one. The nose was of heavy smoke, dark herbs and a very tiny hint of cherry at the end. It tasted of smoke and cedar wood and black licorice. (I avoid black licorice at all costs. It is one of my least favorite flavors. Just ask the Winey Hubby, who for nearly 30 years now has had to eat all the black rope licorice, Jujyfruits and jelly beans that enter our lives.) The wine just felt flat in my mouth, with a finish that was dry and almost leathery. This is a big earthy, woodsy wine - way too much so for me.

But I got over my disappointment when I remembered how much I loved the Gavi. It really was the shining star in this spring collection and will be a wine I reach for many more times. The Chianti Classico is a wine I'd like to explore a bit more too. The other two, well, not so much. But you sip and learn, sip and learn, don't you?

Salute! (That's Italian for "Cheers!")

I was sent these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.

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