This is a good value Chianti at $19. It has typical sangiovese aromas of sour cherry and earth, and a palate with fresh acidity, firm but not hard tannins, and little evident oak influence. Ready to drink now, this wine can be approached over the next few years. Rating: Good. Abv: 13%. Price: $19. Website: https://www.cecchi.net/en.
Villa Antinori’s Toscano Rosso continues to be a great value wine. The 2015 vintage is quite the blend, featuring sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, syrah and merlot. Yet it retains a sense of place, and is identifiably Italian in style in the glass. The 2015 vintage is deeply coloured in the glass, with aromas of earth, blackcurrant and cedar. The palate is savoury and has good balance and length. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $20+. Website: www.antinori.it.
This is a good quality Prosecco D.O.C. from La Marca. It has aromatics of savoury apple and earth. The palate has a frothy mousse, the finish is off-dry and its component parts are in balance. Rating: Good. Abv: 11%. Price: $25. Website: danmurphys.com.au. Source: Sample.
From Friuli in Italy’s north west, this pinot grigio opens to sweet smelling aromas of apple skins, green mango and herbs. The palate is dry with a fullish body and is a linear, stoney expression of pinot grigio. Good length on the finish and not bad value for $18. Rating: Good. Abv: 12.0%. Price: $18. Website: na.
This is a good Langhe nebbiolo from Benevelli, particularly at $28. An aroma of sour cherry, chalk and potpourri. Fruity, for nebbiolo. The palate has good length, firm acidity and a youthful spritz. A quibble: one bottle corked (four tasted). Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 14%. Price: $28. Website: n/a.
This is a very serious Bolgheri cabernet blend from Grattamacco in Tuscany. Organically grown, it’s a blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 20% cabernet franc, 10% merlot and 10% sangiovese. In the glass, it is a hypothetical cross between a Napa Valley cabernet and a Bordeaux from an outstanding year. In terms of aroma, there’s plenty of new oak and cassis. The palate has saturated flavours of blackcurrant and bay leaf and is supplemented by firm tannins. This wine is an outstanding example of a Tuscan cabernet blend and is but a baby tasted in 2018. It will benefit, I expect, from at least a decade in the cellar. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 14.0%. Price: $100+.
From the 2012 vintage, this is a very good expression of sangiovese from Tenuta Buon Tempo in Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany. A medium intensity ruby colour in the glass, the wine opens to aromas of chocolate, earth, licorice and dried cranberries. The palate is full bodied, with quite firm but very fine tannins, high acidity and a long, earthy and savoury finish. This wine can be approached now (a good decant is recommended) or cellared and approached over the next decade. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $80.
This Valpolicella from Allegrini is bottled under screwcap and opens to restrained aromatics of red fruits and sour cherry. The palate is medium bodied and fruity with quite firm acidity and a short length finish. Overall, this is a wine to be consumed in its youth and is pleasant enough. Quite prominent acidity sees some loss of balance. Rating: Acceptable. Abv: 13%. Price: $30.
I recently attended a tasting that proved to be a masterclass in southern Italian wines with wines from Etna, Basilicata, Taurasi, Sardinia, Calabria and more. Sicily (and Etna in particular) and the nerello mascalese grape variety produced the stand out wines. Nerello mascalese has an exciting “nebbiolo like” future if this tasting is representative. Elsewhere, as is often the case with Italy, there was considerable variation in style. Notes follow.
This wine is 100% carricante (a white). Plantings totalled only 200 hectares in 2010. Its aromatics remind of minerals and smoke. The palate is mid to full bodied with good length and acidity. Delicious saline drinking that will of course suit seafood. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 12%.
Le Casematte Faro 2011
This wine is a blend of nerello mascalese, nerello cappuccio, nocera and nero d’avola. It presents as terrifically moreish, with very attractive and savoury aromas of cherry, florals and a saline overtone. The palate has great length, firm acidity and a tea leaf character. This is a very enjoyable wine that can be approached now. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14%.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2015
This is probably the wine of the bracket. The label prominently claims prephylloxera grapes, which is unusual but I guess the fact is that it’s a comparatively rare situation in Europe cf. most of Australia. In the glass, it has a mineral and sour cherry aroma. The palate has a noticeable lick of seemingly new oak, with towards long length and mid weight tannins. Its integration improves, and the prominence of the oak declines, substantially with air. This is unquestionably a serious and very good wine. It can be approached now but will benefit from cellaring. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14%.
Benanti Rovittello Etna Rosso 2013
This wine is a blend of nerello mascalese (90%) and nerello cappuccino and presented as perhaps the most refined of the Etnas. It has restrained aromatics of florals, minerals and red currants. The palate is towards full bodied, with really fresh acidity, long length and tannins that became more pronounced with air. This wine too would benefit from further time in the cellar, but probably for not as long as the previous wine. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.5%.
Salvatore Molettieri Vigna Cinque Querce Riserva Taurasi 2004
This wine – a Taurasi – is from the aglianico grape variety. It presented somewhat rustically, with aromas of sour cherry and licorice. The palate has high acidity and reminded of tea leaves, dried herbs, old wood and had a twiggy impression. Certainly ready to drink, this is a particular style that will have its adherents. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%.
Librandi Gravello Val di Neto IGT Rosso 2011
This wine is from the seldom locally seen gaglioppo grape variety, together with a 40% contribution from cabernet sauvignon. While interesting to taste a variety I had not previously seen, this wine proved, for me, a very strong expression of gamey ripe fruit with a spirit note. Abv: 14%.
Santadi Terre Brune Carignano del Sulcis Superiore 2010
A surprise carignan from Sardinia. It does not really resemble carignans from further north in France or Spain which seem more powerful. It has a quite earthy and herbal aroma. The palate reminds of tea leaves, with some bitter tannins that are comfortable and earthy. The alcohol figure (15%) was something of a surprise. Rating: Good. Abv: 15%.
Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2005
This wine most closely resembled the Taurasi in style, which is perhaps no surprise given they both share the same grape variety, albeit this wine is from Basilicata rather than Campania. In the glass, there are aromatics of cedar, licorice, spirit, pure fruit and tea leaves. The palate is tannic with good length. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%.
Antinori’s Villa Antinori (red) is a very reliable wine, although I haven’t tasted it for years – the last vintage I reviewed was the 2006 vintage back in 2010. It was an interesting wine to taste blind. Neither quite fitting the profile of a Chianti Classico (the acidity and tannins were not firm enough) nor Bordeaux (the colour was insufficiently saturated and the tannins were not “cabernet” enough), it nonetheless had some characters of both. It proved to be a Toscana IGT, which in 2014 for Antinori’s Villa Antinori, is a sangiovese dominant blend, supplemented by cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. The wine opens to restrained and savoury aromas with meaty, animal overtones. More or less medium bodied, there’s a smokey, struck match character from the oak and a general easy going character. Overall, this is a balanced, pleasant wine that finishes well. Rating: Good. Abv: 13%. Price: $20s.