Top Three Wines of August: Northern and Southern Italy
This month’s top three wines are neither ordinary nor expensive. They are celebrations of authentic wine making and candidates for greater honor than simply top wines of the month. The wines made by Sicily’s emergent superstar Arianna Occhipinti are recipients of mounting natural winemaking acclaim, sought out by in-the-know fans of deliciously authentic wines. The Schiopetto is made by a family playing an important role in the changing face of winemaking in Friuli. The Lagrein from Terlano is a consistent winner from Alto Adige, a region producing stellar values and unique product. I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with all of them. Considering that they are benchmark wines for their respective regions, all are tremendous values.
(**** $25) 2009 Occhipinti SP68 Nero d’Avola/Frappato, Sicily
Finally! I have been on the hunt for Occhipinti’s creative wines and within one week found a large part of the portfolio at Central Bottle in Cambridge, MA and this Nero d’Avola and Frappato blend on Momofuku Ssam Bar’s wine list. I had heard about the lively fresh reputation these wines have earned (completely evident) but had no clue to the depth of exotic aromas and flavors that accompany this particular wine’s full-on, grapey identity. It is pretty straight forward to see how the blend’s Frappato shares an inherently true grape character with Nero d’Avola’s spicy profile. Together they create something exotic, similar in the way I think about Clos Rougeard’s Cabernet Francs that can embody lively fruit freshness with truffle and herb aromatics. I have developed a weak spot for wines that tease me with their sexy zest while simultaneously delivering an eery range of herbs and spices. This wine is so accessible and easy to drink despite being an oddity amongst southern Italian wines. It is unbelievable that you can buy a wine as interesting as this for only $25.
(**** $29) 2008 Schiopetto Friulano, Friuli
I wrote about this wine earlier and mentioned its wonderful mosaic of texture, freshness, and acidity. There are flowers, nuts, and stone, in the nose. The flavors are buffeted by significant acidity. Its mouthfeel is defined by the texture of light honey and the tightening structure of this great dry wine’s acidity. This juxtaposition of richness and grace add to the crispness of its pointedly fresh pear flavor. If you enjoy Loire Chenin blanc then this Friulano is most certainly for you.
(***1/2 $55) 2007 Cantina de Terlano Lagrein Riserva Porphyr , Alto Adige
The wine is made from Suditrol’s native Lagrein grape. I ordered it at dinner down in New York’s over the top iconic Italian eatery, Del Posto. If I tasted the wine blind I would have guessed it came from southern Italy. Its deep dark color and weight covered up its northern Italian roots. There is a big mouthful of black cherry flavor and aromas of earth, mushroom, and rock that grabs your attention. The soft tannins facilitate the silky impression it leaves in your mouth. This is a serious wine to be appreciated by lovers of the rich bold flavor of hefty wines as well as by devotees of lighter and prettier fruit driven wines. It never leans towards a modern international style and impresses with its fullness and chewiness. Worth every penny of its $55 price tag.
Happy September drinking…