Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Go Big or Go Home…

In 2007, the country of Italy produced 4 349 900 Liters of wine – that’s approximately 5.8 million bottles of wine. Now, a lot of that wine stays in the country as wine is a big part of an Italian’s day to day life, but a large number of those bottles are also exported to a wide variety of countries. So, on the first Monday of November over one hundred of those wineries packed themselves into the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and laid out 477 of their best wines for those of us who work with wine to try and buy.

Now, I am sure you are looking at that number of wines and are thinking how can anyone get through 477 wines and still be standing? Well, it is impossible – what ends up happening is we simply pick and choose based on what we see in the tasting guide and who we see behind the tables in terms of importers. So, here are my picks for some, and definitely not all, of the great wines that were in the room that day.

Leone de Castris Salento IGT Donna Lisa Bianco 2008
$10.50 per bottle
Contact Philip ( for ordering information
This wine is made from 100% Malvasia Bianca grapes, which is part of a family of grapes historically grown in the Mediterranean region of the world. In previous years it has been a blending of Chardonnay and Malvasia Bianca but I have to say I like the fact that they kept it to a single varietal for the 2008 vintage because it made the wine slightly unique amongst the white wines there that day.

Lovely aromatics of tropical fruit and melon carry on to the palate where they join a slight nutty toffee flavour. There is a bit of spice on the lingering finish and, at this price, is definitely one of those wines that would make it a hit as an everyday with dinner kind of wine. Cheers,

Patria Soc Coop Sicilia IGT Viognier 2008
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Although the grape Viognier is one that we do see a lot here in Canada, Viognier’s from Italy are definitely a new experience for us. This wine is very aromatic made up floral aromas with a touch of caramel. The palate has some minerality to it but also citrus, tropical fruit and floral components. To balance the wine off and give it a perfect finish, you will find a light touch of spice and crisp, clean acidity.

Cantine Salvalai Veneto IGT Pinot Grigio Salvalai 2008
$14.95 per bottle
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It would be easy to think not much of this wine based on the very subtle aromas coming out from the glass but give this one a chance…or a sip…and you will be pleasantly surprised. The primary aroma is that of grapefruit which does continue on to the palate but the flavours are mostly mineral with a touch of cream and that aforementioned grapefruit flavour. The real surprise to this wine is the Mandarin Orange finish and the amazing mouthfeel this wine has to it.

Vinicola Benanti Etna DOC Rosso di Verzella 2006
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A blending of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, this wine has great aromatics which consist of an earthy base but with a distinctive dried fruit, banana component. That distinctive banana component is also evident in the flavours where it joins and mingles with a lot of berry fruit. There’s only one word for this wine and that is YUM!

Vinicola Benanti Sicilia IGT Il Drappo 2004
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This wine is trying to be a lot of things to a lot of people – every time you sniff the wine you get something else. There is a major berry component to the aromas but there are also some spicy and vegetal notes to the nose. On the palate, this is a very fruit forward wine but there is a nice kick of spice in the back palate through to the finish and a good string of tannins weaving their way through the wine. Either way you want this – you could put it down for a few years if you want or open it up and enjoy it tonight.

Cecchi Umbria IGT Zitto Zitto 2008
$16.15 per bottle
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One of my friends who works for Select Wines filled me in on something as she was pouring me this wine – “Zitto Zitto” is Italian for “Quiet, Quiet”. So, with that in mind, what does this wine bring? The aromas to this wine are very subtle, almost restrained, but there is a distinctive floral component to them – mostly violets but a hint of iris as well. The flavours remind me of a smooth jazz number but one that is trying to break out and be a funky jazz piece. The distinctive kick of spice in the back palate and finish make this a very memorable wine. When I first heard what the title translated to I pictured a Grandma calling out to her grandchildren to be quiet and that is exactly what this wine is trying to be. I think if you were to give it a year or so, the Grandma would be losing the battle as her grandchildren would have become loud, boisterous teenagers.

Domodimonti Societa Agricola Marche IGT Il Messia 2006
$72.75 per bottle
Contact for ordering information
This wine is a blend of Montepulciano and Merlot and you can tell because this wine has a complex fruit nose which is a key characteristic of both of these grape varietals. Those fruity aromas continue on to the palate where you get tons of blackberry and licorice flavours but with a good string of silky tannins, some peppery notes and an occasional kick of plums. This wine tastes pretty good now but can you imagine what it will be like in 5-7 years? Pick some up now and try to hold on to it until 2015 or so.

Cantine Spinelli Malbec 2008
$7.95 per bottle
LCBO General List CSPC #143750
To say this wine is HUGE may be the biggest understatement I have made in a while. The wine is so dark it is inky black. The aromas are abundant – fruit, coffee, chocolate, cigar, cedar box…I could go on indefinitely. The palate is just as big as the aromas with jam, fruit, spice and all important tannins. This wine is screaming for food – I would say hearty meats would be the best pick for this big, definitely over the top, day ending wine. There are plenty of bottles available according to the LCBO’s website so pick up a couple of them and enjoy.

Hopefully you will enjoy some of these great Italian wines I found at the Italian tasting last Monday. However, if you happen to find an Italian wine that you absolutely love in your local wine shop, feel free to let us know here. There are just so many Italian wines out there that it is next to impossible to try all of them…
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