More Southern Italians
Last Wednesday's delicious Nero d'Avola-Syrah blend from Sicily put me in the mood to explore the warm and hearty reds of Southern Italy, so I've pulled corks from three more interesting wines of the region in recent days.
Let's start today with a quick survey of the wines, their grape varieties and regions, then move right along to the tasting notes.
Aglianico del Taburno comes from a mountainside region near the village of Benevento in Campania, not far north of Naples and a quick 300 meters (1,000 feet) above the Mediterranean. Aglianico ("Ahl-yah-nee-ko") is an ancient Southern Italian red grape that's said to have been brought over by the ancient Greeks and originally called "Ellenico," meaning ... Greek. I consider it one of Southern Italy's best red varieties, at its best making a balanced and robust wine capable of aging.
Salento Rosso comes from Apulia (Puglia) on the other side of the lower end of the Italian "boot," in the "heel" across from Campania on the "instep." It's usually made primarily from the Negroamaro grape ("Neh-gro-ah-mah-ro"), which rather descriptively means "black bitter." The most familiar wine of the region is Salice Salentino. Today's example is a Salento Rosso (red wine of Salento), made from the same grapes under the more flexible "IGT" production rules.
Nero d'Avola ("Neh-ro Dah-vo-lah"), the primary component of the blend in last Wednesday's featured wine, is gaining increasing respect as perhaps the top-quality red variety of Sicily. Many tasters report blueberries as a characteristic aroma and flavor descriptor in Nero d'Avola. Today's wine, however, just about takes this over the top in a "fruit bomb" style.
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Taburno 2000 "Fidelis" Aglianico del Taburno ($11.99)
Very dark garnet in color, this wine breathes refined and appealing scents of anise and black plum with a pleasant "dusty" note in the background. Mouth-filling and tart black-fruit flavors add a spicy touch of licorice, with tangy acidity and soft but perceptible tannins lingering in the finish. U. S. importer: A Marc de Grazia Selection, imported by Vintner Select of Mason Ohio, Skurnik in New York, and other regional importers. (April 4, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Thick pork chops braised with onions, garlic and sage make an outstanding companion at the table.
VALUE: Plenty of quality here for $12.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink, but soft tannins and good fruit-acid balance suggest that it may gain additional interest with a few years under good cellar conditions.
WEB LINK: Here's a link to an article about Cantine del Taburno (where you will find a further link to a fact sheet on the Fidelis) on the Website of Michael Skurnik, one of the U.S. importers:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors and compare prices for Taburno Fidelis at Wine-Searcher.com:
Castel di Salve 2000 "Santi Medici" Salento Rosso ($8.99)
This clear, dark-ruby wine offers pleasant if simple cherry-berry fruit in the aroma and the flavor. Juicy and crisp, fresh fruit is braced up with snappy acidity that makes it a mouth-watering food wine. U. S. importer: Vin DiVino Ltd., Chicago. (April 6, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Food-friendly with a range of dishes from red meat to tomato-sauced Italian-American fare. It made a surprisingly good match with seafood in a simple cioppino with fish, scallops and rock shrimp in a light tomato base.
VALUE: Very fine value at this under-$10 price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Best drunk up young and fresh, although a year or two in the bottle won't hurt it.
WEB LINK: The winery Website is online (but in Italian only) at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors and compare prices for Castel del Salve Salento at Wine-Searcher.com:
Athesia 2002 Nero d'Avola Sicilia ($11.99)
Fruit in wine is good, or so most wine lovers say ... but this Sicilian "fruit bomb" almost takes the premise to excess in a wine that will excite some but may horrify others. Very dark reddish-purple in the glass with a "day-glo" edge, it blasts from the glass with a startling burst of ripe blueberry aromas, eerily reminiscent of Kool-Aid with an added hint of the familiar artificial-strawberry quality of "Neapolitan" ice cream. "Outrageous" blueberries carry over in the flavor, soft and seemingly sweet on the tip of the tongue, gaining lemon-squirt acidity to provide reasonable structure in the finish. U. S. importer: Winesource USA, Wilmington, Del. (April 5, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: A "fruit bomb" that demands robust flavors to match; it went well enough with a simple chef's salad brought up to meat it with cubes of spicy Calabrian-style salame and chunks of earthy Point Reyes California blue cheese.
VALUE: Competitive at $12 provided that you like the "fruit bomb" style.
WHEN TO DRINK: It's hard to imagine what will be left of this when the lush fruit fades; I would drink it soon, if at all.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Wine-Searcher.com lists no vendors for Athesia, and neither the producer nor the importer has a Website that I can find. If you're interested in this oddball wine, try checking with local wine shops; I found it at The Wine Rack on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2004