An Italian homecoming
It could hardly have escaped readers' notice that I've made a conscious effort over the past month to "recalibrate my palate" for Australian wines, forcing on myself an almost constant diet of Antipodean reds and whites.
I seriously recommend this process to anyone planning wine travel, particularly if your usual vinous preferences favor wine in a different style than is in fashion at your destination.
Getting your taste buds tuned for the wines you'll be enjoying makes simple sense; and that went double in my case, since I was to be sitting as a judge in wine competition and really needed to be up to speed, and receptive, to the kind of wines that would be on the judging table. When I encountered a flight of 46 full-bodied Shirazes, most of them Australian, I was truly grateful that I had taken the time to accustom myself to wines like this before I arrived.
But now I'm back home, and it didn't take long to pull the cork from some Old World favorites ... just to make sure that I hadn't lost my taste for European wines during my stay Down Under!
I needn't have worried. A Southern Italian favorite, Taurino 1997 "Notarpanaro" Salento Rosso (which is the big brother of the popular and good value Taurino Salice Salentino) was just as good as I remembered, or maybe even a little better. A "riserva" type wine (although that term is not used on the label), this hearty red from Puglia spends three years in oak and three more years aging in bottle at the winery before it is released. When I last tasted it nearly a year ago, I noted that it needed a bit of time in the bottle to come together. That's happening now, and this vintage should make good drinking over the winter.
Here's my tasting report, along with notes on a couple of fine Italian reds currently featured by the California Wine Club in its new International Selections program.
Taurino 1997 "Notarpanaro" Salento Rosso ($14.99)
Inky dark ruby color, almost opaque. An exotic mix of dark fruit and spice - plums, anise, hints of tarragon and brown spices - in a warm and approachable aroma. Full and ripe, black-fruit and anise flavors follow the nose; lemony acidity and smooth, barely apparent tannins segue into subtle licorice in a long finish. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC; a Leonardo Locascio Selection. (Oct. 16, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: A red-meat wine, it would be fine with beef or game; I brought pork loin up to meet it by braising bite-size chunks of meat with onions, a little beef broth and tomato paste.
VALUE: Good value at this mid-teens price; wines of similar quality from more sought-after regions would go for substantially more.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinkable now, but this is a wine with potential to evolve and gain flavor interest with careful cellar time.
WEB LINK: The U.S. importer has fact sheets and extensive information about Notarpanaro at
Two Italian reds from
California Wine Club's International Selections
Angelo Rocca 2000 "Mitico" Salento Rosso
Reddish glints show in the glass when this dark-ruby wine is held against the light. Plums and dried-cherry notes fill the appetizing aroma. It's ripe and fruit-forward on the palate, mingling plums, prunes and raisins with a hint of anise in a flavor profile that's juicy and slightly sweet, a warm and easy-to-sip red from sunny Southern Italy.
Dioniso 1998 Chianti Riserva
Dark reddish-purple in color, this fine Tuscan red offers pleasantly "rustic" black-fruit aromas lent complexity by appealing earthy nuances. Bright fruit and snappy acidity are balanced in the flavor. It's a straightforward Chianti in the old-fashioned Old World style, made to enjoy with food, and that's the way I like it.
Both wines made a fine food match with a simple pasta dish of penne with Italian sausages in a fresh tomato sauce. They're imported to the U.S. exclusively for California Wine Club's International Selections. For purchase and ordering information, call The California Wine Club at 1-800-777-4443 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mention The 30 Second Wine Advisor and they'll add a free bottle of your favorite California varietal to your order!
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Friday, Oct. 17, 2003