Two '02 whites from Northeast Italy
Let's follow up on Monday's dissertation on the "difficult" 2002 vintage in Northern Italy with a closer look at a couple of white wines from Italy's Northeast, where the weather that summer was weird but not as damaging as the fierce storms and heavy floods that ravaged a swath of Europe late in the summer of '02.
For the Northeastern Italian regions from Verona to Venice and north - the Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino and Alto Adige - the problem wasn't so much rain as cold. Relentlessly cool weather for most of the summer resulted in low yields, but this is not an unmixed blessing, as the smallish amount of fruit harvested ranged from good to exceptional. "All display beautiful balance between alcohol and acidity levels and wonderful purity of fruit, due mainly to the low yields which were able to deal with the cooler than usual conditions," report the vintage experts at London's Berry Bros. & Rudd.
(The same is true of Austria's 2002 vintage, I'm told, despite wide news coverage of heavy flooding there: The wine regions weren't flooded, just cool ... and that is not necessarily a bad thing.)
For today's tasting report, I sampled a couple of good 2002 whites from the Northeast and found both consistent with the vintage rating: Crisp, clean and pure fruit shaped by snappy acidity that made them excellent companions with food.
The La Cadalora 2002 Pinot Grigio Vallagarina from Trentino (where Italy meets Switzerland in the foothills of the Alps), a wine I had tried before, was a bit more steely and light than the earthy and full-bodied 2000 from the same maker (Sept. 13, 2002 Wine Advisor), but still showed plenty of complexity, balance and food-friendliness to justify a $2 increase in price to match the falling dollar.
From Soave near Verona in the Veneto, a region whose wines don't always get much respect because of the predominance of mass-market labels, the producer Suavia (named for the ancient Germanic tribes, the Suebi (Swabians) from Bavaria, who originally settled the region) presents a Soave of exceptional body and structure, well above the median.
One "suspect" vintage, two very good wines. The moral of today's story reinforces Monday's lesson: Read up on vintages as a general guide, but don't carelessly pass by every offering from less stellar years or you'll miss a lot of good wine.
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Suavia 2002 Soave Classico ($13.99)
This pale straw-color wine shows a distinctly greenish brassy hue in the glass. Pleasant if rather delicate aromas evoke honeydew melon and herbal accents of tarragon and mint. Flavors are consistent with the nose, full-bodied for a Soave and appropriately tart, with clean fruit and crisp acidity in balance. Snappy citrus and melon linger with a light edge of peach-pit bitterness in the finish. U.S. importer: VIAS Imports, NYC. (April 27, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Acidic snap and good body make this one a natural with a hearty Italian dish of bluefish fillets roasted over thin-sliced potatoes with olive oil and garlic.
VALUE: A fine Soave with personality fully justifies this low-teens price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Best drunk up over the next year or two.
WEB LINK: The Suavia Website is available in English and Italian.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look for Suavia wines on Wine-Searcher.com,
La Cadalora 2002 Pinot Grigio Vallagarina ($15)
This is a very light straw-color wine, almost watery pale. Citric scents of lemons and a distant whiff of mint add an elusive hint of "forest floor" and fresh wild mushrooms, not "cork taint" but a more pleasant earthy note. Crisp and tart flavors, more cleansing than sour, carry on as a lemony tang in a very long finish. U.S. importer: Vintner Select of Mason, Ohio, and other regional importers; a Marc de Grazia selection. (April 26, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Cleansing acidity pairs nicely with the rich, earthy flavors of pasta cloaked with a thick sauce of finely chopped pecans and olive oil with piquant South African red peppers, a variation on a more traditional walnut-pasta sauce.
VALUE: Nudging toward a bit more than everyday price, but it's a better-than-average Pinot Grigio.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not a "collectible," best enjoyed in the coming year while its fruit and acidity are snappy and fresh.
WEB LINK: The winery Website features its Pinot Grigio on this page:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find La Cadalora wines on Wine-Searcher.com,
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004