This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Oct. 8, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20071008.php.
Sweet red revisited
An awful lot of people would like to enjoy a sweet red table wine, but it's mighty hard to find one. "Help me find a sweet red" is one of the wine questions I receive most often, and my September 2006 article on the topic, "Sweeter than wine," remains one of the most-downloaded editions of The 30 Second Wine Advisor.
Most of us who've developed a love for wine eventually learned to embrace the difference, whether it was love at first sight or a gradually acquired taste. We've found that a "dry" (unsweet) and "sour" (acidic) flavor profile in wine actually goes better with food; and complementing a meal, after all, is perhaps wine's highest and best use.
But this discovery eludes quite a few unsatisfied would-be wine enthusiasts who continue wandering in the wilderness, sampling the exceptions from Port (a rich, heavy, strongly alcoholic and usually expensive fortified dessert wine) to soft-drink-style carbonated wine coolers.
Last year's article found an unusual Italian exception to the rule: A relatively lightweight table wine that's red and sweet, carrying a low but not inconsequential level of alcohol, no carbonation, and a distinctly fruity and sweet flavor.
That wine, Bernardi "Camauro" Cagnina di Romagna, is no longer available in the U.S. Happily, however, the importer, the estimable John Given of Manhasset, N.Y., says he has signed on with another producer offering "the exact same wine" under a new label.
From the same Cagnina di Romagna region in Emilia-Romagna around Bologna, an Italian community where people know how to eat and drink well, say hello to Adesso 2006 Cagnina di Romagna, one of the world's few red wines that gives a straight answer to that frequently asked question about the sweet, table-worthy red.
Adesso (the Italian word means "Now") comes in at a featherweight 9 percent alcohol, and for those who care about technical data, its sweetness measures at 70 grams per liter, which is very sweet indeed, placing it in the same sugar category as a Coca-Cola, but you'll find no high-fructose corn syrup or any other additives in this wine, only the natural sweetness of grapes. You'll find my tasting report below.
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Adesso 2006 Cagnina di Romagna ($11)
Very dark purple with a distinct reddish hue. Grapey, juicy raisins, a hint of something minty and herbal on the nose; fresh wine-grape and dried-fruit flavors follow the nose, quite sweet but not sticky, with sufficient acidity to keep it from cloying. It doesn't really resemble Coca-Cola, but the sweet, dark fruit character inspires comparison, and quite frankly, I find this much more palatable than Coke. An ice cube adds structure and mutes the sweetness a bit, and it makes a surprisingly appealing match with the flavors of Cantonese-style stir-fried beef and green peppers. Not an everyday item for wine "geeks," but an excellent answer to the frequently asked question from those aching for a sweet red wine. U.S. importer: John Given Wines Co., Manhasset, N.Y. (Oct. 7, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: See above.
VALUE: Pink, white or any other color, a sparkling wine of this quality is a splendid bargain in the middle teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: I wouldn't cellar this - enjoy the young, fresh fruit, particularly with the short, synthetic cork. In Emilia-Romagna, it's usually released in the fall and drunk up over the holidays.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
War between the grapes (Oct. 5, 2007)
Vintage Hugh Johnson (Oct. 3, 2007)
Quest for elegant Oz Shiraz (Oct. 1, 2007)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pan-roasted sea bass (Oct. 4, 2007)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: