ROSSO DI CONTRADA 2014, MARABINO
Grape:100% Nero d’Avola
Region: Noto (Sicily)
Pairings:red tuna fish that is seared or aged, grilled meats and vegetables.
Drink by: now until 2020
Notes: biodynamic, indigenous yeasts, aged for 12 months in 60hl French oak, 14-year old vines 60,000 bottles
Description: Sometimes a genius isn’t easy to spot at first sight. You might not expect them to be 34 years old, always laughing, joking and wanting to have a good time. And with no family wine tradition to have learned from, it’s even more impressive. Meet Pierpaolo Messina of Marabino in Noto. In the scorching heat of the summer, we arrived for a visit with him. Upon opening the car doors, you immediately noticed the refreshing breezes which accompanied the sun-drenched sky. Along with the sound of birds filling the air, this place began more to feel like a little paradise. Being biodynamic for him is more than planting with the biodynamic calendar based on planetary and lunar cycles – he uses solar energy, recycles the water he uses for winemaking on his property which attracts birds, insects and animals and even plants all sorts of various fruit trees on his property – all which create and balance his ecosystem, and help him to not need to use pesticides and herbicides on the vines. And all of this is reflected in the balance of Noto Rosso. The best part – drink up without worrying about a headache or hangover – this wine is not made with any chemicals or sulfites!
Summed up perfectly by a strangely poetic friend of mine…’this wine is an oxymoron…it’s like a stinky perfume, it has a rough elegance about it, it’s soft and hard at the same time, and I have a repulsive attraction for it, exactly how I feel about Sicilians’. A small masterpiece by an unsuspecting genius.
ROSSO DI MONTEFALCO 2015, RAINA
Grape: 70% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 15% Sagrantino
Region: Montefalco (Umbria)
Pairings: red meat, salami, pork, venison
Drink by: best now thru 2022
Notes: open up a couple hours early, biodynamic farming, 10 hectares, 24 months in Large Oak Barrels (20 HL), 6 months in stainless steel, 6 months in the bottle, non-filtered or fined, manual harvest
Description: Francesco Mariani, a young winemaker, decided to bring his own philosophy and desire to make a natural wine to the region of Montefalco, at the same time maintaining tradition. Wines from this area are often full bodied and tannic so they need their time to open up. Merlot helps to soften the edges of the more tannic Sagrantino and acidity of the Sangiovese. It is a structured wine, made in an extreme natural and clean way, showing off the territory of the region.
“Our goal is to offer natural wines, which reflect the terroir but remain personal, are clean, intact and characterized by elegance and drinkability. We do not want to make wines just to taste but to drink”...Francesco Mariani
(video is discussing a white grape Trebbiano that they make but you can at least meet the winemaker and learn about another grape)
BARDOLINO 2016, MONTI DEI ROARI
Grape: Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone
Region: Garda (Veneto)
Pairings: Tortellini, light meat dishes
Drink by: now
Notes: Biodynamic, not filtered, no added sulfites, aged in cement eggs, 20-40 year old vines, 5,000 bottles
Description: Wine tasting is not a race. It is not a matter of finding the best…no winner or loser. No jury can determine for you at a photo finish, which will be the best or the winner. And the best for what? What is wine without you and your friends sharing an experience together? And what was wine meant for?
Keeping it in the cellar, waiting for the perfect moment that will never come. A label to show to your friends? Wine, please don’t forget, is sometimes just about drinking them, and now. It’s not all about Barolo, Super-Tuscans and 100 point Parkers… Wine is also about simple light moments. Not fruit juice with alcohol, but that complex simplicity that you have in those bottles, that fulfills your palate with meaningful, light thoughts. Sometimes a wine can be fruity and easy drinking without being ‘cheesy’ – and that is what this Bardolino is about. Small little strawberries with a nice salty finish. With Paul Giamatti I would call this wine ‘quaffable’, if this didn’t sound insulting, because it’s more than that. It’s the essence of a winery that makes straight and honest wines with no fake stories, no selected yeasts, no fertilizers, no sulfites…just grapes and soil. Drink it now meanwhile you are reading this, on a soft late afternoon, when the weather is not too cold or warm, and the sun is balancing a fresh autumn breeze and your friends are with you. No need to discuss the wine, it will soon become part of the group…one of those quiet friends that you can rely on.
TOSCANA ROSSO 'TRONCONE' 2014, LE RAGNAIE
Grape: 100% Sangiovese Grosso
Region: Siena (Tuscany)
Pairings: roasted and grilled lamb and pork, good quality salami and hams, aged cheeses
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes: certified organic, 2 weeks of skin contact, 12 months in Slavonian oak and 6 in concrete, 12,000 bottles produced
Description: Sadly, it's almost an anomaly to find a 'good' quality wine in this region (don't believe us? Take it from Adamo from Contucci). Most is coming from a forested area or the valley floor which is not ideal, nor was never included in some of the original 76 hectares in 1963 (current size is some 2400+ hectares). And whether or not you believe in the idea of global warming, being at the highest point of Montalcino where it's cooler helps in these warm years where the valley floor suffers. Maybe I'm partial to his wines since he has an American wife, or maybe it's just that everything tastes great when you're perched up on a hill with breathtaking panoramas and sipping 'under the Tuscan sun'... Or maybe it's Ricardo's love for Burgundy which inspires his style - elegant, powerful, complex and persistent on the palate, maybe not over-oaking his wines like most are to cover over bad wine, or maybe his various and complex terroirs (now even including a vineyard on the famous Montosoli cru) are what make his wines so beautiful but regardless, this bright and lively expression of Sangiovese will not disappoint.
ETNA ROSSO 'A RINA' 2016, GIROLAMO RUSSO
Grape: Nerello Mascalese (small amount of Nerello Cappuccio)
Region: Randazzo - Etna (Sicily)
Pairings: Steak, aged red tuna fish, fried anchovies or fish and chips, or salted cod or mackerel.
Drink by: now until 2024
Notes: 3700 bottles, organically cultivated, 15 year old oak barrique barrels
Description: Winemakers...the biggest liars in the world (well possibly right after sommeliers). A big circle of lies. The soil, the terroir, the efforts, the traditions, struggling against nature and marketing. Here are some tips to recognize a lying winemaker.
• To us, the most important thing is defending tradition.
• We don't care about marketing.
• I make wine for myself, not for the market
Everything is a logo nowadays, even the non-logo (biodynamic, natural, etc). If you have something to sell, you are a liar. BUT...sometimes I like to believe, I need to believe, that there is something true in all of this. This is how Guiseppe Russo presented himself:
• I didn't care about wine when I was younger.
• Countryside and farming represented suffering to me.
• Most of what is said about Etna is bullshit.
• 'No please, don't ask me to speak about the minerality in the Etna wines'
• The more I do this job the less I know how to do it...
...and other anti-marketing statements. And at the end, when I taste Russo wines, at the moment they are simply the best of all the Etna wines. A beautiful balance between 'minerality' (whatever that means) and fruit, power and elegance, complexity and drinkability, deep yet quaffable. Yes, I know, Guiseppe doesn't have a fairytale to tell...no passionate family tradition, but they don't care: the volcano, the 90 year old plants, the unique micro-climate, the 900 year old history...they just don't care about marketing, about journalist expectations, because they were there before us and will be after us. Drink it with venison and a berry or wild forest fruit reduction, facing a mountain.
SUCIAJA 2015, LA COLOMBERA
Grape: 100% Nibiò (Dolcetto)
Region: Tortona (Piedmont)
Pairings: prime rib, steak, red meat
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes: 3600 bottles produced, organic farming (not certified), 12-15 day maceration, 9 months in barrique and
Description: Do you know those kind of people who are always smiling, who seem happy in a contagious way? In Italian, we say solare, from sole - sun, sunny. Not in a goofy or hypocritical way but really happy in their smile, their eyes. My girlfriend is like this. I told her yesterday. We met at my tasting 3 years ago and I was literally shocked by her simple smile, not fake, not nervous, but natural - so Californian I would say (actually Santa Barbara). It's the same as some wines which make you feel happy from the very first sip. Beyond the alcohol content, I’m talking about wines that are able to be deep and easy drinking, complex and soft at the same time.
And when you meet Elisa, from la Colombera, it's kind of the same experience. As though you knew her for a long time. The happy and welcoming sister you never had. No matter the climate, she smiles because there’s nothing too serious about wine even if her wine is seriously a masterpiece.
Nibiò grapes offer spicy notes with fruity and delicate floral touches. Pepper, vanilla and tobacco blend with red fruit. Perfect in winter to warm up the belly and for a nice hearty meal.