Relationships are a big part of wine appreciation. Just think about how you have found some of your favorite wines. It’s likely been through your local wine merchant with whom you have developed a relationship, learning how your tastes compare to his or her tastes and recommendations. Or maybe a friend recommended a wine or winery to you. Maybe the relationship is a bit less personal, maybe you read a review in a wine magazine or an online publication.
However your appreciation for wine has developed, at some point we all rely on the knowledge and experience of others. With really good wines being made all over the world, it’s not possible to visit everywhere or become an expert on everything — well at least that’s the case for most of us.
Through our Twitter community of friends we have become acquainted with Guy and Tina at Protocol Wine Studio and their #WineStudio Twitter-based wine education program where they encourage us to “engage our brains and palates.” They choose the topic and the guests who provide the wine*. Then we all meet via Twitter on Tuesday evenings to taste and Tweet. It’s fun and informative.
We have spent Tuesday evenings during September learning about Rinascimento Wine Company and its founder Justin Gallen. Justin has combined his love of wine and Italian literature into an Italian wine import and distribution business in California. He is busy building relationships with producers and clients alike.
Justin sat down with Guy from Protocol Wine Studio for a conversation about how he got into the wine import business and what drives him. You can head over to SoundCloud and give a listen if you like.
Justin imports Italian wine produced primarily by small, family-owned wineries making wine using organic, biodynamic or sustainable farming practices. All of these farming practices are really good for for the environment, and presumably what’s good for the environment is reflected in the quality of grapes. These things are important to me, however for most consumers of wine they are not so important. Taste, according to Justin is the bottom line. That of course makes perfect sense, but if you can have both, why not?
Justin sent us samples of four wines from three producers. We tasted them during two tastings that followed the initial evening of conversation. The first tasting included two wines from southern Italian regions of Abruzzo and Basilicata. For the second tasting we moved North to Piedmont.
2013 Francesco Cirelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo — light, translucent ruby color in the glass. Aromas of strawberries and cherries are followed by lime zest and tart cherry flavors. The wine finishes with clean acidity, a hint of tannin and lingering cherry flavors. ABV 12.5%
This lovely wine is so flavorful with a nice weight in the mouth thanks to the hint of tannin it possesses. We sipped this wine with a creamy pasta and it was just delicious. We served it chilled as we would a rosé and it released even more aromas and flavors as it warmed in the glass. We will certainly be looking for more examples of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo in the future.
This wine challenged me in several respects. First, the color and shape of the bottle (dead leaf green Burgundy style) lead me to expect a red wine, not a rosé. But, when I held the bottle up to the light the wine was not opaque, but translucent.
We learned during the Twitter chat that Francesco Cirelli could not afford different bottles for the Cerasuolo when he first began wine production, so used the same green bottles he had for his red wine production. I guess the bottle choice just became a matter of routine after that.
Second, the color of this wine is lovely, but much darker than many rosés and lighter than a red wine. Its color is achieved by relatively short juice contact with the darkly pigmented skins of the Montepulciano grapes as fermentation begins, only 10 to 12 hours. Cerasuolo in the name refers to both a cherry-like color of the wine and the fact that the wine has aromas and flavors of cherries.
Then finally, there is the grape variety Montepulciano, which by regulation must comprise at least 85% of DOC classified Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo.
This grape variety is indigenous to the Abruzzo region, but the name may be most familiar as part of the Tuscan DOCG named Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made primarily from Sangiovese and not Montepulciano. Perhaps the memory of this delicious Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo will help me remember the distinction.
If you would like to hear the proper pronunciation of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, you can hear Francesco Cirelli himself pronounce it in a post on the excellent Do Bianchi blog site.
This wine is part of a portfolio of organic products produced by Francesco Cirelli. Visit their website for an overview of their wines and to get “the lay of the land.” You will know what I mean by that when you visit their site. They even have bed & breakfast accommodations.
2010 Musto Carmelitano Serra del Prete Aglianico del Vulture — medium ruby in the glass. Spice and dark fruit aromas are followed by dark fruit, black tea and spicy flavors. Tannins are ample and grippy. The body is light to medium with excellent acidity. ABV 14%
When we received these samples from Justin I was very exited that an Aglianico del Vulture was among them. I have tried only one other, and enjoyed it very much. This Aglianico did not disappoint. The combination of fruit, spice, ample tannins and a lighter body is just what I enjoy in a red wine.
Monte Vulture is an extinct volcano and gives the Aglianico del Vulture DOC within the Basilicata region its name.
One of the things I find so interesting about this wine is that it is fermented and aged in only stainless steel and cement vats, no wood aging at all. This wine has so much flavor, spice and depth and it is wonderful to taste all of the complex flavors of this 100% Aglianico without the influence of wood aging. Once again, this wine is produced from organically grown grapes. It is not fined or filtered. What’s not to love about this wine?
If you are uncertain as to the correct pronunciation of Aglianico del Vulture refer once again to Do Bianchi. Thank you @truewinecultur for the link.
Our second Tuesday of wine tasting took us to Piedmont in northern Italy and the wines of G.D. Vajra.
G.D. Vajra wine estate was founded in 1972 on family property located in the village of Vergne in Barolo. The vineyards, at about 400 meters elevation, have a variety of soil types and sun exposures. They are farmed organically, sustainably and without irrigation.
2011 G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba — inky dark ruby-violet color in the glass. Generous dark, ripe fruit aromas combine with similar dark fruit flavors, leather and earth. This medium-bodied wine has ample tannins and is lushly ripe but maintains great acidity. ABV 14.5%
This 100% Barbera is all about the flavor of the fruit. It is produced from six distinct vineyard terrors within Barolo, Novello and Sinio communes. Aging is in a combination of stainless steel and oak, but with little new oak. It would pair nicely with grilled steak.
2009 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe — translucent garnet-tinged ruby color in the glass with aromas of celery and dark fruit. Dark fruit flavors, spicy cedar and tobacco blend with significant, drying tannins for a mouthful of flavor. Love the lighter body and great acidity of this wine. ABV 14.5%
The translucent color of this wine belies the abundance of flavor and tannins it delivers, but hints at its lighter body. I love a lighter hued wine that packs a powerful punch of flavor and tannins. That is just what this wine delivers. Delicious.
Nebbiolo for this wine is grown in three vineyards in Barolo with distinct soil types located at altitudes between 400 and 440 meters. The wine is aged in used Slavonian oak barrels for 36 months.
When G.D. Vajra was established in the 1970s by Aldo Vaira, a professor turned winemaker, it was named for his father Giuseppe Domenico, who owned the vineyards. At that time they took back the traditional spelling of their family name for the wine estate. The family name had been changed to Vaira in the 1930s, upon order of Benito Mussolini according to Justin, which is how you will see the surnames of the family spelled. There is always a connection to the people behind the wine for Justin.
Next time you purchase a bottle of Italian wine be sure to look at the back of the bottle for an import label. Maybe you will find the beautiful Rinascimento Wine Company label and you will know it is a bottle carefully chosen by Justin.
Hats off to Protocol Wine Studio for another great #WineStudio event. Thanks to Justin Gallen for sharing not only your passion for Italian wine, but your delicious wine with us. It was an enjoyable and illuminating experience.
*Wine is most often the topic of conversation on #WineStudio, but during October it will be all about Virginia hard cider.
I’ll have to check out #WineStudio on Twitter. I’m glad to hear about these Italian wines that you enjoyed–I love Italy and Italian wines but have so much to learn about them and often don’t know what to buy.
#WineStudio is lots of fun, a good way to learn. I have come to really love Italian wine. Many are so affordable and so good. Cheers!