We’ve said it a hundred times, some of the best wine tastings anywhere are held by Mark Gasbarro at Gasbarro’s Wines on Atwells Avenue in Providence, R.I. They always feature excellent wine, sometimes world class, very expensive wine, and they are free. We’ve tasted everything from Gaia Barbaresco to big name Napa Cab. The wines are also discounted the day of the event, so it’s all good. Recently I stopped in to see what Mark had to offer, and this time it was Northern Italian wines from Collio and Valtellina, along with white and red selections from Sicily and Puglia. This was sort of a north and south rendition of the wines of Italy, as Collio and Valtellina are in the shadow of the Alps, far to north, and Puglia and Sicily sit at Italy’s extreme south. All the wines are imported by Frederick Wildman Importers.
Le’s highlight a few you should consider:
From Collio, northeast of Venice on the border with Slovenia, there were some noteworthy whites. You would expect that, as Collio is known for its white wines, and especially its Pinot Grigio. What struck me about these wines was the quality in the winemaking. They were all clean, beautifully crafted, and had both fruit and structure. My two favorites were:
2014 Conti Formentini Furlana Friulano Collio – a little unusual, as you don’t see too many Friulano wines, this was a wine with a lot of structure and finesse. In Slovenia this would be called Sauvignonasse, but it’s the same grape. The fruit was a bit more subdued, although quite present, and it presented other nuances and came across as a more expensive white.
These were line priced at $18.99, along with a Sauvignon Blanc that was also quite good.
Staying up north there were reds from Valtellina, a long valley in the foothills of the Alps that runs eat to west. This is one of the few places outside Piemonte that the Nebbiolo grape shines, although here they call it Chiavennasca. While these wines do not have the power of Barolo or Barbaresco, they do have some of the finesse and elegance. The fruit was lovely, very typical for Nebbiolo in profile. Think more of a Ghemme or Roero wine. The Valtellina Superiore is a DOCG designated area, the highest designation given in Italy for quality. I enjoyed all three they had open.
2011 Nino Negri Quadrio Valtellina Superiore – light red in color, this is 90% Chianennasca and 10% Merlot. It has an aromatic nose, medium body, elegant fruit and some surprisingly brisk tannins. It was also very long. $25.99
2013 Nino Negri Inferno Valtellina Superiore – called Inferno due to it coming from the southern, and hottest, vineyards in the region, this wine had more body, more power, and was just a little more robust all around. It was my favorite of the three, and drank like a Barbaresco. Very nice, long finish and some of the classic tar nuances along with some oaky notes. Really good juice here. I bought a bottle of this to take home. $29.99
2011 Nino Negri Le Tense Sassella Valtellina Superiore – maybe a bit more body than the Inferno, this wine also had more complexity on the palate. There was an unusual fruit flavor I could not quite place. Some would prefer this, and the distributor representative who was pouring was in that group. An excellent wine, but my vote stays with the Inferno. This was $39.99, and at that point is competing with some Barbareso and Barolo head on.
Now let’s move south to Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, and a typical varietal from the area.
2014 Castello Monaci Maru Negroamaro Salento – this Negroamaro was dark red, with a fruity nose, nice fruit on the palate and medium+ body. Although many wines from this grape can be quite big and very robust, this wine was more approachable. Overall it was a delicious red which would make for a good house wine. $14.99
2014 Tenuta Rapitala Gran Cru Chardonnay – from one of Sicily’s first wine estates, with a strong French influence, comes this wine, labeled as a Gran Cru Chardonnay and right on point with that. This could pass for a white Burgundy easily, at least to my non-expert nose and palate. It is clearly oaked with a touch of butter, but not overly done, along with tropical fruit and a nice long finish. At $39.99 it’s a bit steep for a Chardonnay from Sicily, but the quality is certainly there.
Did I mention these tastings were good? Stop by and see Mark if you’re in the area, he is always eager to talk wine with his customers. Definitely check out some of the upcoming tastings. On Wednesday, April 26th they will be pouring the wines from Hourglass Winery, in Napa Valley.
A votre santé!