Thursday, August 18, 2011

Antinori: Generations in the making

If you’re a lover of Italian wine, then you must know the name Antinori. With bottles like Guado al Tasso, Solaia and Tignanello; Antinori conquered the fine wine racket with a host of “Super Tuscans” that helped define a generation of winemaking. However, you don’t need to spend upwards of $70 to enjoy a gorgeous bottle of Tuscan juice from this winery, which is now on it’s 26th generation of ownership (that’s right, 26 generations). Antinori also produces a number of bottles in the value category that drink beautifully. One of my favorites value wines is the Antinori Chianti Classico Peppoli. Each year I look forward to the newest vintage for easy drinking and highly enjoyable Chianti.

2008 Antinori Chianti Classico P├Ęppoli - The nose showed dusty potpourri with fresh crushed cranberry, cinnamon stick, and dark bakers chocolate. On the palate, it was medium bodied with a high level of acidity pushing dry yet intense red fruit and mocha. The finish was long on the palate with some drying tannin and lots of dry red fruit extract. (88 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

I was a little on the fence with this wine but it opened up nicely after a couple of hours open in bottle. Once it started to show a little body on the palate, the dry red fruits and high acidity became more and more tolerable. In the end this is not Chianti for the neophyte, but does provide an interesting contrast to many of the, soft and modern, Chianti on the market these days.

I enjoyed this wine. I won’t put more in my cellar but I would be happy to accept a glass if offered. For a great value white wine from Antinori, I highly recommend the Antinori, Guado al Tasso Vermentino. It's an Italian white that smells and tastes as if it had been plucked right from a Mediterranean coast only days before you tasted it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grandi Vini: One man's opinion of Italy's best wines

I’m thinking back almost seven years ago to when I first started reading Vino Italiano (from authors Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch), which was my first bible for Italian wine. I had only just begun to explore wine and had fallen deeply in love with Italy. Vino Italiano was the end all of Italian wine in my universe. I must have read the book five times from cover to cover, going region by region, and trying to imagine the vineyards, wineries and people that made it all possible. It was the golden age of my wine education. Looking back now, there was one thing that Vino Italiano was missing: winery profiles. Enter Joseph Bastianich’s new book, Grandi Vini.

Joseph Bastianich
The Bastianich family has literally become synonymous with Italian food and wine, with a number of restaurants, retail ventures and even a winery in Friuli. Joseph Bastianich has spent his life in the industry, starting with his mother’s (Lidia Bastianich) restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens, where he rubbed elbows with distributors, importers and visiting wine-makers. Later in life, he traveled through Italy to find direction, working with winemakers in the vineyards and the wineries. Vino Italiano, and now Grandi Vini, are the result of this lifetime of experiences.

Grandi Vini is one man’s opinion of what the 89 best wines are coming from Italy today. Split up into the five different sections of Italy (Central Italy, The Islands, Northeast Italy, Northwest Italy and Southern Italy), Grandi Vini manages to provide a diverse and highly informative guide to some of the biggest names in Italian wine today. Even from the perspective of a well-versed Italophile, I still found myself pouring through this book to search for something new, something interesting; and the best part is, I found plenty of both.

The best part is that Grandi Vini doesn’t just cover the usual suspects. Many of the wineries profiled are off-the-beaten-path producers that I have spent years slowly learning about through tips from other collectors and extensive reading, yet here they all are. For the beginner, Grandi Vini presents something of a behind-the-scenes look into the world of fine Italian wine. For the obsessed, it’s a welcome addition and packed with useful information about some of our favorite wines and winemakers.