Selections for July 2016

One ‘Z’ is not enough


Perhaps you have tasted Vinho Verde, Portugal’s refreshing white with a bit of zingy CO2 pricklishness.  Maybe you’ve even had Txakoli from Spain’s Basque Country; a tangy, dry drink rendered the same way.  Well, we’re betting you’ve never had zinged-up Garganega from Verona, Italy until now! 

“Frizzante” (with two Z’s to be sure you notice) is Italy’s wine term for “half bubbly.”  Moscato d’Asti plays this way - albeit with a bit of sugar – but in this case you’re getting a bit of fizz with a dry white made from the Garganega grape.  “Garganega”?  Is that another new one for you?  Perhaps you have heard of Soave?  That wine from this northern Italy place got a bad reputation when lesser grape varieties were employed to make enormous tankfuls of the stuff, but GREAT Soave is made entirely of Garganega. 

What you simply NEVER see on the market is this smaller-production cutie, a Garganega rendered with the frizzante effect from the Soave region.  It’s a distinctively delicious offering from Small Vineyards, the importer represented by friend Tom Kelly who recently put on yet another successful Italian wine tasting on our mezzanine. 

Apples and peaches greet the nose along with a more “intellectual” effect of white pepper.  Ample fruit is countered by a brisk brininess on the palate, and sometimes I detect a ghost of tarragon there, too.  The recent arrival of this wine is perfectly timed:  You’ll find it the perfect summer sipper and a nice accompaniment to salads, cold crustaceans, and grilled fish.

A Great (unlikely) Track Record

2015 CASALE MARCHESI – Frascati, Lazio, Italy

Yes:  Again.  - Just a few months ago we gave you the 2014!

Here’s the wine that works nearly every time.  I think we have skipped but one year in the many vintages we’ve carried of Rome’s usually-utilitarian by-the-glass wine.  Even this wine’s importer, Oakland resident Oliver McCrum, acknowledges Frascati’s stigmatic reputation:  “Insipid, dull, why bother.”   - And he’s done something about that by identifying and bringing us an exception.

Here are the rarely-mentioned varieties Malvasia del Lazio, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia di Candia, Bonvino, and Bellone doing their thing at small producer Casale Marchesi, just south of Rome.  The vines are at least 40 years old, working in ancient volcanic soils.  The wine sees no oak barrels; fermented and kept in stainless steel with attentive temperature control.  Malolactic fermentation – that process effecting a creamy/butter quality to big Chardonnays and such – is strictly prohibited to maintain a fresher message. 

I smell a nice saltiness floating atop the more obvious muskmelon fruit and fresh herbal aspects.  The textures are generous with a melted rock effect.  This fullness sees the relieving rebuttal of snappy tanginess, keeping the mouth awake and hungry.  I’d recommend a vast array of antipasto offerings as a pick-able feast for this vinted treat!