Tonight, taste three Italian wines that express something essential about the past, present, and possible future of Italian wine. Italy, of course, is a country with a millennia-long practice of making wine and yet to me, for the most exciting wines, the Italians are ever tinkering, futzing, and playing with their past and trying to make sense of it. We’re starting with a good example of what I’m talking about: a wine from out of the past, grown on the volcanic soils of Mt Vesuvius and made from the very local grape, coda di volpe, which may or may not have been used to make the falernium, the finest wine of ancient Rome. This is a grape that seems uniquely suited to expressing the essence of volcanism, and you don’t and probably will never see coda di volpe grown anywhere else other than the northern part of Campania, where it makes dry, smoky wines with stunning minerality and mouthwatering acidity. Although Italy is not renowned for producing white wines that can age, this is indeed one that can (sometimes, we carry library selections of this same wine with ten years of bottle age). Next, we’re tasting an exciting biodynamic wine grown on the Tuscan coast, 100 percent sangiovese, wild yeast fermented and aged in the outdated 3000 liter “botti grandi,” a technique from the past that is showing us today that it is really the only way to make great, honest sangiovese. And finally, a dark-as-the-night sagrantino, a red grape for centuries monopolized by the church and made into sacramental wine, until in the 80s it became the darling child of the smack-in-the-kisser, monolithic fruit bomb ultra-oaky set. Nearly undrinkable wines, and yet here’s a wonderful example of how to do it right: a nearly ten-year-old sagrantino, fermented first in stainless, that sees only older barrel, showing how sensitive treatment and extensive bottle age can sometimes tame archaic beasts and bend them into something lovely.
The Lineup: $12
Villa Dora Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco 2013
Vigna i Mandorli “Vigna alla Sughera” Toscana 2011
Adanti Sagrantino di Montefalco Umbria 2008