Introduction to Italian Wine
When I was young and without a care, Chianti came in the ubiquitous fiasco or basket covered bottle. It was inexpensive and great with spaghetti, pizza and lasagna. On a graduate student stipend, it was a great treat to have something different than Carlo Rossi. Today, I can afford a good bottle of wine. But the FUD factor (fear, uncertainty and doubt) would kick in and I’d avoid the modern Chianti wines because they had gone from being inexpensive wines to wines above my $6.00 price point. (I’m looking at the early ‘90s when I stopped buying Chianti operating on the datum that Chianti is cheap Italian red table wine and not worth the asking price.) But I have Sangiovese in my blood! Spurred on by our experience with the Piemontese Blend, I’ve decided to start wrapping my wits around some Italian wine.
At the wine shop, Taster B was over by the Pino Noir, I wandered off to the Tuscany section and browsed around. What are these wines like? Let's find out!
In order to understand the significance of Super Tuscan wines, we have to take a look at some history. Italy is a huge producer of wine. Wine in Italy is food. You drink it with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is the culture. I mean this warmly and with admiration. There is a wine making tradition that goes back thousands of years.
There are 20 regions and 96 provinces. The main regions are Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (D.O.C.) controls the production and labeling of wine. The D.O.C. laws went into effect in 1963.
- These law regulate:
- The geographical limits of each region
- The grape varieties that can be used
- The percentage of each grape used
- The maximum amount of wine that can be produce per acre
- The minimum alcohol content of the wine
- The aging requirements
In 1980, the Italian board took quality control one step further and added a G for Garantita, D.O.C.G. This states that the wine meets standards through tasting control boards and they absolutely guarantee the stylistic authenticity of a wine.*
What is a Super Tuscan wine?
Wine makers wanted experiment with other grape varieties as they did in California. Super Tuscan wines are Sangiovese blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These wines were outside the laws of the D.O.C. so they had to be labeled as Vino da Tavola (Table Wine, an official designation). Today, Vino da Tavola can be inexpensive table wine or wines that are outside of the current style and variety laws. Thus a high quality wine may carry this designation.
We found a Super Tuscan that we think you will enjoy. This label is in English and serves as a good introduction to reading Italian wine labels.
Let's take a look at this label.
Carpineto, the producer, is a partnership between winemakers Giovanni C. Sacchet and Antonio M. Zaccheo. Their original mission was to produce a world-class red wine from the Chianti Classico appellation. This was a radical departure from the marketplace of the times when most Chianti was still produced in the traditional winemaking style.
In the center of the label, we have the name chosen for the wine and a pronunciation key. We see that it is classified as a table wine. On the Italian label, it has Vino da Tavola.
In the bottom right corner, we see the vintage, the winery, the growing region, and the volume. Now that we understand the label, let's review our tasting notes.
Color: Ruby Red
Aromas: Current, violet, rose, earth
Flavors: Strawberry, raspberry, cherry, olive, earth, struck flint, anise, coffee
Finish: Moderate to long
Summary: This is a very delicate wine. When first poured, not much happened. With a little persuasion, the wine opened up with the smell of roses. Very delicate berry, earth, smooth, silky tannins. The floral of the Sangiovese and the spice of the Cabernet Sauvignon makes a delightful wine.
Pairings: From http://www.carpineto.com/products/super_tuscans/dogajolo_eng.htm, “Given its fruitiness, Dogajolo can be paired with first courses and white meats, but shows at its best with full-flavored dishes such as roasts, grilled meats, cold cuts and Tuscan regional specialty.”
We will be posting notes on other Super Tuscan and Italian Wines. You may click on these labels below to select these postings.
*16 Feb 08 Editor's note: As with all rules, there is the exception...the Chianti D.O.C.G. is covered in a later post. Also, there is a Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. which produces some of the finest wines from Italy.