Category Archives: Italy

Puglia Salento’s – 2013 Verso Rosso

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rossoItaly’s Verso Rosso by wine-maker Alessandro Botter came to me thanks to a Whole Foods Market wine distributor event held last year in Fort Lauderdale Florida. My team leader at the time and I flipped over this wine at first pour. A occurance I have to admit didn’t happen often thanks to his advanced palate. We agreed instantly that this wine had to be shared with our customer base and share we have. The Verso Rosso became an instant hit and repeat seller through word of mouth. The fact that we have now sold 20+ cases at one location is our proof.

Hand harvested, with no irrigation, this blend of 60% Negroamaro, 35% Primitivo [the genetic cousin to our Zinfandel], and 5% Malvasia Nera come from bush-trained vineyards. 3,000 vines per hectare [2.417  acres] which produces 1 bottle per plant average yield.  This would explain the bold flavor profile.

My notes:

Red fruit nose [raspberry] opening to a more dark fruit aroma [blackberry and blueberry] with spice. Light side of medium bodied but full of flavor. Good acidity and light on tannins [smooth]. To me, a port-like finish on the palate which must come from the appassimento [raisined grape] process.

Having earned the Wine Spectator “Top Value” designation just goes to show that I am not alone in this Verso Rosso love-fest. Being a California Zinfandel fan, I love that you get a very similar wine here but with some delicateness. Maybe just more “old-world” than “new world”.  Priced at $19.99 this vino is worthy. On sale at $14.99 this could easily become my go-to every day drink of choice. ¡SALUD!

 

From importer enjoysmall.com:

Verso is a very full-bodied, luscious wine made with a small percent of ‘appassimento’, or raisined, grapes. It comes from the same terrific people who make Casa Contini. The grapes are grown on two non-contiguous crus, with about 10,000 cases total made, which is, of course, very small for Puglia. Rich and dark in color, with vibrant spice flavors, it is a hedonistic experience that captures the polished side of Negroamaro and Primitivo.

Casa Contini:

Tasting notes: The good late maturation gives the characteristic notes of ripe and dried fruits, such as plums and raisins. The subsequent slight oak aging gives the pleasant notes of chocolate and spices that make this wine harmonic and balanced, pleasant and mature.

Wine Spectator:

Creamy and harmoniuos, this shows a pretty palate of creme de cassis, melted licorice and sweet smoke, with accents of grilled herb and chocolate mousse on the finish. Drink now through 2018

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words 

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Carolyn Wente visits

 

What a year! As 2014 blended into 2015 and now 2016, the wine retail dust is settling. Tastings, winemaker visits, holiday programs, classes, marketing events and more encompass my blur of a year as a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods Market. Luckily for me, lots of wine and little whine.

In no particular order some highlights of my wine filled year in photos. ¡SALUD!
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    PIATTELLI MALBEC 201319 CRIMES WINE

Whole Foods Market NMIA

Whole Foods Market NMIA

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Wine Spectator Top 100 – #44 Piattelli Vineyards 2013 Malbec

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PIATTELLI MALBEC 2013Piattelli Vineyards 2013 Malbec Premium Reserve

I discovered this big luscious Argentinian Malbec when I brought it into our store about six months ago.  It was an instant hit, not only with me, but with all the customers I pointed in its direction.  Developing a big following locally it has now been discovered nationally thanks to Wine Spectator and their annual Top 100 list.  So much so that I’m ordering extra to keep in stock as long as possible. WS Top 100 wines tend to disappear quickly when chosen and once the vintage is gone……

 

Wine Spectator notes: 

“Redolent of blueberry and dark currant, this fresh, pure style is matched with plenty of minerally components. The complex finish offers white pepper and bittersweet chocolate details. Drink now through 2019.”

Winemaker notes:

“A striking, slightly smoky wine with a deep burgundy hue, Premium Reserve Malbec’s fruity bouquet delights the senses and warms the palate with notes of blackberries, blueberries and lavender, lingers with a gentle tannin pull, and finishes with subtle flavors of toasted hazelnuts.”

This 100% Malbec originates from the rocky soils of the Luján de Cuyo region elevation of 3,200 feet in Argentina. Coming in at 14% alcohol this wine is aged for 8 months in oak barrels. The Piattelli family immigrated from Tuscany Italy in the 1940’s. Bringing with them their passion for wine.

My notes:piattelli-malbec-2013

Fruit forward richness on the nose; currant, blackberry and some red fruit too, strawberry. Also oak in the background and a spicy earthiness as it opened up. On the palate I mostly noticed red fruits and cola at the start with a quick change to a drier spicy woody, not oak per sé, but possibly tobacco and cocoa as it opened. Hard to pin down. A fact that may have more to do with pairing a sweeter tomato based pasta sauce with this vino.

Will I continue to recommend this under $20 wine to my fans of big, bold, new world wines? Yes! Will I continue to buy this wine for myself? Yes! Will I pair it with pasta sauce again? Heck no! Lesson learned.  ¡SALUD!

 

Whole Foods Market Point of Origin – Italy / Verrazzano Rosso

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Amidst the excitement of our latest wine program at Whole Foods Market; Point of Origin / Italy, I was able to sit down and spend some time with this 2012 Tuscan red.

Verrazzano Toscana Rosso

VERAZANO @WCW2014Reading about the Verrazzano Castle and vineyards on their web-site I was surprised to find that official documents of the XIVth century describe the vineyards and the olive groves of Verrazzano. Giovanni da Verrazzano, celebrated navigator and discoverer of the bay of New York and the majority of the east coast of America, was born here in 1485. The famous bridge in New York was named after him in 1964. Proud to say I have had the honor of experiencing the Verrazzano Bridge first hand.

 

 

Notes from Whole Foods Market:

This compelling Red from the Chianti Classico region revives the old tradition of including white grapes (Trebbiano and Malvasia) in the blend, softening the vibrant juice of the red grapes. Complex aromas of youthful fresh fruits and violets. Tuscan herbs, black currant and pomegranate flavors move to a smooth finish. 

This wine using mostly Sangiovese with lesser quantities of Canaiolo, Trebbiano, Malvasia and Merlot was produced in Greve, Chianti. The soil is mostly limestone and the harvesting is done by hand. The ten month aging process was done in large Slavonian oak barrels followed by 3 months in bottle. For additional information on Slavonian oak check out Dr. Vinny of Wine Spectator by clicking here.

My notes:

On the nose; red fruit, floral [violet] and some vanilla with light resinous wood [oak, vanilla]. On the palate I found that this light/medium bodied wine had a very nice fruity balance and paired wonderfully with a tomato sauce based dish we were having.  As the wine opened and breathed it was interesting to note the fading of the fruit to the background with a peppery spiciness evolving to the forefront. Both aspects were welcomed.

I enjoyed the fact that this wine had character as it developed.  I have found myself recommending it to customers ever since. More importantly we’re experiencing customers returning for repeat purchases. Regularly priced at about $16.00 and sometimes available as low as $12.00 this new wine for Whole Foods Market North Miami is being discovered quickly.  To new wine discoveries!  ¡SALUD!

 

Winemaker notes:

Eclectic and dynamic red wine, ruby-red colour with purplish reflexes, very harmonic taste, round, of good intensity with fragrant notes of flowers and red fruits. Attractive, pleasant wine, well suited to contemporary “fusion” cuisine.
Alcohol: 13,50% vol

$5.00 Wine – Trader Joe’s

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The Miami area of Pinecrest recently added a Trader Joe’s to the discount grocery mix.  As a long time fan of Aldi markets [in Europe and USA] I was excited about this addition. Aldi and Trader Joe’s share a relation. Owned by 2 brothers the company was split into Aldi North and Aldi South in the 1960s. The Aldi store is more bargain style and Trader Joe’s goes more for the trendy audience.  Both specialize in private label items.

Unfortunately our Miami/Pinecrest store got off to a rough start due to its shortage of parking spaces for patrons. Many cars were towed during the first few weeks and quite honestly I do not know how the city permitted construction of this site with so little parking. That said, this small store [drug store size] was nicely decorated inside with aisles roomy enough to get around.  Since this is a “wine” review I will not bore you with the specifics of my comparison shopping.  But, a somewhat obvious disclaimer here is the fact that I work for Whole Foods Market. Many compare the two but the truth is they are very different.  I’d also like to add that I was an Aldi fan long before I ever dreamed of joining the WFM team.

Wine! I was very impressed with the size of their vino area, about eight times bigger than the wine areas of the Aldi’s I have frequented. The majority of the wines being exclusive or private labels for Trader Joe’s. All inexpensively priced.  Surprisingly the well-known wines they carry are priced the same or even higher than at Whole Foods and other local merchants.

The majority of my time in the store was of course spent in this area reviewing all they had to offer.  Should I buy an under $20 Chateauneuf du Pape or even a Barolo under $15.00?  In the spirit of this shopping excursion I decided to budget myself at a whopping $5.  Per bottle of course and somehow limited myself to only two.

First up is Puglia’s 2012 GRIFONE Primitivo labelled “From old vine Zinfandel”.  As regular readers probably know I am a big fan of Zinfandel a.k.a. Primitivo which would explain my grabbing this $4.99 bottle without thinking twice.

Later that night with company over and cork  popped, everyone truly enjoyed this wine.  Only one flaw; among Zinfandel fans no one could name the varietal including myself if I had not been the purchaser.  Is it an easy drinker? Heck yeah. Would I serve it again? Ditto! But this fruit forward, medium bodied, low tannin wine was very un-Zinfandel like. Spice? Earthiness? Peppery? All nowhere to be found.  I’ve read that the 2010 was a tad more rustic so my notes could be due to the 2012 vintage. Below are some other opinions I found:

From Cheap Wine Finder

The color is cherry red with black highlights. The nose is dark berries with a little chocolate powder and spearmint chewing gum, This is a soft, smooth, medium bodied wine with a slight rough edge on the mid palate. It tastes of black cherry, a little tart cranberry and a touch of cola. The mid plate offers are a dusty slap form the tannins and a final dash of sweet strawberry.  The acidity is balanced and the finish is a little watery and fades a bit too soon.

From the Savy Lush

The taste of this Primitivo is fairly mild with notes of cherry and jammy spice. The nose isn’t anything special, and finish is rather fleeting but really, who cares?!? Easy drinking, smooth and pleasing, this is classic “Skank”. But, if you’re truly worried, make sure you have some dark chocolate on hand-never a bad idea.

So my final verdict would be: very drinkable, an easy drinker, great for large crowds [parties], excellent way to spend $5.00, just do not call it Zinfandel/Primitivo.

Next up we have a Sangiovese, one of Italy’s most planted grape varietals, from Tuscany. D’Aquino Gaetano Sangiovese di Toscana 2012.  D’Aquino, in this case is also the wine importers name.

The Sangiovese flavor profile usually includes; cherry, plum, cinnamon, vanilla and some herbaceousness.  Unfortunately I noted very few of these qualities.

My Notes: Light in color and body. Red fruit on nose, more so on palate but not much else. Fruity with a cherry finish.  Not much development as it opened, status-quo as time passed.

Winemaker notes:  This is a fruity, red wine made from the best-known grape varieties. It is brilliantly red with good intensity and has lively, fresh, and full-bodied taste. It is ideal for everyday drinking with most foods and in particular pasta dishes.

The D’Aquino was in no way poor but at the same time it did not have any personality. Not a wine you would look forward to having again but a vino that may actually fall into the $5 wine category. OUCH: Now that the developing wine snob in me let that slip out I must admit to having had wines much more expensive with the same issue. Drinkable? Sure. Would I buy it again? I have to admit I would most likely not.

I have plenty of friends that swear by the TJ private label product line.  As I was mentally planning my reviews a fellow blogger also posted about Trader Joe wines. Luckily wines that he had recently discovered and enjoyed. Check out Talk-A-Vino’s; Trader Joe’s Wines – Again Exceeding Expectations.

All said and done not bad for my investment of $4.99 times two. Would I try more TJ wines? Definitely.  Their reduced pricing structure is hard to refuse. Luckily for me this new store is not nearby.  Luckily for my bank account if it were I could do some damage $5 at a time.  ¡SALUD!