Tis the season of rosé. My calendar this week was packed with portfolio tastings spotlighting the summer whites and rosés importers are now hawking to retail shops and restaurants for the warmer months.
Being passionate about wines at the light end of the spectrum, I was happy to attend them all. Happier still to discover some new wines I can get jazzed about.
Herewith, my finds of the week. If I could round them up on a desert island—along with a beach umbrella and wifi—I’d be happy as a clam all summer long.
SCALA was new to me. When I think of the Ciró DOC—probably Calabria’s only wine that’s penetrated the US market—I think of the Librandi brand. Scala is a fraction of that size, thus its unfamiliarity. Family-run since Luigi Scala opened its doors in 1949, when southern Italy was crawling out from the rubble of WWII, this winery is now run by son Francesco, who has turned the winery organic.
Most people would have trouble coughing up the name of any native Calabrian grape. (Gaglioppo, Mantonico, or Magliocco, anyone?) But Greco Bianco belongs in that huge family brought to southern Italy by the ancient Greeks. Scala’s Cirò Bianco 2018, a pure Greco, really wowed me with its concentration. It’s reminiscent of a tropical cocktail, showing mango and pineapple, coupled with a lei of white flowers and a spritz of sea waves. It’s the furthest thing from an insipid Italian white (and there are plenty of those)—and just right for a desert isle. (Imported by VOS Selections)
I confess to a weakness for whites at the aromatic end of the spectrum, and here are two beauties.
Alto Adige reigns as one of Itlay’s best regions for whites, and the PACHERHOF Private Cuvée 2016, in the Eisack Valley of Südtirol, is a great example of how delectable these mineral-laden alpine wines can be. Cellar master Andrea Huber, whose family has owned the winery since 1142, frames this cuvée around a big dose of Riesling (38%), which provides the floral aromatics and racy acidity, while Kerner (22%) and Sylvaner (40%, refined for six months in large oak casks) provide body, sapidity, and an enticing third dimension. (Vias Imports)
Jumping south, there’s CANTINA COLOSSI, one of Sicily’s stars since its beginnings in the 1980s. I’ve yet to visit, since they’re on a small island, Salina, off the northeastern coast. Their Colossi Salina Bianco 2018 is a 50/50 blend of cataratto and inzolia, white grapes that one also finds in western Sicily. But these grow on volcanic soil, which makes all the difference. This wine really stands out, offering a heady mix of tropical and savory notes. Tasty indeed! (Vias Imports)
Also in Italy’s northeast is LIS NERIS, a fourth-generation winery in Friuli, near the border of Slovenia. I suppose they’re best know for their pinot grigio. But by my book, their Sauvignon Blanc Picol 2016 takes the cake. It hits all the right notes: aromatic, but not too much, with a gooseberry nose that’s varietal-perfect. The slightly fleshy body makes this a more serious wine than a simple sauvignon quaffer. Old vines (30+ years) rooted in gravel mountain soil help explain its power, as does the 11 months of batonnage in a mix of 500 liter barrels. If you love sauvignon, this belongs on your Must Try list. (VOS Selections)
As for pink wines, my enthusiasm for Lambrusco was renewed. “But that’s red!” you say. Most are. But one of the Lambrusco varieties, called Sorbara, is naturally low in pigments, so it creates a wine that’s pink—even when maceration lasts one month, rather than hours, as is the case with ANERI’s Rosé Lambruco di Corbara (NV). This Sorbara is much fruitier than most, in a very appealing way. Perhaps the RS (residual sugar) is a bit higher than normal in Sorbara, but it’s certain no higher than your average red Lambrusco.
Speaking of which: Vias threw in a ringer at this white & rosé tasting, which I highly recommend: PEDERZANA Lambrusco di Castelvetro, a bone-dry, dark-cherry-packed red Lambrusco from the Castelvetro subzone, considered the Gold Coast of Lambrusco’s hills. Try either with a plate of salumi and hard cheese on a picnic blanket. (Both Vias Imports)
When I was a college student in Florence, I learned to love the habitual summer cocktail of Tuscany: equal parts sweet vermouth and sparkling water on the rocks, garnished with a fat slice of orange. So refreshing! Experimenting later, I found that white vermouth could also play nicely in summer highballs.
Now I have a new vermouth to play with, thanks to a discovery at Lauber Imports’ portfolio tasting. Surprisingly, it comes from sherry country in Spain. GONZALEZ BYASS, a historic house in Jerez de la Frontera that I know and love, has revived a recipe from 1896 for making vermouth from sherry. They’ve done a red vermouth from Olorso and PX soleras, but what they were pouring at the tasting was a newly imported white version, launching in the U.S. on April 1. La Copa Extra Seco Vermouth is made from dry Fino sherry infused with botanicals that include clove, cinnamon, and red berry peppercorns. With spices like that, I’m tempted to try it with a slice of pineapple for a liquid upside-down cake. In any case, come April 1, I’ll be on the prowl for this totally weird and wonderful vermouth. (Gonzales Byass USA)