Sunday, November 27, 2005

T-Day with two odd Italians

What better to drink with a Romanesque holiday feast than wines that look and taste much like they did during the reign of Augustus? While I roasted up the nerf-sized turkey breast and whipped up wacky ancho-bock beer mashers, the hub and I popped a couple of obscure Italians that only a true geek would love.

I found these two bottles on a lark; the likelihood of my finding and being able to afford such an eccentric luxury would otherwise be jack-squat. They sat on the shelves of the retail store for which I slave, having been completely ignored, for years, finally ending up drastically discounted. I'm sure a previous buyer thought there would be that one guy or gal for whom obscure Italian wine is an obsession, who had searched hi and lo for them and would be thrilled that we, of all stores, carried a bottle. As it turns out, it was a major score for me.

Looook at that krazy color! That's the color of uber-natural, ancient juice; unfiltered, according to Gravner, "to preserve the soul of the wine."

1997 Gravner Ribolla Gialla

Josko Gravner received little attention for his wines prior to 1997, when he began experimenting with terracotta amphora, lined with beeswax, as fermentation containers. He did three wines thusly, including the otherwise often dull, lo-alcohol ribolla gialla grape that is found only in the little coastal crescent of Collio, in Friuli.
I searched the web over for notes about this wine, but what few notes on the ribolla I found were all subsequent vintages.

This kind of wine was meant to age, but perhaps not too much longer than ten years. I don't have a lot of experience with deciding when strange Italian whites are losing it, but this wine seemed to me to be a stout pube away from showing oxidation. Nevertheless, the aromas were heady and rich, full of honey, smoke, and nutmeg. On the palate, the flavors of cream, lanolin, almonds and honey, and a baby-ass soft texture, finishing with a red clay minerality.

Around the time my sprouts were just about brusseled, we popped the next odd little princess. Who pays eighty bucks for a 6 year- old, weirdo Rose from Abruzzo? Me! When it's 75% off, that is.

Not the kind of bottle you'd expect to be filled with sat in with the red M. D' Abruzzos forever until one of us remembered what it was.

1999 Valentini 'Cerasuolo' Montepulciano D'Abruzzo Rose
Edoardo Valentini, known as 'The Lord of the Vines' among his best pals, is another avant-garde producer, this time in the Abruzzo area. I hate, by the way, when people talk about the "average plonk" from Abruzzo; there are some really fantastic bottles that come from this area that soar far above the Citras and the Dario D'Angelos (neither of which suck for quaffer wines, by the way).
This wine is lauded as one of Italy's finest roses. The nose on this wine is beautiful and complex: little pink blossoms and wee shreds of orange peel, dusted with meditteranean spices. It had that mineral activity that seems almost like a hint of a fizz, and a distinct coppery note that I found very strange. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to make of this wine, but it paired just fine with ripped-off bits of ham.

Mmm. Salmony.

Uta Hagen, the famous author and actress, once told Terry Gross that she ought not to question the craft of acting, but just enjoy the mystery. Both Terry Gross and I disagreed. Knowing a bit about the craft itself is best. When it comes to winemaking, your pleasure and interest is increased by knowing what kind of person the winemaker was, the story of the wine, and how it was made. So if you ever chance across these strange, beautiful vinos, you'll totally wanna look that stuff up.

Being just the two of us, starving and a little tipsy, we dispensed with presentation and globbed on the grub. Aw, Yeah.



Anonymous Bryan said...

Intrigued by the Abruzzo rose, I'd luv to know price and where I can pick one up. Always searching for good abruzzo buys for my table.

1:22 PM  
Blogger taj said...

Geez, see, I was lucky...I found this in our bargain bin. Normally, this odd Abruzzo retails around $70-$80. The latest vintage is supposed to be very good, but it's a stretch to say it's worth that much, unless you're a serious geek. If you're still intrigued, Google 'Valentini Cerasuolo Rose' and you can find it online.

Since you asked about Abruzzo, try La Valentina. They have a lovely Montepulciano around the ten buck range, as well as an incredible one around $45.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well ,I'm long behind the pack on this post -- 2006, if anyone still reads this, but... I'm a long time fan of all Valentini wines, and tonight (7.15.06) drank the '99 cerasuolo with some beautifully aged meats. picked it up in nyc, lounging on aroudn for $60. bargain, must say and much better than her younger fresher sister (01) who gets about town more often here. what a magnificant and complex wine. and counter intuitive: who ages a rose for 7 years! peaking and perfect. drank the last of the gravener breg 98 last week. weep.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Jared said...

Gravner is such great stuff. Berg and what not. Try to get your hands on some Radikon if you can too.

8:54 PM  
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