Two Big, Rich, Food-friendly Red Wines from Central Italy
Wine for july - Under $20
Cantina Frentana, “Rubesto” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2010 (about $15)
Cantina Frentana is a wine cooperative that takes great pride in doing things right. Located near the historic city of Lanciano in the heart of the Abruzzo wine-producing region, the Cantina Frentana has up-to-date winemaking equipment, modern facilities and, most importantly, a capable staff that works closely with its 400 plus members throughout the entire grape-growing season so as to ensure the grapes ultimately offered are of the highest quality. To the cooperative’s credit, only a small percentage of their total annual production is bottled and sold. Only selected wines from their best producers are bottled for eventual sale while the rest is sold off in bulk for use as a blending wine.
Almost all their wines are made from local indigenous grapes such as Montepulciano (red), Trebbiano, Pecorino, Cococciola and Passerina (white). Cantina Frentana has for several years promoted organic farming among its members and the vineyard area devoted to this environmental practice has been gradually increasing.
Frentana’s “Rubesto” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva is made entirely of carefully selected Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes that are harvested by hand, gently pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. After fermentation the wine is aged in oak barrels for 12 months followed by a few additional months in the bottle prior to release for sale.
The 2010 Rubesto is warm and delicious with soft tannins and fragrant plum and black cherry aromas. It is a hearty, full-bodied wine that pairs well with savory dishes such as game, red meats and stews. The wine should be opened at least two hours in advance to let the flavor components coalesce.
It is a super wine at a super price.
Castello Banfi, “ Belnero" Proprietor's Reserve 2009 (about $21)
Castello Banfi, better known simply as Banfi, is a prominent wine estate located near the picturesque hill-top town of Montalcino in the heart of Tuscany’s prestigious Brunello zone. Started from scratch in the late 1970’s by brothers John and Harry Mariani, prominent wine importers based in the New York City area, it today claims a big chunk of Tuscan real estate. With over 2,400 acres of prime land under vine, it is a large estate by any measure but especially by southern Tuscan standards where small to medium-size family vineyards and wineries are the norm. Additionally, while most Tuscan estates typically focus their efforts on a limited number of wines, the Banfi estate produces and markets a wide range, literally dozens, of red, white and dessert wines at all price points.
Banfi discloses that the ’09 Belnero is “predominantly Sangiovese with small percentage of noble French varietals”, most likely Merlot and Cabernet. The grapes are from the Banfi estate’s Montalcino area vineyards in southern Tuscany. The grapes are pressed and then fermented in oak casks. The wine then spends 14 additional months in ageing in oak casks. It is unfiltered and nitrogen bottled to minimize the use of sulfites and to allow the wine to maintain its youthful disposition.
This Super-Tuscan has a brilliant, dark ruby color with intoxicating balsamic, plum and other dark fruit aromas. It is rich, structured and full-bodied and yet remarkably elegant and balanced. It has mouth-coating dark fruit flavors, structured tannins and a long, persistent finish. The Belnero has a spirited acidity that makes it very food-friendly but pairs best with hearty dishes such as roasted or grilled red meats, game, stews and aged cheeses. It should be decanted to remove sediment prior to serving.
The 2009 vintage was an excellent year for Sangiovese in southern Tuscany and is often compared with the highly regarded ‘07 vintage. The ‘09 Banfi Belnero is ready to drink now but it will also age well for at least another 10 years. This relatively inexpensive little gem is one you can buy by the case, drink some now and then while you squirrel the rest away in your wine cellar.
July 8, 2014
To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews