Wines of the month for july 2007

Wine for the Month of July — under $25

Di Majo Norante, Sangiovese IGT 2006 ($9)

This is one of my favorites, a reliable and engaging wine from a reliable producer that I have served on numerous occasions at home when a robust red wine is in order.

This wine is an amazing value from the region of Molise. “So where is Molise?” you ask. Good question. Molise is a small region in southeastern Italy on the Adriatic coast and is one of the smallest of Italy’s twenty regions in both population and size. It’s a region waiting to be discovered. While it has its own scenic charms, this region is not much frequented by tourists or even Italians for that matter who speed through it or bypass it completely on their way to the beaches in the more populated areas on the Adriatic coast.

Not much wine is produced in Molise, certainly not as much as in Puglia, its neighbor to the immediate south. What wine is produced here is not particularly noteworthy with the sole exception of those by the Masseria di Majo Norante estate. Located not far from the small, medieval town of Campomarino in northern Molise, the Di Majo family focuses on quality wines and by its example is raising the overall status of the region’s wines.

This wine is made from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes harvested in October from the estate’s vineyards. The maceration process includes contact with the grape skins for approximately one month. The wine is aged in large oak barrels for 6 months to add flavor and structure while maintaining the fruity Sangiovese flavors.

When poured, the bouquet opens up immediately and aromas of black currants, spices and leather fairly leap out of the glass. The body is weighty and when swirled in the mouth, coats the tongue, teeth and gums with plush, juicy, ripe fruit. It also shows substantial acidity and structure so that it will go well with sausage pizza, grilled beef, game – anything that calls for a robust red.

It continues to amaze me that with the once-mighty dollar in the international toilet you can still buy imported wines like this from Euro-currency countries at single-digit prices. Trust me, this is one of the greatest wine values today. Buy it by the case.

Imported by Winebow, Inc.

Wine for the Month of July — over $25

Ruffino, Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro (Gold Label)  2004 ($32)

The Ruffino winery has managed a delicate – some would say impossible – balancing act i.e., managing large-scale wine production while maintaining the highest quality standards. With approximately 1,000 acres under vine at several different locations in prime production areas in Tuscany, Ruffino is one of the largest wine-producing estates in Tuscany and offers a lineup of wines that will appeal to many budgets and tastes.

Despite the high-volume production, Ruffino has been on a serious roll for several decades and its Riserva Ducale wines, especially the Gold Label bottling, have consistently racked up awards year after year. This combination of large-scale production and high quality standards has made it one of the most recognizable wines in the world today.

Ruffino produces two versions of Riserva Ducale. The original Riserva Ducale (the “Duke’s Reserve”) was first produced in 1927 using a blend of grapes from several of Ruffino’s Chianti estates. In 1947, a second Riserva Ducale was released and named Riserva Ducale Oro (Gold Label) in order to differentiate it from the original Riserva Ducale (popularly known as Riserva Ducale Tan Label). The Riserva Ducale Oro uses hand-selected grapes from its best vineyards and is produced only in the best years (hence, no Riserva Ducale Oro was produced in ‘02, for example).

The ‘04 Riserva Ducale Oro is 85 percent Sangiovese with the remainder comprised of other red varieties permitted by the Chianti Classico regulations. At harvest, the grapes are selected from several different prime vineyards, sorted by hand and then fermented in stainless steel vats. After fermentation, the wine spends 6 months in small French oak barrels, then two years in traditional large oak casks followed by 6 months in the bottle.

Ruby red in color, the aroma is at first a little reticent but opens up considerably after decanting and is classic Chianti Classico with notes of cherries and plums.  The taste has rich, earthy currant and dark, ripe fruit flavors and a slight tannic rush. However, this is balanced by fresh acidity, body and intense flavors. It has a long finish with just a hint of coffee. This is a seriously good wine with the sophistication and pedigree of a vintage Alfa Romeo sports car.

It drinks well now but will only improve with more time in the bottle. I’m looking forward to opening another bottle in, say, 6 to 7 years. If you really can’t wait, pick up instead a bottle of a slightly older vintage of the Riserva Ducale Gold Label such as the ‘01, ‘00 or ‘99..

Imported by Ruffino Import Company.

©Richard Marcis

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