fine italian Wines for the month of august

Wine for the Month of August — under $25

Mastroberardino, Greco di Tufo Nova Serra 2006 ($20)

NovaSerra labelThe southern Italian region of Campania is the source of some of Italy’s best white wines. And one of Campania’s best is Greco di Tufo, one of two white wines in the region awarded the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) designation. 

The Greco grape is an ancient grape variety that was brought over by the Greeks in pre-Christian times. Its main production zone is around the commune of Tufo in the province of Avellino – traditionally known as Irpinia – which is about 30 miles east of Naples.

Mastroberardino is one of Campania’s – and Italy’s - top wine producers. Founded in the mid-1700’s, the winery has always focused on traditional grape varieties and the current owner, Antonio Mastroberardino, continues that tradition, eschewing popular international varietals, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet, in favor of indigenous varietals such as Greco, Aglianico and Fiano. The Mastroberardino winery almost single-handedly rescued the Greco vine from the brink of varietal extinction.

Mastroberardino Nova Serra Greco di Tufo is straw yellow in color, medium- to full-bodied, and fruity. It is earthy and rich with loads of personality and distinguished aromas of peaches and apricots which just cascade across your tongue.  It has zesty acidity and a lip-smacking, vibrant finish with a slightly bitter note reminiscent of almonds. Although regulations permit the inclusion of up to 15 percent non-Greco grapes in Greco di Tufo wines, Nova Serra is made entirely from Greco grapes.

It’s crisp acidity makes it an ideal accompaniment to seafood such as grilled fish, mussels and shellfish but it also has the weight and stuffing to accompany white meats and even pizzas such as the Neapolitan classic pizza Margherita. Unlike many white wines, this wine will age well for another 7-8 years. Mastroberardino’s Nova Serra would still be a great wine buy at even double the price.

Where can I buy this wine? - available at MacArthur Beverages and The Wine Specialist (vintage ’03)

Wine for the Month of August —Over $25

Poliziano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Asinone 2004 ($54)

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano does indeed have a noble heritage. Named after the scenic and ancient hilltop town of Montepulciano in the southeastern corner of Tuscany, the wines from this region have long been admired and were reputedly reserved for the tables of Montepulciano nobility. It was also one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wines. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was also the recipient of Italy’s first DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) designation.

But the reputation of Vino Nobile wines has suffered in recent decades and been eclipsed by wines from neighboring Chianti and Brunello vintners. Recent reports that two Vino Nobile producers are currently being scrutinized by the Italian authorities for fraudulent grape designations have further clouded the wine’s “noble” reputation.

Fortunately, change is in the vineyards. Some first-rate Vino Nobile is being produced by a new generation of energetic, dedicated winemakers who are pushing the grape to its fullest and word is gradually getting out about the enhanced quality of Vino Nobile wines.

One such example is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Asinone from the Poliziano estate

Poliziano is a relatively recent estate — at least by the standards of this ancient area.  Founded in 1961 by Dino Carletti when he purchased a small 55 acre vineyard outside of Montepulciano, it has in the intervening years grown to approximately 600 acres. Poliziano produces several different wines but its flagship wine is the single-vineyard Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Asinone.

The cardinal varietal for Vino Nobile is a sub-varietal of Sangiovese known locally as Prugnolo Gentile. While Vino Nobile regulations permit the inclusion of up to 30 percent of other local, non-Sangiovese varietals, Asinone is made entirely from Sangiovese.

The grapes are sourced from a single vineyard located on prime southeastern-facing slopes south of Montepulciano that are approximately 1,100 feet above sea level. (The “Asinone” designation is a playful take on the geographic configuration of the vineyard one side of which is shaped like the back of a mule). The grapes are harvested in late September or October and several passes of the vines are made in the process of hand selecting the ripest, highest-quality grapes. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats and the wine is aged for 16-18 months in small French oak barrels (‘barriques’).

Asinone is produced only in the best years and in those years in which it is not bottled, it is sold as the estate’s basic Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

This attention to detail pays off handsomely. Pronounced aromas of berries, spice and oak are followed by silky, dark fruit flavors and a long, persistent finish. Asinone is supple and well balanced with a good tannic structure and pleasant acidity. An elegant wine that envelopes and caresses your taste buds and makes for a decadent drinking experience. Assuming you can resist the temptation, this wine will age gracefully for another 10–12 years.

Where can I buy this wine? - available at MacArthur Beverages, Schneiders of Capitol Hill and The Wine Specialist (vintage ’00).

Note – prices indicated are averages of retail prices in the local market as of the date of this posting. Individual prices will vary from store to store and some wines may be on sale so prices may be lower than indicated above. While in stock at time of writing, stores may sell out of the selections so availability is not guaranteed. Call to check on price and availability before making the trip.

©Richard Marcis
August 2, 2008

To read reviews of other wines of the month see Italian Wine Reviews.

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