Pasta nights are at least a monthly occurrence in our house. We start from scratch, using flour, water, and a lot of love to create delicious noodles and sauces. A wine that is often a staple when we make pasta is Roagna Dolcetto d’Alba. The Roagna family has been making wines in Barbaresco since the mid-1800’s. Their wines are naturally made and the vines for the Dolcetto are 35 years old. The grapes are destemmed and then fermented in wood casks. We love this wine because it is incredibly food friendly and tends to pair well with a lot of the sauces we make. Plus, a price point under $20 doesn’t hurt!
Roagna Dolcetto d’Alba opens with aromas of dark berries and earth. The palate is soft and approachable. Tastes of red cherries, dark fruit, earth, and spice are met with gentle tannins and a dry finish. The wine also has balanced acidity and alcohol. Truly a gulpable wine perfect with Italian fare! (12.5% alcohol, $18)
Fattoria Casabianca is an estate winery located in Tuscany that spans over 1500 acres. The property hosts beautiful vineyards along with well-appointed farmhouses that are available as vacation rentals. Fattoria Casabianca focuses on popular Italian varieties as well as lesser-known grapes from the region. The grapes are farmed organically and the wines are well-made and approachable.
I recently had the chance to taste through some of Fattoria Casabianca’s recent releases and really enjoyed the diversity of the wines. I don’t know how readily available they are in the US but I definitely recommend exploring the wines if you come across them. The wines seem to be available in Europe for under the equivalent of $20 (other than the 2008 Belsedere), so they definitely offer a great value!
2013 Fattoria Casabianca Roscato
A lovely Rosé of Sangiovese that features soft, refreshing notes of strawberries and red currants. Balanced acidity with a great mouthfeel. One of my favorite wines of the tasting! (13% alcohol)
2013 Fattoria Casabianca Cleo Toscana
This blend of 75% Vermentino and 25% Viognier offers bright citrus flavors along with notes of pear and jasmine. Crisp, vibrant, and really enjoyable! Paired incredibly well with a shrimp scampi recipe that we served alongside the wine. (13.5% alcohol)
2011 Fattoria Casabianca Loccareto Canaiolo
This was my first experience with 100% Colorino, a grape that is primarily used in blends. Tastes of raspberry and cassis are surrounded by nuances of oak and spice. Easy to drink and food-friendly. (14% alcohol)
2013 Fattoria Casabianca Colli Senesi Chianti
The 2013 vintage is made with 80% Sangiovese and a blend of 20% Cabernet, Canaiolo, and Colorino. The wine offers tastes of red cherry and cranberry along with notes of red currants and spice. Soft tannins and balanced acidity. A great wine to pair with hearty Italian pasta dishes! (14% alcohol)
Colli Senesi Chianti Riserva is a harmonious blend 85% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, 5% Canaiolo, and 5% Colorino. Cherry, blackberry, cranberry, and dark currants mingle with hints of vanilla and leather. Well-integrated tannins and a lengthy finish. This wine will likely improve with a bit more time in the bottle. (14.5% alcohol)
This 100% Sangiovese is the most well-structured wine of the lineup. Flavors of cherry, licorice, and leather are met with prominent tastes of oak and vanilla. A little too oaked for my palate but still a nicely made wine. Pair with meaty dishes. (14% alcohol)
If you are looking for a great value to kick of the New Year, look no farther than Fattoria San Lorenzo Il Casolare Rosso. This blend of 50% Montepulciano and 50% Sangiovese is a declassified Rosso Piceno, which helps keep the price point low. The vineyards, located in the Marche region of Italy, are farmed biodynamically and organically and there is minimal intervention in Fattoria San Lorenzo’s winemaking process.
Il Casolare Rosso offers fruity notes that are juicy and not jammy. There are also notes of herbs and spice along with a pure finish. Balanced and food-friendly. I have tasted a lot of values over the years and I think this wine earns a spot in my top 10! Such a fantastic wine for the price! (12.5% alcohol, $12)
Elena Walch has built quite an impressive portfolio of wines for her Italian winery, Elena Walch Family Estates. Her story began when she married into a successful winemaking family and left her career as an architect to become a winemaker. Now, she is one of the most well-known winemakers in Alto Adige. One of her newest releases, Elena Walch 2013 Pinot Bianco, is a nicely priced wine perfect for enjoying on a warm afternoon!
100% Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige in Italy. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 13% alcohol. Retails for around $15.
Pouring a beautiful golden straw color in the glass, Elena Walch 2013 Pinot Bianco offers aromas of pineapple and white flowers. The palate has straight-forward flavors of citrus, apple, and tropical fruit. Clean, simple, and food-friendly! Great as an aperitif or with seafood!
Everyday Italian wines are pretty popular at my house. On a casual night in, we love to make pastas and pizzas from scratch. I am always on the lookout for nicely priced wines to pair with our Italian fare.
One of our go-to, everyday Italian wines is Vallevo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It is a meaty wine with tastes of dark fruit and black olives. Balanced and well-made for the price. It pairs well with simple pasta dishes and also holds it own against grilled meats. I am thinking pasta with a wild boar sauce would be a great combo! (13.5% alcohol, $9)
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to taste 6 different sparkling wines from Franciacorta. Franciacorta, a wine region in Northern Italy, is a relatively new region for sparkling wine by European standards as it has only been producing them for the last 50 years. This being said, the wine being made is very exciting. I think the region has been able to produce wines that rival what comes out of Champagne for a portion of the price.
Overall, I really enjoyed the tasting. There was only one of the six bottles that I wouldn’t sip again. Below are my tasting notes from a couple of my favorites in the lineup. I really hope you get the chance to check this region out soon!
Villa Franciacorta 2007 Brut
The Villa Franciacorta Brut was the shining star of the night for me. It is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Smooth texture and balanced acidity with flavors of apple, toast, ginger, and lemon. Elegant, complex, and drinking way beyond the $35 price point!
Fratelli Berlucchi 2008 Rosé
This bottle of Rosé is blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc. There are soft tastes of strawberry, raspberry, and citrus with hints of toast. Very food friendly and well-priced at $27.
Once again (I hope no one is getting bored!), I want to highlight a natural wine made with an undervalued grape grown in an underappreciated wine region. Tami 2012 Frappato comes from Sicily and is unoaked and made with native yeasts. Winemaker Arianna Occhipinti is also committed to biodynamic and organic farming practices. It is an excellent everyday value at around $16 a bottle.
This wine opens with aromas of plum, black cherries and red berries. The palate is definitely what I look for in a straightforward, easy drinking wine. Light, bright and fresh with red fruit, floral undertones and healthy acidity. I think I may have to pick up a few more bottles!
My Wine Rating – A-
Food Pairing Suggestions – Pair with simple Italian fare such a pizza, antipasta, or pasta.
Looking for a lighter bodied, casual wine for summer grilling? Michele Chiarlo 2010 “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti Superiore is a great bottle to bring to any BBQ. 100% Barbera that has enough character to shine at $12 a bottle.
This ruby colored wine opens with aromas of bright cherries and ripe, dark berries. The palate offers straightforward tastes of ripe cherries, anise, and noticeable minerality. An easy sipping Barbera that drinks nicely at its price point! (13.5% alcohol)
My Wine Rating – B
Food Pairing Suggestions – Pair with grilled chicken, pizza topped with mushrooms, or pork chops.
Ever tried Gaglioppo? Neither had I until I uncorked a bottle of Igreco Catà Rosso Calabria 2007 last week. The Gaglioppo grape is predominantly grown in southern Italy and generally benefits from a little time in the bottle. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first sip!
This wine opens with a bouquet of red berries and spice. The palate features bright, red fruit, black pepper, sweet tannins, and a lingering finish. If you are looking for a delicious, dinner conversation piece, definitely bring along a bottle of iGreco! ($15, 14% alcohol)
My Wine Rating – B+
Food Pairing Suggestions – Pair with pizza, pasta with red sauce, or grilled meats.
Primitivo…it may sound a bit exotic to some but it is actually the same grape as Zinfandel. Li Veli Orion Primitivo hails from Salento, which is part of the Apulia region of Italy. 100% Primitivo and a textbook example of how enjoyable Primitivo can be without being a burden to your budget.
This Primitivo has an intense nose that features aromas of dark berries, cherries, vanilla, and spice. The wine has bright flavors of anise and cherries with a noticeable amount of lifting acidity. Full-bodied, smooth, and pleasing to the palate! (14% alcohol, $12)
My Wine Rating – B+
Food Pairing Suggestions – Pair with a pizza topped with sausage, burgers, or eggplant parmesan.