When thinking of Italian wine, one is far more likely to recall Tuscany’s Chianti and Montepulciano or Piemonte’s Barolo and Barbaresco than those special treasures harvested on Italy’s islands. And while those are tried and true Italian sippers, wine lovers who limit themselves to just those two regions are clearly missing out. Perhaps this may come as a surprise, but over the past decade some of Italy’s most exciting wines have originated on its islands. Sicily actually has more vineyards than any other Italian region, and Sardinian wine, despite having it own unique and tasty niche is the least known to Americans of all Italy’s regions. So this month, the wine club inspires its members with a trip to the Islands—the Italian islands. With a Vittoria red from Sicily, we have a wine with intense berry fragrance that is truly mouthwatering, followed by succulent fruitiness on the palate and a complex mineral quality on the finish. Equally compelling is a world-class white from Sardinia: Vermentino. Both are unique expressions of the new wave of world-class wines emerging from previously obscure European regions and will certainly change your perspective on “island living.” Enjoy these two wines, and look for more unique discoveries in the months to come.
Valle Dell’Acate Frappato, Vittoria, Sicily
One of the most exciting and interesting wines of this year’s offerings, Frappato is wildly delicious and only found in Vittoria. Tom Hyland, a top wine writer and an authority on Italian wines had this to say about it in his book Beyond Barolo and Brunello: “….What makes this estate’s Frappato so special are the aromas, which offer not only lovely maraschino cherry and cranberry perfumes, but also a savory, slightly meaty edge to them. Medium-bodied and aged only in steel tanks, this has beautiful complexity, balance and varietal purity and is a delight!” Indeed, this light ruby tinted wine is fragrant and fresh, making a perfect companion for appetizers of cheese, charcuterie, and paté or even delicate fish entrées like a Merluzzo Mediterranea alla Siciliana (cod Sicilian style).
Piero Mancini Vermentino, Sardinia
Vermentino is a pan-Mediterranean varietal found on French and Italian coasts surrounding the sea. This particular Vermentino starts with alluring aromas of tropical fruit and honeydew melon. Its pale yellow-color with greenish hues introduces this medium to full-bodied wine, full of flavor and a long, juicy finish. Uniquely aromatic, elegant, balanced and with fantastic structure, this truly is a standout wine. Grilled clams, sushi and other seafood dishes match perfectly with what is sure to be an unforgettable and utterly remarkable experience.
Oh, those crickets. These days you hear them each night as the sun begins to set and you try to decide whether the heat and humidity deserves a speedy retreat back into the air conditioning or not. Yes, this is perhaps summer’s most coveted time, when all senses are reminded that these days to lounge on the terrace, deck or patio for supper with an elegant glass of your favorite vino are indeed numbered. This is a time to cherish these special moments, not fritter them away with unworthy, ordinary wines. Thank goodness, Hinsdale Cellars’ Inspired Wine Club has provided August selections perfect for the occasion. Both wines come from unique grape varieties that have yet to become trendy here in the U.S. That said, they are unquestionably true darlings of sommeliers and wine directors around the country because they pair so well with food and because of their sleek, racy character that make them eminently gulp-worthy (even the red). So, put on a little insect repellant, take a refreshing dip in the pool and steel yourself for some time in the August heat. It’s time for a candlelit dinner al fresco.
2012 Green Eyes Grüner Veltliner
No question, Grüner Veltliner has been slow to find an audience in America. Maybe it’s because importers, distributors and retailers don’t think American wine drinkers will buy a wine they can’t pronounce. (Unfortunately, this is not an exaggeration. It’s GREW-ner FELT-leaner, fyi.) But we know you’re a smart wine drinker that will love this charming white for its pronounced citrus, melon and quince aromas and flavors. A dynamite aperitif wine, it’s also a winner with all sorts of foods – vine-ripe beefsteak tomatoes, pasta salad, shellfish, poultry and fresh, farmer’s market cheeses.
2012 Sottimano Brachetto ‘Maté’
This delectable red is made from Brachetto grapes grown in a tiny vineyard in Italy’s premier Piedmont region. Brachetto is hard to find, and when available it is generally a sweet, lightly effervescent red. And these are delicious wines in their own right. But, this Brachetto is something even more unique and thrilling: a dry, yet fruity, mouth-watering delight. When the Sottimanos originally purchased the small vineyard of Maté in Treiso, they were told it was Dolcetto (sweet), but the aromatics gave it away! The aroma is akin to walking in a rose garden with additional scents of wild strawberry, cranberry, citrus oil and pomegranate seeds. Its medium-bodied texture brings forth zesty red fruit, a distinct hibiscus note and a hint of tomato leaf – the perfect wine to enjoy with salty hams like prosciutto, serrano and all manner of cured sausages, yet versatile enough to work as a splendid seafood wine, from mussels to tuna steaks.
Ah July. The month of Independence Day, pool parties, lawn care that doesn’t stop, and the true test of one’s air conditioning. It’s that time of year when we remember just how hot summer can be. Whether it’s a morning of golf, an hour of tennis or just walking the dog around the block, the heat can seem utterly unbearable and the sun, unforgiving. Yes, thank goodness for shady trees, pools and lakes, and of course, a working thermostat.
Now, one might think the only wines appropriate this season would be low-alcohol, lightly effervescent Vinho Verde, a dry, yet succulent Rosé, or a refreshing wisp of a white blend. And those would all be reasonable, even prudent choices. However, for Hinsdale’s Inspired Wine Club, we sometimes look to be bold, edgy and live up to our name of being “inspired.” So, this July, we offer one wine that won’t melt in the heat and can tame the outdoor humidity. The other, however, goes out on a limb and is prepared to comfort those of us who seek shelter as the sun gets closer. It’s a bountifully fruity wine that turns its back on summer with a hearty flair and says, “Who needs this heat. Just draw closer to the cooling vent, breath in and enjoy this summer bouquet.”
2012 The White Knight, Pinot Grigio, Lodi, California
Need a wine that’s perfect for sipping by the pool, then here you go! Watch the emerald glint of this light straw-colored California version of an Italian classic. The 80% Pinot Grigio is mixed with 20% Vermentino to bring forth a bouquet of summer’s honeysuckle and other floral notes with aromatic tones of green apple, citrus and the season’s stone fruits. It is followed through on the palate with flavors of pear, melon, citrus and a certain degree of minerality. The nice texture and smooth finish make it a wonderful sipper or perfect with grilled chicken or fish – even pairs well with grilled asparagus!
2011 Garnacha Centenaria, Coto de Hayas, Campo de Borja, Spain
Finding your comfort this summer on the chaise inside your living room, then this is likely the wine for you. Wine Spectator awarded it 91 points, saying ‘This fleshy red delivers a rich core of blackberry and blueberry compote, accented by toasty vanilla, sweet licorice and cinnamon spice. Well-integrated tannins give this backbone. A bold, modern style.” Using Garnacha grapes exclusively, it is a complete fruit bomb, yet dry and concentrated with tannins that provide impressive balance. For some, it might be a bit too hearty. But, the Spanish and those of us who love our robust reds no matter the season have come to appreciate Garnacha’s reliably velvety, lush offering. The Centenaria, from 100-year-old vines, is a true delight, offering complexity and a satisfying quaff. It will augment your best-grilled ribeye or mushroom risotto and chuckle with you at your “light” summer dinner of charcuterie.