Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Tag: Tuscany

Weekend Quickies

Just a couple of the wines we got into this weekend:


Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Black fruit and a lot of funky, barnyard animal notes were going on in this Noemie Goichot, Pommard, Burgundy, France, 1998.  Definitely needed some food (like dem there meat and cheese in the background).


Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Nicknamed "Baby Sassacaia,"  this Guidalberto Tenuta San Guido, Tuscany, Italy, 2011,  a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Merlot wine, was uber-high in acid, lots of deep red cherry and a noticeable tannic structure.  A bit stinging on its own, it found its plushness with the marinara sauce consumed during dinner.

And the summer keeps rolling along...

I Prefer These Kinds of Fireworks

We BYOBed these beauties to dinner last night: 


Swoony-worthy Nebbiolo.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Swoony-worthy Nebbiolo.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

This Travaglini, Riserva, Gattinara, Piedmont, 2001, was a Nebbiolo stunner.  Gattinara is another DOCG region in Piedmont that, like Barolo, produces Nebbiolo wines. Once it opened up a bit, the rich, deep blueberry and raspberry fruit, slightly perfumed with violet, showed great aging with its complex black tea and loamy soil notes.  Medium in body, the tannins integrated lusciously to give it structure but didn't overwhelm.  

We also brought along this  Malenchini, Bruzzico, Tuscany, year not noted, Supertuscan for comparison: 


Supa-dupaTuscan, Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Supa-dupaTuscan, Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Brandy-soaked cherries and a chili pepper spiciness met with earthy and tobacco essences in this bottle.  The acid felt more prominent on the tongue as well as the tannins.  Man, they were not shy and I felt them acutely.  

There were definitely some "oohs" and "aahs" at the table night and if this was the prelude to July 4th, I can't see what tonight brings.



Del Posto - A Taste of Some Things New

Pssst.  I have a tip for you. There's a little known event that takes place in New York City every other Saturday. It's not advertised and you'd be hard pressed to find any information on it.  It feels like a secret society, but it's open to all, and very welcoming at that.  DId I mention it's at one of the most renowned restaurants in the city? It's called 5 for $5, it's at Del Posto and it's one of the best ways to spend an hour or so of your weekend. 

To elaborate, for $5 you get to taste 5 different wines, each time a different theme based on the somm's whim - dealer's choice.  For my initiation, we went through new additions to Del Posto's wine offerings.  A newbie tasting Del Posto's newest acquisitions - how fitting. 

Tasting menu, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Tasting menu, photo by Shana Speaks Wine


We started with the Baron Dauvergne Cuvee Privilege Brut, Bouzy, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, NV. From one of the warmest Grand Crus in Champagne, this sparkling greeter is comprised of 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay. Aged in 100% stainless steel, its bubbles burst with tart green apple and slight hints of dairy, giving the body a sense of richness.

We next tried the Pietracupa Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy, 2012. This southern Italian site is a bit more inland, rather than coastal, so the warm climate is tempered by cooler weather at night. It spent a little time on the lees (sediment comprised of dead yeast, grape skins and other matter that forms during the fermentation process), resulting in a rather full-bodied white and like most Italian wines, it's rife with acid.  Citrus fruits dominated the profile but there was a lot of volcanic ash and minerality as well. 

We next journeyed further south to Sicily, with a Palari Rosso del Soprano, 2010. A blend of indigineous Sicilian grapes, this was my first introduction to non-Mt. Etna Sicilian wines.  Instead of a high-elevation site, this wine was grown close to the coast.  The warm climate and cooling ocean breezes gave the nose strong aromas of overripe fruit along with black pepper, rosemary and cumin.  Drinking it, though, was a differet story; peppery and vegetal, it was rather lean and light-bodied.  Not totally in my wheelhouse but I see how it lives on a well-rounded wine list. 

Moving into Tuscany, we next tried Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva 2007. Traditional to Tuscany, it was Sangiovese-dominant, with some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix.  Breaking from code, though, was the manner in which it was aged. Small French oak barriques were used instead of large oak barrels.  The result? Chocolate n' spice and everything nice, especially in relation to the ripe plum and blackberry fruits.  Again, it was rather high in acid with good tannins for balance.  Not a textbook Chianti by any means but it's fun to see results when a winemaker goes rogue.

Finally, it was dessert (wine) time.  The Antinori Castello della Sala Muffato, Umbria, 2007, was an unusual blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grachetto, Riesling and Traminer.  Even more interesting? It was produced by one of the oldest and most renowned Chianti producers; the somm went so far as to dub him "The Godfather" of Chianti wines. There are several ways a wine can become dessert wine; this one was affected by Botrytis, one of the only "nice" fungal diseases out there (yes, fungus can be nice) There was a sweet nuttiness on the nose of almonds and hazelnuts as well as candied apricot and overripe peaches. Sipping on it, I was reminded of baklava, with the nuts coated in a honeyed, syrupy sweetness.

well, four out of five ain't bad. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

well, four out of five ain't bad. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine


Did I say 5 wines? Did I forget to mention that the somm kicks ass and opened up a 6th wine for us to try?  Trying to contrast the unusual Chianti we tasted earlier, he opened a more classic style Chianti, a Felsina, Rancia, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, 2008. Tart and tight berry fruits were a marked difference from the ripe plumminess on the other.  This was definitely leaner and spicier and I could envision it being served with a cioppino or other heavy seafood dish. 


The bonus wine.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

The bonus wine.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

 I probably should mention there is a secret handshake you'll have to learn...

Slow Wine Picks Up the Pace

What a difference a year makes.  Remember the Slow Wine/VInitaly tasting debacle a year ago? Maybe it was due to the new venue, or learnings from last year, or, more likely, the fact that this was the industry, not consumer tasting, but this year's event was spectacular. 

As a quick refesher, Slow Wine is part of the Slow Food Movement, an international organization the promotes clean, affordable and accesible food to all while preserving the traditions of the region and culture. Local and organic practices play a large part in their philosophy and the group, which started in Italy, now has global reach. 

The day started with a seminar on the aromas of prosecco.  It was simply illustrated with the key aromatics in glasses.  A rather basic lesson but still entertaining. 


Prosecco seminar. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Prosecco seminar. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Then, onto the tasting.  

The highlight of the event came at the very beginning.  One of my favorite producers, Marchesi di Gresy, whom I visited on my trip to Piedmont, and greatly influenced my passion for wine, was present at the event.  Even more exciting? Jeff, the cellar master who guided us through the tastings all those years ago, was at the table. So many memories came back to me and I felt my passion reignited once again. 

Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco and Jeff Chilcott, Cellarmaster.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine.

Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco and Jeff Chilcott, Cellarmaster.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine.

Of course, the wines were spectacular. He featured Barbaresco Camp Gros 2009, Barbaresco Gaiun 2008, and Barbaresco Martinenga 2010. All were elegant, balanced and finely structured.  

I primarily focused on the Piedmont wines as I wanted to delve even deeper into this favorite region. Much was tasted, much was noted, but these below are the other best in shows:

 La Spinetta Barolo Campe, Nebbiolo, 2009

Plums smoked with ash. Aromatic violets.  Tannins. Acid. Structure. Simply gorgeous.



 Contratto Milliesimato 2009 

This estate is actually part of the La Spinetta portfolio and produces sparkling wines. This pinot nero/chardonnnay blend showcased pear, lemon, rose and a bit of buttered toast.  Very fresh, very crisp.

Contratto For England Rose 2008 

This 100% pinot nero was a very pretty sparkling rose option. Sweet cherry, strawberry and a hint of rose came through this berry-forward sparkler. 

 Casanova della Spinetta Sezzana 2004 

La Spinetta also owns property in Tuscany and creates Sangiovese-based wines from these vineyards.  The single-varietal Sangiovese was ripe with black cherry, plum and sweet baking spices.  

Wines from the La Spinetta portfolio

Wines from the La Spinetta portfolio

 La Gironda Barbera D'Asti La Lippa 2012

An easy-drinking option, this accessible Barbera was a bushel of mixed berries on the nose and the palate also oozed the blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruits.  Quite a bit of earth also came through on this moderately acidic sipper.  

 Osvaldo Viberti Langhe Nascetta 2012

Nascetta, which is actually another name for Barbera, burst with overripe berries, freshly laid soil and wafts of mocha. 

Osvaldo Viberti Barolo 2007 

Rich and round, everything one could ask for in a Barolo. 

 Anna Maria Abbona Dogliani Superiore Majoli 2011

This dolcetto started with raspberry and strawberry but some baking spices and mocha gave it a little depth and intrigue.  

Keep tasting, friends... 

Benvenuto Brunello 2014

For all of the beautiful and various wines that Italy produces, there's a bit of a West Side Story drama to two of their most revered wines: Barolo and Brunello. Allegiances fall to whatever region you are from and folklore says the two areas will always spar over who makes a better wine. My palate happens to be nonpartisan, so when Benvenuto Brunello, an event comprised of seminars and tastings of this superstar wine came to NYC the other week, I was anxious to expand my Piedmont-trained palate.  

The tasting hall, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

The tasting hall, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Brunello is made from the Sangiovese grape, and only Sangiovese; blends are not allowed in this single-varietal powerhouse. You want a blend? Go talk to Super Tuscan, he'll tell you a thing or two.

Brunellos reside in the Montalcino territory within Tuscany, a tiny district where only 15% of the land is comprised of vineyards. The small production is one of the major factors in the premium reputation of these wines.  

Although small in size, microclimates can be found within the district and the variables are detectable in the wines. The northern part of the region is cooler and produces elegant, perfume-y wines, rather feminine Brunellos.  In contrast, the southern part of the territory is warmer, creating wine with more density and power. To my Piedmont-leaning palate, I equated the North with Barbarescos and the South with Barolos. 

Brunellos are aged for a minimum of 5 years, so this tasting was a showcase of the 2009 vintage.  What was the verdict?



Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Collosorbo - approx. $50

On both the nose and palate, this wine spoke of cranberry, dark cherry, cinnamon, cumin and other baking spices, along with some herbaceous rosemary and parley. It had a decent amount of acid and moderate tannins, giving it structure, but it wasn't as bold as other Brunellos.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Il Poggione - approx $85

This one was a little deeper in color than the preceding wine, but it again showcased dark cherry and baking spaces. However, this smelled a little more ripe and lush in the fruit and even the weight felt heavier on the palate than number one. 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - La Togata - $N/A

Ripe fruits? Check.  Baking spices? Check.  However, this wine bloomed with violet and floral notes, an aromatic that balanced well with the edible notes. On the palate, a bit of smoked paprika came through, and the sensation was plush and rich on the tongue.  The tannins and acid were higher than in any of the previous wines, giving it a heft and structure that didn't seem fully realized in the others.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Ridolfi - approx $36

This plot, in the north northeast of Montalcino, was a clear example of the differences brought on by climate. The fruit was a  bit more tart on the nose and the baking spices seemed to diminish. Instead, the purple florals came through again, but this wine felt leaner than any of the others before it, almost shy and delicate.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Solaria - approx $75

One of my favorites tasted, this wine from the southeastern zone was the most intense in color than anything else in the lineup.  It was a sweeter bing cherry and blackberry that came through this time and the florals were completely absent; in their place was a whole rack of sweet spices.  On the tongue, there was a bit of mocha, which hadn't been seen in anything else.  Again, it was high in acid and plush, but the tannins were very well integrated and almost soft.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Talenti - approx $50

This one was relatively savory and sweet n' spicy tones rang throughout the glass, only to be tempered by tarter fruits.  What was most noticeable, were the very prominent tannins, which marched around my teeth and gums with short, staccato steps, trampling everything in their path.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Uccelliera - approx $55

The last one of the bunch was the only one that really showcased any wood.  A few cedar notes stood out in the fruit-spice medley I had come to expect.  However, the fruit was more noticeable on the palate and the texture was again plush and soft in the mouth.