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WINE: Beauties From Calabria and Puglia

Last night we went to a tasting of Southern Italian wines from Winebow, an importer and distributer of premium wines from Italy, Spain and South America. You can pretty much never go wrong with a Winebow import. Company founder Leonardo LoCascio, who presented the wines, has the passion and palate to represent only well-made wines from family-owned properties. All of the wines were good, some memorable, and most were priced for everyday enjoyment at $10 to $15. We fell for two wines from grapes we never heard of (but like most people, we know little about the wines from this region). Gravello IGT* Val di Neto 2005 is a “Super Calabrian” wine, a new blend of 60% Gaglioppo, a grape indigenous to Calabria, and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, an expensive import from France that adds depth, character and cost (and the title “Super,” which began in the 1980s with the Super Tuscan blends). The wine is aged for three years, of which 18 to 24 months is spent in Allier barriques, the fine oak barrels used to age Bordeaux. Drinking beautifully now, this wine has serious plummy fruit and a finish that lasted for about 10 minutes. It’s worth every cent of the $32.00 retail. For almost a third the price and equally as impressive, the rustic-style Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOC 2003 from Puglia (the heel of Italy’s “boot”) was spicy, earthy and sensual. It’s a blend of Negroamaro and a small amount of Malvasia Nera. Five days of maceration with the skins has extracted beautiful color plus black cherry and dried fruits—prune, raisin—plus lead pencil nuances found in some great Bordeaux. In fact, the wine is aged for two years, and 20% of it is refined in French barriques of Allier, Nevers and Tronçais oak. It’s a beautiful food wine for roasted and grilled dishes, as well as pizza, for those of us who think that “pizza wine” should be as good as “filet mignon wine.” Both wines are available nationwide. At these prices, we’re buying a case of the Gravello and two of the Salice Salentino—which for $12 makes a great stocking stuffer.   Gravello Val di Neto
Gravello Val di Neto from Calabria: beautiful fruit, complexity and length.
*IGT, Indicazione Geografica Tipica, indicates a geopgraphic area but is not as strict as the DOC classification, which specifies permitted grape varieties, amonng other things. Many non-traditional wines such as the Super Tuscans fall into this category.




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