Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Masculine wines...

Once upon a time Southern Italy was producing wines more on a  quantity base than quality. Some of them were used to fortify and give structure to those from the North and maybe sometimes this is still happening but the wind of changes is blowing strongly there and even if few of us would have ever thought about the return of the South ten years ago this is exactly what is happening now. Regions such as Campania, Puglia, Sicily and (last but not least) Basilicata are making a big step forward in terms of quality progress re-discovering local traditional grapes cultivated and vinified with modern techniques by knowledgeable people who knows how to do a great wine and where to do it!

One of these is Fabrizio Piccin, that after working as a winemaker in Tuscany with Sangiovese for several years, has finally found his elective grape, bought his own 16 hectares of vineyards and moved to Basilicata. His wines  (Gricos, Grifalco, Bosco del Falco, Damaschito ) are all 100% Aglianico, a grape mainly distributed in Campania and Basilicata, that is getting more and more international attentions and that I am sure will increase in popularity in the years to come (and let’s hope that this will not result in increasing prices). This variety can produce intense flavored wines with a strong personality. Its tannins can be harsh and rough sometimes, especially when young but it ages wonderfully and has a full bodied masculine character that can totally make you fall head over feet.
I am going to tell you about the first 3 wines that Fabrizio does as the Damaschito needs and deserves a chapter on its own!

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about Gricos is that the wine is an exceptional value for money. This is the bottom line production and it is between 5 and 10€. The 2008 vintage shows a ruby intensely bright color, a nose of forest berry fruits, a hint of pepper and vegetal. It has a medium structure, vibrant acidity and young tannins that certainly need time to get softer. It is quite simple in flavors but it is powerful and, in my opinion, it will be perfectly balanced in a couple of years. In the meantime it can work fantastically with some pasta and meaty sauces...something like a tagliatelle with hare or even wild boar sauce.

One of its more mature brothers, Grifalco (even if actually we are still talking about the 2008 vintage) is made with grapes selected in the same vineyards but from older plants and fermented for a slightly longer period. This is clearly resulting in more complexity. The color is very similar to the Gricos, with a great ruby tone but a little bit deeper. The nose is more intense and developed showing the same berry fruits, but also sour cherries and leather, and I could get a hint of chocolate as well. In the mouth the tannins are still young but more integrated with a lively acidity that will make this wine a long-ageing one. Again it is powerful, strong, it has a big personality and it is not afraid to show it and more than that it does it for a very competitive price (5-10€)!
A longer and more layered finish than its 'smaller' brother to end.
Slightly more expensive (10-15€) but definitely worth the difference is the Bosco del Falco ('06).The grapes are selected from at least 40 years old vines and the wine spends 18 months in wood before resting longer in the bottle. Dark red, deep and rich with a charming and elegant nose of ripe red forest berries especially blackberries but also black cherries and dry flowers and leather. In the mouth you will be firstly impressed by the intense tannins,young but clearly developing. Then your senses will be seducted by a well balanced minerality, due of course to the Vulture volcano, and a vigorous acidity, plus the finesse of the foresty flavours coming back.  The aftertaste has a good and enjoyable lenght. I wouldn't define it a smooth wine, It is an elegant Aglianico, but always big, strong, structured, powerful. It needs time to mature and to show its best potential, and probably in few years it will be terrific, but...after tasting it I am not sure that you will be able to resist from opening another bottle!
With wines like these, with firm personality, great value for money and perfect fellows for food and finally considering the great reviews given recently by Jancis Robinson my only wonder is...what are the UK merchants waiting to get them here?

Pictures are courtesy of Cecilia Naldoni and Grifalco winery