Story by Manos Angelakis
Wines for Lunch and Dinner
Two samples of wine from the western part of the Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Portugal, showed up at the office the other day.
The 2019 Bico Amarelo from Esporão, is a good tasting Vinho Verde; the white wine Portugal loves to drink during the warmer times of the year. This particular wine is actually a blend of three grape varieties, 40% Lureiro, 30% Alvarinho and 30% Avesso, but the proportions might vary by vintage. All three grapes are indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula; however, Alvarinho or Albariño as it is called in Spain, is much more widely planted in both Spanish and Portuguese vineyards than the other two.
After manual harvest and soft pneumatic pressing of the grapes, the wine is aged for 4 to 6 months in stainless vats. It is a well priced, fresh and light wine dominated by citrus, pear and tropical aromas. In the mouth, there is taste of green apple and stone fruits, especially peach. Good acidity and a persistent, long finish make this wine especially good with seafood and more elaborate fish dishes and having it to accompany a charcoal-grilled striped bass was, in my opinion, a good a pairing. I would rate it at 89 points.
Quinta Ameal is a historic property, dating back to 1710. The region is the birthplace of the Loureiro grape; a light-skinned grape variety grown mainly in the north of Portugal and used to make the popular white wines of the Minho region. The grapes for this 2019 monovarietal wine are manually harvested and fermented for 12 to 15 days, then aged in stainless steel, on the lees, for 7 months.
The color of the wine is a brilliant yellow/golden. Intense floral aromas of acacia and citrus dominate the wine. The well balanced palate is fruity, smooth and crisp with good minerality and a persistent length. In my opinion this can be an excellent aperitif wine and can be drunk either prior or with a meal. We tasted this wine accompanying a dish of pappardelle with shrimp, broccoli, onion and a hint of garlic, and a sauce made from French feta cheese dissolved in lemon juice and a glass of the wine. I rate it at 90 points.
Both wines have medium to low alcohol, 11.5% and 11%.
In different shipments, which arrived on the same day as the Portuguese wines, were 2 red Chianti Classico bottles and Attems, a Pinot Grigio from Friuli Venezia Giulia.
In Tuscany, if Brunello di Montalcino is the wine of kings, Chianti Classico is definitely the wine of princes and dukes. Sangiovese grapes grow profusely throughout Tuscany. The area between Florence and Siena is the home of the Gallo Nero, the black rooster, that has been the symbol of the Chianti Classico denomination since its inception and the symbol of the Chianti League of the 13 century.
Sangiovese wines exhibit different taste from one appellation to the next. Terroir, climate, blending, and aging all affect the characteristics of these wines. The aromatics and taste of Sangiovese are defined by ripe and tart red fruit, particularly sour cherry and plums with subtle hints of tomato, plus violets, oregano, carob, anise, truffles, pencil lead, tea leaves, dark chocolate, sandalwood, cedar, tobacco, cloves, capers and vanilla, depending on where the vines are growing and what kind of wood the aging barrels are made of. There are hundreds of different Sangiovese clones grown throughout Italy, but the two most important families are the Sangiovese Grosso, which is used to make Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and the Sangiovese Piccolo, which is grown in Chianti.
Whether you are drinking Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or any other Tuscan appellation like Carmignano, Morellino di Scansano or Montecucco, Sangiovese is always the dominant grape. But Brunello is the only appellation that requires the wine to be made of 100% Sangiovese. The others, depending on the specific appellation rules, can blend in up to 15% of other grape varieties to soften the tannins and punch up the aromatics.
The initial Chianti Classico I tasted was a product of Tenuta di Arceno from Castelnuovo Berardenga, near Siena; the Tenuta is a large property that covers 1,000 hectares of rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards and medieval stone buildings.
The wine, is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot; it is a powerful 2017 Chianti Classico with big fruit and high acidity. The aromatics are almost delicate; ripe black fruit, carob, vanilla and hints of tea leaves and cigar-box. The palate showed dark plums, black cherries and, surprisingly, orange peel with hints of licorice, smoke and tropical spice.
I was lucky to have at hand a nice fillet of Angus beef, so I grilled it to have it with this wine. The 14.5% alcohol helped to cut through the fat. Indeed a nice wine. I rate it at 90 points and with a little more cellar time (perhaps 3 to 5 more years) it could reach 93 points.
The other Chianti Classico was a bottle of 2016 Fontalpino from Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino, also from Castelnuovo Berardenga, near Siena. It is pure, organically grown 100% Sangiovese, an almost purple wine with scarlet highlights. It exhibits interesting aromas of dark-berries, plums, sour cherries, and currants with hints of leather and sandalwood. A bit lighter bodied, it is still a classic Chianti Classico.
I paired it with ragù alla Bolognese over pacchieri pasta; I used a little over a cup of the wine when making the sauce and it made quite a difference, compared to a standard Bolognese.
I would rate this wine also at 90 points but I don’t think it will change much after longer cellaring, so I’ll call it ready to drink now.
Finally, the 2018 Attems. It is an impressively lively and fruity wine exhibiting vibrant minerality. Almost full bodied, straw-yellow colored. Pears, green apples, citrus and white flowers on the nose, with hints of ginger and white peach. On the mouth there is considerable minerality with notes of white peach, grapefruit and honeydew. I paired it with another favorite pasta dish, Bucatini all’ Amatriciana one day for lunch and grilled prawns the same evening. It worked well with both. I rate it at 91 points for its versatility.
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