Onwards and upwards we go! After some fantastic whites in part 1, now we turn to some fabulous Solera reds from Puglia, Barolo and Mendoza!
once again, apologies for the poor quality of my snaps!
Cantine Paolo Leo Primanero Appassimento 2016 (13.5%, RRP €16.95 at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; DrinkStore, Stoneybatter; Clontarf Wines; Lotts & Co; Martins Off-Licence; The Vintry; The Grape Vine, Glasnevin)
Over the past five to ten years there has been a large increase in Italian reds on the market which have been made in the Appassimento method, i.e. with some or all of the grapes dried before being pressed to concentrate sugar, flavour and body. These wines have found favour with consumers, especially at lower price points where they deliver a big bang for buck. Unfortunately, in my not-so-humble opinion, they are often unbalanced; sometimes jammy, too sweet, and even with too much extraction (the skins being pressed hard) in trying to compensate for the jam.
However, here we have an example of Appassimento done right. From Puglia in Italy’s “heel”, we have a blend of the two local key black grapes, 60% Primitivo and 40% Negroamaro (hence the name Primanero if you didn’t get it. The bunch stems are partially cut when the grapes reach the desired maturity, then left to dry for 12 weeks. The result is a wine with very ripe fruit on the nose, but a very balanced palate. It has a bit more oomph than Puglia wines from undried grapes but has enough savoury notes to be a good partner for hearty food. Why can’t more be like this?
Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera Riserva Vigna Elena 2012 (14.5%, RRP €125.00 at Deveney’s Dundrum; The Corkscrew; Sweeney’s D3)
Although its wines are monovarietal, Barolo is a complex area – and I don’t pretend to have got to grips with it yet – so please bear with me as we dive in. The Elvio Cogno Winery is based in the Novello commune, one of the eleven communes within the Barolo DOCG production area. The eponymous winery owns approximately 15 hectares and produces a spectrum of Barolos (of which this is the top), plus other Nebbiolos, Barberas and even Nascetta (a native Novello white grape variety which was pioneered by Cogno).
11.5 of the 15 hectares are in the Cru of Ravera, in the north eastern sector of Novello. Ravera is of the most well-known Crus and is one of the highest altitude at 380m. The particular Nebbiolo clone used (Rosè) both flowers and ripens around ten days later than other clones. The soil is mainly limestone and the aspect is predominantly south, meaning the vines still receive plenty of sunshine and heat despite their altitude.
Barolo DOCG Riserva Ravera “Vigna Elena” is a very traditional style of Barolo that is only produced “during great vintages”. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with pump-overs for 30 days afterwards for increased maceration. Maturation is then in 4,000 litre Slavonian oak barrels for three years, increasing tannins still further.
Amazingly one of the notes this wine shows on the nose is chocolate cake! There are also traditional floral and tobacco elements in the background. When tasted (seven years after harvest) the tannins were still very grippy, but framed the fresh red fruit and exotic spices to perfection. The finish was very long and elegant – just a fabulous wine.
Atamisque Uco Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (14.5%, RRP €32 at The Corkscrew; The Grape Vine Glasnevin; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s Dundrum; D-Six Off Licence)
As Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape I was looking forward to trying this serious example from The Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. Signature grape Malbec is just one of the many grapes which prosper in Argentina, though it copes better with extremes of heat than the Cabernets which don’t like too much heat. Bodega Atamisque are located in the Tupungato Department sub-region of Mendoza province, named after the huge Tupungato peak which reaches 6,750 m. Of course, vines are not planted at the peak, but they are still at the high elevation of 1,300 m above sea level. This gives the grapes excellent acidity and the day-night temperature variation gives them plenty of colour, flavour and tannin.
So what makes this wine so “serious”? Firstly, the vines are all on their own rootstocks, i.e. ungrafted, as phylloxera is not a threat. Secondly, yields are low at 5 tons per hectare – around 27 hl/ha. Thirdly, there is rigorous selection for both bunches (picking is all by hand) and then berries, so only the best grapes get used. Finally, Atamisque uses Taransaud-Demptos French oak barrels – they are considered one of the best coopers in France and supply many top Bordeaux Châteaux. For the Cabernet Sauvignon maturation is for 14 months in 100% new barrels.
The payoff: it has an mistakable Cabernet nose, with pencil shavings and dark black fruit. Given the grape variety and oak treatment, the obvious comparison is with Pauillac, but to be honest you wouldn’t get a wine with this amount of fruit, tannin and minerality for anything like the same price in the Médoc. Ageing potential is given as 15 years, but I’d say it will still be going strong then.