Published on August 12th, 2012 | by Greg0
Italy Versus USA: New Pinot Gris And Old World Reds
Today's trio of wines are all under $20, two are Italian reds, while the other is a Northern Californian white, and all three are pretty easy to drink, fairly classic takes on their varietals and regions. And all three are great for summer drinking in the dog days of the August heat.
We'll start with the 2011 J Vineyards Pinot Gris. We've tasted some wines from them, and their Pinot and Chardonnay are pretty solid, but this was an impressive Pinot Gris, especially considering the $15 price tag. A blend of grapes from four areas- Clarksburg, Russian River Valley, Monterrey, and Napa- this is a pretty new release after spending around six months aging in stainless steel. As with other similar bottles, this young wine is bright, crisp, with just a hint of mineral and slightly tangy. Can hold up well to spicy foods or against sushi, since it's got a bit of acidity but isn't woody. The official notes mention apple, apricot, and cantaloupe, but this one isn't very sweet, so the melon does seem most appropriate as a comparison. Good now, and one of the better Pinot Gris that we've tried recently.
Now we head to Italy and two regions- Marche, a hilly area in the middle of the country's eastern coast, and Abruzzo which is just to the east in the same vicinity. The 2008 Saladini Pilastri Pregio Del Conte is an organic wine, and blends indigenous grapes from Monteprandone. Overall, though, the effect was pretty indistinct- not bad, but nothing wowing either. Medium-bodied, this is a wine that needs some time to open up- tasters liked it much better after some aeration, as it is otherwise a little too tight. Pairing is pretty easy- anything smoky or a little gamy works great, or other Italian snacks, like salami or rich cheeses. $18, and the most uncertain of the wines on the list- great color and nose don't quite convince.
Finally, the 2009 Fratelli Barba Vasari Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is another nice, fairly straight-forward, drinkable red. We're not so familiar with the Abruzzo region, but the Montepulciano varietal from there is a recognized DOC, and often blends a bit of Sangiovese (up to 15%). It's rustic- a bit rough in character- and feels pretty old world in a way that fits some foods nicely. We tried it with some hearty pastas and liked the balanced heartiness, a bit much for light summer evening but perfect as it grows a bit colder and gets darker earlier. We found notes of licorice and a dark red fruits, plum and figs. Best a bit young, this one is definitely drinkable now, and a great table wine for anytime you're entertaining. $10.