Vigna Rionda in May, 2012. At the very top right are what's left of Canale's vines.

Newly Arrived from Italy: Vigna Rionda and more

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When people have been growing grapes in the same place for generations, a lot of wisdom accumulates regarding the character and quality of the local vineyards, and a consensus emerges about which are the best. In the Barolo zone, the short list includes the resonant names Cannubi, Brunate, Rocche, Monprivato, Cascina Francia, but Vigna Rionda is the one vineyard that’s guaranteed to make aficionados point like a bird dog.  This is largely because of the spectacular Riondas bottled by Bruno Giacosa from 1967 to 1993. There are other very fine Riondas from Oddero, Massolino and Luigi Pira, but when we had a bottle of 1970 Giacosa Rionda last week, the depth and finesse of the wine reminded us why both Rionda and Giacosa are held in the highest esteem. Giacosa never owned any land in Rionda, but instead was supplied by Canale, who owned a large parcel of very old vines in the center of the vineyard. At least some of the wine Giacosa bottled was made by Canale (I have heard quite credible and definitive statements regarding this from locals). In any event, Giacosa stopped working with Canale in 1993, and  Canale continued to sell wine from Rionda (to Roagna, among others) and bottled some as well. The 2008 Canale Rionda is the first vintage to reach us since Tommaso Canale died and his estate was divided amongst his surviving family members. Most of Canale’s vines were so old that the majority of the vines were replanted in 2010. We tasted the 2008 from barrel (botte) last spring; the wine had just been racked but still showed so well that we’ve been looking forward to receiving it since then – it’s a fine piece of Barolo history in a bottle!

 

History in a bottle doesn’t come cheap, so to balance things out a bit we include a few additional new arrivals that we’re also very pleased about…

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Frascole 2009 Chianti Rufina

Frascole is doing an amazing job of making old-school Chianti at bargain prices. This is really an honest wine (made from organic grapes) that’s fairly full-bodied but with good balance, nice dry fruit, and classic Chianti earthiness. A perfect wintery red for a cold night around the fire (electronic or otherwise), and a total steal.

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Antano 2010 Montefalco Rosso

Because we can’t drink Bea every time we want wine from Montefalco we are thrilled that our friends at T. Edward Wines found Antano. They make a very superior Sagrantino, but good Sagrantino not being inexpensive, this Rosso will do very nicely. It’s Sangiovese with a healthy dose of Sagrantino (and a little Merlot) and it tastes like Umbria to us – earthy, spicy and herbal, quite rich; another great red for the season.

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'A Vita 2008 Cirò Rosso Classico

Ciro is the primary wine district in Calabria, and in the US the market has long been dominated by Librandi, which one has to assume is a pretty big operation. They make a very decent entry-level wine from Gagliopo, the main red grape of the area, but until recently there really was not much alternative available to us. Now some small growers have started to bottle their own wine, and 'A Vita is our favorite so far, making seriously structured and earthy natural wine. This is not shy, and it demands some very flavorful and hearty accompaniment – a stew, a braise, some lentils or beans…

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