Friday, November 11, 2011

Very Fast Southern Italy

This week in wine class we had our first mid-term, which consisted of a written component and then blind-tasting of six wines.  I won't go into any detail about this; I only mention it to provide context for the extremely cursory treatment of southern Italian wine!  We had only about an hour left to the set time of class to go over the material for this region, and to taste 9 wines.  We went far over the end time for the class, and I got home very late indeed, and exhausted.

My brain wasn't in fantastic shape for absorbing new material right after the mid-term, but I've managed to hold on to a few key pieces of info (thanks brain!).  The first is that Italy has an extremely confusing and somewhat relaxed system for regulating wine quality and production.  The second is that many parts of southern Italy that have been growing vines for millenia are actually too poor to develop their viniculture, and so the wines haven't yet been really perfected.  It seems that many wine pros have optimistic and hopeful views of southern Italy, because with the right expertise and financial investment it could probably make some extremely fine wines.  At the moment, Italy is kind of a mess, and even when Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia was being written and reprinted, 2 out of 3 people in the Marche region were unemployed.  That blows my mind, and also makes it clear that the socio-economic environment may not be ideal in the south to make super expensive and high-class wines.

So, while lots of the wines produced are 'vini da tavola', or table wines, there are still a few gems that come from the south.  One that I liked very much, which my muddled brain still remembers, and which stands out from the group of wines that we had, was Cerasuolo di Vittoria (don't you love saying these names!).  This wine is produced in south-east Sicily, and is the only DOCG (think AOC or VQA) wine from the island.  The bottle we tried was a 2008 Valle dell'Acate.  The wine had an appetite-piquing nose of dark chocolate, licorice allsorts, cloves, smoke, and cassis.  It tasted wonderfully like, and do not doubt, a winier version of chocolate cherry cola.  It was almost Dr. Peppery.  I found this incredibly pleasant, and new.  I've never had anything quite like it before.  It was a dry and balanced wine, with clean finish and nice mouthfeel.  Cin cin!

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