Carpene Malvolti 1868 Cartizze Prosecco

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Prosecco suffers from an image problem – even worse than that suffered by Cava, in my opinion. There are a lot of reasons for this – and the biggie is that because it’s a sparkling wine people immediately compare it with Champagne and Champagne it isn’t. Prosecco has a few different classifications in Italy – the most widely recognised is perhaps Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG (promoted from DOC in 2009). You may also see Conigliano, Valdobbiadene-Conigliano or even Cartizze. Cartizze is a high vineyard of just over 100 hectares and is considered the granddaddy (or ‘grand cru’, if you will) of Prosecco.

Aside from being the classification, Prosecco is also the name of the grape which constitutes the bulk of what you will find in the bottle. However, to avoid ‘confusion’, the grape Prosecco was ‘renamed’ in 2009 to Glera. You will still see plenty of Australian sparkling wine made from Glera labelled … Prosecco.

Pretty pale straw in the glass, with fine, persistent bubbles. The nose is restrained but shows some fresh lemon and ripe pear. The palate is a little one dimensional – the pear is very apparent and a touch confected. Although the Carpenè Malvolti tasting notes indicate that this wine is dry you could be forgiven for thinking there’s a touch of residual sugar (RS) present. There are also floral notes and a slightly sherberty finish.

While the wine isn’t unattractive, it’s a touch short on acidity and doesn’t offer much in the way of complexity.

I’ve not been able to track down an Australian retailer for this particular wine but others from the same stable look to be around the $20 mark, which is fair, but not brilliant, value. Given the wine’s confected character, I’d recommend drinking this at afternoon tea, with a slice of lightly toasted pandoro, dusted in icing sugar. Or use it in a Bellini or Buck’s Fizz.

This wine really wasn’t my cup of tea – too much apparent sweetness (I’ve been unable to find the wine’s actual RS anywhere) and not enough savoury characters or complexity. This wine is less apéritif and far better suited to dessert than canapés.

Not readily available. This was a prize.
Cork.
11% abv.

Artigiano 2011 Grillo

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For Christmas I was given Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson et al. This is the newest, most current wine bible and for people like me who like trying something new and different, it’s a handy tome for planning what to drink next, and where one might have to holiday to try some of the world’s more esoteric varieties.

Hot weather here in Adelaide has meant lots of white wine and most of it in the shape of Riesling or Chardonnay. Andy was dispatched to East End Cellars with a shortlist of three wines. He came home with the Artigiano Grillo, an IGT wine (meaning it’s typical of its geographical region) from Sicily, Italy.

Artigiano is the producer and Grillo is the grape. Grillo’s byline in Wine Grapes is that it’s an “increasingly popular high-quality, full-bodied western Sicilian white”. You may see it as a DOC wine (ostensibly a higher quality level), but you also see it (as here) as an IGT. It is described as “full bodied”, “slightly herbaceous or floral”. In Australia, it’s not yet making any real headway – Vinodiversity suggests that just just one producer, ByJingo, is producing it.  While it’s not listed on the ByJingo website, ByJingo on twitter reliably informs me that it is available.  I hope to be able to try some in the next few weeks.

In the meantime … the Artigiano.

Pale gold in the glass, and a nose of apple, pear, pear drops and preserved lemon. These don’t leap out of the glass but you don’t have to search too hard for them either. On the palate, good acidity and the wine is a lot richer and oilier than the nose might lead you to expect. On the palate you start to get some herbal notes, mixed in with poached pears and apples and a burst of clean citrus/lemon. The finish is slightly bitter, but not in an unattractive way. The wine isn’t particularly long and what length there is dominated by acidity and alcohol.

So this wine is OK.  I’m probably not rushing off to buy it again but at the same time I’d drink it and not be unhappy.  It’s relatively neutral so it’s unlikely to make enemies.

The real point of interest here is the cost – it was just $16. So for under $20 you get an imported wine, a new grape variety and it’s eminently drinkable.

Job done.

This wine was purchased from East End Cellars for $16.
Closure: screw cap.
13% abv

Burlotto Verduno Pelaverga 2011

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On my About page I’ve noted I am very into (the rather trendy) “alternative varieties”.  I am like a cross between a magpie and a small child in a wine shop, so something shiny and new holds instant appeal.

In this instance, the shiny and new had a price tag of “only” $35 attached to it.  “What’s that then?”  I demanded.  “Why, it’s Pelaverga” answered the friendly chappy.  Given that the wine is Italian, the next question is not entirely stupid:  “What grape is that then?”.  “It’s Pelaverga, there are only two vineyards in the world”.

Cool.

Information on Pelaverga is thin and far between, so I haven’t been able to verify the “two vineyards” statement.  The online Oxford Companion to Wine has but a few sentences (the wine would be pale, it might have a slight spritzig, it comes from Piedmont in north-western Italy – always a good start).  That’s about the most in one hit anyone wants to offer.  Burlotto is listed as a ‘recommended’ producer in the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopædia, which also notes that locally the grape is known as Pelaverga Piccolo and it is a different variety to the Pelaverga used in Colline Saluzzesi. It appears to be a relatively new DOC (one site suggests it was awarded in 1995).

According to the Burlotto website (and my dodgy Italian) they make just 10,000 bottles a year of this wine, and the vines are relatively young – between 4 and 20 years old.

So all this chat … and do you think I could find the scrap of paper on which my tasting note was written? For a while, no, of course not but the wine was so distinctive and unusual I figured I’d be able to tell you about it from memory. But the note is found!

On the first night – the wine is incredibly pale in the glass (I was prepared for pale – but not this pale and I don’t think my photo does it justice) and almost garnet in colour. It looks a lot older than it is.

The nose is restrained but showing earthy characteristics and strawberry leaf. The palate is strawberry, strawberry leaf with some spice – pepper and licorice. There’s good acidity and some very very soft silky tannins.

On day two the nose is all about black pepper and smoke – the fruit has receded. On the palate, the pepperiness comes through, balanced by juicy red fruit. There’s a slight stalkiness to it (which I like) and just a hint of menthol.

I can’t think of anything I’ve tried like this. It’s not a big wine in terms of weight but especially once the spiciness started to come through, it’s big in terms of flavour. Would I drink it again? Yes – to try and get my head around it. Would I recommend it to others? If you’re a fan of bold, fruit forward reds – no. If you like restraint, spice and savoury – well yes, give it a go.

This wine is also a fab reminder of how we sometimes get a bit too far into our comfort zones.

The wine was purchased from East End Cellars (RRP $35).
Closure:  cork.