The confidence of Romagna Albana and Sangiovese

Afford me the opportunity to explain something about Romagna albana and sangiovese. The endemic white and widely planted red are ready to be heard from out of Italy’s Emila-Romagna region, a northerly Italian province extending from the Apennine Mountains to the Po River. Together they form a brave little raft in a sea of vinous confusion and do so differently, with a confident and self-assured tone. Listen up. As long as grapes and wines exist there will be a few dissadatti who will cavort them in a spirit of affronto, that is to put them deep into the clay. Faenza is the historical centre and the surrounding hills are filled with a set of clays so impressive it simply is the local terroir. While more famously Tuscan, it is the sangiovese that come off vines emerging from these variegated clays speak that speak a vernacular of high tonality and power. There may be a tendency to make Romagna sangiovese an appanage of the Tuscan but truth be told it must be considered a varietal world unto itself. 

Tasting at Vini ad Arte, Faenza

The world was poised to change, forever to exist in a bubble unlike any time before and yet there we were, a gaggle of wine journos who had just completed eight days of Anteprime di Toscana. With a calming mid-afternoon February 22nd sun overhead we were gathered at 3:00 pm in Montalcino’s Piazza Cavour, awaiting the transfer by bus to Faenza. “Train wheels (were) runnin’ through the back of my memory,” and next stop on this Italian tour was Anteprima Romagna Sangiovese, the 15th edition of Vini ad Arte held at Casa Spadoni. My headphones continued to sound out, “someday, everything is gonna sound like a rhapsody, when I paint my masterpiece.” Quando Il Sangiovese é un capolavoro indeed.

Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni

While on the bus we broke down on the highway just outside of Florence. Dramatic foreshadowing perhaps because two days later our erudite and expert chaperone Paola Chiapasco announced that the tour would have to be halted due to the spread of Covid-19 in northern Italy. What happened in between was magical, dramatic and vivid, a confluence of wine, art and gastronomy unequalled. 

Museo delle Ceramiche, Hotel Vittoria, Faenza

Speaking of masterpieces, the Hotel Vittoria is one such edifice with a lobby to send you back in time and the Ceramics Hall a.k.a. Museo delle Ceramiche adjacent my hotel room is filled with some of the world’s greatest collection of majolica pieces. The hotel is intrinsically connected to the late great Faenza artist Carlo Zauli who died in 2002, one of the most important and infleuntial ceramist sculptors of the 20th century. Just a few blocks away is the Museo Carlo Zauli, located in the historical workshop of the artist with the permanent collection displayed in the very rooms where the artist used to work. With Matteo Zauli we paid a visit to the clay cellar, enamel room, kiln room and the high and low relief room where large pieces of earth would become sculptures. Finally we forged our own clay vessels under the tutelage of artist Monica Zauli. Next time in Faenza I hope to see my finished work.

The distorted, broken, profound and revolutionary work of Carlo Zauli ~ Holy Moses, let us live in peace. #museocarlozauli #carlozauli #ceramica #artecontemporanea #faenza

The welcome dinner with the CdA of Consorzio Vini di Romagna was held at the Pizzeria O’ Fiore Mio, yeast museum in its own right, fermentative and leavening temple of Chef Davide Fiorentini. The next night in Sala Griglia – Sala Italia with Romagna producers at Casa Spadoni we were treated to 3 Chef Dinner: Cavallucci, Cammerucci e Mascia, Oh Sangiovese, per te la Romagna si fa in tre. The next morning a seminar: “Romagna Sangiovese: Climate change and territorial markers.” Data and main characteristics of Sangiovese from each sub-zone were presented with an introduction by President of the Consorzio Vini di Romagna Giordano Zinzani (who since July 2020 is now the President of the Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna). The Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna is an association that has been in place since 1970 to promote and improve the regional wine production. This purpose was officially acknowledged in 1978 by the Emilia Romagna Region through a specific law, defining Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna as “the most suitable means of promoting regional wines in Italy and abroad.” Enoteca Regionale is located inside the Sforza Castle of Dozza, a little hilly village right on the “border” between Emilia and Romagna.

Chef Davide Fiorentini and his yeast

Romagna holds one DOCG; Romagna Albana and five DOCs; Romagna Sangiovese DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Sottozone DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Riserva DOC and Romagna Sangiovese Riserva Sottozone DOC. Other DOCs Romagna Albana Spumante DOC, Romagna Trebbiano DOC, Romagna Pagadebit DOC, Colli d’Imola DOC, Colli di Faenza DOC and Colli di Rimini DOC. Within the Consorzio Vini di Romagna there are seven cooperative wineries, 103 wine producers, six bottlers and 5,200 wine farms with vineyards registered in the DOC/DOCG register.

Jounalists at Casa Spadoni, Faenza

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 

There are 12 sub-zone (sottozone) areas, noted as menzione geographica, or MGA and also MGA Riserva. The pyramid runs down from Romagna Sangiovese MGA DOC through Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC and to Romagna Sangiovese DOC. Yield are set to nine and eight tonnes respectively and wines need be a minimum of 95 per cent pure. Release dates are the first and third year after harvest, aging at least 6 months in bottle. The 2017 vintage was defined by a hot spring with later cold and some frosts, scorching in late summer with storms post “great drought.” The ten days early budding and frosts meant up to and exceeding 40 per cent loss of fruit, with health due to lack of disease (as opposed to 2018). As for ’18, there were lots of cases of shedding, some September botrytis, with a delayed harvest to the last week of September through to mid-October. Forget the consideration of ”normal,” from ’17 to ’18 the difference is a 30 day swing, Then there is 2019 with a wet spring, late blooming, rise in June temperatures and a similar harvest times to 2018.

The 12 Sub-Zones (Sottozone) for Romagna Sangiovese DOC

  • Serra, 50-250m, clay and sandstone higher up (more spice)
  • Brisighella, 100-400m, to the west of Faenza, old pliocene soils, clay and limestone, mineral wines, harvest began late August (balsamica)
  • Marzeno, as per Cristina Geminiani, 100-200m, village of Sarna, clay-calcari, tannic and austere
  • Oriolo, Andrea Balducci, 60-200, Pleistocene yellow sands and Marzana clay, harvest last 10 days of August
  • Modigliana, Claudio Fiore, 180-570m, lots of forest, low humidity, marly-sandstone Arenaria, salinity, day night fluctuations, citrus
  • Castrocaro, Fiorino Fiorentini, 100-350m, clay and calcareous, Spungone, cliff of the Rio Cozzi, soft tannins, herbaceous
  • Predappio, Stefano Berti, 120-400m, calcareous clays, Pliocene, sand in the heart of the Rabbi valley, spungone, silky tannins, low yields
  • Bertinoro, Mauro Sirri, 100-350m, light clay-loam soils with limestone and spungone, harvest 20 days early, salinity
  • Cesena, proximate to the Adriatic, less continental climate, clayey, more fertile
  • San Vicinio, Silva Casali, 160-400m, calcareous clays and alluvial, especially near the riverbed, freshness, smaller growth in 2017
  • Longiano, Roberto Ronchi, 60-200m, yellow ochre clay, some calcari, erosion with sandstone
  • Meldola, vinous sangiovese, intense, dry, full-bodied, harmonious and tannic

The following are 51 reviews, 14 for Romagna Albana DOCG and 37 For Romagna Sangiovese DOC out of 118 wines tasted in total (108 of them tasted blind). If you would like to see all the reviews please click on the following link.

Godello’s 2020 Romangna Albana and Sangovese

Guarda! Let’s taste 100 #sangiovesediromagna @vinidiromagna #consorziovinidiromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020 #anteprimaromagnasangiovese

***** denotes wines of the vintage

Romagna Alba Secco DOCG 2019 (10 reviews)

Branchini Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Dutia 2019

From Marco Branchini, located in Dozza, in the centre of Emilia Romagna, zone of Imola. Branchini cultivates 70 sustainable acres of albana, pignoletto and sangiovese. Fresh, herbal and metals. Lime and good persistence. A salty finish with ripe melon sweetness. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Merlotta Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Fondatori GP 2019

In 1962, Paolo Minzolini and Giovanna Mimmi, the founders of the winery, started to work as sharecroppers at the Merlotta estate. On 28th November 1983, after twenty years of hard labour, they fulfilled their dream and purchased Tenuta Merlotta. Today the winemaker is Fabio Minzolini. Skin-contact, orange style, of mouthfeel by salve, light, breezy and easy. Good tang, much interest. A touch of beneficial botrytis. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

With Chef Davide Fiorentini and Fosca Tortorelli

Tenuta Masselina Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Albana Masselina 2019

Tenuta Masselina is located in Serra on a hilly ridge extending over the plain between Imola and Faenza, upstream of Castelbolognese. It is the westernmost sub-area of Romagna Sangiovese, characterized by soils composed of red, fertile and deep clays. Here fermentation is in stainless steel and a small portion in French oak barriques. Maturation also in stainless steel for 10 months and for a small portion, in French oak barriques for four months. More extract, development and texture. Lemon and lime forever. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tre Monti Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Vitalba 2019

From oenologists Nicola Tucci, Vittorio Navacchia and the Navacchia family, the grapes come from the Bacchilega vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards on the Tre Monti estate. Vitalba is albana of maceration on skins between 80 and 120 days, spontaneous fermentation and aging in Georgian amphorae for 10 months. Good consistency, lots of flavour, lemon, lime and orange. Rich, satisfying and benchmark. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

3 Chef Dinner, Casa Spadoni

Quadalti Davide E Marco Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Giada 2019

The Quadalti farm was founded in the 1970s by the brothers Bruno and Luciano. Grown in the Forli Hills within the Serrra sub-zone. Fresh, a bit salty, crackers, biscuity, lean and fine. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Treré Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Arlus 2019

From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella and vines planted in 1984, then again in 2012 on soils of “limoso di medio impasto,” silty of medium texture. Arlùs, from the Roman dialect, “luccicare, rilucere, splendere,” or shimmer, shine. Mineral start, very fresh, bath salts, cool spring water. Lovely wine and a moniker so apropos of its style and effect. Drink 2020-2023. From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella and vines planted in 1984, then again in 2012 on soils of “limoso di medio impasto,” silty of medium texture. Arlùs, from the Roman dialect, “luccicare, rilucere, splendere,” or shimmer, shine. Mineral start, very fresh, bath salts, cool spring water. Lovely wine and a moniker so apropos of its style and effect. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

With the Sommeliers of Anteprima Romagna

Bulzaga Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Coronilla 2019

Located in the hills of Brisighella, on the border between Romagna and Tuscany, a (commercial since 2009) farm of six hectares of vineyards at about two hundred meters above sea level. Curious nose for albana but then herbal, brushy, again curious. Look, sniff and taste again, on repeat. Unrelenting in how it keeps drawing you back. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Celli Romagna Albana Secco DOCG I Croppi 2019 (893288, $22.85, The Small Winemakers Collection)

Celli in the zone of Bertinoro dates back to 1963. From the sub-zone of Fratta-Maestrina and soils of clayey-limestone. The oenologist is Emanuele Casadei whose family (along with the Sirri) have been custodians since the beginning. Lovely albana with developed lemon preserve, almost marmalada but dry and energetic. Fleshy too. The saltiness works well to foil the healthy alcohol spirit. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Pizzeria @ofioremio Faenza

La Grotta Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Damadora 2019

From the zone of Cesena, 230m off of sandy, soft and draining soils, rich in minerals and with good organic content. Lime cordial, developed as if into second season fleshiness and yet still energetic. Reminiscent of verdicchio. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tenuta Casali Romagna Albana Secco DOCG 2019

Dates to 1978 from the Casali brothers Valerio and Paolo, on grandfather Mario’s farm in Mercato Saraceno, in the hills of the Savio Valley. Their work with family members Silvia, Francesco and Daniele produce albana in the zone of San Vicino. Valleripa is from a 30-plus year old vineyard trained to single Guyot pruning, aged for six months in stainless steel on the lees. Blessed of a recognizable and natural scent, skin-contact feel, delivering a mild salve, textural, acidity all in. A benchmark for varietal and region. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Alba Secco DOCG 2018 (4 reviews)

***** Fattoria Zerbina Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Bianco Di Ceparano 2018

The company credo reads, “the knowledge of tradition, the strength to dare the new. Thus the land becomes wine.” Lovely. From the zone of Marzeno and the intuitive work of Maria Cristina Geminiani. Wild nose and finally something to sink your olfactory straight down into. Transfers well onto the palate. Scrapes of citrus and crunchy fruit. Guava and mango but dry, salty and tart. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta Il Plino Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Albadiplino 2018

Tenuta Il Plino lies in the hills between S. Carlo and Bertinoro, named by the Plino della Taverna which flows inside the property at the bottom of a small valley fed by a rich spring. Some fun and joy on the nose out of this albana grown in the zone of Cesena, citrus, then brightness meets tannin to taste. Maybe a touch of wood, with a nuttiness and faint caramel, acting as alvarinho would in the northern parts of Vinho Verde. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Frangipane 2018 ($23.00 – Estimate)

Frangipane is Tenuta La Viola’s blast and ode to the past “when the albana was the main grape variety vinified in our Estate. Frangipane is the name of the Countess of Bertinoro Aldruda Frangipane, famous for her heroic participation in the defence of Ancona under siege by German imperial troops. As for its work as albana the almond cream delivers just that, fresh, spirited and texturally creamy, thanks to six months of stirring some quality lees. Has a saltines that owes to this small portion the 14 farmed San Martino estate vineyards. Reminds of alvarinho made in a gilded, salted white caramel style. Drink 2020-2023.   Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tenuta La Viola Romagna Albana Secco Docg In Terra Bianco 2018 ($50.00 – Estimate)

Interra is albana raised in amphorae from 1.27 hectares of estate owned vineyards in San Martino, vines at 250m and averaging 17 years-old. An “ancestral wine,” alcoholic fermentation completed with indigenous yeasts and maceration on the skins for six months in 400 and 300L Georgian amphorae. Tenuta La Viola was the first to do so with albana in Romagna and to be honest and pardon my Emilian, this is fucking delicious. A little bit of whole bunch goes all the way to direct traffic and steer this albana in a straight direction. Vibrant and floral. In a dogma eat dogma world we need wines like this, clean and funky, texturally edacious and eliciting a soupçon of mainstreaming commercial amusement. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2019 (3 reviews)

***** Fattoria Nicolucci Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Tre Rocche 2019 (SAQ 14248437, $27.05)

From oenologist Alessandro Nicolucci and an estate that has been in Predappio since 1880. Making wine is kept simple for land and the purity of sangiovese to be coaxed and kept through a short maturation in wooden casks, followed by the same refinement in bottle. The relationship makes this special, complex and if perhaps misunderstood, so be it. Tannins are fine. Yes, a fine example of land-driven, precise and hands-off, well-made sangiovese. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Pandolfo 2019 ($20.95, The Vine Agency)

From Marco Cirese, grandson to Noelia Ricci, whose mother took over in 2008 and he joined in 2010. Cirese’s goal is “to valourize sangiovese,” with seven hectares farmed organically for the past two years and will be certified in 2021. The Pandolfo is from the zone of Predappio, a blend of fruit off of three terraces between 250 and 400m and of only wild yeast catalytic spontaneity. The fermentation lasts approximately 20 days and the wine stays for six months in Grandi Botti. The mostly clay soil at 200m leads to “sweet and sticky tannins,” tells Marco, so a bigger wine with solid structure is almost always a possibility. So recognizable as sangiovese, surely at its source and then a matter of selection. As for Romagna, Pandolfo is truly Predappio and markedly Cirese. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Il Sangiovese 2019 ($28.95, The Vine Agency)

Yes, perhaps more serious sangiovese right here. Argiloso chalky and peak plum fruity with a light dusting of pepper. You need to return again and again to understand the charm and the grace in the steps and advances. The structure is born of demure and builds with sneaky, creeping stealth. Later on I tasted ’18s with Marco Cirese and Alice Gargiullo and only then did the epiphanies come clear in understanding some profound truths about the secrets bound within the youth of Noelia Ricci’s sangiovese 2019s. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

That Marco Cirese Sangiovese stare. His Noelia Ricci and Pandolfo are crucial, fundamental and illustrative of what is possible in Emilia-Romagna. #sangiovesediromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2018 (17 reviews)

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Pandolfo 2018 ($20.95, The Vine Agency)

Marco Cirese’s follow-up to his benchmark Romagna Superiore 2018 shows how the structure off of Predappio’s clays can mute, demure and even muddle up this sangiovese so early in its tasting life. More than just a matter of existing in a primary vacuum, even the tannins seem confused, acting milder and middling in a medium bitter pith state. But tasting the 2018 one hour later reveals an explosion of fruit and complexity that this ’19 is surely hiding. Behind the wall there is a brave set of sangiovese expressions drifting overs waves in a sea of youthful confusion. Also a tang and a spirit underestimated and yet they are sensations zen-like in their current inaction. I would surely wait 18 months or more to let this sangiovese stretch its Predappio legs. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Godenza 2018 (The Vine Agency)

Godenza was the name of the podere (house) on site at a one hectare vineyard at 340m, the highest section of Ricci’s land. The introduction of concrete tanks is surely responsible (in part) to the freshness and reduction but also poor, well-draining calcareous soils that complete a relationship with open-knit and fragrant red fruit. Adds up to complexities and beauty, not to mention the hands-off, unadulterated feel of this wine. At the top end of quality and elaborate expression for the appellation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Branchini Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Contragrande 2018

From Marco Branchini, located in Dozza, in the centre of Emilia Romagna, zone of Imola. Branchini cultivates 70 sustainable acres of albana, pignoletto and sangiovese. His Superiore carries a tang held securely out of a strong entry and though it’s a touch pressed and astringent the origins are clearly from a good fruit source. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Poderi Delle Rocche Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Canovaio 2018

From Imola zone and land cultivated since 1995 between Dozza, Linaro and Montecatone, from three friends Ettore, Paolo and Roberto. Fine sangiovese nose right here. Takes the clay and the calcaire, runs up and down slopes, flaunts blood orange. Straightforward, correct and simple for every occasion. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Ballardini Riccardo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Vigna Le Case 2018

Ballardini dates back to 1980 and their sangiovese grapes are from Brisighella’s first hill at 150m facing southwest and argiloso soils. Solid sangiovese, if dark fruit and blessed by full sun. Yet no roast, toast or bake, just good quality wine. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Podere La Berta Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC 2018

Podere La Berta overlooks the hillsides just a few kilometers from Faenza, amidst the erosion furrows and the Olmatello woods. This Brisighella raised sangiovese on argiloso soils is a cracker one of freshness protecting reduction. Armed with quality fruit and plenty of tannin though ripe (acids too) and there is true potential, both from a clarity of learned wisdom and Romagna sangiovese with the ability to age. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Treré Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Sperone 2018

From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella. Fruit is top notch. Fresh, youthful, spirited. Piqued! Yes, like mencía from Bierzo. Juicy, drinkable and really quite beautiful. An edacious sangiovese if ever there was from Romagna. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Torre San Martino Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana DOC Gemme 2018

From the Costa family and 10 hectares of vines at 300m found in Monte Loc Casone Modigliana, including a lost vineyard unearthed in 2000 that dates to 1922. This part of Modigliana is located above a sandstone bubble, “the prized yellow sands.” A bit reductive but the guarding and protecting works to preserve a peppery and peppy freshness. Chalky, structured, tannins are persistent. Good fruit and a bit extra wood though it should integrate. Solid wine, salty and sapid, while in the end still reductive. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Poderi Morini Romagna Sangiovese Oriolo DOC Morale 2018

Began in 1998 by Natale Morini, now from Alessandro and Daniela Morini, who grown on 40 hectares of vineyards on Faenza’s hills around the Oriolo Tower. The sangiovese is from Podere Cà Donati at 170m on soil of medio impasto, clay of medium texture and picked at the beginning of October, on the later side for Romagna sangiovese. Deep red fruit with fully ripened sugars and phenolics, good for drinking early and beautifully without a care in the world. Not a structured Oriolo but a proper one. That’s for certain. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese DOC Al Caleri 2018 ($25.00 – Estimate, Sélection Frechette)

Sangiovese di Predappio by Chiara Condello who in 2015 took over the reigns from her father Francesco. The intent is freshness, effusive red fruit behaviour and unencumbered beauty. All the parcels are checked and the most youthful, freshest and brightest fruit is selected. Herbal, mineral, tart, tight and bracing. Smells like all the cover crops that grow in between and in support of the vines, not to mention crushed ripe grapes on your skin. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta Piccolo Brunelli Romagna Sangiovese DOC Il Conte Pietro 2018

Sangiovese from Predappio, from 10 million year old soils at 350-450m of altitude. Vineyards facing north west, “towards the future.” The estate thinking is in limiting the impact of sunlight because of the ever-warming vintages. This frim 2018 shows off bright, high toned acids and volatility. Sour and really up there. A wild fermentative style that many will appreciate. Lightning red fruit, highly mineral, very natural. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Tenuta Piccolo Brunelli Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Cesco 1938 2018

Records show the estate dates back to the 14th centrury and in 1936 was purchased by Dante Fiorentini. Then in 1945 gets passed on to his son in law Pietro Piccolo Brunelli. Finally, in 1945, Pietro Piccolo Brunelli, Dante’s Great grandson, becomes the manager. Shifts organic in 2019. As with Il Conte Pietro, the Cesco 1939 is also a wild-eyed, volatile sangiovese though with more fruit substance. Tart and so much tang. Calcaire and lightning. The natural, unaffected and unadulterated one, so clean and gulpable. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Bissoni Raffaella Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Girapoggio 2018

Raffaella Bissoni founded her eponymous winery in 1988, nestled on the beautiful hillside of Casticciano, a natural terrace overlooking the sea in the medieval town of Bertinoro. Raffaela’s agglomerates as an effusive efficacy of aromatics. If at first the palate seems not quite in line, pause, breathe and take it in again. As with the first wave, the perfume dances the second time around but this time the palate catches up. As such and with some structural caveats I imagine this will need at minimum a year to flesh up and tie it all together. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta Casali Romagna Sangiovese San Vicino DOC Vigna Baruccia 2018

Dates to 1978 from the Casali brothers Valerio and Paolo, on grandfather Mario’s farm in Mercato Saraceno, in the hills of the Savio Valley. Their work with family members Silvia, Francesco and Daniele produce sangiovese in the zone of San Vicino. This Vigna Baruccia is nice sangiovese. Good red sour cherry fruit and proper tannins. Mid term ager and proper. Honest wine. Like the persistence and the succulence, then the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Oddone 2018

Oddone, borrowed from an 11th century character from Bertinoro, who loved wine and fun. The label bears the “colonna Delle anella” (the column of rings), ancient symbol of Bertinoro’s hospitality. Early September harvested from estate vineyards at 100-200m, averaging 12 years-old. A new type of sangiovese and quite frankly this is how it should be. Back up the truck for the purity, freshness, energy and honesty. There were 32,000 bottles made.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese DOC Nonà 2018

Nonà is Stefano Berti’s sangiovese “sensa sulfiti” which means neither dirty nor volatile, a testament to the winemaker’s confidence, ability and just dumb luck. Berti’s recognizes this work as an ideal, not an ordeal and sangiovese this clean could not be happier. If you didn’t know you wouldn’t know, just red fruit shining bright and as naked as the varietal play can be. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese DOC Ravaldo 2018

Ravaldo is Predappio sangiovese chosen as a selection at harvest because quite frankly, the cru way of separating his wines is just not Stefano Berti’s thing. He’s a harvest director and a reaping separator from fruit bursting of full-fledged, journey complete phenolics at September’s end off of spritely vines 12 to 15 years of age. That youthful exuberance bursts from these sangiovese aromatics and that is pretty much all you need to know. A little tonneaux time adds texture, spice and a construct that will see this drink just like this, as a perfect window into Predappio for five solid years. First vintage was 2000 for this “Ravaldino in Monte.” Grande Stefano. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Oh Sangiovese, per te la Romagna si fa in tre. 3 Chef opera; Cavallucci, Cammerucci, Mascia. #viniadarte #viniadarte2020 #emiliaromagna #anteprimaromagnasangiovese

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2017 (11 reviews)

Villa Papiano Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana Riserva DOC I Probi Di Papiano 2017 ($34.95, The Vine Agency)

Organically farmed from the vineyard “above the clouds,” on poor soils of Marnosa-Arenacea, marl and sandstone. No issues here whatsoever, holding its line and showing little advancement, which so many warm vintage 17s are already doing. Perfumed, clean and serviceable, honest and proper if stretched and in Riserva terms, a bit thin. Tannins strong for the concentration of fruit though at least through now is holding its own. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Calonga Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Leggiolo 2017

From Oriolo zone in in the province of Forlì-Cesena, from vines located in Castiglione, facing west and at a height of 100m. Leggiolo, which literally translates to “read it,” and a sangiovese with a percentage of cabernet sauvignon depending on the vintage, to a maximum 12 per cent. Aged in stainless steel tanks and casks. Liking the perfume and the nose as a whole. There is true promise. Proper tang in red fruit. Follows a proper line. Again gritty tannin but this should morph into charm. Truth be told it is reductive in the cracker peppery way that sangiovese can be and the wood is a bit tough, leading to some drying tannin. Otherwise would be one of the best 17s. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Villa Bagnolo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC Sassetto 2017

Founded in 1997, located in Castrocaro Terme. The Riserva is from vineyards in the Castrocaro zone and something really proper here brings a sense of place with fortifying Riserva tones. Lots of wood but structured, presence and well made. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Poggio Della Dogana Ottoviti Romagna Sangiovese Castrocaro E Terra Del Sole DOC Santa Reparata 2017

From two brothers and their friend, Aldo and Paolo Rametta and Cristiano Vitali on 20 hectares, nine in Castrocaro and 11 in Brisighella. Santa Reparata sangioivese comes from the former. Juicy wine here, plum fruit, good acidity and tannic. A bit overripe and so three years forward it is beginning to lose some grip but now and for another year it is a lovely drink of Riserva. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

 

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Chiara Condello 2017 (SAQ, 14215141, $24.65 and BCLDB, 7664, $27.99)

Chiara Condello is the winemaker for a special sangiovese di Predappio in just her third vintage since taking over from her father Francesco in 2015. The nose on her ’17 is very pretty. Palate strong and grippy. Has potential. Tannins are fine. Yes this is really honest and proper, vibrant, succulent acids and so much forward drive. Five years easy and ten to enjoy. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Fattoria Nicolucci Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC “Preddapio Di Predappio” Vigna Del Generale 2017

From oenologist Alessandro Nicolucci and an estate that has been in Predappio since 1880. Good juice. Not too much extract so no bitter phenols or tannic edginess. Honest and forthright. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio Riserva Doc Le Lucciole 2017 (Estimate – $75.00, Sélections Frechette)

“The fireflies,” one of two Conde’ labels made specifically by winemaker Chiara Condello in just her third vintage since taking over the work with some of the estate’s prized vineyards, a Predappio torch passed on in 2015 from her father Francesco. Le Lucciole is sangiovese off of clay soils, treated to wild fermentation, long (up to 40 days) maceration and proper time spent in large-ish Slavonion oak casks. Good tension straight up on red citrus fruit. Admiration afforded the strength, confidence and the restraint. Edgy acidity and fine tannins. Really good wine. A lighter and brighter touch than the Condello with an effusive, elegant and lightning reflex ability. What I and you should want to drink. New benchmark for not only Riserva, but all of Romagna sangiovese. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC Pandolfo Riserva 2017 (The Vine Agency)

From winemaker Marco Cirese and while his Riserva is earthy and juicy sangiovese, there seems to be more energy, punch and high tones, surprising considering the appellative level. Chalk that up to Predappio soils and fruit concentration bleeding a sense of place and sprinkling cracked pepper in what is ostensibly so perfectly reductive sangiovese. Plums and fragola, frutti di bosco and a subtle sidle through its stages of perfume, palate, acidity and structure. A touch cracker boxy and closed with thanks to that reductive attitude, for freshness preservation and ultimately, longevity. Sees 12 months in botti and 12 in bottle before release. Very, very good wine. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Bissoni Raffaella Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Girapoggio 2017 ($21.95, Violet Hill Imports)

Raffaella Bissoni founded her eponymous winery in 1988, nestled on the beautiful hillside of Casticciano, a natural terrace overlooking the sea in the medieval town of Bertinoro. The 2017 sangiovese Girapoggio grown on Bertinor’s sand and clay at 150m is so very interesting. Sweetly herbaceous, like Chinon cabernet franc. So good. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Celli Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro Riserva DOC Bron & Ruseval 2017

Celli in the zone of Bertinoro dates back to 1963. From the sub-zone of Fratta-Maestrina and soils of clayey-limestone. The oenologist is Emanuele Casadei whose family (along with the Sirri) have been custodians since the beginning. Lots of wood but also substance. Ripeness and plums, namely Damson. Peppery, ambitious, structured. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Carlo Zauli

Giovanna Madonia Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro Riserva DOC Ombroso 2017

On 35 acres across a ridge on the hill of Montemaggio in Bertinoro. Giovanna’s grandfather used to cultivate a few acres and her father was elected as the first President of the Consorzio Tutela dei Vini Romagnoli. Ombroso is alberello bush -trained sangiovese from six hectares planted in 1993/94, on calcareous-clay at an altitude of 250-300 m. The Riserva ’17 is blessed of a clean, red fruit perfumed nose. Chalky, tannic, in your face direct. No bones about the direction, intent and purpose of this tell it like it is sangiovese. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2016 (6 reviews)

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Riserva DOC Raggio Brusa 2016 ($75.00 – Estimate, Sélection Frechette)

Raggio Brusa, or ”Burning Ray,” a Predappio signature sangiovese from Condé’s winemaker Chiara Condello. From a cru, registered, the name of the vineyard, only three hectares and for Romagna this is more than new, exciting, forward thinking and still tied to family, history and tradition. Vibrant, as silky as a kimono, chanting with intellectual rigour. Like a charred cherry atop a sangioivese sundae, with the splendour or smoulder drifting through sneaky, sultry and splendid structure. Benchmark Riserva. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Fattoria Zerbina Romagna Sangiovese Marzeno Riserva DOC Pietramora 2016

From the zone of Marzeno and the intuitive work of Maria Cristina Geminiani. Pietramora 2017 sangiovese worked to show promise but this 2016 is something other, something more than correct. Dark fruit, ripe, in balance with its parts, all three, acids, tannins and before that, the wood. Very polished and accomplished wine. Lush. All in and all together. One of the best in show. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Poderi Morini Romagna Sangiovese Oriolo Riserva Doc Nonno Rico 2016

Began in 1998 by Natale Morini, now from Alessandro and Daniela Morini, who grown on 40 hectares of vineyards on Faenza’s hills around the Oriolo Tower. The sangiovese is from Podere Cà Donati at 170m on soil of medio impasto, clay of medium texture and picked at the beginning of October, on the later side for Romagna sangiovese. Nonno Rico is solid wood aged wine with a bit of make up and extra work. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Predappio 2016 ($25 – Estimate, Sélections Frechette)

Going back to 2016 the Conde’ is a most concentrated sangiovese from Predappio zone and it seems that the style of their Annata is converse or antithetical to Riserva, or at least what we think of in terms of what sangiovese should be. A vanilla wave and titanic tannins untamed. Wow spice everywhere, hot, beautiful and bothered. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese Predappio Riserva DOC Calisto 2016

Stefano Berti is located in Ravaldino in Monte, Forlì and his first wines were produced in 2000. He’s not so much a cru guy as one who prefers fruit selection. This Calisto could refer to “a nymph loved by Zeus, changed into a she-bear by Hera, and subsequently changed into the Great Bear constellation,” minus one “L.” Or perhaps “the second-largest moon of Jupiter,” also missing an L. It certainly isn’t Italian for “it sucks” because this sangiovese is fresh and tart, a bit lean but who could not appreciate the restraint and very little (apparent) wood. A good drink and fresh enough still. The barrel shows up as the wine airs and the length is quite good. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro DOC P. Honorii 2016 ($23.00 – Estimate)

From the Gabellini family in Bertinioro, organic and biodynamic. Like fresh squeezed blood orange juice. A proper freshness just now heading over to the other side. Good acidity, fading tannin. More elegant and less humid than the 2015 tasted table-side later that day. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Good to go!

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Big houses, bigger wines, big-ish prices

Canadian money

The earnest call across the country to free my grapes continues though regrettably, stiff resistance stifles the cause.
Photo: ulga/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

If you live in Canada, purchasing wine ties you directly to a monopoly. There are exceptions, though still imperfect ones, like the free market culture of Alberta and the developing tiered system in British Columbia. The earnest call across the country to free my grapes continues though regrettably, stiff resistance stifles the cause.

Manitoba and BC allow direct to consumer inter-provincial wine imports. Consumers can order from out of province and receive direct shipments so long as the wine  is 100 per cent Canadian. Nova Scotia has passed enabling legislation that will follow a similar path. If you reside in Quebec or a fortiori, in Ontario, having wine shipped to you remains taboo. The alternate recourse of consignment wines available for purchase through local importers is an irregular option and having to buy by the case designs no compass of mass appeal.

Spend even a fraction of the time I do in trying to seek out the best values, at the best prices and in the categories that cater specifically to personal tastes and you will understand how difficult it is to be satiated in such a constricting climate. I am not the only one seeking out red wines made in the vineyard, through minimalist oak intervention, unhindered by residual sugar, produced by passionate and honest winemakers who are vigilant with the softest of hands.

Who does not want their wine to have mass in it, as in life? Who would reject an elixir drawn from iron-rich earth, boiled through limestone and warmed to a rosy madder? Who can deny the pure joy culled from a wine that might steal the words from the mouths of poets?

In Canada, unearthing such gems requires intestinal fortitude, especially considering the search is mapped out in government-controlled stores. Stock norms do not include wines made from lesser-known grapes, from regions and appellations less frequented. It takes time, effort and most of all, patience. Life can get in the way of the endless and unavailing chase; work that pays, kids, weather, fatigue. Sometimes it just makes sense to abide and even embrace the easier, well-worn path. This is where the bigger wineries step in, toting larger case loads and a middle-of-the-road, radio bathos experience.

There are varietal vicissitudes to ferret out from varieties you might have chosen to avoid. New World Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Zinfandel. Rhône blends. Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Tempranillo. All these grapes are often mistreated, modernized, smothered in oak and homogenized so that their indigenous origins are blurred into a bar of mass-produced chocolate. Occasionally they are done right by their makers.

In what has been such relentless cold, snow and ice, now into the oppressive dog days of winter, don’t think of drinking commercial wine as copping out. The big houses can be your friend, so loosen up and trust me when I tell you I’ve worked very hard to weed out the chaff and promise only to recommend the whole wheat. Here are seven current releases that made the pecuniary cut.

From left: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, and Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011

From left: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, and Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Okanagan Valley British Columbia (545012, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Here’s a juicy plum wine with noticeable warm alcohol that goes subterranean and won’t make you homesick for alien Pinot Noir. Athletic red with a quick first step and nerve, running a west coast offence, scoring points.  Char in licorice and a grid-iron, “uptight, uptight” bitter tendency but is a most saucy rendition. Extra point from clean, easy sweet tannins. Good length. Pinot on the radio. Really attractive price puts it at the head of its class.  90  Tasted February 2014  @MissionHillWine

Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, Napa Valley California, USA (590216, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Every so often a grape variety confounds and astounds, like this pretty in zinc Zinfandel. Almost mute as far as Zin goes, this CdV ”set out on the heels of the unknown.” Times like these normally produce lumbering, high-octane interpretations but this radical face is the Simon and Garfunkel of the variety. Singing with soft harmonies and composed as if by a deft balladeer. Flair comes from Spanish-like modernity – a good thing for Zin. Less bramble, more Ribera. Less reduction, more Montsant. Smooth as silk, reeking in vanilla, raspberry and symptomatic by a kiss of mineral. If but for one hollow mid-verse this would truly sing but that really is no big thing.  90  Tasted February 2014  @ClosDuValNapa

Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011, Napa Valley, California, USA (310409, $25.95, WineAlign)

One of the more quintessential, mid-range, rich and opulent Napa Chardonnays that steps out of the lobster butter dish in 2011. Apple-tinged terpenes show their presence, along with tarragon and a bag of just opened good and plenty. Piquant, poignant vintage, peppery and acting cooler than I ever remember it to be. Whether by chance or by choice, this is a welcome direction though I doubt its kind will soon be seen again.  89  Tasted January 2014  @RobertMondavi

From left: Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, and Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010

From left: Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, and Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010

Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Igt Rubicone Emilia-Romagna, Italy (225086, $29.95)

Decidedly modern in many ways; oak impart, varietal alliance and braggadocio. The nose speaks highly of unsettled alcohol and alchemy. Big on black cherry and earthy with a welcoming and necessary roasted rare and still kicking game component. The mellow support of Cabernet Sauvignon is kicked upside the head by full throttle, oak-laden Sangiovese. Though hot and bothered, there is a keen sense of acumen on display by the Emilia-Romagna team at Umberto Cesari.  89   Tasted January 2014  @UmbertoCesari

Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand (361253, $29.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Wonderful value in premium Marlborough Pinot Noir. Alluring sylvan aromatics, in a potpourri of violet, rose, plum and strawberry. Sharp, cranberry-pomegranate-cherry fruit flavours, the grain of red fife, and eye-popping acidity. An earthy terroirist, layered and delicious. Warm but not alcohol driven, touched by oak but not shaken and with just one coat of paint.  91  Tasted February 2014  @wairauriver

Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, Barossa, South Australia (Agent, 236257, $29.95, WineAlign)

The right Rhône immediacy of the 2011 Barossa vintage gets its hooks right in. Snapping with a direct blow uppercut to the jaw, this Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvédre blend goes right for the jugular with passion, not sugar. It’s a tricky mix, angular yet smooth, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Terrific charred, meaty flavours mixed with juniper and black raspberry, savoury spice and a chain of tannic length. Will age with metronome precision over a period of 10-15 years.  91  Tasted January 2014  @GrantBurgeWines

Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010, Rioja, Spain  (Agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

This 100% Tempranillo is Beronia’s enigma. Sourced from 40-plus year-old vines and housed for 14 months in new French oak. The Van Morrison bottling, if you will. Forget thoughts of a gnarly, tar and brambly red. This one is compliant and inviting. Cherry cheesecake gives it a dessert-like funk, with a baking spice and savoury plum pudding chaser. Vanilla is the unifying factor, the glaze, the icing on the cake, thanks to those new barrels. “You say “France” and I’ll whistle.” This is a pleasure to taste and ready for consumption.  90  Tasted January 2014  @BodegasBeronia

Good to go!