don’t remember when I started comparing wine to women, but I do know I’ve done it for almost as long as I’ve made Italy my home. Pick a bottle of Italian wine from any wine cellar, supermarket, or neighborhood alimentari and what you hold in your hands is a woman.
Vino Novello, like the papaveri (poppies) that dot Italian landscapes in the late spring and early summer, is a precocious Italian lass. Young, ripe and juicy, she’s also sometimes fickle, allowing herself the luxury of being either surprisingly good, or disastrously bad. She’s the kind of woman you can never totally walk away from, and though years may pass, she is still able to dazzle you with her crimson beauty. She wraps you in a blanket of staining redness that’s both comforting and unpretentious. But she’s gone before you get too attached to having her in your life. You must then wait a full year before getting a chance to savor her again. When you do, though, chances are you’ll fall just as hard as you did the very first time.
Other wines are like elegant Italian noblewomen with pedigrees that go back centuries, much like the aristocratic families that produced them. At first glance, Chianti Classico Riserva appears to be of the same lineage as her straw-skirted cousins, but this blue-blooded Tuscan beauty is multilayered and much more complex. Delve into her mysteries and those who court her will discover that she is a sensual grand dame worth getting to know. Once smitten, our fascination with her elegance can stop us in our tracks, though she has her pick of ready suitors and is in no hurry to be wooed. A courtship with her takes time, and with time she will reveal all of her secrets.
Falanghina is like a fisherman’s daughter. A sturdy wine, that works as hard in the kitchen as in the glass. She has work to do and sets about doing it in an unpretentious way. Splash her here or there and she will liven-up a dish of cozze or spigola all’acqua pazza or take her along to the seaside and enjoy her simplicity as the sun sets. Those that go for blondes, will remember her as the sea-kissed, volcanic love affair they can never forget.
Then there’s that saucy chick named Amarone. She’s the one with long legs in Manolo Blahnik shoes that makes you think things your family wouldn’t approve of. A sex bomb that smells like violets, her kisses taste so good that its easy to forget just how high-octane she is. She’s the kind of girl your mother warned you about but that you can’t resist. Bottled trouble, your best friend wouldn’t think twice about stealing her from you if he could. Dark and sexy, with only a taste of her tongue she can bring you to your knees.
Want the phone numbers for all these ladies? I don’t have them, but you might just find them here:
Terrazze Della Luna Novello di Teroldego: Delightful ripe cherry fruit with a punchy, zingy flavor that tickle your tongue with a hint of sweetness.
Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli 2001: For a remarkable six centuries the Mazzei family has been making wine in Chianti. Often referred to as a Super Chianti Classico, it is made from 90 percent Sangiovese and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, the fruit coming from the Siepi, Fonterutoli and Belvedere vineyards. Aged in French barriques for up to 18 months, its regal character shows even before the first convincing sip.
With fine-grained tannins, black cherry and blackberry highlighting, this velvety red is elegantly balanced and multilayered with spicy notes of wood-smoke, vanilla and tobacco.
Feudi di San Gregorio “Serrocielo” 2004 (Falanghina): This tantalizing honey-colored wine smells of the sea, flowers and citrus, with a ripe pear and a hint of grapefruit at the finish. A weightier mouth feel than many Falanghina, it has a racy minerality that characteristically reflects the terrain that bore it.
Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera 2000: Produced through the age old winemaking method of appassimento (drying of the grapes), this full-bodied wine is bold and worth contemplating for years to come. Americans will enjoy its residual sugars, a heady bouquet, and lingering mouth feel. This is a spicy wine with dense black current coloring and jammy taste — not subtle but sumptuous.