One of the most enjoyable projects we’ve tackled this year is the reorganization of our Italian and French sections to more sensibly reflect the laws and labels of those countries and our selections. The foundation of those laws and labels, and therefore our display of the wines, is geography – namely where the grapes were grown. To be succinct, dirt matters.
Grapes, even or particularly the same grape varietal, grown in different places will produce wines that taste different from each other. I have yet to meet someone who, upon tasting a wine, says “mmm, it tastes like squished grapes” but I’ve tasted with many who say “hmm, definitely Old World, more Meursault than Chassagne.” Grapes can reflect where they’re grown far more distinctly than any fruit: a peach will taste like a peach wherever it will achieve ripeness, but Chardonnay grapes grown in Meursault will taste different than the ones grown and squished in Chassagne Montrachet. Or Russian River Valley, or Arroyo Grande, or Margaret River, or Casablanca Valley.
The United States is making progress in this area with AVAs that are smaller and more wineries being more specific about vineyards but the process here is really just starting. Italy and France are two of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world and relatively long ago codified the production and labeling of wine and based both things on where the grapes were grown. And after much planning and some effort, so do our shelves. So please stop by and peruse our Italian and French wines arranged, as they should be, according to the geography of those two countries. In looking through some of our French selections, as you walk up the aisle from the Côtes du Rhône in one corner to the Chablis at the end of the section, you’re figuratively taking a stroll through the vineyards of eastern France. In Italy, you’ll go from the islands of Sardinia & Sicily and walk all the way north to the Alto Adige.
Winding your way to and up Italy, I would suggest stopping to taste some squished grapes at the following points (general region included as an aid for both of us):
Sardegna – 2009 Argiolas Isola dei Nuraghi “Perderas” – $12.99
Puglia – 2011 Masseria Li Veli Valle d’Itria “Verdeca” – $17.99
Puglia – 2011 Monaci Rosato Salento “Kreos” – $12.99
Marche – 2011 Collestefano Verdicchio di Metalica – $14.99
Tuscany – 2006 Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino “Pertimali” – $59.99
Tuscany – 2006 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello di Montalcino “Pianrosso” – $54.99
Tuscany – 2007 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino – $64.99
Tuscany – 2007 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino “Altero” – $79.99
Piemonte – 2009 Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani – $14.99
Piemonte – 2007 Sottimano Barbaresco “Curra” – $59.99
Piemonte – 2004 Damilano Barolo “Cannubi” – $79.99
Venezia Giulia – 2010 Jermann Ribolla Gialla “Vinnae” – $19.99
Alto Adige – 2010 Elena Walch Lagrein – $14.99
From there, it’s a few steps to start a trip through France (these ‘regions’ are more specific, for help check out the maps at the top of our shelves or ask us):
2009 Clape Cornas – $129.99
2009 Allemand Cornas “Reynard” – $99.99
2009 Allemand Cornas “Chaillot” – $84.99
2009 Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse – $29.99
2010 Seguinot-Bordet Chablis – $19.99
2010 Malandes Chablis “Vaudesir” - $49.99
2010 Fevre Chablis “Les CLos” – $89.99
This last trio of Chardonnay-based wines are a delicious example of how much dirt matters and how there can be a quality-based scale for wines produced from the same general area. They are, in order, a “village” wine from the AOC of Chablis, a Premier Cru and a Grand Cru. These gradations are based on hundreds of years of grapes being grown in the dirt involved, with some relatively minor influences from the weather and producers. A discussion of those nitty-gritty differences in dirt has more to do with geology, and therefore deserving of its own post but start here with the geography and see if one level wants to make you climb to the next. Unless of course you’d prefer to start at the top!
Matt S., Beltramo’s Wine Consultant