Monday, March 10, 2008

Molise, Molise, Molise

One of the great things about Italy is that there's always a new grape to discover, or even a whole region. For example, Molise was a region unknown to me until just a few weeks ago, although I can tell you it's on my radar now.

So where the heck is Molise, you ask? Well, if Italy's a boot, Molise is a small knot of muscle on the midcalf, sandwiched between Abruzzo and Puglia on the Adriatic coast. Wikipedia says it's a highly educated if largely abandoned region of mountains and rolling hills with a good number of ethnic Croats and Albanians. Beyond that, I am having a hard time finding much information about Molise, at least as it regards wine. The winters are cool to cold, the summers warm to hot, and the soils seem to range from sandy clay to loamy clay. How's that for specific?

While I may be frustrated by the lack of readily available information, I am anything but frustrated by the following wines.

Borgo di Colloredo Molise Rosso 2003
Let's start off on a deceptively modest note, shall we? Molise was politically integrated with Abruzzo until the mid-1960s and it will thus not surprise you to know that Montepulciano is grown here; and this wine is 100% Montepulciano. The Borgo di Colloredo has an intriguing nose I could describe as candied dirt and cherries. It is a really nice, drinkable wine of red fruit and spice, with modest tannins and medium weight, with excellent mineral definition: mineral spring clean and structured at the same time. The acidity is very food-friendly and it was great with the pizza that my friend Mark and I ate as we watched Barack and H***ary debate in Texas.

One of the most interesting turns this wine made was the fact that it doesn't easily turn, even though this sees no oak. I forgot about it for four days, then popped it open with the assumption that I'd be pouring it down the sink. Not so fast! So I paired it with a quick dinner of peppery tuna and pasta and it was quite nice. All this for $14? Let's call this a Tuesday-plus wine: good for Tuesdays, plus any other day.

Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico 2003
My friends, this is where things get serious. This wine wants to have a talk with you. Don't let Robert Parker's praise of this wine dissuade you; Wicker Parker is here to tell you that yes, this organically-grown number is a real wine.

The 2003 Contado is, in short, terrific. Its black fruit is deep and dark, but so is its minerality, which tastes volcanic to me. It's very pure and full-bodied, with a long finish. It was even better the second night, when the minerals were stitched ever more comfortably into the fruit. A certain something has traveled upward from deep vines; and whatever it is, this wine shows us what it is. You can see the show for around $17.

Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico 2004
And then I had the chance to nab the 2004 vintage. Whereas the 2003 is black, the 2004 Contado is purple. I'm talking violets and boysenberries here. It's also a bit more delicate than the 2003, with higher-toned acidity and a clean minerality that strikes me as more granitic than volcanic, if that makes any sense.

Again — here we go — this deepens markedly on the second night, and its strong but delicate presence reminds me of an Hermitage. OK, I've had very little Hermitage, so call me on this if you want; but I'm getting granite, delicacy, violets, and a deep spinal power that puts overextracted wines in their place. This wine could be paired with anything this side of broiled white fish. It's neither sweet nor bitter nor overly tannic; and thanks to its body and spine of acidity, it was great with a hearty veggie lasagna.

The weird thing is, it declined markedly on its third night. It became blunted somehow, a bit meaner. Whatever its long-term prospects, I would give this 'til 2010 to fully blossom; and since this vintage is also $17, you might be able to afford to sock a bottle or two away.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Loved your comments on the Contado - didn't know it was organically grown grapes. Great blog, by the way.