Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sparking Aglianico? What the...

You and I both know that sparkling wines are made in every corner of the wine world, and yet the origin of some of these wines still surprises me. Take, for example, the 2004 Cantine del Notaio La Stipula Brut Rosé. I do not deliberately seek out sparkling wines from southern Italy, let alone vintage-dated bubblies made from biodynamically-grown aglianico sourced from the Aglianico del Vulture appellation. So when one presents itself, how can I pass it up?

The La Stipula is made using the "Metodo Classico" and certainly the cork popped with a good deal of force. In the glass this pretty, rhubarb-colored wine bubbles aggressively, and you'll get a snootful of aerosolized wine if you're not careful. It's worth the risk, though, to inhale the earthy and tart aromas of cherry, strawberry, and (yes) rhubarb. The mousse is creamy on the palate, and again the soft earthiness prevails, with enough sweet-tart fruit to balance things out, as well as some lovely spice and minerals on the finish. I wouldn't say that I'm licking a volcanic rock here, but the dark minerality that's typical of Aglianico del Vulture comes through in this bright wine.

Moreover, it's actually tannic, which makes a mockery of the producer's advice that we drink the La Stipla as an aperitif — it demands food. On the first night it was a nice great match for baked sea bass, creamy polenta, and a green salad, while on the second, it went well with spicy Thai curry.

All this said, this is not a particularly deep wine, and at this price (almost $40) certain grower Champagnes would be a better choice for many occasions. But if you're looking for a unique bubbly that showcases its terroir honestly, and if you're going to serve it with a meaty fish — again, this was terrific with the baked sea bass — this is a fine choice.

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