I tossed together some hearty rigatoni with spicy peppers, pea-sized green tomatoes, Italian sausage and San Marzano tomato sauce, and I needed a muscular red to pair with it. The 2007 Monte Volpe Primo Rosso looked about right; its name means “Wolf Mountain” and it packs a 14.5% alcohol punch.
Reading the back label left me feeling a bit skeptical, however. I was intrigued to try this California blend of exclusively Italian varietals, but they really threw just about everything they could in this wine:
Primo Rosso (meaning 1st or best red) is a proprietary blend of several old world red grape varieties including Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Carignane, Negroamaro and Nebbiolo… This wine was aged for 18 months in American, Eastern European and French Burgundy oak barrels.
So let me get this straight — there are at least five varieties (maybe more) aged in three different kinds of oak. I’m no winemaker, and I certainly have only the most rudimentary knowledge of blending, but good heavens, is that necessary? I mean, how many different kinds of oak does one really need in a wine?
Some highly regarded wines make use of complicated blends, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Its AOC allows up to 18 different varietals to be used in these famous wines. But I can’t help but feel it’s all a little gimmicky. It seems like three or four varieties should be enough to achieve a desirable result.
This particular mutt of a wine had a clear, deep, brick-red color and an enticing aroma that smelled surprisingly aged. I liked the structure — tannins made themselves apparent at the front of the palate, with fruit in the middle and some spiciness at the back. A most pleasant drink on a cool summer evening.
It tasted better on its own than with the pasta, unfortunately, but that was my fault. The spiciness in the wine enhanced the spiciness of the pasta, when what I really wanted was for my palate to be cooled in between bites. The next time I need to match a spicy tomato sauce, I think I’ll try a sweeter Grenache, or perhaps a smoky, meaty Pinotage.
2007 Monte Volpe Primo Rosso: A complicated blend with fine structure and appealing flavors of dark fruit. Chill 15 minutes in the fridge before serving.
Find It: This wine came as part of a mixed case from a monthly wine club. According to the winery’s website, it’s currently sold out.