Posts Tagged DOC

The Messy Heel Of Italy’s Boot

17 September 2011

When writing about a wine for this blog, I like to do a little casual research, consulting the tomes weighing down the coffee table. Usually I find they’re in general agreement about a particular varietal or region and I glean various complementary tidbits of information from each.

However, in the case of Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, my two favorite sources conflicted so completely, I didn’t know what to think. Both The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson and The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson agree that “a great many ordinary wines are still produced” (Stevenson) in Puglia. Beyond that, it’s as if I were reading about two different wine regions.

Stevenson concedes that in the 1970’s, most of Puglia’s wines “were seen fit only for blending or for making vermouth,” but he strikes a much more optimistic tone than Robinson, noting that Puglian winemakers “radically” transformed the industry and “various changes have greatly improved the situation.” Lower yielding varieties have been introduced, he explains, and winemakers moved “away from the single-bush cultivation, known as alberello, to modern wire-trained systems.” All in all, Puglia shows “renewed promise.”

Robinson sounds an altogether more pessimistic note, mourning the demise of single-bush cultivation. She points out how “Many growers have taken subsidies from the European Union to grub up their vineyards but, unfortunately, many of these were of low-yielding bushvines, while those remaining tend to be high-cropping inferior varieties planted on fertile soils.” Even in DOC zones, “High yields are the rule, and a significant number of DOCs have lost credibility with excessively tolerant production limits.”

What to think? I turned to my old standby, André Dominé’s Wine, for a tie-breaking opinion. (more…)

Out-Of-Control Controllata

14 September 2011

The deliciously cool evenings of September call for light, fun reds — it’s still too warm to crack open the really serious stuff. While picking up a few odds and ends at Trader Joe’s, I noticed a $7 bottle of 2007 Epicuro Salice Salentino, a sunny red from Puglia, and for a Denominazione di Origine Controllata Riserva, it seemed like a steal.

Until, that is, I read up a bit on the Italian wine classification system. According to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, the DOC classification system was created in the 1960’s, when Italian wine was arguably at its worst. New wines and new techniques fit poorly into the government’s system, and subsequent revisions to the system have helped but little (Super Tuscans being a notable exception). Even now, innovation continues to be stifled by poorly designed government regulations.

So much for my system of seeking out wines with Controllata, Riserva or Controllata e Garantita on the label.

In any case, $7 seemed hard to beat, the inconsistencies of the DOC structure notwithstanding. I suspect it was so inexpensive because it was already old; wines like this aren’t really meant to age. I uncorked it and hoped for the best.


It’s Italian! Or — Spanish? No…

22 May 2011

Recently I walked into Evanston’s southerly Whole Foods expecting to buy just a few groceries, but I discovered a deal too good to pass up:  20% off cases of wine, including wines already on sale. I nearly cleaned the place out.

One oddball that caught my eye was an organic Barbera with a Spanish name: Pircas Negras (roughly “black stone wall”).  Reduced from $13 to just $8 after all the discounts, I could hardly pass it up.

Barbera first appears in the historical record as “barbexinis” in 13th-century contracts leasing the local vineyards of Casale Monferrato in Italy’s Piedmont region. The varietal still features prominently in the region, giving its name to three DOC areas: Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba and Barbera del Monferrato (unfortunately the latter can be more difficult to find in the U.S.).

What was this Italian varietal doing with a Spanish name? The Pircas Negras hails not from Piedmont but from La Rioja. But not that La Rioja.