July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Italian Reds: Easy-Drinking Wines for Summer Dinners

As the weather starts to warm up, Italian herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary just call out to be served with grilled poultry, pasta and fish. And there’s nothing better to pair with that than Italian table reds: Chianti, of course, but also Montepulciano and other red blends are great lighter reds to go with light foods. My team tried a few of these types of table wines and came up with our favorites from two Italian wineries.

Cantina Giuliano

Shortly before Pesach, I had the honor to meet Eli Gaulthier, the owner of Tuscany’s Cantina Giuliano, one of just three fully kosher wineries in Europe. It is certified by the OU and the entire winery is under the supervision of the dayan of Amsterdam, Rav Eliezer Wolff. Cantina Giuliano has a farm-to-table restaurant and currently produces three types of wine and olive oil. Eli’s wife, Lara, whose family has lived in the Tuscan village of Casciana Alta for five generations, is learning the art of cheesemaking, and produces cheese for sale as well. For the restaurant, they also produce handmade jams, pasta, ice cream, croissants and bread. Half the year, the Gaultiers live in Strasbourg, France, where Eli learns in Beit Midrash full time; the other half of the year they buy grapes from the surrounding vineyards, make the wine alongside consultant/award-winning winemaker Luca D’Attoma, welcome guests to their restaurant and enjoy Tuscany.

Cantina Giuliano’s current offerings include the Chianti d.o.c.g. Primizie 2014, their first vintage (primizie means first fruits), which is a blend of sangiovese, merlot and ciliegiolo grapes. It was aged 50 percent in stainless steel and 50 percent in French oak, for nine months. D.o.c.g. stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. They refer to government guarantees of the wines’ origins and adherence to taste, alcohol levels, percentage of varietals used and vineyard yield.

“The wine has a nice complexity and construction, with a low viscosity. It’s easy to drink,” said Shoval, who took home the rest of this bottle. I found the wine pleasingly light, fruity and aromatic, and particularly easy for summertime quaffing. It is an ideal accompaniment to grilled chicken, sea bass or other white fish. It has a light minerality/funkiness that was very pleasing, and added to its complexity.

Cantina Giuliano also offers the Costa Toscana i.g.t. La Gioia 2015. Gioia means joy in Italian. The wine was aged 15 months in French oak, and has a greater depth and viscosity than the Chianti. The wine comprises 65 percent sangiovese, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon and 15 percent merlot. The wine also had a deeper color and required significantly more time to breathe before the herbal, earthy and mineral flavors came through; though some more intense cellar funk remained even then. Again, however, we noted there was complexity without a lot of viscosity, which really makes it a great choice for summer.

Both of these offerings, as well as their white wine, the Costa Toscana i.g.t. Vermentino 2016, are imported by Allied Imports, and are available at Wine Country and in many other fine wine stores. To learn more or to visit Cantina Giuliano on your summertime travels, visit http://cantinagiuliano.com/en/.

Borgo Reale

Allied’s other major imported Italian brand is Borgo Reale, which offers Chianti Vespertino 2015, Montepulchiano d’Abruzzo and Cantina del Borgo Reale Maturo. Borgo Reale does significant kosher runs under the supervision of the OU.

Borgo Reale Chianti Vespertino must be opened a few hours in advance of serving; otherwise, it seems like a very simple wine, albeit with a beautiful deep-purple color. Hours later, it opens and softens, and brings out the flavors of tart cherry, a touch of plum (without being too “plummy”), cranberry and a hint of chocolate. The wine has pleasing, balanced tannins and “would go great with chocolate mousse,” said Brooke. “This wine is palatable, still with lower viscosity than a traditional red like cabernet, simple, fruity, with a little bit of acid,” said Allyson. “This is a classic Chianti,” I thought. “This is my favorite in terms of taste,” Brooke added.

Borgo Reale Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is made from the Montepulciano grape from Abruzzo, a mountainous region east of Rome. In the kosher version, some sangiovese grapes may be added. This wine has a good aromatic nose, with notes of fresh fruit. It has round tannins, excellent structure and delicate acidity. “This has a great color, and is so mellow and balanced,” said Shoval. “Because it doesn’t have strong tannins, this is not a ‘wow’ wine, but it’s decent and easy to drink, and sometimes that’s what matters,” he added.

We also tried the Borgo Reale Maturo, which we found to be extraordinarily plummy and fruity, even though it had been aged for six month in oak. It had the essences of autumnal spice, like nutmeg, and had a significant warmth going down. “There are a lot of different flavors going on here,” said Allyson. The wine is made with 55 percent primitivo and 45 percent negroamaro grapes, providing, according to more than one wine website, “the opulent velvetiness of the great northern wines with southern warmth and earthiness.”

The entire Borgo Reale line, which also includes pinot noir and pinot grigio, is available at Wine Country and other fine kosher wine stores.

All of the wines mentioned in this tasting retail for $14 to $23. Thanks to Allied Wines for providing the wines for this tasting.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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