Archive for March 2009

Benanti Etna Bianca Superiore Pietramarina 2004

March 18, 2009

The DOC of Etna is one of Italy’s most exciting in terms of native offerings. Here, on the slopes of this active volcano, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio can produce stunning red wines of ethereal fragrance and serious structure, its characters somehow reminiscent of Pinot Noir. There is no doubt that the recognition for the wines from this DOC can mainly be attributed to its reds, however, the whites should definitely not be overlooked as shown by this gem from Benanti. Entirely made from 80 year-old, low-yielding Carricante vines, this is the perfect example how the wet, humid and cool conditions on the Etna help to retain nervy, fresh acidity. Knowing the winemaking is pretty basic, including gentle pressing, temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks, and several months of maturing before bottling, the power of fruit shown in this wine is even more amazing. Light gold in the glass, the nose runs through intense aromas of flowers, apple, pear, lemon, orange peel and other citrus fruit, all recurring on a palate where succulent texture, almost salty acidity and concentrated fruit are impeccable balanced towards a slightly bitter-spicy finish. This is one of the most impressive Italian whites I’ve had recently.

Source: Enoteca Sileno/The Grocer  Price: $75  Drink: Now-2012

Web: www.vinicolabenanti.it

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2006

March 1, 2009

On a recent trip to Margaret River I’ve been confronted again with the boom of new wineries and cellar doors. Along with the fortunes made in mining, a lot of those places have been there for a while, especially at the northern end of the Wilyabrup area, but this time I suddenly became aware of the scale of developments. In the battle of egos big is the keyword, with oversized buildings, golden statues, water features and the ever compulsory cast iron gates.  To me it all seems unnecessary, especially in an otherwise unspoiled region like Margaret River where less is generally so much more beautiful. The comparison with the region’s Chardonnays is never far away, as the personality of these wines is often expressed through excessive oak, alcohol and lees stirring. Fortunately an increasing number of winemakers moves away from this style, allowing fruit, site and vintage speak for themselves. The Cape Mentelle Chardonnay is a perfect example with lower alcohol, well handled, restrained use of oak, and fresh, clean and crisp fruit. Sure, this cool vintage has helped to craft a leaner wine, although I also believe in a well chosen approach to style. It has all resulted in a clear, light straw coloured wine with aromas of lemon, grapefruit, white peach, melon and subtle notes of vanilla, nutty and spicy oak preceding detailed and precise flavors that are build on a well balanced base of barrel ferment characters and natural acidity. This wine clearly shows how Australian Chardonnays can still be appealing without showy muscles and weight. 92 points

Source: LVMH  Price: $43  Drink: Now-2012

Web: www.capementelle.com.au