New wines for a New Year: from Italy to Napa Valley

By Ray and Eleanor Heald

Tuscany (Toscana) is the most famous wine region in Italy and wines labeled Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Chianti Classico are in the part of Tuscany where sangiovese is the principal grape variety.

Maremma (from Latin mare, or sea) is located in southwestern Tuscany, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea to the east. Nearness to the sea yields a climate more moderate than the hills of central Tuscany, allowing earlier ripening and more consistent harvest.

Ampeleia, founded in 2002, is located in the Maremma village of Roccatederighi, just west of Montalcino, and boasts 94 acres of vineyards, planted at elevations up to 2,000 feet above sea level. Winery manager Simona Spinelli explains, "Three vineyards are surrounded by olive and cork trees in a region of great biodiversity. The grapes are grown biodynamically, ensuring the soil is healthy and rich in microorganisms and the wine is fermented using only indigenous yeast."

The vineyard known as Ampeleia di Sopra, with the highest elevation, is planted to cabernet franc. Ampeleia di Mezzo is planted to sangiovese, carignan, grenache and alicante bouschet. While Ampeleia di Sotto is planted to grenache, alicante bouschet, mourvedre and marselan, grapes usually associated with those of the Rhone Valley in southern France.

The following Ampeleia wines are grown in Tuscany's Maremma district, but are labeled Costa Toscana to emphasize their Tuscan regionality.

2012 Unlitro, $21/liter. A 50/50 blend of grenache and mourvedre, aged three months in cement tanks and bottled unfiltered in February to yield a wine with bright fresh-fruit cherry flavors that is light and easy to drink with burgers, pizza or even fish and chicken. Think Beaujolais style.

2011 Kepos, $24. A blend of grenache, mourvedre, alicante bouschet, carignan and marselan. Full bodied due to longer aging that boasts dark cherry and rose petal aromas with a lengthy finish. A delicious Italian wine with a Mediterranean heritage that won't break the bank.

2010 Ampeleia, $45. A blend of 60 percent cabernet franc, 10 percent sangiovese and 30 percent Mediterranean varieties. Aged in seasoned French oak barriques. Rich, full and smooth on the palate. A serious wine to accompany veal, pork or pasta with a rich, creamy mushroom sauce.

Eleanor & Ray Heald have contributed to numerous international publications including the Quarterly Review of Wines.
Contact them by e-mail at focusonwine@aol.com


Source: Downtown Birmingham-Bloomfield - Focus on Wine - 31.12.2013

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