Cantina Sociale di Puianello,
Quattro Castella, Emilia-Romagna
We met these guys through a friend of a friend (ciao e grazie Arrigo!) and were immediately impressed by their almost surreal professionalism. Their stand at VinItaly was like a Formula One pit stop: Marketing Director Vittorio Maltezze welcomed us in perfect English, we sat and within seconds a crack staff went to work and for nearly an hour glasses appeared and were replaced like magic, top flight Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and cured pork products materialized seemingly out of thin air (with their salt, spice and sweetness levels matched to each new wine), technical and marketing brochures in English landed next to each new glass, mineral water filled our glasses, spit buckets were dumped and replaced without us even noticing let alone asking. And the wines? As the company motto says, “É buono, è un Puianello” (it’s good, it’s a Puianello)! Now for the story:
In 1938 five grape growers in the hills of the tiny hamlet of Puianello near Reggio founded a co-op so they could make wine instead of selling grapes and thereby see a little more of the profit on the fruit of their labor (and they located the cantina at an address on Via Carlo Marx, quite fitting for a Cantina Sociale, don’t you think?). Over the years more growers joined bringing more land so that today there are 330 members producing a large range of wines in many styles with a focus on the traditional frizzante and spumante styles of the zona, red, white and rosato, ranging from bone dry through “amabile” (amiable or friendly) to dessert wines. We tasted over twenty of them and brought in four that fill some holes in our ever expanding omniverse of fine fizz.
Puianello Lambrusco Grasparosso Secco Contrada Monticelli, Emilia-Romagna
This is serious, BONE DRY, red (well almost black) wine that you can serve with almost anything and has the added food matching advantage of strong and persistent effervescence and the fact that you serve it cold. The perfect solution for hot days, hot foods or hot dates…it’s versatile.
Puianello Lambrusco dell’Emilia Rosso Amabile, Emilia-Romagna
Very dark and packed with full throttle spicy black fruit, finished just off-dry (but more than balanced by the bubbles and natural acidity of the Lambrusco variety). At this price you can pound it with classic pasta Bolognese, BBQ (Texas, North Carolinian, South Korean, bring it on), pizza or brunch and still pay your bills.
Puianello Lambrusco Grasparossa Amabile Luceria, Emilia-Romagna
This is serious, OFF DRY, red (well almost black) wine that you can serve with almost anything and has the added food matching advantage of medium but persistent effervescence and the fact that you serve it cold. The perfect solution for hot days, hot foods or hot dates…it’s versatile.
The LA Times’ Jean T. Barrett on the joys of Lambrusco:
“AND WHAT of the reds? An antipasto array that includes smoked and cured meats calls out for the classic wine pairing with charcuterie, Emilia-Romagna’s frothy Lambrusco. What? you ask, incredulously. Are you referring to that fizzy sweet drink that many of us cut our wine teeth on? Hardly. True, most Lambrusco exported to the U.S. is pop wine, but the best bottlings from quality-oriented producers in the DOC zones around Modena and Reggio display a lush fruitiness and fizz as well as firm acidity and tannins that contrast deliciously with the salty, rich flavors of dry salami, prosciutto and other charcuterie. For an even drier and bolder version, sample Puianello’s Contrada Borgoleto Lambrusco Reggiano. It is deep garnet in color, intensely jammy and tarry in the bouquet, and tastes like dark cherry soda while being absolutely bone dry. Please pass the salami . . . and the olives . . . and the crostini. . . “
Piuanello Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa
Marzemino Nobilomo Dolce, Emilia-Romagna
This is a rich, smuckery and exotically spicy fruit bomb of a Marzemino finished at just 9% alcohol and with 4% residual sugar (a tad sweet but not really a dessert wine, it’s more of a picnic tipple or maybe just a nice glass to relax with after work). Remember, if you tell us that the case you are buying the day after you tried a bottle is for your grandmother or your Russian nanny who misses similar wines from Georgia (the one in the former USSR!), we will keep it on the down low that you are secretly in love with it.
Puianello Ancellotta dell’Emilia Dolce BonDaMat
100% Ancellotta with a dark red color, intense rose petal and violet notes on the nose followed by lots of ripe berry fruit and medium sweetness on the palate. In their brochure the enologist says it is “similar to the more trumpeted Brachetto Piemontese but at lower cost” and that just about nails it. Already a sensation with local Italiani, get yours before they buy it all….
Giuseppe e Ricciarda Caprari,
Reggio Emilia, Emilia- Romagna
Lambrusco is a very mysterious wine: most people will never admit to drinking any yet, as Carl Sagan might say, every year millions and MILLIONS of bottles are made, sold and enjoyed. Somehow when someone opens a bottle of quality Lambrusco, the contents seem to vaporize as if by magic and everyone forgets their old college war stories of bad run ins with Riunite, Cold Duck or worse. Cantina Caprari was established in 1927 and the current generation are making the best wines ever with a strong eye towards traditional methods, styles and culture (the Foieta is named after a traditional bowl used to consume broth, wine and filled pasta all in one go to fortify the vineyard workers for their tasks) while taking advantage of newer technology where it fits in.
Caprari Lambrusco dell’Emilia Dolce Frizzante 2011, Emilia-Romagna
The softer, sweeter (but not too sweet) sister of our beloved Foieta (below), this rocks with fruit and cheese, spicy red sauce Q, picnic fare or just a sunset and a friend….
Caprari Lambrusco dell’Emilia Secco
Frizzante Foieta 2011, Emilia-Romagna Sold Out, New Vintage Soon!
BONE Dry, deeply colored and flavored with bright fruit and spice, this can be served with a wide range of plates: Penne Arrabbiata, real Smoked Bar-B-Que, your family Lasagna recipe, Tandoori meats, Szechuan stir fries or a traditional holiday feast, you name it, it works. Mmm Mmmm Good!
Podere dal Nespoli, Forli, Emilia-Romagna
Fabio and Celita Ravaioli absolutely delighted us with a tour of their cantina this past April: aside from showing us their beautiful vineyards and new cellar, introducing us to cellarmaster Valerio (father of Celita, cousin of Fabio and the official wild boar hunter of the estate) and plying us with barrel samples, they took us to a very traditional Romagnian trattoria where local ceramics workers, truck drivers and other wine producers chow down on fantastic pasta, homemade cheese and sausages and cotoletta di castrati. It was there that Celita remarked that a heavenly dish of lightly scrambled farmhouse eggs covered with perhaps $100 worth of white truffles (at LA pricing) was, in fact, the typical meal of the local POOR people because “everyone had chickens and a dog to find truffles with”….!
Podere dal Nespoli Sangiovese di Romagna Fico Grande 2011, Emilia-Romagna
Celita’s basic Sangiovese has gone and all growed up on us: dark color, rich fruit, good acidity…killer value sangio…meaty and complex, medium bodied, perfect for what it is, THE pizza, pasta & burger wine of the moment.
Podere dal Nespoli Sangiovese di Romagna
Vigneto di Prugneto 2007, Emilia-Romagna
The best vintage yet of our most popular Sangiovese based wine ever, this is deeply colored and zesty enough for BBQ, Penne Arrabiata or Texas Chile. Yes, this is the one with the grocery bag colored label that has been kicking Chianti ass for a nearly a decade now and, yes, we have plenty.
Podere dal Nespoli Forli Sangiovese Teluccio 2003, Emilia-Romagna 500ml
This is completely over the top, made in an Amarone headed towards Port style by air drying the best Sangiovese grapes. Serve it with big cheeses, game stew, tandoori platters or maybe just a good book, a comfy chair and a roaring fireplace….
Tenuta Uccellina, Bertinoro Emilia-Romagna
Alberto Rusticali does things the old fashioned way: by hand. His unique wines have been cult favorites from the instant we brought them to you eight years ago. The Reggio burnt such an impression in one customer’s mind that he called us every two weeks for TWO YEARS wanting to know when it was returning. The wines are here now but are VERY limited. Aside from the lovely juice, the watercolor labels on some of them are exquisite…
Tenuta Uccellina Burson Ravenna Etichetta Blu 2008, Emilia Romagna
Tenuta Uccellina Burson Ravenna Riserva Etichetta Nero 2004, Emilia Romagna
Have you had your minimum daily requirement of Longanesi today? This is only the third time that any bottlings of this ultra rare wine have ever been brought to America (you demolished the previous two loads in less than a month each time). They are made from an ancient native variety called Longanesi which has grown wild in the pine forests of Romagna since being once cultivated there in Roman times and was only recently brought back to domesticated viticulture. Very dark in color with rich pomegranate and red plum fruit supporting a smokey, gamey, spicy, “bring on the food and fun” attitude bursting out of the glass.
Tenuta Uccellina Rosso Passito Sangiovese
Regio 2003, Emilia-Romagna 500ml Sold Out, New Vintage Soon!
Oh…My…Gaaawd…this is not like anything you’ve ever put in your mouth: It looks like cherry juice with Turkish coffee floating in it, it smells like dried apricots, dark chocolate and nutmeg and it tastes like all of those things and more. 120 BOTTLES only for the Western Hemisphere.