Alois Family Wines, drinking like it’s the year 1700 A.D.

Cost: $14.99-$40.00

Where buy now: Thomas Liquors, Zipp’s Liquors, Solo Vino & France 44

Grapes: Casavecchia, Pallagrello, Falanghina, Aglianico

Region: Campania, Italy

Vintage: See below.

Alois Wines
Alois Wines

 

Any time an Italian man comes to town, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be bellied up at the tasting bar trying my hand at broken Italian, slurring the few phrases I can still recite from my two years of University study. I always begin with my favorite, “Guarde le stelle, la luna e tu; tutte le cose belle delle notte.” Translation: “Look at the stars, the moon and you; all the beautiful things of the night.

Off the record, in my early 20s, this phrase garnered lots of Italian tail. (By the way, that’s not true. At all.)

Ahem, I digress, I’m here to tell you about an Italian winemaker, Massimo Alois (Ahl-oys), from Campania, Italy. He was recently in town pouring samples of his family’s wines at Zipp’s Liquors.

Here is  Fred (from Rootstock Wine Company, responsible for Massimo’s precious cargo) & Massimo.

Fred & Massimo
Fred & Massimo

Here is Massimo, Peter (from Thomas Liquors) and me. Psst – 25% off sale right now through Oct. 18!

Massimo, Peter & Me
Massimo, Peter & Me

Massimo is a lovely man who speaks terrific English. He’s ready and willing to answer any questions and explain about the wines, family history and vineyards.

Massimo, along with his father, Michele Alois, have a rich history. I’ll spare you the full-on nerdery in favor of the Cliff’s Notes version.  After all, there’s wine to drink, people.

The Alois name is synonymous around the world for it’s rich silks and tapestries. This is evident in places such as the White House, Italian Parliament and even the Louvre. The Alois factory, located in Caserta, began in 1885 and continues to this day. In 1992, Michele decided to begin foraging and planting native grapes. In concert with the Universities of Napoli and Firenza, he started cultivating a forgotten strain of indigenous ancient Roman  grapes. I think it’s incredible that grapes such as Casavecchia or Pallagrello (Ferdinando IV of the Bourbon family, King of Naples from 1751 to 1825, fave) survived the Phylloxera outbreak of the late 1800s! [Man, I LOVE that Brad Mitt movie!] Today, the Alois family still has ties to the silk factory; however, winemaking has become the main family passion.

The vineyards are situated about 15 miles from Mt. Vesuvius, which is still an active volcano. (Yikes!) Because of this proximity, much of the vines grow from volcanic soil, giving the wines an added layer of minerality. Some say “ashy”,  but I think that sounds gross, and frankly do not detect that in these wines.

I would have bought them all if I wasn’t saving for a NYC vacation. Alas, I came away with these three:

Caitî 2012 – 100% Pallagrello Bianco. Gold in color, rich in tropical fruit, and followed up with balanced acidity. This reminded me of a tart Chablis. Patio perfect to have alongside a nicoise salad, grass fed llama reduction foam, or tuna tartare. (Who am I kidding, I’ve never eaten any of that on my patio.) Drink it with any salad or a tuna fish sandwich. Very palate pleasing!

Settima 2010 – Blend of Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. Oh Madone! This gal is a-spicy little a-number. Hints of smoke swirl among the spices, red berries, toasted plum skins and strong tannins. Drink this Old World hottie up with fatty sausages or meatballs.

Murella 2008 – 100% Pallagrello Nero. This red wine is smooth, voluptuous, even. If Helen Mirren was a wine, she’d be Murella. This wine has such finesse and grace. She doesn’t need to slap you across the face; she, alone, draws you in with her charm, leaving you wanting more.

The real importance here is your bragging rights to say “I am drinking like a king.” Thanks King Ferdinando IV!

The tides are turning along with the leaves, get out your pot (cooking vessel) and make a big ‘ol vat of chili, Italian “gravy”, beef stew or some other classic stick-to-your-ribs dish. Ladle it up in a bowl, tear a hunk of bread and pop one of these wines.

Now, for a taste of full-on nerdery, including a regional map, list of varietals and wines, read below. Otherwise, as my husband might say: “BON APPETITO!” (He has literally never once said that.)

Read in detail here.

Kirkland Brand Côtes du Rhône Villages

cotedurhone
Côtes du Rhône Villages

Cost: $6.99

Where buy now: Costco

Grapes: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre

Region: Rhone, France

Vintage: 2012

To be frank, this wine startled me. Really? A seven dollar Costco chuggin’ wine?

 

Pronounced (Coat-duh-Rone Vih-lahzh) it’s tickled with ripe cherry and old fashioned red licorice flavors. Wait, red licorice? No, not that corn syrupy Twizzlers crap- the REAL stuff. Decent tannins and finish. I decree at only $6.99, this is my Skank Wine of the month pick.

 

We paired Kirkland Brand Côtes du Rhône Villages with some grilled lamb chops (which you can also buy for a song at Costco). Our total meal, wine included, cost $20.  Remember: here in Minnesota, you do NOT need to be a Costco member to buy booze. It’s separate from the main warehouse.

 

From what the Farmer’s Almanac has been forecasting, we may be in for one helluva long Winter (again). Therefore, at only $6.99, buy a damn case. Your soul will thank you when you’re ready to fashion a noose because it’s still 100 f’ing below in March.

 

If you’re just a drinker and not a researcher, move your ass going to the store. Want to read more on the differences among the Côtes du Rhône region upon your return? I defer you to my pals at Wine Folly.

A Tale of Two Chianti Classicos: Borgo Scopeto & Badia a Coltibuono

Cost: Average price $17 (on sale $12.99)

Where buy now: Sorella Wines, Surdyk’s

Grapes: Sangiovese

Region: Tuscany, Italy

Vintage: 2010 & 2011

Borgo Scopeto & Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico
Borgo Scopeto & Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico

I love me some Chianti. I don’t care what it’s like outside, inside, in my head or in my bed. I.Love.It. Today, I’ll tell you a tale of two Chiantis (both “Classicos”). Just when you think you’re getting the hang of this Italian wine thing, little nuances pop up.  What’s the difference between plain old Chianti and Chianti Classico?

Brass tacks

Italy: a country in Europe.
Tuscany: a region in Italy.
Chianti: a region in Tuscany.
Chianti Classico: a subregion of Chianti

Deep Cuts

Italy: a country full of beautiful people, places and things [food].
Tuscany: romantic sunsets with the redolence of Cyprus , often associated with rolling hills, wine and olive production.
Chianti: wine that is made with a minimum of 75% Sangiovese grapes. (Note that blending white grapes with Sangiovese grapes is permissible.)
Chianti Classico: wine that is, at minimum, 80% Sangiovese grapes blended only with other red grapes. In addition, Chianti Classico rests in oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months. You will also see a black rooster seal on bottles of Chianti Classico. This is known as Consorzio Chianti Classico, a group of winemakers whom want to uphold the quality of their wines and their region.

Let me introduce you two a couple Chianti Classicos I love and are under $15 (on sale, at least).

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico (2010) – Blend: 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, 5% Colorino.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico (2011) – Sangiovese.

Both of these wines exhibit that typical red ruby hue. Gun to my head, I’d say Badia a Coltibuono was a touch deeper in color.

Borgo Scopeto needed to open up about 15 minutes and it exhibited more of a blackberry jam fragrance. It also tastes of dark berries (with less of that earthy layer) and is chewier- definitely more “cat tongue” going on than the Coltibuono. This Chianti was a touch thinner in texture and excited the sides of my tongue. The finish was decent, but dissipates quicker than the Coltibuono.

Coltibuono fragrance was blackberry fruit with a layer of earth, both of which are evident in it’s taste as well. It boasts deep, rich flavors and layers that went swimmingly with our freshly grilled New York strip. This wine excited all areas of my tongue and has a nice, lingering finish.

Take the “Pepsi Challenge” and decide for yourself. Perhaps you’ll find a fave or find each of them pleasing. Regardless the challenge, make sure you have some nice aged Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago. If you want to veer away from Italian cheeses (blasphemy!) most any hard cheese with some crystallization will do. (Just go see Certified Cheese Professional, Liz, at the Northeast Lunds.)

Other yummy pairing morsels include: roasted veggies (I love roasted cauliflower), grilled steak, lambchops (PS- Costco’s lambchops rule with some salt, pepper and a lil’ Rosemary), lasagna, cannelloni, ravioli, manicotti, eggplant parmesan, any red sauce smothered item, chili, pork roast and hamburgers. A while back, I ate bánh mì with Jason Kallsen’s Twin Cities Wine. Here he is schooling me about the Chianti Classico region.

Jason Kallsen
Jason Kallsen

This is the best part of Chianti: it doesn’t require “fancy”. This is a wine you can dress up or dress down. Walk to your nearest gas station (who are you kidding, you’ll drive), pick up a Heggies “6 pack” pizza and pair away.

What is Heggies? Read Chris Clayton’s Twin Cities Business article.

As a wise man once said, “If it’s good to you, it’s good for you”.