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Wines Of Italy, Argentina And Africa


By Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr

When it comes to prestigious Italian wines, few can compete with the dense red wines from the Piedmont. But often forgotten in that discussion is the wine from Montalcino. It is here where the sangiovese grosso grape of Brunello di Montalcino is a big step up from the sangiovese of the much simpler chianti.

Anyone who has had a decade-old Brunello knows from taste that the wine is so delicious when the initial bright fruit character mellows.

Several producers just outside the hilltop town of Montalcino are making more modern wines that don’t require years of aging. That is what we found in three Brunello di montalcinos we recently tasted from Tenuta Col d’Orcia.

Now operated by Count Francesco Marone Cinzano, the property dates to the 14th century. But the winemaking has changed a lot through the centuries. Most recently, Cinzano introduced organic and biodynamic farming to the 370 acres of vineyards. The mineral zeolite has been added to the soil to retain water and nutrients. Water is becoming scarcer in European wine regions and only recently has irrigation been allowed in this region. Cinzano said he as dug lakes and wells to augment natural rain water.

One thing that has not changed is the use of large barrels, which Cinzano called “the magic formula” for brunello. Wine aged in large barrels get some oxygen to allow it to

2015 Col d’Orcia “Poggio al Vento” Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (MorrellWine)

evolve more slowly and enhance color and flavors.

We loved the 2017 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($64) for its abundant black cherry flavors and enticing hints of spice and easy tannins. Produced every year since the 1970s, this wine has an approachable New World style.

The 2016 Col d’Orcia “Nastagio” Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($90) is one of two single-vineyard brunellos. More complex, it has layers of red fruit, riper tannins and a long, dense finish. It was our favorite.

The 2015 Col d’Orcia “Poggio al Vento” Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($173) is only made in great vintages. Cinzano said he realized some time ago there was something special about this vineyard that was best bottled without the influence of other vineyards. Fossils and stones mix with sandy soil to bring a mineral note and intense tannins. It is aged for three years in large Slovonian and Allier oak barrels and then bottled for three years before release.

Brunello di Montalcino is enjoying a string of five great vintages. Now is the time to enjoy them.


Argentine malbecs represent some of the best wine values in the world.

Here are a few we recently enjoyed:

Bodegas Bianci L10 Malbec 2021 (FamilyWineriesDirect)

Terrazas de los Andes Malbec Reserva 2020 ($20). Expressive, fresh black fruit and violet aromas followed by delicious blackberry and plum flavors. A very good buy. The vineyards here are among the highest in elevation in Argentina – one is higher than 5,300 feet!

Domaine Bousquet Malbec Reserve 2021 ($17). Merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon are blended into this layered and delicious malbec. Red cherry and strawberry notes with a hint of spice and an earthy feel.

Bodegas Bianci L10 Malbec 2021 ($17). This producer is consistent in making good malbec with depth and character.  Generous flowery aromas with strawberry and raspberry flavors and an underlying minerality.  For a few bucks more, the L10 Premium Malbec ($30) is more complex.

Coen Uco Valley Classic Malbec 2019 ($25). Forward blackberry and plum flavors with hints of cocoa and mint. Very easygoing.

Bianchi L10 Malbec Mendoza 2021 ($25-28). A partnership of Bianchi and the much celebrated and world cup champion Lionel Messi. This is an impressive malbec with big bold and rich flavors with notes of cherries and plum. The perfect match with big bold meat dishes.

South African pinot noir

Pinot noir lovers know to turn to one of three main growing areas to source their juice. Burgundy is recognized as the ancestral home of this wonderful grape. California followed with pinot noir finding welcoming growing areas in California’s cooler climates. More recently Oregon pinot noir has gained a following among pinotphiles. In addition to these three areas New Zealand is making a credible move presenting some very tasty pinot noir.

Apart from the above areas other wine-producing counties also put out a smattering of pinot noir that only occasionally rise to consumer’s attention. So, we were intrigued to taste a pair of pinot noirs from South Africa, of all places. These wines originated in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley on South Africa’s most southern coast bordering the South Atlantic Ocean and only 2,400 miles from Antarctica. Formerly known as Walker Bay this area features cool temperatures and windy conditions that appear to offer a hospitable climate for both pinot noir and chardonnay. However, only 20 wineries produce wine in this region.

Storm Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge South Africa 2021 (Vivino)

We were very impressed with the quality of their wines which also included one chardonnay. Although a sampling of only three wines in a region that has only produced wine since 1975 is not definitive nor comprehensive, we will be looking out for more examples of Hamel-en-Aarde wine offerings.

We recommend all three although they may be difficult to find due to low production volume.

Storm Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge South Africa 2021 ($42). This reminded us of a well-made white burgundy from the Macon region of France. No apparent oak but a nice smoothness from light aging in new and used French oak.

Hamilton Russel Vineyards Pinot Noir Hemel-en-Aarde Valley South Africa 2021 ($55-65). Hamilton Russel is the original winery in this region. Bright ripe cherry fruit with a touch of sour cherry. A very light touch of oak and a style that echoes some high-end California pinot noir. Bosman Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley South Africa  ($25-30). This pinot noir projects a distinctive Burgundian style. Gamey pinot noir notes with a hint of earth and a wee whiff of smoke. Excellent value!

Wine notes

Matthews Claret Columbia Valley 2020 (Matthews Winery)

Chateau De Rouanne Vinsobres 2019 ($35). We haven’t tasted many wines from the Rhone Valley appellation of Vinsobres, so we were pleased to sample this wine. Crafted from 50 percent grenache, 40 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvedre, this wine is bold and offers abundant cherry and berry fruit notes and a streak of minerality along with agreeable soft tannins. A perfect partner with big bold winter meals.

Matthews Claret Columbia Valley 2020 ($30-35). A Bordeaux-inspired red wine featuring all of the traditional Red Bordeaux varietals. Notes of cherry, cassis and mocha blend to form a very classic wine. Pair with winter red meat dishes.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr, MoreAboutWine, posted on SouthFloridaReporter.com

Republished with permission

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly wine column for more than 30 years. Additional Wine reviews on MoreAboutWine

All photos are randomly selected and do not indicate any preferred wine. Listed prices are subject to change and do not include tax or shipping.

You can send questions to Tom Marquardt marq1948@gmail.com

Always drink responsibly!

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They have traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the United States. Tom currently resides in Naples with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. His web site is MoreAboutWine.com. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, MD.


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