Posted by: tomciocco | November 29, 2013

ALBANA: AN UNLIKELY MEMBER OF THE TOP CUT

Brunello di Montalcino?  A no brainer, and ditto with Barolo when the topic is red wine. And regarding whites, with wines like Soave Superiore and Fiano di Avellino, no doubts arise, but Albana di Romagna? Just what the hell am I talking about? In just a few words, or rather letters,  all of these wines are examples of Italy’s highest wine classification, D.O.C.G. (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita).

There are varying and multiple criteria that distinguish D.O.C.G. wines from the (supposedly) lesser D.O.C. and I.G.T. classifications, many of which have dubious direct connections to distinction or overall quality, but permissible yields for any given appellation (lower is better than higher) is one of the regulated figures that does have a real effect on the the character and ultimate virtues of a wine, but that said, the Albana  di Romagna D.O.C.G. norms permits growers to harvest at or above the levels of many D.O.C. wines, so what gives?

Well, as in most aspects of life, “politics” plays a large role in how things ultimately shake out, so why should appellation classification be any different, especially in Italy? The region from which Albana di Romagna comes (Emilia-Romagna) is a very populous and prosperous region, and consequently has a lot of pull down in the Campidoglio in Rome, so in 1986, much to many other region’s chagrin, Albana di Romagna acceded to the highest level of Italian wines. Heads shook.

But enough of the doubtful slagging off of this – despite all that’s been said – very worthy white…I come not to bury Albana di Romagna, but to praise it…Despite the common wisdom that Albana is a lackluster, unexciting white variety, I beg to differ. Because this is a variety that needs a lot of rain to fully ripen, but is also particularly susceptible to rot and fungal diseases if this moisture is not not quickly wicked away, in less than perfect conditions, Albana can indeed produce somewhat dull wines, especially ones that are vinified dry. But planted on the right sites or produced in sweeter styles (the mode in which Albana really converts its potential into real achievement), this grape’s luscious but still sassy and minerally traits clearly shine though, and this evening’s wine is definitely one that makes that leap into real quality and distinction…in spite of the boilerplate lack of affection for this variety, once upon a time some set of Italian pols knew something…for once.

I paired this quietly charming white with a first course of penne with a ricotta, spinach, basil and nutmeg sauce, followed by a main course of squid slow-stewed with tomato paste, white wine, peas, garlic and parsley with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

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Podere La Berta Romagna Albana 2012

Light and bright golden straw color. Subtle but still very idiosyncratic nose of pear, kiwi, lemon custard, cream soda, candied fennel and white chocolate aromas. The body of the wine is medium to medium-light, with a broad and smooth texture studded with a spunky acidityunder which flavors of green apple, yellow cherry, gooseberry, nougat, fresh herbs, and quinine shine through as the wine warms. Finishes with a long and balanced liminess.

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