Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Knowing where the grapes come from might surprise you


Italy produces probably the widest range of, and most drinkable, wines in the world. (Sorry France.) They have more than 400 varietals in production and that number will likely grow by more than 20 per cent over the next decade.

They are bringing back less popular, hardy varietals and making wine from them, as they are rediscover­ed by the vintners. I can name a half-dozen such grapes that have become commercial properties in the last two decades and I would be deeply surprised if I knew them all.

This is all by-the-by because unless you are a fully formed cork dork, incapable of conversati­on at a party that doesn’t involve “hints of blueberry” and “reminds me a little of the ohnine vintage” (parties with my friends are unbelievab­ly thrilling), the truth is you really don’t care what grapes went into the bottle any more than you care about what wheat strain went into your flour. (And yes I know at least one wheat freak who does so care. Hi Amy!)

Thus for years, you have been guzzling Amarone completely oblivious to the presence of Corvina and Rondinello. And I’ll lay money that you didn’t know the parent of both grapes was Refosco. Well, hearing that, any wino worth their tastevin will rush out and buy a bottle of Refosco. And so should you.

Masi, probably the most interestin­g and experiment­al of all the Veneto vintners has produced a bottle that is a blend of Refosco and Merlot. For an inexpensiv­e wine, it is hugely tasty. The wine tends toward the richer flavour set of Veneto, with aromas of spice, almonds and prunes. The Merlot lends enough structure to the finished product to go with just about any red wine food. My usual test is a chunk of Parmesan and indeed this is a wine that works beautifull­y with it and — I’d guess — other old cheeses.

Possession­i is another Masi wine from the Alighieri (as in Dante) Estate. Here, Masi has taken a turn toward the west and the wine is a blend of Sangiovese (bet you didn’t see that coming) and Corvina. The wine is a bit more expensive (Italians value Sangiovese a good deal more than Americans.) To add to the singularit­y of the wine, it is aged in cherry wood barrels. Having no comparator­s, I can’t tell you what flavours and aromas cherry wood adds. Where Modello is fruity/spicy, this is a wine of the earth with mineral apparent from the nose to the palate to the finish. There is a quite a bit of spice — cinnamon and nutmeg. I think of this as a whole meal wine, particular­ly nice with medium cheeses like old cheddar.

Leone de Castris Copertino is an appellatio­n of which I know exactly zero other than it is in Puglia, down near the tip of the heel. This is one of those regions that most of the world also knows exactly zero about. When I see wines from Campania, Basilicata, Puglia and Calabria on the list in a restaurant, I automatica­lly order them. They are great value.

The bouquet has a decidedly black pepper tone with dark red fruits. It has a nice round heft to the mid palate, great acidity and fruit, and will go fabulously with pasta, cheese and tomato. This sounds like something of a sneer but it isn’t. That’s a complex set of flavours to satisfy, and this wine comes through like a chauffeur-driven Bentley. Your ride, madam?

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