Villa Bucci 2001 Verdicchio dei Castelli dei Jesi Classico “Riserva” (Marches) – Intense seaside stones and salt-kissed greenery with a vivid citrus-melon core, under a softening and lightly spicy gauze (from the oak). An extremely elegant, sophisticated wine, though it is a bit less food-friendly than normal verdicchio as a result.
Verdicchio is unquestionably the leading grape of the Marches region of Italy, though wines from montepulciano and vernaccia garner the only DOCGs in the area, and it probably deserves a better reputation than it has. This is, no doubt, due to the general international indifference towards Italian white wines. It’s a shame, and wrong-headed, for with careful selection there’s an awful lot to like about the broad range of Italian biancos. Here, Villa Bucci is taking a slightly different path, sexing up their native variety to appeal to more jaded international tastes. Unlike most such efforts, which bury the underlying wine in a dreary haze of oak, this one is a rousing success. It’s not cheap, however, which will limit its success somewhat. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.villabucci.com/.
Schleret 2003 Pinot Gris Herrenweg (Alsace) – Lightly spiced pear through a thick filter. Disappointing.
Schleret is known for working in a lighter, more elegant style than many of its Alsatian brethren, but of late lightness and elegance have turned to something even less substantial. Pinot gris is rarely the most exciting of Alsace’s “noble” quartet (riesling, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, muscat), but it’s certainly more exciting than this. Things need to improve at this house. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Rosenthal.
Ferngrove 2003 Shiraz (Frankland River) – Big, chewy and a little overripe and overdone, with powerful blackberry jam and boysenberry syrup flavors turning to vinyl and char on the finish. Too much.
Western Australia (which is where the Frankland River appellation is) has a reputation for wines with less “oomph” than the more famous products of Barossa, Hunter and McLaren. This is, depending on one’s tastes, a good or bad thing (for me, it’s good), but it has always been possible to overachieve in such a way that the products become less distinguishable. Here’s an example of that in action; a W.A. wine that thuds and thunders on the palate like a wine from Australia’s southeastern corner. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: American Wine Distributors. Web: http://www.ferngrove.com.au/.
Laurent Barth 2004 Sylvaner (Alsace) – Decidedly off-dry, like a purée of ripe green zebra tomatoes bathed in a light celery root syrup. Full-bodied for sylvaner, definitely less severe than usual for this grape, and fun to drink.
Tomato. For better or worse, it is the primary organoleptic indicator for Alsatian sylvaner, though I haven’t noted that the character makes the grape particularly amenable to tomatoes as a food pairing. And no matter where it’s grown, it’s tough to do much more than crisp, clean and vegetal with it; sylvaner is, like carignan, one of those grapes that appears to need just the right combination of soil, vine age and winemaking to overachieve its way beyond mediocrity. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Vineyard Research.
Internaz “Barone Cornacchia” 2003 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzi) – Blocks of light black and dark red fruit hewn from an earthy quarry, with refreshing acidity and light notes of game and pepper. Good, simple, Old World fun.
Montepulciano is frequently confused for sangiovese, no thanks to Tuscany’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (made, at least in part, from the latter), both on the vine and in the glass. But it has its own character – sometimes a bit like sangiovese’s less cultured country cousin, other times like its more manly older brother – when not over-spoofulated. This wine is a fine bargain for everyday drinking, in case you’re looking for such things. And who isn’t? Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Ideal. Web: http://www.baronecornacchia.it/.