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Italian Wine 101 for French Wine Lover?

k
Klunco Nov 2, 2010 07:27 AM

I am well versed in French wine and tend to drink it almost exclusively (also love German whites) however when it comes to Italian wines I am hopeless. I'd like to start experimenting with Italian wines (I have had some wonderful bottles at restaurants) and was curious if anyone here could help me with a cheat sheet for the major grapes / growing regions. I tend to prefer drier, earthier wines.

If I were to say that this time of year I love Cotes-du-Rhones in general which Italian red would be comparable? What if I got more specific and said I love Chataneuf-du-Papes, which Italian red should I look for for something with some spice and power?

How about a comparison to a Cru Beajolais? What wine should I try for a lighter experience? A St. Emillion from Bordeaux? Something from Burgundy?

The basic Italian grapes that I see a lot are: Barbera, Primitivo (like Zinfindel?), Barolo, Chianti, Nero D'Avola (I had a wonderful bottle of this recently on the waiter's suggestion), Aglianico, Nebiolo.

What am I missing from this list? Thank you wine experts for all your advice!

  1. Robert Lauriston Dec 8, 2012 10:43 AM

    I think the general notion of French wines going with French wine and Italian wines going with Italian food is problematic among other reasons because of the diversity of regional cuisines and wines in both countries.

    For example, most if not all of the wines made in Savoie and Val d'Aosta could go well with the food of either region, but many of the reds might be too light and delicate for the hearty food of the Périgord or Umbria.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      collioure1 Dec 8, 2012 11:35 AM

      I still think it is a good guide for those who are not knowledgeable about wine. After the discussons here I recognize that there are some good matches to be made, but I don't think the average consumer can find them without the advice of a wine shop.

      And now I am going to get in trouble with you aces again because I ignore those Alpine wines. I've only had a few from the French side - actually a representative sampling, and I am not encouraged to try again.

      1. re: collioure1
        Robert Lauriston Dec 8, 2012 11:46 AM

        The Savoie wines I've had have varied quite a bit in quality. I've had many good to great Mondeuse reds and occasionally found young, fruity Altesse / Rousette whites good enough that I bought a case or two. In California they mostly come in through Kermit Lynch, and their wines are usually well chosen.

        I'm not sure I've ever had a bad wine from Aosta but they're hard to find.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          collioure1 Dec 8, 2012 01:07 PM

          Well, if I get near a good Mondeuse, I'll buy it. Thank you.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            c
            collioure Sep 5, 2013 03:40 AM

            I may get near to a Mondeuse this month. It seems that the brothers Trosset and Ch de la Violette are the two of the better names there.

            So I will buy a Trosset 2012 if I see it, but you have to put these wines down for a while.

            And maybe a Chignin-Bergeron and a Palette rouge too.

      2. p
        pickypicky Dec 2, 2012 07:44 AM

        Would love someone to explain simply how Italian wine labels work. (without snark)

        10 Replies
        1. re: pickypicky
          z
          zin1953 Dec 2, 2012 08:08 AM

          I'm afraid I don't understand the question . . . I understand the snark ("glue"), but not the question itself.

          Virtually ALL "Old World" wines are named after the PLACE in which they are grown, rather than "New World" wines, most of which are named after the GRAPE from which they are made. This is true for Chianti and Barbaresco, as much as it is Bordeaux and Burgundy; for Rioja and Priorat, as for Rhein and Mosel . . . .

          Most all "Old World" wines have "controlled place names of origin," whether it's the Italian DOC/DOCG, the French AOC, the Spanish and Portuguese DO, and so forth.

          In terms of labeling, you cannot be more specific on a label than -- for example -- to call a wine "Chianti Classico Riserva," or "Châteauneuf-du-Pape," or "Rioja Gran Reserva." It tells you virtually everything you need to know, except for the producer's name. It would be (somewhat) akin to "Napa Valley" telling you everything you needed to know . . . except for the name of the specific winery.

          1. re: pickypicky
            collioure1 Dec 2, 2012 08:11 AM

            Just like French, in my experience. <g>

            That is, they don't always work for those of us who aren't quite familiar.

            DOC or DOCG is the Italian equivalent of AOC

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denomina...

            It's your assurance that the wine meets the standard for the name on the label - grape varieties, geographical origin, yield limits . . .

            In my experience they are less informative than French labels, and if I'm not mistaken wine is produced in every region of Italy (that is not true in France), and they seem to have many more appellations.

            1. re: pickypicky
              b
              BN1 Dec 2, 2012 11:10 AM

              The labels can be a problem, especially since the Italian back label is removed and replaced in the U.S. with the alcohol warning. The DOC/DOCG usually explains the content, but not in some of less restricted classifications. For instance, Langhe Nebbiolo tells it all, but Langhe Rosso may mean anything including Cab, Merlot, Pinot, etc. Likewise, Toscana DOC doesn’t tell you much about the wine. When I'm considering a Toscana in a restaurant, I ask the server about the content. Luckily, the computer has given us access to full information about particular wines we may find enjoyable in any country. The only shortcut I’ve found is trusted wine merchants who are knowledgeable about the wines they sell.

              1. re: BN1
                p
                pickypicky Dec 2, 2012 12:14 PM

                Thanks for your replies. I find Italian labels different than French, which I can usually negotiate my way through. I was hoping for some key differences. Or something simple like: An Italian wine label (on the front) will usually have the place or grape or vintners name and shippers name. For instance, like a Michele Chiarlo. . . is MC the importer or maker or both? I can't always tell a person's name from a place name, so knowing Italian would help, I know. Thanks, BN1 for getting what I mean. Toscana is the DOC but then I have to know what grapes come from there and which they use there. Correct? Or like you say, ask. Thanks collioure1 for getting the enormity of the task for a novice!

                1. re: pickypicky
                  Robert Lauriston Dec 2, 2012 01:21 PM

                  Michele Chiarlo is a winery. Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera d'Asti are among the DOCs / DOCGs they make. Barolo and Barbaresco are Nebbiolo wines from around the towns of those names.

                  Barbera d'Asti must be made in the province of Asti or the adjacent Alexandria. Barbera is the grape variety but the rules allow a small portion of several other grapes. The rules for Superiore require a higher minimum levels of alcohol and aging and must come from specific sub-zones (comparable to Beaujolais villages).

                  http://www.michelechiarlo.it/main.php...

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    p
                    pickypicky Dec 2, 2012 02:50 PM

                    Thank you!

                  2. re: pickypicky
                    z
                    zin1953 Dec 2, 2012 03:48 PM

                    In the same way that:

                    2010 [vintage = the year the grapes are picked]
                    Châteauneuf-du-Pape [the appellation d'origine contrôlée/AOC]
                    Domaine de la Mordorée [the winery/producer]

                    you have this:

                    2010 [vintage = the year the grapes were picked]
                    Barbaresco [the DOC/DOCG]
                    Michele Chiarlo [producer/winery]

                    >>> is MC the importer or maker or both? I can't always tell a person's name from a place name, so knowing Italian would help, I know. <<<

                    You don't need to know Italian, any more than you need to know French (or German or Portuguese, etc.). You need to know WINE.

                    Bottles imported into the US will ALWAYS have an "import strip" (whether it's on a separate strip of paper or not is irrelevant). In small print, it will always say (for example) "Imported by Jean Deaux Wine Imports, Berkeley, California," or "Imported by Big Conglomerate, Inc., New York, NY."

                    How do you know that "Pinot Noir" is a grape, and "Russian River Valley" is a region? At some point you had to learn that, right? It's no different. I know, for example, that when a bottle of red wine says "Côte de Brouilly" on the label, it comes from a certain spot on the map and nowhere else on the planet; I know that it comes from Gamay noir au jus blanc, and no other grape; I know (because the label says "2010") that the grapes were harvested in 2010, I know (because the label says "Jean-Paul Brun, Vigneron") that the wine was made by Jean-Paul Brun; and I know (because the import strip says "Louis/Dresner Imports, New York, NY") that the company founded by my friend, the late Joe Dresner imported the wine into the US.

                    The EXACT same thing holds true for Italian wines . . . I know, for example, that when a bottle of red wine says "Barbaresco" on the label, it comes from a certain spot on the map and nowhere else on the planet; I know that it comes from Nebbiolo, and no other grape; I know (because the label says "2010") that the grapes were harvested in 2010, I know (because the label says "Michele Chiarlo") that the wine was made by Michele Chiarlo; and I know (because the import strip says "Kobrand Imports, New York, NY") that a major wine importer were the ones who brought it into the US.

                    Now, how did I learn that Barbaresco is made from Nebbiolo (a grape) and ceoms from Piedmonte (a regain)? The same way I learned that Pinot Noir is a grape and the Russian River Valley is an AVA (American Viticultural Appellation.) You *do* have to learn some things . . .

                    1. re: zin1953
                      p
                      pickypicky Dec 3, 2012 07:34 AM

                      Another thank you. I know you smarty pants wine folk get tired explaining things to us boobs but we do appreciate it. Familiarity is everything, and one can forget how much learning has already gone into something like, say, California wine knowledge. Even if I don't need to know Italian to read an Italian label, there is lots to learn and become familiar with. California was been easy since I live here and drink CA wines daily, so Italian wines will take the rest of my life.

                      1. re: pickypicky
                        z
                        zin1953 Dec 3, 2012 07:48 AM

                        HONESTLY, it is significantly easier than you think . . . just as you don't need to speak French to read a French wine label -- other, perhaps, than to know it's "pul-eee-knee mon-ra-shay" rather than "pull-kg-knee mont-tra-shet" -- you don't need to know Italian to read an Italian wine label.

                        And since you say you are well-versed in French wines, you should already have all the tool you need to know how to learn about Italian wines.

                        As for my pants, the rest of me is smart, too!

                2. re: pickypicky
                  Robert Lauriston Dec 2, 2012 01:13 PM

                  Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) is a confusing term. Legally, it's similar to the French Vin de Pays (VDP), but in some regions it's used on high-end wines that stretch the limits of a DOC or that are made from grapes that don't have a DOC in that area.

                  The DOCs in the northeast (Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia) frequently include the grape varieties. Elsewhere it's like in France, you can look up the DOC rules to find out what grapes are allowed.

                3. collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 02:59 AM

                  A word to the wise . . .

                  Italian wines with Italian food. Monica and others noted quite correctly that Italian wines are acidic (think of red currant tasting Chianti). They pair with acidic cuisine = Italian.

                  French wines with French food. Sweeter wines and food.

                  Spanish wines bridge the gap.

                  90 Replies
                  1. re: collioure1
                    z
                    zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 02:23 PM

                    What?!?!?!

                    1. re: zin1953
                      collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 02:34 PM

                      You need an explanation?

                      I've lived it. There are some restaurants in Italy whose cooking is rather French, but their wines are Italian. I didn't realize it at the time, but those meals just weren't "right" i.e., pleasurable. It's because in general you can't pair French cuisine with bitter Italian wines or vice-versa. They just don't marry.

                      1. re: collioure1
                        z
                        zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 04:16 PM

                        Andy, that is JUST bull$#|+ . . .

                        Now I'm very willing to admit that, for example, the cuisine of Alsace matches with the wines of Alsace quite well, and not so well with, say, the cuisine of the Camargue. But I've loved (for example) oysters on the half shell with Muscadet, Picpoul, and Chablis; but also with Alvarinho from Portugal, Txokolina from Spain, and Gruner Veltliner from Austria; etc. I've enjoyed foie gras with Sauternes from Bordeaux, with Pinot Gris SGN from Alsace, and with Vouvray Moëlleux from the Loire; but also white Porto for Portugal, Torcolato from Italy, and Beerenauslese from Germany.

                        So while I find -- as a ***rule-of-thumb*** only -- no disagreement with favoring classic cuisine of, say, Bourgogne with a Burgundy wine, or the classic cuisine of Piedmonte with a wine from the same region, there are very few absolutes in life, and which Barbaresco may be a great match with white truffles from Alba, it is far from the *only* wine that works. Indeed, a classic (French) Champagne can work perfectly with this quintessential Italian delight.

                        I've had wonderful meals of seafood risotto paired with Spanish whites, for example, and great steaks with everything from California Zinfandel and Cabernet, to red Bordeaux and northern Rhônes, to Rioja Riservas, Douro Tintos, and Italian wines from Tuscany, Piedmonte, and Sicily . . .

                        The world of wine is a far more flexible place than you paint it to be . . .

                        Cheers,
                        Jason

                        1. re: zin1953
                          collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 04:31 PM

                          Jason, in general you shouldn't try to drink French wines with Italian food, and you shouldn't try to drink Italian wines with French food.

                          There's a reason they produce Barbera, Dolcetto and Chianti in Italy and not in France.

                          Golly, just consider the different styles of common grapes - Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris/Grigio. The Italian versions are more acidic to complement the acidic Italian cuisine.

                          FYI this isn't the world of wine. This is the world of cuisine and wine, and when you cross the border just near Ventimiglia both the cuisine and the wines change for a very good reason. You can’t mix and match them.

                          1. re: collioure1
                            z
                            zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 04:57 PM

                            God, Andy, this is just SOOOOOOO wrong (#1), and, (#2), please don't tell me what I should and shouldn't do.

                            >>> Golly, just consider the different styles of common grapes - Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris/Grigio. The Italian versions are more acidic to complement the acidic Italian cuisine. <<<

                            Third, you seem to be implying that (for example) Angelo Gaja is in communication with the chef of Bergamo (Michelin 3 star) to collaborate on how to make the wines more hospitable to their cuisine.

                            Now, clearly, this isn't the case. This IS the world of wine. Gaja (and every other producer IN THE WORLD) is out there trying to make the very best wine they can. And while, as I said elsewhere, there is an affinity between regional cuisine and (some of) the wines of that region. But that does not equate to that being the ONLY match for that wine in the world . . . .

                            It is the sommelier who starts the "world of wine and cuisine," by making the selections for the wine list, by selecting a relative handful of wines from all that is available that will best compliment the cuisine of the chef.

                            1. re: zin1953
                              collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 05:03 PM

                              You do whatever you wish, Jason. BTW I think you've inferred a number of things I did not post here. The essence is the next paragraph.

                              I understand why I shouldn't try to drink French wines with Italian cuisine, and similarly why I shouldn't try to drink Italian wines with French cuisine. I also understand that Spanish wines seem to work with both cuisines.

                              I hope you'll try a Dolcetto with your next coq au vin. I'm going with Beaujolais. Then we can compare notes.

                              Night.

                              1. re: collioure1
                                z
                                zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 05:56 PM

                                When have I ever said a Dolcetto would match with coq au vin? FWIW, I don't think it would. I think Beaujolais is a fine match, though -- personally -- I'd opt for a Cru de Beaujolais (possibly a Morgon), a Bourgogne, or Bourgogne Passetoutsgrains that would work as well. I can even think of a few Côtes-du-Rhône reds that would work quite well (depending upon the producer).

                                On the other hand, I can also see a Nero d'Avola working, or a lighter Garnacha-based Spanish wine, as well as some California Pinots or lighter-bodied Rhône-styled blends.

                                1. re: zin1953
                                  collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 12:59 AM

                                  The point is that you wouldn't pair a workhouse light Italian red with coq au vin. Yes, Nero d'Avola might work but numerous other Italian wines would not because they're too acidic/bitter.

                                  Other the other hand just about any light French (or even Calif) red would do the trick - Cotes-du-Rhone, St Nicholas de Bourgeuil, Pinot Noir d'Alsace, Beaujolais Villages, . . .
                                  And, yes, light Spanish reds, esp Grenache/Garnacha

                                  But not Italian. Italian wines and French food do not mix at all well.

                                  1. re: collioure1
                                    z
                                    zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 10:10 AM

                                    Here is the difference. You seem to ascribe some sort of "national character" to wine. You write:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7444...
                                    >>> numerous other Italian wines would not because they're too acidic/bitter. <<<

                                    I would simply take the word "Italian" out of the equation and say (vis-a-vis a pairing with coq au vin) that a high acid wine is not a good match for the dish. Nationality doesn't enter into it.

                                    Now, in fairness, it might be different were I living in rural France -- "in the provinces," so to speak -- where I had limited options available to me through my local supermarché or merchant du vin. I actually *might* say something along the lines of "drink French not Italian." But that would have little to do with specifically Italian wines versus French wines, and have everything to do with the availability (or un-availability) of various wines in my market.

                                    1. re: zin1953
                                      collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 10:36 AM

                                      Jason, these are not my principles. I learned them from reading Tom Maresca's book.

                                      It took me many readings to master certain principles, but these I got on first reading and they match my experience.

                                      In general Italian wines are acidic. In general French wines are not. For the man in the street "Don't mix French wines and Italian food" and vice-versa is easily registered.

                                      You do it however you wish.

                                      However, the wines in both countries match their respective cuisines and not the cuisines of the neghboring country. Until recently they didn't have many grapes in common.

                                      1. re: collioure1
                                        z
                                        zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 01:15 PM

                                        I don't care whose principles they are. Indeed, what possible difference could it make. I've lost count of how many acidic, out-of-balance wines I've had from Bordeaux, for example, and how many low acid, even flabby wines I've had from, say, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna.

                                        National boundaries are lines on a map. To ascribe a wine's characteristics to simply being on one side of the line or another is farcical. To ascribe a wine's characteristics to the type of grape(s) from which it is produced, the location on the planet in which those grapes were grown, and to the specific techniques of the winemaker responsible make far more sense to me. YMMV, and obviously does.

                                        1. re: collioure1
                                          r
                                          Ricardo Malocchio Nov 26, 2012 03:02 PM

                                          I also generally match traditional dishes to their traditional wines. But this statement is simply untrue:

                                          "In general Italian wines are acidic. In general French wines are not. For the man in the street "Don't mix French wines and Italian food" and vice-versa is easily registered."

                                          Have you never tasted Champagne? Muscadet? Chablis? Sancerre? Vouvray, dry or sweet? Savennieres, dry or sweet? Moulin-a-Vent? Alsatian Riesling/Pinot Blanc? Or, for crying out loud, red Burgundy?

                                          These wines are highly acidic. And they happen to be French.

                                          While it's difficult to generalize about Italian wines - of which there are hundreds, if not thousands of varieties grown in myriad terroirs - I'd suggest they are on the whole less acidic than their French counterparts. I can think of few that emphasize acidity to the degree of, say, Champagne or Loire whites or Alsation whites. I just find this whole notion of "French = Flab/Italy = Acid" to be just about ridiculous. It's the sort of handed-down notion that's quickly dispelled when one simply drinks the wine.

                                          1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                            collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 03:27 PM

                                            I am familiar with all those French wines. Save perhaps the Muscadet they all have "nice acids."

                                            However, Italian wines to match the quite acidic Italian cuisine are more acidic. Some are bitter. Chianti drips with acid; it is the most defining characteristic of the wine. Red currant flavors. What other wines do you know of that have red currant flavors?

                                            Barbera, Dolcetto, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo . . .acid, acid, acid

                                            Barbaresco is often compared to Burgundy but it has a little more bitterness to my taste. Nebbiolo vs Pinot Noir.

                                            Compare a Chardonnay from Friuli to one from almost anywhere in France. It is more acidic.

                                            Once again this isn't my idea. Take it up with this guy http://ubriaco.wordpress.com/about/ I think he's worth your ear and mine.

                                          2. re: collioure1
                                            maria lorraine Nov 26, 2012 04:06 PM

                                            "these are not my principles. I learned them from reading Tom Maresca's book."

                                            Sounds like you have not tasted through the Piemonte, Chianti or other Italian regions lately, if you believe what you are saying about acidity.

                                            First, in terms of acidity levels of wines from both Italy and France, pH and TA levels are comparable, with the exception of some of the northern and northeastern whites. Are you sure you are talking about acidity and not volatile acidity? Too vastly different things, and I know you did not recognize VA in an Italian Merlot in another post.

                                            Next, Tom Maresca and I have traveled through Italy many times, and tasted together. His two main wine books were written in 1994 and 1996. Since that time, winemaking in both Barbera and Chianti and other regions has been revamped in a major way. Barbera is no longer acidic at all; Chianti's grape growing methods (especially sugar levels at harvest) and new blending rules at least a decade old mean that acidic levels are greatly reduced -- too much so for many who consider the new Chianti to be the classic example of varietal erosion.

                                            So, tasted through the regions lately? Know the difference between acidity and volatile acidity? Have you tasted at least ten examples in the last two years of the wine regions you say have high levels of acidity? Chemically, they don't have higher levels of acidity than the wines in France, with the exceptions I've noted. Which is why I'm asking.

                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                              collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 04:10 PM

                                              Overwhelmed!

                                              Last visit to Italy 2007 - Campania, Puglia, Rome - drank mostly Aglianico, Greco

                                              Sicily 2009

                                              Haven't been to Tuscany in ages. So I will have to pick up a bottle of Chianti here.

                                              I will be interested in what Maresca says of his priniciple today.

                                              1. re: maria lorraine
                                                collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 04:58 PM

                                                I appreciate the updated info and the advanced methods you cite, but I don’t think this info changes the situation much. It might make it easier to consume some Italian wines with French cuisine. It has nothing to do with whether to consume French wine with Italian food.

                                                Sangiovese remains a high acid grape. Perhaps they have methods to tone down the acidity, but the wines are styled to go with Italian food, not to be sold in France, and I don’t see the basic nature of Italian cuisine changing. It is still acidic.

                                                We don’t use large quantities of a bitter vegetable like rapini in France. They do.

                                                We don't cook with large quantities of fresh tomatoes in France. They do.

                                                1. re: collioure1
                                                  maria lorraine Nov 26, 2012 05:08 PM

                                                  "Sangiovese remains a high acid grape. "

                                                  Nope. Not any more. I attend symposia in Chianti, including one specifically on Sangiovese growing and vinification.

                                                  Also, Tom Maresca is a great source via his writing on the revamping of Barbera so that it is no longer as acidic as it was 15 years ago. He says the same as Ricardo Malocchio above on Nov 8, 2010 06:18 AM.

                                                  Granted, in both regions and other regions throughout Italy, cheap wine that is poorly grown and poorly made will have lower ripeness levels and a greater chance of VA, a winemaking flaw. Those wines aren't representative of a region, though.

                                                  Sounds like you have not tasted Italian wines in enough depth and across regions. Especially in the last few years. Sounds like you do not have enough current data to make generalizations, IRT to the wines of Italy or France or Spain or Germany or California.

                                                  In addition, you are approaching pairings as if geographic commonality were the only way to go. Clearly, there are many other successful approaches, including those mentioned on another thread. Italian wines work well with many classic French dishes.

                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                    collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 06:46 PM

                                                    Pardon me, but something this basic will not have changed even in 30 years.

                                                    FYI I haven't argued geographic commonality, just acid.

                                                    (I've decided against buying a bottle of Chinati or Barbera.)

                                                    1. re: collioure1
                                                      maria lorraine Nov 26, 2012 07:12 PM

                                                      <<Pardon me, but something this basic will not have changed even in 30 years.>>

                                                      The regulations themselves have changed greatly in the last twenty years for both Barbera and Chianti. This affects all the wines made of that type, which is why tasting of recent vintages is important to evaluate flavor and acidity.

                                                      <<<FYI I haven't argued geographic commonality, just acid.>>>

                                                      Geographic commonality is what you've argued all along:
                                                      "Italian wines with Italian food...They pair with acidic cuisine = Italian.
                                                      French wines with French food. Sweeter wines and food."

                                                      <<<(I've decided against buying a bottle of Chinati or Barbera.)>>>

                                                      Without tasting recent examples of the wines being discussed, one cannot contribute meaningfully to the discussion of the wines' flavors or acidity. When you have tasted recent representative bottlings, then, at that time, feel free to comment upon them.

                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                        collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 12:41 AM

                                                        It's not geographic commonality per se. I didn't write the same vis-a-vis Italian and Greek wines and cuisine, for example.

                                                        I quoted the statement of a respected wine writer, and the foundation of that statement lies in the basic nature of the wines and cuisines of two countries.

                                                        I expect that still holds.

                                                        Now an ace like like you or Jason can navigate these treacherous waters, but very few others can. Even I, more wine and food knowledgeable than 99.9% of the population, don't want to try.

                                                        1. re: collioure1
                                                          z
                                                          zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 07:12 AM

                                                          I'm not ML, but I started writing about wine long before Thomas Maresca.

                                                          >>> Even I, more wine and food knowledgeable than 99.9% of the population . . . <<<
                                                          How do you know? Where does that percentage figure come from? Can you back that up, or is this just a number you've created out of thin air? Given what you have written so far on these pages, I would strongly doubt the figure rises to that level of superiority. I am not saying you do not have some level of knowledge and understanding -- you do!; in fact, you probably know more about current Roussillon wines than I -- but it's nowhere near as much as you claim. 99.9 percent? Please. Not even people like Andrea Immer Robinson or Master Sommelier Laurent Richet, let alone ML or myself would claim that we are more knowledgable than 99.9 percent of the world's population . . . .

                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                            collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 09:40 AM

                                                            Jason, I don't meet anyone here who has the breath of knowledge of French appellations that I do.

                                                            1. re: collioure1
                                                              z
                                                              zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 12:53 PM

                                                              Well, let's just say I am highly skeptical of that claim. And even if it were true (and I have my doubts), that does not equate to "Even I, [with] more wine and food knowledgeable than 99.9% of the population . . . "
                                                              See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7444...

                                                      2. re: collioure1
                                                        z
                                                        zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 09:23 PM

                                                        Andy, rather than reply to this -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7444... -- post of yours, which (candidly) I find to be one of the oddest posts I've ever read on CH, I shall ask you to re-read Maria Lorraine's, for she is far more elegant and erudite than I . . . for her post is a) factually accurate, b) concise and to the point, and c) completely devoid of four-letter words.

                                                        Cheers,
                                                        Jason

                                                        1. re: collioure1
                                                          z
                                                          zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 10:10 PM

                                                          OK, I lied -- I cannot simply leave it at that.

                                                          Of course, it's true -- you have nothing but argue nationalistic commonality, but I don't think that's even up for debate, is it?

                                                          Rather, I would like to address the other two-thirds of your post. To wit,

                                                          >>> . . .something this basic will not have changed even in 30 years. <<<
                                                          and
                                                          >>> (I've decided against buying a bottle of Chinati or Barbera.) <<<

                                                          I have no idea how old you are, or how long you've lived in the Rousillon, OR how long you've enjoyed wine in general, BUT . . .

                                                          I don't know if you had the opportunity to taste, for example, Bordeaux from the 1960s or 1970s WHEN THEY WERE YOUNG, versus the current releases from Bordeaux today . . . or 1960s and 1970s Châteauneufs when they were first released compared to the current releases from Châteauneuf today . . . LET ALONE the wines from Montpeyroux, Corbières, and Côtes de Roussillion-Villages. The current release of these are completely different wines from what was made in the not-too-distant past. We can "blame" it on Parker, or on Michel Rolland, or on anyone or anything else you want, but you cannot escape this truth.

                                                          Now, lest you think I'm picking on the French, I'd say the exact same thing about Napa Valley Cabernets, or Oregon Pinots (but from the 1980s vs. today), or Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti, Soave, or the wines from the Alto-Adige. It's little different from the tremendous changes that have taken place in the wines of Austria (no more ethylene glycol) or Hungary (can you say "Western investment"?).

                                                          Now this is not to dismiss Maria Lorraine's comment re: regulations. She is correct: the regulations have changed dramatically, not only for Barbera and Chianti specifically, but for a number of wines . . . and the farther back we go, obviously, the more the regulations have changed.

                                                          For example, back in the old days (early 1970s), the ATF regulations stated that American varietal wines had to contain 51 percent of a single grape variety in order for that variety to serve as the name of the wine. So, for example, if a wine contained 51 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, you could label the wine "Cabernet Sauvignon." A wine could be labeled geographically if 75 percent of the wine came from that place. So, for example, if a wine contained 75 percent Napa Valley-grown grapes, it could be labeled "Napa Valley."

                                                          So -- you think you have a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, yes? WRONG!

                                                          26% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
                                                          +25% Central Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
                                                          =51% Cabernet Sauvignon = "Cabernet Sauvignon" on the label!

                                                          26% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
                                                          +49% Napa Valley Chenin Blanc
                                                          =75% Napa Valley = "Napa Valley" on the label!

                                                          THEREFORE:
                                                          26% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
                                                          +25% Central Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
                                                          +49% Napa Valley Chenin Blanc
                                                          = "Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon" on the label . . . . swear to God!

                                                          Now all this was changed in 1973, when the ATF raised the varietal content requirement to 75 percent for V. vinifera AND tied it to the appellation. But how many truly GREAT Cabernets came out of California before the regulations changed, and how much Cabernet did they actually contain?

                                                          This is just a long-winded way of saying EVERYTHING changes in life, including your own palate! (I told you Maria Lorraine was more concise that I.) But as Maria Lorraine has said,
                                                          >>> The regulations themselves have changed greatly in the last twenty years for both Barbera and Chianti. This affects all the wines made of that type, which is why tasting of recent vintages is important to evaluate flavor and acidity . . . . Without tasting recent examples of the wines being discussed, one cannot contribute meaningfully to the discussion of the wines' flavors or acidity. When you have tasted recent representative bottlings, then, at that time, feel free to comment upon them. <<<

                                                          And it applies, to varying degrees, beyond the world of Italian Barbera and Chianti.

                                                          Cheers,
                                                          Jason

                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                            collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 01:11 AM

                                                            Learned wine in a hurry starting in 1990. I moved to Roussillon in 2002.

                                                            Yes, wine is improving. In California it's all happening. The vines are older. The vintners are wiser. The science and techniques have advanced and been promulgated. Just about every grape in the world is cultivated there. Versus 30-40 years ago the wines are more food-friendly and just fabulous.

                                                            It's also the center of the food scene which incorporates flavors from around the world. There's some of that happening here, but cuisine in France is not adapting at nearly the same rate (the French love their traditional dishes). The wines also are improving.

                                                            But the basic nature of French and Italian wines and cuisine cannot have changed that much in 25 years. Europe just moves much more slowly.

                                                            Hence, Jason, aren’t I still waiting for your French wine recommendations for Rigatoni Puttanesca and Spaghetti alla Rucola?

                                                            And I don’t see above where you recommended a new style Barbera with coq au vin. You had the chance.

                                                            1. re: collioure1
                                                              z
                                                              zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 07:34 AM

                                                              Hmmm . . .

                                                              >>> Yes, wine is improving. In California it's all happening. The vines are older. The vintners are wiser. The science and techniques have advanced and been promulgated. Just about every grape in the world is cultivated there. Versus 30-40 years ago the wines are more food-friendly and just fabulous <<<

                                                              Well, "fabulous" is a rather subjective description that I wouldn't use myself, but that's neither here nor there. How do you know? Did you taste the wines of 30-40 years ago, or is this, too, something that you've read? Actually, in some ways, the wines of the 1970s were actually better than they today, especially when it comes to Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon (IMHO). Pinot Noir is another matter, but this was largely due to problems with clonal selection and diseased vines, plus "location, location, location." As far as "food-friendly" is concerned, I will readily admit that the trend of making what were then described as "food wines" in the 1980s was a complete disaster, but I have to admit that I do NOT find a lot of California wines to be very food-friendly in the 21st Century -- they are often too big, too high in alcohol, too in-your-face/over-the-top to work well with food. California wines today are, I find, very opulent and enjoyable ALONE, whereas the (generalization here; lots of specific, individual exceptions) wines of Europe are more "food friendly" and will win the Thunderbird Corollary every time.

                                                              Also, in many ways, the vineyards in California -- at least in Napa and parts of Sonoma -- were OLDER 30-40 years ago than they are today (think AXR-1 fiasco).

                                                              >>> [California is] also the center of the food scene which incorporates flavors from around the world. There's some of that happening here, but cuisine in France is not adapting at nearly the same rate (the French love their traditional dishes). The wines also are improving. But the basic nature of French and Italian wines and cuisine cannot have changed that much in 25 years. Europe just moves much more slowly. <<<

                                                              Hmmmm . . . the foods I had in France in the 1970s was very different than that of the 1990s, which in turn was different than I had in the 2000s . . . at least in Paris, Lyon, Avignon, and Alsace. (That said, the cassoulet I had in Carcassonne hadn't changed at all over the passage of time.) But I will certainly grant you that cuisine in the provinces is more -- well, more provincial, and changes much more slowly.

                                                              >>> aren’t I still waiting for your French wine recommendations for Rigatoni Puttanesca and Spaghetti alla Rucola? <<<

                                                              You seem intent to shift focus whenever you like, and that doesn't really work for me. This has never been about specific dishes. You have repeatedly claimed -- actually stated as absolute fact -- you cannot serve Italian wines with French food, and French wines with Italian food. Period. That blanket statement isn't worth the bandwidth it wastes repeating. Anyone can name a specific dish from the nation of X and say, "I dare you to pair that with a wine from the nation of Y." It isn't about specificity. Your statements have been broad, general, and absolute. (Then, of course, you insist you haven't said what's in plain black-and-white for all to see.)

                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 09:38 AM

                                                                Jason, I dislike being misquoted and this is not accurate.

                                                                "You have repeatedly claimed -- actually stated as absolute fact -- you cannot serve Italian wines with French food, and French wines with Italian food."

                                                                I have said in general they don't mix. When you cannot find good matches for typical dishes of one country in the other country's wines, that helps to confirm the assertion.

                                                                More later. Off to dinner at the cooking school in Perpignan.

                                                                1. re: collioure1
                                                                  z
                                                                  zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 01:05 PM

                                                                  Misquote? I don't think so.

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7729854
                                                                  >>> A word to the wise . . . Italian wines with Italian food . . . They pair with acidic cuisine = Italian. French wines with French food. Sweeter wines and food.<<<

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7730778
                                                                  >>> There are some restaurants in Italy whose cooking is rather French, but their wines are Italian. I didn't realize it at the time, but those meals just weren't "right" i.e., pleasurable. It's because in general you can't pair French cuisine with bitter Italian wines or vice-versa. They just don't marry. <<<

                                                                  Do they fool around a bit? Just asking.

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7730951
                                                                  >>> in general you shouldn't try to drink French wines with Italian food, and you shouldn't try to drink Italian wines with French food. <<<

                                                                  Oh, and by the way, the quote continues
                                                                  >>> Golly, just consider the different styles of common grapes - Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris/Grigio. The Italian versions are more acidic to complement the acidic Italian cuisine . . . . You can’t mix and match them. <<<

                                                                  You find Italian Merlot acidic?!?!? Mostly I find it flabby and insipid. Well, different strokes . . .

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7731005
                                                                  >>> I understand why I shouldn't try to drink French wines with Italian cuisine, and similarly why I shouldn't try to drink Italian wines with French cuisine. <<<

                                                                  OK, I'll admit you did use the word "try" in that sentence. It's less absolute than the others.

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7731554
                                                                  >>> Italian wines and French food do not mix at all well. <<<

                                                                  Then again, that's pretty absolute if you ask me.

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7732332
                                                                  >>> In general Italian wines are acidic. In general French wines are not. For the man in the street "Don't mix French wines and Italian food" and vice-versa is easily registered . . . . However, the wines in both countries match their respective cuisines and not the cuisines of the neghboring [sic] country. <<<

                                                                  Again, pretty definite if you ask me.

                                                                  But, with the objective of fairness in mind, you DID moderate your position somewhat when you wrote,

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7444...
                                                                  >>> It might make it easier to consume some Italian wines with French cuisine. It has nothing to do with whether to consume French wine with Italian food. <<<

                                                                  So, apparently, instead of the border being closed, it's open but only one way?

                                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                                    collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 01:23 PM

                                                                    Jason, none of those statements are this definitive.

                                                                    "You have repeatedly claimed -- actually stated as absolute fact -- you cannot serve Italian wines with French food, and French wines with Italian food."

                                                                    You can, but I discourage such. Haven't we said elsewere here that the right wine is the one you want to drink?

                                                                    "stated as absolute fact?" Absolutely not, but a principle I follow.

                                                                    1. re: collioure1
                                                                      z
                                                                      zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 03:23 PM

                                                                      (Most of them) sound pretty definitive to me . . .

                                                                  2. re: collioure1
                                                                    r
                                                                    Ricardo Malocchio Nov 27, 2012 01:14 PM

                                                                    I do want to repeat: I agree with you, collioure, that pairing wine/food from the same region is an excellent approach. I do it almost all the time, and feel a bit funny when I don't. My wife and I dined last March at Antico Arco in Rome, and I still feel a little wrong for ordering a Volnay. That said, it worked.

                                                                    But what I deeply, deeply disagree about is your generalization about acidity levels. I wouldn't call myself an acid-freak, because I think that all of us who love wines eventually tire of the flabby, overripe sort that come up way short on the prickle and bite. It's why I rarely drink warm climate wines. It's why I love red Burgundy yet can do without most Cali Pinot.

                                                                    I also disagree with you that things cannot change over several decades. Alas, we've seen profound changes, many for the worse, and largely over the basic structure of wine of which acid is among the most important elements. This is largely due to one influential wine critic who preferred forward, ripe wines of the sort that California and Australia tended to produce, and the rather unformed palates of those that purchased these wines in droves.

                                                                    These "Parkerized" wines were made from grapes allowed to hang for long periods in warmer climate vineyards. As the fruit ripened, the sugar content increased in proportion to the decrease in acid content. This overly sweet, overly ripe, underacidified fruit was then converted to very high alcohol, very flabby, totally anti-acid wines. The American palate loved it. Tasted like a sweet cocktail, flavors well known to a liquor country.

                                                                    And the Italians took notice. Suddenly, they were creating what's known as the globalized or Parkerized style of wines, super ripe and sweet, further sweetened with the vanillins of brand-new, tiny, toasty oak barrels, and utterly lacking the acidity required for a balanced wine. This effected the Piedmont and Tuscany, in particular. Suddenly, everything from Barbera to Brunello seemed over-oaked - and more pertinent to this discussion - over-ripened and under-acidified. There has been a backlash, fortunately, and many are returning to a more classic, balanced style. And the bottom dropped out of the Australian wine market as a certain very wealthy country's palate grew up a bit. And from California one now hears noises about making wines of balance.

                                                                    But all along the French - excepting the Bordelais and perhaps the Southern Rhone - largely resisted. Balance remained the watchword, at least in the Loire, in Burgundy, in Champagne, the Jura, etc. It's often said that Burgundy ages on its acids (rather than its tannins), and Burgundies today remain as balanced as ever, though global warming may soon deal with that as regions capable of growing fine wines continue to seek higher latitudes and elevations for the cool temps that allow for a balanced result.

                                                                    I would only guess that Tom Maresca might shudder a bit at his generalization, even if it was some decades old. After all, they've been making Burgundy, Champagne, Muscadet, Savenierres, and all manner of highly acidic wines in France long before we were born. Sure, Italy makes some high acid wines in its more Northernly regions, on the volcano tops of Sicily, and even in Tuscany. But take it from this acid freak (ok, I'll cop to that), no one out-acids the French!

                                                                    *Except maybe the Germans (at least in 2010).

                                                                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                                      collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 01:39 PM

                                                                      Surely things can change over several decades - even in Italy.

                                                                      But the basic nature of French and Iialian wines and foods? I doubt it. I cook. I cook a lot. I understand why and how French cuisine differs from Italian, and why French* cuisine is sweeter than Italian* cuisine. You know, French cuisine began when Catherine de Medici arrived in the Loire Valley from Florence in the late 16th century. It went in another direction.

                                                                      I dine rather well when traveling, but at lunch I see typical local menus in the regions I now revisit. The very same dishes are there.

                                                                      * Actually French cuisines is about 20 quite different regional cuisines and Italian is similar with about 15.

                                                                      1. re: collioure1
                                                                        r
                                                                        Ricardo Malocchio Nov 27, 2012 02:01 PM

                                                                        collioure, I kinda want to agree with you a bit because I'm sensing a bit of a pile-on that I don't want to be part of (I also read that other thread just now).

                                                                        But surely you aren't saying that the wine world hasn't seen drastic and dramatic changes, backlashes, retrenchments, rapprochements, and all manner of stylistic meanderings over the last few decades? I mean, it's been NUTS. We've seen the rise and fall of entire wine regions, we've seen a near war in the Langhe that pitted the modernists against the traditionalists (surely you know the battle-cry/bottle-label of the anti-globalists: "No Barrique! No Berlusconi!"), we've seen the ripping up of Sangiovese vines to make way for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Toscano.

                                                                        And French cuisine? Has any other major cuisine undergone the vast change that France has seen over the last decade? I mean, buh-bye haute cuisine, hello Italy/Spain influenced gastronomy! Maybe we gravitate towards that which we prefer, but I'd wager you're more likely to find in France food that's more akin to a somewhat Gallic tapas than anything like canard a l'orange. Non?

                                                                        1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                                          collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 02:13 PM

                                                                          Thank you, but I don't think you have been piling on at all, and I appreciated your relating the Volnay working for you in Rome.

                                                                          I have seen the shifts. There's one going on slowly here. I noticed when the Italians began cultivating grapes popular in France/Calif. I followed developments in neighboring Languedoc.

                                                                          In a way I didn't quite see the changes in haute cuisine because we invariably avoided resturants serving tradfitonal cuisine. I was near Paul Bocuse a number of times and never wanted to go. At the same time if I was ever near Troisgros, I'd beat down the doors for a reservation.

                                                                          However, in French homes not much has changed in my view. I cook in a much more modern style than my French friends. That has surprised me.

                                                                          1. re: collioure1
                                                                            r
                                                                            Ricardo Malocchio Nov 27, 2012 02:29 PM

                                                                            I don't mean to say that the traditional "peasant" cuisine will ever go away. I hope not! I spent Sunday afternoon stirring a pot of turkey leg "coq"-au-vin with which we drunk a nice Gevrey Chambertin.

                                                                            But the Julia Child sort of 20th century haute-frenchie (particularly the way technique is elevated even over ingredients) seems to be totally passé!

                                                                          2. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                                            z
                                                                            zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 04:10 PM

                                                                            In the FWIW Dept., I don't think there has been any "piling on," in terms of vehemence, animosity, etc. Rather, there has been a point-by-point discussion that, while it may veer in one direction or another, I don't feel like it's gotten nasty or personal, vindictive or out-of-hand.

                                                                            Whatever . . .

                                                                            Cheers,
                                                                            Jason

                                                                            1. re: zin1953
                                                                              r
                                                                              Ricardo Malocchio Nov 28, 2012 08:55 AM

                                                                              Certainly not calling anyone out except myself! I'm here because I'm enjoying the debate.

                                                                        2. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                                          z
                                                                          zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 03:47 PM

                                                                          Ricardo,

                                                                          >>> I do want to repeat: I agree with you, collioure, that pairing wine/food from the same region is an excellent approach. I do it almost all the time, and feel a bit funny when I don't. <<<

                                                                          It IS an excellent approach, and one that I myself frequently follow, ESPECIALLY if I am unfamiliar with the dish and/or the restaurant. What I reject is the "exclusivity" or the suggestion that one nation's wines won't work with another's cuisine. That is, IMHO, nonsense.

                                                                          But I would strongly AGREE with you throughout the rest of your post, especially the rapidity with which Italian wines have changed.

                                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                                            collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 04:05 PM

                                                                            But while I do tend to do in Rome as the Romans as the saying goes, I am not saying that wrt France and Italy and neither was Mr Maresca a number of years ago.

                                                                            He was citing two specific countries where in general one country's wines clash with the other's food.

                                                                      2. re: zin1953
                                                                        collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 11:25 PM

                                                                        Yes, I did taste and I do remember the Calif wines of 30-40 years ago. The ones I encounter every summer are more enjoyable and more food friendly to my taste, and I don't meet up with any losers these days. The wines are fabulous.

                                                                        Moreover, there are many more wines and wineries. It’s more competitive and the price of vineyard land seems almost irrational.

                                                                        Once again surely you and other aces here can successfully pair some Italian wines with French food and vice-versa It isn't something I personally want to try. I know that a Chianti will go nicely with a simple piece of grilled salmon, but I'm not looking for an Italian wine when I dress up the salmon up with Hollandaise and mushrooms.

                                                                        And I'm not changing the subject when I continue to ask for your French wine recommendations for Rigatoni Puttanesca and Spaghetti alla Rucola? I'm still waiting for an answer.

                                                                        Quite obviously I’m not an oenologist and you are. My interests lie uniquely in the wines that will accompany the dishes I consume, and at that I do damn well.

                                                                        Cheers,

                                                                        Andy

                                                                        1. re: collioure1
                                                                          z
                                                                          zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 11:53 PM

                                                                          Andy, I am confused. Hopefully, you can clear something up . . .

                                                                          Earlier in this thread -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7733683 -- I wrote:
                                                                          >>> I don't know if you had the opportunity to taste, for example, Bordeaux from the 1960s or 1970s WHEN THEY WERE YOUNG, versus the current releases from Bordeaux today . . . or 1960s and 1970s Châteauneufs when they were first released compared to the current releases from Châteauneuf today . . . The current release of these are completely different wines from what was made in the not-too-distant past. We can "blame" it on Parker, or on Michel Rolland, or on anyone or anything else you want, but you cannot escape this truth . . . . lest you think I'm picking on the French, I'd say the exact same thing about Napa Valley Cabernets . . . <<<

                                                                          Although you didn't address my point directly in your response -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744438#7733762 -- you did write the following:
                                                                          >>> Learned wine in a hurry starting in 1990. I moved to Roussillon in 2002. <<<

                                                                          But now -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7444... -- you state
                                                                          >>> Yes, I did taste and I do remember the Calif wines of 30-40 years ago. <<<

                                                                          So, DID you taste the Cabernets from the 1970s and 1980s when they were 2-3 years of age, as you are now tasting the wines from this century in their youth? I thought you didn't start tasting and learning about wines until 1990; did I misunderstand?

                                                                          >>> Quite obviously I’m not an oenologist and you are. <<<

                                                                          Hmmmm . . . I'm not sure where you got the idea that I am a trained oenologist. I am not. Now, while I was indeed accepted to the the Oenology program at UC Davis, but I opted to attend UC Santa Cruz and received my Bachelor's in Modern European History. Additionally, I took a course in winemaking while at UCSC and, while working in the Napa Valley, a course at UC Davis in Sensory Evaluation of Wine. While I have worked in the cellar of several wineries, I am not an oenologist, nor have I ever claimed to be.

                                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                                            collioure1 Nov 28, 2012 01:29 AM

                                                                            Sometime in the late 70s/early 80s I happen to have had the opportunity to taste some great Bordeaux from the 50s, 60s and 70s (the 55 Latour was memorable)and that wasn't the only time. However, I never tasted them when they were young. I do not have any memory of tasting great Calif Cabs back then - but I'm not a Cabernet lover.

                                                                            I do remember consuming lots of California wines in the 80s. My late first wife complained regularly that they were not food-friendly and I agreed with her.

                                                                            In 1990 I had to really learn about wine in a hurry. I did and it remains an interest for me. When I moved here in 2002, I started drinking wine every night and assembling a varied selection of wine. It's very hot here and few houses have real wine cellars. I now have a wine fridge that holds about 200 bottles and a little cellar.

                                                                            I think wine contributes to my good health, enjoyment of life and youthful appearance.

                                                                            You're a lot closer to being an oenologist than I am.

                                                                            1. re: collioure1
                                                                              z
                                                                              zin1953 Nov 28, 2012 07:12 AM

                                                                              >>> I do remember consuming lots of California wines in the 80s. My late first wife complained regularly that they were not food-friendly and I agreed with her. <<<

                                                                              I am sorry about your first wife.

                                                                              The late-1970s and early-1980s were an odd time in California. It was a time when winemakers spoke of "making 'food' wines," meaning food-friendly (and they really weren't). This prompted Mel Knox (famous barrel broker in California) to ask, "What did they make wines to go with before, linoleum?"

                                                                              >>> You're a lot closer to being an oenologist than I am. <<<

                                                                              Well, if one oenology class makes one an oenologist (it doesn't), then yes, I may be closer. But I am far from it. I understand how wine is made, and have helped make it -- to varying degrees -- in a handful of California wineries, both as an employee and as a volunteer, but I would NEVER claim or pretend to be an oenologist/winemaker.

                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                collioure1 Nov 28, 2012 07:52 AM

                                                                                Thank you, Jason. I was widowed a long time ago and have since remarried here in France. I have twice been blesssed with superlative wives.

                                                                                I do remember the early 80s (when I was learning about wine slowly) and the food-unfriendly wines designed to win competitive tastings.

                                                                                1. re: collioure1
                                                                                  z
                                                                                  zin1953 Nov 28, 2012 02:51 PM

                                                                                  >>> I do remember the early 80s (when I was learning about wine slowly) and the food-unfriendly wines designed to win competitive tastings. <<<

                                                                                  I would respectfully say that -- "wines to win competitive tastings" -- is what has been happening for the past 20-25 years.

                                                                                  Danger! Danger! Warning, Will Robinson! Broad Generalizations approaching . . .

                                                                                  Using round numbers for the sake of discussion, in the 1970s, the then-"new wave" of winemakers (the 3rd Wave) were making wines that were very tannic, very extracted, and the cry was "Look how big and tannic these are! They'll age magnificently!" Of course, they didn't. The fruit faded long before the tannins softened, and you had an old, tannic wine with little or no fruit.

                                                                                  In the 1980s, as a reaction to that, winemakers seized on acidity -- they began making "food wines" that were green, unripe, and very acidic . . . so much so, they were out-of-balance.

                                                                                  With Robert Parker's influence on the rise, winemakers in the 1990s stopped talking about sugar-acid balance, and began speaking of "physiological maturity" -- in other words, picking when the TASTE was present in the grape, regardless of the sugar levels. As a result, high (some might say "excessive") alcoholic levels wines became the norm . . . it's not unusual to see 14, 15, even 15.5% alcohol in Cabernet, Pinot Noir (!), Chardonnay . . . . THESE are the wines that are designed to win competitions: they are (often) most impressive when served alone (think wine judgings, or blind tastings for publication), but often fall by the wayside to other, more balanced, less "in-your-face" wines during a meal . . .

                                                                                  Cheers,
                                                                                  Jason

                                                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                                                    i
                                                                                    INDIANRIVERFL Nov 29, 2012 05:33 AM

                                                                                    Living in Europe from 1983 to 1993, You have just explained why I never learned to appreciate the Bordeauxs. Always changing, always seeming to need 10 to 15 years to reach maturity.

                                                                                    Price was somewhat of a factor, but I never batted an eye when I could get 1975 Dom Perignon in Rheims for $36 US.

                                                                                    Plus I never planned on staying so long. Had some great farewell parties when departees would unload the cases from the cellar when they found they could not sneak it back to the States.

                                                                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                                                                      z
                                                                                      zin1953 Nov 29, 2012 07:27 AM

                                                                                      To be fair, Dale, the above post was referencing California wines, rather than Bordeaux, per se. However, you were in Europe during a string of "interesting" vintages in Bordeaux.

                                                                                      1980 was a decent vintage, yielding good wines that you could drink early while you waited for wine from better years in need of bottle age to mature.

                                                                                      1981 was a good year, more elegant than a "blockbuster" vintage but overshadowed by the year that followed.

                                                                                      1982 was THE year. At first, it was dismissed by most writers/critics, but Robert Parker raved and it turned out he was correct -- a great vintage!

                                                                                      1983 was better than 1981, but -- like many "doubles" (1961-62; 1966-67; 1970-71) -- overshadowed by the bigger vintage.

                                                                                      1984 was "difficult." A spring frost killed off the flowering of the Merlot vines, and so no grapes; but it turned out to be a very good vintage for Cabernet. However, Cabernet with little or no Merlot just isn't Bordeaux, In a sense, it was the year that Bordeaux made varietal Cabernets -- very atypical, and unlike what the châteaux would normally make, unlike what they would normally taste like. Left bank wines weren't bad, but they weren't Bordeaux, either. Right bank Bordeaux -- which are more Merlot-dependent - sucked.

                                                                                      1985 & 1986 launched a string of high-quality vintages and, in part based upon Parker and the success of 1982, a shift in winemaking. These were excellent; 1987 a bit weaker, but still good. 1988, 1989, and 1990 were all excellent, each better than the last!

                                                                                      /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                                                      In terms of the US -- and the rest of the modern world is not all that different -- the last figure I recall reading is that 96 or 97 percent of all wine purchased in the US is consumed within 7 days. Those of us with wine cellars are definitely an anachronism.

                                                                                      Cheers,
                                                                                      Jason

                                                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                                                                        sunshine842 Dec 1, 2012 09:16 AM

                                                                                        heh -- that one works the other way, too.

                                                                                        We'd dragged home a pretty decent collection of really nice French wines, dutifully (pun intended) paying the VAT on each bottle that we packed into our luggage and risked hernias to haul home (this was before the days of one bag and hefty overweight fees!).

                                                                                        When we moved to France, we were disgusted to find that we would be charged 19.6% VAT on every bottle of French wine we shipped to France with our household goods -- even though every bottle bore the VAT sticker.

                                                                                        So we drank a lot of it at going-away parties, and gave a lot more away...we shipped a few bottles that were special, but boy that irked me.

                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                          collioure1 Dec 1, 2012 09:42 AM

                                                                                          I buried my wine deep wthin my container when I moved here. Seven weeks on an air mattress. But worth it.

                                                                                          1. re: collioure1
                                                                                            sunshine842 Dec 1, 2012 09:49 AM

                                                                                            I do not, and have not ever, played games with customs and/or immigration officials. I used to work in international trade, and there isn't a bottle anywhere worth having a career-ending conviction on my record.

                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                              collioure1 Dec 1, 2012 10:01 AM

                                                                                              Not sure anyone asked. I arrived by plane. My contained arrived weeks later.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                                z
                                                                                                zin1953 Dec 2, 2012 06:54 AM

                                                                                                Hmmmmm . . . OK, the statute of limitations has passed . . . .

                                                                                                When I worked for a wine importer in the 1980s, we used to smuggle prosciutto, bresaola, and all sorts of other (then-illegal) meats and cheeses in our Italian wine containers.

                                                                                                I've brought in dozens of undeclared bottles of wine back-and-forth across the Atlantic, into the US, France, the UK, Spain, Portugal, and so on . . . never had a problem. I can't carry as much as I used to (pre-9/11) but it hasn't stopped me -- now I just bring American wine to my friends in Europe, and European wines back for me. (Now, if it's cases and cases, I'm having it shipped through my ex-employer, as a part of one of his containers.) But I've never had a problem with Customs when carrying wine with me.

                                                                                                /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                                                                Digression: in importing California wines BACK to the United States from Europe, we had to pay Excise taxes, as with any wine that we would bring into the US. What we didn't have to worry about was getting label approval from ATF/TTB.

                                                                    2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                      RhonelyInsanediego Nov 29, 2012 08:15 AM

                                                                      A lot of talk here about acid levels in wine and Volatile Acidity (VA) being a flaw. Yes, VA or acetic acid can be a flaw. Certainly too high levels of VA gives the wine an unpleasant vinegar taste, but small amounts of VA can contribute to a wines overall complexity. In fact all wine has some volatile acidity or acetic acid produced during fermentation.

                                                                      Even some very renowned wines have had relatively high acetic acid levels so it's not always a "Flaw".

                                                                      1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                                                                        maria lorraine Nov 29, 2012 08:23 AM

                                                                        "small amounts of VA can contribute to a wines overall complexity."

                                                                        Nah. It's a flaw. Gets worse over time.

                                                                        Can you give examples of renowned wines with VA?

                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                          RhonelyInsanediego Nov 29, 2012 08:30 AM

                                                                          Cheval Blanc is a well known one. Again, ALL wine has some acetic acid.

                                                                          1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                                                                            maria lorraine Nov 29, 2012 08:31 AM

                                                                            That's the obvious example. VA doesn't work in CB either.

                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                              RhonelyInsanediego Nov 29, 2012 08:36 AM

                                                                              VA is a component of ALL wine. Yeast naturally produce a small amount of VA or acetic acid during fermentation. Only excessive VA is a flaw.

                                                                              1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                                                                                maria lorraine Nov 29, 2012 08:40 AM

                                                                                Not disagreeing that VA is formed during ferm. Once you can detect it, it's a flaw.

                                                                                VA includes a number of other (not so nice) acids in addition to acetic. It easily morphs into bigger flaws.

                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                  RhonelyInsanediego Nov 29, 2012 08:49 AM

                                                                                  As a chemist and amateur winemaker, all I'm saying is that, it is an indisputable FACT that VA is a natural component of all wine. Every single drop. Therefore it is a part of all wine and thus a component of it's complex flavor profile.

                                                                                  As I said, only excessive VA is a flaw, otherwise it's a completely natural component of wine. No doubt we don't want wine that tastes like vinegar, but very small amounts contribute to a wines complexity. Do what you want with the info. Not here to argue. We'll just have to agree to disagree

                                                                                  1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                                                                                    maria lorraine Nov 29, 2012 08:56 AM

                                                                                    I've already agreed it forms during ferm. I wrote that -- didn't you see?

                                                                                    But the ferm level of VA is below the level of detection ( 0.2 to 0.4 g/L.) so it's not exactly contributory. Anything beyond that level is indicative of contamination or spoilage -- a flaw. Which usually creates bigger flaws over time.

                                                                        2. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                                                                          z
                                                                          zin1953 Nov 29, 2012 01:36 PM

                                                                          In the FWIW Dept., a MUCH better example is pre-1985 Chianti Classico . . . for generations, Americans have been tasting Tuscan wines and saying "Oh, this wine is really good . . . FOR AN ITALIAN." As of the mid-1980s, people were finally able to say of Chianti. "Oh, this wine is really good. PERIOD."

                                                                          Those early Italians are responsible for me having a higher tolerance for VA -- which is a flaw; ML is correct -- that some of my fellow tasters/judges.

                                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                                            collioure1 Nov 29, 2012 01:52 PM

                                                                            That's about the time I started to drink Chiantis. Took me years to begin to like them.

                                                                            Now I know!

                                                                            Well, maybe not. Seems they have changed again.

                                                                        3. re: maria lorraine
                                                                          collioure1 Nov 29, 2012 08:51 AM

                                                                          You will be pleased to learn that I am going to walk this one back.

                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                            collioure1 Nov 29, 2012 09:04 AM

                                                                            You will be pleased to learn that I am going to walk this one back.

                                                                            After some research and reflection I now believe that Italian and French wines and cuisines can be mixed and matched successfully – at least by competent wine consumers. I would be interested in any data you have that shows the reduction achieved in the acidity of a few well known appellations.

                                                                            In any case you are far too accomplished in this field for me to disagree with you.

                                                                            In the coming months I will want to run an experiment or two. I want to prepare an Italian dish to be matched with a French wine we generally agree should match. The first dish will be Pasta Puttanesca. For the others here Puttanesca is a very flavorful tomato-based sauce that includes olives, capers, anchovies and garlic.

                                                                            I wish I could also run an experiment or two with a French dish to be matched with an Italian wine. You can do this, but I can’t. Hardly any Italian wines here. Ditto German and Austrian.

                                                                          2. re: collioure1
                                                                            maria lorraine Nov 26, 2012 06:05 PM

                                                                            "I appreciate the updated info and the advanced methods you cite, but I don’t think this info changes the situation much."

                                                                            Use the information to update your perceptions.

                                                                            "I will have to pick up a bottle of Chianti here."

                                                                            One bottle will not reveal a region. It could be a poorly made bottle, or an unrepresentative bottle. You will need a representative sample of a number of bottles from recent vintages, at varying price points, from each of several sub-regions, to be able to assess Chianti. Pay special attention to the Reserva and DOCG bottlings -- they are not acidic.

                                                                            Even if you've tasting widely, through a region and sub-regions, what may emerge is no consistent style of winemaking or acidity whatsoever. Instead, you may find widely varying styles of winemaking, including barriques vs. botti, inclusion of international varietals into the blend or not, different levels of oak aging (affecting sweetness perception), different levels of ripeness (direct bearing on acidity), differences in viticultural practices that affect flavor, and so on. When you compare inexpensive table wines to the DOC or DOCG wines, the differences become even more apparent.

                                                                            Wines that vary widely within a region are nothing new. This happens everywhere, not only in Italy, but in France, everywhere. One simply cannot generalize; there are always many wines that defy generalization.

                                                                          3. re: maria lorraine
                                                                            collioure1 Nov 29, 2012 08:40 AM

                                                                            You will be pleased to learn that I am going to walk this one back.

                                                                2. re: zin1953
                                                                  collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 02:45 AM

                                                                  Going in the other direction now, Jason, what French wines would you recommend with Rigatoni Puttanesca? or Spaghetti alla Rucola?

                                                                  Any number of light-to-medium bodied Italian reds would work - your Nero d'Avola, Chianti, Barbera, Dolcetto, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo . . .

                                                                  But most French wines are too "sweet" for such typical Italian fare.

                                                                  1. re: collioure1
                                                                    b
                                                                    bob96 Dec 6, 2012 12:24 PM

                                                                    Late to this thread, but without daring to joining these ampelographical wars, I'd be happy with a Cassis blanc, vin gris de Corbieres, rose de Minervois, or a Marcillac, a little chilled, with either dish. Not counting any Corsicans, though, given the identity issues there. Conversely, I can think of a number of Italian reds that would match French traditional dishes, including Sardinia's monica and cannonau to an Etna rosso.

                                                                3. re: collioure1
                                                                  RhonelyInsanediego Nov 26, 2012 11:09 AM

                                                                  Not entirely true, as I thought Dolcetto was called Douce Noire in Savoy area of France.

                                                                  1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                                                                    z
                                                                    zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 01:20 PM

                                                                    To be fair, it was ampelographer Pierre Galet who first postulated that Dolcetto was the same as Corbeau (aka Douce Noir) -- see his Dictionnaire encyclopédique des cépages (Paris, 2000) -- but DNA fingerprinting at UC Davis disproved this. See http://www.jancisrobinson.com/ocw/CH1030

                                                                    1. re: zin1953
                                                                      k
                                                                      Klunco Nov 26, 2012 01:28 PM

                                                                      All I can say is, since I started this thread two years ago, I've learned a lot more about wine (including how much I don't know) and have fallen in love with well made Dolcettos.

                                                                      1. re: Klunco
                                                                        z
                                                                        zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 01:30 PM

                                                                        They can indeed be wonderfully enjoyable wines . . .

                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                          i
                                                                          INDIANRIVERFL Nov 27, 2012 04:32 PM

                                                                          Having spent less than a couple of months total in Italy, I freely admit to knowing next to nothing. But I have discovered three generalities:

                                                                          1. I really like Italian wine.

                                                                          2. I really enjoy it with seafood and pasta.

                                                                          3. The greater the altitude or latitude, the greater the price.

                                                                        2. re: Klunco
                                                                          p
                                                                          pickypicky Dec 2, 2012 07:44 AM

                                                                          Love the Dolcetto from Palmina (Santa Barbara CA). Great QPR but just plain delicious.

                                                                    2. re: collioure1
                                                                      ChefJune Dec 7, 2012 11:29 AM

                                                                      < You can’t mix and match them.>

                                                                      Sure you can! and I'm convinced you SHOULD! :)

                                                                      <There's a reason they produce Barbera, Dolcetto and Chianti in Italy and not in France.> that's because they don't grow those grape varieties in France. Otherwise, they'd be making similar wines.

                                                                      There's room for lots of interchange between cuisines and wines of various countries. I find it fun to mix and match.

                                                                      1. re: ChefJune
                                                                        collioure1 Dec 7, 2012 11:36 AM

                                                                        Well, I've walked that one back because the aces here objected with a number of good reasons, not to mention that they came up with a number of good matches for an typical Italian dish. The author of the statement I quoted no longer holds to it either.

                                                                        Nevertheless I think it's still good advice for those who are not very wine savvy.

                                                                      2. re: collioure1
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Dec 7, 2012 01:18 PM

                                                                        "... when you cross the border just near Ventimiglia both the cuisine and the wines change for a very good reason."

                                                                        Well ... farinata is pretty close to socca, pâtes au pistou is pretty close to pasta al pesto, Bellet is made with Vermentino, and Bianco di Nizza = Rossese ...

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          collioure1 Dec 7, 2012 01:39 PM

                                                                          Robert, I do not know what you do, but you have a command of these subjects more vast than mine. I get along well at the table in both countries, but when you speak here, I listen.

                                                                          Yes, there are some commonalities along the Riviera. Nevertheless, I do understand the fundamental differences between these two country's cuisines.

                                                                          Italy has undertaken major grape varieties from France/West Coast, but France has not taken up the red Italian grapes. Some will not complement the cuisine IMO.

                                                                          1. re: collioure1
                                                                            z
                                                                            zin1953 Dec 8, 2012 10:02 AM

                                                                            And, of course, the fact that -- say, Nebbiolo -- is not an authorized variety under the INAO . . . .

                                                                            1. re: zin1953
                                                                              collioure1 Dec 8, 2012 10:24 AM

                                                                              I did not know that, Jason.

                                                                              So France is not as open as California to "foreign" varieties. (They have too many laws in this country, and the USA has too many lawyers.)

                                                                              For the time being I will continue to ponder Barbaresco alongside Cassoulet.

                                                                              1. re: collioure1
                                                                                Robert Lauriston Dec 8, 2012 10:37 AM

                                                                                Certainly the cuisines of Liguria and Provence are distinct, I was just objecting to the notion that everything changes radically when you cross the border. Some of the meals I've had in Nice could have been served in Liguria without anyone thinking they were getting French food. Other meals, you knew for sure you were in France.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                  collioure1 Dec 8, 2012 10:52 AM

                                                                                  I understood that. Peoples, cuisine, wine and much more have been mingling along that coast for many, many centuries.

                                                                                  I was just making the point that the grape varieties in production in these two countries (at least until about 30 years) were quite different - because the cuisines are.

                                                                                  Now if I could just find a little Greco, Fiano, Aglianico, and Friulano, my table would would be much more interesting.

                                                                                  1. re: collioure1
                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Dec 8, 2012 11:37 AM

                                                                                    Italy and France each make wine from over 300 grape varieties. There's a lot of overlap, often obscured by grape varieties having different names in different places. In both countries there are also many grape varieties that are grown only in one small area, sometimes only in one vineyard.

                                                                                    When I was trying to count how many varieties I have tried over the years, the number would regularly go down as I discovered synonyms.

                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                      z
                                                                                      zin1953 Dec 8, 2012 12:30 PM

                                                                                      Agreed.

                                                                                    2. re: collioure1
                                                                                      z
                                                                                      zin1953 Dec 8, 2012 01:51 PM

                                                                                      IN the FWIW mode . . .

                                                                                      Greco -- according to the Italian census of 2000, 941 ha. (2,325 acres) were planted in 2000; I don't personally know of any plantings outside of Italy.

                                                                                      Fiano -- according to the Italian census of 2000, 783 ha. (1,935 acres) were planted in 2000; there is also some in California and Australia.

                                                                                      Aglianico -- according to the Italian census of 2000, 9,890 ha. (24,400 acres) were planted in 2000. There is also some planted in Australia and California.

                                                                                      Friulano -- often known as Tocai Friulano, but DNA analysis shows that in reality the same grape as Sauvignonasse (long planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Sémilion) in the Gironde. It is also planted in central France (Corrèze), and is known as Zelini Sauvignon in Slovenia, as Sauvignon Vert in Chile. Confusingly, the Sauvignon Vert in California has been shown to actually be Muscadelle. Also, it's planted in Argentina, the Ukraine and in Russia. There is a little planted in California. As of 2000, there were 4,698 ha (11,609 acres) planted in Italy. Other figures are 2,691 ha (6,650 acres) in the Ukraine, and 51 ha (126 acres) in Russia, 234 ha (578 acres) in Chile, and 659 ha (1,628) in Argentina.

                                                                                      1. re: zin1953
                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Dec 8, 2012 02:54 PM

                                                                                        Friulano was formerly known as Tocai or Tocai Friulano but Hungary won a lawsuit that banned Italians wineries from using that name:

                                                                                        http://www.jancisrobinson.com/article...

                                                                                        Supposedly a significant portion of the Chilean wines sold as Sauvignon Blanc are actually made from Sauvignon Vert.

                                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                                          collioure1 Dec 8, 2012 02:59 PM

                                                                                          Thanks, Jason. Friulano is present in Bordeaux white vineyards (by mistake).

                                                                                          However, I can't find any evidence of it in Corrèze where there is little wine, no AOC's and the only wines of interest are vins de paille.

                                                                                          Corrèze is a rural department one drives thru for the most part. Collonges-la-Rouge is worth a visit.

                                                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                                                            collioure1 Dec 9, 2012 02:14 AM

                                                                                            OK. I found a reference to muscadelle in Corrèze. White IGP wines, often vins de paille, of sauvignon, semillon and muscadelle in the SW corner of the province, essentially an extension of the vineyards of Bergerac.

                                                                                            Oh, and I just found a 100% Muscadelle from Bordeaux. And a few more from that sector. Maybe there's hope yet.

                                                                                            Thank you again, Jason.

                                                                                            You have established yourself as the ultimate reference on grape varieties.

                                                                                            1. re: collioure1
                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Dec 9, 2012 10:12 AM

                                                                                              The current state-of-the-art reference on grape varieties is the just-published "Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours" by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz.

                                                                    3. SarahMayWineinRome Mar 9, 2012 01:19 AM

                                                                      I suggest a wine club. That way you can get to know what you like, what regions you are interested in and what kind of Italian wine drinker you are. I would look into whites from Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige. Check out the wine maker Foradori (Trentino), her Terolodego is fantastic and she is experimented with whited vinified in Amphora. While I love wines from Piedmont and Tuscany, there are other regions with fantastic wines that are often cheaper and better quality because they are unknown. Check out Etna Rosso from Sicily instead of Nero D'Avola. I can't live without Lagrein from Alto-Adige.

                                                                      If you like a tannic and robust wine or a wine that can handle some age (a lot, in fact) check out Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG, a great producer is Paolo Bea in Umbria.

                                                                      Don't get me wrong, I love my Barolos, Barbarecos and Brunellos but Italy has SOOOO much more to offer.

                                                                      www.tastingrome.blogspot.com

                                                                      1. g
                                                                        Gnoop Nov 5, 2010 02:04 PM

                                                                        You'll probably want to look at a region to start with.

                                                                        My best recommendation is... wine by the glass. I've found a number of Italian restaurants in the area with decent wine lists that have some by-the-glass options I'm interested in. It's a decent way to test things out. You'll be drinking young wines, most certainly, so keep aging in consideration.

                                                                        Piemonte / Piedmont is home to probably the most expensive of Italian wines - Barolo and Barbaresco, both from the Nebbiolo grape (100%) but it also includes Barbera, the good drinker wine. Nebbiolo-based wines can be tricky to drink young. In general, modern technique makers produce wines that can drink well young, old technique makers will tend to produce wines that require more aging (that's not to say that the new wines won't age well). Region-wise, Barolo tends to lean towards aging, Barbaresco a bit more approachable. Bargains with Barolo and Barbaresco can be tricky to find, particularly if you're looking for something to try young.

                                                                        Toscano / Tuscany is home to probably the most popular Italian wines. Namely Chianti and the so-called Super-Tuscans. These are Bordeaux-style wines blending Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, typically. Toscano is also home to Brunello which is made from sangiovese, as mentioned. Quite an excellent wine. You can find some good super tuscan bargains if you look carefully.

                                                                        Veneto. Another blender's region. The trio of Valpolicella, Ripasso, and Amarone (all using similar techniques with regard to drying the grapes, with some variation) make some really fantastic wines. Amarone tends to be at the top of the list collector-wise. This is a region I'm quite interested in exploring further.

                                                                        As others have noted, Italian wines are acidic and designed with food in mind. As one Italian put it, the food is designed with wine in mind, the wine is designed with food in mind.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Gnoop
                                                                          p
                                                                          pantani Dec 13, 2010 12:57 PM

                                                                          Another thing to consider would be Italian style wines from California.
                                                                          One of my recent finds is Opolo Sangiovese from Paso Robles.
                                                                          I like Chianti but have not had many that were drinkable so I pretty much gave up.
                                                                          I have also had a number of Super Tuscans and for the most part they were way too heavy on the oak and I am one that likes some oak. Italian wines seem in general pricey to me compared to what you can get from other regions.

                                                                          1. re: pantani
                                                                            PolarBear Dec 13, 2010 02:01 PM

                                                                            The Sangiovese from Pianetta is quite nice, as are the Nebbiolos (three, iirc) from Palmina in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

                                                                            1. re: pantani
                                                                              p
                                                                              pickypicky Dec 2, 2012 07:40 AM

                                                                              How about the Italian varietals from Palmina? Steve Clifton uses only Italian varietals in these wines,and because the labels are simple, it's given me a chance to get to know the characteristics of Italian grapes, albeit grown in Santa Barbara county.

                                                                              Love his Barbera, Alisos (Sangiovese and Merlot), Nebbiolo, and for price, his Dolcetto can't be beat.

                                                                              1. re: pickypicky
                                                                                PolarBear Dec 2, 2012 04:49 PM

                                                                                Quite fond of their Tocai Fruiliano, and a number of others truth be told.

                                                                          2. b
                                                                            Brad Ballinger Nov 4, 2010 10:59 AM

                                                                            Also, a pretty good online resource for you: www.italianmade.com

                                                                            1. k
                                                                              Klunco Nov 4, 2010 08:46 AM

                                                                              Thank you all so much for your replies. I've just made up a big list of wines to try in the next few months and will let you know which stick out. I'm excited to learn a lot more about Italian wines and I love the fact that many are so food friendly as I do mostly drink my wine with food.

                                                                              Here are the bottles I'll look for in the coming months (I've made a checklist):

                                                                              -Verdicchio (White, slightly fizzy)
                                                                              -Arneis (White)
                                                                              -Falanghina (White)

                                                                              Cotes-du-Rhone Comparisons:

                                                                              -Chianti
                                                                              -Nero d'Avola from Sicily
                                                                              -Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($)
                                                                              -Salice Salentino from Puglia ($)
                                                                              -Gattinara ($)
                                                                              -Valtellina ($)
                                                                              -Rosso di Montalcino ($, Good Value, Approachable when young)

                                                                              -Rosso Concero ($$)
                                                                              -Sicilian Cerasuolo di Vittorio ($$)
                                                                              -Valpolicella ($$)
                                                                              -Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria) ($$)
                                                                              -Carmignano form Tuscany ($$)
                                                                              -Barolo ($$)
                                                                              -Barberesco ($$)
                                                                              -Barbera Superiore (Spice, Power)
                                                                              -Sagratino di Montefalco (Very Spicy, powerful)
                                                                              -Taurasi Radici
                                                                              -Ciacci Piccolomini Fabivs

                                                                              -Taurasi Riserva form Campania ($$$, big)
                                                                              -Aglianico di Vulture from Basilicata ($$$, big)
                                                                              -Etna Rosso from Sicily ($$$, big)
                                                                              -Brunello di Montalcino (Expensive, but must try)

                                                                              Beaujolais Comparisons:

                                                                              -Dolcetto from Piedmont
                                                                              -Rossese di Dolceacqua from Liguria
                                                                              -Valpolicella

                                                                              I think this is a great list! Thank you for all your help. It's going to take me sometime to get through all of these, but I think I have a great road map to exploring Italian wine. Thanks again.

                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Klunco
                                                                                r
                                                                                RCC Nov 4, 2010 08:54 AM

                                                                                Great list. Enjoy.

                                                                                1. re: Klunco
                                                                                  r
                                                                                  Ricardo Malocchio Nov 4, 2010 01:33 PM

                                                                                  My recommendation: start in the Piedmont. Most reliably wonderful Italian wines, and probably more akin to your French wine preferences. Then, go to Tuscany for the Brunellos and Chiantis.

                                                                                  Piedmont: Barolos and Barbarescos, for certain. But don't overlook Langhe Nebbiolos which can bring alot of that nebbiolo wonderfulness at much lower prices. The 2007 Vietti Perbacco is one easily found example (around $20). Same with Produttori's 2007 Langhe Nebb. Speaking of the Produttori, their 2006 Barbaresco (they only bottled the base cru that year) is a steal at around $30.

                                                                                  Tuscany: Chianti can be wonderful or terrible, and very maker specific. I hate new oak, so I tend to avoid the riservas which are all-too-often barrique aged for godawful long periods. Makers that are reliable include Felsina and Montevertine*. Beyond those, do your homework carefully.

                                                                                  (*Montevertine is not classified, so it often gets tagged as a "Super Tuscan". This can be very misleading as people generally think of Super Tuscans as the wines made from non native varietals like Cab Sauv, Merlot, etc., sometimes blended with Sangiovese. Montevertine makes its wines with traditional Chianti varietals, but thumbs its nose at the authorities. They don't need no stinkin' rooster.)

                                                                                  Brunello di Montalcino. 2004 vintage (still on the tail end of "current release"). Hard to go wrong. Quickly develops wonderful secondary/tertiary aromas. Must taste. Many wonderful makers, and (at least these days) much more consistently good than Chiantis. Rossos di Montalcino can also be wonderful, and I particularly like Il Poggione's 2007 vintage.

                                                                                  Some would put Amarone on this list, but I'm not quite as much a fan of this wine. Certainly try, but not before the Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos, and Chiantis.

                                                                                  1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
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                                                                                    dinwiddie Nov 5, 2010 06:34 AM

                                                                                    I tend to agree with Ricardo, but I'd not open the 2004 Brunello Reservas yet, they really need some more age. The 2003s are very approachable at this time.

                                                                                    One Rosso di Montalcino that I really enjoyed when I was in Italy recently, and which should be available here if you look for it, is Caparzo.

                                                                                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
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                                                                                      bob96 Nov 5, 2010 12:39 PM

                                                                                      Can't disagree with the canon, but for really everyday drinking, in Piedmont it's really only barbera or dolcetto; the least expensive nebbiolo langhe I've seen is above $15/bottle. There are some plain Valtellinas in this range, but they're more variable and harder to come by. As much as I would love to drink Carema eveyr night, Piedmont really can't compete at the lower price points--

                                                                                      1. re: bob96
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                                                                                        RCC Nov 5, 2010 01:11 PM

                                                                                        What do you mean by "Can't disagree with the canon" ?

                                                                                        1. re: RCC
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                                                                                          bob96 Nov 5, 2010 01:19 PM

                                                                                          Your ranking of quality regions, that is.

                                                                                        2. re: bob96
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                                                                                          Ricardo Malocchio Nov 8, 2010 06:18 AM

                                                                                          I drink a lot of Barbera, but - as with Chianti - one needs to be careful about the maker. The classic Barbera everyday drinker is an exceptionally acidic wine with very low tannins. It wipes your palate clean with every sip and doesn't require significant aging to tame the tannic beast.

                                                                                          But, increasingly, Barbera makers are experimenting with ever riper harvests - meaning much lower acidity - and barrel aging in new French barrique, which adds those exceedingly astringent oak tannins that generally need a good deal of time to integrate. I do not care for this style of Barbera, and am hopeful that this is another one of those unfortunate, but short-lived phases.

                                                                                          1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                                                            invinotheresverde Nov 8, 2010 06:28 AM

                                                                                            Totally agreed.

                                                                                            1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                                                              SarahMayWineinRome Mar 12, 2012 12:38 AM

                                                                                              I totally agree with you on the Barberas. I am not fond of this oaky juicier version of a beloved wine. I don't think it will be short-lived, though. It seems to be a trend all over the world. I think the barrique should be completely outlawed in Italy. When in doubt, go for the cheaper Barbera, it *usually* means you aren't paying extra for the rent of the barriques.

                                                                                            2. re: bob96
                                                                                              BillB656 Mar 9, 2012 01:33 PM

                                                                                              What about ruche, brachetto, grignolino, freisa? All have wonderful examples of reasonably priced, beautiful wines.

                                                                                              1. re: BillB656
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                                                                                                bob96 Mar 11, 2012 11:39 PM

                                                                                                Could not agree more--love ruche and grignolino. They're a little scarcer here than barbera and dolcetto, but there's really something unique about their elegance and character. And mostly reasonably priced.

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                                                                                          Brad Ballinger Nov 3, 2010 07:24 AM

                                                                                          It will be impossible to provide all the education and recommendations in a format such as this. I'll add my two cents, which might be the total worth, but I will also suggest you seek out some Italian wine tastings.

                                                                                          Cotes-du-Rhone equivalent: CdR takes many different forms since many different grapes can legally be used to produce them. From a law standpoint, Chianti also allows many grape varieties, both red and white, like Cotes-du-Rhone does. And like Chateauneuf-du-Pape does, for that matter. So if you go with a basic, run-of-the-mill Chianti, that's one option. From a body/style standpoint, I'd also suggest Nero d'Avola from Sicily.

                                                                                          Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Really not much grenache used in Italian wines. Or mourvedre. Some syrah exists. Again, CdP wines come in many styles since 13 grapes can be used. For what I like to drink CdP with, though, I'd push you to Barolo and Barberesco. Even Gattinara (made from the same grape). or Valtellina (also made from the same grape). Those last two don't carry the high price tag of B and B.

                                                                                          Spice and power: A lot of Barbera Superiore wines being produced today fall into this category. Also look to Sagratino di Montefalco for uber spice and power. Ditto some Aglianico, particularly Taurasi Radici.

                                                                                          Cru Beaujolais: Valpolicella

                                                                                          St. Emilion: Super Tuscans made with more merlot or cab than sangiovese.

                                                                                          Bugundy: You can find Pinot Nero wines from NE Italy. Maybe sojme of thos will have the elements you like in wines from Burgundy.

                                                                                          What you are missing: By all means, even though they are pricey, you need to experience Brunello di Montalcino. For whites, there's nothing like Arneis or Falanghina. And to drink with a lighter, fruit-based dessert, little beats Moscato d'Asti.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Brad Ballinger
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                                                                                            dinwiddie Nov 3, 2010 10:45 AM

                                                                                            Just like France, Italian wines are not normally (although sometimes) sold by varietal but rather region. The major red grapes in Italy are Barbera, Sangiovese (of which Brunello is a strain), Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo, In addition, Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot are grown and are the components (along with Sangiovese) in the Super Tuscan IGTs. Whites include Moscato, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Trebbiano.

                                                                                            Much as I love Brunello di Montalcino (especially Reservas), I'd recommend you try a Rosso di Montalcino. Much less expensive, approachable young, and probably a good alternative to Chianti when it comes to Sangiovese.

                                                                                            Italians do make some very good Syrahs, but they are not that easy to find. You might look for Ciacci Piccolomini Fabivs if you are looking for a good Italian Syrah. While there is some grown in Tuscany, more likely it will be found in Umbria and Piedmonte.

                                                                                            1. re: dinwiddie
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                                                                                              jmills Dec 12, 2010 08:33 AM

                                                                                              The Ciacci Rosso is a value and very good I think.

                                                                                          2. Chinon00 Nov 2, 2010 02:47 PM

                                                                                            Speaking very broadly I will add too that Italian wines tend overwhelmingly to be food friendly. I find that where I really like the Nebbiolo based wines alone, with a steak or a hunk of hard cheese I enjoy it MUCH more. Therefore I'd suggest exploring Italian wines with food always.

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                                                                                              bob96 Nov 2, 2010 08:07 AM

                                                                                              You're missing hundreds of wines. But seriously, welcome to a great wine list. I'd recommend a basic book (David Lynch's Vino is a good place to start), but to address some of you your specific questions, drawing on personal favorites.
                                                                                              Cotes du Rhone has many analogs, at different levels, like CDR itself. At the everyday quaffer level, a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (single varietla), a Salice Salentino from Puglia, or a good Chianti would work. At higher price points, mid-weight blends like the Sicilian Cerasuolo di Vittorio, or a Valpolicella, moving up to weightier, spicier Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria), Carmignano form Tuscany, or a Rosso Concero (Montepulciano-Sangiovese) from Le Marche. At the very top, big, spicy, warm reds from the aglicanico grape, like a Taurasi Riserva form Campania or an Aglianico di Vulture from Basilicata or an Etna Rosso from Sicily.
                                                                                              For Beaujolais crus, a Dolcetto from Piedmont, or a Rossese di Dolceacqua from Liguria.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: bob96
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                                                                                                LJS Nov 2, 2010 08:23 AM

                                                                                                An interesting Italian white that goes very well with the seafood it is grown to accompany in the Marches/Le Marches: Verdicchio. We are pretty much limited to Fazi Battaglia from our local liquor store, but when we lived in Sirolo near Monte Conero, there must have been 10 local vintners producing this lemony, almost frizzante, white.

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                                                                                                RCC Nov 2, 2010 07:45 AM

                                                                                                "The basic Italian grapes that I see a lot are: Barbera, Primitivo (like Zinfindel?), Barolo, Chianti, Nero D'Avola (I had a wonderful bottle of this recently on the waiter's suggestion), Aglianico, Nebiolo."

                                                                                                First of all, Barolo and Chianti are NOT grapes.
                                                                                                Barolo is a DOCG whose wine is made from Nebbiolo.
                                                                                                Chianti is a wine made from Sangiovese and other grapes, or can also be the regional area in Tuscany that produces different types of Sangiovese-based wines.

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: RCC
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                                                                                                  TheAffairLady Nov 2, 2010 08:37 PM

                                                                                                  I love Barbera does anyone have Barbera recommendations?

                                                                                                  1. re: TheAffairLady
                                                                                                    TongoRad Nov 3, 2010 04:21 AM

                                                                                                    The Michele Chiarlo is a really nice and a very good value, and it is one of my few 'house wines' (where I tend to stick with the $10-15 price range), so that one is worth checking out if you aren't familiar with it.

                                                                                                    http://www.thewinebuyer.com/sku50394....

                                                                                                    1. re: TheAffairLady
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                                                                                                      jmills Dec 12, 2010 08:31 AM

                                                                                                      Try La Spinetta. I like a lot.

                                                                                                  2. Monica Nov 2, 2010 07:37 AM

                                                                                                    Great thread. Italian wine confuses me.
                                                                                                    also, is it safe to assume that most Italian wines are more acidic than French? I am not a big fan of acidic taste in wine but I too would love to learn more about Italian wines.

                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Monica
                                                                                                      invinotheresverde Nov 3, 2010 08:10 AM

                                                                                                      In general, yes, Italian wines are acidic, which is a good thing. They create more saliva in your mouth, helping you chew and taste your food better. Have you heard of a wine being described as "food friendly"? That's due to a higher amount of acid, amongst other things.

                                                                                                      Frankly, wines with low acid are unbalanced, and taste like shit to me (and, I'd imagine, most on this board. Acid is your friend).

                                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                        Monica Dec 13, 2010 05:29 AM

                                                                                                        I drink wine because of its taste and not to create more saliva in my mouth..

                                                                                                        1. re: Monica
                                                                                                          invinotheresverde Dec 13, 2010 10:17 AM

                                                                                                          You never drink wine with food? I find that interesting.

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