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Randall Murray: Let's take a tour through Piemonte's wine country
Randall Murray
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column publishes monthly.

Following in the footsteps of the Wine of the Month, let’s stay in Italy.

Recently I was able to sample four superb wines from Italy’s famed Piemonte region, produced by one of that area’s most respected vintners, Marchesi di Gresy.

Piemonte, or the Piedmont, is bordered on the north by the Alps and on the south by the Apennines. These mountain ranges serve as protection to the vineyards planted between them. Piemonte may not be as well-known as Tuscany but it offers more than a fair share of magnificent wines, most of them reds.

The shining jewel of the Marchesi di Gresy estate is the Martinenga Vineyard, about 30 acres of the prized grape-growing territory of Barbaresco, home to Piemonte’s most prestigious red wine grape, nebbiolo. What sangiovese is to Tuscany, nebbiolo is to Piemonte.

And from that vineyard comes our first Marchesi di Gresy wine.

Martinenga.jpg
Martinenga Barbaresco DOCG 2014
Just to give you some clue as to the depth and breadth of this lovely wine: It will still be wonderful with another decade in the bottle. And the winemakers say it will age for 25-30 years — stored properly, of course. DOCG is the highest quality designator given to Italian wines. Your wine has to be exceptional to get that rating.

And “exceptional” is the appropriate word for this iteration of the nebbiolo grape.

The red hue is bright and shiny, reminiscent of a fire opal. The nose carries hints of dark red fruit and flowers. Tannins are pronounced but in balance. Although nearly five years old, it’s a baby. Aerate it or pour the wine into glasses 20 minutes or so before bringing glass to lips.

Recommended food pairings include seasoned red meat dishes, mature cheeses and a traditional Italian dish called agnolotti del plin; small pastas resembling beggars’ purses, stuffed with beef and cabbage. I’m going to whip up a batch of that soon, but will probably not use the cabbage because of likely taste distractions with this fine wine.

Price: About $65.

Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2017

Barbera is one of the bride’s favorite red wines. Mine, too. It’s softer

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Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2017
than nebbiolo and matures more quickly. But this is a high-quality wine — note the DOCG. It does not age as well as the nebbiolo, but matures more quickly and is more accessible. I really like this wine, and I believe anyone who enjoys well-made, attention-to-detail reds will find favor with this one.

Color is bright red, with lots of berry aromas. It’s tight at first, but loosens up after some time in the glass. Same recommendations for aerating or early pour. I cannot define what makes this wine so good; the tech sheet used the term “great drinkability.” Let’s leave it at that. This wine flat-out smells, tastes and feels good. Match with red meat or highly seasoned poultry dishes or with fresh cheese with a little bite. Price: About $20.

Monte Aribaldo Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2016

“Dolcetto” translates to something like “little sweet one.” That means it’s a sweet grape to work with and make into wine, not a reflection of sugar-type sweetness. This is similar in style to the barbera; soft, fruity, yet quite dry. Malolactic fermentation gives this enjoyable red real structure. It almost feels silky in the mouth, and a variety of taste sensations make you want another sip.

There is no oak exposure; this Dolcetto is aged in stainless steel or cement casks, in addition to months of bottle aging. Soft tannins make this an easy wine to quaff with pasta and meat dishes; it would be terrific with really good pizza. Price: About $20.

La Serra Moscato d’Asti 2017 DOCG
Monte Aribaldo - Dolcetto D'Alba.jpg
Monte Aribaldo - Dolcetto D'Alba
Now with a great meal over, and everybody stuffed, it’s time to pop the cork on this sweet beauty. There is something captivating about the aroma and flavor of the vast array of muscat — or moscato — grapes. Fruity, spicy and enticing, with a whiff of nectarine or peach, the La Serra is a great ending to an evening of fine dining.

Serve this viscous, fruit-rich wine with lighter desserts such as cakes, fruit or soft cheeses. Sip it and savor the flavor. Price: About $18.

Now if this little imaginary trip around the Piemonte region doesn’t make you want to pack up and jet off to Italy, or at least search better wine shops for these stellar selections, I give up. But if you plan to go, drop me a note. I’ll carry your bags. And my rates are reasonable.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.


Wine of the month

Famiglia Pasqua Romeo & Juliet

Passionesentimento Rosso 2016

The wine: Robust, dry red table wine.

The grapes: 40 percent Merlot, 30 percent Corvina, 30 percent Croatina.

The source: Veneto region of Italy.

The verdict: Announcing the birth of a baby Amarone. This is quite a brawny red, but with a touch of elegance. Kind of like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a tuxedo. Coming from the area near Verona, the hometown of Romeo and Juliet, this red and its bianco partner break a lot of rules. Amarone is a hefty red made from dried grapes, a process called appassimento. The Pasqua family made some changes to the process in making this Rosso and tried to label it with that name. Italian wine regulators were not amused and disallowed it. Hence the yards-long name that resembles “appassimento.” Grapes are placed in small crates in drying sheds for 4-6 weeks. The result is fruit with higher than usual sugars and rich, earthy flavors. I can imagine a meal of venison meatballs in a red sauce with linguine — and lots of garlic. This wine would be perfect. Another nice thing: It’s a fraction of the price of a genuine Amarone.

The price: About $18.
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