You have to do your homework with Italian wines.  With each year there is an inconsistency in quality.  They can be very good or very bad depending on what mother nature has presented to winemakers at harvest time. California has the most consistent weather conditions of any country. Even the most disappointing of recent vintages in California, the 2011, showed well in some varietals as select winemakers worked hard to get the maximum out of the harvest.  But countries like Italy every so often contend with a headache called Mistral, a hurricane-like weather condition that can roar in from the north and virtually destroy crops.  Reputable wineries have been known to plough under their grapes at harvest rather than bottle a bad vintage. 2015 had no such problem.

I analyzed Wine Spectator’s recent Top 100 wines of the world out of more than 15,000 released and tasted this year, and indeed Italian wines scored as well as the U.S. with Tuscany topping any district in the world.  Focusing in on the top ten, Tenuta San Guido Sassacaia 2015, from the Tuscan district of Bolgheri, was awarded the #1 wine in the world ($245.). No real surprise there. More important for the Italian wine market, the #3 wine in the world selected by Wine Spectator is Castello Di Volpaia, a 2015 Chianti Classico Reserve ($35.).  This best represents the vast majority of Sangiovese grape based wines with a 2015/2016 vintage at value prices. Federica and Nicolo Mascheroni Stianti produced this gem in their tiny town of Volpaia. Federica pointed out that with 96 points, “it was the highest score ever for our wine. It is a balanced complex red with a long gorgeous finish.  Our grapes are crushed and vinified in steel tanks, then aged in a mix of Slavonian oak casks and French oak barriques for two years.”

Italian reds are not wines that are casually consumed.  When I open one, there is always a small wedge of cheese, preferably a Parmesan, some cold cut meats like Prosciutto from Parma or Salami from Genoa.  The perfect bread would be an Italian loaf, uncut with sesame seeds and honey baked in on top. I hand-separate a generous piece and dip it in olive oil, dusted with sweet basil spices.

Molto Bene! as an Italian or anyone who enjoys Italian wine and food would proclaim…very good!

Driving through Italy is a hair-raising experience but it’s the best way to enjoy the hundreds of varietals and thousands of vineyards, many in the backyards of each Italian that has the property to do it.  The country produces a 5th of the wine in the world.  It deserves a place on your wine list.  See chianticlassico.com.

Tuscany vineyards produced acclaimed wines with the 2015 vintage.  Photo by Google Images.

The holiday tasting event at PAON Carlsbad was managed by Barbara Pape, Marketing Director, and Kate Edgecombe, Wine Director, both from PAON. Photo by Rico Cassoni.

A Tasting Holiday at PAON

With key help from the Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery of Los Angeles, PAON Restaurant, Wine Bar & Wine Shop in Carlsbad staged a sold-out holiday party & Wine Warehouse sale earlier this month.  Taste of Wine and Food was the media partner in the event, which featured 5 areas of wine tasting where wine club members mixed and matched with the public and members of the trade. The Boys and Girls Club of Carlsbad was the benefactor of a Silent Auction.

50 different wines created a lot of excitement including the Riboli Family, named 2016 American Winery of the year by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Guests got a chance to also taste wines by:  Trefethen, Fess Parker, Flora Springs, Arrowood and my favorite from the group, the Losano Malbec 2015 Grand Reserve from Mendoza, Argentina( $22).

For more on PAON and its wine club, visit paoncarlsbad.com.

Wine Bytes

  • Seasalt Seafood Bistro in Del Mar is presenting Castello Banfi Italian wines from Tuscany in a six course wine and food dinner, Thurs. Jan. 10 at 6pm. Discover Super Tuscan wines and other favorites for $75. per person.
    Call 858-755-7100 to reserve a place.
  • Five key wine regions of France will be explored closely with a class at Meritage Wine Market Tues. Jan. 15 from 6 to 8:30pm. 12 wines will be tasted along with French cheeses, charcuterie and other regional samples. Look for insights on Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire Valley and the Rhone Valley.
    Cost is $89 ea. RSVP and get more details at 760-479-2500.
  • Firenze Trattoria in Encinitas has a great night of Paso Robles best, Niner Wine
    Estate with its rich reds, pairing up with a 5 course custom dinner, Thurs. Jan. 17 at 6pm. Meet Niner owner Andy Niner and winemaker Patrick Muran at Firenze. Beautiful red blends are their specialty. Cost is $100. per guest. Call 760-944-9000.
  • Be sure to place the 7th annual Vin Diego Wine & Food Festival on your calendar for Sat. April 13 at Waterfront Park along San Diego’s Embarcadero. Only wines will be featured with over 300, plus the best chefs in town presenting their best dishes. Tickets start at $85.ea. See ticket pricing and details at vindiego.com.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators
on the web. View his columns at tasteofwineandfood.com.
Reach him at frank@tasteofwineandfood.com