Italian Wine Week ended on a strong note. (It also ended a week ago, so I’m taking a very Italian approach to deadlines here. What can I tell you, it’s August.)
I rebounded from my disappointment with the Lupi Le Braje and cracked open a bottle of Lini Lambrusco ($14.99) Monday night. Full disclosure: I have had this wine before (“isn’t that cheating?” my husband asked with raised eyebrow as I popped the cork). Yes, OK, so sue me. I wanted a sure thing–and I wanted to smile. Because it’s impossible to drink this wine without smiling. A fizzy red with bright cherry and strawberry aromas, and more than a touch of earthiness, this wine is incredibly easy to like. The bubbles + substantial acidity have a way of working up one’s appetite, and I’m confident I could conquer even the most daunting plate of salumi with this Lini by my side. This is a terrific, casual red for summer.
Tuesday night I went in for a more refined, but no less satisfying, wine experience at dell’Anima. I’ve been curious about this restaurant for a while. Not just because of the good reviews, or because co-owner Joe Campanale is a graduate of the same wine diploma program I’m in the middle of. (No, we’ve never met.) I’m a little obsessed because Joe’s mom is on Twitter. (@dellanimom, how cute is that?) This is a)totally endearing and b)great branding. I mean, who better to be your brand ambassador than your own mom? I don’t know why more people haven’t thought of this. Anyway, dellanimom (aka Karen Campanale) and I have had some lovely exchanges over Twitter and I was eager to see what her son–such a nice boy!–was up to.
Things started off well at the bar. Tired of the crisp, refreshing wines of summer, I was in the mood for some depth. I tried the 1997 Malvira “Treuve,” a Piedmontese blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Arneis, a white grape indigenous to the region. Nutty and austere, with a little bit of freshness yet, this is exactly the kind of thoughtful wine you want to sip slowly while waiting for your dining companion. And kudos to dell’Anima for offering an older white by the glass for a relatively reasonable $14. Drinking older wines by the bottle is financially inaccessible for many of us, and impractical if you just want a glass, so this is a more approachable option.
We kept up the 20th century theme with dinner and ordered a bottle of the 1998 Sant’Elena Ros di Rol, ($44) a Merlot/Cabernet from Friuli. Northern Italian reds are one of my favorite things to drink in hot weather. Cool climate fruit produces wines that are subtle and restrained, excellent qualities when it’s 90 degrees in the shade and the last thing you want is big and brawny. The Ros di Rol absolutely fit the bill. The wine struck a great balance between fruit and earth. For the first time, I began to understand what iconic wine writer Hugh Johnson means when he says that Bordeaux (which, like this Ros di Rol, is often a Cab/Merlot blend) is refreshing to drink. It went well with our eclectic dinner choices, which ranged from octopus (heightened, as all things are, by slivers of chorizo) to quail, which had me wondering if there are some of my people (Puerto Rican, that is) in the kitchen, as the quail skin was crisped to chicharrón levels of crunchy, fatty deliciousness.
My one complaint about dell’Anima is that there’s relatively little information about its wines online. The wine list is incomplete and a bit difficult to read. I’m sure the selection changes often, but I would have loved the chance to do a little more wine list recon before dining there.
In fact, this was one of the biggest issues I faced during Italian Wine Week overall. It was pretty difficult to find good, updated information about many of the wines that I drank. (In English for sure, but even in Italian there wasn’t always a lot out there.) The sheer diversity of Italian wine, with its 1,000+ varieties, along with the occasional arbitrariness of Italian wine legislation and labeling, can be confusing. I understand that for small production wines it’s completely impractical to spend time and money creating fancy Web sites, but I’d love to see more importers or regional wine marketing organizations take up this challenge.
I suppose this is where I should summarize everything I’ve learned during my week of drinking nothing but Italian, but making any grand proclamations after a mere half dozen bottles is absurd. I’ll just say that I was delighted to do it, and just as delighted to resume my usual consumption patterns. And with that, I’m off to open an obscure Languedoc red I’ve been dying to try.