Monday, 28 July 2014

Fontanavecchia

The Rillo family first planted vines around what has now become the Fontanavecchia winery about 150 years ago. Located in the region of Sannio (within Campania) the family now tend 14 hectares of vines and produce around 160,000 bottles of wine per year.

Giuseppe and Libero Rillo learnt their trade from their father Orazio and they turn out a surprisingly diverse range of wines from what is a relatively small selection of vineyard holdings. The main grapes are of course those that are native to Campania (with a special focus on Falanghina, Fiano and Aglianico), although small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon are also cultivated (before being blended into the family’s “Orazio” red).

A production philosophy that could be considered quite eccentric, sees a rare “Classic Method” Spumante (produced from Aglianico grapes) sit alongside a Charmat Method sparkling wine (made from Falanghina grapes), two oak-matured Falanghina and a number of French oak matured reds in the Fontanvecchia range.

Of the wines that The Independent Wine Review was able to sample the Aglianico del Taburno was the most impressive. Although, the two whites tasted (the Falanghina del Taburno and Fiano del Sannio) also showed impressive length and intensity.

 

Summary of Scores (Updated 26th July 2014)            

 
Vintage
 
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
Fontanavecchia Falanghina del Taburno
88
 
 
 
 
Fontanavecchia Fiano del Sannio
87
 
 
 
 
Fontanavecchia Aglianico Rosato
86
 
 
 
 
Fontanavecchia Aglianico del Taburno
 
 
 
 
90

Reviews from May 2014

Fontanavecchia Falanghina del Taburno DOC (2013)
Falanghina is easily Campania’s most planted grape variety and so often it makes its way into rather insipid “table wines” that are sold for less than €3 a bottle in Campania itself. This Falanghina del Taburno from Fontanavecchia is somewhat better than that though! Intensely spicy on the nose, this medium bodied Falanghina offers great flavoural intensity and balance on the palate, with flavours of nectarines, orange zest and white pepper combining beautifully. The finish is elegant and fairly persistent too. 88 points.

Fontanavecchia Fiano del Sannio DOC (2013)
Fiano from Sannio does not carry the same cachet and Fiano from Avellino, however, this bottling proves that decent wines can be made here too. Subtle aromas of pears and almonds great you as you approach this wine, before a steely mineral emerges on the palate. This bottling captures the essence of the Fiano grape and would make a classy partner to most seafood dishes. 87 points.

Fontanavecchia Aglianico Rosato, Taburno DOC (2013)
More and more rosé wines are being produced from the Aglianico grape these days and they can be fairly successful thanks to this grape variety’s prominent acidity. Here this Fontanavecchia offering conjures up images of just picked raspberries and sour wild strawberries as well as introducing a pleasing and refreshing mineral undertone. Really quite a vivid salmon colour, it is a surprise that there has not been more tannic extraction too. 86 points.

Fontanavecchia Aglianico del Taburno DOC (2009)
(When vinified as a red wine) Aglianico is a grape that really flourishes with a little bit of maturation and so is the case with this Fontanavecchia Aglianico del Taburno. 9 months in French oak barriques and a further 4 years in bottle have created a wine that is drinking really well at the moment. Ripe and yet simultaneously sour dark cherry flavours form the base of this wine, with chocolate, liquorice and subtle spice flavours brought about by this wine’s extended maturation slowly emerging as it evolves on your tongue. The tannins are also now impressively smooth. 90 points.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Montesole

The Montesole winery was established in 1996 and sits on the border between the districts of Irpina and Sannio in Campania. Here in this rugged and hilly area, indigenous Campanian vines thrive in soils rich in volcanic materials.

Despite being made in a rather soulless industrial unit outside of Montefusco, the wines of the Montesole winery can be surprisingly characterful. A range of more than 30 different bottlings is divided across 5 sub-ranges, with the “bulk” IGT range of wines being sold only in Italy and with the winery increasingly looking to export it’s premium “cru” and DOCG classified wines.

The Montesole whites that The Independent Wine Review has sampled were generally well made, if somewhat straightforward bottlings. Predictably it was the “cru” Fiano d’Avellino and Greco di Tufo that offered the most interest amongst the whites.

However, a policy of only releasing red wines when they are mature and ready for drinking has yielded some genuinely accomplished and attractive wines. Both the mature “Sairus” Aglianico and “classic” Aglianico were drinking beautifully when the tasting notes below were written.

The sparkling wines tasted were again crisp and nicely made, if a little lacking in flair.
 

Summary of Scores (Updated 26th July 2014)            

 
Vintage
 
2013
2012
2011
2008
2007
Montesole Brut
84
 
 
 
 
Montesole Rosé Extra Dry
86
 
 
 
 
Montesole “Vigna Acquaviva” Fiano d’Avellino
 
86
 
 
 
Montesole “Vigna Breccia” Greco di Tufo
 
86
 
 
 
Montesole “Sairus” Aglianico
 
 
 
91
 
Montesole (Classic) Taurasi
 
 
 
 
90

Reviews from May 2014

Montesole Brut, Vino Spumante IGT (2013)
This Montesole Brut one of a number of new sparkling wines now being made in Campania from the Greco grape. Vinified using the Charmat method (ala Prosecco), this Montesole Brut is based on flavours of pears and a bright acidity. Dry in style (7g/l residual sugar), hints of fresh bread soften the impact of what is quite an aggressive mousse. 84 points.

Montesole Rosé Extra Dry, Vino Spumante IGT (2013)
Made purely from Aglianico grapes (vinified using the Charmat method), this Rosé Extra Dry from Montesole is a clever and attractive sparkling wine. Fine bubbles run through the rich salmon colour in the glass, before bursting to release aromas of red cherries and spring blossoms. Flavours of nectarines and hints of white bread define the palate, whilst a crisp acidity ensures refreshment. 86 points.

Montesole “Vigna Acquaviva” Fiano di Avellino DOCG (2012)
This “Vigna Acquaviva” is a single vineyard Fiano that is bottled under the Fiano di Avellino DOCG designation. One of the Montesole winery’s “flagship” wines, vinification was in steel only, with 3 months of lees aging permitted. Delicately aromatic on the nose, flavours of peach, hazelnut and a gentle chalky minerality emerge on the palate. There is some persistence on the finish. 86 points.

Montesole “Vigna Breccia” Greco di Tufo DOCG (2012)
Another single vineyard white, this “Vigna Breccia” Greco di Tufo offers a pleasingly individual style. Wisps of grapefruit essence emerge cautiously from the glass, before fairly intense flavours of nectarine appear so as to underpin the palate. An obvious steely minerality combines with a prominent level of acidity to lend drive and this “Vigna Breccia” Greco seems more focussed than the “Vigna Acquaviva” Fiano as a result. 86 points.

Montesole “Sairus” Aglianico, Campania IGT (2008)
The team at the Montesole winery only release this “Sairus” Aglianico after it has seen 2.5 years in large oak barrels, 8 months in stainless steel tanks and a further 2 years in bottle and their patience has really paid off. Made from Aglianico grapes grown in Avellino, this bottling exhibits prominent aromas of dark cherries, chocolate and balsamic notes on the nose and a rich, smooth palate. Flavours of ripe dark cherries gradually give way to an earthy and complex mid-palate and a long, elegant finish. Gummy tannins enhance the sense of richness in the mid-palate, whilst clove nuances lend further complexity. A nicely delineated sense of acidity balances the finish. 91 points.

Montesole (Classic) Taurasi DOCG (2007)
This “Classic” Montesole Taurasi is matured in the same way as the superb “Sairus” Aglianico (above), but this time the Aglianico grapes destined to become this Taurasi come from vineyards further to the East. More traditional in style, this Montesole Taurasi again leads with flavours of dark cherries, but instead segues into a more austere mid-palate of coffee and earthy spices. The tannins and acidity are more prominent here too, although this is to be expected in a wine that could be matured in bottle for another 20 years yet. 90 points.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Nino Frano

The wines of the Nino Franco winery are quality benchmarks in Prosecco and specifically Valdobbiadene (North East Italy) and this is thanks to the tireless work of Primo Franco, who both labours in the vineyards and travels around the world to explain the differences between his Prosecco and other Prosecco.

At a revealing dinner in February 2013 (full article here) Primo Franco rallied against volume-orientated producers in Prosecco and extolled the virtues of wines produced from hand-tended vines located on the verdant hillsides of his Valdobbiadene, over those that are machine tended and located on the plains below. The tasting of Primo’s range of “Nino Franco” Prosecco that followed was conclusive and showed that vines tended with love, affection and human hands(!) tended to produce wines that are more flavoursome, complex and attractive than mass produced equivalents. It is this that is that is at the heart of the Nino Franco winemaking philosophy.

Originally established in 1919 as the “Cantine Franco” winery by Antonio Franco, today the Nino Franco winery produces more than a million bottles of wine a year. Whilst the majority of grapes are purchased from a network of growers (each of whom are assisted by Nino Franco technicians throughout the year) a few hectares of vineyards are estate owned.

More than half a dozen DOCG classified Prosecco are currently produced at the Nino Franco winery, with “Faive” (a Merlot-based sparkling rosé) and the new “Primo Brut” (a sparkling Chardonnay) the only wines of the Nino Franco range not to be produced from Glera grapes.

The “Primo Franco” Prosecco Superiore might be this winery’s signature bottling, but two single vineyard Prosecco (the “Riva di San Floriano” and “Grave di Stecca” bottling) are just as accomplished.

Summary of Scores (Updated 2nd July 2014)

 
Vintage
 
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
Nino Franco “Primo Franco” Prosecco DOCG
 
92
93
 
 
Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco DOCG
 
91
90
 
93
Nino Franco “Grave di Stecca”
 
 
 
92
90
Noino Franco “Rustico” Prosecco DOCG
89*
89*
 
 
 
Primo Franco “Brut” Prosecco DOCG
88*
87*
 
 
 
Nino Franco “Faive” Rosé
 
 
 
87
 
 
*NV – vintage indicates the tasting date 

Reviews from May 2014

Nino Franco's Riva di San Floriano vineyard
Nino Franco “Primo Franco” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (2013)
Primo Franco is the current winemaker and owner of the Nino Franco winery and this “Primo Franco” Prosecco is his signature wine. Crafted with aim of producing a Prosecco that is both utterly well balanced and reflective of the Valdobbiadene “terroir”, Primo crafts this bottling with some of his best Glera grapes from the verdant hillsides of Valdobbiadene and 32g/l of residual sugar. Aromas of apricots, peach and honeysuckle all appear on the nose, before a succulent and beautifully mousy palate unfolds. As in the 2012 vintage, this wine is extremely difficult to fault. The combination of complex and intense ripe stone fruit flavours and an extremely elegant mousse is hard to resist! 92 points.

Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Sup. DOCG (2013)
“Riva di San Floriano” is a vineyard located above Primo Franco’s home and the town of Valdobbiadene, on a steep hillside (near the church of San Floriano). A distinctive single vineyard wine, this “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco offers aromas of dried banana and white peach and an exuberantly fruity palate. Slightly leaner in style than in other recent vintages, this Prosecco ends long, clean and with the tingle of a gorgeously subtle mousse. 91 points.

Nino Franco “Grave di Stecca” Brut, Valdobbiadene DOCG (2011)
The Nino Franco winery’s “Grave di Stecca” is typically the most distinctive wine in what is an extremely diverse and characterful range. Extremely lean, mineral and saline in character, unless you were told, you may not think that this is from Prosecco! Notes of sage and thyme adorn a salt tinged nose, before the super long palate stretches out. Salt encrusted green apples would encapsulate the flavours on show here, in what is an extremely accomplished and distinctive wine. 92 points.

Nino Franco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (NV)
“Rustico” might be the “entry level” wine of the Nino Franco winery, but there isn’t too much that is “entry level” about it. This is a creamy and elegant fizz that sees flavours of greengage and green apple combined with the wonderfully frothy and elegant mousse that is a Nino Franco hallmark. Ending with a slightly savoury tang on the finish, there are few “entry level” Prosecco that you would rather drink! 89 points.

Reviews from February 2014

Nino Franco “Primo Franco” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (2012)
Ripe, creamy and mouth-filling when tasted, despite this “Primo Franco” Prosecco containing 32g/l of residual sugar there is never a perception of sweetness, only of creamy and ripe fruit flavours. Notes of white peach and pear form the basis of this fantastically attractive wine, with hints of almonds, vanilla and apricots unfolding across this wine’s impressive length. There’s a driving acidity that makes this wine (thanks to it offsetting the sugar) and whilst this “Primo Franco” Prosecco may not be dry enough in style to appeal to sommeliers (who would typically chose a drier style to expand its food pairing options) this does nothing to change the fact that this is one of the most endearing and inherently attractive Prosecco that The Independent Wine Review has come across for some time. 93 points.

Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene Sup. DOCG (2012)
This 2012 “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco is slightly less exuberant on the nose than has been the case in previous vintages, but still offers the hints of banana and sage (that overlay the more common white peach and pear characters) and that make this “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco so distinctive. Creamy and persistent on the palate, this is a Prosecco of serious class which shifts effortlessly from the peach and pear base flavours onto more complex banana, hazelnut and yeasty nuances. If you are truly interested in the concept of “terroir” in Prosecco, this is a wine you simply have to try. 90 points.

Nino Franco Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (NV)
A pale lemon colour in the glass, this Nino Franco Brut seems purer and fresher in style than many Prosecco with greater levels of residual sugar. A bouquet of green apples, pears and a clear mineral salinity segues into a lean and driven palate. The persistent and elegantly crafted mousse is combined with a frisky acidity that will see this wine pair well with many fish starters, or creamily textured risottos. 88 points.

Reviews from 2013

Nino Franco's "Grave di Stecca" vineyard
Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Sup. DOCG (2010)
Intensely fruity on the palate, this “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco exhibits creamy white peach, pear and nuances of banana, with support provided by a gorgeous combination of an elegant and persistent mousse and a bright acidity. Segueing to a slightly savoury nuttiness in the mid-palate, this wine finishes long and very, very subtle. A remarkably individual and well resolved Prosecco. 93 points.

Nino Franco “Grave di Stecca” Brut Valdobbiadene DOCG (2010)
Notably dry in style on the palate, it is easy to see why Primo Franco describes this “Grave di Stecca” Brut as “different”. Intense flavours of white peach form the basis of the palate, with a persistent savoury nuance of macadamia, bread crumbs and pineapple that add further subtlety. A nicely resolved mousse and bright acidity play supporting roles. 90 points.

Nino Franco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (NV)
Aiming for a consistent “house” style of “Rustico” Prosecco each year, Primo has crafted this “Rustico” to offer a creamy and persistent mousse that supports a palate of white peach, green European fruit notes and the merest hint of slightly savoury nuttiness. Off-dry, there is a gorgeous balance of mousse, fruit and acidity on display, with an impressive length that persists once the wine itself is gone. 89 points.

Nino Franco Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (NV)
Offering the impression of additional acidity over and above what was seen in the Nino Franco “Rustico” Prosecco (this is a result of the reduction in residual sugar – actual acidity levels are almost identical) this Nino Franco “Brut” seems to be brighter and crisper in the mouth too with a slightly more aggressive mousse. Again this Nino Franco “Brut” is green and European fruit orientated, although a little peach adds subtlety to the finish. 87 points
Nino Franco “Faive” Rosé Spumante Brut (2011)
Produced from a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc this “Faive” rosé is a highly attractive salmon pink colour in the glass that sparkles as the numerous finely formed bubbles race from the base of the glass. Wonderfully pure strawberry and fresh peach aromas greet a taster as they approach this “Faive” Rosé, before notes of strawberries, wild raspberries and freshly picked nectarines emerge on the palate. Almost completely dry and underpinned by an ever-present (but subtle and nicely integrated) mousse, this “Faive” Rosé bubbles on across an impressive length. 87 points.