The big six grapes are what sell and they sell a lot. The big six grapes are three red and three white. Reds are made up of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and Syrah; while the whites are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. These grapes dominate the market.
I am always looking for different wines to try to get a different perspective and always willing to move away from the big six. I have searched other countries to find different wines - including France, Italy, Australia, Chile and even Canada. This time I wanted to take a look at something I call "Californitalian" wine. A grape which I love, that is traditionally grown in Italy, and now can be found in parts of California. Not one of the big six grapes, but a very nice grape by its own right - Sangiovese.
Typically, Italian wines are very dry and loaded with earth tones. That is part of the old world soil and grapes. Contrast that to California where most wines are loaded with fruit scents and soft on the palate. Take an Italian grape and plant it in Californian soil and get the Californitalian wine. To find this wine, you need to look out to the Central Valley for two reasons. First, Sangiovese grapes like warmer climates. Second, the big six grapes are so popular and profitable; wineries will not dare plant a grape other than the big six in land that supports any of the big six.
The wine I found is the 2006 Vino Noceto, Sangiovese ($17). In true Sangiovese form it was a garnet color (think of a shade or two away from red brick) and it's not nearly as dark or heavy as big Syrah. The Sangiovese is a softer grape meaning the nose is not nearly as overpowering as Merlot. In this case, Noceto has done a brilliant job matching Californian fruit with old world earth. What you get is a scent that is full of cherries followed by an earthy smoke scent. A very complex, yet enjoyable nose.
On the taste, it is a very light and silky wine that has soft tannins. In addition, the wine is bitter/sweet - stimulating two different reactions in a very short timeframe. All of this leads to a very nice and well rounded wine that most drinkers would truly enjoy.
The trick with a Sangiovese is to match it to food. In this case, pairing it with typical Italian food (tomato based pasta, pizza, etc.) works exceptionally well. It also would match well with white meat or a fuller bodied fish. Try to avoid spicy or heavy food as this wine could easily be overpowered.
All in all, a very nice wine. Drink up and enjoy this Californitalian experience. Until next time, Cheers!
Don Colman, the Everyday Wine Guy lives in Danville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org