Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wines of Lazio: Tufaliccio

    Wines of Lazio: Tufaliccio

     A few weeks ago I posted about our day trip to the town Cori and our lunch there.  While we were driving home we stopped by the cantina of Marco Carpineti and tasted a few of his wines and bought a case of Tufaliccio.  Mr. Carpineti was extremely hospitable and generous, and we enjoyed the visit to the winery.  As I am on a mission to promote all that is good in the region of Lazio outside of Rome,  I am happy to write about wines that we encounter that go beyond Cabernet Sauvignon.  I also really want to like these wines but I am afraid, sometimes, they fall short.  The vineyards of Carpineti are certified organic, which is wonderful because when you drink the wine you are not going to be ingesting pesticides or fertilizers.  The grapes grown are all native Laziale grapes, meaning, they are native to the area.  He is not planting grapes for the international market, instead, he is trying to market wines made from grapes of the region.  My type of wine, it seems.  I'll take  a raw, earthy, and volcanic Lazio wine over an industrial California Cab any day of the week!  I wanted so badly to be in love with this wine and for it to be the next big thing coming from Italy, but it fell short.  it is not that it is a bad wine that I never want to drink again, on the contrary, it is wine I would drink almost every day, but I wouldn't walk on fire for.  It is great table wine for people who eat the foods of Lazio.  It cost me €6 a bottle, it is a good deal for a decent table wine made with native grapes using organic farming methods.

     What is unclear, even after our visit, is what are the exact wine making methods.  I found Mr. Carpineti very friendly and open to questions regarding his wines but not very straight forward with his answers.   For example I asked about use of natural yeast and his answer was,  “Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t, it just depends.”  Well, this is an important question.  Natural wine making is a dying art, people.  I want to know who is maintaining these traditions so I can support them and drink their wines.  While we were there the enologist came in briefly.   I quite liked him as he was dirty and looked like a farmer.  He was laughing and not trying to seduce us with conversation, in fact, I think he barely said hello.  Mr. Carpineti gave us great historical information about the grapes used, all native to Lazio.  These grapes include arciprete(W) which is a Cori native, bellone(W) which my dog is named after, malvasia(W)nero buono(R), cesanese(the laziale star of the moment), and a few others.    When we visited they were completely sold out of all their white wines, so we were unable to taste those.  This was not a problem as I have actually used Carpineti white wines for guided tastings I lead.  Tufaliccio is made of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Cesanese.  Montepulciano is the most used black grape in the region of Abruzzo, and cesanese is used in Lazio's first DOCG designated wine, Cesanese del Piglio.  For some reason, on their website, it says Sangiovese instead of Cesanese, but it is Cesanese.  

     This wine has a lovely ruby red color that is quite clear without sediment.  It had very lovely tones of blackberries, dark red roses, hints of licorice, and an earthiness that seemed to convey mushrooms or even walnuts.  I found it very herbal, earthy and meaty.  By this I mean it really had an undertone of something animal, like wet dog, but not in an inviting manner.  I find all of Lazio wines are very mineral, and this was no exception.  The earth here is very volcanic.  I also felt like I could smell the sea, it was somewhat saline.    The wine was dry, medium-full bodied, slightly fresh with nice clean tannins.  There was no vanilla or oak, and it maintained its dignity in that respect, it ferments  in stainless steel.  It was also not overtly fruity, either.    I wouldn’t say this is a particularly well rounded wine.  I found it lacked freshness and a good back bone, but then again, this is clearly a wine that is ready to drink.   It also had a slight bitterness that I found appealing.  What I liked about this wine is that it is not sterile or perfect.  It has its flaws, but they are upfront.    This is a quality I find is a thread between many of Lazio’s wines.  I think it pairs well with mushrooms dishes, field greens, and even a simple pasta.   


    The next time I visit Cori, I will again make a stop at the Marco Carpineti vineyard and buy a few cases of different wine for daily consumption. As they say, if it grows together, it goes together.  I eat as much food as I can from Lazio, and I would like my home drinking to be as much from Lazio as possible.