Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Other Italian highlights

My recent trip to Italy involved tasting (and more to the point drinking) plenty of great wine, but that wasn't the only aspect I enjoyed while visiting such a culturally diverse country.

Bolzano brewpub


Here's a phrase I never thought I'd write - I enjoyed the Italian beer. The craft beer movement has found its way to Italy, meaning there's finally an alternative to bland mainstream products like Peroni and Nastro Azzurro. Many of the towns I visited had small local producers making a range of beers from California-style IPAs to dark, malty German beers.

Given its connection to Austria, it was no surprise that Bolzano in the Alto Adige had a brewpub called Hopfen & Co making good, malty, creamy beers - my favourite being a seasonal chestnut beer. Further south in Tuscany, the trend is for hoppy IPAs, similar in style to California though not quite as big and extreme. These beers aren't in mainstream bars or restaurants, but they're not too hard to find in more independent minded places.


Less surprising was the quality of restaurants. It's not hard to find good-value food in Italy, though look a little bit further and there are some extraordinary meals still at affordable prices. The key is freshly made pasta, as well as dishes based on local tradition and food. If you're travelling around Italy, here are some standouts:

Osteria a Due Spade, Trento

Like being in an underground cave hiding out in the Second World War. Small, atmospheric, great food, and a fantastic - and reasonably priced - wine list.

Restaurant Zur Kaiserkron, Bolzano

How does food get better than this, we asked ourselves in Trento, and then two nights later we ate in this superb restaurant in Bolzano. The attention to detail - regarding food, design, and service - is astonishing, and again another very good wine list.

Il Leccio, Sant' Angelo in Colle, near Montalcino  

fantastic mousse au chocolat
A clear sign of a good restaurant is when it's full on a Thursday lunchtime in November - even when it's in a small village in the middle of nowhere. A simple but freshly made pasta dish with mushrooms was a perfect lunch, especially with a wee half bottle of Brunello di Montalcino.

Locanda Amordivino, Asciano

Asciano is a village that has little but a museum with ancient vases decorated with prominent phalluses. Next to the museum, though, is this extraordinary restaurant where steaks are cooked on an open fire in front of all the guests.

All of these restaurants were magnificent: the truly crazy thing is they were all easily affordable too. Why anyone bothers to cook at home in Italy, I don't know. 

truffle beer


While visiting Siena, I had a truffle beer which had intense, stinky aromas of, well, truffles. These are underground fungi often confused with mushrooms and are highly prized as well as very expensive. When I was visiting it was truffle season, which meant plenty of pasta dishes topped with the earthy aromas of truffles. Italy's truffles are white, in contrast to France's black version, so they sit very nicely on top of pasta. Still not sure I want such earthy aromas in a beer though.


This is a speciality of northern Italy, made from maize and found on many menus as an alternative to potatoes. Restaurants in Italy often have identical looking menus but each one has its own take. So with polenta, which can look and taste like mashed potato or be hard and firm like a potato cake. It doesn't quite have the complex texture of potatoes, but it goes well with the meat and game dishes common to the north.


One of the most difficult spirits to get right is grappa. Made from the pomace (leftover grape skins, pips, and stalks from fermentation), many producers don't take it seriously enough leading to pungent, unpleasant aromas of turpentine. However, if a producer handles the pomace carefully then grappa can be a sophisticated drink. In the north of Italy, grappa is often made from one grape variety, from Chardonnay to Gewürztraminer (black grapes are particularly difficult to make quality grappa out of), though it's hard to discern varietal character. Grappa has grapey, floral aromas with a perception of sweetness which makes it great for washing down heavy Italian food.

hilltop villages

view from Montepulciano
Tuscany abounds in beautiful hilltop villages. Some of them are tourist magnets, others are sleepy one-street towns. Either way, each has its own character with a different reason for visiting - the views, the history, a weekly market, or an unexpectedly fantastic restaurant. San Gimignano is one such village, attracting crowds of tourists for its beauty and its crisp, clean white wines. Another village is Montepulciano, again known for its wine. Visiting these villages all depends when you turn up: there may be hordes of tourists or you may be the only people there. In which case, head to the next village in time for lunch...

Friday, 18 November 2016


My second week visiting Italy saw me take the long drive down to southern Tuscany and the famous village of Montalcino. Brunello di Montalcino, made from the Sangiovese grape, is one of the great wines of Italy, but one which I don't get to taste that often in large part due to its expense (in the words of my father, a wine you want someone else to buy for you). Just a few days here taught me a great deal about the region: its beauty, the extraordinary diversity of the wines, and the surprising youthfulness of such a renowned winemaking area.

the hilltop village of Montalcino


The village is located just over an hour south of Florence and the vineyards of Chianti, producing more austere, mature, and long-lived expressions of Sangiovese. The wines must be 100% Sangiovese, called Brunello here, and to be designated Brunello di Montalcino the wine must have been aged for at least five years, two of which have to be in barrel.

However, these rules allow a lot of flexibility, leading to a variety of styles. The traditional rules stipulated four years in barrel, usually old and large, and some producers still follow those historic guidelines. This ageing results in pale, garnet-coloured wines, with a hint of oxidation, and earthy, mushroom aromas. More international producers prefer new French oak barriques, which lead to heavier, darker-coloured, and spicier wines.

Further differences come from where the grapes are grown. Although Montalcino is a small growing area, there are distinct sub-zones - which, frustratingly, the local authorities refuse to map and classify. These differences come from proximity to the sea, aspect, altitude, warmth, and the chances of rain. All of this means Brunello di Montalcino is a difficult wine to pin down. 


view over the southern and eastern vineyards
Given Italy's long history, one would think that these many differences have arisen from centuries of winemaking experience. There is, indeed, plenty of history here. The property of my new favourite producer, Sesti, features an eighth-century church that stands on a pagan site dedicated to the Roman god, Janus. However, the modern history of Brunello di Montalcino dates back to just the 1880s, when the region's oldest winery, Biondi-Santi, were the first to make wine solely from Sangiovese (in contrast to Chianti, which has historically been a blend). Until after the Second World War, Biondi-Santi was the sole producer in the region and, although their wines no longer stand out as they once did, they laid the benchmark for the standards and practices of the area. For thirty years after the Second World War, Montalcino was a deprived and unpopulated rural ghost town, until the 1970s saw gradual investment followed by a boom of interest in the 1980s. Now, there are over two hundred wineries. It's astonishing to think of this beautiful area, dominated by prestigious wineries, and attracting visitors from all around the world, as neglected and poverty-stricken, but that's how far Montalcino has come in just under fifty years.

the other Montalcinos

The wines are expensive, and require patience on the part of both the producer and the consumer. There is a younger wine, though, called Rosso di Montalcino which only requires a year's ageing before release. The temptation is to dismiss it as a younger, fruitier, and inferior version of Brunello, but Elisa Sesti evocatively described it as an opportunity to "herald the new vintage," a chance to taste the region's wines three or four years before the Brunellos are released. On the other scale is Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, which is aged for at least six years before release, three of which must be in barrel. These are substantial, oaky, tannic wines which are not for the faint-hearted.

There a few whites made, but the only one to fall under an official Montalcino classification is Moscadello di Montalcino, which can be still, sparkling, or sweet, and is made from the high-quality strain of Muscat, Moscato Bianco. Despite the contemporary dominance of Sangiovese, Moscadello is the historic wine of Montalcino, dating back to at least the 1500s.


Capanna Moscadello di Montalcino 2014 (€11; ✪✪✪✪)

The sweet, late-harvest version of Moscadello, which must be aged for at least a year. Low in alcohol (9.5%), rich in floral, grape aromas, but light bodied, refreshing, and high in acidity. Despite the low alcohol and light body, the sweetness of the wine stood up to chocolate. As testament to the friendliness of the locals of Montalcino, everyone at my table was given a complementary glass at the end of a delicious meal. 

Sesti Rosso di Montalcino 2014 (€19; ✪✪✪✪✪)

This is a superb example of a Rosso: youthful, fruity, approachable, but with complex layers beneath that fruitiness, with grainy tannins, lively acidity, and depth of flavour. This is Montalcino at its youthful best. 

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (€40; ✪✪✪✪✪)

The latest release across the board of Brunello is the 2011 vintage, which saw a very warm summer, resulting in wines with very ripe, forward aromas. What's astonishing about the wines, including this one, is the high acidity despite the warm vintage. It's tingling, offsetting the ripeness of the wine and balancing the tannins and spices from the oak. The fruitiness of the wines makes them very enjoyable now. 

Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2008 (€50; ✪✪✪✪✪✪)

I tasted the 2008 and 09 side by side. The latter (✪✪✪✪✪) was noticeably spicier and riper, while the 2008 was subtler but still very expressive with aromas of smoke, earth, red cherries and raspberries, figs, dates, and prunes, with grainy tannins and a long, gradual finish. Sesti are one of the traditional producers who use large, old oak barrels (as well as closely following ancient lunar calendars), and it's this more restrained style of Brunello which I prefer.  

Tassi Selezione Franci Brunello di Montalcino 2004 (€120 in a restaurant; ✪✪✪✪✪✪)

Due to the long ageing before release, as well as the naturally high tannins and acidity of Sangiovese, Brunello is a wine which will develop maturity and complexity with time. At twelve years old, this is a wonderfully expressive wine, still with fresh red fruit, herb, and spice aromas, on top of earth, mushroom, and dried fruits. The tannic and acidic structure hold the wine together, and will do so for some years yet. This 2004 was drunk alongside white truffle pasta and guinea fowl - an indication of the rich foods that Brunello will soften. 

There are perhaps few greater, more memorable experiences in the world of wine than tasting older Brunello. There's a sophistication, a subtlety, and a beauty to these wines which is best not described but simply tasted and enjoyed. I know I will be drinking a lot more Brunello than I used too, and my life, if not my wallet, will be richer for it. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Alto Adige

For the first time in eighteen months, I found myself in Europe exploring and tasting the wines of northern Italy, where the Alps fall down to the great lakes for some of the country's most famous and stunning scenery. After a brief stop in Franciacorta just south of Lake Iseo, I firstly concentrated on one of Italy's most geographically extreme and unusual regions, the Alto Adige where some of Italy's highest vineyards are located. At the beginning of November it was cold and wet, with snow falling on the peaks, giving an indication of how non-Italian the region is. 

geography and history

Alto Adige/Südtirol
The Adige river flows down from the Alps into a valley surrounded by the Dolomites that somehow have vines growing on their steep rocky slopes. This is Italy at its most Germanic - it belonged to Austria-Hungary until the First World War and it's now a semi-autonomous region that shares as much with its Austrian neighbour as it does with Italy. The place names are in German as well as Italian (Südtirol instead of Alto Adige); both languages appear on wine labels, and locals switch between the two languages, confident and certain in German, gesticulating with self-doubt in Italian. In either language, the accent is staccato and sharp, and quite hard to understand.
vines falling into the town of Bolzano

This is one of Italy's most distinctive regions. Vines are planted at altitudes of 250m up to over 1,000m - these highest vineyards are already covered in snow. The weather is extreme, hitting heights of 40˚C in the summer, with cool, fresh nights, followed by cold, snowy winters. Warm breezes flow from Lake Garda to the south, with cool air in the north where Riesling and Sylvaner are planted at altitude. These conditions produce aromatic white wines with notably high acidity, and light reds, all of a consistently high quality.

grape varieties

Just a look at the grape varieties grown here shows how Germanic this region is. Gewürztraminer most likely originates from the local town of Tramin, from where it made its way to Alsace and found some added spice aromas (Gewürz means spice). The wines here retain more acidity than is often the case, and they're not quite as full bodied.

Perhaps the two most interesting wines from German varieties I tried on the trip came from Sylvaner and Kerner. Sylvaner is a quality grape that gets overlooked both in Alsace and Germany, so it was refreshing to try some good examples here in Italy. Again, the wines were marked by high acidity, with herbaceous, citrus and stone fruit aromas, and not as earthy as wines from Franken in Germany. Kerner, which is a crossing between Riesling and Trollinger (a black grape grown locally as Schiava) was a bigger surprise, with plenty of body and structure to counter the high acidity. 

wines by the glass
These aren't the only varieties grown, with up to 25 planted in the small valley (Alto Adige produces less than 1% of Italy's wines). By far the most interesting and distinctive of the non-German varieties is Pinot Bianco (or Weißburgunder in German), a grape variety again often overlooked elsewhere. Surprise, surprise, the wines have high acidity, but with nutty, spicy, stone and tropical fruit aromas that provide body and structure and some ageability. There is also Chardonnay, which at its best can be like a creamy, spicy Chablis.

As for the black grapes, Lagrein is common, with rich, chocolate, ripe black fruit aromas. It can be a little too much, although Franz Haas does a lighter, more considered example. One of the more extraordinary wines of the trip was from neighbouring Trentino; Merlino 1400 (€25; ✪✪✪✪✪), was a fortified wine displaying all the young, fresh, fruity characteristics of Lagrein, but moderated by the added alcohol. The wine is from 2014, while the brandy is from 2000, leading to a very integrated fortified wine - and it's great to see such a quality fortified wine from an area of Europe not associated with that style.

Alto Adige also makes Italy's most consistent Pinot Noir (or Pinot Nero or Blauburgunder - the number of names for grapes and places can be bewildering). It's deceptively light, with red fruits, spices, and acidity. It's often planted at altitude - Franz Haas is experimenting with a vineyard at 1,150m - which adds to the intensity of the aromas. Fruity when young, the Pinot Noirs of Alto Adige can mature into earthy, sophisticated wines that retain the fruits and the acidity even after a number of years.

These wines are especially worth looking out for as they display the unique characteristics of this varied region. With different altitudes, exposures, and microclimates, Alto Adige can be a surprisingly hard region to pin down, meaning that it's a region always worth re-exploring.

tasting at Franz Haas winery, showcasing the many grapes grown in the region
 next blog post: the incomparable wines of Montalcino

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Douro and Port

Portugal is, of course, best known for port, the great fortified wine made from grapes grown on steep slopes in the dry, warm Douro Valley. At a Portuguese tasting at the swanky Palace Hotel in San Francisco, I sampled some extraordinary old ports, which showed just how ageworthy the finest ports are. I also tasted a number of table whites and reds from the Douro - in this case demonstrating the quality of Portuguese wines, but also the difficulty in selling them to consumers used to French grape varieties.

the whites

Portuguese white wine has a lot going for it, as the wines I tasted from the Douro confirmed. The grape varieties are fairly aromatic and share a crisp acidity, and blending adds different characteristics and qualities. The wines are refreshing and approachable, with structure added by lees ageing and maybe a little old oak. The downside is that there are so many grape varieties used, often unfamiliar to the consumer, that it's difficult to get a handle on the many subtly different styles of wines. Some wines, grassy and herbaceous, reminded me of Sauvignon Blanc; the most interesting were reminiscent of the best Italian whites, with smoked almond aromas and a really dry, mineral mouthfeel.

Porto Réccua Branco 2015

From a new winery, this was a good example of how Italian the Douro whites can feel, with stone, peach, mineral aromas, and a very refreshing acidity. ✪✪✪✪

the reds

Portuguese - and especially Douro - reds are so distinctive that it can take some getting used to for those trained on New World wines. The tannins are unavoidable, and I have to note that there was a stinky, Brett character to a lot of the reds I tried that wouldn't sit well in California. Furthermore, the many different indigenous varieties don't have an easy international comparison. But these wines are worth persevering with, with ripe red and black fruit and floral aromas and a rich, almost sweet intensity.

There are a couple of important labelling terms that can be easily confused with neighbouring Spain. Reserva simply refers to a wine that's been aged for one year (like Riserva in Italy), without denoting the nature of that ageing. Grande Reserva (pronounced more or less like Gran Reserva in Spain) is a term I hadn't previously encountered; the wines, I was told, must be aged for at least eighteen months. Unlike Spain, this term does not denote a style but refers, a little tenuously, to quality.
adorable representative of J Rosas

Vieira de Sousa Reserva 2014

I preferred the Reservas to the Grande Reservas, as they kept a little more of the youthful fruitiness. This wine had a year's ageing in used oak, allowing the red and black fruits to shine, backed up with dry, grainy tannins and high acidity. ✪✪✪✪

J Rosas Quinta da Touriga-Chã 2013

Tannic, smoky, spicy, with black fruits, and a long, complex finish. ✪✪✪✪✪

the white ports

White port is such an obscure category that it was surprising to see that most producers at the tasting poured it. Not only that, but there were some old, serious bottles too. The best wines were almost like madeira, but without that baked fruit character, and almost like sherry, but much sweeter. I'm not sure when I'd want to drink these intense wines, dominated by fudge and toffee aromas, but they showed an individual quality that in some cases was truly astonishing.

Vieira winemaker Luísa Borges

Vieira de Sousa Fine Very Old White Port

Perhaps one of the most extraordinary wines I have ever tried. With wines up to sixty years old, this was an intense, sweet wine with grapey, aromatic aromas that almost made it taste like a brandy or a grappa - the winemaker commented that the grape spirit in the wine gets more concentrated with time. There were plenty of dried fruit aromas too, with fudge, toffee, and caramel. Like a sweet version of palo cortado, and then some. ✪✪✪✪✪✪✪

the ports

Equally extraordinary were the red ports, both young and old. 2011 is the standout vintage of recent years, and all the producers were sold out. A great alternative to vintage port is Late Bottled Vintage, which spend longer ageing in barrel before bottling. 2011 LBVs are wines I definitely recommend buying to drink now, with intense, rich dark fruits. Older vintage ports were also available to try: the warm 2009 year produced quite hot, but complex wines; 2004 still felt very fresh; 2000 remarkably tannic even now. The best wine of all, though, was Kopke's 1966 Colheita - a vintage tawny, which means deliberate oxidative ageing. Tasting a wine fifty years old brooks no comparison.

Ramos Pinto LBV 2011

An attractive, elegant, restrained, but tannic wine, with intense, sweet red and black fruit aromas. ✪✪✪✪✪

Kopke Colheita 1966

Old, nutty (walnut), spicy, with rich toffee aromas. Like an old, sweet sherry. Intense (a word I repeatedly wrote down during this tasting) and with layers and layers of flavours. Unforgettable. ✪✪✪✪✪✪✪ The 1978 I also tasted was a bit hotter, still very alive with aromas of dried fruits, fudge, and spice. ✪✪✪✪✪

the market

There's no doubting the quality of Portuguese wine, particuarly from the Douro. The wines have distinctive characteristics that distinguish the wines from other countries, although a valid comparison would perhaps be the wines of Italy, both white and red, rather than Spain. But how to market those wines? The grape varieties are numerous and difficult to pronounce; the tannins and acidity are forward; and the fact that the wines are invariably blends makes it awkward to market the wines on the nature of those varieties. And it needs to be said that the Portuguese are not the best at marketing: whenever asked about the price of a wine, the producer had no answer.

There's so much foundation to work with, though. Port is one of the historical great drinks; the dry, table whites are crisp, approachable, with nice complexity; and the reds are great with heavy food. And there are few regions in the world capable of producing fifty-year-old wines that can hold up to further ageing. Explore Portugal: prepare to be perplexed, challenged, and excited, which is how wine should be.

Monday, 24 October 2016


Nuits-St-Georges is one of Burgundy's most famous appellations, wine having been made from the iconic St-Georges vineyard for over a thousand years. The Côtes de Nuits, a series of villages encompassing some of the great Pinot Noir vineyards of Burgundy, takes its name from the town. Originally simply called Nuits, the town expanded its name to Nuits-St-Georges in 1892, adding its most renowned vineyard to its name. The wines are known for being bigger, bolder, fruitier, and more tannic than the elegant, nuanced wines of nearby Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, and Vosne-Romanée. A tasting of six wines from Nuits-St-Georges gave the lie to that stereotype, showcasing a range of styles that depend, as is so often the case in Burgundy, on site as well as winemaker.

no Grands Crus

Despite its rich history, Nuits-St-Georges has no Grand Cru vineyards. Instead, the best vineyards are classed as Premier Cru, reportedly because of the modesty of the appellation's leading winemaker, Henri Gouges, when it was created in 1936. It doesn't really matter that there are no Grands Crus - the renown and quality of Nuits-St-Georges speak for themselves - but it's still surprising that the best vineyards don't receive that official acclaim.

The appellation covers Nuits-St-Georges and the smaller village of Prémaux-Prissey to the south. The town of Nuits-St-Georges is at the base of a valley formed by the river Meuzin. To the north of the town, the vineyards are high - 300m and more - with soils full of pebbles as well as limestone and a little clay. These vineyards border Vosne-Romanée, and the wines are floral, spicy, and elegant. It's these that perhaps counter most the reputation of Nuits-St-Georges as being big and fruity. To the south of the town, the soils gradually become less stony, deeper with more clay, and the wines get denser and more tannic.

elephants, oak, planets, and famous writers

I couldn't help be amused by the continued comparisons of Thibault Liger-Belair, a local winemaker, to help us understand the appellation. He first likened the wines to an elephant, partly because of the memories they hold. Taking it further, he described the south part of the appellation as being like an African elephant, big and bold, with the north more like an Indian elephant, round and gentle. He then went on to describe the wines as like an oak tree, because of their robustness but also because they require oak-ageing to give them structure and ageability. He didn't stop there. If Nuits-St-Georges were a planet, it would be the moon (sic), a comparison made I think solely because there is a crater there named after the St-Georges vineyard. There was still another comparison to be made, as he wanted to compare Nuits-St-Georges to two famous French writers: Rabelais, because of the b‪on vivant style of the wines, and Molière, for their more philosophical qualities. As leftfield as his comparisons were, they did enlighten the differences between this varied appellation.

the wines

The tasting covered two vintages: 2013, described as fruity with high acidity and dry tannins, and 2014, which is rounder with softer tannins. It also covered wines from the northern part of the appellation, and three from the southern part, finishing with a wine from the St-Georges vineyard, which should clearly be a Grand Cru.

Domaine Phillipe Gavignet Les Argillats 2014

Situated in the northern part of the appellation a little higher than most of the surrounding Premier Cru vineyards, the Les Argillats vineyard takes its name from argile, meaning clay. It's 340m high, with the same pebble, limestone topsoils as the neighbouring vineyards. It proves that a Burgundy vineyard does not need to be a Premier Cru, let alone Grand Cru, to be high quality. It was smoky and oaky (with 15-16mths oak ageing), with ripe strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Pricy at $65. ✪✪✪✪✪

Domaine Frédéric Magnien Les Damodes Premier Cru 2013

From the highest Premier Cru and from the 2013 vintage, this wine had firm, dry, slightly astringent tannins, but with a refreshing high acidity. Although not as ripe as the previous wine, there were still clear fruit aromas of strawberries, plums, and blackcurrants, with some spice, as well as stone and steel texture. Not as fruity as the the first wine, but a little more complex, and even pricier ($90). ✪✪✪✪✪

Domaine Faiveley Aux Claignots Premier Cru 2014

This was an excellent wine, ultra-modern, with 60% new oak which I found a little too much. That oak dominated with smoke, cedar, vanilla, liquorice, and roasted almond aromas. It was intense, concentrated, and ripe, with raspberries, blackcurrants, and blackberries. If the oak had been more restrained, this would have been a truly extraordinary wine ($110). ✪✪✪✪✪

Maison Joseph Drouhin Les Procès Premier Cru 2013

With this wine, we moved towards the southern part of the appellation. As a result, the tannins were more drying and gripping, but the wine was still floral, with dried roses. There was also an intense nuttiness, with walnuts and hazelnuts (the name Nuits may come from noyer, French for walnut). The wine was made through whole-bunch fermentation, which may have added to its intense tannic structure. A very interesting wine with some longevity ($110-115; N/A in USA). ✪✪✪✪✪

Domaine des Perdrix Aux Perdris Premier Cru 2013

This was the only wine we tasted from the small village Prémaux-Prissey, and it was much bigger, blacker, and bolder. It was a voluptuous, ripe wine, but with a sharp acidity. The difference between this and the wines from the northern part of the appellation was marked. Perdrix means partidge in French, so naturally the label had a drawing of the bird. ✪✪✪✪✪ (€55)

Maison Chanzy Les Saint-Georges Premier Cru 2014

Although the other wines were all of a very high quality, this was easily the highlight of the tasting, combining the best of the different parts of the appellation. Winemaking, though, was also key: what I particularly loved about this wine was that it spent just ten months in oak, of which only 10% was new. It was ripe yet restrained, fruity but spicy and oaky, with a layered, textured mouthfeel. ✪✪✪✪✪✪ (€79)

The overall conclusion from this tasting is that Nuits-St-Georges is not an easy appellation to pin down. There are truly great vineyards from which the best producers make amazing wine - it's definitely an appellation the consumer needs to understand to make the most deserving purchases. To underscore that observation, the wines are expensive: do some research before buying to get the best value and quality.