You've heard of Slow Food, right? It's the movement, founded by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980s, that celebrates farm-to-table cuisine in Italy and all over the world. And since Piedmont, where Slow Food was born, is home to two of Italy's most famed red wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, of course there had to be a Slow Wine movement too.
Last week Slow Wine came to Los Angeles with a tasting of wines from 53 Italian producers. Some are superstars and well known in this country; others are small and not yet famous. All in all, it was one of the best trade (and consumer) tastings, certainly of Italian wines, in recent memory.
Each of the wineries present in L.A. is included in the new "Slow Wine Guide 2015," which is now available in English ($25).
Federico Giuntini of the Chianti Ruffina property Selvapiana explained that Slow Wine editors are very focused on how a wine estate farms.
"They come every year and visit all the properties," Giuntini says. "If it's spring and there's no grass, then it's clear that property is using herbicide." Chianti Ruffina is a very tiny appellation and not very well known, "and yet," he's proud to say, "we have three estates with the snail."
According to Slow Wine, that's "the symbol awarded to a winery that we particularly like for the way it interprets Slow Food values (sensory perceptions, territory, environment, identity) and also offers good value for money."
Fattoria Selvapiana has one of those coveted snails, and the 2012 Chianti Ruffina gets an "Everyday Wine" citation for its "excellent value for money." Those of us who love Selvapiana have always known that. Chianti Classico may get all the attention, but look to Chianti Ruffina for some exceptional values. If you want to spend a bit more, try Selvapiana's riserva 2011 "Bucerchiale," darker in tone and more complex.
Over at Fattoria di Felsina's booth, the 2012 Chianti Classico has that classic scent of dark cherries, but my heart goes to the gorgeous 2011 Chianti Classico "Rancia Riserva" poured from magnum.
Sicilian producer Benanti shows off a chiseled and bright 2012 Etna Rosso "Rosso di Verzella" and 2010 Etna Rosso "Rovittello" single vineyard, with even more depth and definition.
The Piedmontese contingent is strong. I took note of the 2011 Barbera d'Alba Mulassa from Cascina Ca' Rossa (another winery with the snail designation), some lovely Barolos, especially the 2010 Bussia and the 2010 Villero From Giacomo Fenocchio, and some elegant Dolcetto d'Alba from Mossio Fratelli, particularly the "Bricco Caramelli."
The real curiosity at this last booth was the 2011 Le Margherite, a dolcetto passito, i.e., a sweet red wine made with dried Dolcetto grapes with a lilting freshness that would go well with a nice hunk of Gorgonzola.
From Umbria, Tabarrini showed off a 2012 white with a beautiful minerality called Adarmando, made from Trebbiano Spoletino (which is not the same as Trebbiano). The grapes come from 100-year-old vines shaped to grow like trees, a holdover from the days when farmers needed to plant crops underneath the vines.
Tabarrini's 2011 Montefalco Rosso and a fierce 2012 Montefalco Sagrantino Colle alle Macchie are both great buys. But I really wanted another glass of the 2010 Montefalco Sagrantino Colle Grimaldesco. (Fortunately, they're pouring it by the glass at Terroni these days.)
Other standouts include the wines of Cantine del Notaio from Basilicato. Their 2012 "L'Atto" got a citing for Everyday Wine, certainly deserved for this lovely $13 red. But $5 more buys their exciting 2012 Aglianico del Vulture Repertorio, loaded with spice and black pepper.
Slow Wine Magazine editor Giancarlo Gariglio was working the room and stopped to explain that the magazine is now online — and in English. He was also proud of the newly published "Slow Wine Guide 2015: A Year in the Life of Italy's Vineyards and Wines."
The English version, Gariglio explains, includes 328 wines — the best of the best — whereas the guide in Italian encompasses some 2,000 wineries, each of which the editors visit every year to see how they work.
"That's 6,000 hours of job," says Gariglio, shaking his head at the sheer audacity of producing a guide with that attention to detail.
At the bottom of each winery's entry is a list detailing how each works: Fertilizers (biodynamic preparations, natural manure, green manure, organic-mineral, compost), Plant Protection (copper and sulphur, chemical), Weed Control (mechanical), Yeasts (selected, native), Grapes (100% estate grown, 15% bought in) and Certification (organic or converting to organics).
Gariglio's dream? He's not shy about saying he'd love to start a Slow Wine movement in California and eventually produce a Slow Wine guide for California wines. With already about 10,000 members of Slow Food in California, it just could happen.