by Dwight Casimere
NEW YORK--It was a heavenly match that transported one from the bustling streets of New York City's upper East side to the hushed hills of Tuscany. World renowned Chianti Classico producer Galiole, in the person of their winery representative Alessia Riccieri, hosted an intimate dinner at Caffe dei Fiori. It was a marvelous opportunity to taste the wines of a fascinating boutique producer in the presence of innovative interpretations of Tuscan cuisine in an intimate setting.
Sangiovese-based wines are enjoying an incredible revival and are once again becoming the enological darlings of wine aficionados and novices alike. The fact that the wines of Gagliole represent a tremendous value relative to their high quality makes them that much more desirable.
Started by well-known gallery manager and a Swiss lawyer and banker, Monika and Thomas Bar, Gagliole is an incredibly fascinating boutique producer that focuses on developing high-quality, Sangiovese-based wines that reflect the tradition of the region while employing modern techniques. The resulting wines are an enological triumph that delight both aficionados and neophytes alike. The dinner was an exciting opportunity to taste these exquisite wines in combination with imaginative cuisine that reflected the rustic roots of Tuscany with a modern culinary edge.
Wines that accompanied the dinner included:
- Kerner Alto Adige Valle Isarco DOC-(not from this producer, therefor not reviewed here)
- Colli Della Toscana Centrale IGT, a Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend-$47
- Rubiolo Chianti Classico DOCG, a Sangiovese-Merlot blend-$23
- Pecchia Colli della Toscana Centrale, a Sangiovese-Merlot blend-$23
Thanks to the argillite-rich soils and the south-southwest exposure of the vines, Gagliole’s wines are elegant and refined, with soft, nuanced flavors. Their wines have been extremely successful, receiving accolades from numerous publications including Wine Advocate (91 points), James Suckling (92 points) and Antonio Galloni.
The wines are shining examples of modern Italian winemaking. They're a part of the "new wave" of Italian wines and winemakers, lauded in the press as the "Super Tuscans." These wines are officially classified as IGT (in Italian-Indicazione Geografica Tipica).
The IGT classification was introduced in Italy in 1992 as a means to allow winemakers to exercise the freedom to make wines that used grapes outside of the strict laws that govern the industry. The goal was to recognize great winemaking using grapes that were not sanctioned under Italian DOC (Denominzione di Origine Controllata and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. The new IGT law was enacted after Italy's top winemakers began experimenting with international Bordeaux grape varieties such as Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, which are not indigenous to Italy, and blending them with native Sangiovese grapes to make a stunning, new type of wine, rich in flavor and color. Pungent fruit flavors literally gushed from these well-crafted wines an immediately captured the imagination of wine lovers everywhere. As a result, Italian IGT wines and their popular designation as "Super Tuscans" have become the most coveted wines of serious collectors and aficionados. Some of Italy's most famous (and pricey) wines come from this category; Sassicaia, Ornellaia, and Tignanello, among others. Super Tuscans are the wine success story of the last century and the new wines released by Galiole are shining examples.
Galiole Colli Della Toscana Centrale IGT is consistently rated among the top ten wines of Tuscany with respect to the number of prizes won, including Decanter World Wine Awards. Wine Spectator gave the 2007 vintage a score of 95.
All of the Galiole wines have intense fruit flavors and aromas and go perfectly with food. That fact was brought home with stunning clarity at the dinner at Caffe Dei Fiori. The chef could not have done a better job of matching the wines with the food. I've traveled to Italy many times and have explored the cuisine and wines of its various regions. I would stand the chef at Caffe Dei Fiori against any of the chefs I have encountered on my journeys. The food is truly authentic, but with a highly personal and modern twist.
The Colli Della Toscana Cenrale , for example, was especially noticeable because of its bright ruby red color. It even sparkled like a faceted stone when held up to the light. This is an extremely sophisticated and elegant wine with a great deal of complexity both on the nose and on the palate. I was truly intrigued by this wine and delighted in drinking it alone and with food. The longer it stayed in the glass and the more you tasted it, you discovered new taste sensations. The aromas of ripe, red and black rasberry and overripe blackberry fruit literally jump out of the glass. The flavor begins with the fruit, but doesn't end there. There are hints of licorice, mint and a lingering backnote of allspice. The seared lamb chops ( Costolette d’Agnello, Relish alla Menta and Zucchine ) with mint relish and zuccini are definitely the way to go here.
The Rubiolo Chianti Classico is everything you would expect from the name and more. A lot of people are very confused about the designations of Chianti and Chianti Classico. Let me make this perfectly clear. The two are quite different and distinctive. Chianti Classico is a separate regional designation, and the wines have a very specific and elevated flavor profile. If you were to taste the wines from the two regions side by side, you'd get my drift.
The Veal Milanese (boneless) with Arugula salad (Orecchia d'Elefante, Insalate di Rucola) is a master-lesson inculinary simplicity. This is a dish that gets right to the point and in a powerful way. It was rustic, yet elegant at the same time. It consisted of a very generous portion of thinly sliced veal cutlet that was pounded to even further perfection and then covered with a delicate panko-like crust and pan -sautede in olive oil and Tuscan herbs. The minimalism of this dish is the key to its perfection. Covered with spicy Arugula, it brought out all of the flavor nuances in the wine, including hints of white and black pepper, and a hint of cardamum.
SOME CAFFE DEI FIORI WINE TASTING MENU SELECTIONS
Prosciutto di Parma e Burrata o Alici del Cantabrico Parma Prosciutto, Burrata Cheese or Cantabrico Anchovies
Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese Tagliatelle with Beef Ragoût
Costolette d’Agnello, Relish alla Menta and Zucchine Lightly Seared Lamb Chops, Mint Relish and Zucchine
Orecchia d’Elefante, Insalata di Rucola
Veal Milanese (boneless), Arugula Salad