My exposure to Italian wine is not as frequent as it used to be; I spend so much time wrapped up in Bordeaux and the Loire, that opening an Italian bottle – perhaps as part of one of my vintage reviews at 10, 15 or 20 years of age – often comes as something of a treat.
So I was glad recently to take a look at these wines sent by Vitalonga, not least because my Italian experience focus so often on the classic regions, Tuscany in particular. These wines hail instead from Umbria, a small and land-locked region not quite midway down Italy’s peninsula.
I have tasted previous vintages of these wines, reported here, and these latest releases showed better. Particularly notable was the Sangiòvese cuvée, which is bright and pure. It’s intended for drinking soon, judging by its style (and synthetic closure). Not a complex or deeply characterful wine by any means, and not every wine should be; this is just a glass of dry and fruity joy. My favourite, though, was the Terra di Confine, which demonstrates that there is life beyond Sangiovese in this part of Italy.
Vitalonga Sangiòvese IGT (Umbria) 2011: Bottled under ‘Korked’ synthetic closure. A very good colour to it, dark but with a vibrant rim. Some attractive fruit on the nose here, sweet and fresh, not confected, with some darker tones to it, hints of cherry and blackberry, but crisp, fresh, and biting rather than darkly ripe. A very nice texture on entry, and this conviction is not lost through the middle, which broadens a little in terms of texture, caressing quite gently, with freshness of fruit, a correct structure, good acidity and dry extract. For the level (and price perhaps?), a real success. Sure it’s straightforward, but it’s delicious, uncomplicated, easy-drinking wine. 14.5/20 (January 2013)
Vitalonga Elcione (Umbria) 2009: Bottled under natural cork, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot frm clay and chalk soils, fermented in steel, with six months in French barrique thereafter. The aromatics are bright and cool, and despite the varieties used it’s clear from the outset that this possesses a very Italian style. There are notes of cranberry skin, sweet red cherry and black pepper, all with a slightly diffuse, roasted-fruit, caramel-vanilla tinge no doubt from the oak. It has a sour-fruit character on the palate, with very firm Italianate acidity and structure, never fleshy or flattering, leading into a dry finish. A rather attractive style, albeit with better definition to the structure of the wine, which with a little time shows a bright, peppery endpalate, than there is to the fruit. 14.5/20 (January 2013)
Vitalonga Terra di Confine (Umbria) 2009: A blend of 80% Montepulciano and 20% Merlot, fermented in steel and aged in French oak barriques for 12 months. A dark hue in the glass, but a vibrant rim. The nose certainly speaks of the principal variety, with scents of blackberry and black olive, with a dark and sooty underbelly, as well as a honeyed application of oak. The palate is fresh, medium-bodied and showing bright acidity cutting through the fruits which here have a more sappy and biting, just-ripe feel than the darker scents on the nose suggested to me. It has a very lively, acid-bound style, which leads into a short finish. Good wine. 15/20 (January 2013)