Monday, March 18, 2013

A Dessert Syrah from Italy's Heel

For me, wine is all about exploration. I love exploring different regions, different grapes and different styles of winemaking. So when I came across a dessert-style syrah from the southern Italian state of Puglia, I had to try it.

I picked up this 2008 Alberto Longo Il Griccio (Italy, Puglia) for $10 at auction, and the pleasure it brings is worth far more than that. (The wine retails for around $25 for a 500ml bottle, which is still a good deal.)
Made from 100% syrah, the grapes are harvested and laid out to dry so the sugars concentrate, similar to the process of making the northern Italian wine Amarone. The dried berries are then pressed and the concentrated juice and skins are allowed to ferment in stainless steel. The resulting wine is 16% alcohol and this wine contains 6 grams of residual sugar. Then the juice is then aged in French oak barrels, which give the wine a toasty-chocolatey character.

And what a unique wine it is. Aromatically, this stuff is awesome: sweet blackberries, raspberry tart, fig paste and a mineral-rocky aroma. Notes of olive and raisins came out with time. On the palate, there’s a lot of sweet fruit, but it’s still tart, reminiscent of wild blueberries, blackberries and currants. The tannins are firm and the acid is surprisingly fresh, making this balanced and effortlessly enjoyable. Lots of secondary earthy, herbal and tar flavors come out, but they’re also mixed with raisins, caramel and fig paste. A bit of smoke lingers onto the finish, which is long and balanced. One of the most unique dessert wines I’ve had in a very long time. Absolutely delicious. I rated it 91 points non-blind.

I only bought one bottle, but this wine is definitely worth revisiting over the next few years, preferably on a cold winter night by the fireplace surrounded by a plate of desserts and/or strong cheeses.


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