Sunday, September 19, 2010


This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Egle Armani to taste some intriguing offerings from the Adige Valley in Italy. Egle, along with her husband Albino, have been raising awareness for the Val d'Adige winegrowing region for quite some time. However, they have now embarked on a mission to rejuvenate an ancient indigenous grape known as Fjoja Tonda (Casetta).

Foja Tonda (which roughly translated means round leaf) was near extinction when Albino first discovered vines growing wild in the higher altitudes of his vineyard in the 1980's. He has since obtained certification from the government to reinstate the vines, garnered D.O.C. status, and cultivated the vines into an Armani exclusive and rare wine.

I tasted two different vintages made from 100% Foja Tonda. The 2007 Foja Tonda smelled like Cabernet Franc. It had green vegetable and earthy aromas but tasted more like a high acid Italian wine that is very true to the region. On the palate, light spice, and dry red and black fruit emerged. The finish had nice cherry candy notes with length but not power. Despite significant acidity, the wine was incredibly soft.

The 2005 Foja Tonda was darker in color. The nose instantly reminded me of a 2001 Greg Norman Reserve Shiraz that I once fell in love with at a wine show. It exhibited lots of New World stewed red fruit (cranberry-wild berry) aromas. Yet this wine tasted nothing like it smelled. It was pure Old World on the palate. Maybe it was the Slovenian oak, but I felt its flavors were much closer to something in the spirit of a Serge Hochar wine. There was spice, dark red and black fruits, balance, refined acidity, a more pronounced finish and the structure of a wine with the ability to add on years.

Both wines were matured in Slovenian oak barrels with approximately 13.5% alcohol. They are good food wines and retail for around $20 a bottle. The 2005 was clearly superior and I would give it 89 points. The 2007 is a promise captured. If it can evolve like the 2005 it will be a very good wine. Right now, it is a work in progress.

I also tasted the 2009 Pinot Grigio Corvara Val d'Adige which was rich, creamy and wonderfully balanced. Lots of peaches and pears with a wonderful crispness on the palate and a hint of sweetness. The key to the sweet finish is that 10% of the grapes are picked 10 days late. This helps them concentrate the sugar. In challenging years the passito method is inacted in which the grapes are dried at the winery to accomplish a similar sweet result. Aged in Stainless Steel with an alcohol content of 13%, I found the Pinot Grigio to be a 90 point wine. Those of you who are a slave to Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio need to expand your horizons as this is a far superior effort.

The Armani family has been producing wine for over 400 years and their wine labels proudly feature "1607" as a reminder of their legacy. Whether you are looking to explore new Italian wines, check off an obscure one on your 100 varietal club pursuit, or simply drink good wine, I encourage you to sample Foja Tonda as well as other quality wines Egle and Albino are striving to deliver to you in their portfolio.


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