Wine: Alta Luna Rosso IGT
Grapes: Teroldego (40 percent), lagrein (30 percent), merlot (30 percent)
Region: Dolomite region, northern Italy
Availability: Lee’s Discount Liquor
In the glass: Alta Luna Rosso is a deep inky-purple-red color with almost blackish opaque streaks going through it and out to a purple-fuchsia rim definition that just paints the side of the glass with very high viscosity.
On the nose: There are immediate rustic and quite interesting garrigue and animal hide notes, but this is just a characteristic that eventually dissipates and also shows why this kind of big full-bodied red wine needs to be opened in advance. What follows is an “exotic” range of scents with crushed elderberry fruit, myrrh, coriander seed, mint, allspice and crushed black cherries with underlying notes of oak and minerals.
On the palate: Powerful and rounded, the wine hits the palate with black cherry juice, elderberry jam, concentrated blackberry liqueur, creme de cassis, oak references and other pungent black fruit concoctions. It eases off on the midpalate with soft, supple tannins that although very present are finely balanced, and then finishes with a big black fruit kick, invoking freshly crushed elder fruit and those slightly rustic characteristics to the end. Based on its concentration and forceful flavor profile, this is an excellent alternative to cabernet- and merlot-based wines, but it clearly has its own style and character.
Odds and ends: This is a most unusual blend of northern Italian indigenous varieties with classic merlot and the result is a stunner of a wine that has tremendous staying power both in the glass and on the palate. I don’t think many American consumers have heard of, let alone tasted wines based on grape varieties teroldego and lagrein, but if you’re up in the Dolomite Mountains in the very northern part of Italy, close to Austria on the slopes below the famous ski resorts, you see plenty of these planted there. Brought to market by Cavit, the giant Italian pinot grigio specialist, this wine was actually placed as No. 52 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World, so it has been noticed by that famous wine publication in the past, but here we find it for a mere $10 and that registers high on the value scale and certainly in my book. I also just like to write about such interesting and unusual wines and marvel at the fact that we can find them here. During the summer months, it is always perfect to drink wine like this with something meaty and off the barbecue grill and that is a continuing theme for me through this season. Drink it now through 2016 as it is already mature.
Gil Lempert-Schwarz’s wine column appears Wednesdays. Write him at P.O. Box 50749, Henderson, NV 89106-0749, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.