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WBW 42 – Just Seven Words

by Tim Elliott on February 14, 2008

This month Andrew from the fine UK wine blog Spittoon has challenged us to review an Italian wine in just seven words. Sound like a fairly easy task as wines from Italy are plentiful in stores at all price ranges and seven words can cover quite a bit of ground.

So I ventured to my favorite wine store, Solo Vino, to challenge the staff with an Italian wine from a region I was not familiar with to feature. After a few bottles were suggested, I settled on Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Rosso 2006 ($17). It’s made from old-vine Nerello grown on the slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily.

My WBW 42 SelectionsAs soon as the first taste was swirled and sniffed, I knew I was in trouble as the pronounced aromas were difficult to describe in 14 words. How could I describe what was going on with this wine in just seven words? I jotted down my normal review of 25 words or so, then attempted to cut the prose down to a skeletal seven. Nothing seemed to make sense so I settled on the following:

Cherries, earth, raspberries on a dusty highway

14% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy this wine online

This got me wondering if a more straightforward wine would be easier to encapsulate in the meager amount of words allotted. So I picked up the widely available A Mano, Primitivo 2005 ($10) from Puglia. Longtime listeners of my podcast will remember this wine from a couple of years back and I reconsidered another bottle sometime later. But I had not picked up this wine for quite a while so I thought it would be easy to review in just a few words. A twist of the screw-cap closure and taste later, I jotted down the following:

Raspberries, cranberries, tar and spices on horseback

13.5% ABV
Stelvin closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy this wine online

Although the A Mano was more fruit driven than the Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, there was still quite a bit going on here. I liked each wine roughly about the same with a slight nod to the Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Rosso (89 vs. 88 on the 100-point scale). But this experience got me thinking more about wine reviews in general and how I approach them in particular. In the back of my mind, I kept hearing Ryan’s call for wine writing on the internet to be different than the established print model. And for the first time, I confronted a vastly different review structure to work with.

No, I’m not going to review wines here with seven words but I expect my reviews to be less about the actual aromas and flavors of the wine but how they evoke something related to the world around me. Some context about how I came to try the wine in question and how it connects with my life at the time of the tasting. So, ironically, this will lead to more descriptive and less clinical reviews here.

Cheers to Andrew for such a thought provoking and, yes, fun theme. I’m looking forward to getting back into my comfort zone next month with a seasonal theme (at least here in the snowy Twin Cities) from Joel at Vivi’s Wine Journal.

Campagna Gello, “Il Valore”, Primitivo 2005

by Tim Elliott on November 4, 2006

The first of a couple tasting notes from Trader Joe’s wines I’m trying out for potential house wines. I’d like to stay in the $10 a bottle or less range for everyday vino and I did like the 2004 vintage of this Primitivo earlier this year. My criteria other than price is food friendliness and something that would give a $25 wine a run for it’s money. This one delivers on the former but falls well short on the latter. Still it’s a decent quaffer for Italian fare.

Campagna Gello, “Il Valore”, Primitivo, IGT Puglia 2005 ($4) – Dark purple in color with aromas of dark fruit, earth and violets. Tart cranberry, black cherry and black pepper flavors finishing with medium tannins. Not bad for $4 but I liked the 2004 better as it seemed to have more weight on the palate. Would be a good pizza or pasta wine, however.

13% ABV
Synthetic closure (difficult to remove)
Score: 78

Campagna Gello, “Il Valore”, Primitivo 2004

by Tim Elliott on July 6, 2006

Campagna Gello, “Il Valore”, Primitivo, IGT Puglia, Italy 2004 ($5)

A Trader Joe’s market recently opened here in the Twin Cities. I’ve been a longtime customer for my days living in California, but my purchases over the past 20 years has been infrequent. For readers not familiar with the chain, they are a gourmet market that takes a different approach to stocking their shelves. In place of high-end brands, they carry high quality foods that they private label to keep costs low and pass this along to customers. Their frozen orange chicken is amazing and in expensive, but I digress.

When I first got into wine in the early 1980’s Trader Joe’s was a regular haunt for their private label wines, many very good values from top producers who sold these wines off in bulk for quick cash-flow. Trader Joe’s would label them and sell these for $1.99 or $2.99 a bottle. Occasionally they would also have a close out on a name brand wine that would quickly sell-out. The Trader Joe’s wine selection of today is dominated by the Charles Shaw brand of “Two-buck Chuck” fame. While some of these wines are good values (actually anything drinkable for $2-3 a bottle is a good value these days) the other exclusive brands usually offer better value for just a buck or two more.

One of these is “Il Valore” which is a brand for Italian wines that I have blogged and podcasted here before. They have 3 or 4 wines and the one that first caught my attention was their Primitivo that I will review now. I first heard about this wine from another blog and had high hopes this would provide for an interesting tasting. I’ve had several Primitivo in the past, but none of them were as good as most California Zinfandel despite the DNA linkage with Zinfandel and parent Crljenak Kastelanski. I think of Zinfandel and Primitivo as twins separated at birth with each adapting to their terroir and producing similar, but different wines. This wine does not change my opinion on this matter but is a pretty smokin’ value.

The wine is garnet in color with aromas of earthy blackberry and violets. The flavors are of dark fruit, earth and black pepper with dusty tannins and nice acidity for food. I can’t point to a better California Zinfandel at $5 a bottle with this much varietal character, but I really haven’t tried many lately. Don’t expect Zinfandel forward fruit and enjoy this wine for it’s earthy goodness and low for Zin (or Primitivo) alcohol.

13% ABV
Synthetic cork closure (easily removed)
Score: 8/10

A Mano, Primitivo, Puglia 2002

by Tim Elliott on July 15, 2005

A Mano, Primitivo, Puglia 2002 ($8) – Maybe it was bottle variation or just the flavors of the other Primitivo challenging this wine in Winecast 17, but my latest bottle really changes my perceptions of this wine. Medium ruby color, intense aromas of blackberry and spice, earthy, but fresh blackberry and plum flavors with a peppery finish and moderate tannins. An excellent value; I’m stocking up! Score: 8.5/10