Holiday Vintages From Six Italian Wine Regions

REPOST: Forbes | Tom Mullen | Dec 17, 2020

Roman Emperor Aurelian—in the year A.D. 274—declared that the Feast of the Nativity was to take place on December 25th annually, a date that almost coincided with the winter solstice, or shortest day of the year.

Today, some Italians still maintain a strict dietary fast from sundown on December 23rd until sundown the following day, followed by a dinner based on fish rather than meat. The day after that—the 25th—is considered a feast day, although preferred dishes range in variety throughout Italy. During these feasts, ample wine flows, both sparkling and still. Below are Italian wines from six different regions to consider sampling for this holiday season—and beyond.

All wines listed below would score, subjectively on a 100-point scale, above 90. Some would hit the 97, 98 mark.

Tuscany –

San Felice. Avane Chardonnay. 2018.
Avane is the ancient traditional name for the region where the San Felice winery is located in Tuscany. This unique and delicious Chardonnay includes aromas of orange peel, lime and earth. In the mouth it has an amazing creamy and oily and juicy cheek feel, with tastes of oranges and honey. This is a rounded, unique Chardonnay.

San Felice. Il Griglio Chianti Classico Riserva. 2016. (DOCG)
This 100% Sangiovese includes aromas of plums, blackberries and minestrone and in the mouth is light and elegant. Easy to drink. As the skilled winemaker Leonardo Bellaccini says, if you open the bottle with two friends, it will be empty before the first lunch course arrives. As Italians say—ecco, la verità—that’s truth.

San Felice. Poggio Rosso Gran Selezione Chianti Classico. 2016. (DOCG)
From a six acre (2.5 hectare) single plot this 100% Sangiovese is aged for 22 months in 500-liter barrels. Aromas of dark fruit, smoke, plums and prunes. The taste corresponds to aromas, and the wine can be paired with some serious hearty beef—such as wild boar—or with aged pecorino (sheep) cheese.

San Felice. Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino. 2015. (DOCG)
2015 delivered rich and tannic red wines in this region of Tuscany, and the aromas of this 100% Sangiovese include those of red and light red fruit—cherries and raspberries. The taste is notably layered, fresh and elegant with harmonious acidity. Beautiful.

San Felice. Vigorello. 2015. (IGT)
The original ‘super Tuscan’ wine produced in 1968 using non-appellation international (Bordeaux) grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, as well as local Pugnitello grapes, this is aged for 20 months in French oak barriques and eight to 10 months in bottles. Strong, gorgeous, juicy and sweet rounded aromas of raspberries, plums and black cherries—with a distinct taste of light fruit that is both textured and with quality tannins. This is an approachable wine reminiscent of a Bordeaux, but with a hint of ripe blueberries from the Pugnitello. Pair with lamb and cardamom sauce.

San Felice. Pugnitello. 2017. (IGT)
Pugnitello is an ancient Tuscan grape that—during early experimentations with 270 local varieties at San Felice—highlighted quality and distinction and became the ‘fingerprint’ of San Felice. This 100% Pugnitello shows sweet, round aromas of plums and red fruit. Delicious.

San Felice. Bell’Aja Bolgheri Superiore. 2017. (DOC)
‘Aja’ is the traditional name of the courtyard of an Italian farmhouse—the space for gathering and conviviality. This wine comes from Bolgheri, and includes no Sangiovese but is a blend of Bordeaux varieties: 95/5 of Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas are distinct, earthy and powerful and include fruits such as black cherries as well as licorice, cumin, candied oranges and cedar. In the mouth—tastes to match. A distinct, arresting wine.