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Antinori Conte Della Vipera 2011
Blend: Sauvignon Blanc with a small percentage of Semillon.
The Antinori family of Florence, one of the world's oldest and most distinguished wine producers, has lived in Tuscany since the 14th century and celebrated its 625th anniversary as wine makers in 2010. The current company president, Marchese Piero Antinori, believes in the tradition that the primary role of wine is to accompany food and enhance the dining experience. In Florence, the Antinori family has led a "Renaissance" in Italian wine making by combining long traditions, a love of authenticity and a dynamic innovative spirit.
Centered upon the lush Apennine Range in the center if the Italian peninsula, Umbria is one of the few completely landlocked regions in Italy. It’s star red grape variety, Sagrantino, finds its mecca around the striking, hilltop village of Montefalco. The resulting wine, Sagrantino di Montefalco, is an age-worthy, brawny, brambly red, bursting with jammy, blackberry fruit and earthy, pine forest aromas. By law this classified wine has to be aged over three years before it can be released from the winery and Sagrantino often needs a good 5-10 more years in bottle before it reaches its peak. Incidentally these wines often fall under the radar in the scene of high-end, age-begging, Italian reds, giving them an almost cult-classic appeal. They are undoubtedly worth the wait!
Rosso di Montefalco, on the other had, is composed mainly of Sangiovese and is a more fruit-driven, quaffable wine to enjoy while waiting for the Sagrantinos to mellow out.
Among its green mountains, perched upon a high cliff in the province of Terni, sits the town of Orvieto. Orvieto, the wine, is a blend of at least 60% Trebbiano in combination with Grechetto, with the possible addition of other local white varieties. Orvieto is the center of Umbria’s white wine production—and anchor of the region’s entire wine scene—producing over two thirds of Umbria’s wine. A great Orvieto will have clean aromas and flavors of green apple, melon and citrus, and have a crisp, mineral-dominant finish.
Sometimes light and crisp, other times rich and creamy, Bordeaux white blends typically consist of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Often, a small amount of Muscadelle or Sauvignon Gris is included for added interest. This blend was popularized in the Bordeaux region of France (where it also comprises outstanding sweet wines like Sauternes and Barsac), but is often mimicked throughout the New World, particularly in California, Washington, and Australia.
In the Glass
Sémillon provides the background to this blend, with a relatively full body and an oily texture. Sauvignon Blanc adds acidity and lots of bright fruit flavor, particularly white grapefruit, lime, and freshly cut grass. Used in smaller proportions, Muscadelle can contribute fresh floral notes, while Sauvignon Gris is less aromatic but offers ripe, juicy fruit on the palate. These wines run the gamut from unoaked, refreshing, and easy to drink to serious, complex, and barrel-aged. The latter style, usually with a higher percentage of Sémillon, can develop aromas of ginger, chamomile, and dried orange peel. The dessert wines produced by these blends, often with the help of noble rot, can have lush stone fruit and honey character.
Crisp, dry Bordeaux white blends are the perfect accompaniment for raw or lightly cooked seafood, especially shellfish. A more structured, Sémillon-based bottling can stand up to richer fish, chicken, or pork dishes in white sauces. These blends also work well with a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs, like asparagus, peas, basil, and tarragon. Sweet dessert wines are traditionally enjoyed with strong blue cheeses, foie gras, or fruit-based desserts.
Sauternes and Barsac are usually reserved for dessert, but smart sommeliers know that they can be served at any time—before, during, or after the meal. Try these sweet wines as an aperitif with jamón ibérico or oysters with a spicy mignonette, or during dinner alongside hearty Alsatian sausage, poached lobster in beurre blanc sauce, or even fried chicken.