La Carraia Orvieto 2005
La Carraia was founded in 1976 by the Gialletti and Cotarella families. Riccardo Cotarella, one of the most respected authorities on the production and marketing of Italian wines, is the winery’s co-owner and winemaker. La Carraia, thanks to its broad and diverse portfolio, is able to satisfy the needs of casual, value-oriented consumers with products like Sangiovese and Orvieto Classico, and the most demanding of collectors with their Fobiano. The winery owns a total of 198 acres located in the heart of the Orvieto Classico appellation. Of these, 172 acres are dedicated to the production of Orvieto Classico; the remainder features Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Montepulciano grapes. The year 1995 marked the first release of Poggio Calvelli, a joint venture between La Carraia and Winebow. This wine represents a new style of Orvieto Classico, one that is aged in small oak barrels. Tizzonero and Fobiano, the two top-shelf wines produced at La Carraia, are known for consistent quality and overall versatility. These wines are excellent examples of Mr. Cotarella’s mastery with red grapes.
Named “Oenotria” by the ancient Greeks for its abundance of grapevines, Italy has always had a culture virtually inextricable from wine. Wine grapes grow in every region throughout Italy—a long and narrow boot-shaped peninsula extending into the Mediterranean.
Italian Wine Regions
Naturally, most Italian wine regions enjoy a Mediterranean climate and a notable coastline, if not coastline on all borders, as is the case with the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The Alps in the northern regions of Valle d'Aosta, Lombardy and Alto Adige create favorable conditions for cool-climate grape varieties. The Apennine Mountains, extending from Liguria in the north to Calabria in the south, affect climate, grape variety and harvest periods throughout. Considering the variable terrain and conditions, it is still safe to say that most high quality viticulture in Italy takes place on picturesque hillsides.
Italian Grape Varieties
Italy boasts more indigenous grape varieties than any other country—between 500 and 800, depending on whom you ask—and most Italian wine production relies upon these native grapes. In some regions, international varieties have worked their way in, but are declining in popularity, especially as younger growers take interest in reviving local varieties. Most important are Sangiovese, reaching its greatest potential in Tuscany, as well as Nebbiolo, the prized grape of Piedmont, producing single varietal, age-worthy Piedmontese wines. Other important varieties include Corvina, Montepulciano, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and of course the white wines, Trebbiano, Verdicchio and Garganega. The list goes on.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.