Above: Yesterday, I tasted through the current releases of Fèlsina with my friends, from left, Craig Collins (who works for the winery’s distributor in Texas), John Roenigk (owner and manager of The Austin Wine Merchant), and Chiara Leonini, Fèlsina’s export manager. For the record, Fèlsina is pronounced FEHL-see-nah.
It’s a labor of love and it’s my self-appointed duty: I just spent the first hour of my day translating Franco’s editorial on the list of The Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines and the Italian showing in the list. You’ve heard me say it before: Franco (the “Giuseppe Baretti” of Italian wine) is a friend, a colleague, a mentor, a partner, and one of the wine writers whom I admire most. I encourage you to read what he has to say: here in America, where few read the Italian wine media, we are often unaware of how the Italians view us and our wine media and how our wine media generally ignores the wines and the styles of wine that Italians hold to be the best representation of their enology.
In another editorial published today, by a young wine blogger and marketing consultant based in Apulia, the author writes: “Just think that the first wine in the list is an American wine that costs $27 and the second is a Spanish wine that also costs $27. In order to pay the tidy sum of $110, you have to get to the eighth place in the list for a Tuscan wine that costs a hefty $110!”
Today, I’ll leave the editorializing and pontificating to others, but I do encourage you to put it in your pipe and smoke it, so to speak.
As it just so happens, yesterday I tasted with the export manager for a winery that landed the thirteenth position in the magazine’s list: Fèlsina, whose Fontalloro, a barriqued 100% Sangiovese that has long been a popular wine in the U.S.
“Some would call it a Super Tuscan,” said Chiara (above), “even though I don’t like that term.” And, in fact, the wine actually qualifies as a Chianti, even though the winery has chosen historically to declassify it, initially to vino da tavola status and now IGT (it was first released in 1983, she said, the same year as the first release of the winery’s “cru” Chianti Classico, Rancia).
I’m a bona fide fan of Fèlsina but my favorites are always their entry-level wines, made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, vinified in the traditional style, and aged in large old-oak casks that have been used over and over again. The wines generally cost under $25 and I highly recommend them. The 2006 harvest was a good vintage for these wines, 2007 a great vintage. (I also had fun trading notes with Chiara about our university days in Italy. She studied Chomsky and generative linguistics at Florence, around the same time I studied the history of the Italian language and prosody at Padua and the Scuola Normale in Pisa. We knew a lot of the same professors!)
I’ve spent enough time in front of the computer this morning and it’s time for me to head to Houston, where I’ll be speaking about and pouring Italian wine tonight. So I’ll leave the punch line up to you Italo Calvinos out there…
An Italian wine walks into a bar…