Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Italian wine section can be a confusing place! Just as you begin to “figure” out the Valpolicella, Chianti, Barolo, Barbaresco, Montepulciano, Brunello and many other DOCG wines, along comes IGT wines to muddy the waters. You will notice that wines with an IGT designation are not necessarily always more affordable either. What is an IGT wine and why does it matter? Let’s take a look!

IGT stands for “Indicazione Geographica Tipica” and this category of Italian wines is often considered a step between table wines (entry level) and DOC or DOCG wines which are considered the highest-quality wines in Italy. Wines known as “Super-Tuscan” originated from this category as they often include grapes which were not legally allowed in DOC or DOCG wines. A great example of this practice is demonstrated by Tignanello, which is a wine made with the heavy incorporation of Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is known for being powerful and intense but due to the addition of Cab Sauv, which moves away from the classic Italian style of the region, it cannot be given a DOC or DOCG rating.

Wine makers that wish to step outside the traditional boundaries of Italian winemaking were given the IGT rating to allow the freedom of creating interesting wines and not having to label them as table wines. When it comes to IGT wines, its hard to tell what you’re going to get since some wines can be very basic like a simple Sangiovese and merlot blend and other wines can be explosive powerhouses that deliver high-intensity fruit flavors with an Italian twist. This is apparent when comparing two wines like the Spettacolare and the Gran Passione side by side.

At first glance/taste, it can feel like the Spettacolare is mis-priced since the cost of $40-$50 leads to an expectation of intensity and flavor but we must remember that this is old-world wine and even though the winemakers chose to blend grapes not found in traditional Italian wines like Chianti, Barolo, etc., the soul and profile of this wine is incredibly Italian. Give this one time to breathe (a decanter works well) and get it to the right temperature (16-18 degrees Celsius) and the wine delivers a subtle, slow burning experience. It reminds me of reading a complex novel full of intricate characters and plots where it takes time to build the conflict, action and intrigue.

On the other hand, we have the Gran Passione which reminds me of an action-packed science fiction book. The characters and scenes are immediately colorful and everything leaps off the page. This wine delivers a similar experience with a rush of concentrated fruit flavor. These are two very different wines and they will suit different moods which is one of the things I absolutely love about wine in general: there is a wine for every mood and emotion.

The IGT category of wines is incredibly interesting and reminds me of the quote from Forest Gump “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Since the grapes used in both wines are not listed on the label, the customer is left with almost no information except the graphic design, alcohol content and general area of production. These clues give us a general idea of the wine inside the bottle but it all comes down to actually tasting the wine.

The other confusing factor to consider is the pricing of these wines. As I stated earlier, the higher price tag of Spettacolare can lead us to expect a powerful wine but the opposite is true and the defining character of this specific wine is subtlety and class. It is a beautiful thinking wine that demands that you take your time. The Gran Passione on the other hand, delivers flavor right from the get-go and for the price it really knocks it out of the park and the value is amazing! Here are my wine picks of the week! 

Gran Passione Rosso 2021: (IGT Veneto, Italy). Dry red, deep ruby color. The nose is full and concentrated with dried dark fruits, blackberries, balsamic raspberry, rose petal, tangy soil and fragrant cloves. To the taste, flavors of stewed red/dark cherries and tangy blackberry are complimented by warming oak spices. The mid-palate is long which gives time to savor the richness of the wine and the ripe fruit flavors transition nicely into a long finish of toast, biscuit, pepper and cloves. Medium-plus body, medium-plus acidity and medium-plus tannins. Some floral bitterness creates the needed balance to the wine and works well with the smooth, almost oily texture along with layered flavors of cherry (sour and fruity). The savory note on the finish is delectable. Very good! $25, 14% ABV

Spettacolare 2013: (IGT Tuscany, Italy). Dry red, deep ruby color. This red is very mellow when it first opens but with some breathing time, the wine reveals a classically Italian bouquet of bright red cherries, raspberries, delicate herbs, summer foliage/leaves, sweet earth, forest floor and a slight mineral tingle. On the palate, the acidity is quite intense but it backs up the cherry-dominated flavor profile and lifts the mid-palate of forest fruits (raspberry, cherry and currants). After the medium-length mid-palate, the mouth still tingles from acidity as notes of oak toast and light white pepper mingle with intense cherry Lifesaver flavors. The flavor is beautifully vivid with satisfyingly chewy tannins and a delicious saline/savory character under the fruits and spice along with a medium body. This wine takes some time to get going but your patience will be rewarded by allowing the wine to warm up and breathe. Pair with cannelloni filled with ricotta and spinach in a tangy marinara sauce or with a classic charcuterie board (don’t forget the almond or feta-stuffed olives). Very good! $40, 14% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!