In this searingly hot New York summer I’m missing the cool Italian whites I got to know better on my February trip to Florence. In winter there were lots of Chianti Classicos to warm me up. Gorgeous and sumptuous. But now it’s the whites I am dreaming about, sampled in the dead of a Tuscan winter.
There was joy and leisure to being in Florence off-season. No lines, no rushing and having time to sit and talk with Antonio Federico at his enoteca La Botte, steps away from the Santa Croce. A wine debit card allows you to taste over 65 Italian wines, many organic or biodynamic, from a stainless steel tasting system called “Enomatic.” The open bottles are kept fresh with nitrogen gas allowing La Botte to offer an extensive array of wines by the glass which would normally be cost prohibitive.
Antonio is an ambassador for traditional Italian winemaking, and tasting with him was a charmingly accented crash course in the country’s wines, regions and policies. Organic wine there, like my Italian, is not easily understood. Antonio feels that there are many winemakers who have always used organic practices but are not certified for a number of reasons; traditional attitudes, reams of paperwork and whimsical policy changes to name a few. He is passionate about wines that are the best expression of each region, and his natural, organic and biodynamic selections at La Botte, reflect that.
I started with 2 really nice whites, Tenuta Della Terre Nere’s Etna Bianco, from the south in Sicily and Inama’s Sauvignon Vulcaia Fume 2008, from Verona in the north. Both are just great wines I could drink anytime. The Vulcaia Fume is a good balance of ripe fruit, honeyed-oak, green and not too much “fume,” with a very rich feel and full, ripe fruit flavor that still manages to stay dry.
The Etna Bianco has a suprising bag of tricks, so full and sophisticated it drank more like a classic Burgundian combined with the clean, tight, mineraly steel I was expecting from the rocky, volcanic region in southern Italy.
Eugene Martinez, a former New Yorker living in Italy since 1980, conducts personal personal day tours of Florence and Chianti. We spent a memorable afternoon driving through the long and winding Chianti Road looking at several organic vineyards. We were welcomed at Querciabella Vineyards (see my previous article) which has been Biodynamic since 2001 and organic since the 1980s. I met master oenologist, Guido DeSanti at a tasting table to sample some of the best wines in the region.
Querciabella’s standout white wine is their sophisticated but sporty Batar 2008 (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Bianco). It is stone-fruit, clean, mineraly, velvety, full-bodied perfection. It’s definitely more croquet than beach volleyball. It would be fun to put on those super fine Gatsby whites and putter around on the lawn with a mallet in one hand and a healthy pour of Batar in the other.
Tenuta della Terre Nere’s Etna Bianco 2009 is like a Bond girl; gorgeous, flirty, a bit of an enigma but definitely speaks your language. I also enjoyed the Inama Sauvignon Vulcaia Fumé 2008. It has a very rich feel and full, ripe fruit flavor but manages to stay dry. It’s like being enfolded in a great big beach towel after swimming in Maine. It’s big and warm but still refreshing and you just give in to the comfort of it. The cool, clean pleasure of the these three are sure to get you through the dog days of summer.