March 20, 2011

Three fourths of Quattro Mani

I was turned on to the Quattro Mani wines this past year by Michael Alberty of Storyteller Wines in Portland, OR. The label means "four hands" in Italian, and is a partnership of (I think) four producers. Really, I've tried three and even the website of the importer, Domaine Select Wine Estates, suggests there are only three bottlings, so far anyway.

The story they list says things started in 2006 with a Quattro Mani bottling of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo made by Attillo Pagli, followed by a white in '08 and a sparkling wine in 2010. I've tried examples of all three, the current releases I believe, and they are all excellent and excellent values.

The current red is the 2009 Quattro Mani Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, perhaps the perfect pizza wine. Dark crimson, fresh and fruit-centered but clearly Italian with a classic bitter chocolate and almond dryness to complement the fresh mixed berry fruit flavors. There's fresh acidity and some tannin, just enough to keep things interesting. This isn't sweet, cocktail wine. Some might find it too dry. I love it, find it pairs deliciously with food, refreshing the palate with each sip, yet is fruity enough to satisfy anyone who at least would be interested in something like Chianti in favor of generic merlot. Locally at $9, ridiculous value.

The white I tried last was the 2008 Quattro Mani Toh-Kai made by the geek-famous Slovenian producer Movia, of some orange wine and esoteric sparklers. Stealing from a Storyteller newsletter, the producer is actually right on the Italian border, the label not reading Tocai because of EU rules to protect Hungary's Tokaji branding. So Toh-kai and another incredible value, and I'm sure the '09 will be if it's out now. Classic Tokai Friulano from NE Italy, full and crisp at once, slightly honeyed and spicy, floral, interesting but also easy to drink if you're not thinking about it. Great in summer weather.

But the most interesting Quattro Mani wine I've tried is something I wrote about recently in my post on the Portland restaurant Nostrana. It's the NV Quattro Mani Franciacorta Brut, from a region that is Italy's answer to Champagne (meaning it's good but nowhere near Champagne...what is?). Franciacorta apparently used to be the insider's place for great value, serious sparkling wine. Now prices have risen, but here's an excellent bottling for less than $20. I tried it once at Storyteller, immediately bought a bottle. Then tried it at Nostrana, thinking I probably wouldn't have the same reaction. You know when you like something, then try it again and, what's the big deal? Not here. This has all the finesse, mineral and brioche notes of fine Champagne. Ok, maybe a different profile. Again, there is no substitute to Champagne. But this wine is rich and fine at once, delicate but full, that magical balance you want in most wines. Not too light, not too heavy, just right. And at a price where you might find it be the glass, where you won't be cutting any corners to order it.

Terrific wine, terrific value. That's Quattro Mani. Three-fourths of it anyway. Still searching for that fourth wine. Any leads?

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