January 22, 2013

Frascati from Conte Jacopo

After my last post about the dearth of serious Italian white wine, I of course thought of other examples I'd neglected. Take Soave for example. The best of this region near Verona may not be landmark wine like Mosel Riesling or White Burgundy. They are however worth noting. So there you are.

This past weekend, we had friends over to watch the San Francisco 49ers crush (in my mind anyway) the Atlanta Falcons and earn a berth in the Super Bowl. I mentioned my post, without saying  to a wine geek guest and mentioned Frascati as the white wine I'd tackle next. His telling comment? What about Orvieto?

I guess he doesn't read the blog.

Anyhow, his point was astute. Areas like Orvieto and Frascati (remember that in most of Europe wines are named for the region, not the grape), these are known only because of the vast amounts of swill they've produced, that is sold to charmed tourists and is ubiquitous on Italian restaurant lists in the heartland. You know, where there isn't much if any choice.

(Strange why conservative "red" states in the US have so little choice in things, but it's the commie "blue" states where the free market really seems to work and you can buy, with hard earned money even, almost anything you want. But that's another story.)

The point is, Orvieto and Frascati have well earned bad reputations, because so much of the wine is lousy. And the point is, as I wrote about Orvieto, with a good importer or decent restaurateur or wine shop, you can find lovely if not life-changing Italian white wine for a song. I suppose that a big caveat - you do need to know a few things. But I think it's worth your time and will add to your meals and your life.

So, Frascati. I first heard of the wine in 1989 when I was a student in London. A friend's father came to visit and we cooked fish and he bought Frascati. I believe it was in a fiasco, the squat bottle wrapped in straw that you know from Chianti and the unfortunate belief that they make good candle holders once the wine is gone. If not, it might as well have been. Fiasci are notorious for holding awful, touristy wine. And Frascati is at the head of the pack of notoriously bad Italian white wine.

But as you might expect, not all Frascati is bad and certainly not all comes in a fiasco. (such a great word, the fiasco). And wouldn't you know it, I picked up the 2011 Conte Jacopo Frascati Superiore to see how a seemingly trustworthy bottle would taste. Why trustworthy? I bought it at a shop I trust, and the local Estelle Imports brings it in to Portland. They're great, so anything they bring in is at least worth a look.

Sure enough, I loved this little wine. My wife found it a bit tart, but I would call it bracing. Think of it as the Muscadet of Italy, a zippy, minerally white wine for shellfish and, to finish things off tonight, a light pasta dish with pine nuts, ricotta salata and broccoli. The cheese is dried and salted ricotta, matching the briny sense in the wine. The lemony acidity washes the palate clean before the next bite of pasta, and repeat.

Should one cellar this Frascati? No. It seems best as fresh as you can get it, and while the 2012 may be in town by the summer if not sooner, the 2011 is still perfectly lovely. Warm weather wine for sure, but in Portland's unusually cold (and dry) January, this is like a breath of summer. And the sea.

Who doesn't want that?

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