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Food & Drink

Wine, etc.: A wine brand grows from a passion for Italy | COMMENTARY

Charles Laurey shared with some friends a passion for Italy — its food, wine and culture. Many others do as well, though they wouldn’t think of launching a risky Italian wine brand to satisfy their passion. But that is what Laurey and his friends did.

Who in Italy — or any market for that matter — is willing to bet on a newcomer who doesn’t own vineyards or wineries? Or why would they think someone from Holland with a business in London would know anything about making wine in Italy?

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This is the genius of this enterprise: he convinced six well-respected winemakers spread around Italy to make a unique wine for him. Then, he put their names and images front and center on the label. Buyers may not trust the foreigner, but they trust the winemakers.

Laurey said, “By putting their name on the label, we felt more confident that quality will be good.”

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The six wines under the Suadela label are from several regions, including Friuli, Piedmont, Sardinia, Tuscany and Umbria. Three are single-grape varietal wines and three are blends. All but one are red. Next year’s collection will include wines made by two female winemakers and two new regions — Campania and Sicily.

“Suadela” is a Roman goddess of temptation, seduction and love — everything Italian, right?

Here are the winemaking luminaries and their Suadela wines:

  • Beppe Caviola, Barolo.
  • Riccardo Cotarella, Rapsodia in Rosso.
  • Lorenzo Landi, Cannonau di Sardegna.
  • Gianni Menotti, Friuli Colli Orientali Bianco.
  • Umberto Trombelli, Toscana Rosso.
  • Paolo Vagaggini, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva.

Laurey, who said the venture is so new he hasn’t given himself a title, said the winemakers were allowed a broad license to make their wines.

“We wanted them to make a wine they would love to drink, that is unique to us and of good quality,” Laurey said. Quantities also were limited to about 2,000 bottles.

We tasted the wines and were particularly fond of the 2015 Suadela Cannonau di Sardegna ($32). Cannonau is a relative of grenache. We also like the 2015 Suadela Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva ($55) and the rich and spicy 2016 Barolo ($75). These are all special wines with a unique twist that speaks well of the winemaker.

Suadela wines are sold through its website, https://suadela.com.

White Beaujolais

Over the years we’ve encountered a number of nontraditional white wines made from red grape varieties or white wines from traditionally red-wine regions. The first we remember was the ubiquitous, semisweet white zinfandel of the late 1970s that took the U.S. by storm and brought in an army of new wine drinkers. Since then, winemakers have experimented with white pinot, white merlot and white cabernet sauvignon to name a few. Because most red wine grapes express white grape must when pressed, almost any grape can result in white wine. However, a recent encounter with Beaujolais Blanc was new to us.

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Beaujolais blanc is made entirely from chardonnay grapes and accounts for only 2% of Beaujolais wine production.

So why have we not stumbled on Beaujolais blanc before now? Until recently, chardonnay grapes grown in Beaujolais were able to be labeled with the more prestigious Bourgogne blanc appellation. Their northern Cote D’Or Burgundian neighbors recently objected to what they perceived as competition. A recent ruling forbade the use of Bourgogne blanc for most of the Beaujolais chardonnay and, voila, Beaujolais blanc was born.

Beaujolais blanc can come either from the beaujolais or Beaujolais villages appellation. It is vinified for early drinking although the Beaujolais villages wines can age for several years.

We tasted three Beaujolais blancs recently and were sufficiently impressed to alert our readers to these relatively undiscovered gems. Overall, the wines displayed ample acidity and a line of minerality that was mouthwatering. Dominant flavors were apple and pear, typical of unoaked chardonnay, with one exhibiting an almost toasty note — presumably from lees aging and malolactic fermentation. All of the wines we tasted were organically farmed and were quite reasonable in the $20 to $26 range. Following are our impressions.

Domaine Saint-Cyr La Galoche Blanc Beaujolais Blanc 2021 ($26). Bright fresh apple and pear with a hint of citrus ample acidity and a nice mineral streak.

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Laurent Perrachon Terre De Loyse Beaujolais Blanc 2020 ($18-$22). A touch of creaminess with a stony quality and apple and pear notes.

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Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorees Beaujolais Blanc 2020 ($23). Smooth and rich with green apple and citrus notes and minerality.

Wine picks

Lucia by Pisoni Estate Cuvee Chardonnay 2021 ($50). Is there anything that Jeff Pisoni makes that isn’t a success? Not that we know of. We enjoyed this well-balanced and textured chardonnay that has pear and stone-fruit notes.

Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($45). Broad clonal section and a bit of semillon give this sauvignon blanc great texture and character. Classic lime and grapefruit notes are augmented by a mineral note. Brisk acidity.

Hillick & Hobbs Seneca Lake Dry Riesling 2020 ($35). New York is producing underrated wines that few wine enthusiasts know about. Riesling is one of the region’s shining stars and this one is a testament. Soft peach flavors with good acidity and long finish. It’s delicious on its own or can marry well with fish.

J. Lohr October Night Chardonnay 2020 ($25). Very floral aromas with peach and citrus flavors and a dash of vanilla. Long and rich.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at moreaboutwine.com. They can be reached at marq1948@gmail.com.


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