Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Cefalicchio: An Estate in Northern Puglia

This has been a busy time for me, and I am way behind in writing up my notes from my trip to Puglia this November. Time to get back into gear.

Cefalicchio is an estate just outside the town of Canosa di Puglia, which consists of a frankly beautiful Masseria, or fortified farm complex surrounded by 76 hectares of land, including 23 hectares of vineyards and 25 of olive groves. In addition to being a working farm, it is a beautiful agriturismo with fine rooms that offer fantastic views of the surrounding countryside (as does the walkway on the roof), and boasts a very good restaurant as well. In other words, if you want to explore northern Puglia, which boasts many interesting towns and landmarks, including Castel Del Monte, Federico II's famed octagonal fortress, Cefalicchio would be an excellent base.

The estate has belonged to the Rossi family for more than a century, and is now managed by Nicola Rossi, while his brother Fabrizio Rossi, a quiet man who prefers to let the wines talk, is the Agronomist. The estate is biodynamic (they even have a hollow filled with solar panels to reduce the consumption of non-renewable fuels), and the wines, which we tasted in the course of dinner, were quite nice.

The Wines:

Cefalicchio Rosato Ponte della Lama Puglia IGT 2008
This is 100% Nero di Troia; it's a brilliant pomegranate red that's quite pretty. The bouquet is clean, with floral-herbal accents and some red berry fruit mingled with underbrush and a fair amount of savory acidity. On the palate it's medium bodied, with lively minerality and bright tannins with a burr that leads into a clean bitter finish. It's more the little brother of a red than a classic rosè, and one can taste the limestone the vines draw their life from. Quite pleasant and will work very well with a wide variety of foods, ranging from cold cuts and fairly fresh cheeses though pasta and soups, and also with simple meats. In a word, versatile, and though many 2008 rosès are by now beginning to tire this one hasn't at all, and was still bright after an hour in the glass. Impressive.

Cefalicchio Vigne Alte Puglia IGT 2007
This is a Montepulciano; it's impenetrable pyrope with violet reflections and rim. Poured ink and looks like youth in a glass. The bouquet is very young, with violets and red berry fruit laced with underbrush and hints of wet leaves, also some iodine. Very young and still getting its bearings, as it opens hints fo sandalwood (from grapes) also emerge. Considerable depth and complexity. On the palate it's ample and smooth, with fairly riche prune plum fruit supported by sweet bitter tannins that flow into a bitter iodine laced finish with some underbrush and savory accents. Pleasant but a bit tongue-drying when sipped by itself; it begs food and I would be tempted to serve it with a platter of grilled meats.
2 stars

Cefalicchio Romanico Nero di Troia Rosso di Canossa Riserva DOC 2005
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and violet rim. Tremendous color. The bouquet is powerful, with musty underbrush and savory spice mingled with wet leaves, minerality, and some gunflint. Considerable depth, and has a lot to say; as it opens it reveals all sorts of facets, in particular intriguing hints of crushed almonds. On the palate it's ample and rich, with savory cherry plum fruit supported by smooth cedar-laced tannins that flow into a clean rather bitter finish. Quick to write but pleasant, and will drink very well with red meats, especially more succulent meats as the tannins do a fine job of clearing the palate. It's fruit rich but not a fruit bomb, and is a fine food wine that will also age nicely for at least 5 years.

Cefalicchio Totila Rosso Puglia IGT 2005
This is a blend of Nero di Troia and Cabernet, which, Nicola says, serves two purposes: to attract people who know nothing about Nero di Troia but do recognize the word Cabernet (there is a parallel here with the Tuscan Sangiovese-Cabernet/Merlot blends of the 1970s), and to do openly what some do in secret by declaring their wines to be Nero di Troia while adding some Cabernet. The wine is deep pigeon blood ruby with hints of almandine at the rim (the Cabernet), and black reflections; it looks older than the Romanico -- there's more orange to it. The bouquet is powerful, with wet leaf and spice mingled with some greenish accents and underlying red berry fruit. Nice depth, and is more approachable than the Nero di Troia in Purezza. Attractive, too. On the palate it's full and rich, with powerful red berry fruit supported by bitterness and leafy accents with some sandal (from the Nero di troia) and flows into a clean savory finish with berry fruit and black currant overtones, and some savory accents too. It's quite approachable, displaying considerable finesse and power, and will drink very well with foods. I found it good but more obvious than the Nero di Troia in Purezza. On the other hand, I am not the average wine drinker; it provides an excellent gateway to Nero di Troia for those who are curious about the varietal but want the company of a friend in their exploration. It will work quite well with succulent red meats.
2 stars

Want More Information? Cefalicchio's Winery Site, in Italian or in English
And Cefalicchio's Agriturismo Site, in Italian and in English.

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