I don’t hide it; I am often a fan of Italian wine. Often but not always. However, I haven’t yet been successful in unearthing fine wines from the Latium region of central Italy, the region whose capital is Rome. Many of the local producers are devoted to improve the image of Latium wine, and perhaps return to the classic era in which the local Falernum was the pick of the litter. That late harvest wine, aged for fifteen or twenty years in clay jars or amphorae, was celebrated in classical poetry and on the walls of Pompeii. Today’s wine comes from a cooperative dating back to 1959, uniting some 400 producers who possess about 1750 acres (700 hectares) of vineyards. The winery president is a lawyer, and vice president is a gynecological obstetrician. This wine is a blend of Cesanese, Sangiovese, Merlot, and Montepulciano red grapes grown on volcanic soil. Trivia corner : The companion wine is a Barbera d’Alba DOC from the prestigious Piedmont wine region of northwestern Italy at about twice the price.
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Fontana di Papa Castelli Romani DOC 2011 12 % alcohol $7.50.
Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. “Tasting Note : Pale garnet almost rose color; light strawberry, and dried fruit aromas; light body, simple light fruit flavor, pleasant finish. Serving Suggestion : Serve with pasta with tomato sauce or pizza.” And now for my review.
At the first sips this wine was excessively sweet, presenting light tannins and fruity acidity. Japanese rice crackers made the plums come out, sweet plums. This meal’s centerpiece was slow-cooked round steak. In response the libation was sweet, long, and tannin free. The accompanying potatoes increased the liquid’s acidity. Steamed broccoli kept up the wine’s sweetness and acidity, but took away its fruit. Dollops of Chinese chili sauce on the meat seemed to have no effect.
My next meal consisted of a cheeseless lasagna containing whole wheat pasta, ground beef, spicy salsa, and peas. The Castelli Romani was sweet and grapey. It offered low acidity and a tinge of oak. Fresh pineapple downgraded this drink to a shadow of its former self. In response to Swiss Dark Chocolate with Orange Flavor and Almonds our Italian friend’s acidity rebounded.
My final meal centered on barbecued chicken whose skin brimmed with paprika. In response to the white meat this wine was long, thick, and metallic. The leg softened this drink a tad. Potato salad containing pickles tamed the acidity in my glass. Homemade tomato, cucumber, and red onion salad with fresh lemon rendered the liquid very quiet. And fresh watermelon soured the wine.
Final verdict. I will not buy this wine again. But I’ll still try Latium wines from time to time.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but definitely prefers drinking fine wine. He teaches computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. His global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com features a weekly review of $10 wines. Visit his Italian wine website www.theitalianwineconnection.com .