WINERY SPOTLIGHT Cantine Borgo di Colleredo, Molise, Italy
The Sommelier Journal
September 15 2010 Catherine Fallis, MS
A meticulous producer has helped put Molise on the wine map.
If nothing else can be said about sommeliers as a group, one thing is certain: they are passionate about seeking out new wines, meeting new winemakers, and discovering off-the-beaten-path producers in remote areas. Importer Stephen Bloom, owner of Tesori Wines, found a hot Italian winery almost by accident. "I was first introduced to Borgo di Colloredo by a colleague in Italy, who sent me his Sangiovese in response to a request for an inexpensive Sangiovese for a potential wine club," he recalls. "Out of a box of Sangioveses from around Italy that got in under the price ceiling, Borgo di Colloredo’s jumped out as having so much more vibrancy and personality for the price than any of the others."
Molise has not exactly been rocking the wine world. In fact, this obscure region has done a great job of staying off the international radar, as thirsty locals have been drinking up most of the production. Tucked between Lazio, Campania, and Puglia in southern Italy, with the Apennine Mountains to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east, Molise includes three Denominazioni di Origine Controllata: DOC Biferno, named after the river that flows through the provincial capital of Campobasso; DOC Pentro di Isernia, based on the hillsides around the ancient town of Isernia; and DOC Molise, often modified by the name of the grape variety, as in DOC Falanghina Molise. The Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) category of Osco or Terre degli Osci refers to the Oscan people who inhabited the region in prehistoric times.
For the past decade or so, Biferno Rosso, a blend of Montepulciano and Aglianico, has been the wine ambassador for Molise. As with other obscure areas, though, one rustic bottling can tarnish the entire region’s reputation.
When I first tasted through the wines of Borgo di Colloredo more than a year ago, I was struck by their strong, bold personalities. Each was entirely reflective of both the varietal and the terroir, showing unique aromas and flavors, strong minerality, restrained use of oak, and even a balancing natural acidity—a totally unexpected bonus from such a warm climate. Since then, I have added them to the curriculum for my Italian Intensive and Classic European Wines classes at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif.
Enrico and Pasquale Di Giulio moved to Campomarino in the 1960s after hearing about the area’s agricultural potential from their father Silvio, who owned a farm-equipment company and had inherited a winery from his father. While studying enology at the Technical Agrarian Institute "Celso Ulpiani" in Ascoli Piceno in the mid-1980s, Enrico worked side by side with Silvio to improve the quality of their wines. In 1990, Enrico took full responsibility for the winery, upgrading the technology and inventing the brand of Borgo di Colloredo. A strict non-interventionist, Enrico now serves as the winemaker while Pasquale manages the estate’s 200 acres of vineyards, planted primarily to Aglianico, Montepulciano, Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Falanghina.
Borgo di Colloredo’s annual 50,000-case production is divided into four tiers, all made from estate-grown fruit. As a student of the area’s history, Enrico Di Giulio likes to use symbols on the labels to hearken back to legends of the past. According to him, the name for his top line was chosen because Hannibal made camp at Gironia before going on to sack Rome, and these are the wines Di Giulio wants to take into battle in the international marketplace. The 2008 Gironia Biferno Bianco DOC ($19), a blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Bombino Bianco, offers a beguiling black-licorice note. Left on the lees for an unusually long time, the wine is backward on release; in my most recent experiment, it showed best after being open for three days. The 2004 Gironia Biferno Rosso DOC ($25), the current version of this blend of old-vine Montepulciano and Aglianico, is sultry and earthy, with aromas of berry-patch fruit, sun-dried tomato, porcini dust, fennel, mint, and lemon zest. Classically Italian, with that zingy, mouth-puckering quality that marries so brilliantly with food, it is one of the best-selling reds by the glass at Mario Batali’s restaurants in New York City and at San Francisco’s A16.
The Nobili Vitigni line is symbolized by the ancient cross of the Maltese Templars. The outstanding 2006 Nobili Vitigni Aglianico Terre degli Osci IGT ($24), framed by a judicious percentage of barrique aging, illustrates the power and boldness of this variety and none of its austerity. The 2009 Nobili Vitigni Greco Terre degli Osci IGT ($20) is rich with wildflower and tropical notes, unlike its more petrol-scented, honeyed counterparts from neighboring Campania.
Sommeliers should consider the well-priced Classici line for by-the-glass options. The 2008 Classici Falanghina Molise DOC ($18) sends up notes of Meyer lemon, lime, tangerine, pineapple, lemongrass, jasmine, apple skins, and sage. Like the 2006 bottling, it is oak-free (other vintages feature minor percentages of barrel aging), with fresh, balancing acidity. This is a riper expression of Falanghina than in Campania, which has more sulfuric, volcanic soils compared to the clay and limestone of Molise. In addition, the Di Giulios’ vineyards are situated at 325-400 feet above sea level. According to Bloom, "Sea breezes give a salinity to the wines that may actually amp up the perception of fruit, the way salt heightens the flavors in food." Bloom says the 2009 Classici Falanghina, which he tasted at Vinitaly in April, "needed an hour to open up." The 2006 Classici Molise Rosso DOC ($16) starts out with strawberry, cherry, leather, earth, and tar notes, becoming more forceful on the palate with flavors of bitter dark chocolate and prosciutto. Although it’s 100% Montepulciano, grown on the spot where the Marquis of Aragon established his summer residence in the 17th century, that variety is not to be found on the label. When European place-name protection began, Abruzzo was grandfathered in to use Montepulciano as a grape name (Tuscany had trademarked its town of Montepulciano as a place). Since Molise split off as a state from Abruzzo in 1970, however, it is not entitled to refer to Montepulciano on its labels. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant expression of the variety, sharing the classic dark-chocolate note of the best Abruzzese versions, but with more layers of complexity.
The Di Giulios have recently started working with Garganega (the grape of Soave) and Merlot. Beginning with the 2009 vintage, Enrico will add Garganega to his Biferno Bianco. As for the Merlot, he says, "after many years of experiments, it reached a good quality level, but we prefer indigenous varietals."
For Bloom, the chance encounter with Borgo di Colloredo was a fortunate one. "The Borgo di Colloredo wines have become among the best selling in the entire portfolio, largely because of how much personality and character they deliver for the price," he says. Trailblazing sommeliers should take note.