These wines pass the test (hope I did, too)

The ruby-red color of the Argiolas Perdera Monica di Sardegna is stunning.

On Saturday, I took my Italian Wine Scholar final exam on the wines from Central and Southern Italy. It was more difficult than I had anticipated. It covered 12 regions, including Toscana, Campania, Puglia, Sicily and the island of Sardegna.

The Unit 1 exam, which I took last spring and passed, covered six Northern regions, including the wine-producing behemoths Piemonte and Veneto.

The Unit 2 test featured 100 multiple-choice questions and had to be completed within one hour.

Since Southern Italy wine growers take pride in their native grapes, my mind was a blur of some previously unfamiliar varietals — reds like Piedirosso, Vernaccia Nera and Ciliegiolo, and whites like Verdicchio, Malvasia di Candia Bianca and Ca...

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Going all in for Zin

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

I am mixing wines from the Old World with the New World on Easter.

Two bottles of Zinfandel will be gracing sister Angela’s table (The Wine Goddess, my wife Mary Lee, has a well-deserved day off from preparing the feast, although she will be baking her famous Limoncello lemon squares for dessert) — one from California and the other from Italy. (Recent DNA analysis has shown that Zinfandel and Primitivo are genetically identical.)

Angela is my oldest of two older sisters (Pamela is the other), and she’s taken over all capo di famiglia (head of family) duties since mom passed away two years ago. She’s also a very, very accomplished cook — in the true, simple and flavorful Neapolitan style established by our madre, Dorothea.

Angela tells me she’ll be baking a...

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Easter Wines You Won’t Want to Pass Over

Jo-Ann Ross

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

Once again, I’ve called out my stable of experts to suggest a variety of pleasing wines for your Easter holiday enjoyment.

Jo-Ann Ross of Boston is a licensed wine educator (WSET) who has earned both Italian Wine Scholar and French Wine Scholar certifications, respectively. She is also my instructor in the IWS program.

Andrea Lewis, who is certified in several wine disciplines, is the legendary wine and store manager at Andover Classic Wines located in the Shawsheen Plaza in Andover.

Sam Messina is co-owner and wine buyer-director at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover and a “maestro assagiatore” (master taster).

The following wines can be purchased locally.

Jo-Ann Ross

jrosswine.com

* Arnad Montjovet La Kiuva from Vallée d’Aosta (Italy), $18...

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These three Pinot Noirs will bring on spring

Erath 2015, $15.99

I know there are 16 inches of snow on the ground after the third nor’easter in two weeks slammed into Massachusetts this week, but don’t despair. Spring is just around the corner. And that means only one thing: Break out the Burgundy — or, as we say in America, the Pinot Noir!

Yes, my mind is on Easter, which comes on April 1 this year. It’s also April Fool’s Day, but I’m not going to joke around with my three early holiday selections for the upcoming festive occasion.

Think of chewy, red fruit flavors — cherry and pomegranate — rolling smoothly across your tongue, with a touch of raspberry and spice on the elegant finish, and soon images of cherry blossoms and warm breezes come to mind.

Yes, it’s time to wish the winter away with a glass of American-made Pinot Noir — an...

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Nerello Mascalese erupts with elegance in Zonin Rosé

The Nerello Mascalese is a thick-skinned  red grape that thrives in the volcanic soils of Mt. Etna’s vineyard slopes in Sicily. Sunny exposures and the warm Mediterranean sea breezes allow it to ripen fully, yet winemakers are always  on the lookout to make sure the grape retains its wonderful acidity.

In southern Italy, Nerello Mascalese is crafted as a 100 percent varietal and in red blends. It is often lighter in color than most thick-skinned grapes and slightly delicate in structure. It’s noteworthy trait is a dry, dusty sensation, and it is similar to Sangiovese which is the workhorse grape of Tuscany.

So I was pleasantly surprised when a three-pack of Zonin Rose, made from 100 percent Nerello Mascalese, arrived on the wind from Vicenza, in the Veneto province, where the Zonin esta...

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Big Cab blowout coming Saturday

Napa Valley’s Cabernet Sauvignons boast big, powerful luscious tastes and this /Saturday (Feb. 24) at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover you’ll be able to sample some of the little known gems of recent vintages.

Sam Messina’s brought in 10 fruit bombs for your tasting pleasure. The free event, open to the public, runs from 1-5 p.m.

If you like Cabernets that express rich California black fruit character, toasted brioche, spices, and much more, you won’t want to miss this special tasting.

Here’s a short list of the featured  Cabernet Sauvignons:

Resolute ‘Red Hills’ 2014 – Winemaker Aaron Pott gets his grapes from vineyards located 2,400 feet high in the Red Hills of Lake County. Figs, cocoa, vanilla, cherry, plum and blackberry fill the senses.

Band of Vintners Consortium 2014 – Subtle ...

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Wine Novice will make a wine expert out of you

By Jim Campanini

Can white wine be made from red grapes?

What is the difference between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay?

How do I know what grapes are used in a bottle of French Sancerre?

If you want to learn the answers to these questions, and step up your wine-tasting skills, I’ll be teaching two fun courses in April in Middlesex Community College’s Adult Continuing Education program.

These aren’t just your regular — ahem — wine classes. The Wine Novice wanted elegance and comfort for his select students, and Middlesex officials have obliged with a most wonderful setting — the stylish Nesmith House on Andover Street in Lowell. Yes, white tablecloths, please, and bright, glimmering wine glasses.

There are two separate two-hour classes on white and red wines, respectively, each presented one...

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Part 2: There’s a lavish Brunello for most budgets

La Poderina 2004 is bright, energetic and silky smooth as it celebrates its 14th birthday.

In a recent column, I wrote about the versatility of the sangiovese grape, and focused on the high end Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino from Tenuta Il Greppo in Tuscany. Biondi-Santi is a collector’s wine, selling for high prices. But you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to enjoy this exquisite and highly revered Italian red. Listed below are several Brunellos from my own cellar that I’ve cracked open in recent months as they hit their peak drinking window.

La Velona is modest in scope but still very pleasant.

Il Valentiano Brunello Campo di Marzo 2007 – The years have been kind to this middle-tier Brunello, which sold for $24 a bottle  when it hit our shores six years ago...

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10 wines to cleanse your post-holiday palate

1. Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay 2016, $14.99

If your palate needs a bit of reviving after the holidays, here are 10 wines you should consider purchasing right now.

Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay 2016, $14.99: This is America’s top-selling brand of Chardonnay, with 300,000 cases produced from Kendall-Jackson’s outstanding California vineyards. The quality and consistency from vintage to vintage remains outstanding, a credit to winemaster Randy Ullom who’s been directing this top-notch team since 1997. Wine Advocate magazine ranked this Chardonnay No. 27 on its 2017 Top 100 Wine List. It’s soft, creamy and expressive in sunny California’s tropical fruit flavors.

Manzoni Vineyards Chardonnay 2015, $24...

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Biondi-Santi Brunello: Sangiovese at its best

Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino has a rich history in Italian viticulture.

Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape in Italy and also among the most versatile.

It reigns supreme in Tuscany, where sangiovese (translation: blood of Jove or Jupiter) is the primary grape for four distinctly incredible wines: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile Montepulciano (not to be confused with the southern Italian varietal and wine Montepuciano D’Abruzzi).
Sangiovese is also used to craft iconic Super Tuscan wines, mostly from Bolgheri, where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.

So how can the same grape produce uniquely, different tasting wines?

It’s all in the varietal’s multiple clones and, of course, the terroir (land, soils, cl...

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