Saturday, August 4, 2012

Carpineto 2010 Dogajolo

Producer: Carpineto
Name: Dogajolo
Varietals: Chardonnay 40%; Grechetto 30%; Sauvignon Blanc 30%
Region: Greve in Chianti, I.G.T., Italy
Vintage: 2010
Tasted: August 01, 2012
ABV: 12.5%

Carpineto dubs its 2010 Dogajolo "dry white table wine." On its website, it decorates the wine with the title "Super Tuscan." At least one of those makes sense.

Back in the mid-1900s, Italian wine was suffering a PR problem of global proportions. And for good reason: the entire country was one big table-wine factory. From Bangkok to Brooklyn, for example, Chianti was better known as "spaghetti wine." Eventually, movements arose to remedy the situation, as winemakers began to grow proper grapes and craft proper wines. For its part, the Italian government established a commission to set designated wine regions with relevant standards – its own version of the French appellation system. Hence the DOC and DOCG designations we have come to know and love.

It was not, however, so simple. (Nothing worthwhile ever is.) Many winemakers in the forefront of Italy's wine industry found the new standards to be too strict. Their ability to be creative and innovative, and to keep up with technology, in growing and blending the grapes was stifled. They argued, reasonably, that such strict regulations would do more to hinder the Italian wine industry than to promote and nourish it. But the authorities did not budge much. So, many wine makers bucked the rules and did their own thing anyway, forfeiting the DOC/DOCG designations in the hopes that their stuff was good enough to pass muster on its own legs. (No pun intended.)  To judge by any criterion – wine quality, market success, what have you – the winemakers were spot-on. Well-deserved success came on like a tsunami. Properly denominated Italian labels were lucky if they could charge half of what the alternatives were ringing up for their wines. In commenting on all of this, some journalist referred to such wines from Chianti as "Super Tuscans," and the term caught on as quickly as the wine itself did.

Fast-forward forty years. Are things taken too far? Well. The idea of a new Italian label seeking designation is almost silly. Every other wine nowadays is a "Super Tuscan." Producers, distributors, consumers, and, of course, reviewers and critics throw the term about with reckless abandon. Seeing "Super Tuscan" describe a wine lets the consumer know right away that it has as much a chance of being yet another standard, normal, unremarkable wine from that storied province as anything else. Surprised? Nobody should be. Such is the caprice of humankind. But it does make it frustrating when the term is used on a label or website. Will the wine be as good as it is supposed to be? Quite possibly, but the let-downs can be rough.

The Dogajolo has perhaps the prettiest label I have ever seen on a bottle of wine, and a tint to match. The wine is clear, glimmering in all the right ways, rather like a pale goldenrod. The 2010 opens with a light nose of citrus – kumquat and grapefruit, mostly – and a bit of green pepper. On being sipped, it both tastes and feels like a refreshing wave of apple. There is a citrus trim to the palate – is that quince? While the nose is mild, the best word to describe the level of taste is "pungent." Dry, the Dogajolo has a medium body and good structure, although it can be a bit rough around the edges. The finish is mild, mostly an encore of the apple notes.

One other item is that it really seems as though there is a hint of oak to the palate. Is that your humble servant's imagination run amok, a hallucination born of a need to have good material for a certain weblog? Carpineto's website does not say whether or not the wine spent time in oak. But the hint, though recessed back into the farthest corner of the tongue, was quite firmly planted there.

There was quite a bit of difference after twenty minutes of breathing, more than with most whites. The nose was much mellowed, and acquired notes of pears, table grapes, maybe even a berry or two. The palate really came into its own, with a kinder texture and a much more mellow, enjoyable tone. My note from the time says, "now tastes like it was made from grapes" – an exaggeration, of course, but the point remains. There are also notes of citrus. The finish is the same mild apple.

As I sip the wine, especially after aeration, I see myself sitting outside with a lovely companion at a bistro set, stylish, on a patio, poolside, trees, blues skies, warm weather. Maybe there is a plate of soft cheese, olives, and fruit; or maybe it is just veggies and dip. What is definitely there, popping up with agreeable frequency between sensuous smiles and leisurely laughs? The 2010 white Dogajolo.

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