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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Binomio Produces Powerful, Tasty Italian Red

Binomio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva DOC 2013, Italy

Cost: $49-51

There seems to be a never-ending string of great wines from Italy, often with names that confuse us.

This week’s wine is a great example of that. Many wine drinkers think they know about Montepulciano because they have had Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Tuscan wine made with the Sangiovese grape. The wine is named for a village in Siena province.

But the Binomio wine is made with the montepulciano grape and it is grown in Abruzzo-Pescara. You can find great examples of both, but I really liked this wine made from montepulciano grapes.

It is a deep, dense, intense ruby red color in the glass with powerful aromas of blackberry, strawberry and spices. This is a powerful wine, but it is much more than a big red that will bowl you over. It is moderately complex, but very approachable with a long, aromatic finish. The tannins are there but not enough to make your mouth pucker. Everything is in balance.

The grapes grow on the slopes of Majella Mountain, swept by cool Adriatic breezes that come up the Peligna Valley.

The grapes are hand picked and de-stemmed before undergoing maceration and fermentation in vertical vats. They then undergo racking, pressing and malolatic fermentation to soften the wine. It spends about 15-18 months in new and second-use (50/50) French oak barriques.

The goal is to make a notable wine with mature tannins, ready to drink whenever you open it. Most of the historical Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riservas need long decanting before you can drink them. The winemakers have figured out how to create this beautiful wine without making us wait for it. I suspect there is some bottle aging before the wine is released.

The motto of the Abruzzo region is “strong but gentle,” an extremely charming region. The region is known for producing large amounts of nondescript wine, both red and white. The montepulciano is the rare exception.

The only white wine of note from the region is Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, considered among the best white wines in Italy.

The lack of other great wines is surprising because Abruzzo’s cuisine is considered among the best in Italy, and usually great wines go hand in hand with great food. The mountains kept Abruzzo isolated until the 20th Century, so the cuisine developed on its own, without outside influences, and is unlike much of the cuisine in other parts of Italy.

Located in central Italy on the Adriatic Coast, Abruzzo is considered culturally to be part of southern Italy. It is known as the greenest region in Europe because one third of its territory is set aside as national parks and protected nature preserves.

Though Abruzzo is not as well known internationally as other Italian regions, it does support a thriving tourism industry.

Winery: Azienda Agricola Binomio was formed after a challenge between two friends that turned into a partnership.

Fattoria La Valentina and Azienda Agricola Inama developed the project during the first two vintages of 1998 and 1999 with the goal of producing a great, structured yet modern Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. In 2000 Stefano Inama and Sabatino di Properzio bought the 11.6 acre Binomio vineyard together.

This old vineyard was planted in the 1970s facing south at an altitude of about 1,300 feet near the Majella National Park. The vineyard was planted with an ancient clone of Montepulciano called Africa-Binomio, which produces short-tailed bunches with small berries that resemble the shape of the African continent.

Over several decades the property changed hands several times as various owners failed to understand the secret of the vines. When Inama and Porperzio realized they had a shared vision they bought the vineyard at a legal auction. That’s when the potential of Binomio began to unfold. Previously it had been considered a bad site for grapevines.

The partners were impressed by the terroir, the placement of the vineyard between the mountains and the sea and what they called the “soul” of the site.

The vineyard was restored in 2009 and now produces first-rate grapes. The owners follow a hands-off approach, with little vine cultivation or weeding and few human interventions. The soil has natural humus so no fertilizers are used.

The winery was picked by Wine Spectator as one of its top 100 wineries in 2016 and 2017.

The Binomio wines are imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, an unusual importing model that keeps prices down by bypassing the national importer in the traditional three-tier system. Distributors buy directly from the producers and pass the savings along to us consumers.

Brian Larky formed Dalla Terra in 1990 to import some of the fine Italian wines he had experienced while working as a winemaker there. His team now works with about two dozen Italian wineries, bringing some of the finest wine in Italy to the United States at affordable prices.

Michael enjoyed the pasta with the wine.

Goes with: My son Michael and I had this wine with a simple meal of tomato and basil sauce over pasta It was a wonderful pairing, made even better by the quality of the wine.

I had bought the pasta when Teri and I visited Blue Ridge, in the mountains of north Georgia. We stopped at Mercier Orchards, which has grown from a simple apple orchard to a giant tourist stop.

Besides the apples, they have a restaurant, bakery (where they make pies and fried pies), gift shop and cider tasting. I found this jar of sauce in the sprawling gift shop.

Loaded with chunks of tomato and bits of basil, The Mama Capri sauce was better than most of the commercial pasta sauce on the market. It was made in Kansas City, and I have never seen it in grocery stores. I guess we will just have to go back to Blue Ridge and check out the local wineries while we’re there.

The pairing worked well because the slight acidity of the tomatoes played off the fruitiness of the wine. Neither overpowered the other.

This wine would work well with many grilled meats, such as steak, duck, chicken, wild game and mature cheeses, as well as most dishes with pasta and tomato sauce.

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