If you doubt that 21st century America is a liberated place, consider this: People are no longer afraid to be seen drinking pink wine in public. Even more amazing is the fact that they don’t mind if it’s sparkling, and they don’t even care if it’s slightly sweet.
Of course, Brachetto d’Acqui isn’t your ordinary pink wine. Fresh, floral and frothy, it makes an ideal aperitivo and is a charm on a hot day. It is produced in the Piedmont region of Italy from Brachetto, a grape variety native to the area. The wine’s quality was recognized in 1996 when it was promoted to DOCG at the top of the Italian wine pyramid. While it is frequently compared to Lambrusco, it displays an elegance and complexity of texture that Lambrusco lacks.
Nearly two decades earlier John and Harry Mariani, the owners of Banfi Vintners, purchased an 18th century winery in Piedmont’s Acqui Terme and renamed it Vigne Regali. Banfi may not the largest producer of Brachetto d’Acqui, but their strong roots in the U.S. have helped introduce the wine to American consumers.
The 2011 Banfi Rosa Regale ($20) has a deep cherry color and a foaming mousse with coarse bubbles. Fragrant red berry aromas jump from the glass, laced with scents of cinnamon and clove. In the mouth, the wine is a liquid fruit salad, with vibrant flavors of plums, red currants, strawberries and raspberries bathing the palate; the off-dry texture is nicely balanced by good acidity. The finish is long and mouth-watering, with persistent echoes of red fruits. Drink this with game and other savory dishes, dried fruit, cheeses and chocolate desserts.
Speaking of Banfi, they have just released their 2009 Cum Laude ($33), a blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 25% Sangiovese and 15% Syrah. First produced in 1999, it represents Castello Banfi’s attempt to combine the four varieties they feel are best suited to their Montalcino vineyard. The aromatic nose is perfumed with black raspberries, menthol, anise and new oak. The wine is medium-bodied on entry, with stiff tannins that emerge in the mid palate; it is rich and mouth-filling, highlighted by flavors of black plums and pepper, along with a smoky edge that emerges on the long finish. This is a perfect match with rustic pork dishes, steak, lamb, and braised and stewed meats.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to http://www.iconicspirits.net.