• Two Thumbs Up
• Lots of aromas of fresh flowers with a touch of honey and tangerine. A bit fuller than a pinot grigio, it offers lots of remarkably fresh citrus flavors with more than a spoonful of pears and green apples. Look for the current 2009 or the 2008 vintages.
For the longest time, I’ve been dithering about branching out and trying different wines that may be off your radar. Why? For a couple reasons, 1.) it can be deliciously exciting to try new stuff, and 2.) to save a buck or two, too.
Recently, I pulled a bottle I’ve been meaning to drink for an age: the Ruffino Orvieto from Italy. I was hopeful that it was good or at least not too offensive (my dividing line between drink or not drink). Surprise! It was neither. It was great. Eleanore, my wife and part-time wine evaluator, enjoyed every last drop (in fact, we wished we had a few drops more).
What’s an Orvieto?
Orvieto is a town and winemaking region in the southern part of the landlocked state of Umbria in north-central Italy, a tortuous 90-minute drive north of Rome. They make some red wine around Orvieto, but its claim to fame is its white wine made from a blend of trebbiano, verdello, canaiolo and grechetto grapes, with perhaps a splash of malvasia.
Apparently, Orvieto wines were a favorite tipple for Pope Gregory XVI, leader of the Catholic Church from 1831 to 1846. In more recent times, the other thing that Orvieto wines are famous for is their spectacular ordinariness. But like so many areas of Italy, history is not a good predictor of current wine quality. From the sun-baked hills of Sicily in the south to the frosty peaks of Trentino Alto-Adige in the foothills of the alpine north, many regions are ripping up lower quality vines and focusing on growing fewer, superior grapes. This protocol often leads to yummier wines.
Case in point: my bottle of Ruffino Orvieto. It was from the 2005 vintage. Generally speaking, the Orvieto you buy today (which would likely be from the current 2009 or the 2008 vintages) will never be better than it is at the moment of purchase. Theoretically, my 2005 should have been awful. ‘Twas not, however, which is a testament to its improved quality.
Quality, geography and history aside, what made it taste even better was the cost of this Orvieto. Seven bucks! Value-wise, you really can’t do much better.
Caveat Alert!: Thinking that I was on a roll, the very next night I pulled an equally old Soave from the same bin holding the Orvieto. Soave, too, can be a very rewarding wine that tends to be inexpensive. Sorry, not as lucky this time. The Soave was over the hill and I can’t be sure there was ever a hilltop to climb with this one. But that’s the rub. You can’t be surprised, pleasantly or otherwise, if you always know exactly what your wine is going to taste like. So, live a little. Experiment.
(Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from thumbs down, one thumb mostly up, one thumb up, two thumbs up, two thumbs way up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.)