I received a pair of wines from the east coast of Italy, namely the Adriatic states of Le Marche and Abruzzo. A march is sort of a border frontier land that's established against a different country or group of barbarians, and while we don't use the word in English a lot the person who rules over a march is a Marquess or Marquis, much more familiar words. These are two very mountainous regions of Italy and are not well known for wine outside of that country. I've visited both (briefly), but it's important to appreciate all of the many wine regions of Italy. If you're looking to become a member of the Wine Century club you could do so some thirty times over while traveling through the boot.
2008 Saladini Pilastri Pregio del Conte
50% Aglianico, 50% Montepulciano
$12, 13% abv.
Dark plum and black cherry aromas with mild tannins and an easy, enjoyable body. Great table wine for pizza or other casual Italian fare.
2009 Fratelli Barba Vasari Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
$10, 13% abv.
Wow! Fruit berry bomb! Tons of blackberry and blueberry and deep, rich fruit flavors. Aromas are comparable and this wine requires some more robust accompaniment. I would highly suggest this for summer barbecues, in which charred flesh and highly seasoned sauces will be the perfect match for such a bold and fruit-forward wine.
With these wines, I decided to look for inspiration from Le Marche as well as a twist from the local produce available at my nearby farmers market. I started with Fabio Trabocchi's cotoletta di vitello al miele, a simple dish of veal chops cooked with honey, grapes, and various aromatics.
Instead of seedless grapes, I used local muscadines, and for a side dish I continued the theme with a pot of fresh lady peas slow simmered with bacon, onion, chicken broth, white wine, and sage. They emerged delicate and with just enough of a texture to appreciate the bite. The veal was spectacular, and while some may still bristle at the thought of eating veal*, I think it's a unique and wonderful flavor that should be appreciated on the American table. Even better if you can make such a flavorful sauce.
Both of the wines worked out well, though the Le Marche was a better fit and its subtle tones worked better with the flavors of the dish. However, the bold approach of the Abruzzo wine combined with the Muscadines brought back a fond memory of drinking Fragolino with Fredric. For those not familiar, Fragolino is a forbidden wine of the Veneto region made from illicitly planted Muscadine vines. More popular years ago before the law cracked down on native American and hybrid vines in Europe.
Note: These wines were received as samples.
*My quick veal rant: if you eat any cow-based dairy products--butter, cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream, etc.,--you fund and support the veal industry. Heifers don't start producing milk until giving birth. If the calf is a female, it will be raised for future dairy production. If it's a male, it's pretty useless. It can be castrated and raised as a steer for steak, or if it's a particularly spectacular specimen, may be raised unmodified to collect genetic material. But almost all male calves are going to be slaughtered for veal. If you choose not to eat veal, I respect that, but if you purchase and consume dairy products, you're generating all those veal chops that end up in the butcher counter.