If you’re looking for an alternative to the cabernet sauvignon-merlot routine, try this new red wine made from an ancient grape: Albino Armani’s 2006 Casetta.
The Albino Armani family traces its winemaking roots in northeastern Italy to a December 7, 1607 document in the archives of the city of Trent that shows Domenico Armani signed the deed for lands with “trees and grapevines” that previously belonged to his father, Simone Armani. Albino Armani, the current owner and winemaker, has continued his family’s passion for wines by discovering a historical grape in his vineyards and rescuing the vines from extinction. Exactly four hundred years after his ancestors documented their vineyards, the Italian wine authorities granted appellation status to the grape called Foja Tonda in the Veronese dialect. Today, the Albion Armani winery owns 30-acres of foja tonda, or approximately 90 percent of all the plantings of the grape in Italy.
In early spring, Egle Armani traveled to New York to present her family’s wines. We began with an impressive 2009 pinot grigio that had more body and flavor than normally associated with that ubiquitous wine. Next we tasted the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages of Casetta, the name of Albino Armani’s foja tonda wines.
Without any guide, Albino Armani had to learn from trial and error how to work with the foja tonda grape. He has settled upon a one-week maceration of the juice and skins, which gives Casetta a rich, black cherry hue, and captures all the flavors, aromas and tannins. After maceration, the first fermentation takes place, changing the fruit juice to alcohol, and then the malolactic fermentation tames the grape’s acidity. Casetta is aged for one year in large Slovenian casks, then bottled and aged for another six months before being offered to consumers.
All three vintages showed brilliant color with aromas of black cherry, cranberry, cinnamon and tobacco; the 2006 has a bigger-mouth feel than the 2007 and more robust fruit than the elegant 2005. A long, balanced finish makes the 2006 Casetta a deliciously pleasing wine. Albino Armani has mastered foja tonda and offers wine lovers a welcome change from the sameness of many red wines.
The 2006 Albino Armani Casetta’s tantalizing aromas and delicious flavors will be a revelation to you and your friends. It is a perfect match for barbecued steaks, spare ribs and pork chops. And when summer ends, have a few bottles for your fall pot roast and pasta with Bolognese, puttanesca, or Amatriciana sauces, too.
The 2006 Albino Armani Casetta retails for approximately $18.