When wine connoisseurs are asked from what region they buy the most, they often list Napa Valley, France, Australia and Italy, in no particular order. Italy is a particularly popular locale for oenophiles, especially for labels that tend to fly in under the radar.
One such label is La Vendemmia Importers, which has been around since 1996 and sells its wines via Narduzzi Importers at several locations in Central Jersey — including Bridgewater, Somerville, the Somerset section of Franklin and Rahway.
La Vendemmia isn't a complete unknown, however; it often is presented at well-to-do tastings, on wine-centered television programs and at celebrity events. But Italian wines are known for a variety of tastes that can peak the interest of even the most green among wine drinkers.
La Vendemmia's 23 varieties are bottled and imported from Botter Wines, which operates its vineyards in the Veneto and Friuli regions of Italy.
Last week, myself and six of my wine-loving friends had the opportunity to enjoy several of La Vendemmia's selections. Two of them fit into the novice category, but still were eager to try something new and different. The other four, including myself, are fairly experienced wine drinkers with picky palates.
Following is a list of the four wines my group tasted, including our comments and those provided by La Vendemmia. My group was not aware of any of La Vendemmia's descriptions prior to the tasting. The wines, which all were bottled in 2007, are listed in order of our preference
Botter Sicilia Syrah
Our opinion: The first response to this wine was that it smelled like a zinfandel but tasted like a shiraz, the other word for syrah. It was full-bodied, had harmony between its elements and had a buttery taste — a trademark of a good syrah. The fruit flavors were muted, so they didn't jump out at you, and were prominent in the nose but not the palate. This was by far the group's favorite selection.
La Vendemmia says: With the aroma and flavors of pepper, blackberry, herbs and cinnamon, this syrah is a deep, rich wine with a dark color
Il Cantico Nero D'Avola
Our opinion: We tried this wine after a pinot noir, and most of the group agreed it was like the pinot noir — only more interesting. The first flavor that came to mind was a berry jam, and it had a noted sage finish. The fruits fought each other a bit, almost like a zinfandel that features mildly annoyed tannins. However, it didn't have a big nose to it and was pleasing to the palate.
La Vendemmia says: Ruby red in color with a typical fragrant bouquet and pleasant hint of forest fruit, this wine has an agreeably velvety taste with a balanced level of fruit and tannins. It is excellent with red meats, roast, game and cheese.
La Vendemmia Pinot Noir
Our opinion: This wine was not complex, but had a spicy, peppery, cedar-mulch flavor with a simple finish. It was a typical pinot noir in many regards, but a few in the group noted that it can die quickly when it drinking it with food. It seems to be a wine much more suited to imbibing on its own.
La Vendemmia says: Dark purple in color, this wine lives up to its name — pinot noir is derived from the words pine and bark. The bunches of grapes make the pinot noir a fine wine.
Our opinion: The only white wine we tasted, the Trebbiano resembled a dry, mild version of a pinot grigio. The greener members of our group enjoyed this one the most, meaning it is a wine pegged for those who are not sure what they want. It was dry but not "parched," and it was not overly sweet.
La Vendemmia says: A dry, white wine with a straw yellow color, this selection has a fragrant bouquet with a sapid, harmonious flavor. It is perfect for seafood, white meats and grilled fish.
LA VENDEMMIA WINES
· Here are 10 of more than 30 Central Jersey locations where La Vendemmia Italian wines are sold. More locations are available by visiting http://narduzziimports.com/retail.html: