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Video: A little-know white gem from Italy

By Wine columnist
TODAY
updated 11/30/2007 12:55:55 PM ET 2007-11-30T17:55:55

Let’s face it: The holidays, for all their great food, family get-togethers and parties, are at once exciting and exhausting, and I certainly experienced both over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I found myself gravitating to crisper, lighter wines that were refreshing and lower in alcohol.

Big, oaky chardonnays? No thanks, at least not after a long day of parade watching, lunch with old friends and cooking for most of the afternoon. I did open one of those brawny chards from California at our dinner, took a sip or two and quickly corked the bottle back up in favor of some lighter wines.

One of them was the delicious 2006 Greco di Tufo “NovaSerra” from the Mastroberardino winery in Campagna in Italy’s south. Greco, which is both the name of the grape and the wine, is one of the region’s signature white varieties.

As the name suggests, this is an ancient grape that may have been brought to Italy from Greece, and the “tufo” refers to the area’s volcanic soils, which produce a distinctive mineral quality that makes them among Italy’s most interesting wines (the best-known reds are made from the aglianico grape).

Mastroberardino
I came across the perfect description of Greco di Tufo in an old copy of Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine (Third Edition) that I keep on my desk. Johnson called it “a white wine of remarkably original flavor, dry, brisk and fragrant.”

In my notes I wrote that Mastroberardino’s wine was “elegant and sophisticated” with “beautiful fruit,” including apple and strawberry and touches of lemon, honey and almond. Its refreshing quality lies in the fact that alcohol is just 12.5 percent, as opposed to 14.5 percent for that California chardonnay I mentioned. I also realized that the flavors emerged more fully as this wine warmed up slightly, reinforcing the fact that most whites shouldn’t be served too cold.

The wine, which is fermented and aged for a few months in oak barrels, but not dominated by the oak, would be a good match for any white meat, as well as fish and shellfish. It’s also a perfect aperitif wine, light enough for casual sipping while far more distinctive and complex than many more familiar whites.

Mastroberardino’s Greco di Tufo “NovaSerra” has a suggested price of $24 (I’ve seen it for less on the Internet) and is imported by Wilson Daniels Ltd. of St. Helena, California (wilsondaniels.com).

Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at edwarddeitch@hotmail.com

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