Valcalepio is the wine made in the valleys behind Bergamo, and as such one might be surprised to discover that the red, Valcaleopio Rosso, is a classic Taglio Bordolese, made with Cabernet and Merlot. Why? Because the region’s only really noteworthy red is Moscato di Scanzo, which is dried and used to make a sweet wine with an astonishingly spicy bouquet; given this situation, the local Cooperativa, after a disappointing test of the Nebbiolo that works so well in the nearby Valtellina, decided to plant French varietals to make dry reds (for a detailed discussion of the appellation see here).
It’s an interesting appellation, with a dynamic group of people who work closely together, and since I first tasted the wines a number of years ago quality has increased considerably.
This fall Sant’Egidio sent me their Valcalepio Rosso, and also a couple of single varietal wines:
Sant’Egidio Ronco Di Sera Valcalepio Rosso DOC 2009
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense and rather vegetal, with brambly greenish notes supported by wet leaves and spice, and some dark forest berry fruit, and also by a fair amount of vegetal acidity with some underlying graphite shavings. On the palate it’s medium bodied, with chewy quite brambly forest berry fruit supported by warmth and by tannins that have a warm rather vegetal burr and flow into a fairly long slightly dusty finish in which bitter savory accents emerge as the fruit fades. It’s up front, a wine that looks you in the eye and that will work well with simple grilled meats along the lines of elegant burgers, or perhaps moderately seasoned (not sweet) grilled chicken with the skin on, and is a wine I would drink now to enjoy its freshness.
Sant’Egidio Tessére Merlot della Bergamasca IGT 2009
Deep cherry ruby that’s rather dusky, with cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with cassis fruit supported by delicate vegetal accents that have some cedary overtones and alcohol, and some initial hints of gum Arabic (they fade) that are likely wood fruit interaction, and a sign of youth. On the palate it’s medium bodied, with bright currant fruit supported by tannins that are smooth and silky, with slight cedary bitterness, and by acidity that is warm and fairly tart, not quite raspberry but in that direction, and it flows into a fairly long rather bitter finish with a silky smooth tannic underpinning. It’s quite fresh on the palate, with youth coming through, and also soft but very much alive, with the acidity providing direction — nothing settled about it. The palate is ahead of the nose, and I would give it a year for everything to come together; it’s a wine that will work well with white meats, for example roast poultry or arista (pork loin).
Sant’Egidio Turano Cabernet della Bergamasca IGT 2009
Deep purplish ruby; it’s darker than the Tessére, and the rim is more violet. The bouquet is fairly rich and quite varietal, with berry fruit mingled with spice and bell pepper, and supported by some graphite shavings and slight cedary accents. On the palate it’s medium bodied, with moderately intense berry fruit supported by brambly mineral acidity and slightly splintery tannins that have warm spicy brambly accents and flow into a fairly long slightly bitter finish with tannic mineral accents that fade into bitterness. It’s a more measured than the Tessére, largely because it doesn’t have the bright acidity the Tessére displays, revolving instead more around tannin and minerality. This makes it a touch duskier, while the force of the tannins is such that I would serve it more with red meats than white, perhaps a steak or a platter of mixed grilled meats including sausages and lamb chops.
I enjoyed them, especially the freshness of the Ronco di Sera and the Tessére, which will make them very pleasant food wines. The Turano is instead slightly more brooding, displaying the underbrush and minerality that Cabernet sometimes has.
A last thing: I was unfamiliar with Sant’Egidio, but was much impressed by what I found on their website: The winery is located near the Monastero di San’Egidio, a 10th century Cistertian monastery on the flank of Monte Giovanni XXIII (Pope John’s birthplace), and the setting is beautiful, a perfect place to spend a few days getting away from it all, hiking and enjoying the countryside. They also have an agriturismo that looks like it would be a perfect base.