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swirl and savor

The Return of an Old Friend

Beth Ribblett

The life of a wine on the shelves at Swirl can be short lived. Sometimes is has nothing to do with popularity, just the mere fact that due to our ambitious schedule of 2+ tastings per week combined with my inability to pass on new and interesting wines, our inventory is ever changing and evolving. The positive side to this is that you, our treasured customers, are constantly getting exposed to cool and different wines, lots of obscure varieties, exciting new regions and up and coming wine makers. The downside is that a wonderful wine may get pushed out of the rotation just because I need space for the 10 new wines we'll be bringing in for this weeks lineup of tastings!

Such is the case of one of my favorite wines produced by a family who have been part of an Italian wine and food "revolution" in this country. Ignited by the matriarchal maven of Italian cooking, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, and fueled by her son Joe's ever-expanding array of projects, the Bastianichs have played a major role in bringing the culture of Italy to our tables. I've written often about Lidia, have had the privilege of meeting Joe through our friends at Neat Wines and have been enamoured with the family and their projects for quite some time.

So the "old friend" that has returned is the 2004 Bastianich Vespa Bianco, the flagship wine of the Bastianich winery in Friuli. My personal pick for our Thanksgiving meal, and an open spot on the racks gave me the perfect excuse to bring back this store favorite. The Vespa is one of what Joe calls "Super-Whites," the blends that command the most respect in Friuli. The Super-Whites from Friuli are quite different from the whites of other Italian regions, beginning with the fact that they're blended. The grape varieties generally include Friulano(Friuli's most famous grape), Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.

This 5-time Gambero Rosso Three Glass winner was created to showcase the power and evolution that a great Friulian white can have. Consisting of equal parts Sauvignon and Chardonnay with a measure of Picolit, Vespa Bianco becomes a sum of its parts, a wine of uncommon complexity.

In the most recent issue of Gambero Rosso magazine, Bastianich Vespa Bianco was named one of the top ā€œ50 Bianchi dā€™Italiaā€. The wines chosen were not vintage-specific. This was an overall ranking of the best white wines in Italy over the past 23 years.

Bastianich Vespa Bianco ranked number 32 overall, among some of the greatest and most famous whites in all of Italy. Their placement in the Top 50 is especially noteworthy considering that many of the other wines mentioned in the article have a much longer winemaking history than Bastianich.

Winemaker's Notes: A tightly wound balance of minerality and citrus, evolving over time into a more viscous expression of wildflowers, clover honey and mature pear. The palate sensations are more like those of a red wine. Its powerful tannic structure and acidic backbone lend it not only immediate impact but a long life. Vespa Bianco can be further aged up to 7-10 years after the vintage.


Gambero Rosso 2007

Superbly complex, and veined with cream and banana, it is lifted by fresh fruit to the heights of elegance. The supremely balanced, gutsy palate is textbook stuff, making this a particularly sophisticated Three Glass champion.
Tre Bicchieri - Gambero Rosso

The best part? You can get this kind of quality and longevity for $28.99!

For more information on Bastianich wines, Joe and Lidia, check out these great links including Joe's blog, "The Buzz", the source of those great wasp photos!

The Buzz
Joe Bastianich
Lidia's Italy
New York Restaurant Insider, a great article on Lidia and her incredible life journey
Swirl and Savor: Lidia, my past posts on Lidia and some of her recipes