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Carl Hudson
July 22, 2021 | Carl Hudson

Italian Grape Varieties for Texas

Italian Grape Varieties for Texas Wines (Jul-2021)


Two sessions of an Italian-origin grape variety wine pairing are scheduled for August 22, 2021 – 12:30 and 2:30 pm.  McPherson Cellars Reserve Sangiovese, Brennan Vineyards Super Nero, and Lost Oak Winery Montepulciano will be paired with comparable wines from the appropriate regions in Italy accompanied by tasty Italian food bites.  It will be a lot of fun to develop this pairing, and it should be a lot of fun to attend and learn more about these grape varieties.  The fee is $55 per person; 5$ off for TWC Wine Club members.  Here is the link for reservations: 



Sangiovese is the key grape variety in Tuscany, used for Chianti, Brunello, Vino Nobile, and other fine wines.  It has established a strong foothold here in the Lone Star State, especially on the Texas High Plains, and produces some amazing wines.  Kim McPherson sources Sangiovese grapes from various THP vineyards, including the Sagmor Vineyard near Lubbock originally established in the 1970’s by his father, Professor Doc McPherson.  The Reserve Sangiovese is so designated because it contains fruit from this historic vineyard.  This wine was aged 12 months in French oak barrels and offers an enticing aroma of red cherry, vanilla bean, and woodsmoke, followed by flavors of wild berry fruit, caramel, and saddle leather, with mild tannins on a long, savory finish. 


Sangiovese typically produces more elegant, subtle wines than Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.  These are great table wines, but can certainly be enjoyed on their own.  With rich red cherry fruit flavor and an affinity to carry soft, creamy, vanilla-tinged oak flavoring from barrel aging, Sangiovese wines are widely popular, as witnessed in the TWC tasting room. 


Nero d’Avola is less well-known in Texas, but is gaining attention.  Known as the “black grape of Avola,” it grows well in the hills surrounding the seaside city of Avola located on the southeastern point of the island of Sicily.  These wines are typically dark and rich with ample tannins for a bold finish.  Many wines that contain Nero d’Avola have traditionally been blended with other compatible grape varieties, and that trend continues today, both in Texas and Italy. 


The 2018 Brennan Vineyards Super Nero (Nero d’Avola blend), is a rich, dark red wine with intense flavors framed by creamy vanilla notes from aging in oak barrels.  The wine is dry and finishes with bold, yet ripe tannins – offering a delicious pairing with bolder Italian dishes, grilled fare, especially steaks, and Texas-style barbecue.  This 2018 version represents a masterful effort by winemaker Todd Webster to create a blend using Nero d’Avola (Newburg Vineyard, Comanche County), Syrah (also from Comanche County), and Montepulciano (Diamante Doble Vyds, Tokio, TX, Terry County, THP AVA).  Cuvées were fermented separately in stainless steel over 3-5 weeks and aged 12-18 months in mostly used American & French oak barrels before being blended and bottled. 


Montepulciano, like Sangiovese, typically produces more elegant, subtle wines than Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.  These are also great table wines, but can certainly be enjoyed on their own.  Montepulciano is primarily grown on the “other side” of Italy, in the key regions of Abruzzo and Marche located on the eastern Adriatic Sea coast across the Apennine Mountains from Tuscany.  Montepulciano is the second most planted grape variety in Italy, and because of its good heat tolerance, has generated interest from Texas winegrowers ranging from the Hill Country to the High Plains. 


Montepulciano tends to ripen relatively late in the season, and produce wines with good color, adequate acidity, and significant levels of alcohol and flavor extraction.  With the long, hot growing season in Texas, the grapes tend to be plump, providing a relatively low skin to juice ratio.  Luckily the skins have lots of pigment, and that translates to a darker color in the finished wine with the advantage of developing relatively mild tannins, giving Montepulciano a softer, more mellow finish than many other “big” red wines. 


Lost Oak Winery Montepulciano, crafted by veteran wine maker Jim Evans, uses grapes sourced from the Texas High Plains Krick Hill Vineyards located near Levelland, TX, in Hockley County.  The wine is dark in color with black fruit aromas and flavors, and a round, plummy, weighty mouthfeel that leads to a spicy finish with ripe, velvety tannins. 


One interesting aside - the Montepulciano grape is not used to make the famous wines from the Tuscan village of Montepulciano.  This has led to much confusion in the wine world.  Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is made from Sangiovese grapes, and is named for the village in which it is produced, not for the grape variety used. 


This pairing event, scheduled for 12:30 and 2:30 pm, Sunday, 22-Aug, will be a fun opportunity to appreciate the similarities and differences between Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola, and Montepulciano grown and produced in Texas versus key regions in Italy.


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