“Burn You Like the Midday Sun, Awwwww!” (Exploring Romagna’s Bertinoro)

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“Hot, hot, hotter than hell,
Burn you like the midday sun”

– KISS, “Hotter Than Hell”

When I visited Celli in Italy’s Romagna, for a media tasting of some of the sub-area’s best wines, it was hot.

And I don’t mean equatorial-Africa hot (I’ve been there, and it’s pretty hot). I mean more like Houston-in-early-August levels of hot. Like, 3rd ring of the 7th Circle of Hell hot.

The heat wave the gripped much of the area of Italy was salt in the wound of the floods that earlier in 2023 had devastated the region (which somewhat ironically forced our initial visit to be rescheduled), making the air even more humid than normal for a Romagna Summer.

I almost felt as if I had been buried under the noon sun in the region’s unique spungone (“sponge”), a mix of ochre and brown loamy soils that are rich in organic fossil matter from ancient seas. Those vineyard soils are believed to be responsible for Bertinoro’s confident expression of the elements that make Romagna’s wines special (the area may be small—the nearby town boasts a population of 1,200 people— but there’s good reason why it houses more than 30 wine producers): namely, minerality and structure.

It’s the latter that proved toughest to evaluate in the triple-digit heat—that kind of weather usually makes red wines taste and smell of Brett, volatile acidity, booze, and tannin. If a wine tastes good in those conditions, you can be pretty sure that it will taste f-cking great under normal drinking scenarios. And, well, some of the wines showed exactly that kind of promise, even when I felt like I was going to need a spatula to eventually pry my sweat-soaked shirt from my torso later that day…

crowd pleaser

2022 La Vida ‘Frangipane’ Albana Secco, $NA

This sapid and very well-made white is floral, honeyed, fresh, and tinged with just the right amount of astringent structure. Think apricot, gooseberry, and a friendly attitude.

sexy

2022 Celli ‘I Croppi’ Secco, Albana di Romagna, $19

A blend of fruit from two vineyards, one of them close to the sea, this is an expressive sipper that has plenty of saline, vibrancy, and minerality to counter its boisterous, dramatic fireworks display of stone fruit flavors. Showy, yes, but also damned good.

sexy

2022 Giovanna Madonia Cantina di Bertinoro Neblina, Albana di Romagna, $20

This product of a mother/daughter winegrowing team includes some of the region’s highest plantings (at about 350 meters). It’s heady with perfume-like floral notes, dried citrus, and ripe apricot notes. Robust in the mouth, the freshness keeps it all balanced well into the lengthy, toasty, bruised-apple finish.

crowd pleaser

2021 La Vida ‘Clombarone’ Sangiovese Bertinoro, $NA

Sourced from two vineyards located close to the winery, and named after the area’s fabled road connecting the plains to the hills of Bertinoro, there’s dark cherry action and tobacco spices, and bright blue berry fruit courtesy of some 10% whole cluster fermentation. Chewy, strucutured, and mineral, its spicy mouthfeel will have Sangio lovers swooning.

kick-ass

2020 Tenuta Villa Trentola ‘Ultimo Alto’ Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore, $NA

Dark tobacco, dried herbs, and black cherry—textbook Sangiovese greets you on the nose of this lively red. It’s assertive in both its fruitiness and its structure, and will need some bottle time (or a hearty meat dish) to soften it up.

elegant

2020 Giovanna Madonia Cantina di Bertinoro Fermavento Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore, $NA

An interesting mixture of cellar activity birthed this red: 50% in 3rd year barrels, 30% in concrete, and 20% in stainless steel. And it works. Boy, does it work. VERY mineral, with a slight smoke note, deeply structured but also effortlessly lifted, sapid, and fresh. One of the purere black cherry fruit expressions you’ll come across; I loved it, even in that heat.

kick-ass

2019 Tenuta Villa Trentola ‘Il Prugnolo’ Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva, $NA

Chewy, energetic, broad, earthy, funky, and serious, this Sangio isn’t messing around. It wastes no time in expressing its deep, red fruit dominant style, and would be a banger of a red selection at a steakhouse.

elegant

2019 Celli Bron & Ruseval Sangiovese Bertinoro di Romagna, $NA

What an excellent example of a fine, balanced vintage. Everything here presents itself with refinement, from the dark red fruits, dried rose petals, and gorgeous acidity to its firm structure. Still youthful, this one will be a pleasure to drink for quite a while to come, I think.

elegant

2019 Bissoni Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva, $NA

From 30 year old plantings comes this complex red. There’s a lot about this Sangio that could be a turn-off to some: green notes, wood toast, maple action, and alcoholic heat. It doesn’t sound Elegant, does it? But somehow, all is forgiven in how the strong, dark red fruit flavors come in like a crashing wave and then lift everything to float on top in well-ordered fashion.

sexy

2021 Celli ‘Solara’ Passito, Albana di Romagna, $NA

A combination of late harvest and early harvest left out to dry, along with some botrytized bunches; you’d imagine it would be a complex sweet wine fit for richer fruit desserts. And you would be right on the money. Citrus peel, yeast, saltiness, honey, lemon candy, honeysuckle, dried apricot, sultana, ripe mandarin… Boom! Viscous in the mouth but bolstered by freshness, even the heat couldn’t keep this one down.

Cheers!

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