Recently I had the chance to taste some wines from Albino Armani. This Italian producer based in the Adige Valley has a rich history that dates back to 1607. Impressively the same family has owned the property all that time. Over the years they have acquired property in the Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia; however the Adige Valley of Verona is at the center of their operations. In the 80’s winemaker Albino Armani discovered some Foja Tonda (also known as Casetta) vines on the property. This grape varietal was nearly extinct. Over time they have been replanting it. At present there are 12 hectares of it, still a pretty tiny amount. As of 2002 it was readmitted for cultivation. Over the last several years they have been making wine with it and as of the 2007 vintage Foja Tonda is recognized as D.O.C. Teradeiforti. This is quite a journey for the grape itself and a sign of the family’s perseverance and passion. In addition to tasting three vintages of Foja Tonda I was also able to sample their current release Pinot Grigio. My impressions were as follows.
Albino Armani 2009 Pinot Grigio – The fruit for this wine was sourced from vines aged between 15 and 40 years old. This offering is 100% varietal. 10% of the frit went the through the passito method typically employed when making Amarone. Aging was accomplished in stainless steel. 7,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.99. Hazelnut and kiwi notes appear on the nose of this Pinot Grigio. Melon and spice characteristics are present through the balanced palate, leading to a clean, crisp finish with fine acidity. Lovely on its own this wine will shine brighter when paired with soft cheeses, roasted chicken or light foods in general.
Albino Armani 2005 Foja Tonda - Casetta - I.G.T – Rosso Vallagarina – All of the fruit for this wine was sourced at estate vineyards in Vallagarina. This offering is 100% Foja Tonda (Casetta). After fermentation the wine was aged in oak for 12 months. 2,400 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.99. Mulled berry and hints of candied cherry mark the nose of this 2005 wine. There is a solid core of upfront fruit through the palate; these flavors continue to the finish which shows off cinnamon, cardamom and a host of mineral notes. Good acidity keeps things in check.
Albino Armani 2006 Foja Tonda - Casetta - I.G.T – Rosso Vallagarina – Fruit was sourced at estate vineyards in the Southern Adige Valley. This wine is 100% varietal. Aging was accomplished over 12 months in 45,000 liter Slovenian oak followed by 6 months in bottle prior to release. 2,400 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.99. The extroverted nose of this 2006 wine is loaded with bright fruit. While the flavors on the palate are a bit brighter than the other two vintages, the fruit is ultimately both darker and drier than the aromas would indicate. Black pepper leads the way on a spice laden finish. Good acidity keeps this wine in balance.
Albino Armani 2007 Foja Tonda - Casetta – DOC Terradeiforti – The fruit for this wine was sourced at estate vineyards within Terradeiforti. As with the others this vintage is 100% varietal. Barrel aging was accomplished over 12 months in Slovenian oak; 6 months of bottle aging followed. 2,400 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.99. Dried berry fruit notes are accompanied by hints of thyme on the nose of this 2007 wine. Black cherry, pomegranate and cranberry notes are all apparent throughout the palate of this wine. These lead to spice notes on the finish along with hints of earth and continued soft, sour fruit notes. Good acidity keeps this wine in check.
There are a host of connective tissues that tie these vintages of Foja Tonda together. That said, there is plenty of vintage variation which made tasting them together a fascinating exercise. I hadn’t had Foja Tonda previous to sitting down for this tasting. It will be a natural partner for food, particularly Italian cuisine of course. Anything with a red sauce on it will work well. Over the time we had the wines open to taste they evolved nicely and drank quite well by themselves too. For me the story of this grape which the Armani family has made their personal reclamation project is fascinating. I’m constantly on a quest to find something new and interesting. In this case here’s something old that has been made new again. It’s most definitely quite interesting and well worth your time to explore. The relatively modest price point will also save damage to your wallet. So if you’re thinking of cracking open another bottle of Chianti or perhaps Dolcetto tonight, try something different. Foja Tonda will hit some of the notes each of those other two wines often do but in its own distinct way, as well as bringing other characteristics to the party as well.