Buy This Red. Chill It. Drink. It’s That Simple (and, No,  It’s Not Beaujolais)

This is a rave. In decades of drinking wine, this has rarely happened:  After having  a bottle at home with dinner, and commenting throughout about how much we were enjoying it, John sat down as soon as the dishes were cleared and ordered more. You know how much we enjoy trying new wines. Well, over the past 10 days, we’ve opened three bottles of this wine, the 2013 Fichimori from Tormaresca, the Antinori family’s winery in Puglia -- yes, that Antinori (though it is not on the label anywhere).  We’re in a bit of a delicious rut, and at a user-friendly 12.5% alcohol and good price, I’d like to pull you in, too.

A bottle of wine is like a present.  Sure, the wrapping might be intriguing, but you won’t know if you’re going to like it until you open it and experience it.  Still, the packaging sometimes can tell you important information.  The Fichimori, just launched in the U.S. for summer, is red -- 60% Negroamaro, native to the area, and 40% Syrah -- and the bottle advises, “Serve Chilled.” The “Serve Chilled,” made us smile because we have suggested many times that some reds are better chilled and some whites are better warmer than you might think.  We also thought of those funny wine ads on television back in the ’80s for Cella and Riunite Lambruscos from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy that advised, “Chill a Cella” and “Riunite on Ice—That’s nice.”  The folks at Tormaresca say that chilled red wines are what the people of Puglia drink in hot weather.        

The Fichimori took us back to a wine from our youth, the long-gone  Montevina  Zinfandel Nuevo, from Amador County, California.  Fichimori means “dark figs,” and it’s a dark, purple wine with a hint of blue along the rim, like some Beaujolais. It has a charming, fresh-fruit quality and nose that reminded me of black cherries and raspberries, characteristic of Negroamaro. The finish was long, with a little spicy grip, from the Syrah, and nicely acidic. That first night, we had it with salmon.

The winery says that the wine served chilled, no warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, requires soft tannins and that the Fichimori is made by “special production techniques which allow the extraction of aroma and color while leaving the tannins in the tank.”   Well, clearly not all of the tannins.  The special techniques involve subjecting the juice and skins to a cold soak for six days, which extracts more flavor and color and aromatics from the grapes before fermentation. Then “the juice is fermented without the skins enabling the grapes’ aromas, intense color and softer tannins to come forward in the final wine,” the winery said. I would have guessed that this was an all-stainless steel affair, but the winery says the wine got “minimal oak.”

The Marchesi Antinori family is in its 26th generation of winemaking, since 1385, more than six centuries. They are smart, innovative people. Their Tignanello, a Super Tuscan first released in 1971, shook the Italian wine industry because not only was it the first Sangiovese aged in barriques, and one of the first Chiantis not to include traditional white grapes, but, it says,  it was also the first red wine to be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, non-traditional varieties. Those grapes in the blend was so forbidden, in fact, that the wine could not qualify for the Chianti Classico appellation.  Still, the provocative Tignanello modified long-held beliefs, regulations, and practices. While the rules have evolved so that they could encompass Tignanello, the proud clan prefers to continue using the IGT  (Indicazione Geografica Tipica ) classification, which permits  more experimentation.  The Fichimori is an IGT from Salento, the peninsula that divides the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea, thus the formation of the “heel.”

So when these smart people looked south of Tuscany and Umbria, where their footprint is large, to Puglia to plant their flag in 1998, it was a major move, even though Puglia has long been known for its wine production. Their investment in Tormaresca , which means “tower by the sea,” is huge and their marketing of the Fichimori in the U.S. is impressive.

In addition to an August playlist to go with Fichimori, which includes “Bossa Nova Baby” by Elvis Presley, “Drivin’” by The Kinks, and “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, there’s a link to cocktails that can be made with Fichimori (  I don’t think I’m ready to go there yet.

Tomorrow is my birthday, but this rave is my present for you.