Author mug By The Glass

By Lyle Fujioka

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Celebrated Tuscan
wines to highlight
Honolulu fest

A decade ago, Italy as a travel destination had no cachet. Then Frances Maye's 1996 bestseller "Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy" became a motivational force in opening the floodgates to tourism not only in Tuscany, but all of Italy. Soon, everyone had to experience the picturesque imagery that Maye conveyed on her pages.

As tourism grew, a parallel groundswell of interest in the foods and wines of Tuscany evolved.

People learned that there was much, much more to Tuscany than chianti. The sangiovese grape used to make chianti tasted nothing like the sangiovese of brunello from Montalcino or vino nobile from Montepulciano. The remarkable flavor diversity of this grape cannot be overemphasized.

The term "Super Tuscan" became a household word for the wine connoisseur. Brunello di Montalcino became recognized as one of the most coveted noble wines in the world. Those who have fallen in love with this region identify the Bolgheri coastline as one the finest growing areas for wine anywhere.

As co-host of the 14th Annual Honolulu Wine Festival, "Italy Mio Amore" -- a tribute to the food and wine of Italy -- I've chosen to focus this year's journey on a discovery of Tuscany's celebrated wines.

Attending this festival, you will experience first-hand that chianti is simply the beginning of your Tuscan wine road map.

"Italy Mio Amore" takes place 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Sheraton Waikiki. Tickets are $75 and benefit the Hawaii Lupus Foundation. For those unable to attend, look for some of these gems that we'll be tasting at the show:

Michele Satta Costa di Giulia 2001 ($15.95): What happens when Sardinia's primary white grape vermentino travels to Bolgheri's coastal vineyards? You get a fantastic minerally, citrusy white wine just perfect as a thirst-quenching aperitif or as the perfect accompaniment to any simple seafood preparation or spicy dish. This wine is a traditional accompaniment to peccorino cheese.

Aia Vecchia Lagone 2001 ($14.95): Ounce for ounce, Lagone is the wine that will simply thrash every other wine out there. The smash hit baby "Super Tuscan" shows tremendous dark plum and cherry preserves finishing with toast oak and silky tannins. You may even wonder why we call it baby.

Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1998 ($39): Asinone shows the refined and polished qualities Sangiovese is capable of. The incredible balance of red cherry fruit, mild earthiness, caressing acidity and soft, plush tannins is simply astonishing.

Gorelli Brunello di Montalcino 1998 ($54): We're calling the 1998 Brunello di Montalcino the equal, or in this case, better than the stellar 1997 vintage. Velvety, ripe dark cherry flavors married with well-integrated minerality and soft fruit tannins are irresistible.

Lyle Fujioka owns Fujioka's Wine Merchants. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to


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