I'm sure that, for many of you, Joe Campanale needs little introduction.  He's been a fixture on NYC's wine/restaurant scene for a while now as the head somm/partner/face of the Epicurean group (dell'anima/l'artusi/l'apicio).

Lately, he's been taking on some new projects as well, one of which is this terrific set of wines under the Annona label.

This is a collaboration between Joe and three producers in Central and Southern Italy.  The main goal was to craft a set of wines that reflected their common commitment to authenticity and also to create something unique from each winemaker's normal offerings.  

In Abruzzo, he made wines with Stefano Papetti Ceroni, the winemaker at De Fermo and in Campania, with Bruno de Conciilis.

Joe dropped in to show us the range and we were really taken with what we tasted.  Being that I'm always looking for great, authentic wines from the Southern half of Italy, I'm sure that my excitement comes as no surprise!


Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Modo Antico 2014 $25 --
There is so much Montepulciano d'Abruzzo on the market, but still it feels difficult to find really good examples of it  This is a really good example of it...and by really good, I mean the classic red fruits and subtle earth, with a firm, drying finish.  It's rustic, genuine and has just the right amount of funk that all good Montepulciano should deliver.  Delicious.    

Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Loreto Aprutino 2013 $31 --
Cerasuolo is Abruzzo's famous Rosato of Montepulciano but, for proper Cerasuolo, there's a lot more to it than just saying 'it's a rosé made from Montepulciano'.  While it technically is exactly that, it's really a style of wine that occupies its own little spot of the wine spectrum because it lies somewhere in between red and rosé.  Like all good rosé, it has great freshness and balance, but on the back end, there's more weight and it finishes with fine but firm tannin, which is where it leans more towards a red.  However you'd like to define it, Cerasuolo is one of the more versatile wines you'll encounter, especially during grilling season.  This is one of best I've had in a long time.  

Aglianico Paestum 2013 $31 --
Before we tasted this Aglianico, Joe and I were discussing de Conciilis and his wines.  I haven't had them in a long time, but I always found them to be just a bit too polished for my taste.  Regardless of that, what Joe and Bruno have created here is a very impressive bottle of Campanian Aglianico.  They sought to 'lengthen' the normally fierce tannins of the grape, and I think they've succeeded and, in doing so, managed to craft a more elegant take on traditional Aglianico.  The textbook volcanic aromatics and spicy/smokey flavors are there, along with the beautifully rustic, dry finish.  It makes you want pizza, which, believe it or not, is about as high a compliment as you can pay to a wine like this!