May 2014 Wine Club -- Li Veli Fiano & Li Veli "Pezzo Morgana"

A glass, too large for a white wine, really, was thrust in my direction recently as I strolled the aisles of one of my wholesalers’ warehouses. Inside sloshed a delightfully bright golden-green wine, and I understood...”you gotta try this!”

Oh, I’m glad I did. Now, the name Li Veli may not be new to some of you...after all, before the importer of Li Veli underwent a change of distribution rights, we carried their lovely Salice Salentino “Passamente,” a heady red that was bold and spicy in just the right way. Presently, now that Li Veli has found a new home at a new wholesaler, I have the chance to work with some of their other wines...but likely wouldn’t have immediately jumped at the chance had I not been handed this white...this white that leapt out of the glass and into my schnoz like a raging horse. Except, perhaps that it smelled better than a raging horse. Way better. But you get my brain said, “Whoa, baby.”

Li Veli sits on the Salento plain, in the “heel” of Italy. Obviously heavily influenced by the Mediterranean climate, they tend to grow varietals as old as time itself...after all, where did the Greeks land, conquering as they went AND bringing the vines of their homeland to boot? The winery has existed for well over a century but languished and was purchased and completely rehabilitated in 1999 by the Falvo family. Their efforts have resulted in one of Southern Italy’s finest estates, consistently turning out highly-regarded wines, as well as doing their part to promote the native varietals they grow.

Wine Producer: Li Veli
Wine Name: Fiano
Region: Valle d’Itria
Varieties: Fiano Minutolo

A stunning white, grown in the Valle d’Itria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and perhaps one of the best expressions of this little-known grape that I’ve experienced. Full aromas of honey and a hint of lemon zest, with a nicely structured body with present acidity and good weight. A real value, as well, making it a strong contender for my “summer wine.”

Pairing suggestion: Fresh raw oysters

Wine Producer: Li Veli
Wine Name: “Pezzo Morgana”
Region: Salice Salentino
Varieties: Negroamaro

Li Veli sources all the Negroamaro for this cuvee from a small, single vineyard which is surrounded by ancient olive trees. The vines are trained in the alberello (or bush-vine) style, keeping the fruit low to the ground but allowing free air movement to prevent fungal growth. The wine's richness and intensity is further enhanced by aging in barrique for 12 months. It is further livened by aging in bottle for 6 months until released.

Pairing suggestion: Braised Beef Shortrib