Quite simply, this is a mind-boggling QPR. The Benanti 2005 Rosso di Verzella hails from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. Wines from such a southern region typically are dense and alcoholic, but the extraordinary elevated volcanic terroir lends itself to an unusual wine. If this Benanti is at all typical, these wines, which are generally a blend of the indigenous varietals Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, possess an ethereal and supple quality quite similar to Pinot Noir.
The bouquet of this wine is constantly shifting, hard to pin down, which I tend to find more often in traditionally oriented wines from the Old World. While I think it possessed some volatility, though not enough to suggest a flaw, the nose has Sangio-like ripe cherries, a little leather and smoke, capsicum, dust and floral notes. Nice bouquet, but an even better palate. The entry shows juicy cherry flavors with good viscosity like a New World Pinot, then evolves into a warm blanket of supple earthen pleasure. There was a certain silken quality that one only finds in very good Pinot Noir and, on occasion, Cabernet Franc. Seamless is the word, and balance is its natural complement. The acidity is a bit on the low side from my perspective, yet this medium-bodied style that relies on subtlety doesn’t really need an aggressive acidic counterpoint like a massively fruity wine would.
Imagine a cross between a Bierzo and a Pinot Noir, and this is what you get, but for a mid-level Bierzo price of $16, not a $40+ Pinot price tag. This is one of the best wines I’ve had at this price point. Rarely does a wine achieve finesse, characteristic expression, and outright deliciousness under $20. Often you get one or two, but not all three qualities. This wine would hold its own with wines double if not triple or quadruple its price, in my opinion.
Pros: Supple, Balanced, Earthy, Medium Body, Complex
Decant: Yes, it kept improving with time
Price: $17 from K&L Wines
QPR: Excellent (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)