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Pizza, Meatballs and Gaglioppo

Librandi Duca San Felice Cirò Riserva Calabria 2005
MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: April 28, 2010

I can’t believe it took me six years to get to A16, the popular, chic trattoria in San Francisco’s Marina district dedicated to the food of Southern Italy’s Campania region. Since it opened, I’ve been hearing nothing but raves about it, and on a recent Monday night, I finally got to experience it for myself.

It was amazing. I’m a bit of a pizza snob, so I had to try one from their wood-fired oven and went with the Salsicca, piled with fennel sausage, roasted spring olives and a healthy dose of chili flakes. I loved the rustic ingredients balanced with the perfectly done thin crust. A16 also features “Meatball Mondays,” and my friend and I shared an order of meatballs in red sauce. They were unbelievably tender. I never knew meatballs could melt in your mouth!

The wine list is also dedicated to Southern Italy, and I asked our server to pick out a medium-bodied red to complement our meal. She suggested the Librandi Duca San Felice Cirò Riserva Calabria 2005 ($21 for a 375ml carafe), made from a grape I’d never heard of before: Gaglioppo. It was very fresh and fruity, with a wonderful grapey quality, hints of licorice and a mineral component, and went perfectly with the meal. I rated it 89 points, non-blind. members: Get our quick lists of Top Values and Easy Finds among Italian reds.

Member comments   3 comment(s)

Scott Elder — The Dalles, OR —  April 28, 2010 3:02pm ET

Ms. Worobiec – I’m baffled. Scoring a wine is both an objective and subjective proposition. Depending on what camp you’re in you might say it’s a lot more subjective than objective, or vice versa. Regardless, I don’t see how you can score the Librandi Duca when you know nothing about the varietal. Assuming the wine wasn’t flawed in some way, you have nothing else to base your rating because you have no comparables, nor do you know the grape's potential. You might taste a hundred more Gaglioppo wines and figure out the Librandi is the best one out there. Then how would you score it?

Steven M Ruths M D — Santa Barbara, CA —  April 29, 2010 12:06am ET


I agree and disagree. While a wine score should depend heavily on it's true-to-varietal character (unknown in the case of a variety tried for the first time), other merits or flaws may compensate when this is not known. How does it compare to other wines of similar character (weight, acidity, etc.)? Even if the fruit profile is not totally familiar, then how about balance, concentration, etc.? What is the wine's pure enjoyment rating? All of these considerations might make scoring possible even for a wine never tasted before. Even Wine Spectator needs to rate a grape for the first time!

Cheers, Steve

Maryann Worobiec — Napa, CA —  April 29, 2010 12:31pm ET

Scott, thanks for your question, and Steven, thanks for your take.

In Wine Spectator's scoring system, 89 points puts a wine in the "very good" category, which we define as "a wine with special qualities." To me, judged on its flavors, balance, finish and structure, this wine showed "special qualities" and I found it to be very good to drink, especially with the food.

Of course, someone with more experience with the grape, the region and the growing season would have a better understanding of its typicity, and his or her review would carry more weight. That would be James Suckling, Wine Spectator's lead taster of Italian wines, and that's why his assessment formed in formal blind tastings, embody our "official" judgments. (He has not yet reviewed the 2005) But we think everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions when it comes to how much they enjoy a given wine.

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