Category Archives: Wine for all & all for wine

Because wine deserves its own category, don’t you think?

Taste Wines of the Colli Euganei – Gratis

Taste the wines of fifteen producers from the Colli Euganei
at the sumptuous Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista

Monday, 26 october, from 2 p.m. til 7:30 p.m.

coverintro.jpgThis is what one might refer to as un’occasione. In an effort to let enthusiasts get a real sense of the wines produced in thsi Veneto zona DOC, fifteen producers from the Colli Euganei are gathering in the beautiful Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista (c. 1251) next Monday afternoon. If you’re in town, and you’re at all interested in wine, please do stop by.

What to expect?

The Colli (hills) Euganei region lies south and just east of Padova, and is formed roughly by a triangle of the three towns of Vo, Torreglia, and Arqua Petrarca (a lovely stop if your winding your way through the Veneto, by the way). The wines are young, a mix of spumante and still, red and white, dry and sweet. The whites are pleasing, fresh, and aromatic; the reds structured but not imposing. You’ll find varieties you recognize, like Chardonnay, Riesling (Italico), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and others you may be less familiar with:

  • Pinello (recent white, fresh, dry, still or spumante)
  • Serprino (similar to Prosecco)
  • Tocai Italico
  • Cabernet Franc

The Bianco DOC may consist of any or all of the white varieties in specified percentages; the Rosso DOC will combine reds that may even include Barbera. Look for the fresh spumanti like  Fior d’Arancio, a famed moscato giallo, whose sweetness is balanced by a fresh acidity and an exploding bouquet, and the rarer Moscato Rosso di Parenzo, a red aromatic that you must try should it be offered.

You may also find less familiar ways of vinifying these wines, but do adventure there as well: some of the passiti, dessert wines fermented from what might be termed as raisins, with round concentrated fruit balanced by higher alcohol, yet still-fresh acidity.

The producers you’ll find are:

  • Alla Costiera
  • Ca’ Lustra
  • Ca’ Orologio
  • Castello di Lispida
  • Colle Mattara
  • Conte Emo Capodilista – La Montecchia
  • Il Filò delle Vigne
  • Il Mottolo
  • Monteforche
  • Montegrande
  • Sengiari
  • Vignalta
  • Vigna Roda
  • Vignale di Cecilia e Villa Sceriman

I do hope you can make it. Salute!

Pop the Prosecco! (Just don’t call it Champagne.)

vendemmia_costapiane18.jpg“Oh, it’s like Champagne!” is the inevitable, completely innocent response to almost anyone’s first sip of Prosecco, the lively, loveable libation from the Veneto, now known and enjoyed worldwide.* Unless you’re the sort of person who likes giving other people fits, however, try to avoid making this comment within earshot of someone who actually produces Champagne. Reactions can range from mildly indignant to downright apoplectic.

Pourquoi, you ask? Is it because all Champagne producers are snobs? Because they don’t like Italy? Because they don’t like you?

It’s none of the above, of course. It’s more because first, you’re talking about their life’s work; then, they realize that for whatever reason, you have not (yet) drunk enough sparkling wine to understand that although Prosecco bubbles like Champagne and is perfectly palatable and pleasing…the resemblance, mon cher, ends there.

Don’t feel bad. La Difference between Prosecco and Champagne (or the Italian metodo classico produced the same way) is obvious to no one who hasn’t either grown up with wine or made an effort to get to know it better. However, it’s fun to know, a good thing to understand, will contribute to your own enjoyment of both bubblies, and make it easier to choose which might be appropriate for a particular occasion.

I give up. Why isn’t Prosecco like Champagne?

vendemmia_costapiane11_prosecco.jpgThe obvious reason is because it’s not made in Champagne, France. Then, Prosecco wine is made from the grape Prosecco (now named Glera), and not from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and/or any of the other varieties used in Champagne — none of which are Prosecco/glera. Most importantly, however: these sparklers are produced using two completely different methods: one short and efficient, the other long, complicated, more labor intensive, producing a more complex wine. The results are two very different sparklers, each to be enjoyed and appreciated for its own merits.

See if the following, somewhat over-simplified explanation helps clarify things a bit.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

vat1.jpg

For both types, we’ll start with a still wine that’s highly acidic, created especially to be undergo a second, induced fermentation.

In one method, a yeast/sugar concoction is added to the still wine stored in large stainless steel tanks, or vats. These tanks are sealed for the second fermentation, however, trapping the resulting carbonation in the wine. It will remain in the vats for three months or more (depending on a variety of factors), and remian under pressure continually even as it is bottled. The resulting spumante will be ready for consumption from about six to twelve months later.

ferrari_metodo_classico2.jpgIn the second method, the specially formulated mixture is again added to a still wine. It will not remain in vats, however, but will be bottled and capped (not yet corked) for the second fermentation which will take place inside each individual bottle. For the next eighteen to thirty-six months, the bottles are regularly rotated (manually or mechanically) and gradually up-ended, shuttling the spent yeast (the lees) down into the cap in the process. At the end of this refining process, the neck is flash frozen, the cap is removed, and the now-solid lees pop from the pressure. The bottle is immediately topped off, corked, and packaged for retail — although it will still be a minimum of six months before it should be drunk (it’s recovering from the shock, you see). Sparkling wines produced this way also have a much longer “shelf life.”

Which is which, then?

The first method is called Charmat, or Martinotti after the men who created/established the process; the second, champagnoise — or in Italy, metodo classico, the classic method. The choice of method depends on a multitude of factors, not the least of which is the variety itself; in any case there is no shortage of bollicine, or spumanti (the term that refers to any sparkling wine), both established and innovative, being brought to life from regional varieties throughout the country.

dreamstime_10251196_LucaFabbian.jpgThis is very good news, and offers us the opportunity to become quite adventurous in our sparkling explorations. Do your own taste tests. The next time you have a dinner party, have the local wine expert help you select both a Prosecco (Foss Marai, a Cartizze, perhaps?) or other “Charmat” along with an Italian metodo classico: a Lombardia Gatti Franciacorta, a Piedmont Gavi Soldati di Scolca, a Balter from Trentino. As you sip each, see what you find different…and the same…between them, in the visual, the nose, and in the taste. The goal is not to look for which method is “better;” but instead to identify the distinctive qualities of each — with the enjoyment of the wines, the meal, and the company taking priority always, of course!

The truth is, Prosecco will always remind us of Champagne…and it’s fine to say so. But now, the next time you head for your local enoteca to choose a sparkler, you’ll have no problem chatting up the wine expert and selecting just the right sparkler for the occasion. And remember, it’s not just for New Year’s anymore…

Salut!

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* Prosecco has also become popular enough to be ripped off, evidently: there are reports that only one in ten versions of wine sold as “Prosecco” is produced in Italy – e questo non si fa, that will simply not do. To control this menace, as of the 2009 harvest, the Prosecco produced under either of two new DOCG classifications

  • Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene
  • Prosecco Montello-Colli Asolani

or under the larger Prosecco DOC zone will guarantee you of its rightful Veneto origin. To complicate things further, the Prosecco variety will now be called Glera…but that’s a whole other post…

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photo credit, last image: Luca Fabbian.

Celebrating the wines of La Tuscia

festedelvino2.jpgLa Tuscia Viterbese refers to the area surrounding Viterbo where the Etruscans once reigned; today’s communities celebrate their regional DOC and IGT wines with Feste del Vino della Tuscia. They began in late July, but if you’re in the area you still have until the 16th of August to enjoy some of these interesting, and likely lesser known wines along with local fare in a festive atmosphere, al fresco.

The festivals take place in the towns named for the DOCs they celebrate. These wines are light, refreshing and flavorful, with whites vinified from varieties like Aleatico, Trebbiano, Malvasia (more than one type of each), the native Greco, Grechetto; red varieties that include Sangiovese, Montepulciano (the grape), and Ciliegiolo, among others.

MONTEFIASCONE:
Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone is a blend of three white grape varieties. It’s a light and refreshing, produced in a variety of versions from dry to sparkling (also dry). The name (Latin for “It is,” or perhaps Italian for “Ecco”) has a delightful history; worth translating at LaTuscia.com (in Italian).

VIGNANELLO
Vignanello is a town and a DOC, produced in the area just east of it. There are four versions are Bianco (one or two Trebbiano varieties, and two different Malvasia), Greco (which is the variety), Rosso (Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, maybe more), and Rosato (same blend as the Rosso). You might also find the Greco in a sparkling version, and the Bianco superiore, or at a higher alcohol level due to a particularly mature vintage or other factors.

GRADOLI (only Friday, August 14)
This DOC zone Aleatico di Gradoli is located in the area just north of the Lago di Bolsena, and the wine is produced from the  Aleatico grape. Don’t let the “dessert” category throw you however: though it’s not dry, its sweetness is balanced, fresh, and certainly worth trying.

You may also spot Tarquinia, Colli Etruschi Viterbesi (a larger DOC zone extending north and south of Viterbo), and even Orvieto, whose zone is shared with Umbria, not to mention IGTs (still regional with fewer restrictions than a DOC wine) such as Lazio, Colli Cimini, and Civitella d’Agliano.

tuscia_cart.jpeg

The town festivals include tastings of both wines and local fare, music, wine carriage processions and even a neighborhood palio competition, this Monday night is the Calici di Stelle with tastings under San Lorenzo’s falling stars.

Most events take place in the evening, but also check with any of the tourist offices of the town nearest you for details, don’t to hesitate to call 334 284 2216.

www.tusciaviterbese.it
www.cittadimontefiascone.it
www.prolocovignanello.it (ANSA)
www.viviviterbo.it


Calici di Stelle: Taste WInes as San Lorenzo’s Stars Fall

wine_moon.jpgThe Wine Tourism Movement of Italy and the Associazione Italian Sommeliers, or AIS, is holding an outdoor wine event this Monday, August 10, from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. You’ll taste a variety of unusual whites, reds and dessert wines from the Tre Venezie (many of them native varieties), and if the weather holds, should offer a festive, relaxing opportunity to explore and expand your Italian wine palate. (There will be a entrance fee of €5 or €10, if I can obtain it I’ll post it here.)

calicedistelleThis is the Venice version of the Calici di Stelle events being held in cortili, piazze and historic centers all around Italy on August 10 (some on the 9th), La Notte di San Lorenzo. The stars that fall on that night represent tears shed for the saint…somehow they end up in our glasses. : ) In any case, if you’re not in Venice, check to see if there’s a local Calici di Stelle wine event near you.

This one will be held in the Piazza Ferretto in Venezia Mestre (see map link below). To reach it from Piazzale Roma (about 20 minutes), take bus number 7 (which runs more frequently), or that for Mirano, or Treviso. Tell the driver your destination and he’ll let you know the correct stop. To return, take nighttime (notturno) bus number 1. Alternatively, it’s about a 10-minute walk from the Mestre train station.

Here‘s the map.

Tchin-tchin!

MestreP01.jpg

Wine/moon photo © Svetlana Suvorina | Dreamstime.com

Prosecco procures a promotion.

The humble Prosecco, a DOCG? Who’da thunk it.vendemmia coste piane2.jpg

It’s true though, and ben venga. By the time the next vendemmia (grape harvest or vintage) is bottled, you might find both the phrase Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore printed on its label, and the pink DOCG fascetta (seal) ringing its neck, just like bottles of Barolo, Chianti Classico, Brunello, and other DOCG* wines. With that pink strip, you can be assured that the Prosecco you’re drinking is not only Italian, but was produced in the area that made it famous.

The producers originally wanted to feature only the territory name on the label, but realized almost immediately that outside the Veneto it was the grape prosecco that most of its fans know, not the unpronounceable-without-prodigious-practice, ten-syllable region names.

Good call.

vendemmia coste piane1.jpg

Therefore, the Prosecco name stands, and now refers to a geographic location (even though the variety itself has been renamed to its synonymous glera).

In addition, the term “superiore” on an Italian wine (such as a Valpolicella Superiore) indicates an alcohol content higher than that of the same non-superiore wine, and is the result of a riper-than-normal vintage. I’m not sure this is the case with the use of superiore in the DOCG name, but I hope to learn soon.

What will change as a result of Prosecco’s DOCG status? First, there’s the guarantee that you’re drinking what you think you’re drinking, and it came from where you expect it to come from. Since its explosive popularity, Prosecco has been imitated all over the world – the producers were quite right to want to put a stop to it. That, and the cost of the wine may be higher (most DOCGs do cost more) we’ll see once this year’s vintage is on the market.

(Do remember however, that a DOCG status, like the number of stars in a hotel rating, is not an automatic indicator of how good a given wine might be, but rather a guarantee of HOW the wine is created, and of its true origin: the varieties it’s made from, where the vineyards are located, vinification methods, etc. A favorite producer or a good vintage year will be a better indicator of quality, but we’ll keep an eye out on which producers go DOCG…and of course conduct diligent and thorough research.

Somebody’s got to do it, vero? Cin cin!vendemmia coste piane3.jpg

* Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the most stringent of Italian wine production categories (followed by DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata, IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica, and vino di tavola, in that order).

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The photos above are from the 2007 vendemmia of Coste Piane Prosecco Sur Lie. I continue to credere that each glass I drank from that vintage contained at least few of the grapes I hand-picked in it…