Knowledge is power…I am a firm believer in that thought. Wine seminars provide just that…information from the wine makers, maps, varietal specifics, food pairings, and of course, the tastings. This held true this past Monday in Chicago at the Simply Italian Great Wines event. I participated in all 4 seminars and the open tasting. Here is my recap of each seminar and personal comments on my favorite wines. I did not try wines from each winery, but between the presentations and what I did sample, I feel I am in a better position to enjoy the many offerings out there in the market.
“Veneto, Piedmont & Tuscany: The Iconic Image of Italy” The focus was on Prosecco D.O.C. , Lugana D.O.C., Monferrato D.O.C., Amarone Della Valpolicella D.O.C.G., and Moscato d’Asti D.O.C.G. The varietals Glera and Durella create delicious Proseccos, zesty, bright acidity, refreshing! The grape, Trebbiano di Lugana, was for me and I was pleasantly surprised. (I knew I would be seeking out more Lugana wines at the open tasting.) I enjoyed the minerality of this wine. Another new varietal was the Albarossa used in the Monferrato wines. It produced a more powerful wine with beautiful, intense color. Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes are used to make the delicious Amarone Della Valpolicella wines- so smooth. These were the only ones I was somewhat familiar with and happy to revisit. Not normally one to drink sweet wines, I must admit I found the Moscato d’Asti refreshing. I could easily pair it with a rich blue cheese!
“Consorzio Tutela Denominazioni Vini Frascati” The wines of Rome! The Frascati Superiore D.O.C.G. is an interesting wine which uses mostly Malvasia Bianco and Malvasia del Lazio- 70% minimum required. These varietals date back to Greek times. Using cold maceration “crillo” , these wines are dry, balanced, a bit salty, and have nice minerality due to the volcanic soil. The Cannellino di Frascati D.O.C.G. wines are made from the same grapes that have been harvested a bit later and dried. This is similar to the “passito” style. To me it had a sweeter bouquet with a more vegetal palate.
“Romagna: Albana to Sangiovese Queen of Grapes, King of Wines” Two fantastic grape varietals for making wine in a region known for its cuisine! We were enchanted with Romagna Albana D.O.C.G., Albana di Romagna D.O.C.G. – which must contain at least 95% Albana and no other aromatic varietals, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore D.O.C., Romanga Sangiovese Superiore Riserva D.O.C., and Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva D.O.C. wines. The Albana grape is a tannic white that has a nutty characteristic like bitter almonds. It offers citrus and stone fruit notes, herbal notes like sage and tarragon. I can envision many possible food pairings with these beautiful white wines! Sangiovese…has been a favorite for some time now. I feel like it changes its characteristics with each environment it is grown. It can be delicate and floral, as well as dark and tannic. Today’s wines featured notes of cherry, violet, dark fruits, spice…delighting my senses! This is another wine well suited to the numerous specialties of the region.
“Sardinia an Isand to Discover: From Its Vineyards to Its Surrounding Treasures” The island of Sardinia has several geological features which provide ideal growing conditions for the D.O.C.G. and several D.O.C. wines found here using the Vermentino, Cannonau, Monica, and Carignano del Sulcis grapes. What I love about the wines made with Vermentino, both the still and sparkling, is their fresh, elegant, aromatic nature. I immensely enjoyed all 4 that we tasted! I could picture myself sitting along the coast of Sardinia with a glass in my hand gazing out to the water, relaxing, and savoring each sip! The Monica grape is said to have been planted around the 11th century by Spanish monks. The brilliant ruby color, the intense nose, and the dry, structured palate was beautiful. “Cannonau”- the most widely planted grape in Sardinia- enamored me with its fruity spicy nose captivated me and full-bodied mouth feel. These grapes share some of the same genetic make up as Garnacha/Grenache. Next we tasted two wines made with Carignano del Sulcis- or Carignan as it is known in France. These grapes grow in sandy- “beach-like” sandy soil. Most of the vines are at least 100 yrs old! This was a varietal not affected by phyloxera. Lastly, a honeyed, sweet, balanced, Moscato di Cagliari…a superb end to a fantastic presentation. This final seminar on this wine region was perhaps my favorite as it was the most unknown to me.
After a hearty lunch, I moved on to the open tasting. Whites, rosés, reds…Proseccos, Moscatos…so many to choose from! I focused on the whites- both still and sparkling- and the rosés. I was not disappointed!
Here are just a few of my favorites that I didn’t taste in the seminars.
Azienda Agricola Drusian– Loved everything I tried!! Ca’ Tullio– beautiful Friulano DOC
Cantina F.LLI Zeni– Delicious! First time ever trying a Soave- now on my “must buy” list.
Ornella Molon Traverso- Another lovely Friulano, as well as a great Prosecco Extra Dry- not my usual liking, but this one was well made.
Podere Lecci E Brocchi– A white sangiovese? No skin contact, totally unique!
Ricci Curbastro– Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!!! Need I say more? Franciacorta at its best.
Antonutti– Refreshing sparkling wines. Valentino Butussi– delicious sparkling Ribolla Gialla Brut
What a fabulous day I spent in the presence of such amazing winemakers. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to listen to and then chat with all of them. I can’t wait to go visit Italy! Grazie!