Posts tagged ‘cartizze’
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Chicago was host to the Wines of Veneto for several events, including a sit-down seminar featuring 10 Venetian wines, a dinner at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush and two Prosecco tastings, one at a Treasure Island retail outlet and one at a steakhouse (Benny’s Chop House), just north of downtown. These events were part of a tour about the wines of Veneto that were also organized for Los Angeles and New York.
I was pleased to be invited to be part of the seminar on Monday morning; joining me were Nathan Woodhouse, from Ionia Atlantic Imports, a company that represents numerous artisan producers from Italy and Benny Woodhouse, owner of Benny’s Chop House. Moderating the seminar was Aurora Endrici, a sommelier from Italy. Aurora is an extremely knowledgable individual and an engaging speaker. Everyone at the events loved her outgoing personality and warmth; I greatly enjoyed working with her and hope to have the opportunity again in the not too distant future.
The seminar was a natural for me, as I had recently visited producers in both the Soave and Valpolicella districts in late May and early June, so I was understandably excited about the wines (please see my recent posts on Soave and Amarone). Wines from those areas are quite well known in America and were included, as well as Prosecco, the famous sparkling wine from the province of Treviso. But it was the inclusion of other wines – offerings not that well known in many markets outside Veneto – that were real eye-openers for myself and the attendees.
The most exciting wines for me were two reds: Tai Rosso and Bagnoli Friularo. Tai Rosso is produced from the Tocai Rosso grape, the name of which had to be changed according to EU regulations that now protect the name “Tokay”, which refers to a wine from Hungary (the same refers to the Friulano grape, a white that was previously known as Tocai Friulano. It is grown primarily in Friuli and the Veneto; in the Veneto, the white grape is known as Tai and the red as Tai Rosso).
We sampled a 2010 bottling of Tai Rosso from the Colli Berici DOC area in the province of Vicenza. This variety is thought to be an offshoot of Garnacha from Spain or Cannonau from Sardegna. The grape has very light amounts of anthocyanins, resulting in a red wine that looks more like a rosato than a rosso. The wine was lovely with wonderful fresh cherry and currant fruit as well as tart acidity and light tannins. In some ways, it resembled a Bardolino in its delicacy and freshness, but the Tai Rosso not only has a lighter color, but also more spice. It could be enjoyed at cellar temperature, although I’d love it this time of year slightly chilled- foods such as salumi, lighter pastas or soups would be wonderful pairings.
The Friularo from the Bagnoli DOC in the province of Padova was a completely different style of red, one with much deeper color (deep ruby red), richer tannins and with a structure meant for 10-12 years of aging (this was a 2005 bottling, so wines from bigger vintages, such as 2004 or 2007, would be capable of longer aging). The grape is known as Raboso in other parts of Veneto, but in this DOC, it is labeled as Friularo. This was a marvelous wine, one with flavors of plum and cacao and one that had a beautifully defined mid-palate and layers of flavor. 100% of the grapes were dried for four months before fermentation (a la Amarone), giving the wine a gorgeous texture in the mouth and excellent persistence. This was a wonderful find for everyone at the tasting.
Other wines presented at the seminar included a Raboso from the Piave DOC in the province of Treviso, the marvelous dessert wine Torcolato di Breganze, produced from the Vespaiolo grape and a lovely sparkling wine known as Fior d’Arancio Spumante from the Colli Euganei. This is made entirely from the Moscato Giallo grape, as with the more famous Moscato d’Asti wine of Piemonte and like that wine, the alcohol is quite low (5.5%). It has gorgeous apricot and honey aromas and a sensual delicacy and light sweetness that are irresistible. Endrici mentioned that this is a difficult sell, given the worldwide success of Moscato d’Asti and that even in the local area, producers have a difficult time finding customers for this wine. How nice then for the Veneto group to come here and present this wine!
I commented that the wines of Veneto are a microcosm for the entire Italian wine industry, as this is a region known for many types of wines, from sparkling (Prosecco and Fior d’Arancia Spumante) to whites (Soave, Lugana) to lighter reds (Bardolino, Tai Rosso) to more full-bodied reds (Bagnoli Friularo, Amarone) to dessert wines, both white (Torcolato, Recioto di Soave) and red (Recioto di Valpolicella). Every color of the viticultural rainbow can be found in Italy and you really don’t need to go any farther than Veneto to enjoy this wide range of offerings.
This was a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved to understand the broad spectrum of Venetian wines and I am delighted to have had the occasion to be introduced to several wines I rarely have the chance to taste during my travels. Learning about the wines of Veneto is just one more reason why Italian wines are so extraordinary, given their distinctiveness and of course, their amazing quality.
A personal note of thanks to several individuals for making these events happen and for their assistance with my role this week. Thank you to Aurora Endrici, Paolo Doglioni and Fabio Coronin from Centro Estero Veneto, Augusto Marchini and Fred Marripodi of the Italian Trade Commission in New York City and finally, Patrick Capriati of the Italian Trade Commission in Chicago.
Ask any wine lover about Prosecco and you’ll probably get some pretty similar responses. It’s a fun wine, it’s bubbly and it’s inexpensive. All of those are true and those factors have helped make Prosecco a substantial success in the United States.
But ask those same wine drinkers if they think that Prosecco is an excellent or a serious wine and chances are you’ll get some strange looks. Very few people really think much about Prosecco – they just drink it! That’s not a bad thing to be certain, but it’s difficult to get consumers to consider the wine’s quality.
I have to admit that while I have enjoyed some special bottlings of Prosecco over the past few years, I don’t think much about the wine and if I want a sparkling wine for dinner, it’s usually Franciacorta from Italy or Champagne. So a recent trip I took to the Conegliano Valdiobbiadene area courtesy of the Prosecco Consorzio of was a bit of an eye-opening experience.
Let me start by defining Prosecco; where it’s grown, the grapes used, etc. The name Prosecco is now used in a few zones in Italy as the wine has become a major phenomenon. Prosecco can be made in Friuli, but the original area and the heart of the true Prosecco is located in the province of Treviso in northern Veneto in an area between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. It is in hillside vineyards in this territory where the finest bottlings of Prosecco emerge and to honor these offerings, the coveted DOCG status has recently been awarded to the wines of this zone. The wines are now known as Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore; in this case, the word Superiore does not denote longer aging, but rather it signifies the highest quality. (The neighboring zone of Colli Asolani has also been classified as DOCG for Prosecco). The first DOCG wines from the 2009 vintage went on sale in the market on April 1, 2010.
Prosecco is a sparkling wine that has two types: frizzante, or lightly sparkling (recognizable by the string – spago – closure) and spumante or fully sparkling. The grape used is also called Prosecco and the minimum requirement is 85%; other varieties such as Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay can be used up to 15%, but in reality, most bottlings of Prosecco are made from 100% Prosecco grape. One note about the grape: in the area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, the grape is known as Glera, but that is the only place where it is permissible for that name to be used. In other areas where Prosecco DOC (not DOCG) will still be produced (a total of eight other provinces in northern Italy), the grape must be identified as Prosecco.
The wine itself is made by a method called Charmat where the secondary fermentation takes place in a tank instead of the bottle itself, which is how Champagne and other famous sparkling wines are produced. The Charmat method is ideal with Prosecco, as it emphasizes the delicate fruitiness of the Prosecco grape; these are wines to be enjoyed in their youth. Note also that Prosecco is bottled under less pressure than Champagne, which means is is a bit softer on the palate, which helps explain its popularity.
Most producers make different bottlings based on residual sugar level; the driest is Brut, the next level (slightly sweet) is Extra Dry – this is the most typical and usually the best-selling wine a producer makes – and then Dry, which in this case means medium-sweet! For the record, the numbers are as follows: Brut is a category with 0-13 grams of residual sugar, Extra Dry is 12-20, while Dry is 17-35.
Here is a brief list of some of the top producers of Prosecco in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area:
- Carpene Malvolti
- Le Manzane
- Nino Franco
- Sorelle Branca
- Villa Sandi
These producers not only make the traditional Extra Dry and Brut versions of Prosecco, but also special bottlings that are richer on the palate and more aromatic and with much greater complexity than the regular offerings. Some of these are from single vineyards known as rive, while there are also some spectacular bottlings from the Cartizze hill. Several of these producers (such as Mionetto and Perlage, just to name two) are making wines from biodynamically farmed vineyards. In my next post, I will share my thoughts on some of these products.