Posts tagged ‘mionetto’
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A few thoughts today about some very tasty Italian wines I’ve enjoyed recently. Some of these are quite famous, a few not so famous, but they’re all extremely well made wines that offer a great deal of pleasure, both on their own and at the dinner table.
2012 Livio Felluga Sauvignon - I’m guessing that almost everyone who is an Italian wine lover has enjoyed a wine from the Livio Felluga estate at some point. Certainly the Pinot Grigio is one of the most famous examples in Italy and it’s also on my list as one of the most delicious. But the entire lineup is a brilliant array of vibrant whites and edgy reds that are evidence of the excellence of this estate, located in the Colli Orientali district of the Friuli region in far northeastern Italy.
Particularly memorable is the Sauvignon. This is the same Sauvignon Blanc grape that is grown throughout the world; however in Italy, it is known simply as Sauvignon. The examples from Friuli and Alto Adige, another cool climate northern Italian region, offer very good acidity as well as strong aromas and flavors; the 2012 offering from Livio Felluga displays attractive aromas of Bosc pear, freshly cut hay, spearmint and chervil. These aromas are textbook for this variety and it’s nice to find such complexity in the nose and on the palate. However, lest you think this is an intense wine, think again, as this is a harmonious wine with beautiful balance, excellent persistence, precise acidity and ideal varietal character. This is a delicious Sauvignon and while that term is often used for Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco or other lighter Italian whites, it’s not often applied to Sauvignon. But here it is and it’s very enjoyable on its own, although the subtle herbal characteristics of this wine deem it an appropriate partner for sautéed scallops or shrimp with lemon or ginger, while grouper or tilapia would also be ideal with this excellent white. Enjoy it tonight or over the next 3-5 years. (Suggested US retail of $26)
2013 Attems Pinot Grigio - I don’t drink much Pinot Grigio, as I find too many examples to be too simple for my tastes. This doesn’t mean they’re bad wines, it’s just that the wines are made as crowd pleasers, aimed at offending no one instead of trying to please with specific characteristics. One Pinot Grigio I did taste recently that offered a little more complexity- as well as richness on the palate – is the 2013 Attems Pinot Grigio. This wine is also from Friuli and it’s from the splendid 2013 vintage, one that was cool and ideal for whites with expressive aromatics and wines with admirable structure, given their beautiful acidity levels. This has aromas of yellow apples and lilacs, is medium-bodied and is quite dry. This is a must with food – pair it with risotto with seafood or chicken with vegetables. (SPR -$19)
2013 Cantina di Soave “Rocca Sveva” Soave Classico - I don’t have as much space as I’d like to discuss my love of Soave, a wine that’s remarkably misunderstood in this country. It’s too often thought of as a summer white, a term I dislike, as it equates to saying the wine is a simple quaffer with little to offer. Yes, there are some examples of Soave that are a bit one-dimensional, but price will often give you a clue to the identity of those wines.
The Soave district in the Veneto region – about a 30-minute drive from the lovely town of Verona – is actually home to at least three extinct volcanoes, so yes, the soils in much of this district are volcanic, which means the best examples of Soave Classico have a distinct minerality to them as well as excellent complexity. This isn’t to say that these are weighty, “ultra serious” wines, as they are very appealing in their youth; it’s just that the best examples of Soave are multi-dimensional wines that can age for anywhere from five to fifteen to even twenty years in a few instances.
All of this is a preface to let you know how much I enjoyed the 2013 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico from Cantina di Soave. This is a large cooperative, located just behind the famous castello in the town of Soave. You can bring in demi-johns and fill them up with the basic Soave for a very inexpensive price or you can enjoy their finest selection of Soave under the Rocca Sveva label. This 2013 is a beautiful wine with enticing aromas of honeydew melon, honey and magnolia – just textbook. Medium-full with a rich mid-palate and a lengthy finish, this is especially nice this year, as it’s from the excellent 2013 vintage, which as mentioned above, was outstanding for white wines. In fact, this is the finest version of this wine I have tasted! This is so delicious on its own, but even better with vegetable risotto, sole or roast chicken. (SRP $15 – a great value. I can’t say I’ve had even one or two other $15 whites that are this good!)
By the way, the three white wines I mentioned above are fermented and aged in stainless steel – no oak on these! I prefer this approach more often than not (although there are numerous oak-aged whites I think are first-rate). It all depends on the wine, but my point here is that there are so many brilliant whites wines that never see oak.
Mionetto Prosecco “Valdobbiadene Superiore” DOCG - Finally, a note on a very charming sparkling wine. Everyone knows about Prosecco, especially given its proliferation on the shelves of not only wine stores, but also supermarkets. It seems as there are dozens of $12 Proseccos everywhere and while these are pleasant, if undistinguished wines, spend a few dollars more – as little as $15 – and you can find a Prosecco that will interest you and your friends. In other words, these are Proseccos you wouldn’t dream of mixing with peach juice!
For just under $20 you can find an excellent Prosecco that’s one of the most elegant and flavorful I’ve tasted in a while. That’s the Mionetto Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, labeled as Extra Dry. In order to identify the finest examples of Prosecco, the regulations were changed a few years ago to let consumers know that the true home of Prosecco are the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene; this is important to know as the term Prosecco by itself has become somewhat generic as inexpensive sparkling wines from Friuli can be called Prosecco. Pleasant wines, perhaps, but not wines with much complexity.
Mionetto has been one of the leading producers of true Prosecco for some time now and their products are quite good and very representative of the heart of the real Prosecco zone. They’ve recently introduced their line of luxury cuvées of specialty Prosecco. This DOCG is well made with appealing lemon peel, chamomile and peony aromas, an off-dry finish (though dry enough for food) and an elegant finish. This is very refreshing and enjoyable on its own- I’ve enjoyed it with take-out Chinese food as well as seafood salad and I’m sure it would also be fine with lighter white meats. I can’t imagine a fan of Prosecco not loving this and wanting to find a few bottles for themselves.
Cartizze Vineyards (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
In my previous post on Prosecco, I covered the basics of this wine. I would now like to write about some of the special wines emerging from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene district, which has recently been awarded DOCG status.
For years now, many of the top estates in this area have been producing a wine from the Cartizze hill, located just outside the town of Valdobbiadene. This hill, encompassing 107 hectares (264 acres), is recognized as arguably the finest vineyard area for the production of Prosecco – in other words, this is the Grand Cru of Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Wines made from here generally offer more complex aromatics (such as chamomile and elder flowers), are richer on the palate and unlike the basic bottlings of Prosecco, can age for 2-3 years. Curiously, most bottlings carry the Dry designation (which is actually medium sweet), although there are a few examples of Cartizze Brut. Among the best examples of Cartizze are the bottlings from Adami, Bisol, Bortolomiol, Mionetto and Villa Sandi. Prices are generally in the $25-$35 range on American retail shelves.
There are other single vineyard wines; one of my favorites is the “Particella 68″ produced by Sorelle Branca. The number 68 refers to the number of the parcel of this vineyard on the local map. This site is dominated by granitic soils, which adds minerality and limits yields. This wine offers more beautiful aromas of Bosc pear and musk oil and is very dry and refreshing with precise acidity.
One of the new terms that will be used for Prosecco is the word rive (singular riva), which refers to a single vineyard, commune or village of origin that has been singled out for its quality. Bottlings of rive must be of the full sparking (spumante) version and must be vintage-dated.
Organic viticulture is becoming an important movement for growers in this area and is clearly a reason for the high quality of some of the best bottlings of Prosecco. The Treviso Brut from Mionetto is made from organically farmed vineyards (labeled as biologica agricoltura on Italian labels); this means that no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers were used in the vineyard. Mionetto has also taken an extra step in presenting a natural product, as recycled materials were used for the label and the shipper carton. As for the wine itself, the aromas feature notes of green apples and papaya; there is good weight on the palate and a lengthy, elegant feel on the finish with lively acidity. This is a first-rate Prosecco!
Perlage Winery is a leader in natural winemaking; it was certified organic in 1985. One of their bottlings, Animae, is made with no added sulfites, which is believed to be not only the lone Prosecco of this type, but perhaps the only sparkling wine in the world made in this manner. Clearly, the grapes used for the production of this wine must be of extremely high quality and the work in the cellar must be precise. The must stays in contact with a specially cultivated yeast from October to February before the secondary fermentation. The wine, a Brut, offers intriguing aromas of caramel, brown sugar and herbal tea, a departure from the normal white peach fruitiness of most examples of Prosecco. The finish is quite dry and the wine has admirable structure; this is clearly a showcase example of what Prosecco can be.
So the new DOCG classification for Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene comes at a time when more and more producers in this area are looking to expand the definition of Prosecco from a simple sparkler to a wine of complexity, elegance and finesse – characteristics of great wines from around the world.
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.