Exploring Verdicchio: One of Italy’s Most Ageable White Grapes (Preview)

For September’s #ItalianFWT, we’ll be exploring this amazing white grape of the Marche region, one of the most beautiful regions on the Adriatic coast. In our previous episodes, we discovered Trebbiano di Soave from Veneto (Verdicchio this month) and Trebbiano di Lugana (or Turbiana) from Lombardia, the former two being genetically identical, whereas the latter is more correctly termed as a biotype. In any case, it has been fun, not to mention interesting, to look at these grapes and now to connect the dots with this third!

This is a wine that always has lees ageing for added texture and complexity. Some have a bit of oak ageing while others are completely in stainless steel. There’s Castelli dei Jesi Verdicchio (Classico/Superiore) the region closer to the sea and on the hillsides which gives pleasant floral and delicate fruit aromas in its youth, with more Riesling-like characteristics of flint, sponge toffee and even the kerosene with ageing. Verdicchio di Matelica which is grown higher into the mountains will have higher acidity, alcohol and body with a little more austerity.

Some of the beautiful seafood dishes (and there’s those olives!) prepared for me while on my first trip to Marche

Not only that, but Verdicchio makes stunning sparklers and even the odd passito wine. This gastronomic region is home to plenty of seafood dishes, gorgeous cheeses from sheep, goat or cow, truffles, egg pastas, not to mention the olive all’ascolana, olives stuffed with meat and bread, and then deep fried, a local dish from the Ascoli-Piceno area. If you’ve ever tried these, you know what I’m talking about!

Le Marche is one of the most stunning regions in all of Italy, and truly a hidden gem! From the beaches to the mountains, and the rolling hills in-between, there is so much to discover in this amazingly beautiful region! So, come with me virtually on a food and Verdicchio wine adventure to Le Marche! Please post your title in the event page on Facebook, or email me your title with your blog URL to joyofwine69@gmail.com by August 29 if possible. Posts should be live by Friday, September 3 and then you can be a part of our Twitter chat on Saturday, September 4!

Enjoy the land of Marche!

From the mountains… (Le Marche 2016)

to the sea! (Le Marche 2016)

 

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A Tour of Wines of Lombardia and Toasting to Lugana – #ItalianFWT

This month for #ItalianFWT, we travel to Lombardia, where international and native grapes live in harmony. Nebbiolo (known here as Chiavennasca) is highly underrated, but appellations like Valtellina are becoming more and more known on the Italian wine stage, with the five sub-regions creating flavour nuances, just like the cru areas of Barolo. If you’ve had great Chiavennasca, you know it, as it’s highly perfumed with loads of cherry and rose aroma; lean yet elegant with balanced acidity and tannins. Perhaps you’ve seen labels of Sassella? That’s Valtellina’s most well-known and long standing sub-region. Sforzato or Sfursat is even more unique with the nebbiolo grapes being air-dried before fermentation, which leads to intense and complex wines with at least 14% abv. (Think Amarone, but less powerful and more elegant).

But there are other native grapes and styles of wine that are important and highly lauded in Lombardia. I have access to a lot of great wines in my market, but wish there was more Oltrepo Pavese, a region that is well known for its traditional method sparkling wines made with Pinot Nero. In fact, many don’t know that Oltrepo Pavese is the largest, and most productive sub-region of Lombardia! Furthermore, it is a stronghold for Pinot Nero and has made a name for itself with this grape. They also make a wealth of still wines in this region from grapes like Croatina (most planted red grape of Lombardia), Barbera, Pinot Noir, and white wine from Moscato Bianco.

Let’s not forget about world famous Franciacorta, another sub-region known for its traditional method sparkling wines. Like Champagne, made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, but unlike Champagne, instead of Meunier, the wines will have Pinot Bianco. Now with the introduction of the native grape Erbamat, the wines of Franciocorta will be even more unique and definitely more Italian.

If you ever get a chance to taste Moscato di Scanzo, you’ll have tasted a sweet passito wine from Italy’s smallest DOCG. A rare grape from the red muscat family, it will be a wine you soon won’t forget. Sweet, yes, but balanced with high acidity and the spicy floral berry notes will have you swooning. I’ve never seen these in the North American market, which is really a shame, because these are fantastic wines.

Chiaretto  (KEY-ah-ret-tow) is what the locals here call rose, typical along the shores of Lake Garda. On the Lombardia side, we can see grapes such as Marzemino, Barbera, Sangiovese and the Gropello group, making these fabulous rosati!

Lugana is a DOC shared between Lombardia and Veneto, with the shores of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake separating the two. The appellation itself is on the southern shores of the lake, with the biggest chunk of the DOC landing in Lombardia. This is where it gets confusing: the grape here is Trebbiano di Lugana, which has been discovered as a biotype of Trebbiano di Soave (Veneto) which is also known as Verdicchio in Marche. (Stay tuned, we’ll be talking about the wines of Verdicchio in September’s #ItalianFWT). To make it even MORE confusing, growers and producers (at least on the Veneto side), decided that having the name Trebbiano in the grape name, and have it associated with others (some of those being of significantly lower quality) from the Trebbiano family, opted for the name Turbiana.  With that said, in most cases we typically only see the region on the bottle. (Lugana, Soave)

For our purposes, I’m calling it Trebbiano di Lugana, since the wine I’m sharing with you is from the Lugana region. A typical Trebbiano di Lugana is marked by high acidity, medium to full body, minerality and complexity that only increases with age. The aroma and flavour profile is white flowers, yellow apples, stone fruits, flint, nuts and sweet spices. I’m a big fan of this grape and the wine. You can make still wines, vendemmia tardiva (late harvest) and spumante, the latter two being in small quantities and likely never exported. The levels of quality in the still wines are as follows:

  • Lugana- the youngest and most fruit-forward, being released shortly after harvest.
  • Lugana Superiore – more complex and structured, with an ageing requirement of 12 months before release.
  • Lugana Riserva – aged for 24 months before release, with at least six months in bottle. It is the most age-worthy of the styles with fuller body and higher alcohol.

Ca’ dei Frati was founded in 1939 when patriarch Felice Dal Cero settled on the Lombardy region side of the Lugana appellation. It’s called Ca’ dei Frati or “friar house,” because it was once owned by monks who grew grapes there. If you were to look at the “tech sheet” for their Lugana wine, they call this grape Turbiana! Incidentally, this is the wine that put this winery on the map and what they are most well known for, considered the jewel in their crown! Personally, I love this wine, and it shows typicity of the grape with aromas of stone fruits (lots of peach and apricot in this wine), along with hints of tropical fruit, a touch of basil and almond, and of course that typical Trebbiano acidity.

This wine screamed fish, so that is what I did! Of course, being summer, lots of fresh vegetables are always on the menu, and the fettucine alfredo with zucchini and a side of asparagus completed the light miso cod. I was SUPER happy with how the pasta turned out and it ended up to be a really great match as the creaminess of the pasta offset the high acidity and gave the wine a creamy texture…almost like peach pie with ice cream. Each bite was savoured and paired magnificently with my food! In fact, I’m not the foodie in the crowd and I was so focused on actually getting a really great dish prepared, I almost forgot to take a picture of the wine! I grabbed a shot of the bottle and you can see my glass in the corner of the food plate photo! Phew! An actual well thought out, planned and executed meal on my end that reaped huge results!

 

Let’s see what the other member of #ItalianFWT are up to and where they are taking us in Lombardia!

See you next time! Salute!

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Making Pinot Grigio Ramato :The Dal Cero Family of Corte Giocobbe

It’s been a while since you’ve seen me. I think I have a good excuse! Mr Joy of Wine and myself decided to put our house up for sale, and after meeting with a realtor on April 6, we set off doing the little things (and a few VERY big things too…) to make our house more appealing to potential buyers. On May 21 the sign went up and two weeks later, it was officially sold! Three weeks after that we packed up and moved our house into a rental townhouse unit closer to where both of us work. I do know I had some nice bottles of wine during that time (and also shared some with others), but with the life busy-ness I often just forget to post!

Now that we’re mostly settled, I’m glad to be back in the groove with the #ItalianFWT and this month’s theme of Ramato wines, a hugely popular, trendy style of Pinot Grigio made by using some skin contact to obtain that ramato (copper) colour of the wine.

Where I live, we have no monopoly, and there are a LOT of pinot grigios. So much so, that it tends to get overwhelming for the consumer. True story:  when I started at my current job, we had over 30 different pinot grigi on the shelf. Seriously? That’s 25 too many if you ask me and if it was ramato, it most definitely stood out! The Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe Pinot Grigio Ramato, happens to be one of the best selling pinot grigios in the entire province. For my friend who imports this wine, it’s his best selling and indeed his bread and butter. It’s so good, we keep stacks of it available!

The Dal Cero family is now three generations of properties and winemaking with sites in the Cortona region of Tuscany, Soave, and Valpolicella. If you see labels of Dal Cero, Tenuta di Corte Giocobbe or Tenuta Montecchiesi, it’s all owned by the Dal Cero family whose ancestral home is in Soave.

It’s a family affair with siblings Davide managing the vineyards and winemaking, Francesca takes care of exports, and Nico looks after the Italian market. If I may be so bold:  this family does not make a bad bottle of wine! Their pinot grigio ramato is likely one of their most exported wines.

I’ve tried many ramato style wines, but I always come back to this one, because the aromatics and flavours punch it well above its competitors, and great quality at its price point. Immediately upon pulling the cork, the aromas of peach waft out of the bottle. This wine is hugely aromatic! Pour into a glass and the peaches morph into mango, tangerine and some bitter Italian herbs. The acidity was super zingy which always makes it a great match with any food, but my simple meal of grilled sauteed vegetables and a loaded hamburger – one of my favourite summertime meals, accentuated the Italian herbs from the nose onto the palate. Happy Canada Day from me and a great start to a summer of fantastic patio wines!  

I hope you’ll join us tomorrow for the Twitter chat and read these other great posts from my collegues at #ItalianFWT:

Salute and Happy Summer!

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Bellone: The Great White Grape of Lazio #ItalianFWT

This month at #ItalianFWT, we turn our focus to Lazio, a region well known for its culture, famous landmarks, and Italy’s capital city: Rome. Frascati also dwells in Lazio with the grapes of Malvasia del Lazio (Puntinata) and Malvasia di Candia, along with Trebbiano, that take centre stage.

Bellone, however, is native grape of outstanding quality. It is an ancient grape dating back to Roman times and is capable of producing both dry and sweet wines (it likes noble rot). What I’ve tasted reminds me of Chardonnay in some form, so working in a retail environment, it’s a correlation that people can understand: If you like Chardonnay, I’ll bet you will like Bellone! Sadly, many of the vines of Bellone got ripped up and producers who have the opportunity to make some great Cannellino Frascati DOCG, don’t use Bellone, but rather inferior grape varieties.

 

 

If you DO happen to come across Bellone, it’s a fabulous wine, and one of my favourite whites to drink! Casale del Giglio was founded in 1967 by Dino Santarelli.  The vineyards are located 50km south of Rome where the Mediterranean oceanic climate with persistent sea breezes and warm, mild days with cool nights give the grapes the much needed diurnal swing to keep the acidity high, while allowing a fast ripening process. Indigenous yeasts are used, adding to the complexity of the wine. No oak here, just four months in stainless steel to keep the wine fresh and the acidity high. 

 

What a beautiful colour this wine was! Yellow with a green tinge; an expressive nose of citrus and melon, along with hints of papaya and pineapple. On the palate, the citrus and melon continued with medium body, high saline acidity and a bitter almond finish! It went down pretty easy…

When choosing this wine, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would pair with it at the time, but decided something with umamu might fit the bill! It was Taco Tuesday so it worked out perfectly! The saltiness of the meat, along with the added creaminess of the cheese and the acidic bite of the tomatoes worked very well with the wine! It was so good that I had to have two tacos (and another glass of Bellone…)

If you’d like to know more about the wines of Lazio, please check out what the other #ItalianFWT bloggers are writing about!

Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Lazio in California: The Quintessential Roman Pasta + 2017 Big Sur Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve

Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: Alberico Appia Antica 400 Rosso 2016 paired with Stracci di Antrodoco

Terri at Our Good Life: Pietro Est! Est!! Est!!! with Crab Dip Crostinis

Susannah at Avvinare: Cesanese del Piglio, Classic Wines From Lazio

Gwendolyn at Wine Predator: “If You See Kay” — Lazio in Paso Robles? #ItalianFWT

Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles: Lazio – Exploring low intervention wines inspired by tradition and nature #Italian FWT

Katarina at Grapevine Adventures: How Wine in Lazio is Reimagining its Past Greatness

Enjoy everyone! Salute and Buona Pasqua !

 

 

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White Rioja: Taste & See What You’re Missing #WorldWineTravel

White Rioja. It’s like White Bordeaux or White Burgundy. I mean, we all know straight up what Rioja, Bordeaux or Burgundy is but ask for white, and the average joe might go…huh?  Burgundy not so much, but when someone comes into the store asking for White Bordeaux or White Rioja, my heart goes pitter patter. YES! Someone who knows exactly what they want!

Many of us in #ItalianFWT have crossed over to discuss other regions of the world, and 2021 is a focus on the regions of Spain for #WorldWineTravel. Rioja is a great place to start, given that it’s one of the oldest regions and only one of two with the highest quality designation. I always say “God bless the Spaniards”, because they have done the ageing for us! In fact, it’s not unusual to see Rioja wines aged 10 years, or even more. Currently, I have a 2001 on the shelf at the store – that’s 20 years old and she’s drinking beautifully!

So what does White Rioja mean exactly? Viura is THE white grape of Rioja (also called Macabeo, when referenced to Cava, or other regions of Spain) and traditionally these wines were made in an oxidative style. Expose the wine to air and get all those toasted nutty notes. My fellow writer Lauren from The Swirling Dervish, has already given us a  great review of white Rioja and talked specifically about Lopez de Heredia. She actually OPENED her wines to taste, and I have to say, I was living vicariously through her tasting notes and pairings! I am not yet ready to open mine.

The WHITE of Lopez de Heredia are far more of a cult wine than the reds. That being said, the reds are outstanding, and I have several available for sale at the store where I work. The whites however, are twice as much in price as the reds, and in my store, you can’t buy a bottle of white without buying at least two of the reds as well.  If I didn’t do that, I’d end up with 48 bottles of red and no white on the shelves! That’s the way it is. I named my price and they will sell. These are whites that are capable of great ageing, and their rosé is even more cultish. I’ve got that too, and it will wait patiently in my wine fridge for the right time and the right people to open it with. (Perhaps this summer or fall when COVID is a distant memory? One can only hope…) As you can see by the photo, the age of these wines range from 10-12 years. Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to open them just yet.

What I DID open was pretty spectacular though. The Bodegas de la Marques Valseranno in Rioja Alavesa is a family owned winery, now owned by the 4th generation, and currently being run by the 5th generation. Vines are an average age of 30 years and in their 65 hectares of estate land (along with 15 ha of vineyards they purchase from), tempranillo, garnacha, mazuelo(carignan), graciano and viura are cultivated. The natural underground cellars, which are over 200 years old, are home to the barrels for ageing.

Their viura (macabeo) is grown in the poorest soils, yet at the highest altitudes with great ventilation and the best sun exposure.  Interestingly, the back of the bottle tells me that this wine is 95% Viura with 5% Malvasia, yet the website says they’ve added Chardonnay for extra body and texture. With that said, I don’t know the percantage. Indeed, there is texture, but I feel it’s due to the batonnage stirrings weekly.  It’s also been fermented in new Allier oak, which would of course, add to the all around flavour of this wine. On the nose, I found honeydew melon, Meyer lemon, sponge toffee and hints of vanilla cookie. On the palate, more melon, honeycomb, yellow apple, medium+ acidity, with a nice full body mouth feel (from the lees ageing no doubt), and a slightly oxidative finish that was really quite long. Super impressive! I am a big fan of white wine in general (It never gets the respect it deserves…). Give me a well made, good, ageable white wine and I’m happy! After a long week of work, I didn’t want to cook, so I ordered in for myself and Mr. Joy of Wine. Shawarma was the perfect match to this wine with all the salty, sweet, flavourful combos of the tabouli, chicken, pickled veggies and pita. There was enough body in this wine to make it work!

Rioja anyone? Want to see what my fellow writers are talking about? Check out all things Rioja with these posts on #worldwinetravel!

  • Andrea at The Quirky Cork shares “Marqués de Cáceres Crianza with Chorizo Sweet Potato Pockets”
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Mexican Ham Soup and a Spanish Rioja Wine”
  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Catalan Coques + La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Rioja Gran Reserva 2014”
  • Steve at Children of the Grape shares “Tasting Rioja With Aging Eyes”
  • Allison and Chris at Advinetures share “Rioja: The Confluence of Tradition & Modernity”
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Viura – There is more to Rioja than Tempranillo”
  • David at Cooking Chat shares “White Bean Stew with Sausage and a Rioja”
  • Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Revisiting Rioja: Vinedos Singulares with Bodegas Ontañon”
  • Nicole at Somms Table shares “One Day in Haro”
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “White Rioja: There’s a Style for Every Palate”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Classic Rioja Alta to kick off virtual trip to Spain”
  • Terri at Our Good Life shares “Our First Rioja with Assorted Easy Tapas”
  • Susannah at Avvinare shares “Exploring Legendary Winery Marqués de Riscal”
  • Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Regional Rioja: Tempranillo, Viura, Rosado paired with hearty soup, salad, lamb, papas frites”
  • Martin of ENOFYLZ shares Reconsider Rioja Blanca with Lopez de Heredia
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Rioja Oriental – A Cinderella Story”

Salud!

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