Totally Italian Wine Class

Die-hard wine enthusiasts braved below freezing temperatures and gave up cozy spots by their firesides to come and taste Italian wines on Sunday afternoon at Dante Pizzeria Nepoletana.

Along with some tantalizing tidbits from Chef Nick’s kitchen which included prosciutto, salami, various cheeses, olives and toasted bread, we made our way through several of Italy’s regions.

First off was a popular favorite, Bricco Riella’s 2010 Moscato d’Asti.  A “frizzante” or slightly effervescent wine, this light, refreshing, slightly sweet bubbly comes in at a whopping 8% alcohol, a perfect aperitif.  Not to be confused with bottles labeled only “Asti”, Moscato d’Asti is made with better quality grapes and always has a vintage on the label.  In addition to the great DOCG’s (Italy’s highest quality designation for a region) of Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont, Moscato d’Asti has also attained this status along with Brachetto d’Acqui, Gattinara, Ghemme and Gavi.

Giuseppe Savini’s dedication to producing quality wines from indigenous varietals paid off with his 2009 Pecorino. Located in Morro D’Oro, in Abruzzo (a region next to Tuscany) this wine represents the careful approach taken to bringing out the best in a grape’s character.  A clean, dry white wine from a near extinct variety is slightly aromatic and has the minerally character and acidity which is representative of Italian whites in general and makes them such a good pairing with food.

Coltibuono’s 2008 Chianti Classico has been written up in I Vini d’Italia’s best buy for the year. It represents the classic aromas and flavors of Chianti’s queen of grapes, the sangiovese, which, in this case, is organically farmed (a bit of canaiolo was blended in as well).  Ruby in color, medium-bodied, with approachable tannins, ripe aromas of cherries and plums dominate. The tobacco and persistent smokiness I tasted on the finish was a result of the wine being aged in French and Austrian barrels for 12 months.

To round out the tasting, we paid a tribute to one of Italy’s highest quality red grapes, the Aglianico, which acquired its fame in the southern region of Campania.  Pronounced (eye yahn’ eeko), these wines are characteristically deep in color and often have a graphite-scented aroma (remember that pencil you chewed on in grade school??).  Terra di Brigant,i whose 2007 Aglianico we tasted, planted vineyards found at altitudes of 350m (+1,000ft) and are farmed organically.  The winemaking process included an 18-20 maceration (soaking on the skins) and after fermentation, aged in barrel.  Malolactic fermentation (ML) gives the wine a round, soft mouthfeel adding to its appeal.  All in all, the favorite for the evening.

Cheers to Italian wines!

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