What To Drink Now: Wines of Italy

I did a post not too long ago celebrating the wines of Italy, but in light of the recent coronavirus scare with the entire country going on a government-mandated lockdown, I am once again bringing their beautiful, elegant, expressive wines to light. The producers of the country need your support, and, bonus, many of their incredible offerings deliver premium quality for very affordable prices.

Valdobbiadene, Prosecco, Italy

Any day should be a day for bubbles, and if you aren’t drinking the good stuff now, when do you? UNESCO World Heritage site, Conegliano-Valdobaidenne is home to Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Within Northeastern Italy’s Veneto region, one of the hardest hit by the virus right now, the Conegliano-Valdobaidenne has just recently been proclaimed a World Heritage site because of the unique terroir of the area, adding distinct character to the fruit-filled, highly refreshing sparklers produced from the Italian Glera variety.

One of the region’s premium producers, crafting delicate sparklers from organically grown vines is Perlage. From the oldest vineyard on their estate, with vines averaging 60 years old, Perlage Riva Moretta Valdobaidenne Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($17) is vibrant and clean, with delicate notes of white flowers, green apple, and lemon, with a touch of crushed stone minerality, adding additional character to the refreshing sparkler.

Fragrant and fresh, layering white flowers and honeysuckle with lemon pie, apple, and pear notes, Adami Bosco di Gica Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($22) is rich and creamy, delivering a balanced, textured sparkler.

Schiava Vineyards in Alto Adige
Schiava Vineyards in Alto Adige

North of the Veneto, in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains, you arrive in heaven on earth, the stunning region of Alto Adige-Sudtirol. With a distinct old world, almost Bavarian feel, the region thrives thanks to the farming industry. Hard-working Italians farm apples on the valley floors, and vineyards on the hilltops and mountains.

Schlutzkrapfen, the typical ravioli of Alto Adige

The food is hearty, influenced by the Austrian and German cuisine of their neighboring countries, as well as Northern Italian flavors, all paired with crisp, lively, juicy white wines and light-bodied reds of the region. Hearty sausages, grilled lamb, polenta, and schnitzel are easily paired with fresh Pinot Bianco, juicy Pinot Grigio, floral Gewurtztraminer, crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and a dozen other aromatic white wines, along with Pinot Nero, Lagrein, Schiava, Cab Franc, and Merlot. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with equally as lovely people.

Almost 100 years ago, Alois Lageder, was founded in the small village of Magre. With an eye on Mother Earth, the family began sustainable farming practices early on, with the fifth and sixth generation carrying on these holistic practices today. Alois Lageder “Forra” Manzoni Bianco ($31) is a crossing of Riesling and Pinot Bianco created in the 1930s and creating a spicy, orchard fruit-filled wine with hints of crushed stone and silex. Very dry, with great acidity, and a full-body, making it a perfect pairing with hearty dishes, delivering a concentrated, structured wine. Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige is unlike any in the world, thanks to the high elevations of the vineyards, fruit-forward wines maintain incredible freshness and brightness, as in Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio ($26.) Slightly earthy, with distinct minerality, the aromatic white shines with honeydew, golden peach, candied ginger, and lemon.

From the Veneto, blending the classic red varieties of Valpolicella, including Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Zenato Alanera Rosso Veronese ($20) highlights a fresh expression of typically rustic, hearty varieties, with a touch of the dried fruit notes typical for the beloved Amarone wines of the area. Fresh red cherry and dried black cherry notes lift from the glass, followed by dried plum, dark chocolate, and toasted oak.

Spicy, aromatic, and rich, with lovely texture, Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone Della Valpolicella ($50) reveals the classic character of wines produced in the appassimento process of drying the fruit on mats after harvest, before pressing, to concentrate the juice. Black and red cherry, dried fig, black licorice, pepper, and black licorice marry together for a perfect pairing with smoked brisket, braised beef, slow-roasted wild game.

Chianti Classico

Showcasing the heart of Tuscany, organically grown Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG ($20) reveals a rustic, well-structured wine with bold Italian character, revealing black fruit, woody herb, crushed stone, warm spice like clove and nutmeg, and dried leather. When the world is back to normal again, Badia a Coltibuono wonderful gastro-tourism, including offering cooking classes, wine and olive oil tastings, and the opportunity to stay and dine on their property that was formerly an Abbey dating back to the 11th Century.

From the Cotarella brothers in a small village in Umbria, Vitiano Rosso Umbria IGP ($17) blends stainless steel fermented Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to create a well-rounded, easy-going blend with ripe black plum, anise, raspberry jam, and dried tobacco.

 

Piemonte, Italy

The earthy, dense, structured Nebbiolo fruit of Barolo, Piemonte, in the northwest corner of Italy, has always held a very special place in my heart. The king of Italian wine, with a very distinct style, charming character, and powerful nature. A variety that typically is quite tannic, and bold, but can be tamed as revealed with Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo ($50.) Nicely structured, and dense, but also floral and pretty, with dried leaves, tar, and toasted spice melding with floral rose, violet, dried orange, and ripe cherry.

Though the Piemonte is known for its red wines, very fresh, lively, clean white wines are also produced, typically from the Cortese and  Arneis varieties. Enrico Serafino “Grifo Del Quarto” Gavi di Gavi DOCG ($17,) from the most esteemed area of Piemonte for growing premium Cortese, showcases a mineral intense very fresh, very dry and crisp white wine with just a hint of creaminess thanks to extended aging of the wine on the lees (yeasts) to add texture and richness.

Within the Emilia-Romagna region in the center of Italy, Cleto Chiarli is one of the most respected producers of quality Lambrusco. Though the high acid variety can bemade into sweet wines, producers like Cleto Chiarli are showcasing the fruit in a dry style. Cleto Chiarli “Vigneto Cialdini” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC ($19) highlights this dry palate with dense red berry, soft herb, and pencil lead.

There is a rustic, yet inviting, quality to the volcanic wines of Sicily. Capturing the essence of the island, honoring the power of Mount Etna, while finessing rustic native varieties to create wines with a delicate touch, Tenuta di Fessina delivers wines with well-defined character, led by visionary Silvia Meastrelli. Produced from 100% Nerello Cappuccio, Laeneo ($45) layers graphite, black pepper, dark cherry and plum, and savory balsamic.

 

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