February is a month often associated with romance. The celebration of Valentine’s Day induces the desire to express love; to ignite passion; to indulge in life’s pleasures; to make lasting memories with that special someone; to eat delicious food and to drink amazing wine. What better place to begin than Italy?
Throughout this month we invite you to explore some of Italy’s most renowned wine regions and discover amore with each sensational sip. Italians are known for many great romantic successes: poetry, art, architecture, invention, cuisine, music, and Sophia Loren. For over three millennia, while most of these beautiful and brilliant things were being created, wine was being made, consumed, and thoroughly enjoyed. Italy, as it happens, is among the largest wine-consuming nations in the world. Maybe we can attribute a great many of their achievements and zest for life to their absolute love of vino.
Learning all there is to know about Italian wine could cause one’s head to spin, considering there are more than 400 grape varietals permitted in their wines with a staggering amount of sub-varietals, bringing the total to about 2000. Not a Can You Name Them All trivia question you want to get handed. Within its twenty regions, Italy also carries a number of quality designations, and within those, wines are divided further into other categories also based on quality, geography, winemaking methods, specific styles, blends, aging, alcohol content, and whatever they felt like passing a law about at the time (insert wink emoji here). Our February tastings highlight some of Italy’s most prestigious regions, such as Veneto, Tuscany, Piedmont, and Trentino-Alto Adige. We begin in fair Verona…
Veneto is located in northeastern Italy and is one of the country’s primary wine-producing regions. Its topography and climate are rather varied as are the styles of wine it is known for. To the east is where the wonderful and ever-popular Prosecco is made from the Glera grape. In the west, where it is more mountainous, cooler, and breezier is where the Vapolicella appellation or DOC designation (more on this later in the month…stay tuned) resides, and where our two luscious reds come from. The Rubinelli Vajol Valpolicella Classico is a bright ruby red comprised of a blend of Corvino, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara–Its Classico designation is granted because it is produced in the heart of a historic growing district. This wine is young, fresh, and light-bodied with nuances of currants, pomegranate, and sour cherries. Delicate hints of spice follow through for a perfect balance of flavor with silky elegance. It is splendid with appetizers, pasta dishes, cured meats, and is also a lot of fun with roast chicken or burgers.
The Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore is a wine, while made up of a similar blend of grapes (Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella), has a special added touch that gives it a bit of magic and a unique style. Ripasso wine is also referred to as baby Amarone. Amarone, being one of the most distinguished wines of Veneto, is made using a process called appassimento, where handpicked grapes are set out to dry until they have lost much of their water content. In the case of Amarone, the wine from these grapes is allowed to ferment completely dry, resulting in alcohol levels of 15% to 16%. A laborious and lengthy process, these wines come with a fairly high price tag (and are worth ever penny). Valpolicella Ripasso is made with young wines, which undergo a second fermentation using the sediment of the Amarone to increase flavor, intensity, create more tannin, and typically higher alcohol levels. They are also usually half the price of an Amarone. The Cesari Mara’s Superiore designation signifies that it has been aged at least one year and has a minimum of 12% alcohol. Unlike the Rubinelli, this Valpolicella is full-bodied and velvety with beautiful notes of fruit preserves, ripe cherries, and a lingering finish. It will benefit from a couple of years of aging and is best with heartier meat dishes, earthy mushroom risotto, or aged cheeses.
Are you ready to be wooed by the wiles of Italian wine? Come see us every Saturday in February, keep reading every week, and you may find your knowledge and passion deepening for this land’s viticultural majesty.