Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wine in Italy – 252 bottles and counting

An occasional post for wine enthusiasts...

The ONAV course #2
Well, I’ve finished my winetasting course, and have learned heaps about all things wine  - making it, chemical composition, and most importantly, tasting plenty of different wines!  Who would have thought tannins can be found in the skin of a grape (good tannins), the inside of grape pips (bad tannins), the rasp of a grape bunch (bad) as well as oak barrel tannins (good)?
And importantly, I’ve made some new friends, enjoying wine dinners and winery visits with them, and seem to keep bumping into them at the occasional winetasting event – funny about that.

As for the final exam, well, it was postponed on account of traffic nightmares caused by snow. Only problem is, Melanie and I had months ago booked our flight to Morocco specifically for the day after the scheduled exam.  So I’ve missed it, and will have to sit the exam with another class sometime in April….

Winetasting Event - Terre di Toscana (Tuscan Lands)
The first weekend of March is the famous Carnevale of Viareggio.  Instead, I'm at the next-door town of Lido di Camaiore, at Tuscany's pre-eminent annual winetasting event, with 130 wineries in attendance.  Having lived here for almost a year, I've prepared a shortlist of what I want to taste, but am shocked to see it runs to almost 40 wineries!
The tasting is held in a 5 star hotel, and is packed - I learn later that well over 3,000 people attended over the two days.  Winetasting events here are much like those in Australia, except there are less men-with-beards, more women, and everyone is impeccably dressed, apart from me, that is.
The wines:  I taste the SuperTuscan Sassicaia, predictably the table is 4 deep with people doing the same thing, it's wonderful with a super-long finish, but well out of my price range of $150.  Highlights? I taste, enjoy, and intend taking a bottle home somehow, of:

  • Isole e Olena's Cepparello - silky smooth tannins masking a core of pure ripe fruit
  • Felsina's 2 big guns - Riserva Rancia and Fontalloro, both are fruit forward with restrained tannins
  • the organic winery from near Lucca, Tenuta di Valgiano's flagship sangiovese/syrah/merlot blend
  • Grattamacco's flagship Cab Sav, which is young and brooding, and a bottle already awaits me in Australia (thanks Mandy)
  • Tiezzi's Brunello di Montalcino - the standard bottle, not the reserve, is a good compromise between traditional and modern - and more importantly, delicious drinking.

Vino di casa - What we're drinking at home.... 
Winter has been cold, at times rainy or even snowy - perfect red wine drinking weather – I’ll raise a toast to that!  And so we’ve been raiding the mysteriously growing cellar in our living room.  We’ve enjoyed:

  • plenty of Chianti Classicos, including our favourite Castellare, as well as the occasional,
  • Cab Sav, which never fails to remind me of Australia,
  • Rosso di Montalcino, always good drinking
  • Brunello di Montalcino, usually to accompany a special meaone of Melanie’s special slowcooked meals
  • quality sangiovese/cabernet blend, sometimes called SuperTuscans, when done well is a great marriage between old world and new world.

Castellare di Castellina
Chianti Classico 2010  13.5%
10 euros per bottle

80% sangiovese grapes, remainder canaiolo and colorino, grown in the classic region of Chianti..  In the glass, it's a ruby red and quite transparent.  On the nose is cherry, violet and maybe cinnamon. The palate is savoury, with red fruits hiding undr the surface, and well dosed with acid - this will improve with a couple more years.  It's a tad austere without food, but delivers handsomely with a bowl of pasta.


 .....and Something Better
Tassi 2007 Brunello di Montalcino
19 euros (on sale at local supermarket)

Friends are over for dinner, Paolo is from Lucca, Stella is Taiwanese and Melanie has made her already legendary rabbit cacciatore, slowcooked for 4 hours.  Tonight, to reflect the international nature of our dinner, we’re serving it with my trademark mashed potatoes.  Which means it’s time for the big guns – Brunello.

In the glass, it's ruby red but more opaque than other Brunellos, hinting at a more modern, fuller bodied style. The nose shows some ripe black fruit, floral tones, vanilla and some spice, cloves perhaps. Tasting is all about structure - the tannins are there, but fine and elegant, as are the red fruits for balance, there is a touch of sweetness there, rounding out the acid.  Overall it's silky, elegant and easy to drink, with a long finish. Bingo!

* 252 bottles and counting.... is the number we've consumed at home (excluding restaurants) since arriving on 12 April 2012

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