Nov 022012
 
Indigenous cosmopolitan: Prosecco Superiore goes “glocal”

Photo Credit: Tracy Ellen Kamens

Passing the microphone to moderator Luciano Ferraro, the reason behind Prosecco’s popularity became clear. Ferraro shared that his wife had described the wine as “’light, fruity and beautiful’” and further explained that his wife doesn’t even like wine. American journalist, Alan Tardi, concurred, saying that it was fresh, pleasant, low in alcohol, well priced and very versatile; in sum, it was “Italy in a bottle.”

As evidence of the wine’s success, Professor Vasco Boatto presented data, which showed significant growth of Prosecco (both Prosecco DOC and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG) in value and volume. Figures from 2011 showed the product’s growth to be up 63% in value and 48% in volume, in the U.S. alone.

But, Tardi also mentioned that even though Americans have embraced Prosecco with open arms, they do not fully appreciate the territory where it comes from. He added that there is still work to be done in differentiating Prosecco DOC and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG for American consumers.

Speaking to the theme of this year’s Vino in Villa event – Indigenous cosmopolitan—Enrico Finzi, president of Astraricerche, discussed globalization 2.0. While globalization 1.0 has created a homogeneity worldwide (think Coke or McDonalds), this new phase ushers in the opportunity to be “glocal.” Accordingly, globalization and local do not have to be at odds with one another. Rather, local traditions are being revived and exported out of their local territory while maintaining quality, providing a wider audience for these products, a “plurality of access.”

Building on this theme, the tasting event featured international cuisine from Japan and Russia and the main dinner paired Prosecco Superiore with food from one of Denmark’s top restaurants- Restaurant Kvægtorvet di Odense in Fionia. From the fjord shrimp with pickled cucumber and rye grains with pea purée to the roasted loin and fresh strawberries, the Prosecco Superiore rose to the occasion in each case. Proving that two seemingly disparate, artisan products – Danish food (almost all of the ingredients were brought in for the dinner) and an Italian wine – could find such synergy at the table.

Aug 132012
 
Franciacorta group

Photo Credit: Paul Wagner

It was a tough assignment:  leading a group of some of the top sommeliers, writers, bloggers and a film crew on a hosted tour of the finest sparkling wine region in Italy, Franciacorta.   Less than an hour from Milan, this region produces world class sparkling wine in the foothills of the Alps—but nobody ever sees it outside of Italy.  Why?  Because they drink it during Fashion Week In Milan, at Opening Night and the Opera at La Scala, when Inter or AC Milan win an important championship, or whenever anyone in Italy wants to celebrate a grand occasion with glamour and style.

Like I said, not much gets out of the country.

But that didn’t stop them from pulling out all the stops.  We visited the Museum in Brescia and wished we’d had a full day to wander around it—including the Roman ruins they discovered as they were working on the museum.  We had tours of the charming town of Iseo, on the lake of the same name, where Riva, the most expensive speedboats in the world are made.  We took a cruise on the lake itself, and passed the island owned by the Beretta family, complete with palatial residence.  Yes, that Beretta.  And we saw monasteries, ancient towns, and wildlife refuges as well.

Franciacorta

Photo Credit: Paul Wagner

Most of all, we met the men and women who make the wines of Franciacorta.  They were excited and exciting, passionately sharing their vision for their wines and their role in the world of wine.  They poured their classic releases and the top of the line wines.  They proudly told us about their new experiments, and they insisted that we try the results—often with great food, always with fascinating wines.  These were not Citroen or Renault sparkling wines—-these were racy wines that made us think of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati.

And the food.  Each meal was artfully crafted to match with wonderful wines—and since the wines were elegant sparkling wines, the food was pure delight.  Nothing too rich or heavy, each dish simply satisfied, intrigued, and led to the next course.  We got up from each meal with an amazing sense of both satiety and—amazing on a wine trip—health!

After five days, we were sold.  Actually, we were sold after about a day and half—but please don’t tell them.

(Of course, that was the point!  The trip is part of a new project to introduce the wines of Franciacorta to the US market, and this was a first step).

And when we flew out, we left the film crew behind.  They still had a date with Fashion Week in Milan, and a drive in a Ferrari.

I guess we’ll get to do that next time.

Jul 192012
 

Wine JudgingThe world of wine can seem quite glamorous – jaunting off to Italy or France to taste wines with some of the world’s most highly respected winemakers, enjoying dinners at top-rated restaurants and just generally basking in the glow of vaunted vineyards and scenic countryside. What’s not to like?

But, it can also be hard work. No, I’m not asking for sympathy (you can dismiss the violins); I know I live a “winederful” life. Yet, it’s not all truffles, roses and cherries.

Well, actually, that’s not entirely true either. In mid-May, I found myself tasting through hundreds of samples of Nebbiolo, a grape variety which is generally characterized by its aromas and flavors of truffles, roses and cherries. But, even with such a well regarded grape in my glass, it wasn’t as thrilling as you might expect.

On Monday morning, I was perched at a white-clothed table, fully set with five Riedel stems, a water glass, a bottle each of still and sparkling water and a bundle of breadsticks nestled in a napkin. This being my first visit to Alba in Piedmont, Italy for Nebbiolo Prima, I wasn’t sure what to expect next.

My fellow journalists were similarly seated while members of the Italian Sommelier Society, in crisp black uniforms, prepared bottles of wine on a central table. Each bottle was equally clothed in black with a bag pulled to the neck to hide the wine’s identity, designated only by a single number written in white.

After being given a small amount of wine with which to prepare (rinse) our glasses, the spectacle began. Tasting the wines poured in flights of five, we proceeded to taste a total of 67 wines. And, this wasn’t any ordinary tasting. These were the newest releases of Nebbiolo hailing from the DOCGs of Roero, Barbaresco and Barolo. In other words, VERY YOUNG, VERY TIGHT, VERY TANNIC, TEETH-STAINING Nebbiolo.

Taste, spit, taste, spit, taste, spit (with some notes scribbled in between each taste and spit session) continued for nearly three hours, punctuated only by the occasional gulp of water, bite of breadstick or enforced pause while you waited for someone to bring you an empty spit bucket. Very glamorous, no? After the 67th wine, we were excused for lunch and other activities, but the same procedure was repeated the next day.

Whereas Monday focused on Roero 2009, Roero Riserva 2008 and Barbaresco 2009, Tuesday concluded the 2009 Barbarescos and introduced the Barbaresco Riserva 2007s and Barolo 2008s. By Wednesday, it was all Barolo 2008, all the time, which continued into Thursday. Thursday also offered up a “pleasant” surprise with an additional 10 wines, bringing that day’s tally to 80 samples. Those last ten were a struggle, but I trudged through knowing that the producers of those ten wines weren’t to blame (and, thus, shouldn’t be penalized) for their placement in the tasting lineup. To say I had palate fatigue would be the understatement of the year – I had palate coma.

About a third of the way through the tasting on Friday, we shifted to Barolo Riserva 2006, concluding with a final count of 350 samples tasted over the five days (excluding those tasted outside of the formal proceedings). At this point, I was strongly considering moving my semi-annual dental appointment up a few weeks to be certain that I hadn’t sustained any permanent damage to my teeth.

For me, the experience and exercise of tasting the wines at this early stage in their development was a challenge. I did find wines I preferred more than others (and a few I outright disliked) and saw some patterns emerge among samples from the various vintages and communes. However, it was not nearly as instructive as the tastings that took place during our visits to the wineries or while dining at local restaurants with the winemakers themselves. Admittedly, these latter activities are more relaxing, but, more importantly, they bring the people and the place to life, which is what truly makes all of the days and days of wine and roses worthwhile.