Tuesday, May 19, 2020

HopWine: A Different Kind of Virtual Wine Tasting

At the time of this post, it has been two months and some change from the beginning of  the Covid 19 quarantine, and one thing I truly miss of the many things Covid 19 stole from me, is attending wine tastings! 

Before I start talking about my visit to HopWine, let me first acknowledge that I will always be eternally grateful to all importers, wineries and PR agencies (you know who you are) that have provided wines for me to review so far… Thank so much you for your support, I truly appreciate it.

But, attending tastings in person, it’s probably one of my favorite things in this life… since it provides a unique opportunity to taste wine from a specific region or country, and best of all, to meet with producers and to be able to ask them questions about the wines they serve… It is the perfect world/experience for a wine nerd like me. But, because of Covid 19, I had to miss a few, including a tasting of Wines of Canada, Loire Valley, and this year's Guia Penin tasting (Spanish Wines) now postponed until who knows when...

But then, I received an invite to attend HopWine, not knowing what this was about, I decided to give it a try. I imagined that it was going to be some kind of a virtual Vinexpo of sorts, with several wineries participating, many of them looking for importers/ representatives.  
And of course, I thought that like any other virtual wine tasting, it will include information about wines, videos, pictures, but this one, to my surprise, includes something else... HopWine prepared small boxes of wines (with a pour for attendees to taste). See picture of what you may get below.

Will this be a solution and replacement for wine tastings during Covid 19? 

Lately, I must confess I have been to many wine presentations in Instagram and Zoom and of course everything is very informative and engaging and it’s nice to see at least on video, some of these beautiful vineyards… but we are always missing the best part of any wine tasting, which is the sampling of wines. 

So, yes! I will give an applause to the creators of HopWine, for daring to try something new. 
The exposition has 151 producers from different countries including France, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Israel and Spain. All of them are organized alphabetically, by country or appellation. After visiting, each winery’s page on the website, which acted as a booth, you are presented with the opportunity to add a mini box of wine samples to your cart that the winery wants to promote. In my case, I was allowed to add up to 30 boxes. I chose a fine selection of Alsace, Loire, Chablis, Rías Baixas, Chianti, Rhone and Burgundy samples. Of course, as you may imagine many of these wineries are not very well known and are trying to make a name for themselves in the industry, but I was pleasantly surprised to see at least 3 that I know quite well: Ferraton Père & Fils, Maison Bichot and Castello di Volpaia... If only they could send half bottles instead of the tiny ones? I suppose it didn't hurt to ask! 

A nice feature to see was that the booths could be filtered according to your industry, because I’m a wine blogger I was considered “Press” and wineries must have agreed earlier on to provide samples for people like me.  There were a couple of them, that unfortunately decided to opt out which denied me the opportunity to taste their samples. Maybe, this can change for the next edition? also, it will be nice at least for Americans, if you could also filter by grape variety? since it's easier for us this way.... did I just become the obnoxious American?

HopWine is currently open for Press and Trade from May 18 - 25, 2020. Those interested in attending should register here

I can’t wait to receive my boxes... let’s hope they arrive soon, I have been having problems with mail and other couriers… since nowadays all ordering happens online, even Amazon takes forever to deliver my orders. Let's hope this is not the case. Until next one! Cheers, Silvina. 

#thoughtsoflawina #virtualwinetasting #hopwine

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Classic Italian Grapes: Sangiovese

Today we continue exploring the most important grapes from Italy. And this one is one of my favorites: Sangiovese.

What to say about Sangiovese? All of us at one time or another have drank Chianti wines, or other Tuscany wines, and of course have read about how quality improved considerably in Chianti in the last 30 years or so. Mostly, at the beginning and for many decades, Chianti was a simple wine, an uninteresting quaff served at Italian trattorias, usually enclosed in a straw flask. It was made from a blend of Sangiovese and other grapes that included Colorino, Canaiolo, Malvasia Nera (reds) and whites, such as Malvasia and or Trebbiano. This formula was invented by the Baron Ricasoli, who thought that adding a bit of white grapes will improve the blend, the rest of the other varieties were used either to add color or to soften the natural high acidity of Sangiovese. The truth is that blending didn’t help much, and eventually this affected the sales of this wine, which decreased. Thankfully around the 1980s, Chianti producers led by Marchese Piero Antinori, started to work very hard to improve quality, not only by blending Sangiovese with French varieties (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon) and creating the Super Tuscans category, but also by adding less white grapes, and improving both vineyard and winery practices. 

Nowadays, there’s plenty of good quality Sangiovese to be found but I must warn you since we are in Europe/ Old World, it’s likely that instead of Sangiovese in the label, you will find the name of the region instead. In the case of this grape,  the most important Italian regions are: Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Though Sangiovese is also used in  Basic Chianti and other Chianti subzones, Carmignano, Morellino di Scansano, Umbria, etc.

Originally from Italy, Sangiovese is the child of two italian varieties: Calabrese di Montenuovo and Ciliegiolo. There are several theories about its origins within Italy, some say that Sangiovese originated in the Southern part of the peninsula and from there it moved to Tuscany. Others claim Emilia Romagna to be its home. Like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese has mutated a lot, there are over 200 identified clones of this grape and it changed names according to the appellation: Brunello, Morellino, Prugnolo Gentile, all are Sangiovese clones. Like Pinot Noir, it can be quite temperamental, in the sense that it can’t grow anywhere, success depends very much on the clone used, the yields (that need to be kept low), the soils and microclimates (favoring warm weather for ripeness and cool nights to keep acidity in check).

Ampelographer Girolamo Molon divided the clones into two larger groups: Sangiovese Grosso (that includes Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile and Sangiovese di Lamole (Chianti) and Sangiovese Piccolo (clones of lesser quality). Sangiovese is by far, the most planted red grape variety in Italy and it does best in Tuscany, where 68 % of the land is conformed by hills and small mountains.  This area covers from Florence in the north to Siena in the Center and Montalcino in the south. Though, soils in Tuscany vary from sand, clay and limestone. “Galestro”soils, which is a crumbly stony marl,  give the best structured wines. Sangiovese is an early ripening variety and late budding and can be quite vigorous, high density planting has been used to mitigate this, but it also needs open canopies to mature properly, good vineyard expositions usually facing south and south west  and low yields to obtain the best results. 

The most available Sangiovese, come from the DOCG Chianti Classico appellation, which is considered the heart of the region. Even though is not a large area, it has many vineyards planted at altitudes that go from 800 to 2000 feet,  these differences in soils and altitudes will create a huge variety of wines. In 1984 Chianti Classico was upgraded to DOCG status, the highest in the Italian classification, the first thing they did was to remove the mandatory white grapes from the traditional recipe, nowadays, the blend could be 80 to 100% Sangiovese, and up to 20 % of Canaiolo, Cabernet and Merlot (two grapes that were not allowed originally by law).  Balancing Cabernet or Merlot with Sangiovese can be a challenge,  since these two tend to overwhelm and mask Sangiovese’s flavors. Even 5% of Cabernet can be enough to create a big wine, so here again much depends on the winemaker’s intent, some may choose to go this route, while others will prefer to make varietals and let Sangiovese shine by itself. By law only in Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, the wine must be 100% Sangiovese, the rest of the appellations allowed other grapes but in tiny percentages.

Stylistically, Sangiovese wines will be dry and will have medium to medium plus bodies, usually balanced alcohol levels that may go between 12-14%, high acidity and firm tannins. Sangiovese is very light in color, another similarity it shares with Pinot Noir and a give away when tasting this wine blind. Young Sangiovese will taste of fresh cherry pie, plum, tomato leaf, oregano.  As it matures it will show other complex aromas and flavors of dried leaf, dried orange peel, tea, mocha, leather and minerals. 

Aging is quite important in Tuscany and it varies per appellation. By law, all Chianti Classico must be aged in oak, Riserva wines for 2 years in wood and 3 months in bottle (minimum). These days the favorite oak is French but also big Slovakian barrels and for the Gran Selezione (category created in 2014) the wine must spend 30 months of aging, including 3 months minimum in bottle. Gran Selezione wines are made with a selection of the winery’s best grapes or from grapes from a single vineyard. Basic Chianti wines which is a larger appellation than Classico, are made from grapes outside the Classico area and includes 6 different subzones: Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Rufina, Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colli Pisane and Chianti Montalbano. The best wines come from Chianti Rufina.

Brunello di Montalcino is farther south that Chianti Classico, where it’s warmer, as you know, warm weather means more sun/ alcohol/body. So, Sangiovese here gets bigger and more concentrated. Personally I think the best Sangiovese come from this appellation. Producers say that their secret is a clone, actually 6 special clones that grow only in this area. It’s a small appellation with only 2100 HA of vineyards vs 15,400 HA in Chianti. The best vineyards are located at a high altitude of 1,800 feet looking south. There is more limestone in the soils here than in Chianti and of course Galestro (stony marl), schist and clay can also be found. Sangiovese is called here “Brunello”. It will yield a beefer wine that smells of black fruits, chocolate, violets, tar and spices. Brunello is by law, aged longer than any other Italian wines: 5 years for regular Brunello (2 of which will be in oak and 4 months minimum in bottle) and 6 for riservas (2 of which will be in oak and 6 months in bottle).
Rosso di Montalcino is Brunello’ younger brother, it is a fruitier wine that is made with grapes from non great vintages or from less than ideal vineyard locations. It is also aged less time than Brunellos only for 1 year. They are also cheaper than Brunellos and much lighter in style.

Like Brunello, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is also made from Sangiovese, here called “Prugnolo Gentile”, Canaiolo, Malvasia and Trebbiano are also allowed in the blend (but only in tiny percentages). Most vineyards are planted at 600 feet from sea level,@ lower altitudes than Brunello. Montepulciano is located nearby Colli Senesi’s Chianti subzone. Soils here are mostly sandy clay.  By law, Vino Nobile must be aged for 2 years, and Riservas for 3 years, similar to Chianti Classico but less than Brunello.The flavor profile of Vino Nobile will be softer than Chianti Classico with cream, plum flavors and toasty oak notes.
They are usually much cheaper than Brunello and Chianti Classico, though there are some single vineyards that could be expensive.

Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and the Sangiovese based Super Tuscans* are the best expressions of Sangiovese and have the most aging potential, with best samples being able to age for up to 25 years. Lighter versions like Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montalcino are made to be consumed young, within 5 or less years from vintage.
Trying to emulate the wines of Tuscany was not an easy task for New World producers, though we can find some good attempts in California,  Argentina and Australia. As expected New World versions will be fruitier and rounder, vs the herb, bitter cherry and savory tomato flavors typical of all Italian wines.

Recommended Producers:
Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino: Biondi Santi,Poggio Antico, Le Chiuse, Fattoria dei Barbi, Banfi, Castiglion del Bosco, Caparzo, Il Poggione.
Chianti Classico: Felsina, Fontodi, Castello Di Ama, Antinori, Avignonesi, Marchesi de Frescobaldi, Ruffino.

These are some wines I tasted lately that I truly liked:
Il Bastardo Rosso di Toscana 2018, $9.99
Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso di Montalcino 2018,$30
Ruffino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Riserva Ducale Oro 2015, $35
Fontodi Chianti Classico 2015 $40
Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2015, $60
Marchesi di Frescobaldi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Rialzi 2015, $63
Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino Vigna La Casa 2015, $69.99
Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2015, $85
Fontodi Chianti Classico Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2015, $90

Ciao! Silvina

* Not all Super Tuscans are made of Sangiovese, some are 100% made of French varieties, so do ask your sales clerk at the wine store before buying.

Remember to subscribe to keep receiving Thoughts of La Wina in your inbox and to follow me in Twitter @: Silvina_la wina and Instagram @: Silvinalawina

A special thank you to all the importers that provided samples for me to taste.

#sangiovese #chianti #brunello #vinonobiledimontepulciano #italiangrapes #italianwines #thougthsoflawina #WineWednesday

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Music and Wine: a ritual @Chez La Wina

Let me start by saying that I put lots of time in the planning of my posts, I keep a calendar with themes and always try to write about things I like, and that the winos would like to learn/read about. Yet, once in a while I act on impulse, and step away from my calendar structure, to write about things that are happening now, like what I do during the COVID 19 pandemic quarantine. 
At the time I’m writing this post, it’s been 52 days since lock down...I suppose I should be thankful that I got to keep my day job. I’m so lucky to be able to work from home. But really, having to stay home everyday, can be a bit too much… there are days I just want to jump out of my window so bad…I guess I have zero patience as you may see/read. I suppose I will have to reincarnate 1,000 lives to learn to be patient... While on other days, I’m more connected to my soul and therefore more accepting of my fate/lessons to learn that can only make me stronger and accelerate the progress on my spiritual path....gosh….I sound like one of the many spiritual books I like to read...but really,... WHEN IS IT GOING TO END? So, this is me, sending a message to the universe, please give me back my life...before I go completely insane!!! Or in my case more loquita!

So, besides work, and checking on my family and friends, which include the winos too. I tried to make time for other things like, 1) Walk every morning to get some fresh air, and to burn the wine I drank yesterday night… Let’s be honest here, how many of you have gained weight during the pandemic? I’m no different from you, and must admit I had way too many chocolates, cookies, ice cream, wine, chips... I guess all of us are overcompensating a bit these days... 2) Watch governor Cuomo at noon, because for me, he is a modern day superman/hero of the pandemic and we definitely need more politicians like him in this world. Finally a politician with a heart, someone who knows when to be tough and when to show some vulnerability.... Men of the world: some of you can definitely learn from him! 3) Watch a webinar about wine, Karen McNeil,  WSET, Vinexpo New York, New Zealand Wine Growers, etc do this on Instagram and Zoom... keeping the wine nerd inside of me very, very happy. But, the event of the day 4) and the mood in my apartment/Chez La Wina, changes around 5 pm, when it is time to open a bottle of wine… because if life is hard these days, imagine how much harder it will be without wine! 

These days, I have a few choices to pick from my cellar, since I decided to start posting in my blog every week, it's like I’m on this marathon to taste all the samples that importers/ PR people and wineries have sent to me, to be able to include the brands I like in my posts. In the past, when I was posting every two weeks, I took my sweet time to do this, plus then, I was tasting with the winos (something I truly miss!, I especially miss the excitement in their faces when we tasted together) I guess Wednesdays and Fridays were very special then, since we all knew that when the clock reached 5 pm, it was time to open and taste a bottle of wine together. (Wine Zoom meetings are not the same!)
Last night I decided to try a sample of Fattoria di Basciano Chianti Rufina 2017, my post on Sangiovese is coming up next week, and this is the last bottle of Sangiovese before going live with the post.  Soon, I will switch to whites, with a lineup of Ruedas and Rías Baixas wines waiting for me (earlier on, I chose to do a post about the most important Spanish white grapes). Note to myself:request some Rieslings, Chenin Blancs and Sauvignon Blancs for my post on Cool climate whites). 
After Rueda and Rías Baixas, it will be time for Torrontés, and this is a message to all wine suppliers reading this post, I have not received many samples of this grape…So, if you sell some Torrontés, please send some my way. I want to see some love for my favorite white Argentinean grape!

So, I grab my wine and my small bag of chips, because La Wina doesn’t have dinner at night (I started doing this a while ago to avoid gaining weight) and off I go. By the way, any chips can do: cheetos, doritos, potato chips, freetos, etc…. I guess I should write a post about chips and wine food matching next….will the winos want to read about that?  But, don’t you dare, judge me!!! Chips are something I started eating during the pandemic, before that, dinner was just a glass of wine, while I caught up on all the gossip happening in Argentinean TV on youtube. 

Nowadays, and because of Covid 19, I taste my wines while listening to music on Spotify. I guess because music has the power of making me happy, even on the worst of days.  So, this is what I listen to, sometimes, I start with some new songs from the Weeknd (Blinding Lights and In your Eyes), or Lady Gaga (Stupid Love), or Doja Cat (Say so), Regard (Ride it), Selena Gomez (Feel me)... Surprised? you didn’t think I was so cool to know the new hits on the radio these days? Hahaha, people, that is all I listen when I exercise: pop current hits. 
Other times, it's just Spanish Reggaeton (Rap), anything from J Balvin (Ritmo, Blanco, Amarillo), or Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee (Muevelo), Tainy (Nada de Nada), Oriana Sabatini (Luna Llena), and Tini (Recuerdo, Sueltate el pelo, Ya no me llames mas), and anything by Maluma (I know I'm old enough to be his mother, but he is just too handsome and sexy!).
And then of course come the oldies... for a middle aged chick like me, that  means music anywhere from the 80's, and forward,  So, yes some nights are just Madonna's greatest hits (the classics: Material Girl, Into the Groove, La Isla Bonita, Express yourself, Angel, Dress you up, Music), Erasure 20 Pop hits! (Oh L'amour, Chains of Love , A little respect, Victim of Love), The Police and anything from Sting (English Man in NY, Message in a Bottle, Can't Stand Losing you, Roxanne, Dododo dadada, S.O.S), and then of course, the night needs to end by listening to The Doors because it was the music that was playing on the radio on the year I was born… (I’m vintage 1967), and because the movie “The Doors” was the first movie I saw when I moved to America in March of 1991, I liked it so much, I went and bought myself the soundtrack of the movie the next day. 

Going back to the Basciano Chianti Rufina 2017, this juicy red was made from 91% Sangiovese and 7 % Colorino fermented with skins for 20 days, followed by aging for 8 months in French oak. This spicy red is medium bodied with refreshing acidity, aromas of plum, blackberry, dried herbs (oregano and sage), featuring a solid structure and a round long finish. And at $14.99 a great value! I liked it so much, I’m going to keep on drinking this for the next two days or until I run out (whatever comes first). 
Now, where was I?, oh yes listening to Jim Morrison’s sexy voice singing: “You know that I will be untrue, you know that I will be a liar, if Am I to say to you, girl we couldn’t get much higher..come, baby light my fire…”♫♬♫♬
My advise to you is go grab a glass of wine, some olives, cheese or chips, put some music on and celebrate that you made it to another day! or as I like to say 1 day less of the many until we go back to normal. Cheers! Silvina.

#chianti #thoughtsoflawina #music #wineduringthepandemic

PS: A special thanks to Kristen from HB Merchants for donating this wine.

Remember to subscribe to keep receiving Thoughts of La Wina in your inbox and to follow me in Twitter @: Silvina_la wina and Instagram @: Silvinalawina.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Great Italian Grapes: Nebbiolo

It’s time we learn about Nebbiolo, the most important red variety in Italy, even though it is not the most planted one, that honor belongs to another red grape: Sangiovese. 
Because we are dealing with the Old World, with a few exceptions (like in the case of Nebbiolo d’ Alba) you won’t see the name of this grape on the label, you will probably see the appellation. Besides this, Nebbiolo changes names quite often, it’s known as Spanna in DOCG Gattinara or as Chiavennasca in DOCG Valtellina Superiore.  But its two most known locations in the world are the very famous DOCGs: Barolo and Barbaresco, where some of the best expressions of Nebbiolo are produced.

Nebbiolo comes originally from the Piedmont region. Piedmont means foot of the mountains, and indeed the most important vineyards are all located at the foothills of two important chains, the Alps and the Apennines. Nebbiolo’s name comes from the word “nebbia” which means fog in Italian, referring to the fog that is common in the hills of Langhe, during the months of September and October. It’s this fog or nebbia that will help early budding but late ripening Nebbiolo to obtain perfect maturity.

Though Barolo and Barbaresco are only 10 miles apart, and therefore share similar climates and soils, there are some differences. Barbaresco is usually lighter, more elegant, less austere than Barolo and it can also be drunk sooner. Barolo usually needs aging to soften its strong tannins, at least a minimum of 10 years from vintage before the wine is drinkable. Nebbiolo requires dry weather conditions, it is perfectly suited for the continental climate of the Piedmont, characterized by hot summers and cold winters. The best soils for Nebbiolo are clay and limestone (like in Albanese) or sandy (like in Roero), in the Valtellina DOCG, soils are mostly schisty and granitic. Best locations to grow Nebbiolo will be usually facing SW and at altitudes between 150-300 m, go higher up and Nebbiolo will have issues to ripen.

Stylistically, Nebbiolo produces wines that are in the Powerbomb category, meaning a wine that is highly tannic with high acidity,  tons of fruit, with a full body and alcohol levels between 13 and 14,5%. Surprisingly Nebbiolo’s color is light for a red of its statue, showing pale garnet and brickish tones.But don’t let their color fool you! Nebbiolo has plenty of personality.

There are two different styles of Barolo: Traditional or ModernistTraditional Barolo will feature Nebbiolo macerations for a long time to extract color and tannins (about 30-50 days) and then agings for a long time in neutral Slovakian oak, yielding a very austere and tannic wine that requires long wine cellar aging. Modernist Barolo is produced differently, with shorter Nebbiolo macerations (7-10 days), and aging in new French barriques, this will yield a wine that is fruitier, softer and that requires less time to be drunk. There are also differences by location, Barolo as in Burgundy has many crus, these will be  the source of some of the most expensive/best wines. Yet in general, Barolos of  the town from Serralunga are the most tannic and austere, while Barolos from the town of La Morra tend to be more approachable (the other extreme), in between there are other towns that produce both styles. 
By law, Barolos are usually age for 3 years (18 months minimum in barrel), while riservas are aged for a minimum of 5 years. Barbarescos are aged for less time, 2 years with at least 9 months in barrel and Riservas 4 years.
Nebbiolo is usually not blended, both Barolo and Barbaresco must be 100% Nebbiolo wines, but in Gattinara and Ghemme a tiny amount of  Bonarda, Croatina or Vespolina grapes are allowed to the blend. 

Nebbiolo’s flavor profile will feature aromas of tar, roses, blackberry, black chocolate,  prunes, cherries, leather and dry spices. With ageing, Nebbiolo will show game, truffles and mushrooms notes.
Though Barolo and Barbaresco are the best known appellations, there are other Nebbiolos produced in appellations, such as: Gattinara, Nebbiolo D’Alba and Valtellina Superiore. All of these are still big red wines,yet  less tannic and sooner drinkable than Barolo and Barbaresco. These wines are usually cheaper since Barolo and Barbaresco usually will cost you at least $40 a bottle to start. 
Top Barolo wines can age for a very long time, at least for  20-30 + years. Barbarescos gets their peek sooner at 10-15 years. Lighter versions of Nebbiolo, such as Nebbiolo d’ Alba, Gattinara, Ghemme can be drunk earlier between 5-8 years from vintage. As with everything in life, patience is key here, so don’t open that bottle before its time!

Recommended Nebbiolo Producers: note that some producers make both  Barolo and Barbaresco, so I added the brands in both groups.

Barolo: Coterno (Giacomo and Aldo), Bruno Giacosa, Ceretto, Gaja, Vietti, Rinaldi, Pio Cesare, Marziano Abbona, Vajra, Damilano, Renato Ratti, Ca’ Viola. 
Barbaresco: Produttori de Barbaresco, Cortese, Nada Fiorenzo,Marco & Vittorio Adriano, Gaja,Ceretto, Castello di Neive,Prunotto, Bruno Giacosa, Cascina Luisin, Pelissero, Sottimano, Fontanafredda.

Wines I have tasted lately that I recommend you to try. (I had the pleasure of attending several Italian events this year so I divided the wines in two groups (value Nebbiolo) and (expensive but so worthwhile Nebbiolo).

Value Nebbiolos: includes Valtellina Superiore and Nebbiolo d’ Alba
Nino Negri Quadrio 2016, $20
Nino Negri Inferno 2017, $29
Voerzio Martini Ciabot della Luna Langhe Nebbiolo 2017, $29
Marziano Abbona Bricco Barone 2017, $25

Expensive Nebbiolos: includes Barolo and Barbaresco
Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco 2015,$55
Pio Cesare Barolo 2015, $85
Marziano Abbona Barolo Terlo Ravera 2015, $55
Damilano Barolo Cannubi 2015, $72
Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 2012, $433
Gaja Barolo Sperss 2015, $283
Gaja Barbaresco 2016, $250
Cortese Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva 2011, $93

Cheers! Silvina

Remember to subscribe to keep receiving Thoughts of La Wina in your inbox and to follow me in Twitter @: Silvina_la wina and Instagram @: Silvinalawina.

#thoughtsoflawina #nebbiolo #WineWednesday

Thank you to all the importers and wineries that provided samples for me to taste.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Ciao Amanti del Vino! Let's learn about the grapes of Italy

Once again a mini class that I will try to make as fun as possible. We have already studied the grapes and wines from France and now is the turn to do the same with Italy!
Let me start by saying that after Spain, Italy has more vineyards planted that any other country in the world, indeed the whole country is a vineyard. Italians are well known for their love for wines and foods and have also been blessed with many good conditions for vine growing. Most of the best vineyards are at the foot of the mountains (Apennines or Dolomites) plus is also influenced by the sea on both sides, it has more than 1,000 native varieties, hopefully there’s no need for you to learn them all! But I will help you identify the styles of some of the most famous Italian wines. 
You should also know, that though there are very expensive wines in Italy,  there’s also plenty of value. Italian wines are classified like in France. On the top for quality we find the DOC and DOCG appellations (Denominazione di Origine Controllata and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), these guarantee quality and origin. Then we have IGT, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (which I see as a DOC and DOCG soon to be) and lastly the Vino da Tavola, which are  the simplest wines of them all.
When buying Italian wines, always aim for DOC or DOCG. Of course there are exceptions like the “Super Tuscans”, these were sold as Vino da Tavola but very fancy VT. The reason was the winemakers decided to use grapes not allowed in the appellations, when this happened, the law was so super tough that they couldn’t sell the wine as DOC or DOCG. Luckily, the law changed and some appellations were allowed to use or include international varieties in their blend (these are usually mostly French: i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon).
Below you will find the most important appellations and grape varieties in Italy, I included a column on the right to indicate the style of wine, so you have more and less and idea what you are getting when you buy these.
Notice, that in some cases the grapes are listed on the label, for example Barbera d’ Alba or Dolcetto d’ Alba (both Barbera and Dolcetto are the grapes) and Alba is the appellation. 

AppellationGrapesWine Style
BaroloNebbioloBig red with tannins
BarbarescoNebbioloBig red with tannins
Barbera D' Alba or D' AstiBarberaLight to medium red, high acidity, soft tannins
Dolcetto D' AlbaDolcettoLight to medium red, good acidity
GattinaraNebbioloBig Red with tannins
Brunello di MontalcinoSangiovese (known as Brunello)Medium to heavy red. Supple with good acidity. Biggest and best style of Sangiovese
ChiantiSangiovese and small percentages of French Varieties: Merlot, Cabernet SauvignonLight to Medium red. Everyday wines
Chianti ClassicoSangioveseMedium to Medium plus red, nice acidity
Super TuscanSangiovese and French varieties or sometimes, only French varietiesBig and powerful reds
AmaroneMolinara, Corvina, RondinellaBig Red
ValpolicellaMolinara, Corvina, RondinellaMedium Red
BardolinoMolinara, Corvina, RondinellaLight to Medium Red
PugliaNegroamaro, Primitivo (Zinfandel), Malvasia NeraMedium to Big Reds, with low acidity
Aglianico del VultureAglianicoBig Red with tannins
SiciliaNero D' Avola, french varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, SyrahMedium to Big Reds. High alcohol.
SoaveGarganega, TrebbianoNeutral Light White
Friuli or Tre Venezia, CollioPinot Grigio, but also French Varieties, Pinot BiancoAromatic Light whites, with good acidity, best Pinot Grigios come from here.
AstiMuscat (Moscato)Sweet and off dry Sparkling
GaviCorteseDry Light White
ProseccoGleraDry Sparkling, great value
Vernaccia di San GeminianoVernacciaDry Light White

Hoping all our Italian friends have a speedy recovery soon! Silvina.

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