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April 13, 2016 |

A Mix of Whites, Sparkling and Reds at VinItaly 2016

Day one provided a wonderful overview and mix of types of wines and regions.

The Great Volcanic Wines of Italy

FISAR IN ROSA (the women’s sommelier association I belong to) organized a tasting and roundtable titled “The Great Volcanic Wines of Italy.”  We learned about why grapes grown on volcanic soil are special.  Surprisingly it is not about the lava, but rather the ash that mixes with the soil to create a very porous terrain allowing for the grapes to absorb more moisture. The famous volcanoes, Vesuvio near Naples and Etna in Sicily, are well known for their big bold reds. There are also a number of great whites from those and other regions (Soave for example), which are well worth a mention. Volcanic wines are characterized by strong mineral and earthy expressions making them elegant and powerful… just like the volcanic soil from which they come.

The discussion included wine producers and a tasting led by Anna Cardin, FISAR’s 2015 Top Sommelier of Italy. Anna is an amazing Italian sommelier and I have had the pleasure of tasting with her many times now. She has an incredible nose and brings poetry to wine tasting.

I tasted these wonderful wines:

Wines listed above are shown left to right in the photo.

For detailed notes on each of these wines, follow me on the Delectable app.

The Three Glasses Awards and Villa Parens Winery

Next I made my way over to the invitation-only salon of Gambero Rosso’s 2016 Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) Awards. Gambero Rosso is an Italian food and wine magazine. Each year they publish “Slow Wine,” a book featuring the best wines in Italy (think Michelin guide for wine).

There were 261 wines represented at VinItaly from the 423 winners voted by Gambero Rosso as Italy’s best wines of the year. Since I couldn’t possibly taste all 261, even though I was spitting them out (you can’t actually consume the wine. It’s too much to take in while keeping your wits about you), I narrowed my interest to tasting some expressions of a pure Nebbiolo-based wine that I had never tasted before, Valtellina Superiore DOCG.

Valtellina is a very small region in northern Lombardy and they make this highly exclusive type of red wine based exclusively on nebbiolo grapes, only real wine nerds even know it exists (so I couldn’t wait to try some!). There were four available so I sampled all of them. My favorite of the four is highlighted below for its intense granite color and elegant bouquet of raspberry, rose and spices; refreshing licorice finish with hints of almonds. Yum.

This photo is the Sassella area of Sondrio (Lombardy Valtellina region), home to the Valtellina Superiore.

A Franciacorta Find

As I buzzed around in the Gambero Rosso salon, I sampled a number of Lombardy’s great Franciacorta (sparkling white) wines from the area near Brescia.

Franciacorta is made in the classic method, like champagne, and is typically a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, with an optional bit of Pinot Bianco. Try the Rosè or Satèn (this is the Italian version of the Crémant di Bourgogne in case you are more familiar with French wines) – highly recommended for a very special bubbly treat!  

The standout was:

This wine took the Gambero Rosso’s Three Glass Award and is aged for at least seven years from the time of harvest — a true gem of sparkling wine. If you’re lucky, you can find this winery’s labels in the U.S.

Ending The Day With My Friends at Villa Parens

After some wonderful tastings throughout the day, I landed at Villa Parens, a winery from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

My dear friends Elisabetta and Giovanni Puiatti hosted me for a tasting and dinner at Vittorio Emanuele in the amazing Piazza Bra of Verona, where Giovanni had the chef prepare us a risotto made with Villa Parens’ Pinto Nero. This was kind of my fault because, being in Verona, I desperately wanted an Amarone Risotto (classic red wine risotto from the region), but considering we were drinking Villa Parens wine, Giovanni took over and asked the chef to use the Villa Parens Pinot Nero instead… we were very glad he did! It was fabulous.

Villa Parens, in our glass and on our plate! An evening to remember!

The tasting included their entire line:

The Rosé de Noirs, made from 100% Pinot Nero was released at VinItaly 2016 and was by far my favorite bubbles of the event! They only made 2,500 bottles. I love dry mineral-rich, sparkling wines and the color here is absolutely gorgeous, bright and light. Can’t wait to have DOCG Imports’ first toast, in front of a California sunset with Villa Parens Rosé de Noirs in my glass!!

Left to right: Ewa Morgan (writer and dear friend), Giovanni Puiatti (owner and winemaker Villa Parens) and me, Nina Snow (owner and importer DOCG Imports Llc)

Ciao to day one! Have a look at day two…


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DOCG Imports association badges: Federazione Italiana Sommelier (Albergatori Ristoratori) & Conegliano Valdobbiadene - DOCG (Prosecco Superiore Dal 1876)