Wine Essentials – Class # 3 – Italia

We finally took a glimpse into a remarkable wine region where one of my favorite wines is made (Montepulciano). It is one of the most popular wine regions, the most romantic, and most intriguing winemaking areas in the world… ITALY!  Italy is an extremely powerful region due to its heavy wine influence not only in the industry but through its loyal people.  A large part of it’s credentialing is due to its vast history in wine making, it’s picturesque towns and vineyards, and proud countrymen known for drinking A LOT of wine especially to complement every meal since Italian food is so irresistible and succulent.  In fact, it’s a great thing that Italy is known for their bold and deep bodied red wines since most of their food is pretty heavy and need a sturdy wine to balance out the taste.  If you want a nice and heavy chardonnay or Pinot Grigio – go to France however, Italy does make a great sparkling wine from Prosecco!

Like France, Italy also has a classificaiton system that standardizes and enhances the overall qualities of the wine.  This will also help you choose a bottle when going into a store and most certainly will dictate the price…

Italy’s Classification System:

- Vino da Tavola – Table wine made from a local winery with little to no standards; The Italy wine you find in jugs

- I.G.T – Denotes wine from a specific region in Italy; higher quality than table wines

- D.O.C – More defined than table wine and IGT; grapes are more specifically defined

- D.O.C.G – Similar to D.O.C the main difference is the DOCG needs to pass a blind taste test!

Tastings (wine’s I liked BOLDED)

Piemonte, Campari – Retails $22 (1st used in 1860 as medicine/tonic/digestive drink)

  • Notes: Smells citrusy; flavored alcoholic beverage with a distinct bitter flavor
  • Pairings: Usually mixed with soda water, grapefruit juice etc. sipped before dinner to gain an appetite or after dinner with a nice hard cheese – I will definitely serve this before dinner at a dinner party!

Fiano di Avellino, Feudi di San Gregorio 2008 – Retails $22 (Campania, Italy – Fiano Grape)

  • Notes: Smells very fruits almost like rich fruit juice; tastes stoney, with fruity long lasting finish, Bright and fruity with lemon
  • Pairings: Since it’s a medium bodied dry and elegant wine you could drink it with any sort of Mediterranean dish!

Orvieto Classico, ‘Poggio Calvelli’, La Carraia 2009 – Retails $20 (Umbria, Italy – Grechetto, Trebbiano, Chardonnay Grapes)

  • Notes: Smells of apple and bright citrus; tastes light with acid, green apple, bitter, stoney and a very refreshing white wine
  • Pairings: Great with an assortment of medium tasting cheeses – not too intense

Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Le Rote 2009. – Retails $14 (Toscana, Italy – Vernaccia Grape)

  • Notes: Old apple, floral and crisp smell; tastes sort of like a good Cali Savu. Blanc, very acidic with over ripe fruits and a woody taste
  • Pairings: Delicious with grilled chicken, assortment of medium-heavy cheeses

Dolcetta d’Alba, ‘Madonna di Como’, Marchesi di Barolo 2009 - Retails $25  (Piemonte, Italy – Dolcetto grape: lightest Italian grape) **Alba = Truffle region!

  • Notes: Smells of light cherry and berries; tastes have tannin, light berries, sour cherry, bright clean red wine similar to a light French red
  • Pairings: This medium bodied wine that is very well balanced would go with a simple pork dish

Aglianico del Vulture, Pian del Moro, Musto Carmelitano 2007 – Retails $35 (Campania, Italy – Aglianico Grape)

  • Notes: Smells smokey, earthy, dark cherry, plum; tastes a little chewy, tannins, rich dark wood and cedar, dried plums and smoking cherry stand out most
  • Pairings: This wine would go amazing with chocolate and hard cheese, big meats

Chianti Classico, ‘Aziano’, Ruffino 2008 – Retails $17  (Toscana, Italy – Sangiovese Grape) – 13% Alcohol

  • Notes: Smells of black cherries with a hint of chocolate; Taste is a light simple red wine with astringent tannin
  • Pairings: Amazing wine with pizza, simple pasta with tomato sauce – great price for a everyday well balanced wine

Brunello di Montalcino, Cantine di Palazzo, Altesino 2004 – Retails $53 (Toscana, Italy – Sangiovese Grosso Grape)

  • Notes: Smells very woody, rich with dark fruits; considered an “ambassador” of top quality Italian wines – tastes very rich in dark fruits, full of tannins with a balance of acidity
  • Pairings: A great pairing with rich dishes such as beef stew and barbecues

Valpolicella Classico Superiore, ‘Campo Santa Lena’, Villa Monteleone 2007 – Retails $16 (Veneto Italy – Corvina Grape)

  • Notes: Smells of dark fruits, dark cherry; Tastes very rich, dark fruit with a long lasting after taste, tannin that is strong and young in taste
  • Pairings: Hard italian cheese for an after dinner bite

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, I Saltari 2001 – Retails $60 (Veneto, Italy – Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, Molinara Grape)

  • Notes: Rich smells of dried plums and dried out grapes; rich in taste, earthy, oaky, dried fruit
  • Pairings: Great with an assortment of hard cheeses
Barolo Riserva, Borgogno 1996- Retails $72 (Piemonte – Nebbiolo Grape)
  • Notes: Brandy in smell, old dry gentle fruit; Tastes full of tannin, raisin, plumy
  • Pairings: Pairs well with veal or a stew

Wine Essentials – Class #2 – FRANCE

Wine Essentials # two was all about the Burgundy and the Bordeaux regions in France one of the most elegant yet complicated winemaking regions out there. Here are a few fun facts that will be helpful when navigating through France bottles in your store…

Wines are classified in four categories governed by very specific laws which will help you pick your bottle out…

Classifications (Lowest quality first)

  • Vin de Table (Table wines – lowest classification)
  • Vin de Pays (must use specific grape varieties on the bottle; increasingly popular and rather cheap and perfect for daily-drinking wines)
  • AOVDQS (Smaller more regional areas – this classification has basically disappeared
  • AOC (Highest classification; name of origin which are controlled – rules cover grape-variety, methods of growth, producing, localization, alcohol contents)
Therefore, whenever you look for a French bottle the more specifics it has on the label the better quality the wine
Vineyard Ratings (rating in highest quality first)
  • Gran Cru -  wines are produced from the small number of the best vineyards in the Côte d’Or, that strictly abide by the AOC classification
  • Premiere Cru - wines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are still considered to be of high quality, but not as well regarded as the Grand Cru sites.
  • Unclassified – produced by a blend of wines from lesser vineyard sites
Bordeaux’s are almost always Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot (sometimes Malbec)

Tastings (wine’s I liked BOLDED)

Bordeaux, ‘Lillet Blonde’, NV.  - Retails $18 (Bordeaux Region) – Fortified

  • Notes: Orange, herby, stoney, honey scents; Sweet, Fresh, a little syrupy, orange, honey and bitter on the palate
  • Pairings: Savory salty foods, hard cheeses, anything with spicy mustard; great sipping wine before dinner

Entre Deux Mers, Blanc Reserve, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau 2009 – Retails $12 (Bordeaux Region)

  • Notes: Bright vibrant, lemon/lime in smell; Acidity, fresh mineral tasting, vibrant, attacks then goes away
  • Pairings: amazing with goat cheese, shell fish with herbs etc..

Chablis, 1er Premier Cru, Montmains, William Fevre 2006 – Retails $35 (Burgundy)

  • Notes: Smells fruity, heavy weight, earthy flavors ‘acidicly’ rich, smooth finish
  • Pairings: Aged goat cheese, roasted veal, salmon

Meursault Poruzots, Premier Cru, Louis Jadot 2005. – Retails $60 (Chardonnay; Cotes de Beaune, France)

  • Notes: Earthy, smokey, aged oak in smell; calm acidity, bitter, tannins, bitter edge – tastes like buttered popcorn!
  • Pairings: Brie, something with a crisp skin – Chicken, Veal w/ wild mushrooms

Beaujolais Villages, Georges DuBoeuf 2009 - Retails $8 (Gamay grape; Bourgogne, France )

  • Notes: Smells of light cherry, strawberry; Acidic strawberry, sour cherry and vibrant, does not have a lasting taste in your mouth – drink while young
  • Pairings: Poultry, Caesar salad, pasta, pizza – great for outdoor picnics!

Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, ‘Maximum’, Laboure Roi 2007 – Retails $16 (Bourgogne, France)

  • Notes: Dark cherry smell; Tannic savory cherry flavor, very elegant and a well-rounded wine
  • Pairings: delicate dishes such as roasted chicken, vegetable salads, and cheeses like Gouda.

Fixin, 1er Cru, Clos Napleon, Pierre Gelin 2007 – Retails $48 (Bourgogne, France – Pinot Noir) 

  • Notes: Earthy, tobacco, wood, sour cherry in smell; acidic, tannins, sour fruits/rich
  • Pairings: Mushrooms with veal and fish

Saint Emilion, 1er Grand Cru Classe, Chateau Gaffeliere 2005 – Retails $110 (Bordeaux, France – Merlot, Cab Franc)

  • Notes: Dark cherry, plum smelling; chalky tannins, rich dark plums, cherry, elegant and not too earthy
  • Pairings: Softer meat, roast beef, seared duck breast

Pauillac, Cru Classe, Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 2004 – Retails $60 (Pauillac, France – Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc)

  • Notes: Woody, cedar, dark blackberry in smell; Strong tannins, leather, “cigary”, smokey in taste
  • Pairings: Meat, lamb, beef, seared steak

Stellenbosch, ‘John X Merriman’, Rustenberg 2007 – Retails $30 (S. African (new world) – Bordeaux Blend)

  • Notes: Green pepper, ripe fruit very robust in smell; spicy dark cherry, fruitier tannins woody in taste
  • Pairings: Braised BBQ, short ribs; great for outdoor bbq’s!
Sauternes, 1er Cru Classe, Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey 2006 – Retails $65 (S. Bordeaux, France – Semillion, Sauv Blanc)
  • Notes: Sweet, honey, stone fruit in smell; fruit syrup, ripe, honey in taste
  • Pairings: Amazing with blue cheese – This pair makes for a great dessert!
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