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A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a full day of master classes on Italian wine. This event, hosted by IEEM, was a morning to evening group of seminars and tastings on particular wines and wine regions of Italy. Italian wine makers flew into town to discuss wines like Asti Spumante, Franciacorta, the newest DOC region of delle Venezie and others. This was my first time attending such a focused, intensive all day wine tasting seminar, and I was worried I’d be lost or out of place. Luckily, I packed snacks, water, and my notebook and managed just fine. In fact, I learned a great deal more about each of the wine and wine regions of Italy and would love to share some of the most surprising and revelatory facts here.
Three Wines, One Denomination: Asti a.k.a. Asti Spumante
- Asti is a sparkling wine from Italy made of 100% Moscato Bianco grapes from a protected designation of origin in Piedmont. You might be more familiar with another Italian sparkler, Prosecco.
- The terms “Asti” and “Asti Spumante” are interchangeable.
- The countries that consume the most Asti in the world are Italy, Germany, the United States, and Russia.
- Picking and harvesting for Asti Spumante happen a few times a season to capture the fresh must of the fruit.
- Common descriptors of Asti are: passionfruit, nectarine, white peach, acacia flower
- About 30% of all Asti sells during the Christmas season.
- The average alcohol by volume (ABV) of Asti falls between 5%-7%.
I walked away from the seminar on Asti Spumante realizing that this inexpensive wine is a tasty, low in alcohol, and a great way to welcome friends or family with an apertif. It goes well with spicy food as well as any of the over 700 different types of cold cuts and cheeses from Italy.
Favorite Wine of Asti Spumante Tasting: Bric Prima Bella Asti DOCG Extra Dry 2017
DOC delle Venezie, one of the Newest DOC of Federdoc
- 43% of the world’s Pinot Grigio is grown in Italy.
- In order for an Italian wine to be labeled Pinot Grigio, it must be comprised of at least 85% of Pinot Grigio grapes.
- Currently, the delle Venezie consortium is comprised of 400 wineries and 10,000 producers.
- The DOCG delle Venezie solidifies the differentiation between the Italian style of Pinot Grigio and other international styles.
- Italian Pinot Grigio characteristics are pleasant acidity, versatility with food pairings, and pronounced aromatics.
Favorite Wine of Pinot Grigio delle Venezie Tasting: Itinera Prima Classe Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2018
Franciacorta: The Italian Answer to Champagne
- Franciacorta is Italian sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method. This means secondary fermentation happens in each individual bottle. By contrast, secondary fermentation for Prosecco occurs in large steel tanks.
- Franciacorta is a DOCG located in Lombardy. The largest city and capital of Lombardy is Milan.
- Ricci Curbastro is a brand of Franciacorta, but also is the name of a family who has, for 18 generations, farmed and managed grapes in Lombardy.
- Want to stay at a vineyard? The Ricci Curbastro estate has 8 short term rental apartments available year round for tourists in the area, and an agriculture and wine museum on site.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Real talk: if the panel was any indication, something in the wine or the water of Montepulciano breeds very attractive men and women.
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano must have at least 70% Sangiovese grapes, and the other 30% must be comprised of any number of red grape varieties from Tuscany and the Montepulciano area.
- Wines from this DOCG require at least two years of aging between barrel and bottle before being sold to market.
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the first DOC designated wine in Italy in 1966, and the first DOCG in 1980.
- The current conductor of the Lyric Opera, Andrea Rossi, is also an International Ambassador of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
- Nearby DOCG neighbors are Brunello and Chianti Classico, so should you find yourself traveling in Italy, consider making a stop to these three regions.
Favorite Wine of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Tasting: Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2015
Friuli Grave: The Sparkling Life
When I am starting to get confident about my wine knowledge, learning there were at least two more styles of sparkling Italian wines I’d never tried humbled me. Especially because they were so dang good!
- The Friuli Grave DOC consortium was founded in 1972. It is part of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.
- Friuli Grave is characterized by stony soils.
- This region has great history and is an excellent destination for Vinotourism.
- The vines are spaced tightly together to stress and keep the yield down of the grapes. This produces aromatic, complex, and harmonious grapes.
- 70% of the plantings in the region are for white grapes and 30% are red grapes.
Favorite Wine of Friuli Grave Tasting: Antonutti Spumante Rosé Extra Dry
I am so grateful that I could attend this seminar. I learned so much and can’t wait to bring some of these wines to family get togethers with my proud Italian family. Many thanks to IEEM and all the Italian wine vendors who made this event possible.
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