Viva Veneto

Viva Veneto image from Jarvis Communications

Viva Veneto image credit: Jarvis Communications

For all of its culinary popularity, Italy’s wines seem to struggle to enjoy the same kind of international obsession. It’s not that they aren’t loved – quite the contrary; after several thousand years of fermenting grape juice, the Italians have learned a thing or two. That’s as evident on the shelves of collectors as it is in the glass.

But for every Barolo or Brunello enthusiast, there are scores of ordinary wine lovers who seem reluctant to go there. Maybe it’s overwhelm at the thought of learning a fraction of the country’s 3,000 or so varietals. Maybe it’s too much bad Chianti in college, or maybe it’s a general lack of awareness, combined with the country’s complicated viticultural designation system or DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – similar to France’s, but with way more vowels.

Conegliano_-Scuola-Enologica-Treviso1

To tackle this last challenge, a number of Italian consortiums (consorzi) and organizations have hit the road, educating the wine drinking public on what their regions/wines are all about. One of these groups – Centro Estero Veneto, along with five Chambers of Commerce of the Veneto region – have embarked on a US tour, to teach us Americans a thing or two about the wines of Veneto, in Northern Italy.

Home to some of the country’s best-known destinations, like Venice (canals), Padua and Verona (Romeo and Juliet), and the splendor (and skiing) of the Dolomites in the Alps, Veneto is also home to some of Italy’s best-known wines. Prosecco, Soave, Bardolino and Amarone all hail from here. In fact, this region is Italy’s leading producer of DOC-grade wines; it’s Italy’s third largest region in terms of wine production; and wines from Veneto make up 20% of national output.

The Veneto consortium recently landed in Los Angeles and put its top sommeliers, wines and recipes on display at tastings, dinners and seminars. The opening gala, held at 31 Ten Lounge, in Venice, was attended by representatives from the LA Mayor’s office and Italian dignitaries. There were tastings at Upstairs 2 at The Wine House and Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar, and an all-day educational event at the Skirball Cultural Center, where tables – loaded with imported wine and food – kept both professionals and enthusiasts munching and sipping and smiling for hours. A select few were also treated to a late-night dinner at Terroni restaurant, where owner Max Stefanelli cooked regional dishes and used the area’s wines in both the recipes and the pairings.

The Veneto events revealed layers of a culture that’s rich in food and wine, but was more a celebratory springboard than a complete course. Luckily, there are rumors that the consortium will be back again next year. In the meantime, if you’re craving polenta or risotto, or maybe a non-Veneto Italian treat, consider braving those vowels or varietals and drinking an Italian education.

Colbertaldo_-Strada-del-vino-bianco1

image credit: Jarvis Communications

Viva Veneto image credit: Jarvis CommunicationsFor all of its culinary popularity, Italy’s wines seem to struggle to enjoy the same kind of international obsession. It’s not that they aren’t loved – quite the contrary; after several thousand years of fermenting grape juice, the Italians have learned a thing or two. That’s as evident on the shelves of collectors as it is in the glass.
But for every Barolo or Brunello enthusiast, there are scores of ordinary wine lovers who seem reluctant to go there. Maybe it’s overwhelm at the thought of learning a fraction of the country’s 3,000 or so varietals. Maybe it’s too much bad Chianti in college, or maybe it’s a general lack of awareness, combined with the country’s complicated viticultural designation system or DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – similar to France’s, but with way more vowels.

To tackle this last challenge, a number of Italian consortiums (consorzi) and organizations have hit the road, educating the wine drinking public on what their regions/wines are all about. One of these groups – Centro Estero Veneto, along with five Chambers of Commerce of the Veneto region – have embarked on a US tour, to teach us Americans a thing or two about the wines of Veneto, in Northern Italy.
Home to some of the country’s best-known destinations, like Venice (canals), Padua and Verona (Romeo and Juliet), and the splendor (and skiing) of the Dolomites in the Alps, Veneto is also home to some of Italy’s best-known wines. Prosecco, Soave, Bardolino and Amarone all hail from here. In fact, this region is Italy’s leading producer of DOC-grade wines; it’s Italy’s third largest region in terms of wine production; and wines from Veneto make up 20% of national output.
The Veneto consortium recently landed in Los Angeles and put its top sommeliers, wines and recipes on display at tastings, dinners and seminars. The opening gala, held at 31 Ten Lounge, in Venice, was attended by representatives from the LA Mayor’s office and Italian dignitaries. There were tastings at Upstairs 2 at The Wine House and Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar, and an all-day educational event at the Skirball Cultural Center, where tables – loaded with imported wine and food – kept both professionals and enthusiasts munching and sipping and smiling for hours. A select few were also treated to a late-night dinner at Terroni restaurant, where owner Max Stefanelli cooked regional dishes and used the area’s wines in both the recipes and the pairings.

The Veneto events revealed layers of a culture that’s rich in food and wine, but was more a celebratory springboard than a complete course. Luckily, there are rumors that the consortium will be back again next year. In the meantime, if you’re craving polenta or risotto, or maybe a non-Veneto Italian treat, consider braving those vowels or varietals and drinking an Italian education.

image credit: Jarvis Communications

Exploring Italy: Soave

This summer, I’m all about the Italians.

I recently wrote a post about Gavi, that you may or may not have seen on Palate Press. In it, I asked readers to think about moving away from their more familiar Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, to explore that other Old World wine-producing country (the one that isn’t known for Riesling and beer).

Now is a particularly good time to do it, too, especially if you’re ready to experiment with a wine called Soave. The 2009s are here, and it was one of the best vintages they’ve had in a long time.

Pra-bably one of the best Soaves on the market

Pra-bably one of the best Soaves on the market

Soave is a town in the Veneto region of Italy, in the province of Verona. The wine is named for the region, but it’s made of 70% – 100% Garganega grapes. When the wine is a blend, the remainder is often Trebbiano di Soave for the good ones, and Chardonnay and/or Trebbiano Toscano for the not-as-good ones. Traditionally, the wine is fermented in steel tanks, although it isn’t unheard of to use a bit of oak. Usually the wines are then aged for about two years before release (“Riserva”), although wines with less aging are also available.

The wine is known for its soft, fresh, waxy/floral/honey flavors, but due to overproduction and industrialization in the past decade or so, Soave developed a new reputation as jug wine plonk. The pendulum has since swung back the other way, however, and there are now a host of dedicated producers who are focused on bringing high quality, quaffable Soaves back to the market (helped, in part, by the Soave Consortium). In fact, volume andvalue of Soave were up by 20% in 2010 over 2009, and Mario Batali’s New York eatery, Eataly, hosted “Soave Month” the entire month of May 2011. So clearly the situation is well on its way to being righted.

Soave, without the Ricco

Soave, without the Ricco

The Soave Consortium recently sent me a few bottles of Soave: 2009 Re Midas Cantina di Soave and 2009 Fattori Runcaris Soave Classico (both about $12). Knowing these were value-priced bottles, I decided to taste them against two pricier wines to see how they’d stand-up. For those wines, I chose 2009 Gini Soave Classico ($15) and 2007 Pra Staforte Soave Classico ($20).

2009 Re Midas Cantina di Soave: The Re Midas was very promising at first, with its nose of green apple, pear, honey and grass. On the palate, there was beautiful acid, with flavors of peach, apple and pear. I even wrote in my notes that it, “Tastes like a summer afternoon.” But despite the great attack, it sort of fell apart on the finish. Not bad by any means, but it was my least favorite in the line-up. (100% Garganega)

2009 Fattori Runcaris Soave Classico: Even before my nose came near the glass, I could smell big fruit carried on a hot tradewind from the land of Alcoholia. Apple, apple and more apple with a bit of dried honey. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hot on the palate as I expected; there was great acid and some tropical notes – especially pineapple – skimming around the edges. My second favorite of the group. (100% Garganega)

2007 Pra Staforte Soave Classico: This wine was absolutely delicious. Honey and honeyed fruits on the nose and in the mouth. Notes of crisp Fiji apple and Asian pear. Bright acidity (very bright), that kept going and going and going on the finish. This was my favorite of the day. (100% Garganega)

2009 Gini Soave Classico: The Gini tied for second place with the Fattori. Out of the gate, it was all oak. The oakiness is apparent on the nose and contributes to a caramel apple finish; in-between, there is honey, delivered in a soft-bodied wine with a creamy, smooth texture. (100% Garganega)

Whether you hunt down one of these or try another of the other delicious choices on the market (look for the 2009s – for serious), Soave is a super choice for summer sipping.

Soave, in the Veneto region of Italy

This summer, I’m all about the Italians.
I recently wrote a post about Gavi, that you may or may not have seen on Palate Press. In it, I asked readers to think about moving away from their more familiar Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, to explore that other Old World wine-producing country (the one that isn’t known for Riesling and beer).
Now is a particularly good time to do it, too, especially if you’re ready to experiment with a wine called Soave. The 2009s are here, and it was one of the best vintages they’ve had in a long time.

Pra-bably one of the best Soaves on the marketSoave is a town in the Veneto region of Italy, in the province of Verona. The wine is named for the region, but it’s made of 70% – 100% Garganega grapes. When the wine is a blend, the remainder is often Trebbiano di Soave for the good ones, and Chardonnay and/or Trebbiano Toscano for the not-as-good ones. Traditionally, the wine is fermented in steel tanks, although it isn’t unheard of to use a bit of oak. Usually the wines are then aged for about two years before release (“Riserva”), although wines with less aging are also available.
The wine is known for its soft, fresh, waxy/floral/honey flavors, but due to overproduction and industrialization in the past decade or so, Soave developed a new reputation as jug wine plonk. The pendulum has since swung back the other way, however, and there are now a host of dedicated producers who are focused on bringing high quality, quaffable Soaves back to the market (helped, in part, by the Soave Consortium). In fact, volume andvalue of Soave were up by 20% in 2010 over 2009, and Mario Batali’s New York eatery, Eataly, hosted “Soave Month” the entire month of May 2011. So clearly the situation is well on its way to being righted.

Soave, without the RiccoThe Soave Consortium recently sent me a few bottles of Soave: 2009 Re Midas Cantina di Soave and 2009 Fattori Runcaris Soave Classico (both about $12). Knowing these were value-priced bottles, I decided to taste them against two pricier wines to see how they’d stand-up. For those wines, I chose 2009 Gini Soave Classico ($15) and 2007 Pra Staforte Soave Classico ($20).
2009 Re Midas Cantina di Soave: The Re Midas was very promising at first, with its nose of green apple, pear, honey and grass. On the palate, there was beautiful acid, with flavors of peach, apple and pear. I even wrote in my notes that it, “Tastes like a summer afternoon.” But despite the great attack, it sort of fell apart on the finish. Not bad by any means, but it was my least favorite in the line-up. (100% Garganega)
2009 Fattori Runcaris Soave Classico: Even before my nose came near the glass, I could smell big fruit carried on a hot tradewind from the land of Alcoholia. Apple, apple and more apple with a bit of dried honey. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hot on the palate as I expected; there was great acid and some tropical notes – especially pineapple – skimming around the edges. My second favorite of the group. (100% Garganega)
2007 Pra Staforte Soave Classico: This wine was absolutely delicious. Honey and honeyed fruits on the nose and in the mouth. Notes of crisp Fiji apple and Asian pear. Bright acidity (very bright), that kept going and going and going on the finish. This was my favorite of the day. (100% Garganega)
2009 Gini Soave Classico: The Gini tied for second place with the Fattori. Out of the gate, it was all oak. The oakiness is apparent on the nose and contributes to a caramel apple finish; in-between, there is honey, delivered in a soft-bodied wine with a creamy, smooth texture. (100% Garganega)
Whether you hunt down one of these or try another of the other delicious choices on the market (look for the 2009s – for serious), Soave is a super choice for summer sipping.