The Istituto del vino italiano di qualita, Grandi Marchi (IGM) held a seminar and luncheon, last Monday, October 17th at Spiaggia Chicago, “A Taste Through Italy’s Finest Wineries” lead by Rachael Lowe, sommelier at Spiaggia. Piero Mastroberardino, the estate owner of Mastroberardino Wineries, described the group as 19 families of historical, innovative significance, who are champions of their regions in Italy. Each was significant because they are seminal wineries in their respective regions and premium brands, but 100-600 year old brands, in some cases. We tasted 15 wines, from 12 different regions.
The producers and regions were: 1) Carpene Mavolti – Veneto, 2) Alois Lageder – Alto Adige 3) Jermann – Friuli 4) Argiolas – Sardegna 5) Umani Ronchi – Marche 6) Tasca – Sicilia 7) Antinori – Toscana 8) Folonari – Toscana 9) Lungarotti – Umbria 10) Rivera – Apuglia 11) Mastroberardino – Campania 12) Pio Cesare – Piemonte 13) Michele Chiarlo – Piemonte 14) Masi – Veneto 15) Donnafugata – Pantelleria
For most of these brands their wineries have been in existence for centuries. The thing I love about Italy is that each region is so different and each wine brings the particular characteristics of the region to the glass. Italy is a blessed country in terms of the varied topology and the volcanic, morainic and limestone soils, the indigenous grapes and biodiversity, which is what makes Italy’s wines so interesting, beautiful and so pleasurable to drink and Italy so fun to travel to.
I’ll cover each wine we tasted, with a link to further detail on the winery and pictures of the wines and the regions. This tasting was a tour de force, I could not do a quick one-off piece for these wines.
1. 1868 Extra Dry Congeliano Valdobiaddene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. 100% Glera Charmat method
I covered the wine region, Congeliano Valdobbiaddene in my last post. Antonio Carpene created the company, Carpene Malvolti in 1868. Then in 1877, Carpenè founded the first School of Oenology in Italy, in Conegliano, Veneto located at 40 km north of Venice and it is one of Italy’s top enology institutes.
Their wine was delicate and fruity with notes of apple and pear. It was the only one that I took a picture of as I was tasting. The vineyards are on the hillsides of the historic DOCG area of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. 100% Glera 11% ABV
Founded in 1823, and now directed by Alois Lageder and Alois Clemens Lageder, representing the fifth and sixth generation of family ownership, the winery combines tradition and innovation. The core values of the family are to produce biodynamic wines in a holistic way in harmony with nature.
Rachel noted that the Pinot Grigio had a nice textural quality and suppleness to it. The grapes were grown on stony, sandy soil with a very high content of limestone.
3. Vinnae Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia I.G.P. 2015 produced by Jermann. 90% Ribolla Gialla, 5% Friulano, 5% Riesling Renano. Stainless steel tanks, part of the Ribolla Gialla ages for 6 months in tonneau, 3 months in bottle
The Jermann family arrived in Villanova, Fruili from Austria in 1881. In 1983, they began calling their Ribolla Gialla VINNAE to mark the birth of their second son, Michele. For the 2004 vintage, the label was changed with the addition of the two-headed eagle. This symbol was found on an old barrel belonging to their great-grandfather Anton, and is a symbol of the Austro-Hungarian origins of the Jermann family and indication of the varieties that express the threefold soul of their land: Slovene, Friulan and Austrian. They have a hotel, Vinnaeria La Baita, on the property where you can stay.
This was the highest acid wine that we tasted for the day, it had strong mineral notes and as they say on their website, zesty.
4. Iselis, Nasco Di Cagliari D.O.C. 2015 produced by Argiolas Winery, Sardinia. This wine was very perfumed made with 100% indigenous grape Nasco. Cold maceration with soft pressing and natural decanting. Fermentation on lees for about 60 days. A small portion of the must is fermented and left to develop in small French oak barrels. 20% of the wine is aged in French oak, 2 months in bottle. “Agriculture integrate”
The intriguing thing about this wine was the grape, Nasco. Argiolas’ tasting notes for the wine are: Color: straw yellow. Nose: ample and harmonious scent, with notes of yellow blossoms and tropical fruits, and underlying light mossy notes. I will agree with the yellow blossoms. It was a really lovely perfume of yellow, not, white flowers. Palate: mellow and expansive, with a very long pleasant finish. This was a really fun wine to try. We found the mouthfeel had a creamy, smooth texture.
5. Vecchie Vigne Verdicchio Dei Castelli de Jesi Classico Superiore D.O.C. 2014 produced by Umani Ronchi. 100% Verdicchio Hand-picked grapes, collected in boxes. Fermentation in steel tanks with the temperature between 16C and 18C for 10-15 days. Aged in contact with lees, concrete tanks for 10 months. 7 months in bottle.
Owned by the Bianchi-Bernetti for over 50 years. Umani Ronchi was founded in Cupramontana, Marche at the end of the 50’s and it has distinguished itself as a great producer of the highest quality wines.
The wine, Vecchie Vigne Casal di Serra. was created to preserve and glorify the great historical and qualitative heritage of the old vineyards on the Montecarotto farm. The old vines were planted in the early 70s, and their particular position and fine balance between fruit and leaf growth means that the grapes can be harvested when they have reached a perfect ripening status.
The winemaker’s notes: brilliant golden yellow with lively greenish tints, a bouquet of camomile, ripe apricot, pineapple and peach, with overtones of wild mint, sage and hazelnut. In the mouth, it is striking for its elegance: dry and fresh with an acidity which is balanced perfectly by the softness of the alcohol. Long, pungent finish. The Bianchi family has Villa Bianchi Country House in the heart of the Castello di Jesi region where you can stay.
The gal who presented the wine made it quite clear that the wines of Etna are determined by specific soils and places called contradas which I interpreted as roughly like Burgundy “climats”. Then there was discussion in the crowd about Etna and its eruptions as well as the current popularity of Etna wines. This particular wine whose annual production was 6,500 bottles, came from grapes grown on the north slopes of Etna, contradas Sciaranova and Boccadorzo, Randazzo near Catania, Sicily. The soil is terraces on volcanic sediments. The age of the vineyard 1960.The best descriptors I found for the wine were taut, fresh, fruity, herbs, earthy nuance and pronounced minerality that ,in particular, comes from the volcanic soil.
The Tasca d’Almerita estate, where you can stay, is situated in the Sclafani countryside, between the provinces of Palermo and Caltanissetta, near the former stronghold of Regaleali. They have another resort as well, Capofaro Malvasia & Resort, located on the coast between the villages of Malfa and Santa Marina.
7. Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C. G. 2012 produced by Marchesi Antinori. 90% Sangiovese 10% Cabernet Aged 60% in casks and 40% in Hungarian oak barrels, 12 months in bottle.
The Antinori family has been making wine for over six hundred years, since Giovanni di Piero Antinori became part of the Arte Fiorentina dei Vinattieri in 1385. Throughout its long history, spanning 26 generations, the family has always personally managed the business making innovative, sometimes courageous choices, always with unwavering respect for tradition and the land. Today Marchese Piero Antinori is director of the company. The estate at Tignanello, home to the renown vineyards of Tignanello and Solaia, is situated between the valleys of Greve and Pesa, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region, 30 km south of Florence.
Their winery outside of Florence is located in the town of Bardino and is a tourist must-see destination. Antinori has a beautiful agrotourism resort, Fonte de Medici, between Florence and Sienna. They ,also, have another beautiful resort on the Etruscan riviera, the Tombolo Talasso .
Winemaker’s tasting notes: Villa Rosso Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 has an intense ruby red color. On the nose, evident notes of fruity red berries, particularly red currants and raspberries that blend with aromas of cherries. Light oak notes fuse with spicy sensations of cinnamon and candied fruit. I have to say I love the taste of sour cherries which I find pronounced in Chianti Classico.
The company Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute is the result of the intuition of Ambrogio Folonari and his son Giovanni. They descend from a family historically dedicated to the wine business. Since the late 1700s, the Folonaris have operated in the vine-growing and wine- producing field and have contributed to writing the history of Italian wine.
Winemaker’s notes: A wine with great structure but at the same time very elegant with a superb finesse. The aromas are complex with distinctive flavors of fresh black fruits, leather and forest floor with silky tannins and a very long finish. He explained that the 30% Cabernet Sauvignon helps to make the wine more ready to drink and balances out the tannins in the Sangiovese.
The Folonari’s have a small winery in the village of Greve, Casavecchia di Nozzole. The three bedrooms on the first floor all have air conditioning. Casavecchia can host maximum 7 people, there are 3+1 bathrooms, and a swimming pool.
9. Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Torgiano Rosso Riserva D.O.C.G. 2009 produced by Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti. 100% Sangiovese Wood aging in oak barriques and barrels for about 12 months, followed by a light filtering. 4 years in bottle
Lungarotti, is a company that lives and interprets its land with a deliberately Umbrian identity. One of Italy’s female-powered companies, headed by sisters Chiara Lungarotti and Teresa Severini, while the exquisitely cultural aspect, the Lungarotti Foundation, is represented by their mother Maria Grazia Marchetti. A brand that symbolizes Umbria, the company is renowned for the quality of its wines produced from vineyard to bottle using eco-friendly cultivation systems and profound attention to energetic and environmental awareness.
A DOCG wine since 1990 with retroactive recognition back to the 1983 vintage. Considered one of Italy’s best red wines, it is a profound expression of Umbria, of its hillsides and its people, with a perfect harmony between power and elegance. Rubesco is a proprietary trademark deriving from the Latin verb rubescere, to blush: hence, a joyous meaning. On the label, a bas-relief depicting the harvest, detail from the Fontana Maggiore of Perugia, one of Italy’s most beautiful 13th-century fountains.
Winemaker’s notes: An elegant wine with solid structure, deep ruby colour and complex aroma that recalls marasca cherries and blackberries, followed by notes of violet, light mentholated hints and a spicy finish. A wine of great concentration, fruity and slightly balsamic, it has soft and velvety tannins with a long, lingering finish.
Folonari offers a 5 star resort lodging on their property at Le Tre Vaselle.
10. Il Falcone Castel Del Monte Riserva D.O.C. 2009 produced by Rivera. 70% Nero di Troia 30% Montepulciano Aged 14 months, 60% in 30hl French oak casks and 40% in French oak barriques. 1 year in bottle
The de Corato family traces back its agricultural origins in the Andria area of central Apulia, where the Murgia hills decline gently towards the sea. Here in the early Fifties, Sebastiano founded the Rivera winery with the specific goal of developing the significant winemaking potential of the Castel del Monte area. Read more about them here.
Winemaker’s tasting notes: Dense garnet-red; multi-layered bouquet of ripe wild red berry fruit, leather, pipe tobacco and spice; rich palate, austere, very lengthy and well-balanced. Cellaring: 12-15 years Alcohol: 13,5% Violets were very definite on the nose which was attributed to the Nero di Troia grape which is the indigenous grape of the D.O.C.
11. Radici Taurasi Riserva D.O.C.G. 2007 produced by Mastroberardino. 100% Aglianico Irpinia, Campania Aged 30 months in French oak barriques and Slavonian casks. At least 36 months in the bottle before release.
Mastroberardino has long been Campania’s most renowned winery. The family based firm is universally acknowledged to be the most important guardian of the vinous heritage of Campania.The winery has always been focused on honing the virtues of Campania’s traditional grape varieties, such as Aglianico, Fiano, Piedirosso, Greco, Falanghina and Coda di Volpe. Read more about their history here.
A man in the audience commented that he was fortunate enough to have tasted a 1968 vintage of Radici, which lead to a conversation about the ageability of this wine. Piero Mastroberardino said that 1968 was the vintage of a lifetime and represented the best of Taurasi. He ,also, said that 1977 was an outstanding vintage. He said the long growing season concentrated the flavors in the aglianico. The high tannins and acidity in the wine made for long aging. We tasted a 2007.
Winemaker’s tasting notes: Color – Deep ruby red, Aroma – full, complex, fine, with notes of tobacco, spices, cherry, berries and balsamic aromas, Taste – enveloping, elegant and persistent with distinct notes of plum, bitter cherry, strawberry jam, black pepper and liquorice.
The winery was founded in 1881 in the heart of the historic centre of Alba by Pio Cesare (Pio by surname and Cesare by name), the great-grandfather of the present owner Pio Boffa. Pio Cesare was one of the first at that time to believe in the great potential of the lands on the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco for the production of great wines with scrupulous respect for quality. Read more here.
Sourced from family owned vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba (Ornato), Grinzane Cavour (Gustava), La Morra (Roncaglie), Barolo -Novello (Ravera). The balance of the grapes comes from other exclusive vineyards owned by “growers” who have been providing grapes to the Pio Family for generations.
Augusto Boffa, the representative from the Pio Cesare family went on a very animated discussion about Barollos and how Barolo DOCGs are not “regular” wines. He then explained the specificity of the area and the soils.
Winemakers tasting notes: A classic Barolo. Excellent structure and harmony, mild tannins and balanced fruit. It is immediately approachable, but it has a very long ageing potential.
The winery, Michele Chiarlo, was founded by the current owner in 1956, at Calamandrana, in the heart of the classic zone of production of Barbera d’Asti. Gradually the winery expanded its activity buying prestigious vineyards and constructing two cellars at Barolo and Gavi. At the moment, the winery owns 60 hectares of vineyards in which the leading wines are produced: La Court Barbera d’Asti “Nizza” Doc, Barolo Cerequio and Cannubi Docg, Montermareto Countacc Monferrato DOC. Another 52 hectares of vineyards are managed with long term contracts. Read more here.
The wine is named for the soil the grapes are grown on. Tortonian soil is characterized by sedimentary clayey marl known as Saint Agatha, interspersed with bluish-gray sandstone. This type of soil is found on the Cerequio hillside in the town of La Morra.
Winemaker’s notes: It has hints which recall the Cerequio (mint, juniper) and which are well integrated with the classic spicy tones of traditional barolo wines.
You can stay at the “Palas Cerequio” Barolo Cru Resort. Michele Chiarlo and family have restored an ancient village in the heart of Barolo, creating a Palas with different suites equipped with every comfort for the physical and inner.
14. Riserva di Costasera Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva D.O.C.G. 2011 produced by Masi. Grapes: 70% Corvina 15% Rondinella 10% Oselata 5% Molinara Appassimento method, then aged 38-40 months in oak, 6 months in bottle
The history of Masi Agricola is the history of a family and of its vineyards around Verona, in the Venetian region. The name derives from “Vaio dei Masi”, the little valley acquired in the late 18th century by the Boscaini family which retains ownership to this day. The company has grown step by step through successive, and very careful, purchases in the best viticultural areas of the Veneto. Among the vineyards which Masi manages is the most historic estate in Valpolicella, which has belonged to the noble Serego Alighieri family, descendants of the poet Dante, since 1353. You can read more here.
Winemaker’s tasting notes: Look: opaque ruby red. Nose: plums and baked cherries, with hints of toasted coffee. Palate: majestic and elegant, cherries preserved in spirit, and bitter cocoa. Attractively long finish.
La Foresteria Serego Alighieri Its history dates back to the XIV century when Dante Alighieri, exiled from Florence for political reasons, was hosted in the Verona lands by the Della Scala family. Dante’s son, Pietro, decided to remain there and in 1353 purchesed the villa and its grounds, which, after 20 generations, are still property of the family: counts Serego Alighieri. Thanks to accurate renovation works on part of the old house of the Villa Serego Alighieri we have now 8 apartments available for 2, 3 and 4 persons.
15. Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria Limited Edition D.O.C. 2008 produced by Donnafugata. Grapes grown on the island of Pantelleria. 100% Zibbibo Vineyards are more than 100 years old, grapes harvested by hand, dried, aged at least 6 years in bottle
Donnafugata was created in Sicily thanks to the initiative of a passionate family that revolutionized the style and the perception of Sicilian wine in the world.
Giacomo Rallo, fourth generation of this family engaged in wine-making since 1851, established Donnafugata with his wife Gabriella; he led the wine estate till he passed away in 2016. Now Donnafugata is run by the fifth generation of the family represented by José, pr and marketing, and Antonio Rallo, wine-maker. Read more about them here.
The small island of Pantelleria was recently declared a national park. It is closer to Africa than it is to Italy and is very, very dry and has more Arab roots than it does Italian.
This is one of my favorite sweet wines in the wine universe. It just takes me to the hot winds, sunshine and water of Pantelleria. Winemaker’s notes: Complex and ample sweet wine with an outstanding freshness. On the nose intense notes of apricot and peach follewed by sweet sensations of dried figs and honey, aromatic herbs and mineral notes.
This tasting took us from the cold climate grapes of Alto Adige, Friuli and the Veneto down the length of Italy to the hot desert climate of Pantelleria and the raisinated grapes in Ben Rye. Each different wine, stellar, classic and a seminal wine of the region. This was a day that I call, traveling by the glass.