The Exquisteness and Breadth of Italian Wines – Simply Italian Great Wines Chicago 2019

Moving into the holidays, I can’t help but get into a mindset and focus on gratefulness. It seems like the days of October zoomed by,  already there has been a dusting of snow on the trees in Chicago and a frigid chill in the air as I walk to the bus. Since I started this post Chicago has turned an ice cube!! I wanted to get this post out before more time passed by me, on the amazing day of Simply Italian Great Wines 2019 that took place at the Londonhouse Hotel on October 21th. The building was packed with wine mavens, afficionados, buyers, sommeliers and most of all Italian wine lovers. Other than actually visiting Italy and tasting the wines on site, this day brought the wine regions, wines and foods of Italy to life and reminded me of how special and distinct each wine region is. The building was full of happy people enveloped in a cloud of Italian wine.

The master seminars focused on specific regions. With 75 DOCGS and 335 DOCs , the breadth of Italian wines is pretty amazing and it is quite easy to go down an Italian rabbit hole trying to assimilate the information on each DOC. The blockbuster seminars included focus on the wine regions of Asti, Asti Secco, Moscato D’Asti  DOCG, DOC delle Venezie Pinot Grigio, Federdoc (not a wine region but an umbrella group supporting all the regions) , Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG and DOC Friuli Grave (which I was not able to attend) followed by a grand tasting, As is the way with Italian wine and food, each seminar was distinctive, lead by highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic wine ambassadors and we tasted some beautiful wines. All of these wines you will want to know about!



When I think of Asti, Asti Secco and Moscato D’Asti DOCG all made with the noble grape, Moscato Bianco (Muscat à Petit Grains in France) a picture of a huge bouquet of white flowers comes to mind full of honeysuckle and wisteria. The thing that really hit me, as we tasted the 4 wines paired with a plate of salumi (Istuto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani) and provolone (Provolone Valpadana DOP), was how delicate all the wines were and the fine winemaking that goes into the production of these wines. They all are hand-harvested, cold fermentation used to preserve the floral aromas and in some cases aging on the lees. The seminar headed by Chicago’s own Italian wine expert, particularly, on all things Piedmontese, Tom Hyland, we tasted through wines with different sparkling and sugar levels yet they all had this indelible delicateness that only comes with precise wine growing and winemaking. The lineup was 1) Bric Prima Bella  Asti DOCG Extra Dry 2017 Matteo Soria, aged  6 months on its lees, 12% ABV, 2) Cuvage, Asti DOCG Millesimato 2014, metodo classico, 18 months on the lees and 6 months in bottle, 7% ABV, 3) Valamasca  Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2018 Vinchio -Vaglio Serra, a cooperative, 5% ABV and 4)  Abbazia Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2018 Abbazia di San Gaudenzio, 5.5% ABV. Each wine represented a different sparkling and sweetness level ending on the Moscato D’Asti DOCG wines but these were wines of finesse and light hands in the cellar. Aromas of sage, passion fruit, melon, orange blossoms hovered over the glasses as we tasted these fresh and bright wines that were a great way to start the day paired with the salumi and provolone which truly defined the tagline “Enjoy European Quality“. To reference an old american ad campaign, these are dry and semisweet wines for the “discerning wine consumer”. These are wines of heritage, care and delicacy that are a great choice to pair with spicy foods or pour for a large crowd of mixed wine tastes. The day had started on a great note!!! Moscato D’Asti for breakfast!

2) D.O.C. Delle Venezie: Pinot Grigio, Stile Italiano” presented by the vivacious Laura Donadoni, The Italian Wine Girl


There are many names across the world for Pinot Grigio (Italian). Pinot Gris in Alsace (its origins are in Burgundy), Grauburgunder in Germany.  Maybe it was RHONY and Ramona’s Pinot Grigio that contributed to the demand in the US mass market for pinot grigios but Pinot Grigio is a wildy popular varietal wine. The DOC delle Venezie Pinot Grigio was created to protect and maintain the quality of Pinot Grigio being produced within the Veneto/Friuli/Alto Adige regions which accounts for 82% of the wine produced in Italy. We tasted a broad range of Pinot Grigios, these were wines of quality, weight and style. Laura gave context to the wines and explained the logic of the first inter-regional DOC,  DOC delle Venezie Pinot Grigio.


The appellation allows winemakers to create blends of Pinot Grigios across regions and wine subregions, which encompasses the Veneto, Trentino – Alto Adige and Friuli.  We tasted: Bosco Dei Cirmioli Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2018, ( underripe kiwi, citrus, flowers, herbs, briny) Albino Armani Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2018, ( jasmine, floral, bright acidity) Cà di Alte Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2018, ( smoky finish – this area had ancient volcanic soils) Terra Vina Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2018, ( watermelon, honey)Casa Lunardi Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2018, ( floral, citrus, bright acidity) Cavit Collection Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC 2018, ( white peach, bruised apple) Itinera Prima Classes Pinot Grigio DOC 2018, (white peaches) Viticoltori Friulani La Delizia SCA Pinot Grigio Delle Veneie DOC 2018 (onion peel color). Although the styles did differ broadly, the wines all had an underlying stoniness due to the primarily, dolomitic soils, though across regions you will have variability. Most of the wines had varying degrees and hints of white peach, yellow apple, honeysuckle and lime.

3) Ricci Curbastro wines and all about Federdoc presented by Riccardo Ricci Curbastro. The Curbastros go back to the 13th century. Riccardo is the 17th generation and his father was significantly involved in the petitioning for the Franciacorta DOCG. Since 1998, he also is the President of Federdoc, the interprofessional organization for wine denominations of origin in Italy.


After learning about the structure and organization of Federdoc we tasted 4 wines.

Franciacorta DOCG Brut NV: 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir, the bottles are stacked for at least 30 months (38 months total from harvest)

Franciacorta DOCG Rosé Brut NV: 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay The bottles are stacked for at least 2 years.

Curtefranca Rosso DOC Vigna Santella del Grom 2013: This red was intriguing to me. 30% Cabernet Franc, 12% Carmenère, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 10% Barbera The wine was juicy, the cabernet franc and carmenère gave the wine a lift of floral notes accompanied by spice.

Sebino IGT Pinot Nero 2011:

4) “Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: The Energy of Sangiovese in TuscanyShawn Dore, the US Ambassador for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano assembled a who’s who to speak about the wine. The speakers included the current Mayor, Michele Angiolini, the previous mayor who is now head of the consorzium, Andrea Rossi and the International Ambassador for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano who ,also, happens to be the incoming Director for the Lyric Opera in Chicago, Enrique Mazzola.


Enrique Mazzola



In the 17th century, the Italian poet, Francesco Redi wrote in his poem, Bacchus in Tuscany, that Vino Nobile was the “King of all Wines”. Vino Nobile has a very long and distinguished heritage but it is a much smaller appellation than Chianti, Chianti Classico or Brunello. But US Ambassador Shawn Dore reminded us of the beauty of the village and the numerous films that were made there. I think all of us, if we had the money and the time would have booked flights to Florence immediately. I forgot about the deliciousness of Vino Nobile, the dark ripe berries, plum. leather, spice. Each wine had its own unique character. A reminder that Vino Nobile is a sangiovese gem, not to be overlooked! And the other note that hit me was how the wine growing and making was so interlinked with the town, it is one and the same, and that these are all family growers and family winemakers that are making the wine.

The grand tasting – covered the gamut, Barolos from Sordo, Collio wines from La Rajade, Amarones from Corte Vittorio, Cannonau di Sardegna from Cantina Giampetro  Puggioni and so many more!


Italy has so many nooks and crannies and beautiful places and wines that this was a  very happy day for everyone!!!! Thank you IEEM for bringing these delicious wines and friendly winemakers and ambassadors to Chicago!!

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