Italy is the No. 1 wine producer in the world and Regione Veneto has emerged as Italy's largest producer of wine. Vino 2009 sponsored a seminar and tasting of a selection of Regione Veneto wines, including the sparkling wine Prosecco, the lush Amarone reds, the beautiful and most popular Italian dry white wine, Soave, and a few other surprises.
The seminar started out smartly with an introduction of Prosecco, which is the name of the grape variety as well as the final product it produces. Grown on steep hillsides, the grapes have been carefully hand harvested for nearly 200 years. Prosecco is first created as a still wine with generally high acidity, then sugar and yeast are added to ferment in the wine stored in large pressurized, temperature-controlled tanks, where it becomes effervescent before being bottled. Prosecco is produced in different styles that carry the label Brut, which means it was fermented nearly dry with no added sweetness, Extra Dry (a little sweet), and Dry (marked residual sugar) where the sweetness comes from varying amounts of dosage (a portion of sweet wine) that is added before bottling. The final style of Prosecco is an undesignated (unlabeled) version that is quite sweet.
Though Prosecco can be made from not only the Prosecco grape, but also the Verdiso, Perera, and Bianchetta varieties in small quantities, the six Proseccos that I sampled were made from 100% Prosecco grapes. Prosecco is a light refreshing wine with an alcohol content of around 11.5% give or take .5%, acidity in the 6-7 grams/liter, and residual sugar from the range of 7 grams/liter for Brut, 14 grams/liter for Extra Dry, 20 grams/liter for Dry, and the undesignated (unlabeled) sweet version carrying much higher grams/liter. On the nose, you may find fruit notes such as golden apples, tart apples, pears, peaches, apricots, pineapple, grapefruit, and citrus hints, and flowery notes such as acacia and yellow roses. On the palate, characteristics such as intense, delicate, elegant, soft, clean, dry, and round are typically found.
The seminar continued with another well-known wine from Regione Veneto, Soave, which is made from Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc grape varieties. The Soave wine is usually a dry and still wine; it is the most popular of Italian dry white wines and is the third in volume. The two Soave's that I sampled were made from 100% Garganega grapes, were handpicked and soft pressed to preserve the soft mild taste, and held Soave Classico DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) classification; it is important to note that only 20% of Soave wine is classico.
Soave has a light straw yellow color with a nose of delicate white-fruit notes such as apple, or a flowery nose such as elderberry, and on the palate it is light and pairs well with appetizers and is a very nice wine to have before dinner. The sugar content is typically low in the 4-5 grams/liter, the alcohol is in the 12-13% range, and it is low in acidity.
The next section of the seminar was dedicated to sampling three Amarone della Valpolicella, which is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara varieties. This is a very structured wine that is long on the palate and one of the best red wines for aging, as well as it holds a DOC classification. The grapes are picked fully ripe and then allowed to dry through a process called rasinate (to dry and shrivel) which concentrates the remaining sugar and flavors. The grapes skin is a very important component of the process as this provides the tannins, color, and intensity to the wine. The making of Amarone della Valpolicella is a painstaking process with the drying time typically 120 days, but varies by producer and crop; this is followed by fermentation that can last 30-50 days and then barrel aging.
The result is a wine that is deep red in the glass with a nose that is complex with fruit, jam, black cherry, dark chocolate, ripe plum, and leather, and on the palate it is dry, full, elegant, long on the finish, well-balance acidity, and well-structured. Amarone della Valpolicella is a powerful wine that ranges from 15.5-16% alcohol with moderate residual sugar at 6-8 grams/liter and little acidity.
The seminar closed with a look at a couple of late harvest wines from the Regione Veneto starting with a Bardolino Superiore DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) and a Cabernet Sauvignon DOC. The Bardolino Superiore DOCG was made from the Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grape varieties that are overripe grapes macerated on their skin for 10 days, and the result is a wine with low residual sugar (3.8 grams/liter) and moderate alcohol at 13.5%. In the glass, it was an intense red with a nose of red fruits such as ripe cherry and sour cherries, and on the palate, it was velvety, full bodied, intense and gentle on your tongue allowing the fruity notes to grace your taste buds. The last wine of the seminar was a Cabernet Sauvignon made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that went through a long maceration process in stainless tanks. The wine was an intense ruby red in the glass with floral notes; on the palate, it was robust and full with balanced tannins.
The seminar provided only a glimpse into the vast wines of Regione Vento, but the tastings showed why this region has emerged as Italy's number one producer of wine.
Vino 2009, the first industry convention of Italian wines in America took place in Boston from January 24 - 25, 2009, in New York from January 26 - 28, 2009, and in Miami on January 30, 2009. To learn more about Italian Wines please visit the website: www.ItalianMade.com.
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