Sigh ... Tuesday night we wrapped up our whirlwind tour of Italy's wine regions. Despite having missed out on Chianti night (and after chatting with my classmates, I'm even MORE bitter about that!) I did get to sample some extraordinary vintages from parts of Italy where I didn't even know grapes were grown. Plus, I got the added bonus of food tips and travel itineraries from Antonio, who has no problem talking at great length (and I mean great) about his beloved country.
I've done Tuscany and I've travelled through a portion of the Lakes region (Lago Maggiore, with Isola Borromeo's opulent castle and idyllic gardens, will always hold a place in my heart!) But there's so much more to see. One of these days, I'd love to have a good jaunt with Pruttah in Barolo; take in the cliff side splendour of Cinque Terre; or walk the sandy beaches of the Adriatic coast. It's not a question of "if", it's more like when ... I simply must go back.
Until then, I have plenty of good wines to choose from:
Falanghina 2005 Ocone - Italy does red more than white, but their whites certainly don't disappoint (ask my mother-in-law about Orvieto!) This had a floral, perfumed nose, was quite fresh and zesty with lots of apple, citrus and minerality. Clean and crisp.
Moscato di Terracina 2006 Sant' Andrea - Don't let the name fool you, this isn't a dessert wine. Layers of apricot, honey and orange blossom bombard the olfactory system, setting you up for a cloying mouthful, but on the palate, it's all subtle sweetness, with herbaceous oregano and basil (go figure!) It has solid acids, but needs to be kept cold, otherwise it goes all flabby. Loved the lingering marmalade finish.
Barbera d'Alba 2005 Tre Vigne Rosso - Heavy smoke, licorice and black cherry aromas with some tobacco and orange liquor. Light body, with well-balanced acid and tannins. The taste is all about smoke and spice (peppercorn, chili, a bit of mint).
Valtellina Nebbiolo 1999 Casa Nera - Nebbiolo, known locally as "Chiavannesca", is found at its best in the Lombardy region of northeast Italy. (Looking at a map, I was about a three-hour train ride away when I stayed in Lugano ... pity!) This had a complex nose of cloves, cinnamon, strawberry jam and leather. Its light body and moderate tannins/acids were paired with prunes, coffee, chocolate and cherries that lasted quite a while after a sip or two.
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2003 Done Bosco - Not to be confused with the town of Montepulciano, this is the grape variety we're talking about here. (If these classes have taught me anything, it's that wine is anything but SIMPLE.) A sniff of that is like walking into the Bulk Barn - peppercorn, sweet basil, mint, black olives, raisins. Plush is the best way to describe how it feels; it's enticingly soft and warming, with low-to-moderate acids and tannin. Red fruit, candied strawberry and cherry on the finish.
Tancredi 2003 Donna Fugata - This is a blend of Nero d'Avola and Cabernet Sauvignon; the latter is obvious in the aromas of cigar smoke and pipe tobacco soaked in cassis. Smooth, full-bodied, lots of tannin. More cassis and jammy goodness in the mouth, with a long, peppery finish. What a gorgeous way to end a class.