The Grandi Marchi Experience: Symphonic

The Grandi Marchi – visionary winemakers from across Italy – are here today at Del Posto Restaurant in New York City to lead attendees through a seminar and guided wine tasting of some of Italy’s best terroirs.

Like the Philharmonic minutes before a concert, the “orchestra” Grandi Marchi, is tuning up.

As Grandi Marchi members take their seats, tasting glasses clink and jangle, papers rustle, polite chatter and excuse me’s whispered one after another.

Audience iPhone camera shutters clllick away.


What follows is to be an immensely informative seminar, with each producer/representative speaking with subject matter expert authority about their respective regions, production methods, and unique terroirs.

I won’t kid you – the tasting segment is ridiculously pleasant. And massively instructive. The elegance, vigor, joy and pleasure of Grandi Marchi wines is remarkable.

But, for anyone who is familiar with the Grandi Marchi – member names that include the likes of Gaja, Masi, and Antinori – icons of fine Italian wine – that much is not unexpected.

What has so impressed me at this Grandi Marchi tasting – more so than any single wine or producer – is that, as a group, the wines braid together 13 different appellations and 15 wineries in a way that speaks so vividly, so sonorously, of Italy’s rich and diverse wine tradition.

To put it another way, perhaps in musical terms, the Italian wine tradition is composed not of a single tone, but from many different tones which, as in good music, allow us to experience the symphony.

There are no short cuts to understanding Italian wine. There are, however, some very good places to begin the Sassicaiajourney. Grandi Marchi wines represent a point of departure that grant you exposure to a highly relevant cross-section of Italy’s most important grape varietals and regions, act as model reference points for what wines ought to be like within their respective categories, and help to communicate the cultural values and traditions that unite them.

For more information about the Grandi Marchi, I recommend you to follow the link to Grandi Marchi Institute of Fine Italian Wines.

Wines of Lugana: The Art of Exquisite

lugana-consorzioA few items on my short list of things exquisite:

Sunset off Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard
Michelangelo’s “Pieta”
Musical counterpoint of JS Bach

But, I am inspired to make an addition 😉

Attending an event at Eataly’s La Scuola Grande (NYC) celebrating the wines of Italy’s Lugana territory allowed me to taste broadly through a select group of the region’s wines. It was a great tasting experience in that I was able to better appreciate the finely etched detail and exquisite expression which Lugana’s wines have to offer.

I mean, yes, Lugana’s white wines from around Italy’s Lake Garda do sip well in summer. But, they offer so much more than good summer quaffing, expressing a certain beauty and charm composed of delicate, fine distinctions.

You will find it written that Lugana wines are produced with Trebbiano di Lugana, but the best practice, I think, is to know the varietal by its local name, Turbiana, as it is now generally becoming recognized uniquely by that name, distinct from other Trebbiano vines.

lugana-creeteLocated between Lombardia and Veneto, Italy’s Lugana wine region is a smallish area with a big terroir advantage. The rare, hard clay found in the Lake Garda area coupled with the mild, breezy micro-climate influences of the lake, create rather ideal conditions for Turbiana.

I do believe appellation regulations require Lugana wines be produced from at least 90% Turbiana, allowing for 10% other non-aromatic white varietal. The production fact of the matter, I understand, is that producers routinely opt to use 100% Turbiana.

Lugana wines are produced at five different levels, those being normale or basic, superiore, riserva, late harvest, and spumante. It’s a great model, actually, as the levels allow wine lovers to appreciate and enjoy the longevity of Turbiana – ah, yes, Turbiana can age well – up to 3-4 years for basic, 10 years for superior and riserva. While basic level wines will highlight energy and freshness, superior and riserva wines can reveal more structure, complexity, notes of herb, nut, wood, etc.

lugana-wines1All in all, as a group, the Lugana wines I tasted were vibrant, many showing a distinctive minerality, subtlety salty in a way. Delicate, refined fragrances…fruity, floral, citrus, grace notes of herb and almond. Medium acidity that impressed with delicious crispness. Suppleness in the mouth, yet maintaining an elegant intensity on the palate.

Slam-dunk food pairings include freshwater fish, shell fish, grilled chicken / pork, cured meat, young cheeses, summer vegetables, risotto, appetizers, melon / prosciutto.

Coincidentally, during the month of July 2015 Eataly NYC is celebrating Lugana’s wines with a “Lugana: The Wine, The Land” theme, a wonderful idea! You can taste Lugana wines and learn about the territory without ever leaving the city 🙂

Event coordinated by Vigneto Communications.

Bottle Roundup, Two Nebbiolo-based Wines with Varietal Character and Complexity, Reco’s at a Glance

bottle-round-up-fay-caves-de-donnas-may-2013Left to Right:

Caves de Donnas DONNAS – 90% Nebbiolo grapes (Picotendro), 10% Freisa and Neyret. Valle D’Aosta. $$

Sandro Fay Rosso di Valtellina – 90% Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca), 10% Merlot, Brugnola, Rossola, Pignola. Lombardia Valtellina. $

Rainoldi Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2006

Rainoldi Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2006

I like to think about harmony in wine as I do about harmony in music: a super-connection of relaxations and tensions that manage to stay balanced in a way that’s pleasing to the senses.

And, Rainoldi’s Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2006, I’ve found, is a wine that is, first and foremost, one of harmony.

rainoldi-valtellina-superiore-2006Rainoldi is based in Lombardy’s famous Valtellina, a great Nebbiolo terroir and the northernmost wine region of Lombardy. Here, Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca, is cultivated predominately by hand on steep slopes where mechanization is nearly impossible.

Rainoldi makes its Sassella from 100% Nebbiolo, grown in the rocky, sandy soil of high altitude vineyards, approximately 250 – 550m altitude, with southern exposure.

The wine matures for close to two years in Slavonian oak followed by refinement in bottle for at least 1 year before being released to market.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A magnificently interwoven spectrum of aromatics and flavors – cherry, orange peel, herb, plum, anise and smoke – resolves beautifully into the wine’s structure. Moderate tannins with good grip and a long finish showing a mature smoothness. Harmonic and balanced, an astounding value for money.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

I find this wine works well with dishes enriched with cream, butter, and / or cheese… hearty courses – with or without meat – of soups, risotto, pasta and polenta are going to pair well. For example, consider a first course of rich risotto with butter, cheese and thin slices of the cured meat called Bresaola (if you are vegetarian, substitute porcini mushrooms for the Bresaola). Cheeses like Mascarpone, Robiola, Gorgonzola, Camembert, Taleggio, Brie de Nangis, will be especially good. Of course, this wine, as you’d expect, is awesome with red meat: try a main course of veal roast with cream.