Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ITALY: Need to Know

Attempting to be as well prepared as possible for the upcoming Wine Educators exam, I asked the Society to send me their Preview Workbook. Along with a few sample questions and critical grading criteria, it noted that a full third of the written exam would cover the wines and regions of France & Italy.  With just a few weeks left, it  was time to explore the 'need to know details' of the vine paradise known by the ancient Greeks as Wine Land.

  • Northern Italy Need to Know's

Veneto's dominant grape of Soave DOCG is Garganega, a required 70% of blend minimum.
The region's principal grape of blended Amarone della Valpolicella is red Corvina. Bordolino Superiore DOCG is made from the same grapes, but grown in different zones and with different blended proportions.
Amarone Riserva aging requirement is a minimum four years prior to release.
Proscecco DOCG sparkling wines are made from 85% minimum Proscecco white grapes.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia's Colli Orientali del Friuli DOCG and Ramondolo DOCG's are made from local variety dried grapes, Picolit and  white Ramandolo, respectively.
Most of Trentino-Alto Adige's production shows its German-Austrian roots, with volumes of quality wines from Muller-Thurgau, Traminer and the red Lagrein and Teroldego grapes.
Italy's most important DOCG for traditional method sparkling wines is Lombardy's Franciacorta DOCG. Riservas must be aged a minimum of five years. In the northeast of this region, Valtellina DOCG wines are produced with a minimum 70% Chiavennasca(Nebbiolo) and blended with Pinot Nero(Pinot Noir)

 Albana di Romagna, located in Emilia-Romana,  was Italy's first white wine DOCG. The region produces great volumes of vino da tavola, like the popular Lambrusco, based from the grape of the same name.
Umbria's Orvietto is based in principal white grapes of Grechetto and Trebbiano(Ugli Blanc). The red grape, Sagrantino is the basis of Montefalco DOCG, and the region's Sangiovese blend, Torgiano Riserva DOCG, produce arguably the region's red best wines.

Important Piedmont communes of Neive and Treiso found in the Barbaresco DOCG, where we also find the village of Barbaresco. Of the numerous communes producing some if Italy's greatest, long lived wines,  Cannubi is considered among the best cru of Barolo DOCG.
Barbaresco and Barolo's Nebbiolo grape is known by a variety of synonyms: Spanna, Chiavennasca(Lombardy), and Picotendro (Picutener). The regions Northern hills are the home of Gattinara DOCG and Ghemme DOCG, with red blends based on Spanna.
Gavi DOCG is produced in the south of the Piedmont region and based on the white Cortese grape.
A sweet, sparkling red wine from native Brachetto grapes is a specialty of the region, Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG.  Another important regional product is Vermouth, produced with a minimum 70% wine base, and then fortified and flavored with herbs and local spices.

Smallest of Northern Italy's regions, Valle d'Aosta, borders Switzerland and produces numerous wine varieties that have only attained DOC status. Flanking Piedmont to the South, Liguria's most important white grape is Pigato(Vermentivo), and also produces locally consumed DOC wines.

Central Italy's Tuscany region is home to seven(7) DOCG's, mostly based on the workhorse red variety, Sangiovese, and its many clones. Chianti Classico DOCG, the original zone of production, is located between Florence and Siena, and has rigid productions standards. Wines labeled Chianti DOCG are produced by growers in a much wider(varied) and encompassing landscape.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, is the noble product of the Brunello(little brown one) clone, from the small hilltop village. Neighboring Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, is based on another Sangiovese clone known as Prugnolo.
Carmignano DOCG, is a rosso blend of Sangiovese and mostly Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. In the regions Southwest, is the newly recognized, Morellino di Scansano DOCG, yet another Sangiovese based wine. Notable in this region, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is produced from the local white Vernaccia grape, and has DOCG status.

Terms indicating wine produced from dried grapes include: Recioto, Passito, and Sforzato. The term Ripasso, literally to 'pass over', reflects a fermentation on the wines lees. DOC and DOCG wines labeled Riserva have been aged longer. Wines indicating Superiore have a higher level of alcohol or aging or come from a specific geographical region.  Vino Santo is a Italy's maderized dessert wine made in sweet and dry versions from dried, local grapes.

DOCG wines rank at the top of Italy's quality pyramid, and are intended to guarantee the authenticity and region of origin with the highest standards. All of the wines in this ranking are subject to taste and chemical evaluations by professional panels. In 2004 there were only 29 DOCG wines, today there are 55 throughout the country!

And, that is just almost half of it.  More later...I need more time to study!

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