This week’s grape variety is not the Lambrusco that most people think of when they consider that grape. It is called Lambrusco Viadanese and is often called Grappello Ruperti or Viadanese. Viadana is the name of the comune in the province of Mantova where this grape is widely grown. It is very close to the Po and Oglio rivers. Ruperti is the last name of an agronomist named Ugo Ruperti who was a proponent of the variety. It is more often found in Lombardy than in Emilia-Romagna where the lion’s share of Lambrusco come from. It is grown near Mantova and Cremona, two lovely towns. The grape makes wines that hace nice acidity, low alcohol and notable tannins. It can also make frizzante wines and prefers fresh and deep soils with good sunlight. This medium sized grapes makes wines that are ruby red in color and are generally used as table wines rather than wines to cellar.
Lambrusco Mantovano DOC is produced with the Lambrusco Viadenese grape. Lambrusco Mantovano was created in 1987 and the wines must contain a minimum of 85% Lambrusco Viadanese, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani and/or Lambrusco Salamino grapes. I found a number of wineries making wines from this variety, such as that of Azienda Agricola Miglioli Angelo. According to their website this is an ancient clone of Lambrusco and their family took cuttings from the property of Principe Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna.
Tracy Ellen Kamens, a great wine educator and a friend, held a really informative seminar on Cavas during this year’s conference in Washington. She had an interesting slide comparing Cavas and Champagne and showed many aged Cavas. I have always loved cava but had never really considered their aging potential before as I tend to drink them young. My mistake apparently. This was one of my favorites from Castillo Perelada.
I love the yeasty, almond, pear notes and the crisp enveloping mouth feel that I get with this cava. It is very dry and exactly the way I like to drink sparkling wine. According to the winery website, “When United States President Dwight Eisenhower visited Spain in 1959, Castillo Perelada was commissioned to choose a cava for the reception banquet, and for the occasion it chose one of its own small reservas. The idea for the creation of Gran Claustro was born from the resounding success of this choice. This cava is made using traditional methods and ages in the convent bodegas adjoining Perelada Castle, the same cellars used by the Carmelite monks to make wine over six centuries ago.” With all Eisenhower had to worry about at the time, I am happy to know he was drinking good wine.
Chocolate is not generally one of the first items that come to mind when thinking about Italy. Chocolate has a long history in Italy linked to regional traditions, specific ingredients from specific terroirs, and superior artisanal craftsmanship. In the chocolate market, Italy competes with Belgium and France, better known chocolate making countries. There are four principal chocolate producing regions in Italy: Sicily, Tuscany, Piedmont and the Veneto.
All four of these regions have long traditions making chocolates which span hundreds of years. Each region produces a different type of chocolate and uses particular ingredients. The Medici family from the Tuscan city of Florence, for example, was among the first to drink hot chocolate in cups. Their chocolate apparently was enhanced by floral notes such as Jasmine flowers while some modern Tuscan producers also use refined local olive oil to flavor their products
Piedmont on the other hand has always been quite well known for their chocolates which are made with hazelnuts known as nocciole in Italian while the Veneto makes chocolates with local products such as grappa or honey.
Sicily, known for chocolates with pepperoncino, citrus fruits and pistachios has a very long history with chocolate which began under Spanish rule. The Spaniards had discovered chocolate through their possessions in the Americas. The most famous area where chocolate is made in Sicily is a county called Modica.
Chocolate from Modica is very unique. It is textured and crunchy and quite unlike almost every other chocolate around the world today. In fact, chocolate from
Modica is more similar to that of the Aztec Indians than it is to the traditions of Piedmont or Tuscany where creamier chocolates are made. These types of regional particularities are what make Italian chocolate so special and so interesting. Be it a cremino from Piedmont or a crunchy bar from Modica or a modern chocolate from Tuscany, Italy seemingly has a chocolate for every taste.
Years ago I wrote an article about chocolate and interviewed Monica Meschini, a chocolate shop owner in Florence and an expert chocolate taster. It was fascinating. At the time, she said that when tasting chocolate you have to do a sensorial analysis, much like tasting tea or wine. One does both a visual exam and then a more fun, exam of how the chocolate tastes on your palate. “Chocolate should have a deep color but not be too black because that means it has been over toasted to hide defects in the original product,” Meschini said.
I was reminded of that interview and my chocolate article this summer when I happened on the most extraordinary shop in Bagno a Ripoli, Vitali. They made exquisite chocolate and the owner and I had a long conversation about their expansion plans – to Japan – and chocolate. I rarely think of chocolate in the summer but those at Vitali were memorable all year long. Italian artisanal workmanship in sculpture as in chocolate is always a cut above all else. Their chocolates are not available in the States as of yet but I think it is just a matter of time. At least I hope so.
As usual I was overly ambitious about what I can accomplish in a short amount of time. I have not been blogging everyday but I am thinking about it every day at least. I often need to think and plan my way into things. Like most busy and ambitious people, I’ve got lots of projects going on at the same time but I also like to take time to think and assess what I have seen and learned of late. The Society of Wine Educators conference that I attended last week is always the beginning of the school year if you will. It always serves to renew my interest and commitment to the field and peaks my curiosity about new parts of the busy I am less familiar with. Case in point this year were seminars on indigenous Spanish varietals being restored by the Torres family, the Chinese wine market in Ningxia , Canadian wine and older vintages of Chilean Cabernet. That was just the last day I think. There are so many interesting sessions to attend that my mind is often racing as is my palate. This coming few weeks will see posts on some of the sessions I attended, all worthwhile and interesting. The conference is a great way to learn, see friends and make new ones.
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