Vinitaly ended last week but I tried so many wines there that I can probably keep writing about them for the next two months. One building where I spent a lot of time is the Lombardy area in the Palaexpo building. It is the closest one to the entrance, has the sala stampa (press room) and conference rooms but more importantly, it has a number of great wines. Lombardy as a wine area is not that well known in the United States despite the efforts of numerous producers, PR agenices and others. I think this is a terrible shame because it has a number of great wines areas such as Franciacorta and the Valtellina as well as the lesser known areas of Garda (Brescia), Valcalepio (Bergamo), Colli Mantovani (Mantova), San Colombano (Milano), Oltrepo’ Pavese (Pavia). It also has a great gastronomic tradition, beautiful cities, museums, lakes and ski areas. I am in an in-love phase with Lombardy as I am in Milan for the foreseeable future until I can get a flight out. I also lived in Milan for 10 years so it seems like home thanks to the warmth and hospitality of numerous friends, business contacts and honestly strangers on the street. I am overwhelmed with people’s generosity at the moment, so forgive me if I seem to have rose colored glasses on when I wax poetic about Lombardy and its wines.
I love Franciacorta wines and have written about them a lot in the past so I will move along to some of the other wines I tasted at Vinitaly.
Every morning I started my day at a different area in Lombardy, trying sparkling wines. One of the wines from Garda which I really enjoyed was a Chiaretto from Averoldi. It was made using indigenous grapes Groppello, Barbera, Marzemino and Sangiovese. I tried a sparkling version but it is more common to find a Chiaretto as a still wine. Chiaretto is a very light salmon colored wine that is made from red grapes which spend just a few hours macerating. The skins are removed after a few hours or over the course of one evening. Garda Classico DOC comes from the west side of Lake Garda, my favorite of the Lombard lakes and the only one in which I have taken a swim because the water is blue and clear not grey and hard to see through. Friday the 13th ruined me as a child and i am always waiting for Jason to pop out of a lake. I can only swim where I can see my toes…
Another wine made on the shores of Lake Garda, is Lugana DOC. This wine is made with the Trebbiano lugana grape and can be either sparkling or still. I tried five or six sparkling wines made using the charmat (tank refermentation) method which truly surprised me. Lugana has been a DOC or denominazione d’origine controllata wine since 1967.
The wine is light and refreshing and is perfect as an aperitivo. It has good acidity and minerality with the right amount of “sapidità” a very difficult term to translate into English but savory or mouthwatering might do the trick. Sapidità is essentially saltiness but not quite. As with many words, there is no distinct English equivalent of the Italian word. When a wine is sapido, it makes you salivate a bit.
I particularly liked one from Ottella. This Lugana Brut spent some six months in the tanks. The grapes were picked manually. I also really liked these wines because they all had 12%-12.5% alcohol. Most Italian wines used to have that level of alcohol but many producers have been moving towards what they consider to be “international” standards and making wines with 13% and above. I think this is an error.
I also tried an interesting sparkling wine made from Chardonnay from a winery called Perla del Garda, also located in the same area. The wine spent six months on its lees and was a 2006. This wine was sold in a very particular bottle which was beautiful to look at but would be hard to carry home.
I tried my first wine from another area of Lombardy called San Martino Della Battaglia DOC, also somewhat near the city of Brescia.
The winery, Cattani, makes a great Lugana DOC with Trebbiano di Lugana called Costa Alta which should soon be arriving in New York as well as a host of other wines including sparklers made from Riesling and a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco.
I also tasted through a number of wines made in Oltrepo’ Pavese with Pinot Nero and some from Capriano del Colle DOC made with the indigenous grape Marzemino.
Perhaps the biggest “novità” though were wines made in the Colli Mantovani from Lambrusco Mantovana, not to be confused with the other famous Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna. I found them delicious and more intense than the average Lambrusco.
All in all, Lombardy showed me a new side of its viticultural self and I hope to continue discovering other gems.