In keeping with this month’s sparkling wine focus, this week’s Wine of the Week is a brut sparkling wine from Fongaro, a winery in the Veneto. I first heard of this winery in 2010 when they participated in an event held by Vinitaly in the United States. I was struck by the wine and the grape variety, Durella, which I found unique and interesting.
Fongaro was created in 1975 and has always focused on the indigenous grape Durella which hails from the Monti Lessini zone, a hilly area between Verona and Vicenza. The wines are all made using the traditional method, meaning with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle.
The grape variety ends in an “a” while the wine in an “o.” A couple of years later I was reintroduced to this grape variety by Antonio Fattori. He makes a wine which I adore called I Singhe Lessini Durello D.O.C. from 100% Durella. It is also a sparkling wine and Durella is well suited for these types of wines. Durella makes wines with a refined bouquet of citrus fruits and nuts as well as great acidity and minerality, perfect for sparkling wine.
This grape variety has considerable tannins which provide great structure to these sparklers. The terroir of this area of the Veneto is rich with volcanic soils and hillsides, ideal growing conditions for the grape variety.
The Fongaro Brut Cuvee is made from 80%-85% Durella and the remaining 15%-20% is Incrocio Manzoni. Incrocio Manzoni is a cross between Riesling and Pinot Bianco created in the 1920s in Conegliano (Veneto) by Professor Manzoni.
The wines remain on their lees for at least 24 months in the bottle before dégorgement. I was lucky enough to taste this wine recently at the Simply Italian tasting in New York at the end of October. Sadly, Durello is not widely distributed in the United States. I have tried to encourage the Consorzio to promote their wines in the States and to convince various producers that it is a market worth investing in. Thus far, I have had little luck but I do think this is a sparkler to look out for in the future.
Santa Lucia is a holiday in many parts of the world including Scandinavia and some towns in Northern Italy, particularly in the Veneto and two towns in Lombardy, Crema and Cremona. The latter is a very famous city for its liutai or lute makers as well. Here is an interesting explanation of this festive day that some consider almost as important as Christmas. Santa Lucia was a Saint from Siracusa, Sicily.
My own reason for celebrating Santa Lucia lies much closer to home with my beautiful niece whose name day is today – Lucia. Here’s a recent photo of Lucia holding her new cousin, Niccolo’, on Thanksgiving. Much to be thankful for this year.
This Friday’s winery of the week is Ricci Curbastro, a Franciacorta producer. I have been a fan of both this particular winery and the Franciacorta category for almost 20 years. I love Champagne but the wines from Franciacorta D.O.C.G. have always held sway with me as well. Franciacorta is an area in the Lombardy region of Italy which is sandwiched between the city of Brescia and Lake Garda. The area makes great sparkling wines using the traditional method where the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is different from the charmat method used to make Prosecco. My first Italian wine in a wine class in 1997 was in fact a Saten from Franciacorta. That wine was from Bellavista, a very well known winery in the area.
I met Riccardo Ricci Curbastro of the Ricci Curbastro winery in 2009 and just saw him again recently at a tasting in New York. Domenico Valentino is his local importer so his wines are fairly easy to find in New York City. The Ricci Curbastro family began bottling wine in Capriolo in Franciacorta as far back as the 1800s. In 1967, the winery became its modern self. That same year, the Franciacorta D.O.C. was created. Ricci Curbastro has 28 hectares covered in vines. The family makes about 200,000 bottles a year. The family also has an agritourism and a wine museum on the property.
Some years ago, Riccardo began experimenting with using less sulfites and more lees extraction. All Ricci Curbastro sparkling wines spend a minimum of 30 months on their lees (yeast). The results are fantastic.
I also really like the Brut as well as the Extra Brut. Perhaps the wine I like the most for sentimental reasons I believe is the Saten Brut. It also spends 30 months on its lees but its salient characteristic is that it has lower bottle pressure (5 atmospheres instead of the usual 6). I always find aromas of raspberries in Saten. It is creamy and delicious and goes well with everything in my opinion. I again tasted his Brut and Saten. They are both wonderful wines with great nutty, toasty and yeasty aromas and flavors. I find the Satem creamier.
Franciacorta also produces a lot of great still wine. Some of that is making headway here in the United States under the designation Curtafranca D.O.C. Ricci Curbastro makes both a Curtefranca Rosso and a Curtefranca Bianco D.O.C.
I am looking forward to trying the wines again at Vinitaly as I do every year.
My wine of the week this time around is a Cremant de Limoux, another sparkler that I think is worthy of note. I tried this brut version at a restaurant in Philadelphia, Petruce, a great place for an eclectic meal and funky wines
The wine hails from the Domaine du Collin. Cremant de Limoux can be made from a combination of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Mauzac and Pinot Noir. It is said that the first sparkling wine actually came from this region, produced in 1531, by the monks at the abbey in Saint-Hiliaire. Domaine Collin is owned by Philippe & Marie-Hélène Collin. It was established in 1980. They have 18 hectares with clay-limestone and gravel soils, perfect for sparkling wine. Philippe comes from Champagne but decided to try his luck in Limoux, the coolest area in the Languedoc. The wine is produced in a traditional method with a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. The wine was elegant and balanced with bright acidity, rich toasty notes and floral components. A lovely sparkler that retails for under $20.
Garganega is this week’s grape variety hails from the Veneto region. Garganega is the principal grape used to make Soave, an Italian white wine that we are all familiar with in the United States. According to DNA studies, it is related to Grecanico which is a grape variety widely used in Sicily. Garganega is able to produce a host of wines whether they are dry or sweet, such as the Recioto di Soave version.
The grape has moderate acidity and lovely fruit and floral aromas. It often has a slight almond taste on the finish as well. Hard to pronounce, Garganega is not listed generally on the Soave label but at least 70% of all Soave must be Garganega. The other 30% can be Trebbiano, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay.
Garganega is a vigorous grape variety and in the past was used to make mass market wines. That trend has completely changed and the grape is now used to make elegant, age worthy wines.
Many producers are worthy of note. Eric Asimov of the New York Times wrote this piece earlier this year on Soave. I’m very partial to the ones that can age such as those made by Antonio Fattori of Fattori Wines.
I had the opportunity to try wines from this region last week at a Wines from the Veneto (Uvive) event. If you live in New York or Chicago, you too can taste versions of Garganega at Eataly.
I’ve decided to dedicate a number of posts this month to sparkling wines, Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, and all the other bubbles that make life delicious. I love sparkling wine and the holiday season is upon us so it seems a perfect time to take a look at some of the ones I have had this year.
Celebrating the arrival of my new bundle of joy earlier this fall, I shared a bottle of this wine with my family, a perfect pairing and a great wine to celebrate his arrival.
Pol Roger is one of the last few champagne houses that are still entirely family owned. In fact, my very first wine tasting in New York years ago was a Wildman portfolio tasting, Pol Roger importer, and a member of the family was there pouring their wines. A very elegant older gentleman, it was a memorable experience. The family has some 220 acres of vineyards, mostly in the south of Epernay and the Cotes de blancs. This particular Champagne is composed of one third Pinot Noir, one third Chardonnay and one third Meunier. It spends three years on its lees. Each grape brings different aspects to the blend: Pinot Noir brings body, Pinot Meunier provides freshness and fruit notes and Chardonnay enhances the experience by adding an elegant lift.
This Champagne has a beautiful perlage, lovely floral and fruit notes as well as nutty and toasty aromas and flavors that make this a classic and a great one to celebrate sweetness in your life.