As we approach Christmas Eve, Christmas day and the holidays, I am thinking about Milan and all of the Christmases I have spent there. As visions of Christmas dance in my head I read thew news that a police trainee in Sesto San Giovanni was able to stop the man who was allegedly responsible for the attack in Berlin on Monday. What a world, I hate to think of what he was doing in Italy and what else was planned.
While not considered Italy’s most beautiful city, Milan creeps into your heart and is today considered to be an international city of sorts after the Expo and all the new buildings.
As a New Yorker, it’s not the new buildings that interest me but the old such as Sant’Ambrogio where I once spent a beautiful Christmas Eve with friends listening to Mass. I know all of my Italian friends met tonight for an apertivo to toast the holidays. I am sure they are toasting with Prosecco, a Franciacorta, likely Berlucchi if in a bar or Ferrari.
I raise a glass to all of them! Buone Feste Amici Miei!!
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.
Lambrusco is one of the most widely discussed and maligned grape varieties grown in Italy, together with Albana and Pinot Grigio. There are many different grapes with Lambrusco as part of their name, mostly grown in Emilia Romagna but not all. It is likely that they are related to a wild grapevine that was already known to both Pliny and Virgil in antiquity. The first one mentioned today in fact does not grow in Emilia but in Piedmont and Lombardy. It was much more amply planted before phylloxera hit but after was less widely seen. Today it is often blended with Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and Bonarda.
The latter grape, Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata is grown in Trentino and is more widely known by the name Enantio. I actually tried this wine a few years ago but only recently learned of its connection to Lambrusco. This one is often used for making rose wines.
A fellow blogger who often writes on Italian wines, Jennifer Martin on Vino Travels published this article on Lambrusco ahead of Lambrusco day which was apparently June 20. It’s a good read and a good primer on Lambrusco.
Today is an Italian national holiday known as la Festa della Repubblica. It celebrates theday in 1946 when Italians voted to become a republic. In Italy, most people go on holiday for a long weekend, affectionately known as il ponte or the bridge. Most take tomorrow off to make it a four
day affair. Today is a day to toast and raise a glass to il Bel Paese. I like to toast with bubbly and that brings me to an area in Lombardy that has been much discussed of late, even in the US, Franciacorta. Franciacorta became a DOC wine in 1967 but the Consorzio was created in 1990 by 29 producers. It became a DOCG in 1995. These wonderful sparklers are made in the traditional method, secondary fermentation in the bottle, with three grape varieties permitted: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco
The soils in Franciacorta are rich in sand and limestone, and are known for their drainage. The area is located on what was a moraine that formed as a glacier withdrew many centuries ago. As in many areas of this type of geological origin, numerous minerals, stones and rocks were left to create rich soils where the vine can flourish. The soils in Franciacorta vary with the zones but overall they have these characteristics.The area is also attentive to sustainability issues and to being carbon neutral. I know a number of producers in the area who strive to be carbon zero. The Italians are smart and are drinking 90% of it themselves. So many wonderful producers to mention here but I think I will mention just one Berlucchi.
Berlucchi is really classic Franciacorta, infact, in Italy at most bars they ask you if you want Berlucchi for Franciacorta and Ferrari for Trento DOC rather than saying the names of the type of wine they mention these specific wineries. Somewhat like saying kleenex in terms of brands. I first visited the Berlucchi winery when I received my diploma from the Associazione Italiana Sommelier. It was very exciting.
I love all of their wines and recently had the Cellarius. I had the opportunity to meet Cristina Zilani from the founding family last year. She was a very rigorous and exciting woman. Very committed to promoting Franciacorta throughout the world. I have always been a Franciacorta fan and for years have wished to see more brands on the market. Let’s hope this is the year when this wonderful Italian sparkling wine graces most tables. Cin-Cin.
My wine this week hails from Lombardy and is called Quaquarini Cruase. It is a sparkling wine made in the traditional method in Lombardy. I tried it during Vinitaly at the Vivit section as it is made wtih organic grapes. The Quaquarini family is currently in its third generation running the winery located in Canneto Pavese. They are part of a movement called Associazione Produttori del Classese that groups together the most qualified producers of sparkling wines from the Oltrepò Pavese. OltrePo Pavese sparkling wines became a DOCG in 2007. To be called Cruase or Pinot Nero Rose Spumante, they have at least a minimum of 85% Pinot Nero. The remaining 15% can be Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and/or Pinot Grigio.
I liked this wine although it was quite fruity but then again, so are many rose’ wines. I wonder if the name could catch on here in the States. Cruase as a name can be used by Consorzio members for their Pinot Nero Rosé Spumante only.
This week’s indigenous variety hails from Lombardy, from the province of Brescia. I found it mentioned in a couple of places and a white wine made from the grape called Vino Pusterla. I also found this interesting blog reference to the grape. I have never had a wine made from this white grape but I am told that it has a very light color and an almond aftertaste, something that immediately points to Italy, although it has low acidity which, in a blind tasting, would lead me away from Italy.
Brescia is a city that is surprisingly interesting and rich in art, culture and even Roman ruins. Brescia, Lombardy’s second largest city after Milan, is often thought of as a small industrial town in Northern Italy, perhaps worth a few hours to see the Duomo, have lunch and then continue on to its more well known neighboring cities. On closer inspection however, Brescia reveals it’s exciting and varied history as well as numerous treasures. Brescia is known throughout Italy for its steel industry and precision instruments. The city is quite well to do and the wealth and prosperity of the city is clearly evident in the high quality shops, stores and restaurants. These last are considerably more expensive than even those of its larger neighbor, Milan. An itinerary through the city of Brescia can be created around various themes such as Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and 17th century architecture. The city can be well navigated on foot from the central station, by bus, car or on bikes. Like Bergamo, Brescia is a great side trip if you are in Milan. As you might have guessed, I wrote a long travel article on Brescia for a magazine some years ago.
This week’s indigenous grape variety hails mostly from Lombardy and the Veneto but is also found in a few areas in Trentino. It’s principal area however is around Lake Garda where it is a major component in Garda Classico DOC wines. It is often made into a rosato as well, locally called Chiaretto.
As a grape variety, Groppello, is hearty without being too vigorous and grows best on low hills. It is challenged in soils that have a deficiency in potassium and can at times present a sensibility to grey rot and oidium or powdery mildew.
There is also a Groppello that comes from the Trentino but that is a different grape variety. A well known producer of Groppello in this area is De Zinis
There is a Consorzio of these wines called Consorzio Valtenesi. Numerous DOC wines are produced with Groppello as the star variety including Valtenesi DOC (Groppello min 50% of the blend), Valtenesi Chiaretto DOC ( Groppello min 50% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso Superiore (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Chiaretto (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Groppello and Groppello Riserva (Groppello 100%), Garda Classico DOC Novello (Groppello min 30% of the blend). Many of these wines do not arrive in the United States which is a shame. They are easy to drink and lovely with food. Just like their friends nearby on Lake Garda, much of this wine is consumed in situ…