OenoNote - Some Impressive Italian Varietals

Daniele Cernilli, Don Winkler, OenoNote, Capriccio Baroque, International Wine Review,

I’m delighted to be contributing to Capriccio’s OenoNote Blog and to help meld the sumptuous pleasures of excellent wines with the rich, glorious music of the Baroque.  I hope to have the opportunity to join readers at a wine tasting event sometime including, hopefully, at a Capriccio concert.  But, in the meantime, I hope my OenoNote contributions will help readers explore and enjoy fine wines from around the world with friends and with the music of their favorite Baroque composers.

In this first OenoNote, I’m focusing on some impressive Italian varietals.  My notes here are extracted from extensive reports based on wine trips I made with Carolyn to the Collio and the Piedmont (Roero, Barolo, Barbaresco) wine regions of northeast and northwest Italy in the past year.  These trips were taken under the auspices of the International Wine Review (IWR) and the reports and various shorter articles are available at www.iwinereview.com.  For readers with an interest in Italian wines writ large, I’ll introduce an excellent Italian-based wine guide later in this blog.

But first, let me say that both the Collio and Piedmont regions produce distinctive, delicious wines worthy of their international reputation.  Readers will find many wines from these regions in their local stores, but they can get a head start in identifying their preferred ones if they are attending Capriccio’s March 18, 2018, concert after-party – IWR will be offering complimentary tastings of some fine single varietal examples at this event.  These lovely wines will serve to round off what promises to be stunning music evening with Grammy nominee Jory Vinikour performing Suites of Handel, Rameau and J.S. Bach and opera-dance works of Lully and Campra with acclaimed Baroque dancer Caroline Copeland. (Visit www.CapriccioBaroque.org for full details). 

The after-party wine tastings will include the following varietals:

Pinot Grigio: Although this grape is indigenous to France (Pinot Gris), it’s grown extensively on Collio’s Friuli hillsides. This hilly, calcareous terroir produces a quite exceptional Pinot Grigio; it shows a good concentration of orchard fruit complemented by stony minerals.  Its bouquet is redolent of peak-of-spring wildflowers.  It’s immensely enjoyable to drink on a warm summer evening while sitting at an outdoor café, perhaps with strains of Antonio Lotti in the background. IWR’s after-party tastings include the Castello di Spessa and Collavini Pinot Grigios from Collio.

Ribolla Gialla: This low alcohol, high acid grape is grown in the highlands of Collio and neighboring Slovenia.  It’s a distinctive, full-flavored white wine that is often also made as a sparkling wine. Tenuta Stella’s  Ribolla and Zuani’s Sodevo are the tasting choices at Capriccio’s after-party.

Nebbiolo:  This grape comes from Italy’s northwestern Piedmont region which produces the sublime Barolo and Barbaresco wines that frequently receive the descriptors “tar and roses”.   Nebbiolos are deep in color and flavor.  IWR’s tastings at Capriccio’s after-party will include classic  Barolos from Vite Colte Cooperative. However, if readers are looking for a Nebbiolo grown closer to home, they need look no further than Virginia’s Barboursville vineyards!

Sangiovese: Grown in many parts of Italy, Sangiovese receives its highest expression in Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino in northwest Italy.  It’s a grape that generally doesn’t do well outside of Tuscany. Indeed, serious attempts to grow it in Napa failed to the extent that the vines were grafted over.   Don’t miss tasting the excellent Don Tommaso Gran Selezione  available at Capriccio’s after-party.

The IWR’s reports on Piedmont and Collio are extensive, with each reviewing hundreds of wines while also providing details on terroir, wine growing and production methods, and food pairings.  But, another excellent source of information, and one which covers all of Italy, is “The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2018” produced by Daniele Cernilli, one of Italy’s most famous wine critics.  Daniele studied philosophy at university and, having the gentle demeanor of a classics scholar, is appropriately and affectionately nicknamed “Doctor Wine”.  Daniele founded and edited Gambero Rosso, Italy’s foremost wine guide, for a quarter century before “retiring” to host TV shows and write books on wine.  Daniele’s “Ultimate Guide” is perfectly targeted to consumers wanting to learn which Italian wines they should be buying and trying.  He presents just what one needs to know about each producer and its most important wines.

The photo attached to this Blog shows Daniele (left of photo) and me following a lunch we enjoyed recently several top Italian wine producers when they were in Washington DC.  When I told Daniele  I’m currently working on a report on the wines of Lodi, California his immediate response was “Oh, yes! Credence Clearwater Revival!”  Of course, anyone who listened to rock music in the late 1960s would recognize this Northern California band.  Indeed, I remember listening to them performing at Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus. But not many would immediately recognize the group as the composers and performers of “Lodi”, a song best known for the refrain, “Oh. Lord, stuck in Lodi again.” For old times sake you can listen to it at: http://tinyurl.com/pgkpdwp.  This piece won’t be performed at Capriccio’s March 18 concert, but attendees can rest assured that they’ll hear works by some of the “Baroque Greats” – Handel, Rameau, J.S. Bach, Lully and Royer - performed by a brilliant harpsichordist and revel in the exceptional dancing and choreography of one of the U.S.’s most renowned Baroque dancers.