Chiaretto – Italian rose from the shores of Lake Garda

Let’s go to Italy today. I feel like writing about a lunch I had on the shores of Lake Garda back in September when I visited the Lugano wine region. Perhaps it’s because spring is just round the corner that I  got to thinking of rosès. I took a look at some photos I took last September when I was in Italy and thought the wines were  just too pretty to ignore. Not only that but they are also very under-rated. The rosès come from the vineyards on the slopes of hills that surround Lake Garda  and are some of the best and lightest that Italy produces. The DOC benefits greatly from the microclimate that surrounds the lake with a mild microclimate, we saw palm trees, olive trees and lemon trees, which considering we were almost at the foot of the Alps was quite a surprise.  Chiaretto is the wine that is made from the first pressing of the gropello grape of the Garda Classico DOC region. Gropello is a red grape that gives light and spicy wines. Sangiovese, barbera and marimeno are also allowed in the blend but gropello is the main grape. There are only 300 hectares of gropello in the world and like pinot noir, it can be a fussy grape, needing much care and attention. In order to produce chiaretto, the producer can only use the first press and he has to be careful that the must has only brief contact with the skins in order to get not only the lovely pink hue but also to obtain the optimum fruit without unbalancing the wine. It is a delicate balancing act and one that has been perfected over the centuries. The local vintners call it the “wine of one night” because vinification takes place over one day and one night and  it remains in contact with the must for not more then 6-8 hours. Chiaretto is a wine that should be drunk young and because it is so fresh and...

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Moscato di Scanzo,a legendary Italian sweet red wine

Oct 08, 10 Moscato di Scanzo,a legendary Italian sweet red wine

Posted by in Italy

A nice way to end a meal is with a sweet wine and what better way to end Italian week here at Winesleuth then with a bit of Moscato. Not any moscato mind, but Moscato di Scanzo, a red sweet wine that comes from the hills of Bergamo. The Moscato  di Scanzo was recently given it’s own DOCG (in 2002) and is the first DOCG of Bergamo and only the fifth in all of Lombardy. An ancient wine, Moscato di Scanzo was first noted in the 14th century and it can be traced back to 1000 B.C. The centre of moscato di scanzo is the town of Scanzorosicate, try saying that after a couple of glasses of moscato. There are only 22 winemakers and 32 hectares of moscato split between them all. Small production it is. In order to produce the wine, the grapes go through a passito process where they are air dried until they lose 70% of their volume, leaving only 30%  of juice at the end. Indeed, for every hectolitre of wine, 400 hours of work goes into it and each hectare produces about 40 hectalitres. The consorzio only makes 60,000 bottles annually so we felt quite privileged to be invited to the annual Moscato festival that the village holds every year.         The president of the consorzio and professional pilot when he’s not tending grapes is, Giacomo de Tomo, our host for the evening. A movie star handsome fellow complete with sporty race car and the elegant manners of an aristocrat, which I’m sure he was as we got a brief glimpse of the family pile on our way to the festival. We had the chance to chat with some of the producers at a small dinner beforehand and although they have a very small production, the winemakers were adamant in wanting to push their red moscato onto the international stage and elucidating the consumer to the fact that there is no other wine like moscato di...

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Aldo Rainoldi from the Valtellina DOCG, Italy

They call them viticoltori eroici (heroic winemakers) and looking from the valley floor up to the steep slopes above us, it seems most appropriate that any winemaker who chooses to plant his vines on the slopes of the foothills of the Alps deserves that moniker. We were driving through the province of Sondrio, in the AOC of  Valtellina, where the nebbiolo grape is grown on the slopes of the Adda River valley. The valley faces east to west and is the only one of it’s kind in Italy. The vineyards here are located at between 300 – 600 metres and  are south facing to catch as much sun as possible. They are a series of stonewall supported terraces that climb high up the sides of the mountains. It was hard not to be impressed by the patchwork of vines scattered on the hillsides. Wine has been made here since at least the 5th century and the wines have been famous within the region for almost as long but they haven’t achieved much renown beyond Switzerland or Middle Europe which is a pity because outside of Piedmont, the nebbiolo (or chiavennasca as it’s locally known) grape thrives in the long, cool growing season of Valtellina.       There are 4 classes of wine in the valley but we were lucky enough to be treated to some of the best, the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG and Valtellina Superiore DOC. The criteria for the wines for the DOCG and DOC that they must be 90% nebbiolo and the other 10% can only be non-aromatic red grapes. The Sforzata has an added condition in that the grapes are air dryed until Dec 10th and must come from Valtellina Superiore and/or rosso di Valtellina. The Sforzata wines have often been compared to Amarone because the process is the similar but the wine that is produced is very different due to factors such as climate, terroir, clones, etc.       Lorenzo, our guide for the trip, wanted us...

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Conte Vistarino-staying in a 18th cent. Italian villa while sipping on Italian pinot nero

Oct 06, 10 Conte Vistarino-staying in a 18th cent. Italian villa while sipping on Italian pinot nero

Posted by in Italy

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that we were going to be staying in a 17th century Italian villa. I was wrong. We stayed in an 18th century Italian villa. I really should pay more attention to my notes. I was looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation after all that sparkling rose at lunch. As we wound through the hillsides of Oltrepo Pavese, past rows and rows of vines, I idly wondered what this villa would look like. In my mind, Italian villas are terracotta roofed edifices set atop dusty brown hills. I think I’ve watched Under the Tuscan Sun too many times as the Villa Fornace was nothing of the sort. The family seat since  the 1700′ s it was originally designed by Achille Majnoni, personal architect to King Umberto I with additional wings added in the 1800’s. It wasn’t exactly like visiting Versailles but close enough. I was afraid to touch anything but Ottavia, the contessa, assured us that the villa was used by guests on a regular basis. Some of those guests from the past have included the British Royal Family, who liked to use the villa as a base for their hunting trips in the surrounding countryside. We were greeted by two members of the Giorgi di Vistarino family, Conte Carlo the patriach and Ottavia, his daughter. Ottavia now runs the Tenuta di Rocca de Giorgi estate and gave us a brief run down of the history of and philosophy behind the wines of the estate. Pinot Nero was introduced to Oltrepo Pavese  by their ancestor, Carlo Giorgi di Vistarino in the late 19th century and the family’s objective has always been consistent. To produce wines that are elegant and authentic while also reflecting the terroir of the region. Ottavia said they don’t want to be Burgundy clones but rather want to make wines that are uniquely Oltrepo Pavese and at the same time showing truly quality pinot nero. Ottavia has visited the great estates of Burgundy and...

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Cruase – Italian sparkling rose, yes, I said rose, wine

It’s Italian week here on the Winesleuth. Yes, more stories and wine finds from my recent trip through Lombardy in Northern Italy. I like rosés and like sparkling rosés even more. Italy’s not really known for their rosés, let alone sparkling rosés but that’s all about to change thanks to the Oltrepò Pavese consortium. Oltrepò Pavese is located in the region of Pavia, Lombardy on the 45th parallel, the same as the region of Burgundy and like Burgundy, the region has historically grown pinot noir or pinot nero, as they call it in Italy. The Consortio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese has taken as it’s mission to produce naturally sparkling rosé wines from the region and launch them onto the world. Cruasé is their sparkling rose, the name being a hybrid of the words cru and rosé. In an interesting twist, while researching the history of the region, it was discovered that in the 17th century, cruà was the name given to vines and the wines that were produced in the region. Cruasé is made in the  traditional method and have a minimum of 85% pinot nero with the remainder being made up of the local varieties. It’s a DOCG wine which means that there is are strict rules and regulations regarding the production of the wine before it can be labeled and  sold as Cruasé. I was quite delighted to be offered a glass of sparkling rosé as soon as I arrived at the restaurant, straight off the plane. We tried Cruasés from various producers and I found most of them to be clean and fresh but not terribly exciting. The reservas, however, now there was something to get excited about. Aged 24 months on the lees, these were the ones that I liked best but you know, I always go for the oldies. The wine was showing very nicely, candied red fruits on the nose and palate with that familiar aroma of a bakery on a early Saturday morning hovering above the glass....

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dal Pescatore with the wines of Lugana DOC, Italy

Driving through the Italian countryside I was beginning to feel a bit peckish. I mean I hadn’t eaten in, like, the last 15 minutes so I was due for some lunch. Such was our timetable on my recent press jaunt to region of Lombardia in Italy with Gambero Rosso. I’m not complaining at all, it was a fantastic trip, we sampled some excellent cuisine and discovered (well, I did anyway) a new and exciting wine producing region, but it was a lot to take in in 5 days. One of the highlights was lunch at dal Pescatore paired with the wines of Lugana DOC, one of the lesser known appellations but one that should not be overlooked. It’s amazing the variety and quality of wines that are made in Italy. It’s a country with over a thousand different wine varieties so it’s no wonder I had never really come across the wines of Lugana. Situated quite close to the southern shores of Lake Garda, the area specializes in producing white wine made from the Turbiana  or Trebbiano di Lugana grape, as it is known there. The soils are mostly clay and produces wines that are dry and delicate but also quite lively, aromatic and well balanced. There are two types of wine that come for the region. Lugana DOC anad Lugana Superiore DOC. The Superiore is made from selected grapes and is aged for a year in oak. This makes it a much fuller wine then the Lugana DOC with more structure and spicer, riper fruit flavours and aromas. By law, producers can use up to 10% of grapes from other regions but they cannot be aromatic varietals. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, heading to dal Pescatore, a legendary restaurant of Mantua to sample their wares matched with the wines of Lugana. You definitely have to know how to get to dal Pescatore as it’s situated in a nature reserve, the Oglio Sud park, on a country road in a village...

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