Traveling Through Italy One Sip at a Time
One of our best travel memories has to do with a week spent in Italy – Venice, Rome, Florence and Pisa. We often have a yearning to return. Unfortunately, circumstances prohibit us from doing so this year.
Instead, we chose to follow our taste buds, and some expert guidance, and explore the wines of Italy. Some of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions are located in Italy, and the country is second only to France in wine production. Nearly 1 million vineyards are under cultivation and Italians lead the world in wine consumption at 70 liters per capita each year.
With that depth of history, production and consumption, it’s only natural that there would be some hidden gems among the many Italian wines. Here are just a few we found.
The popularity of Prosecco, the semi-dry Italian sparkler, may make it one of the fastest growing wine types today, its mild effervescence making it a natural warm-weather aperitif. The Lamberti Prosecco DOC ($15), produced from grapes grown in the hillside vineyards near Lake Garda in the Veneto region, produces a delightfully light, straw colored wine. The clean flavor is bolstered with natural residual sugar and an aromatic aftertaste.
For something a little different we tried Terlaner Classico DOC ($16), a proprietary blend of Pinot Blanco (60%), Chardonnay (%30) and Sauvignon Blanc (10%) grapes. The light-bodied aromatic white complements the expected tropical fruit, citrus and apricot flavors with a subtle minerality and spice. The bright acidity makes it a natural for chicken, seafood and other light summer fare.
We never visited Sicily in our travels, but have made a note to do so after tasting the 2010 Tenuta Rapitala Alto ($22). The big red made entirely from Nero d’Avola, a native Sicilian red wine grape, pours with a dark ruby color with a nose of red fruits and vanilla. The red fruit carries over to the palate, producing flavors that linger, then depart with a complex, spicy finish.
One place we did enjoy was Tuscany, one of Italy’s best-known wine regions. It is the home of Chianti, and we found the 2007 Fattorie Melini La Selvanella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG ($26) as impressive as its name is long. One of the few chiantis produced from a single vineyard (La Selvanella) of Sangiovese grapes, the wine pours with a deep, rich crimson with nose redolent of tobacco and cherry jam. The aromatic notes carry over to the palate, and the wine’s prominent acidity makes it a perfect accompaniment red meat on the grill.
For something with a little more dimension, we tried the 2008 Ca Bianca Chersi Barbera d’Asti Superioire DOC ($27). Grown in the Piedmont’s Alto-Monferrato district, the wine made from 100% Barbera grapes offer a deep red pour and aromatics of red fruits and spices. The wine has a soft, subtle mouthfeel on the palate with a nice complexity and bright overtones.
Were this actually a trip to Italy, we would no doubt have celebrated our final night there with something really special, perhaps a bottle of 2005 Paolo Scavino Barolo Cannubi DOCG ($107). Barolos, this one made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Cannubi region of the Piedmont, are favorites of ours due to their rich, complex flavors. With its spice-berry nose, deep palate, “chewy” nature and supple mouthfeel, the Paolo Scavino has become a new personal favorite.
Maybe we’ll get to Italy next year. If so, we will make sure to bring our wine shopping list with us.