On Day 4 of Unit 4 in the Intensive Sommelier Training we learned about Central Italy Northern Italy, Southern Italy and the Italian Islands in a whirlwind fashion. While there is a huge quantity of wine produced in these regions they are not the highest in quality, though they are home to many unique varietals. Since there are so many regions to cover I’ll only do so in a brief summary fashion. I will then review the 9 nine wines we tasted in class.
The Marches (Marche)
Marche is a hilly and mountainous region along the Adriatic coastline bordered by Abruzzo and Umbria to the south and west, and Emilia-Romagna to the north. Although a massive amount of wine is produced in this region about 80% is below the DOC level of classification. Wine production is centered on dry white wines made from Verdicchio, Malvasia and Trebbiano as well as soft red wines made from Sangiovese and Montepulciano. The two notable appellations are Vernacia di Serrpetronia DOCG which produces dry and sweet sparkling red wines and Rosso Conero DOCG which produces red wine from Montepulciano.
Umbira is located in the very center of Italy and it is the only region that is completely landlocked as it is surrounded by Tuscany, Marche, and Latrium. Much of the wine production is Vino da Tavola. However, they do have one white wine DOC and two red wine DOCG appellations. The Orvieto DOC is located in the southwest corner of Umbria and it produces white wine from Malvasia and Trebbiano as well as other indigenous varietals as well as some sweet wines. The Sagrantino di Montefacto DOCG specializes in the Sagrantino grape and Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG grows mostly Sangiovese and Caniolo.
This region is dominated by white wine production; primarily from the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. The only DOCG in the region is Cesanese del Piglio DOCG. The most notable DOC appellation is Est! Est! Est! di Monteliascone DOC which is more well known for its odd name than the quality of the wine.
Abruzzo is a mountainous coastal region in central Italy bordered by Latrium to the south, Marche to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the east. Most of the vineyards are on hillside and the region accounts for about 5% of Italy’s production, although most of it is Vino da Tavola. The two main DOCs focus on two varietals: the white grape Trebbiano Abruzzo (aka Bambino Bianco) and the red grape Montepulciano. Montepulciano DOC is the only DOC in the region.
Until the 1990s Molise was an autonomous province of Abruzzo. The newest official region in Italy, it is only now beginning to recognize its winemaking potential. Currently they only produce about 1% of Italy’s wines.
Southern Italy and the Islands
The region of Campania is located to the west of Bascilaata and south of Molise. Most of the wine production is Vino da Tavola although it is also home to several DOCs and 3 DOCGs, more than any other region in southern Italy. The Fiano di Avelino DOCG produces white wines from the Fiano grape and the Greco di Tufo DOCG produces white wines from the Greco grape, which is believed to have been first planted by the Greeks. The most important wines come from the Tauasi DOCG which is located in a hilly area northeast of Naples. It produces tannic wines form the Aglianico grape.
Known as the “heel of the boot” Puglia is a long narrow region that runs more than 200 miles down the eastern coast of southern Italy. Hot and long growing seasons are the norm which results in high levels of ripeness and often very large yields. Most of the millions of gallons of wine produced are Vino da Tavola quality, less than 2% qualify for DOC and there are no DOCGs. The region is most well-known for Primativo (a clone of Zinfandel), Uva di Troia and Negroamaro.
Basilicata is surrounded by Puglia to the north, Campania to the west and Calabria to the south. It produces very little wine and the only DOC is Aglianico del Vulture DOC located on the slopes of Mt. Vulture, an extinct volcano, which produces wine form the red grape Aglianico .
Calabria is the toe of “the boot” of Italy and it makes up the southernmost tip of mainland Italy and is bordered by Basilicata. They only produce red wines made from grapes that grow along the mountain slopes that rise up from the Mediterranean. Calabria has 12 DOC regions but only 4% of the yearly production is classified as DOC wine. The most important is Cirò DOC. The wines of the regions are predominantly red containing at least 95% of the Gaglioppo grape and up to 5% of the white Greco Bianco and Trebbiano grapes permitted. Rosés and white wines from at least 90% Greco Bianco and up to 10% Trebbiano are also made in Cirò but in very limited quantities.
Sicily is a large island off the tip of Calabria and is the southernmost region of Italy. It is one of the top wine producers of Italy – more than 10,000,000 gallons of wine each year. Most of the production is IGT or Vino da Tavola and most of the producers prefer the looser regulations of these designations or their own system in which quality wines will have a Q on the label or capsule.
Grapes that do well in heat thrive in Sicily as the island is home to hearty red wines such as Nero d’ Avola and Pignatello. Top white wines include Catarratto, Trebbiano, Inzolia and Grillo.
One of the most important areas of production in Sicily is the DOC. Marsala is a fortified wine similar to Port, Madeira and Sherry. Marsala is produced using the Grillo, Inzolia, and Catarratto white grape varietals, among others. Marsala contains about 15-20% alcohol by volume. Different Marsala wines are classified according to their color, sweetness, and the duration of their aging. The three levels of sweetness are secco (with a maximum 40 grams of residual sugar per liter), semisecco' (41-100 g/l) and sweet (over 100 g/l). The color and aging classifications are as follows:
· Oro has a golden color.
· Ambra has an amber color. The coloring comes from the mosto cotto sweetener added to the wine.
· Rubino has a ruby color, made from red grape varieties such as Perricone, Calabrese, Nero d'Avola and Nerello Mascalese.
· Fine has minimal aging, typically less than a year.
· Superiore is aged at least two years.
· Superiore Riserva is aged at least four years.
· Vergine e/o Soleras is aged at least five years.
· Vergine e/o Soleras Stravecchio e Vergine e/o Soleras Riserva is aged at least ten years.
Sardina is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of mainland Italy and just south of the French Island of Corsica. The terrain and wines are very harsh for grape growing as the soils are thin and the climate is arid and windy. Consequently production is very small. The most important grapes are Carignan and Cannonau (Grenache) and the white varietals Vermentino, Moscato and Malvasia. Vermentino di Gallura DOCG is the only DOCG on the island.
Learning Objectives of Unit 4 – Day 4: Southern Italy
At the beginning of class lectures a list of learning objectives is provided to the students. By the end of the class, the students should have a certain degree of understanding from their own reading and the lectures and be able to provide the answers to a list of questions. The Learning Objectives for Unit 4 - Day 4 along with the answers are as follows.
By the end of class, students should be able to:
(1) What are the difference between Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Vino Noble Montepulciano?
Answer: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is named according to the grape Montepulciano in the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy whereas Vino Noble Montepulciano is from the name of a town in Tuscany that makes a wine from Sangiovese (Prugnolo gentile) (minimum 70%), blended with Canaiolo Nero (10%–20%) and small amounts of other local varieties such as Mammolo.
(2) Describe the wine of Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG.
Answer: A typical red Umbrian wine obtained from the grapes of the Sagrantino.
(3) Describe Fiano di Avellino DOCG and describe the style.
Answer: White wines from the Fiano grape.
(4) Name the grapes and style of Taurasi DOCG
Answer: Made from Aglianico produced in the Province of Avellino in the Campania region.
(5) Name the synonym for Zinfandel in Southern Italy
(6) State the type of wine from Marsala DOC and where it is made
Answer: A fortified wine made from Grillo, Inzolia, and Catarratto and other white grape varietals on the western side of Sicily.
(7) Describe the wine Vermentino di Gallura
Answer: Vermentino di Gallura is Sardinia’s only DOCG appellation, and covers white Vermentino-based wines.
(8) Name the grapes and style of Greco di Tufo DOCG
Answer: Greco di Tufo is a DOCG of the Campania wine region in southern Italy. The Greco di Tufo grape is a clone of Greco Bianco and is believed to have been introduced to Campania by the Pelasgians, an ancient people from Thessaly in Greece.
(9) Name the principle grape variety for the red wines of Etna DOC
Answer: White wines form Carricante and Catarratto. Red wines from Nerello Mascalese with Nerello Cappuccio.
(10) Describe the attributes of any wines tasted today
Answer: See below
On the second day of Unit 4 we tasted the following wines:
1. 2011 ColleStefano, Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche
This is a clean white wine, pale straw-yellow with a slight tint of green, it is star bright, with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate aromas of zesty lemon, apples, fennel, with hints of dried beard, waxed candle and anise. On the palate it has flavors of fresh lemon-lime, pear and a hint of chalk. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, low complexity and a long finish. This wine is 100% Verdicchio which derives its name form the word verde (or “green”) which refers to the slight green/yellow hue that often appears in the wines. Overall it is sort of a non-descript wine that lacks anything unique to make its identity stand out so, white I am sure it would pair well with sea food it would be extremely difficult to recognize this varietal in a blind tasting. This wine sells for about $16.
2. 2012 Cherchi-Usini Vermentino de Sardegna Pigalva Sardegna
This is a clean white wine, pale straw-yellow, it is day bright, with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate aromas of bruised pear, lemon-lime, ginger ale, a hint of white pepper and very subtle bready notes. On the palate the nose is confirmed with additional briny notes. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol, low complexity and a long finish. This wine is made from 100% Vermentino and I have had very few experiences of this varietal so I don’t have a large basis for making a fair assessment of tis quality. This wine sells for about $15.
3. 2010 Terredora di Paolo Falanghina Irpinia, Campania
This is a clean white wine, pale straw-gold, it is day bright, with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of oxidized apples, dried mango and minor floral notes. On the palate the nose is confirmed with additional notes of sourdough bread, walnuts, with a funky finish reminiscent of steamed carrots. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body, medium alcohol, low complexity and a medium length finish. This wine is made from 100% Falanghina which is a grape I have never experienced before so I don’t have a basis for comparison to assess its quality. It sells for about $12 to $15.
4. 2003 Sportoletti Rosso, Villa Fidelia IGT Umbria
This is a clear dark ruby red wine with moderate rim variation of garnet and a touch of orange/brown, at the rim with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of dried black fruits, prunes, black licorice, tobacco, dried roses, black pepper and old leather. On the palate the nose is confirmed, it is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol, moderate+ complexity with a medium length finish. It is a bit difficult to get any specifics as to the make up of this wine other than it is an Italian version of a Bordeaux blend. It many ways it seems like a Bordeaux, except that the fruit is cooked and not due to age so it is obviously from a very warm region. But I would like to have taste a more recent vintage for comparison. It is an interesting wine worth buying as it sells for only about $19 to $20.
5. 2008 Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina
This wine is clear red wine, root-beer in color at the core to garnet at the rim with a touch of brown, it has medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is “clean” with subtle aromas of dried cherries, bramble bush, and tomato stems and a hint of VA. On the palate it has flavors of dried black fruits, tobacco, black pepper and cloves. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, moderate complexity and a medium length finish. Personally, I think this wine is past its prime and a bit “over the hill.” Prices for this wine seem to be all over the map as I have seen it listed in the mid $25 to $30 range and as high as $50.
6. 2006 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Secco Vigneto Pagliaro, Umbria
This wine is clear red wine, root-beer in color at the core to garnet at the rim with a touch of brown, it has medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of roasted peppers, dried cherries, dried leaves, leather, and black licorice. On the palate it has flavors of cooked cherries, sandalwood, and black tea. It is dry with high tannins, medium+ acidity, moderate complexity and a medium length finish. This wine is 100% Sagrantino and its 3 years younger than the previous wine and yet it is actually ageing quite nicely. The only experience I have had with this wine is from a few producers in California, namely Belleserie Vineyards in the Napa Valley and Jaccuzzi FamilyVineyards in Sonoma. But it is a bit expensive as this wine sells for $56 to $74.
7. 2011 Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria, Sicily
Tis wine is clear, golden-orange, star-bright with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of ripe oranges, canned peach syrup, caramelized pears, marmalade, and honey. On the palate it has flavors of peach, dried apricots, and guava. It is dessert sweet with medium+ acidity, full-bodied, thick viscosity and a medium+ length finish. This wine is made form 100% Zibibbo (Moscato d'Alessandria) and sells for $35 to $40 per 375 ml bottle.
8. NV Marco De Bartoli Vecchio Samperi “Ventennale” Marsala, Sicily
This wine is clear, copper-orange in color with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with powerful aromas of golden raisins, orange peel, caramel, butterscotch, toffee, pistachio and dark brown bread. On the palate the nose is confirmed, it is off-dry, with medium+ acidity, HIGH alcohol, full bodied, with a very long nutty finish. The nose on this wine is quite deceptive as it leads you to think that it is sweeter than it actually tastes. This wine probably should have been tasted prior to the previous wine as the sweetness of it made this wine seem dry by comparison. This wine sells for $73 to $76.