If that sounds like a string of familiar Italian greetings, it is!!! For the first time, we departed from the tasting progression prescribed by our wine guru and, by popular choice, settled on an Italian Wine tasting at the Indie Wine Clubs last gathering.
For me, the backdrop to this tasting was a hiking vacation through Tuscany couple of years ago. It was a mother-daughter trip that also turned out to be a foodie exploration. If there is one thing I do share with my only offspring – & I do share many more than one – it is a love of fine food & wine. I was absolutely delighted when I saw this trait emerge as she exited the teens and graduated from cheesy potato tacos at Taco Bueno in Dallas to Lobster Waffle and Braised Salmon at Oakleys Bistro in Indianapolis. Finally, I had a likeminded foodie in the family to explore great food and wine with!!!
We were booked for a week at an Agriturismo – a country home turned guest lodge – in the beautiful hills of Umbria near Perugia. Operated by a charming young couple, we were welcomed home after our first day of walking, feeling pleasantly tired, to an exquisite spread of food and ……wine. On the following days, as our walks got tougher & longer amidst the most beautiful countryside, we were happy to push on and cover the final mile, knowing there would be the most delicious meal and a great glass of wine waiting for us at the other end.
Being a wine novice at the time, I knew little more than deciding if I liked the taste. Unbelievable as it seems today, I did not bother to ask what kind of wine we were drinking. All I knew was that each day’s selection enhanced many times over the pleasure of the meal served that day. From the antipasti to the premi, secondi and dolce. The most delicious of cheeses, meats, fish and vegetables. A veritable celebrity parade, if you will, of fine foods & wine.
I did not know then that Italy is the largest producer of wine in the world & has been producing wine for more than three thousand years. Vines grow everywhere in that country – which has famously been described as “not even a country, but one vast vineyard from north to south”. Our very own Wine Clubs Italian wine expert educated us on DOC and DOCG denominations that define where a wine is produced, how it can be labeled & its characteristics. Finally, it was time to taste.
The selections for the evening hailed from the three major wine regions of Italy – Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto. From Tuscany came the 2008 Il Tarocco Chianti Classico ( 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canniolo. $ 8.99), followed by a 2007 Barolo la Loggia from Piedmont (100% Nabbiolo. $ 16.99) and 2008 Della Valpolicella Amarone from Veneto (blend of 70% Corvina with Rondinella and Molinara. $ 18.99).
We had to choose our favorite amongst the three. As we proceeded to sniff, sip and make notes, I thought of the incremental pleasure one gets from wine simply knowing more about it. It is not unlike appreciation of music or a painting. You enjoy both for their intrinsic sensory value. But you appreciate them on yet another level when you have intimate knowledge of other dimensions such as their history, origins and technicality.
So what was the verdict? The Amarone was the group favorite by far. By a convincing margin of 10 votes to 2. It does not always happen, but this time, the most expensive wine was the group favorite by an overwhelming majority. Surely, we were now wine “sophisticates”? The runner up was the Chianti Classico , which happened to be the least expensive. The Barolo was a major disappointment. (We concluded it needed an hour in the glass to develop its potential). The winner was complex, rich, intense, mildly fruity with a hint of pepper. Quite, quite delicious.
Continuing on the regional wine exploration, stay tuned for a report on a tasting of Spanish wines – the clubs next pick. Until then, Ciao, Arrivederci, a Presto.