I spent the last two weeks tasting probably 80 bottles of Italian Wine. I attended a Tre Bichierri tasting in Vancouver where only the very elite of Italian wines were presented. In addition I attended several focused tastings and dinners as so many amazing Italian winemakers were in town for this event. Now I know some of you think of this as your dream job. But really any of you who do this for a living know that it really is exhausting work. For one thing, it is not like you are sitting down having dinner and a glass of wine with your friends. You are often in a very large and noisy room full of people who want to sell you something. Tasting and spitting, tasting and spitting, and trying to separate one wine from the other, thinking of food pairings and price and how this could work in your restaurant.
Yet of course there are those magical moments, often really seconds when a wine really reaches out and grabs you. Here are my best three picks of the last week.
I had the great honor to attend a dinner hosted by Dream Wines at Cinara Restaurant in Vancouver. The guest of honor was Sylvia Franco from Nino Franco Winery in the Veneto and the food was to be paired only with Prosecco. I love Prosecco and I was excited to see how an entire seven course meal could be paired with this Italian sparkling wine. Some of the pairings were a bit risky but the one that was truly outstanding was the Brut Valdobbiandene Prosecco Superiore paired with Spot Prawns topped with herb bread crumbs.
I always tell my staff that a truly good wine pairing is when the combination of the food and the wine elevates them both to greater heights. This truly happened here. This is not their most expensive prosecco but it’s deceptive softness with a backbone of bracing acidity was a perfect foil for the richness of the prawns and the crunch of the crust. Fantastic!
My next pick would have to be the Aglianico del Vulture Il Repertorio, 2012 from Cantine del Notaio. It was one of the wines I tasted at the Tre Bichierri tasting itself and I always say if I have a taste memory of any wine after such a big tasting it must be something special. This wine stuck with me even though it is not even in the British Columbia market as yet so there is no possibility of it being sold at Zambri’s. This wine is from Basilicata which is a lesser known region of Italy. The grape is Aglianico and I was curious to taste this expression of it called Aglianico del Vulture. It completely impressed me with it’s meaty characteristics well balanced with fruit and acidity. One of the best examples of this grape I have tasted.
Finally, back home in Victoria I had the opportunity to taste a spectacular example of a traditional Chianti Classico Reserva, the Il Grigio from San Felice Winery in Tuscany. Some Chianti to me smells just like Cabernet Sauvignon as this grape is often added. This Il Grigio is 100% Sangiovese and I immediately recognized the herbaceous bouquet as being from a wine made in a more traditional style. A Chianti Classico made in a traditional style is the best food wine in the world. It has good weight without being overwhelming and is well balanced with enough tannic structure and acidity to work well with many different dishes. An exceptional way to end my week.