Friday, April 13, 2007

Italian White Wine ~ Which is North, Which is South?

Out from the pavilions, and back on the wine trail in Italy

Two wines that I had at Vinitaly earlier this month, one from the North and the other from the South.

On the Third Day
It all started during a day when my palate was worn out, my tongue literally was burnt, from tasting young red wine. Yeah, some of it had been micro-oxygenated, but a good portion had been barrel tormented. Fortunately the trend seems to be ending, especially in Piedmont (as opposed to Tuscany, another post for another day).

As a break, and still staying on a schedule, I opted for an afternoon of white wine tasting. Personal note, I like white wine, think Riesling is fantastic, love Verdicchio, Fiano, Grechetto, Garganega and almost any white wine well made. Savennieres, Chablis, you name it. Seems at times red wine will give my head a pounding.

From the Top
I started at the top and headed down the list. Two wines stood out. A Muller Thurgau and Traminer blend was one of the wines that really got my attention. Why? The crisp, clean flavors, the sharp acidity, the focus and the winemaking were spot on. The wine had healthy fresh fruit but wasn’t cloying. There was a good balance, great to sip as an aperitif but also available to go with food prepared from that fine Italian hand. A particular wine and very original.

The other wine, from a grape called Anas-cetta, has its roots drawn from the Sardegnan Vermentino. Rich and round, a little fuller bodied, slightly more alcohol, a touch, just an accent, of wood. Not too much. Here was a dancer, tanned and well fed but agile and graceful. We had this wine again at a hill-top restaurant with another gorge-us plate of hand-made pasta. Of course, with food it found its partner. And the dance was complete.

The Italian Paradox
Odd though, was that the two wines posed a bit of a paradox to those of us tasting them. The first wine felt cool and lean and slightly nervous like a wine from the Alto Adige. The second wine had the generosity of the sun, fullness and a voluptuousness one might think more likely to come from the sunny South.

One might think
The Muller-Thurgau and Traminer blend however, came from a volcanic hillside vineyard in Basilicata. A foggy, often harsh climate which makes for a struggle, both by humans and by grapes. Normally a place for one of the great red wines of the south, the Aglianico.

The Anas-cetta also came from a hillside, this one called Ravera, in Novello, in the Piemonte region. Another area known more for red wine, this time the Nebbiolo, where some of the great Barolo wines are born.

North is South and South is North
Seek these wines out, they are both artisanally produced in minute quantities. The Muller-Thurgau and Traminer blend is from Re Manfredi, called Terre degli Svevi (land of the Swabians, the empire of Federico II, also another subject for a future post). US importer is Frederick Wildman.

The Anas-cetta is from Valter Fissore of the Elvio Cogno winery. US importer is Vias. Valter and his wife Nadia reflect the young but solid second revolution we are beginning to see in Piemonte.

The restaurant? In La Morra, Ristorante Belvedere. The day we were there the Bel-vedere was shrouded in fog.

This is the view when the nebbia (fog) has cleared. Fortunately the food provided a clear view of the capability of the Piemontese kitchen.

Grazie, Valter.

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