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Italian Sparkling Wines, Prosecco, Metodo Classico and more.

 

Italy was, not so many years ago, the top importer of French Champagnes.  That's because the Italians are crazy for bubbles.

Over the past few decades, though, Italian vintners have worked to meet the demand for sparkling wines in their own country and imports from France, while still substantial, have fallen.

In the meantime, though, exports of Italian sparkling wines has risen dramatically.  There are more than 2000 labels of Italian sparkling wine if we've correctly translated a statistical report issued in 2010.

Lombardia, with its Franciacorta appellation, is a major producer of bottle-fermented sparkling wine.  The Veneto, with its Prosecco fizzy, is an important region and Piemonte, with its array of Moscato bubblies, is also prominent in the arena of sparkling wines.

Top Italian sparkling wines are made along the lines of France's Champagne:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier form the foundation of top base wines.  The wine is then fermented in the bottle and matured for some time period and aged on the spent yeast.

There are many wines, too, which have their secondary fermentation in tank and this is called the "Charmat" process.  This is less costly and for aromatic varieties such as Moscato, it's probably the method which allows the grape to prominently shine in the glass.  You might hear vintners speak of the Charmat process as the "Martinotti" or "Italian Method," though Charmat was a French fellow who's often credited with this regimen.  Martinotti was a winemaker in the Asti area and his work pre-dates that of Monsieur Charmat by 15 years.

PROMINENT TYPES OF ITALIAN SPARKLING WINES

FRANCIACORTA

Today the Franciacorta name is seen solely on sparkling wines, though years ago it was a denominazione for table wines, too.   This Lombardian bubbly is based on Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, though Pinot Bianco may be employed in the base wine.  The laws also require fairly low yields for the vineyards and these limits are significantly lower than those of France's Champagne region!  There are more than 90 wineries producing Franciacorta.

For basic Franciacorta, the bubbly must be aged for a minimum of 18 months on the yeast.
Satèn is made of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco...24 month minimum on the yeast and it tends to be slightly less bubbly.
Franciacorta Rosé must be at least 25% Pinot Nero, with Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco...24 month minimum aging period.
Franciacorta Millesimato is a vintage-dated wine with a 30 month minimum aging period on the spent yeast.  
Franciacorta Riserva bubblies need 60 months on the spent yeast and, yes, there can be Satèn or Rosé wines bearing the Riserva designation.
TRENTO

Trento or Trentodoc as they promote it today, has been a sparkling wine source since the early 1900s when Giulio Ferrari set up shop.  Today there are 29 producers.

The sparkling wine is made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and/or Pinot Bianco.  The wines must be aged at least 15 months for the non-vintage bottles, while vintage dated wines require a 24 month period of aging.  Riserva wines need 36 months.
ALTA LANGA This is a relatively recent denominazione and there are but a few producers presently.    The wines must be bottle fermented and the base wines must be 90-100% of Pinot Nero and/or Chardonnay.  The small percentage of "other" may be various grape varieties used for typical wines of the Langhe hills apart from Moscato.  The can be made in white or rose form and the wines must be aged for 30 months, though the starting point is the harvest date.

There are but 9 members of this group at the present time.
ASTI SPUMANTE Moscato grown in the Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria areas is turned into this fruity fizz which enjoys immense popularity.  This wine is fermented in what's called an "autoclave" where the secondary fermentation takes place in tanks and bottled, under pressure, retaining a fair bit of sugar.

The less fizzy wines with the "Moscato d'Asti" designation tend to be much more aromatic and fine, but probably because smaller producers take more care.  
OLTREPO’ PAVESE This is another wine from Lombardia in the area of Pavia.   Juice from this region might find its way to producers in other areas.

For Oltrepo Pavese "Metodo Classico," the wines must be, of course, fermented in the bottle.  For the basic Metodo Classico or the "Oltrepò Pavese" metodo classico rosé, the wine must be at least 70% Pinot Nero.  If the wine is labeled as either "Oltrepò Pavese" metodo classico Pinot nero or "Oltrepò Pavese" metodo classico Pinot nero rosé, the wine must be at least 85% Pinot Nero.  The "other" portion of these wines must be Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and/or Pinot Grigio.  Non-vintage wines must spend at least 15 months on the yeast, while vintage-dated bottlings need at least 24 months of aging.
They have a new designation for the "Oltrepò Pavese" metodo classico rosé might now have this logo on the bottle:
 
The must be aged at least 18 months on the spent yeast and will be designated either as Brut or Brut Nature wines.

There's quite a bit of Charmat process bubbly made there, too.  They know this as the Martinotti method and 85% of the fizzy wine of this region is made using this process.
PROSECCO

Conegliano-Valdobbiadene

 


Glera

 

Having seen the name of the grape "Prosecco" being used on wines from outside the main Veneto area of production, producers are working on a shift in branding.

Now you'll see a big push to market the names Conegliano-Valdobbiadene as being "the" region for Prosecco.  And it is "the" region, but such a shift may take a while.

In their effort to "help" make this transition, producers of Prosecco will now tell you their wine is made predominantly from the Glera grape.  Wines with the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene designation must be, then, 85% of what was yesterday called Prosecco and today, "Glera."  The remaining 15% can be local varieties such as Verdiso, Boschera and Bianchetta, though many are blended with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Bianco.

In the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region, they don't give the Piemontese fellow, Martinotti, credit for his "bulk process" for making bubbly.  Nope.  Here it's called the "Italian Method" and here it's Antonio Carpenè who's credited with the bulk process of making sparkling wine.  
These fizzies must spend all of 30 days in tank before being bottled.

You'll find them predominantly in Extra Dry format, partly because the Prosecco or Glera grape tends to have a slightly bitter aspect.  Leaving a touch of sweetness balances the wine.  Even so, a few vintners make a more dry "Brut" sparkling wine and those labeled "Dry" are anything buy.

Prosecco used to be more popular in its "frizzante" format, though these days "spumante" wines are more easily found.

A couple of special designations are offered.
One is called "Cartizze" or Superiore di Cartizze and this is a small area of about 106 hectares in the Valdobbiadene region.  Most of the bubblies of this designation tend to be a bit sweet, though a few producers are making "Brut" sparklers.

"Il Rive" is another sparkler...a small area of a single site of hillside vines with reduced yields in the vineyard being mandatory.  The wine must be from hand-harvested grapes and it's supposed to have the vintage noted on the label.

So, Cartizze is viewed as the top quality wine, whilst Conegliano-Valdobbiadene wines will carry the "Prosecco Superiore" designation.  Colli Asolani Prosecco, or Asolo Prosecco Superiore is next on the pecking order with wines labeled simply as Prosecco being viewed as more modest in quality.

OTHER PIEMONTESE BUBBLIES Piemonte has a number of bubblies apart from the Asti Spumante and Alta Langhe wines.  You might find a Gavi wine made into Spumante and near Torino you might find some Erbaluce di Caluso Spumante. There's a tiny production of Roero Arneis done as Spumante. Well off the beaten path is a red fizzy called Colline Saluzzesi Quagliano Spumante... very esoteric. Freisa is a grape making robust and tannic red in a few instances, but usually it's a fizzy, simple red and sometimes done as Spumante. Malvasia is produced as a frizzante wine and periodically as full-throttle spumante.  And Nebbiolo d'Alba is still permitted as a Spumante and it might be produced either as a 'white' or rose' wine.  There is a tiny production of Pelaverga from Verduno done as a Spumante!  Brachetto d'Acqui is another fizzy Piemontese wine, a red bubbly that's usually a bit sweet.
VENETO In the Veneto, you might run across a Recioto di Soave that's fizzy.  In Verona & Vicenza, there's an obscure bubbly called "Arcole" and it's at least 50% Garganega, the grape of Soave. The rest can be Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco with Sauvignon and/or Chardonnay. Sometimes these are sweet, but typically they're dry.  Ever hear of Bagnoli di Sopra Spumante?  This is made around Padova with the red Raboso grape, which might be augmented with up to 20% of Chardonnay, while pink versions might have as much as 40% of Merlot.  Who knew?  You might find someone making a Bardolino as a pink Spumante.  Bianco di Custoza also allows for a bubbly incarnation.  The Colli Euganei produces some sparkling wines...we have a dynamite Fior d'Arancio (Orange Muscat) made as a Spumante.   Lessini Durello comes from Verona & Vicenza and is made entirely of Durello, while around the Gambellara hills, you can find a bubbly made of dried Garganega grapes called Recioto di Gambellara Spumante Dolce.  Garda has some bubblies and so does the Lison-Pramaggiore areas.
There's also a Lambrusco Mantovano made near Emilia-Romagna...usually a dry wine.
ALTO ADIGE & TRENTINO Both regions make sparkling wines.  

In the Alto Adige they'll likely be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and/or Pinot Bianco.

In the Trentino, bubblies are often vinified from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and/or Pinot Meunier.  The famous Ferrari winery makes Italy's benchmark Spumante called Riserva del Fondatore, a wine which is in a class by itself in our view.
EMILIA ROMAGNA Emilia-Romagna produces some bubbly in the Colli Bolognesi and there's a sub-zone called Colline di Oliveto which nobody more than ten kilometers away has ever heard of...
There's also the Colline Marconiane and the Terra di Montebudello where the Pignoletto grape (which might be what the Umbrians call Grechetto) is made as a Spumante.  The Colli di Parma makes fizzy and Spumante wines, often from Malvasia (as both sweet and dry), but there's dry bubbly made of Sauvignon there, too.  The Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa regions make a Spumante from a grape called Spergola which was once thought to be some sort of Sauvignon.  Today they say "No, it's its own variety."  The same area produces some Lambrusco wines.

The Colli Piacentini produces some Spumante...ever heard of Valnure?  It's not a grape but a blend of Malvasia di Candia aromatica, Ortrugo and Trebbiano romagnolo.  A similar blend appears under the "Monterosso Val d'Arda" appellation.   Colli Piacentini also makes spumante wines from Bonarda, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero and Trebbianino grapes.

Of course there's lots of Lambrusco.  Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro comes from near Modena...often full-bodied and slightly bitter/tannic.  Lambrusco Reggiano features all four clones of Lambrusco and it's a huge region, so then Italians can't drink it all themselves.  From just outside the town of Sorbara comes the Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce and this tends to be a bit lighter in color and body.  The Lambrusco di Sorbara is typically a blend of Sobara and Salamino clones.  It's usually the most highly-regarded, too.

The Trebbiano di Romagna denominazione can be found as a Spumante, too.
TOSCANA Tuscany is not presently producing much in the way of bubblies.  

Bianco di Pitigliano has a Spumante version.  This comes from near Grosetto out on the coast and it's mostly made of Trebbiano Toscano.

Out on the island of Elba there's a Bianco Spumante which is made of Trebbiano Toscano with Ansonica and/or Vermentino.

The Valdichiana near Arezzo has a Bianco (or Bianco Vergine) designation which may be Spumante.  This needs at least 20% Trebbiano Toscano with an 80% maximum of the following in an "and/or" role:  Chardonnay, Grechetto, Pinot Bianco and/or Pinot Grigio.
LE MARCHE In the Marche, you might find a rare red bubbly called Vernaccia di Serrapetrona.  This is produced both as a dry and sweet sparkling wine.

Another couple of oddballs come from the Colli Maceratesi (south of Ancona).  The Colli Maceratesi Bianco must be made with at least 70% Maceratino (some say it's related to Greco, while others have this as a Verdicchio clone) along with Incrocio Bruni (a cross of Sauvignon and Verdicchio).  There's also Colli Maceratesi Ribona Spumante, a wine made of at least 85% Maceratino (which can be called Ribona or, to keep us guessing, Montecchiese).  Also in the area is the San Ginesio appellation and here you might San Ginesio Spumante in either dry or sweet formats.  Vernaccia Nera is the main grape.

The Offida denominazione allows for the production of an Offida Passerina Spumante.

The famous Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi, as well as the Verdicchio di Matelica have Spumante versions.
UMBRIA The Colli di Trasimeno produces a Spumante which is predominantly Chardonnay and allows for blending Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and/or Grechetto.
The Colli Perugini denominazione Spumante is predominantly Grechetto with small amounts of Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco and/or Pinot Grigio being allowed.
Torgiano Spumante limits Chardonnay to 50% and Pinot Nero to 50%, which pretty much gives you the recipe for that type of sparkling wine.

We did taste an Umbrian sparkler which was purportedly made of the rather tannic Sagrantino grape, vinified as a white wine.  
LAZIO Lazio produces a lot of frizzante wines and a modest quantity of Spumante.  

The red Cesanese grape produces a Spumante called Cesanese di Olevano Romano. 
Colii Albani Spumante is limited to 60% Malvasia di Candia with a variety of Trebbiano clones being allowed for the rest of the blend.
Colli della Sabina Spumante  comes in both red or white.  The latter is Trebbiano Toscano or Trebbiano Giallo and Malvasia, either del Lazio or di Candia.  The red is mostly Sangiovese with Montelpulciano.

The famous Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone can be made as a Spumante providing it's 65% Trebbiano Toscano (also known as Procanico) with 20% Malvasia bianca Toscana and 15% Rossetto, which is Trebbiano giallo to some winemakers.

Frascati Spumante features two Malvasia varieties and Trebbiano Toscano, possibly including some other grapes.  Marino Spuamnte is a somewhat similar blend.

Vignanello Spumante is made of the Greco grape, which is probably noted on the label.
CAMPANIA Greco di Tufo Spumante may be blended with as much as 15% of  Coda di Volpe Bianca.    Aspirino di Aversa Spumante must be made entirely of Aspirino, which might give some local winemakers a headache in not being able to blend in something else.
Campi Flegrei Falanghina Spumante comes from the Amalfi Coast.  
You might also encounter a Castel San Lorenzo Moscato Spumante which comes from the Salerno area.
The Benevento area has a sparkling wine made of Falanghina and it's called Guardiolo Spumante
Sannio is another Benevento province sub-region and they can make sparkling wine from just about every grape variety:  Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Fiano and Moscato amongst the white grapes.  Red grapes employed for Sannio sparkling wines might include:  Aglianico, Barbera, Piedirosso and the obscure variety known as Sciascinoso.  If you see a wine labeled simply as Sannio Spumante Metodo Classico, this is probably based on Aglianico with a bit of Greco and/or Falanghina.  Also in the neighborhood is the Solopaca  denominazione and the Spumante with that name on it is based upon Falanghina.   Taburno Spumante is made of Coda di Volpe and/or Falanghina typically.
The Irpinia area also has a Falanghina Spumante and even the possibility of making sparkling wine from Aglianico.
Out on the island of Ischia you might run into Ischia Bianco Spumante which is typically a blend of Forastera and Biancolella.
Vesuvio produces the wines labeled as Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio in white, pink and red and each can be made as a Spumante.  The white would be made mostly of Coda di Volpe, while Piedirosso accounts for most of the red.
PUGLIA You can't get much farther away from France's Champagne region than this southern outpost in Italy's boot 'heel'.  Yet there are several sparkling wines made in this region.
Gravina Spumante is made of Malvasia del Chianti and Greco di Tufo and/or Bianco d'Alessano, but possibly Trebbiano Toscano and/or Bombino bianco  and/or Verdeca.
Lizzano Rosato Spumante is usually based on Negroamaro with Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Pinot Nero and/or Bombino Nero and maybe Malvasia Nera.
Locorotondo Spumante would be a virtually similar blend to Martina Spumante:  Verdeca with Bianco d'Alessano and possibly Fiano, Bombino Bianco and a drop of Malvasia Toscana.
Salice Salentino can be a Pinot Bianco Spumante or a Rosato Spumante, the latter being based upon the Negroamaro grape.
A San Severo Spumante Bianco is Bombino Bianco and Trebbiano Toscano with small amounts, possibly, of Malvasia Bianca and/or Verdeca.
BASILICATA You might not expect to find bubbly in this little outpost, given the fame of its Aglianico del Vulture red wine.  But a vintner there can produce an Aglianico del Vulture Spumante which must be 100% varietal.  
There's one other DOC bubbly in Basilicata and that's a Matera Spumante, made primarily of Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata with a small amount of Greco in the blend.
SICILIA Alcamo Spumante comes from a region west of Palermo and east of Trapani.  A white bubbly would be made of Catarratto primarily.  The Rosato version would be most Nerello Mascalese with any of these odds & ends:  Calabrese, Nero d'Avola, Sangiovese,  Frappato, Perricone,  Cabernet Sauvignon,  Merlot and/or Syrah.
In the middle of Sicily, southeast of Palermo and northeast of Agrigento is the Contea di Sclafani denominazione.  The basic Spumante is likely to be mostly Catarratto with possibly Inzolia and/or Grecanico.  That appellation also may have varietal bubblies, including wines made of Grillo, Ansonica (or Inzolia, if you prefer), Catarratto, Chardonnay, Grecanico, Pinot Bianco or Sauvignon.  A Rosato Spumante is usually at least half Nerello Mascalese.
Delia Nivolelli is not the name of an Italian movie actress, but a wine DOC from the Trapani area.  Spumante there are based on Grecanico and/or Inzolia, but might also include Damaschino (usually found in Marsala wines) and some weird grape known as Chardonnay.  
The Erice Spumante comes from a small area just east of Trapani and this must be made predominantly of Chardonnay!
Moscato di Noto Spumante comes from the southeast corner of Sicily and it's made of Moscato, as you probably guessed.
Pantelleria Moscato Spumante comes from the island south west of Sicilia in the Mediterranean Sea.  There the Moscato is known as Zibibbo.
Riesi Spumante comes from well east of Agrigento and north of Vittoria.  It may be entirely (or predominantly) Ansonica. 
SARDEGNA The Alghero region in northwest Sardegna can make a white Spumante of various varieties, including Chardonnay, Vermentino, Torbato and Sauvignon.  The Rosato is perhaps Cagnulari, Cabernet, Carmenere or Sangiovese.

There's another obscure grape on this island called Semidano and this white variety was nearly extinct, but seems to be catching some vintner's attention.  It's a rarity, though, as a Sardegna Semidano Spumante. 

Vermentino di Sardegna Spumante
is made, as you might expect, mostly of Vermentino.  

OTHERS

In the Valle d'Aosta there's some nice bubbly made in Morgex of the Prié Blanc grape.  These have the name of Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle Spumante.

Lombardia, in addition to its Franciacorta and Oltrepo bubblies, has a small production of Lugana Spumante.

Friuli produces some lovely sparklers.  These are modeled along the lines of Champagne, with Chardonnay and Pinot Nero leading the way.  Our friends at Dorigo make a good bubbly.

In the peaceful hills of Teramo in the Abruzzo region, you might find a Spumante with the Controguerra denominazione.  It's a blend of Trebbiano Giallo and Passerina.

Molise has some varietal Spumante, including Chardonnay, Moscato and Pinot Bianco.

If you're looking for a DOC Spumante from Calabria, you're probably out of luck.

 

FERRARI
See that bottle to the left?

That's one of the world's finest sparkling wines. 

Period.


It's a remarkable wine that is actually worthy of the phrase "in a class by itself."

Italy, as you may have read in the table above this posting, makes oodles of sparkling wines.  Oodles, by the way, is technical nomenclature.

As fans of great Champagnes, we're always interested to see what producers of bottle-fermented bubblies are making.  Some Cavas from Spain are of good quality.  France makes some nice bubblies apart from Champagne.  Germany and Austria have some serious-minded producers, too.  A few California wineries are making some fairly deluxe sparkling wines.

In Italy, though, there are some pretenders, such as Ca' del Bosco, the Cakebread or Far Niente of Lombardia in our view.  And we've tasted some really good Piemontese sparkling wines and a few from Friuli.  But none, frankly, is comparable to the "Riserva del Fondatore" bottling from Ferrari which bears the name of the founder of the winery, Giulio Ferrari.

His home town of Trento was part of Austria in those days and Giulio Ferrari first studied vines and wine in Germany's wine school in Geisenheim.  He also attended the French viticulture school in Montpellier as well as working for in France's Champagne region before returning home in the late 1800s.

One important item he picked up along the way was a curious grape called Chardonnay.  Of course, he'd learned of this important variety in Champagne, but it simply was not grown at that time in the Trento region.  In reading about Ferrari, it seems he was even more passionate about grape growing than he was about winemaking.  And he understood his job of winemaking would be easier if he had good raw material, grapes.

Ferrari, though, had the idea that he could replicate the sparkling wines from Champagne after working in cellars in Reims and later in Epernay.  He started a fabbrica di Champagne and is said to be the "padre della spumantistica italiana" even though Gancia and Carpene preceded him by 4 decades in making sparkling wines.

It seems Ferrari's initial interest, though, was for viticulture and he had a nursery in nearby Friuli.  The production of sparkling wine began as a side interest or hobby and he began making just a couple of thousand bottles.  It was called "Grand Crémant Impérial Maximum Sec G. Ferrari & C.ie," so he even paid tribute to the Champenoise by giving the wine a rather French-sounding name.

Half a century after launching his first vintage of sparkling wine Giulio was still making his famous bubbly.  But he had no family to take over the winery and he ended up selling the business to a local wine geek and customer, Bruno Lunelli.




Lunelli owned the town of Trento's most esteemed wine bar and in the 1950s he found himself with vineyards and a winery to operate.
Now he was really in the wine business!

Ferrari stayed on to work at the winery and he made appearances in the cellar practically up until the time he died in the mid-1960s!
 

Bruno Lunelli's sons then ran the winery...Gino, Franco and Mauro.  Mauro was a winemaker and aided by his nephew Marcello, the two conspired to produce the first bottles of what has become the grand "Riserva del Fondatore" spumante.  

With the 1972 vintage Mauro and Marcello hid a couple of thousand bottles of bubbly to see what might happen with extended aging en tirage.  They selected Chardonnay from the best vineyard in the highest site to make the base wine and they squirreled away the bubbly.   Then, having followed the wine over the years, they organized a tasting of this special wine for the rest of the family.  
And so, the benchmark Italian sparkling wine, "Giulio Ferrari" was born.
We currently have some bottles of the 1999 vintage.  It's a grand sparkling wine, elegant, fine and very dry.  There's a toasty element one finds in top, well-aged French Champagnes.  But you'll come across notes of white flowers, apple-like fruit and a minerality like you're licking a stone.

The 2001 is similarly styled, very fine and with a grand bouquet of toasty, yeasty notes and green apple fruit.  


 

The Lunelli family makes a really nice, solid, reliable entry-level bubbly of good quality.  
It's entirely Chardonnay from hand-harvested vineyards situated in the Val d'Adige, Val di Cembra and the Valle dei Laghi.

The juice is fermented in stainless steel and then put in the bottle for its secondary fermentation.  They typically leave the bubbly for about two years on the yeast, so it has a nicely mild biscuity fragrance.  The dosage is low, too, so the wine is dry and nicely balanced.

The pink format, Rosé, is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay.  This wine is matured for 24-30 months on the yeast and it's one of our favorite values in good, dry pink bubbly.

 

Currently in stock:  FERRARI Brut "Trentodoc"  $25.99 (750ml)  
FERRARI Brut "Trentodoc" $12.99 (375ml)
FERRARI Brut "Trentodoc" Magnum: List $60  SALE $52.99
FERRARI Brut Rosé "Trentodoc"  $31.99 (750ml)
FERRARI Brut Rosé "Trentodoc" SALE  $12.99 (375ml)
FERRARI "Riserva del Fondatore" 1999 $97.99 (750ml)
 
 

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GERMANO
We know the Germano family as producing top notch Barolo and good Dolcetto, Barbera and such...even Riesling!  

But winemaker Sergio Germano has an interest in wines from outside Piemonte as evidenced by his production of Chardonnay and Riesling.  

We have the 2007, a somewhat warm growing season.  It's a medium-bodied and very dry bubbly...They've done a good job to retain crisp acidity, capture some yeasty notes and produce a lovely alternative to similarly-priced Champagne.   We'd found the 2003 to be a bit bigger (hotter year) and vaguely reminiscent of old Krug Champagnes.  The 2007 is more restrained and offers greater finesse.


 
No, the fruit is not grown in Germano's backyard in the Serralunga area of Barolo.  Germano, you see, has a vineyard site about a 30 minute drive from the winery in a town called Ciglié.  On this chalky patch overlooking a small stream and valley below (should you fall off the hill), he grows Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir.  The Chardonnay fraction is vinified in barrel (ha!  Krug is big on fermenting its base wines in wood), while the dominating Pinot Noir portion sees only stainless steel.

The sweetening dosage is minimal, so the wine is rather dry.  
I think Sergio makes this primarily to drink with his lovely wife, Elena.  We understand production is close to 2400 bottles annually, a few more than the couple can consume, so we're fortunate to have a few bottles to enjoy here in Burlingame!
 

Currently in stock:  GERMANO 2007 "Alta Langa" Brut $39.99


Sergio Germano out standing in Piemonte.

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DAMA DEL ROVERE

There's a grape grown at a fairly high elevation in Italy's Veneto region which few have heard of...Durello (or Durella, as some old timers call it).

If you speak Italian, you know "duro" is a word for "hard" and Durello is a bit of a hard wine owing to its elevated level of acidity.   Growers of this variety used to find demand for the grape from producers of sparkling wines around Italy, as a percentage of Durello would provide a measure of structure and backbone to an otherwise too-soft base wine.

The story of Dama del Rovere and its sparkling Durello wine is amusing.  The winery is a fairly recent enterprise for young Massimo Prà and family.  I gather they began producing wine in the early 2000s, having sold fruit from their Soave-area vineyards, etc., to others.  

The Lessini Durello denominazione is fairly young, too.  It was established in the late 1980s and you'll find less than a dozen wineries producing this in some form or another.

Massimo's father, Lino, is a bit conservative and he's got a typical testa dura (hard head) himself.  Lino has been of the opinion that Durello is probably more saleable as a table wine and the idea of making it bubbly was simply out of the question.

Now, there are some sparking wines made of the Durello grape.  A few producers do make sparkling wine from this variety, but demand for this is far less than for Prosecco, for example.

Still, Massimo wanted to test the waters with a dry sparkling wine from their Durello vineyards.  And he waited for just the right moment:  When Dad departed for a little vacation, Massimo called a friend who has special tanks for making bulk process bubbly.  They brought the still wine over to the friends' winery and ran it through the tanks, doing a secondary fermentation in tank and then bottling something like 2700 bottles.  

Dad, of course, was horrified when he returned home and found the tank of Durello to be empty.  Massimo says his father thought the world had come to an end.  But when the wine sold out in a few weeks, Dad calmed down and now the Dama del Rovere winery is actually highly-regarded for its lovely Venetian sparkling wine.

We find the aromas to offer a touch of green apple with a light spice note underneath.  There's almost an apple blossom character there, as well.  Dry.  Fairly acidic but not as austere or cidery as some Champagnes.  It's well worth checking out a bottle and experimenting on your friends.

Currently in stock:  DAMA DEL ROVERE Durello Bubbly $17.99


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PROSECCO

 

Back in the 1980s we had a small company specializing in Italian wines.  We imported some really nice wines (we thought they were nice, anyway, and other did and still do today...virtually every producer whose wine we brought it is bring imported into the US market today).  And one of the wines we brought in was a wine we felt would find a receptive audience:  Prosecco di Conegliano.  Prosecco is the grape, of course.  

In those days, however, most wineries made Prosecco Frizzante (fizzy and bubbly, but not full-throttle effervescent in the format of Spumante).  Our producer bottled his with a sort of 'mushroom' cork and so opening the bottle required a a wing-type corkscrew.
This would allow one to get sufficient leverage to remove the cork.  A "waiter's" corkscrew might snap the neck off the bottle, since the cork had mushroomed out to fit the bottle and retain the carbon dioxide.
And this proved to be a problem.

Today, of course, Prosecco has become quite fashionable and it's extremely popular.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Spanish Cava made its way into the US market. In the first decade of the 21st century, Prosecco made major inroads here, partly in the wake of big price hikes from Champagne producers and some California wineries.  This left a void in the $10-$15 range for good sparkling wine and, ecco!
, Prosecco.

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If you find yourself in the Veneto and get hungry while visiting producers of Prosecco....




 
DA GIGETTO in MIANE
 

I can recommend this place as being worthy of a stop.


CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME PHOTOS OF LUNCH AT GIGETTO.

Via De Gasperi, 4
in Miane
Tel. 0438/960020
Closed Monday nights and Tuesdays.

******

LOCANDA DA LINO

Via Lino Toffolin 31
31050
Solighetto
Tel:  0438 82150

Closed Mondays.

CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME PHOTOS OF A RATHER NICE LUNCH

 

 

**********************

SORELLE BRONCA

Livio Bronca worked in the Conegliano-area wine business for three decades and his two daughters, Antonella and Ersiliana grew up with wine as a major part of their lives.

In the 1980s the Bronca sisters (or sorelle in Italian) decided they would embrace the wine business and so they started their own brand, Sorelle Bronca.

We've been fans since their first bottling arrived in the Bay Area and the wine has continued to improve in quality, year after year.

 


The Bronca sisters...Ersiliana and Antonella.

Near the winery is a hillside vineyard called Particella 68.

It's a beautiful vineyard and well-farmed.
After hiking up and down the hill on a warm day, a sip of cool Prosecco is not a bad idea!


The new label.

Working with the two sisters is Antonella's husband, Piero.  Ersiliana's daughter Elisa is now on board, having graduated from the wine school in Padova with a degree in enology.  Heading the cellar crew is winemaker Federico Giotto.

 

The winemaker is so accomplished, we understand there's a statue of him just outside the Uffizi.

 
GIOTTO & GIOTTO

 

 

One of the innovations employed by this winery is they harvest their grapes and press the fruit, retaining the unfermented juice until they have an order for bubbly.  At that time, they'll do a primary fermentation and immediately turn it into bubbly.  This secret method allows the wine to retain more character of the Prosecco (or Glera, if you will) grape.

We like the blossom-like fragrance of Sorelle Bronca's Prosecco.  It's very close to the Brut range of sparkling wines...just at the low end of the Extra Dry spectrum.   

We've seen the wine on wine lists in top San Francisco restaurants for $10-$12 a pour and the wine is of sufficient quality to please consumers while dining out, even if that price is a bit on the high side.  (So's the rent in San Francisco and environs, though.)

We offer the Sorelle Bronca Extra Dry Prosecco at a special price...presently $15.99 per bottle.  It's a fine example of Prosecco.

Currently in stock:  SORELLE BRONCA PROSECCO DI CONEGLIANO  (List $19)  SALE $15.99




DRUSIAN

Finding the Drusian winery is not easy.  It's on the outskirts of the tiny town of Bigolino and you won't find a single sign helping you navigate your way to the winery.  

Even when you do locate the place, there's not a sign posted to indicate you've reached your destination.  The Drusian family seems to prefer it that way, out of the spotlight, but making good wine.

 

Grandpa Giuseppino started the place in the 1950s, we gather.  His son Rino made wine until 1984 when his kid, Francesco, took over.  Now Francesco is assisted by his daughter Marika.

Francesco introduced some innovations.  One was sparkling wine production.  Previously they sold only table wine or "still wine" (non sparkling).  

In 1998 Francesco built a brand new winery and today they're a well-regarded producer of Prosecco.  It's right in the middle of their 40 hectares of vines.  

The vineyards are farmed with care.  It's said they farm organically.  

Francesco told us the current laws allow producers to blend in "other" wines and that many producers are a bit careless in their viticulture.  As a result, apparently many producers buy Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige wineries in bulk to enhance their base wines.  Drusian does not.

And his Extra Dry is drier than most Extra Dry sparklers.  In fact, his Extra Dry is actually within the realm of what other producers label as "Brut."  

We have Drusian in both regular bottles and magnum formats.

Currently in stock:  DRUSIAN PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE (list $16) SALE $13.99 (750ml)
DRUSIAN PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE Magnum (list $33) SALE $29.99

 

 

CARPENÈ MALVOLTI

This is an old firm, founded back in 1860 by Antonio Carpenè.  He was a fan of sparkling wines from France's Champagne region and dabbled in producing a similar product back home in Italy's Veneto.  In fact, he was a leading light in producing sparkling wines in his day, surpassed by Giulio Ferrari several decades later.

Here's an old 'ad' they came up with to show how their fine bubbly was made.

The winery is still family-owned and they make boat-loads of wine and spirits.  Prosecco is their claim to fame, but they also produce a blend of Prosecco and Chardonnay, hoping to cash in on the fame of the latter grape and the current fashion of the former.  

Carpenè Malvolti are certainly willing to experiment.   They recently started production of a sparkling version of Petit Manseng, a grape more commonly found in the Jurançon region of southwest France.  They're also currently making sparkling Viognier.  

We carry this because a few customers have requested the Prosecco of Carpenè Malvolti, but we view the wines as perhaps having lost something due to the large scale of production of this company. It strikes us as relying a bit too much on its sweetness.

Your mileage may vary.

Currently in stock:  CARPENÈ MALVOLTI Prosecco Superiore $16.99

 

TONON'S "VILLA TERESA"

Pietro Tonon founded this little Venetian company in the 1930s and today it's run by his great grandson Loris Tonon.

They seem to have several lines of wines, with this Villa Teresa level featuring all sorts of "negociant" bottlings and this rather nice little Prosecco.

It's not a Prosecco from Conegliano Valdobbiadene...merely "Prosecco" from the Veneto.  And it's stoppered with a ceramic closure which can easily be re-sealed.

Bob is a big fan of Villa Teresa Prosecco and he seems to find it to be drier than Ellen or I.  

In any case, the wine seems to capture some of the ripe apple and blossom-like notes of Prosecco and it's modestly-priced.

 

Currently in stock:  VILLA TERESA Prosecco del Veneto  SALE $11.99

 

CASA COSTE PIANE

I caught the tail end of a seminar taught by a some Italian wine experts.  These two fellers were giving a presentation on the wines of the Veneto region.

They had a rigid tasting regimen and my BS Detector went off several times during the brief time I heard these guys sharing their expertise.

In speaking about Prosecco, for example, they told the students (who paid a lot of cash for this indoctrination) that bottle fermented Prosecco didn't exist and really wasn't possible.

The same guys, to illustrate the virtues of Soave, poured a French oak-aged bottling as the poster child for that denominazione.  Really?  Only a tiny percentage of wine bearing the name Soave sees wood, unless you count the cardboard box in which the bottles are shipped.

Casa Coste Piane?

Our colleague Bob Gorman tasted this wine for the first time recently and remarked "Hey!  This is Prosecco all grown up!"

And you know, he's right.

Starting from the vineyards, though:  Most Prosecco comes from flat-land sites.  The family of Loris Follador planted Prosecco vineyards on hillsides because, well, that was the land they owned.  And the terrain is limestone or sandstone...you couldn't really grow much else there.

It took them until 1983 to begin bottling their own wines.  Prior to that, everything was sold in bulk.

And it remains a relatively small winery.  They have about 6 hectares of vineyards and these vines are old and well-established.  This means it's fairly easy to cultivate without herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.

And the wine is made by fermenting it in the bottle, not in some giant, Charmat process wine tank.  

 
 
 
It's classified as a Vino Frizzante, so it's a tad less bubbly than full-throttle Spumante.  And it requires a corkscrew (a butterfly or wing-type corkscrew works best) that's used with care.

Since this is not disgorged, it does have a tiny bit of sediment.  And it's "alive" and developing in bottle as it ages, so each bottle is a tad different from the next.

The wine is very dry and nicely crisp.  It's much less fruity than normal Prosecco.  And we like it very much.

Currently in stock:  CASA COSTA PIANE PROSECCO FRIZZANTE  $22.99

 

 

 

ARUNDA/VIVALDI

You've probably heard of the sparkling wines of the Roederer firm.

This is not made by that family.

Nope...it's the Reiterer family.

And they own the Arunda winery and produce wines under the Arunda label or the Vivaldi brand for the Italian market.

Arunda is the name of a nearby mountain.  

The Reiterer's winery is in an alpine village called Meltina.  It's located at too high an elevation for them to have vineyards in the neighborhood, so they buy grapes from other towns such as Cornaiano, Terlano and Appiano.   Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco are brought in to make the Arunda bubblies.

The firm is fairly young.  They began in 1979 and have become fairly well-regarded for their bubblies.  But they are a small family enterprise and it's known more to serious wine geeks than to the average bear.


Josef/Giuseppe/Joseph Reiterer produces what most connoisseurs consider to be the reference point for Alto Adige spumante.  

The Brut is about half Chardonnay with 30% Pinot Bianco and the rest of the cuvee accounted for by Pinot Nero.  It's fermented in bottle and left for 2 years to mature on the spent yeast.  

We were first introduced to the Arunda bubbly by our friends Gaby & Norbert in Frankfurt.  As frequent visitors to the Alto Adige region for hiking, they've made the rounds of the top wineries.  Gaby's a bit of a sparkling wine aficionado (she has a weakness for Krug) and she'll tell you the Arunda is the best of the region.

I'm not sure we'll have easy access to this in the future...I think the importer has not re-stocked this past year...

Currently in stock:  ARUNDA BRUT $26.99

BISSON

The Bisson name is well-regarded in Italy as it's that of a famous wine shop in Liguria.  The work of Pierluigi Lugano, the store opened in 1978 and not only sells Italian wines, but Lugano makes some wines from nearby vineyards in Liguria (near Genoa).

A friend has a vineyard of Glera (or Prosecco) in Italy's Veneto and Lugano had an idea in mind for producing good sparkling wine but with a result that would be a shade different from the Prosecco bottlings already on the market.

The result is a beautifully fresh Prosecco and one that's balanced and yet dry enough to be called "Brut."  (Most Prosecco is "extra dry" as the grape tends to produce a slightly bitter wine, so the hint of sweetness negates the harsh edges of these wines)...

But Lugano wanted a dry bubbly and they did a brilliant job with this.  It's sealed with a 'crown cap,' so a "church key" bottle opener will do the trick.  The wine has that lovely fresh, white flower fragrance of the Glera/Prosecco grape.  It's also a shade less fizzy than typical 'spumante,' having slightly less pressure in the bottle.


Currently in stock:  BISSON Marca Trevigiana "VINO FRIZZANTE"  GLERA $18.99


 

TENUTA MAZZOLINO

Lombardia is home of the famous Franciacorta wine, a Champagne-like sparkling wine which is often of better-than-average quality.  There's also the Valtellina, a region bordering Switzerland where Nebbiolo does well.

Then there's the Oltrepò Pavese region...a rather large area and yet relatively unknown much outside its borders.  There's a considerable planting of Pinot Nero in the region and it's long been a source of sparkling wine based on that grape.

The Mazzolino estate has been run by the Braggiotti family since the 1980s.  It was one of the first wineries in the region to distance itself from the crowd by making good wines.  

With all that Pinot Nero planted in the region, owner Sandra Braggiotti brought in a winemaker from France, a place where they know a thing or two about Pinot.

The wine we have is made of Chardonnay, though, and spends about 18 months on the yeast, enough to become quite bubbly, but still retaining a nicely appley character.  It's dry, light and crisp on the palate...very fine and price-worthy, too.

Currently in stock:  MAZZOLINO Blanc de Blanc $19.99


The winery sits atop that knoll in the distance.

Winemaker Jean Francois Coquard...


There's a cellar full of sparkling wine...


They also make a highly-regarded Pinot Noir.

 

 

CANEVEL PROSECCO
While many Italian wineries have 10 generations and centuries of history, Canevel does not.  What they lack in "romance", however, they make up for with the quality (good, actually) of their product.  

The company started in 1987 with a small office and warehouse space, essentially, which served as the production facility.  The name Canevel is not that of the owner's family, his grandmother or the vineyard.  Instead, it's a Venetian slang word which translates to something like "a small corner of the winery where the secrets are jealously guarded."

When you taste this bubbly, you'll notice there's not much of a secret here.  It's simply good Prosecco, nicely aromatic and blossomy on the nose and crisp on the finish.  Easy-drinkin' and affordable, too.

Currently in stock:  CANEVEL PROSECCO  $18.99

 

RUGGERI

Not many half-bottles of Prosecco are available in our market, but the Ruggeri is nice when you want just a couple of glasses and a full bottle is too much.

This is a delightful little bubbly, capturing the acacia blossom and ripe apple fruit of the Prosecco grape.

Currently in stock:  RUGGERI Prosecco "Gold Label"  (List $20) SALE $16.99
RUGGERI Prosecco "Gold Label" half bottles  Sold Out

 


 

 

 

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