SUNDAY DECEMBER 17:
Italian Sparkling Wines, Prosecco, Metodo Classico and more.
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
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
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.
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
There are but 9 members of this group at the present time.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
ADIGE & TRENTINO
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.
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,
The Trebbiano di Romagna denominazione can be found as a
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
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.
the Marche, you might find a rare red bubbly called Vernaccia di
Serrapetrona. This is produced both as a dry and sweet
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
The Offida denominazione allows for the production of an Offida
The famous Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi, as well as the Verdicchio
di Matelica have Spumante versions.
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.
produces a lot of frizzante wines and a modest quantity of
The red Cesanese grape produces a Spumante called Cesanese di Olevano
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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%
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Vermentino di Sardegna Spumante is made, as you might expect, mostly
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
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
that bottle to the left?
That's one of the world's finest sparkling wines.
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
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,
- 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
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
- 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"
FERRARI Brut "Trentodoc" $12.99 (375ml)
FERRARI Brut "Trentodoc" Magnum: List $60 SALE
FERRARI Brut Rosé "Trentodoc" $31.99 (750ml)
FERRARI Brut Rosé "Trentodoc" SALE
FERRARI "Riserva del Fondatore" 1999
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
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
stock: GERMANO "Alta Langa" Brut $39.99
Sergio Germano out standing in Piemonte.
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
TO SEE SOME PHOTOS OF LUNCH AT GIGETTO.
Via De Gasperi, 4
Closed Monday nights and Tuesdays.
LOCANDA DA LINO
Lino Toffolin 31
Tel: 0438 82150
HERE TO SEE SOME PHOTOS OF A RATHER NICE LUNCH
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,
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
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
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
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
$16.99 per bottle. It's a fine example of Prosecco.
Currently in stock: SORELLE BRONCA PROSECCO DI
CONEGLIANO (List $19) SALE $16.99
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"
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
The vineyards are farmed with care. It's said they farm
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
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
- 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
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.
in stock: CARPENÈ MALVOLTI Prosecco Superiore $16.99
TONON'S "VILLA TERESA"
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
Currently in stock: BISSON Marca Trevigiana "VINO
FRIZZANTE" GLERA $18.99
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
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
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
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
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
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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