Organized visits were planned to a really diverse range of producers from large cooperative wineries who play an important role especially in Trentino to small multi-generational producers operating organically or biodynamically. This presented us with a wide range of views on wine making.
Choices to make wine varietally or as blends, vintage or non-vintage, use MLF or not or partially, some portion in oak or not at all, exclude some difficult grapes or include them, indigenous yeast or cultured...we saw it all, from producers who always preceded explaining their modus operandi with “this is only my opinion” recognizing that not all their fellow producers did things the same way.
The week was kick started on Monday morning by the Consorzio of Trentino at the wonderful 16th century Palazzo Roccabruna with a masterclass about Trentino and its wines presented by Roberto Anesi, Italy’s best sommelier 2017. The masterclass was followed by an amazing tasting of 44 wines showcasing all the different grape varieties and wine styles produced in Trentino.
Each of the three days spent in Trentino included a wine and food pairing lunch and dinner with a Trentino producer and three winery visits… it was an intense introduction to the region!
A reflection, I felt, of this region strong desire to get the message out that they are a quality wine region, with a long proud history of winemaking…. especially Trento DOC, the first Italian DOC specifically introduced for traditional method (metodo classico) sparkling wine.
A highlight here, for me, was discovering and tasting a wide range of Teroldego (Teroldego Rotaliano DOC) nicknamed the “Prince of Trentino”. This red grape, with some relationship to Syrah, was made in a really wide range of styles from light, easy to drink, sometimes very tannic, but the best, I thought were fuller bodied, complex, structured and definitely with ageing potential.
Franciacorta, in Lombardia, Italy's first DOCG exclusively for traditional method sparkling wine is clearly aiming for the luxury market. The importance of soil, the challenges of global warming and the different approaches and different styles of sparkling wine, were topics we explored. We tasted a wide range of wines including the unique style of Franciacorta called “Satèn”, a white sparkling wine with less pressure that has a silkier and softer mouthfeel.
A visit to the historic Berlucchi estate owned by the Ziliani family was a highlight. We had lunch in a rarely opened part of the beautiful medieval palace Palazzo Lana and was joined by Cristina Ziliani, the daughter of Franco Ziliani, considered the father of Franciacorta. Topping it off was an impromptu meeting with Franco Ziliani himself!
Lugana, a wine appellation on the south shore of Lake Garda, also in Lombardia but shared in small part, with neighboring Veneto, was our final visit. Even with my limited exposure to the Turbiana grape I knew it had versatility, making both good entry level wine but also more concentrated, fuller bodied examples. The consorzio organized a walk-around tasting of seventeen Lugana producers, all small family wineries with an obvious focus on quality. What a great alternative to the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio! We had a surprise at our final winery visit (Cà Maiol), a back vintage tasting of Lugana DOC wines including wines from 2005, 2003 and an amazing 1999. This was a rare and unique opportunity to see the ability of the Turbiana grape to age. A really wonderful finish to the week!
Reflecting back on our winery visits and the messages and challenges expressed by the winemakers, marketing managers and Consorzia, over and over again we heard how consumer education was a barrier to many wine regions. These comments really emphasized the importance of the Italian Wine Scholar course and the role played by instructors to inform and educate those working in the wine industry and ultimately making consumers aware of the value and quality that can be found in these regions.
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