The most festive tasting of all - with Vacanze Italiane I wanted to take the participants on a tour to the Italian wine regions via the glass. Obviously, we can’t travel all the Italian wine regions within one tasting, but I made sure we included as many wines as possible in our line up, without overwhelming anyone too much :)
During this wine tasting event we presented 6 Italian wines from different corners of Italy, all of them made from rare and indigenous grape varieties, all of them our own import. You can buy these wines from our online wine store - Once Upon A Wine (shipping in Netherlands and Belgium, other regions - reach out to discuss the possibilities). The wine and dine event was hosted at the Al Bacaro Osteria Italiana - an authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Amsterdam that focuses on slow food and seasonal, organic ingredients.
Let’s start with our first wine region - Emilia-Romagna.
Wine number 1 - Valtiberia, Podere Sottoilnoce, Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romagna is a historical wine region in Italy, wine was made here for thousands of years, the plain and fertile area around Po river has a very generous soil so the focus here was on quantity until recent times.
At the end of 20th century, many small boutique wineries emerged in the hilly areas of Piacenza, Bologna, Romagna, with a focus on local grapes. Here the focus is on showing the different terroirs of the region and all of a sudden Emilia-Romagna gained serious following especially among Italians. We can say it’s still an off-the-radar region for outsiders, because abroad many people still remember the region for cheap, pink, medium-sweet, semi-sparkling Lambrusco wines, which weren’t anything serious at all.
In fact , Emilia-Romagna is one of the oldest wine regions of Italy, the Etruscans started making wine here in 7 BC, and the Romans continued the tradition and used the region (as the Via Emilia road) to transport wine between cities.
Our today’s wine (actually the 1 and 2 wines) come from Castelvetro di Modena, an ancient Etruscan settlement. Here they produce sparkling wines from Lambrusco mainly, or Trebbiano di Modena - like this rare white wine. Trebbiano is actually used for the famous balsamico vinegar from Modena, it is not even listed among the wine grapes of Italy, but in Modena historically this is a wine grape indeed.
This is a biodynamic wine, so far certified organic, but the rest is coming too, it’s suitable for vegans which means it’s not filtered or fined with products of animal origin (most wines are), actually it’s not filtered at all.
Trebbiano di Modena
semi-sparkling white wine, ancestral method
Lively, quince and lemon notes, brisk fizz, stacks of perfume. Feels youthful and nervous, tangy and refreshing, some grip to texture and a starburst of acidity that finishes the wine with strong minerally characters. You could say rich, but the delicacy and tang of freshness is all there; bitter, salty-saline, fruity in balance. Built for ageing too.
We paired Valtiberia with a mousse from mortadella and prosciutto di Parma.
Wine number 2 - Mennabo, Podere Sottoilnoce, Emilia-Romagna
The next wine comes from the same winery - Podere Sottoilnoce. The name translates as a farm under the walnut tree. There’s a saying that says nothing grows under a walnut tree and it’s funny because Max’s best and oldest vineyards actually stand under a huge walnut tree.
Max Brandolo, the owner, had a corporate career in Milano until he decided to relocate with his family to the country side and start his own winery in 2017. From the beginning he knew he would stick to organic farming, native grapes and biodynamic practices by Rudolf Steiner.
He’s cultivating the varieties of Lambrusco - Grasparossa, Fioranese, Sorbara, and the two Trebbianos - di Spagna and Modenese.
He’s vineyards are full of biodiversity - animals, woods, any sort of vegetation, no synthetical products are used here. The fermentation is spontaneous with native yeasts, then the second fermentation (to make the wine sparkling) happens in the bottle. Max adds frozen grape must from the same vintage - so it contains both yeast and sugar to restart fermenting.
This is his Lambrusco wine, he also has a rare still Lambrusco (usually they’re sparkling) which you can find in my store and order separately.
semi-sparkling red wine, ancestral method
"Mennabò" is a red sparkling wine which is striking for its fruity fragrance, genuine frankness and a decidedly irresistible and refreshing drink. On the nose it is thin and delicate, characterized by notes of small red fruits (wild strawberry and black cherry), juicy plum, notes of violet and light nuances of earth and yeasts. The taste is fresh and dry, with a vibrant freshness and a light bubble that make it satisfying and drinkable.
We paired Mennabo with a Culatello di Zibello.
Wine number 3 - Mutabilis, Azienda Agricola Matunei, Piemonte
The third wine - a rosato - is coming from Piemonte, unusual region for a rosé, usually a land of red wines. Piemonte means at the foot of the mountains, actually only 5% of its’ land is flat. If you are interested in Piemonte you should join our next Sunday tasting with 7 different Nebbiolo wines.
Monferrato is where this wine comes from includes the areas of Asti and Alessandria, in the southeast of the region. This region is dominated by reds from Barbera, Dolcetto, Grignolino and Freisa. Our rosato is made from Freisa - an ancient local grape and supposedly one of the parents of the famous Nebbiolo grape. It has very high levels of tannins and acidity.
The winery - Matunei - is a family run small winery in Monferrato, Matune means little boy in Piemontese and that’s have the old locals call the owner Alberto. They’re organic certified, they don’t filter or fine wines, don’t use any synthetic products and they also have a small hotel - agriturismo, in case you are in the area do visit them.
Az. Agr. Matunei
still rosato wine
The wine is macerated on skins for 2 hours and aged in stainless steel for 8 months.Not fined, not filtered. The name comes from an ancient Chinese rose called Mutabilis Chinensis. The color of this rose varies during flowering, from scarlet red to orange to pink. Just as the color of the rose varies, our rosé acquires new shades from year to year according to the season and the ripeness of the grapes.
We paired Mutabilis with a Vitello Tonnato.
Wine number 4 - Etna Bianco DOC, Pietradolce, Etna DOC, Sicily
The next wine comes from a volcano - the biggest active volcano in Europe - Etna. It’s a very strange place, actually the vineyards are at around 1000 m altitude on the volcano, and there’s no real soil here only lava that formed rocks while cooling, or volcanic sand. There’re also more than 100 years old vineyards here - they’re unlike most of the vineyards in the wold standing on their own roots. These vineyards resisted the most deadly disease we had in the wine world - phylloxera, and kept their roots.
Etna’s viticulture is 6000 years old, those of you who attended our last event dedicated to Etna remember this well. Many things remain the same over centuries and millenia on Etna - for example, the vines are trained the same way as they were in 8 century BC - they’re standing as bushes and there’s just one wooden stake to support them.