Joel Garbarino is this week’s guest blogger. He is an engineer, a friend, and a fellow Italian student from Santa Barbara. His Italian relatives are from Liguria and because they do not speak English, he learned to speak Italian. And, in the process, of course, he learned about Italian food and wine. He is passionate about Italian wine, has taken courses from a sommelier in Italy, and has traveled to most of the great wine regions in Bel Paese. The following is a powerpoint presentation he made to the Italian Cultural Heritage Foundation of Santa Barbara in April 2018. His favorite wine is Brunello.
Notes: The phylloxera were similar to aphids. American vines had evolved to have natural defenses. See later slide for definitions of DOC and DOCG.
Climate and Geography of Italy
Notes: Italy has the perfect climate and geography for making wine: plenty of sun, and many hills near the sea (similar to California)
Notes: Every region makes both red and white wines. In Piedmont, Barolo and Barbaresco are made from the nebbiolo grape. In Tuscany, Brunello, Chianti, and Nobile wines are made from the Sangiovese grape.
Note: You can find the classification on the neck of the bottle
Notes: There are more than 41 DOCG wines from 13 regions: 27 reds, 13 whites, and 1 rose. The most well-know regions are Piedmont, Tuscany, and the Veneto
Notes: Ratings go from 0 to 100; 96-100 are excellent wines. Good years are 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2010. 2002 was a poor year. 2014 was a mediocre year because of too much rain. 2015 was an excellent year, perhaps the best in 20 years.
Notes: Near the city of Alba, one finds the famous areas of Barolo and Barbaresco, which are made from the Nebbiolo grape. Nebbia means fog in Italian. The region can be foggy, reminding one of Napa and Sonoma. One of my favorite white wines is Gavi. The most famous producer of Barbaresco is Gaja, a family winery founded in 1869. In the ’60s and ’70s, they introduced new ideas for vinification: thinning grapes to increase quality, using grapes from a single vineyard; and using French barrels for the first year of fermentation. In 1996 Gaja declassified his Barolo and Barbaresco from DOCG by adding 5% Barbera because he wasn’t satisfied with the quality.
Notes: The vineyards of Valpolicella are just north of Verona. There are three styles of red wines made there with a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes: Valpolicella classico (DOC), Recioto or Amarone (DOCG), and Valpolicella Ripasso (DOC). The most famous producer of Amarone is Quintarelli. The Veneto (Conegliano) also produces the famous Prosecco.
Notes: Sangiovese grows only in Italy and California. Sangiovese clones easily, so Chianti is sangiovetto, Brunello is sangiovese grosso, and Nobile is sangiovese prugnolo gentile. Brunello is named after a stream near Montalcino. In 1865 at an agricultural fair a red wine called Brunello won 1st prize. In 1888 Feruccio Biondi-Santi, who fought under Garibaldi, released the 1st modern Brunello. In the 1960s there were 11 producers; by 1980 when Brunello received the 1st DOCG designation, there were 53. Today there are more than 100. Super Tuscan: The Marchese Mario Scisa della Rochetta married the daughter of the family who owned the land around Bolgheri. In 1945 he decided to make wine and imported rootstock from hi family, the Rothschilds, in France. In 1968 he introduced Sassicaia to the market. In 1978 he entered his wine in the famous international wine competition Decatur in London and won 1st prize over the more well-known French wines.
Notes: I was fortunate to study Italian and Italian wines with a lovely language teacher and sommelier, Eleonora Vieri. The 3 best Nobile producers are Boscherelli, Monte Mecurio, and Poliziano. Each makes a cru level Nobile that rivals a good Brunello: Boscherelli’s is called “Nocio,” Monte Mercurio’s “Damo,” and Poliziano’s “Asinone.” Asino in Italian is donkey or ass, so “Asinone” is a big ass wine!
Wines of Southern Italy
Notes: Puglia has Salice Salentino and Primativo (similar to the zinfandel grape); Basilicata has Aglianico del Vulture, Campania has Greco di Tufo and Taurasi (a big wine called the Barolo of the Mezzogiorno) and Sicily has Nero D’Avola, Marsala, and Moscato. A Campania family, Mastroberardino, has been making wines since 1878. During the war, many vineyards in the south were destroyed, and the family helped the government replant and preserve many of the antique varieties (eg, Aglianico, Fiano, Greco, and Piedirosso). One of the sons is known as the “grape archeologist.” In 1966 the family started a project called “Viale dei misteri” to recreate the wine of Pompeii using the same grapes and production techniques. Today the family makes more than 50% of the wine in Campania and 90% of the Taurasi.