Benvenuto Brunello 2023, Presenting the Iconic Elixir of Tuscany – Filippo Magnani

On November 28th wine enthusiasts and professionals in nine key cities worldwide gathered to celebrate Brunello Day. London, New York, Dallas, Miami, Toronto, Vancouver, Zurich, Shanghai, and Tokyo all raised their glasses in honor of Brunello di Montalcino, the iconic elixir of Tuscany. This celebration is in fact the culmination of a 10-day event called Benvenuto Brunello, organized by the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium. Although Brunello Day is just a couple years old, this was Benvenuto Brunello’s 32nd edition and marked the release of the 2018 and 2019 vintages represented by 118 producers and 310 labels. These wines were evaluated by 90 Italian and international journalists and trade professionals, several of which were hand-picked by the Vinitaly International Academy, now supported by the Brunello Consortium.

During the inaugural weekend the 2023 vintage was presented and the 32nd Leccio d’Oro prize was awarded to five restaurants and wine retailers with an exceptional list of Montalcino wines: Ristorante Veranda at the Hotel Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, The Sistina restaurant in New York, The Il Quadrifoglio in Asti, The Berry Bros. & Rudd in London and the Osteria Il Bargello in Siena which also owns the Salotto del Vino, a wine bar and shop with nearly 100 Montalcino wines served by the glass.

A Story of Visionaries – The Rise of Brunello

After almost 50 years since its DOCG status, Brunello di Montalcino wines continue to grow in popularity and gain market share worldwide. To truly understand why, one must delve into its intriguing history. Montalcino was a very important stop of the Via Francigena, a road that ran from England to Rome and, therefore, it welcomed and hosted important men of power, nobles, politicians and popes. The great wines of Montalcino were crafted to satisfy the illustrious visitors who were traveling to reach the Eternal City, and that’s why the hamlet has displayed absolute quality winemaking for centuries.

The modern success of Brunello di Montalcino started in the late 19th century and is intertwined with the vision and passion of a few key figures who recognized the potential of the Sangiovese grape in a unique terroir. One such visionary was Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, a winemaker from the Montalcino region who experimented with the Sangiovese grape, selecting superior clones and implementing innovative winemaking techniques. He was one of the first to introduce the practice of aging Brunello di Montalcino in large oak casks for an extended period.

This patient aging process proved to be the key to unlocking the full potential of the Sangiovese grape. Over time, the wine developed a deep, complex character with earthy aromas, intense dark fruit flavors, and an impressive ability to age gracefully. Biondi-Santi’s wines gained recognition and set the standard for what Brunello di Montalcino would become.

As the reputation of Biondi-Santi’s Brunello spread, other winemakers in the Montalcino region started to adopt similar winemaking practices. In 1966, Brunello di Montalcino was first recognized as a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and in 1980 it was granted the highest classification in Italian wine, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). This prestigious recognition solidified Brunello di Montalcino’s status as one of Italy’s most exceptional and iconic wines.

The Sangiovese Grape – A Match Made in Montalcino

The secret behind the exceptional character of Brunello di Montalcino lies in its main grape variety – Sangiovese. This indigenous grape has been cultivated in Tuscany for centuries, and although it is Italy’s most widely planted black grape variety, many would agree that it finds its ultimate expression in the hilly vineyards of Montalcino.

The name “Sangiovese” is derived from the Latin words “sanguis Jovis” meaning “blood of Jove,” reflecting the grape’s deep red color. It is known by other names too such as Brunello and Sangiovese Grosso. The grape has a remarkable ability to express itself in a range of styles, from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex. Sangiovese is known for its distinctive aromas, lively acidity and tannic backbone. Closely associated with Sangiovese are fragrances of cherries – both fresh and dried – as well as ripe strawberries and plums that often intertwine with appealing herbal nuances like thyme, oregano, and sweet tobacco. This flavor profile captures beautifully the essence of the Tuscan terroir. Its vibrant and refreshing acidity preserves the wine’s balance, enhances its food pairing versatility and contributes to the wine’s aging potential, enabling it to develop complexity and maintain freshness over time.

Sangiovese wines often exhibit a pronounced tannic structure, delivering a firm and grippy texture that can be attributed to both the grape variety and the extended skin contact during fermentation. These tannins not only contribute to the wine’s structure but also bestow it with excellent aging potential. With time, the tannins soften, allowing the wine to evolve and develop greater complexity while retaining its inherent elegance. This is why the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG requires a minimum of 4 years aging, including 2 years in barrel and 4 months in bottle. The Riserva takes another year of aging which includes an additional 2 months in bottle.

The Terroir of Montalcino – A Sublime Expression of Complexity

The terroir of Montalcino is a tapestry of diverse microclimates, soils, and altitudes that contribute to the distinctive character of Brunello di Montalcino.
The vineyards of Montalcino are nestled on slopes and plateaus at varying elevations, ranging from 250 to 600 meters above sea level. This diverse topography results in different microclimates within the region, allowing winemakers the opportunity to express different facets of the Sangiovese grape.

The soils in Montalcino are rich and varied, giving Brunello di Montalcino its multifaceted personality. The northern region of Montalcino has soils dominated by limestone and shale, bringing finesse and elegance to the wines. In the central part, clay and marl prevail, imparting structure and depth. In the southern areas, volcanic soils contribute to wines with power and intensity.

The climate of Montalcino plays a crucial role in the ripening of the grapes. Summers are warm and dry, while winters are mild, providing the perfect balance of sun and rainfall. The significant diurnal temperature variation during the growing season helps to retain the grapes’ natural acidity, resulting in wines with vibrant freshness.

These factors, combined with the expertise and dedication of the winemakers, shape the flavor profile of Brunello di Montalcino. The wines are characterized by their remarkable complexity, intense aromas, lively acidity, and structured tannins that contribute to their exceptional aging potential.

Preserving Tradition, Embracing Innovation – The Future of Brunello di Montalcino

While rooted in centuries-old traditions, the producers of Brunello di Montalcino embrace innovation and strive for excellence in their winemaking practices. In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on sustainable viticulture and organic farming methods. Many wineries in Montalcino have adopted practices that respect the environment, ensuring a healthy balance between vineyard management and the preservation of the unique terroir. Over half of them are now certified organic.

Modern winemaking techniques have also allowed winemakers to refine their craftsmanship further. Advances in technology have made it possible to control temperature during fermentation, ensuring optimal extraction of aromas and flavors from the grapes. Precision in oak aging has also become a focus, allowing winemakers to strike a perfect balance between the fruit purity and the subtle influence of oak.

Experiences Around Montalcino – A Perfect Blend of Culture, Gastronomy, Wine, and History

For visitors and wine enthusiasts, a journey to Montalcino offers much more than just a tasting experience. Here, you can immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage, savor delicious culinary delights, explore the ancient history, and indulge in the stunning beauty of the Tuscan landscape.

For those with a passion for culture and history, a visit to the medieval fortress that overlooks Montalcino is a must. The fortress, known as the Rocca, offers panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards and the charming town below. Inside, the Museo Civico showcases archaeological finds and artifacts that tell the story of Montalcino’s past. The main street and square are lined with boutiques, restaurants and wine shops perfect for a day of shopping, eating and wine tasting.

Gastronomy connoisseurs will find themselves in heaven as they explore the local cuisine. The traditional dishes of Montalcino are a perfect pairing for Brunello di Montalcino, from hearty wild boar ragù to Pecorino cheese made from the milk of sheep that graze among the vines.
Many wineries in the area welcome visitors, offering guided tours of their vineyards and cellars. The winemakers take great pride in sharing their knowledge and passion, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the winemaking process and the philosophy behind their wines. And of course, the tastings of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino are an absolute highlight, immersing visitors in the flavors, aromas, and history of these exceptional wines.

For those who are captivated by the natural beauty of the region, a drive through the rolling hills of Montalcino is an enchanting experience. The vine-laden landscapes, dotted with rustic farmhouses and charming villages, create an idyllic setting that begs to be explored. Hiking and biking are great ways to fully appreciate the picturesque scenery and immerse yourself in the soul of this incredible region. In fact there are two famous events that take place every year here: the Brunello Crossing for walkers and hikers and L’Eroica for cyclists. Among other scenic landscapes, both will take you through Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage site that embodies the best of the Tuscan countryside.

In Conclusion

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is not just a wine; it is an embodiment of the passion, dedication, and the magic of the Montalcino terroir. The Sangiovese grape nurtured in this exceptional climate and soil produces wines of unrivaled elegance, complexity, and longevity. A visit to Montalcino is an opportunity to experience the rich heritage, indulge in the gastronomic delights, immerse yourself in the mesmerizing landscapes, and uncover the secrets of Brunello di Montalcino. With every sip, you will taste the rich history, feel the love and respect for the land, and be transported to the heart of Tuscany’s winemaking excellence. Cheers to a truly unforgettable wine experience!

Let’s Discover the Wines of Barbera d’Asti & Monferrato – Part l

This jewel of Piedmont became part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2014.  It is interesting to note, that this was the first time an Italian vineyard landscape “Monferrato, Piedmont” was recognized as having exceptional value by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, and these landscapes were listed as such.

UNESCO states:

“are an exceptional living testimony to the historical tradition of grape cultivation, the processes for wine-making, a rural social context, and an economic fabric based on the culture of wine.”

I was thrilled to learn more about this exceptional area. I attended a Masterclass, a few weeks ago, which was conducted by the very knowledgeable Andrea Dani, at Palazzo Crova. For history buffs, Palazzo Crova, is a stunning example of an 18th-century noble residence in this region.

Andrea, a member of Associazione Italiana Sommelier, conducted an overview on Barbera D’asti DOCG, Nizza DOCG and Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG.

The Consortium

The Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato Wines Consortium was founded in 1946 to protect and promote its denominations, and their image, on national and international markets. Currently, the Consortium has more than 404 membered- companies and 13 protected denominations.

Filippo Mobrici, Vice President of Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato Wines Consortium, says:

“There are many wine souls that find expression in Monferrato, and the Consortium has had the objective, since its inception, precisely to act as a bond to keep these multiplicities united, to promote the entire territory and its excellence in a unitary and uniform way.”

Barbera

Barbera is a northern Italian grape that produces fresh, light-bodied red wines with low tannins. Like so many Italian wine grape varieties, Barbera has ancient origins that traces back to the 17th Century. Barbera was first cited in 1798, in a document, by Count Giuseppe Nuvolone-Pergamo of Scandaluzzo.

With this history, Barbera likely originated in Piedmont, the region for which it is well known. Alongside Barbera d’Alba DOC and Barbera d’Asti DOCG, the grape also gives its name to the Barbera del Monferrato DOC and Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG titles – all in the Piedmont region.

The “Barbera” grape variety is also referred to as ‘La Barbera’, treating it in the feminine context. This variety is challenging to cultivate as it produces many shoots, therefore requiring regular pruning and low yields. Century-old vines still exist in many regional vineyards. It ripens relatively late, has a unique balance between sugar and acidity, and is a deep ruby colour.

General tasting notes include:
Lively and bright colours, intense fruit aromas, spicey notes, some toasted and balsamic notes, crunchy acidity, low tannins and excellent food pairing options

Barbera can also be found outside Piedmont: Oltrepò Pavese, Colli Piacentini, Franciacorta, Umbria, Campania, Puglia, Sicilia, and has been adopted by winegrowers around the world: California and South America.

The Soils of Monferrato

The soils on which Barbera and the other Monferrato grape varieties are grown date back to 2 million years ago.  The sea began to leave the current Po Valley, initiating a process of landscape shaping that has characterized the change and the present-day conformation of the hills.

The soils, generally poor in organic matter, and often dry in summer, can be divided into two main types: white soils and Asti sands. White soils are more ancient and widespread in the Canelli area, southern Asti area, Alessandria area and the Casale area. The wines produced from these grapes are often full-bodied, rich in color, and are suitable for long aging. The sands of Asti soils spread mainly in the center of the Asti Monferrato area to the right and left of the Tanaro River and are found on much steeper hills. The wines produced from these grapes here are characterized by lower acidity,  ripen faster, and are more for immediate consumption.

                    Climate

The Climate in this area is Continental with hot summers (+/- 35 degrees), some drought and cold winters ( -/+15 degrees).  Rainfall between May and November is 700-800 mm/year.

Barbera D’Asti DOCG

Ancient farming traditions are representative in this area, which forms 116 municipalities in the province of Asti, and 51 municipalities in the province of Alessandria. 90% of Barbera is produced on the best-exposed hills of Asti and Monferrato. Barbera DOCG is usually harvested in the second half of September. Vinification is usually in steel, which produces fresher and more immediate wines, the use of barriques and barrels has developed, aimed at producing the Superiore which, tends to be more complex, and long-aging.

With respect to the organoleptic characteristics, the color is ruby-red, particularly intense in Superiore, tending towards garnet with aging. The aromas are intense: cherry, plum, dark berries prevail, which evolve into hints of jam, some balsamic, spicy, and floral notes. The taste is full, with great harmony. Aging often gives complexity and richness of velvet tannins and long taste-olfactory persistence.

Barbera D’Asti DOCG Timeline

1970 – Acquired DOC Barbera d’Asti
2008 – DOC Barbera d’Asti DOCG Barbera d’Asti. 3 subzones:

    1. Nizza
    2. Tinella
    3. Colli Astiani

2016 – Nizza DOCG (18 municipalities – Nizza Monferrato)

Production specifications include:

Territory: 167 municipalities in the province of Asti and Alessandria

Ampelography: min.90% Barbera grapes + 10% max other non-aromatic red grapes allowed in Piedmont

Yield: 9 ton/ha

Minimum natural alcohol content: 12%vol., 12.5%vol. Superiore

Minimum aging: 4 months – 14 months (Superiore, with min.6 in wood)

Nizza DOCG

Produced with only Barbera grapes, Nizza DOCG comes to life in the heart of Monferrato, in a production area that includes 18 municipalities. Nizza DOCG was in fact initially recognized as a sub-area of Barbera d’Asti and obtained its DOCG recognition in 2014.

These wines are usually aged for 18 months, of which 6 months in wooden barrels. Nizza DOCG is a wine characterized by intense aromas of cherry, plum and dark berries, which evolve into hints of jam, with some balsamic, spicy and floral notes. If aged in wood, the wine develops notes of cinnamon, cocoa and licorice. The taste is full, with great harmony. Aging gives complexity and richness of sweet and velvety tannins and long taste-olfactory persistence.

Nizza DOCG Timeline

1970 – DOC Barbera d’Asti

2000 – (vintage) Nizza as a subzone of the Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza

2008 – DOCG Barbera d’Asti

2014 – (vintage) Nizza DOCG (18 municipalities – Nizza Monferrato)

Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG

It’s interesting to note, that the origin of the Ruchè varietal cannot be confirmed. Its history can be reconstructed of verbal traditions passed on from generation to generation.

Ruchè is one of the rarest native vines grown in the Asti Monferrato area, in calcareous, dry soils subject to great exposure to the sun. It obtained DOCG status in 2010 and its production now reaches one million bottles. Made with 90 to 100% Ruchè grapes (with Barbera and/or Brachetto grapes permitted up to a maximum of 10%), Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG is distinguished by an intense and original bouquet, with floral and spicy notes, sometimes combined with hints of mixed berries and morello cherries. The flavor is dry, harmonious and pleasantly soft, with good aromatic persistence.

Wines of Barbera d’Asti & Monferrato
By the Numbers

404 associated companies

13 Protected designations

4 DOCGs:
Barbera d’Asti, Nizza, Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato and Terre Alfieri

 9 DOCs:
Albugnano, Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato, Dolcetto d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, Grignolino d’Asti, Loazzolo, Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco, Monferrato, Piemonte

In the Vineyard

The area claimed by all the Designations of the Consortium in 2021 was equal to 10,430 hectares.

4,142 hectares claimed to Barbera d’Asti DOCG

3,827 hectares claimed to Piedmont DOC

In the Wine Cellar

As of 2021, the total amount of bottled wine registered by all protected Designations was equal to 492,986.21 hl for 65,731,495 bottles.

Barbera d’Asti DOCG: 149,689.70 hectoliters and 19,958,627 bottles

Piemonte DOC: 275,696.83 hectoliters and 36,759,577 bottles

 Exploring Ligurian Riviera’s Enchanting World of Vineyards and Villages – Filippo Magnani

Italy has many picturesque wine regions, but the rugged dramatic coastline known as Liguria, or the Italian Riviera, is an improbable treasure trove for the traveling wine enthusiast. Curved around the Mediterranean, the small, terraced vineyards of Liguria dot the landscape from the French border along the west coast of Italy down to the famed Cinque Terre.

The region’s geography plays a significant role in shaping the distinctive characteristics of its wines. Located between the Ligurian Sea and the Maritime Alps, it is a land of both rugged landscapes and a harmonious climate. The unique combination of warm coastal breezes and mountain influences creates an ideal environment for viticulture. The cool maritime influence helps retain acidity in the grapes, while the sun-drenched slopes provide the perfect conditions for grape ripening. The steep grades of many slopes create challenging conditions for grape growing. Some vineyards are isolated on terraces that have been carved out of the cliff and are only accessible by boat. Winemaking traditions in this area can be traced back 2500 years to the Etruscans and Greeks.

The indigenous grape varieties in Liguria have adapted to the region’s particular terroir over centuries. High concentrations of limestone give them a distinct minerality. The region produces mostly white wines (75%) and its most prominent white grape is Vermentino, referred to locally as Pigato meaning ‘spots’ that develop on the grapes as they reach maturity. This aromatic variety thrives in Liguria’s coastal areas, producing wines with vibrant acidity, crispness, and a bouquet of citrus fruits and floral notes. The best examples are praised for their refreshing and mineral-driven profiles. Vermentino is often blended with two other white grapes called Bosco and Albarola.  Bosco gives structure and richness to these wines whereas Albarola can express notes of honey, flowers and perfume especially when made in the sweet style under the unique Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà DOC. For those who like rich and charismatic white wines the Cinque Terre.

As for red wines, Rossese and Ciliegolo and Vermentino Nero take the spotlight here. They create subtle and fruity wines that can show notes of herb and spice. Rossese wines are usually light-bodied and elegant, with red fruit flavors, floral nuances and delicate tannins. These wines capture the essence of Liguria’s terroir, reflecting its maritime influence and mountainous landscapes.

When it comes to tasting Ligurian wines, visitors will also be captivated by the region’s extraordinary food. The bright acidity of the region’s white wines complements the local seafood perfectly. Their citrus notes and hints of salinity provide a delightful pairing with dishes like seafood pasta, grilled fish, or even the Ligurian specialty, pesto. For red wine enthusiasts, their signature lightness offers a pleasant balance that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. They pair excellently with Ligurian-style pizza, salted cod dishes, or even a selection of local cheeses.

Of course, a visit to Liguria would not be complete without experiencing “The Five Villages of the Cinque Terre.” This string of ancient seaside towns nestled along the rugged coastline just northwest of La Spezia have earned themselves the coveted status as a UNESCO World Heritage site as a “cultural landscape” of extraordinary value.

Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the five villages, and it is also home to the only expansive beach in the region. The village is divided into two parts: the new town, where modern buildings and amenities can be found, and the charming old town, with its narrow streets and colorful houses. Monterosso is a great place to start your Cinque Terre adventure, with plenty of hiking trails and panoramic views to enjoy.

Vernazza is considered by many to be the most picturesque of the five villages. Its colorful alleyways and charming harbor attract visitors from all over the world. Vernazza is also home to the Doria Castle, which dates back to the 15th century and offers spectacular views of the village and the sea.

Corniglia is the only village in the Cinque Terre that is not directly connected to the sea. Instead, it is perched on top of a rocky promontory, surrounded by terraced vineyards. Due to its unique position and the effort required to reach it (by climbing 377 steps), it is the least visited of the five villages, making it an ideal spot for those seeking a more tranquil experience. On the hiking path from Corniglia to Manarolo you will find one of the best local wineries, Cantina Cappellini. Here you can taste wines in the middle of the terraced vineyards with stunning views overlooking the sea. Luciano Cappellini and his family have been making remarkable examples of Cinque Terre wines for seven generations.

Manarola is a small village that exudes charm and character. Its tall, colorful houses rise up the hillside leading up to the 14th-century church of San Lorenzo. Manarola is also home to the famous Via dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane), a scenic path that connects Manarola to Riomaggiore.

Riomaggiore, the furthest south of the five villages, is a lively town with vibrant houses that cling to the steep hillside. Its bustling harbor is always busy with fishing boats that provide a steady supply of fresh seafood in its cozy restaurants. Riomaggiore is also home to the ancient Church of San Giovanni Battista which offers stunning views of the village and the sea.

Between Riomaggiore, Vernazza and S. Stefano Magra and Castelnuovo Magna, are 6 hectares of special vineyards cultivated by a talented winemaker named Walter de Battè. Leaving behind his life as a sailor he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and take up viticulture. In 2003 Walter founded the Primaterra label with a group of friends and local experts. His philosophy is to produce wines that express the union between man, grapes and terroir. Both his whites and reds undergo considerable skin maceration to capture the unique qualities of their territory.

If you continue a little further south past La Spezia you will reach the picturesque town of Portovenere, sometimes called the “Sixth Town” of the Cinque Terre which also has UNESCO World Heritage status. Overlooking the Gulf of La Spezia you can take in the same views and archipelago that enchanted the 19th-century writer Lord Byron. The natural beauty here is truly breathtaking. Enjoy the numerous hiking trails along the coast or take a boat out to Palmaria island where you can dine at the legendary Locanda Lorena seafood restaurant. Portovenere itself also has plenty to discover, from the Doria Castle to the numerous boutique shops and restaurants offering the best of Ligurian wine and cuisine.

If you’re looking for memorable places to visit while tasting these delicious wines and local dishes, there are a few places that stand out. In the north of Cinqueterre, Portofino is a traditional fishing village with sophistication and elegance that attracts celebrities and jetsetters, but its beauty and charm make it worth the visit. For a more laid-back ambiance, the village of Santa Margherita Ligure offers just as much charm with some nice beaches that are perfect for a swim after lunch.

Trento D.O.C – A Sparkling Journey Through Italian Excellence – Filippo Magnani

Italy is renowned for its incredible wines, and one region that genuinely stands out is Trento. Located in the picturesque Trentino-Alto Adige region, Trento was voted “Wine Region of the Year in 2020” but it remains a hidden gem for many sparkling wine enthusiasts. Trento D.O.C wines have a long and storied history that dates back centuries. The region’s viticulture roots can be traced all the way back to the Roman Empire. However, it was during the Austrian rule in the 19th century that the art of winemaking in Trento developed a reputation for exquisite sparkling wines.

In the early 1900’s a young enologist named Giulio Ferrari recognized the geographic and climatic similarities between the Champagne and Trentino. He and other producers planted Chardonnay and began to make wines in the classic method. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were soon planted as well, and these grapes quickly began to thrive. By 1993 the region received its D.O.C status becoming Italy’s first for sparkling wine in the classic method and one of the earliest traditional sparkling D.O.C’s in the world! In 2007 the collective trademark Trentodoc was created which now includes 67 producers affiliated with the Istituto Trento DOC.

Trentodoc is also an active partner with the Institute of Masters of Wine showing that the Trentodoc brand has achieved international recognition and upholds the excellence of classic method sparkling wines. The IMW’s support ensures the knowledge of the Trentodoc territory will be shared with their students and the global wine community.

The Terroir – A Perfect Blend of Nature’s Gifts

Trento’s unique terroir, with its breathtaking Alpine landscapes, plays a crucial role in the production of these extraordinary wines. The vineyards, nestled between the Dolomite Mountains and Lake Garda, benefit from a mild and temperate climate. The cool nights and warm days, combined with the well-drained soils, create the perfect conditions for grape cultivation. The mineral-rich soils derive their complexity from both oceanic and volcanic activity over millions of years. The high elevations of the vineyards maintain high acidity in the grapes. It’s interesting to note that 70% of the region’s vineyards are over 3200 feet and 20% over 6500 feet. The region gets plenty of sunshine and the warming effects of Lake Garda which helps ensure grape maturity. These significant temperature variations contribute to the complexity and elegance of Trento D.O.C wines. Trentodoc is produced in 6 areas: Rovereto and the Vallagarina, Valle dei Laghi and Alto Garda area, Trento and the Valle dell’Adige, the Valsugana, the Val di Cembra and the Piana Rotaliana.

The Classic Method 

This meticulous process of the classic method “metodo classico” involves a second fermentation in each bottle, resulting in fine bubbles and complex flavors. A base wine is first made following the same steps as a still wine. The wine is then bottled and a ‘liqueur de tirage’ is added which is made of yeast and sugars. This eventually triggers a second fermentation in the bottle releasing carbon dioxide creating bubbles. The bottles are placed on racks angled downwards so that the dead yeasts slowly collect in the neck of the bottle. This is called ‘riddling’. The sediment is eventually removed, a process called ‘disgorgement’ and reserve wine with sugar can be added according to the ‘dosage’ which ultimately determines the sweetness of the wine. Trento D.O.C sparkling wines require at least 15 months of aging on the lees adding depth and richness to the wines. Vintage wines require 24 months of lees aging and Riserva wines require 36 months. The DOC requirements are also applied to vine cultivation and yield.

The Grapes – the Essence of Elegance

The primary grape varieties used in Trento D.O.C wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. These grapes imbue the wines with remarkable elegance, character, and freshness. Each variety adds its own unique personality to the final blend, ensuring a diverse range of flavors. Chardonnay brings acidity and a delicate floral aroma, while Pinot Noir contributes structure and fruity notes. Pinot Meunier adds complexity and brings out a rich aromatic profile in the wines. Due to the steep mountainsides in the Trentino region, many of the vines are trained using the pergola system. Vines are trained vertically straight up posts and then tied horizontally parallel to each other. This method ensures they get enough sunshine but also makes it easier to prune them. Harvesting is still done by hand. Other vine training methods are also used here such as guyot and spurred cordon.

A Symphony of Flavors

Trento D.O.C sparkling wines offer a delightful sensory experience. With their pale straw color and fine perlage, they captivate the eye. On the nose, aromas of white flowers, green apple, and citrus fruits come alive, inviting you to take your first sip. The palate reveals a perfect balance of crisp acidity, creamy mousse, and a medley of flavors, including toasted almonds, brioche, and ripe tropical fruits. The overall effect is both elegant and refreshing, leaving a lasting impression.

Pairing Trento D.O.C wines with the right food elevates the whole tasting experience. The refreshing acidity and complex flavors of these sparkling wines make them a perfect companion for many dishes. From seafood and sushi to creamy risottos and aged cheeses, their versatility makes them an ideal choice for any occasion. The fine bubbles and vibrant acidity also help cleanse the palate and enhance the flavors of the food.

Exploring A Wine Lover’s Paradise

For wine enthusiasts seeking a unique and memorable experience, a visit to Trentino will not disappoint. A short drive north of Lake Garda and you are surrounded by forest-covered hills and the dramatic peaks of the Dolomites. Trento itself is one of the liveliest towns in the Alps. Colorful facades surround charming piazzas and the castle and cable cars offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Many wineries are just outside of town. Winery visits can be combined with a trip to the lake or a hike into the nearby canyons. Most wineries offer tours and tastings that allow you to discover not only the intricacies of the region’s winemaking process but also to explore the vineyards with spectacular landscapes.

For active travelers, visiting Trentino is a sports lover’s dream. The Dolomites offer world-class biking, hiking, and trekking through breathtaking landscapes. Lake Garda offers ideal conditions for windsurfing and other water sports. If you choose to visit in the winter you can ski or snowboard out of your chalet and in less than a half hour be sipping bubbles at a local winery. Additionally, every year in November and December Trento puts on its ‘Bubbles in the City’ event which offers different types of tastings and food workshops with local chefs.

Wineries to Visit

Altemasi
Produced by Cavit one of the leading wine groups in Trentino. The name Altemasi means “high estate” and these wines come from vineyards as high as 2600 feet and are some of their most awarded wines. Cavit’s wine enoteca just outside Trento is a great place to taste an impressive array of wines from the region, both still and sparkling.
www.altemasi.it

Abate Nero
Founded in 1973 by two friends, Eugenio de Castel Terlago and winemaker Luciano Lunelli. The name means “black abbot” and is a reference to the dark robe the monk Dom Perignon wore. They started in the same cellars where Giulio Ferrari wines were once made, focusing only on sparkling wines in the classic method. They have earned a reputation for producing wines that are a stylistic symbol of the Trentino territory.
www.abatenero.it

Balter
Located in a 16th-century castle bought by Francesco Balter in 1872, the Balter family has used this special location to grow grapes since the 1960’s. They built a winery underneath the vineyards in 1990. Visitors can tour the grounds and taste their wines in a truly unique setting.
www.balter.it

Cantina Toblino
Located in the Valle dei Laghi area just north of Lake Garda this winery is a cooperative founded in 1960 by a group of passionate winemakers. The winery produces some of the region’s top wines using innovative techniques and promoting native varieties such as Nosiola, also used to make the sweet Trentino Vino Santo. Visitors can enjoy lunch or dinner at their restaurant Hosteria Toblino which serves traditional dishes with a modern touch.
www.toblino.it

Cesarini Sforza
The Cesarini Sforza Family moved to Trento 200 years ago when Count Filippo Cesarini Sforza was elected as its mayor. In 1974 they created a winery to produce high-quality sparkling wines. Two years later they were making classic method wines of national repute. Today their wines are an assemblage of six different vineyards each contributing their own character.
www.cesarinisforza.it

Ferrari Trento
Founded in 1902 by Giulo Ferrari, a pioneer in Trentino who recognized the potential of Chardonnay to produce sparkling wines that could rival those in Champagne. His vision and obsession for quality laid the foundation for one of Italy’s most prominent classic method wineries. With no sons or daughters, Giulio passed on leadership to a local wine shop owner, Bruno Lunelli in 1952. The Lunelli Family had carried on their tradition of excellence since then. Visitors can enjoy several different tastings and guided tours including that of the Venetian style 16th century Villa Margon complete with frescoes, antique furniture and priceless art. For those who enjoy Michelin-star dining experiences, the Lunelli Family also opened Locanda Margon, a 2-star restaurant just up the hill from the winery.
www.ferraritrento.com

Monfort
Four generations of winemakers have carried on the sparkling wine tradition of Monfort. In 1965 the Simoni Family bought the cellars of Palazzo Monfort nestled in the heart of the town of Lavis just north of Trento. Since 1985 they have been producing quality sparkling wines in the classic method. They offer an immersive guided tour of the cellars that also takes you through the historic streets of Lavis to the terraced botanical garden of Ciucioi.
www.cantinemonfort.com

Marchesi Guerrieri Gonzaga
Originally a monastery in the early Middle Ages, the San Leonardo estate has been the residence of the Marquis Guerriere Gonzaga for over 300 hundred years. Today the family produces still, sparkling wines, grappa and honey. The Marchesi Guerrieri Gonzaga is a blanc de blanc Trento Doc flagship wine. The estate is comprised of 50 acres of vineyards, their guided visit explores the grounds, winery, cellars, monastic garden, church, and museum.
www.sanleonardo.it

Photos: Istituto Trento Doc

CAMPANIA STORIES: AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE DISCOVERING GREAT WINES AND DISTINCTIVE TERRITORIES – Filippo Magnani

The Campania region is well-known due to the stunning beauty of the Amalfi Coast, the authentic food of Naples, and the fascinating history of Pompeii. However, a deeper look beyond these treasures reveals a region rich in viticultural history, from the urban vineyards of Naples to the pristine nature and wild soul of Irpinia, one of the most fertile wine-growing regions in Italy.

The unique region of Irpinia was the backdrop to this year’s edition of Campania Stories.  This event must not be missed by international journalists and wine professionals each yearm who come to experience Campania’s newly released wines. Organized by the Miriade and Partners press agency and managed by Massimo Iannaccone, Diana Cataldo and Serena Valeriani, this is an integral part of their mission to promote the wines of Campania throughout the year. Their Campania stories can be followed at #campaniastories and #iobevocampano or by visiting their website www.campaniastories.com.

This year 90 wineries participated in Campania Stories 2023, which started with a wine tasting and gala dinner in the castle of Gesualdo, a charming town known as the home of several poets and the origin of the marble used to make the famed statues of the Royal Palace of Caserta. Gesualdo overlooks the valley of North Irpinia, with sweeping views that reach the dormant volcano Vulture in Basilicata and the plains of Puglia. In two days over 300 wines were sampled, both red and white, with a day of touring dedicated to visiting their producers. These visits were undoubtedly the most exciting part of the entire event.

Irpinia is home to Campania’s three DOCG’s, the internationally renowned Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Taurasi with the key grape varieties being Greco and Fiano for the whites and Aglianico for the reds. The terroir here benefits from high-altitude hillsides and a diurnal shift in temperatures that helps ensure slow ripening and good levels of acidity in the grapes. Here you can find a mixture of volcanic, limestone, and clay soils. The vineyards are surrounded by forests and hazelnut orchards cultivated for generations.

The winemakers here let nature take control as much as possible. This is the case at the family winery Di Prisco, founded in 1994 just outside of Fontanarosa, renowned worldwide for its pink marble. The owner Michele Di Prisco works with just 15 hectares of vines. My favourite wine of the tour is the 2003 Taurasi; the 2003 vintage was a scorching and dry year that is now showing its best. The dark, deep, impenetrable colour was illuminated with orange reflections. On the nose, it showed jammy notes – blackberry jam – some tomato sauce notes and slightly bloody. On the mouth it was impressive with notes of molasses and dark fruit, earthy but with live grippy tannins.

Another important area showcased on these winery visits was the Sannio district, a hidden gem in Campania. This historical place has been cultivating the white grape Falanghina for over 2000 years. Roman buildings stand next to modern ones. The landscape is breathtaking, covered in vineyards, olive groves, steep slopes, and rivers, dominated by the imposing Taburno mountain. Formerly known as an area for bulk white wine production, Sannio producers along with the Consortium Sannio DOP have worked hard over the last decade to develop high-quality wines with complexity, many of which are suitable for aging.

A perfect example is Fattoria La Rivolta in Torrecuso. A century-old winery was founded from a family tradition of farming when the grandson and then pharmacist, Paolo Cotroneo, decided to plant vineyards in the late 90’s. With the help of his sisters Giovanna and Gabriella and their cousin Giancarlo they have built an estate that is now 60 hectares, with 30 hectares of vineyards located in Sannio and mainly on the hill of Taburno. The exposure and richness of soil is its defining characteristics. This is also the origin of their flagship wine, Falanghina Sannio DOP, Sottozona Taburno, a wine with green hues and a lot of personality. Nectarine, stone fruit flavours, a touch of floral notes, such as acacia on the nose, while in the mouth it shows a light salty taste and vibrant citrusy notes that dissipate with an almondy finish. This a clear example of the finest quality of local wines from Sannio.

I look forward to attending next year’s Campania Stories which has just been announced will be held in Sannio itself!