Vinitaly, the international wine and spirits exhibition touring the United States, stopped in New York for a day to showcase, naturally, Italian wines and, to a much lesser extent, spirits. I had the good fortune to be invited by The Feisty Foodie to accompany her on a rainy Wednesday.
In addition to the wineries, distributors, and wine stores displaying and offering their wines on the main floor, tastings and educational seminars were held upstairs, and we were almost immediately invited to join one: “Volcanic Italy – an Exploration of the Explosive White Wines of Soave and Etna”. Essentially, we tasted ten white wines hailing from Soave, in northeast Italy, and Etna, a region on the east coast of Sicily surrounding, yes, the active volcano there, while we were presented with the history and geography of the wine regions of Italy.
There are currently around 600 wineries in Sicily, where the harvest lasts up to three months each year due to the wide variety of climates. In addition, sometimes cultivation is an issue when there are eruptions from the many active volcanoes on the island, which leads to a sort of “black rain” that coats the grapes and the vines and has to be washed off constantly. I guess every vineyard has its challenges, but that’s rather a unique one.
The tasting began all ten glasses were all filled. I wish that we’d been given a sheet with all ten wines and their provenance and grape varieties, but instead we had slides to scan quickly; I took photos of the slides as the presenters moved on far too quickly.
The awaited moment arrived, and we began tasting. These are our first two wines. On the left, Planeta, a 100% carricantes wine from 2010 grown in the Castiglione di Sicilia region, known for its rich volcanic soil. It was also one of the palest wines in the tasting. Honeysuckle in the nose, sharply acidic, with loads of green apple and pear, and a long finish. A good start to the afternoon’s wines.
Next up, the Barone di Villagrande 2010 Il Fiore, out of Etna, another carricante wine with 10% chardonnay. This was one of my favorites, with a sweeter nose than the previous wine, considerably sweeter — but not cloying — compared to the Planeta, with a raw honey bite to the apple that dominated the flavor profile, and more minerally and earthy than I expected, too.
The palest wine in the group came from Cantine Riondo, the 2010 Excelsa Pianello, Soave DOC. Another new grape for me, this wine utilizes the garganega grape, one of the indigenous grapes in the region. It produces a sharp, not terribly aromatic nose, but a medium-bodied wine without much sweetness.
– 2010 Bertani Sereole, Soave DOC, also 100% garganega grapes, had a sweetly citrusy nose, and some acid in among the pear and even a little sweeter fruit, like peach — the difference between maturation in a stainless vat (the Excelsa Pianello) and oak barrels.
– 2010 Bolla, Soave classico, 90% garganega, 10% trebbiano di Soave. The addition of trebbiano grapes, also indigenous, allow for a deeper straw color and a much more complex nose: honeysuckle, tropical fruit like pineapple, and definitely a little more sourness cutting the acid in the body. Sweet apple and apricot flavors seem present in there, too. The long finish was unusual for this flight, also. One of my favorite wines of the afternoon.
And the final five:
– Cantina di Soave, 2010 Rocca Sveva, all garganega, Soave classico region: brilliant straw color, and a more perfumy nose than the previous wines. Drier, citric flavors, a little spicy, and with more prominent alcohol pepperiness, though it was one of the less alcoholic wines (12.5% abv).
– 2010 Balestri Valda, Soave classico, 80% garganega, 20% trebbiano di soave. Where all but one of the wines on the tasting thus far were matured in steel vats only, part of this wine’s maturation involves six months in “Slavonian oak casks”. This oak produces a honeyed aroma alongside the tart apple, with much the same flavors, sharp acid, and quite dry overall.
– Cantina di Castello, 2010 Castello, Soave classico region. Again, 80% garganega and 20% trebbiano di soave, producing a more straightforward honeysuckle and pear nose and body, but a more pronounced, sweet finish.
– Cantina di Monteforte, 2009 Vigneto di Castellaro, from Soave Superiore DOCG, 100% garganega. This takes a year in oak barrels with its own natural yeast before transferring to the bottle for 6 months. As a result, I picked up a little funkiness in the nose, a little sourness as well, which stretches into the flavor and honestly made this wine less pleasant than I was hoping for.
– Sandro de Bruno 2008 Monte San Piero, Soave Superiore DOCG, 100% garganega. This one ferments nearly a year in French oak with its own natural yeast. Hoping for an improvement over the previous wine, this wine was sour and pungent to the point where it seemed to be brandy. All wood, plus a little lacquer for good measure. Not the best way to end a tasting.
My choice wines from the tasting? The 2010 Balestra Valda and 2010 Barone di Villagrande, though virtually any of the first eight wines (notably younger, compared to the final two) would be welcome on my table.
After our tour of these regions and grapes, we sampled many wines, mostly reds and sparkling, from the exhibitors downstairs, before saying our goodbyes and walking back into the weather. Many thanks to Vinitaly for allowing us the opportunity, and I think I speak for both of us when I say I look forward to the next tasting event!
Please note that Vinitaly and its PR provided admission to me without charge. I received no monetary compensation for this review, nor was I obliged in any way to post about this experience, positively or otherwise. This is my own opinion and I feel it was unbiased; you are free to take from this what you will.