The vine has flourished throughout Italy (Enotria - the land of vine) since recorded history began and numerous indigenous grape varieties continue to produce a wide range of wine styles. Today on Movies & Booze we will look to the North East of Italy, specifically the Veneto region.
Although usually considered a Mediterranean country, Italy's shape and topography varies greatly; from the snow-capped Alps in the north to the sun-baked coast in the South. There is huge variation in terms of the regional styles and grape varieties which explains why there are so many interesting wines. I have just returned from a visit to Lake Garda where I visited wineries in Bardolina, Valpolicella and Soave. This was my fourth visit to Italy this year and my third to this part of Italy where the other most famous wine region Valdobbiadene, where Prosecco is produced.
Masottina Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso NV RRP €33
Stockists: Martins Off Licence, Fairview, Ardkeen Stores, Waterford, Redmonds, Blackrock Cellar, Jus De Vine, La Touche and Wheelan’s. You will also find this wine mostly in restaurants.
In early June I stayed in the town of Conegliano, 55 km north of Venice where on the adjacent rolling hills, vines are grown on steep terraced vineyards. Here the Dal Bianco family control 350 ha of vineyards between the historic towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, where they produce their range of premium Prosecco under the brand name Masottina. This Prosecco range is quite simply, the best Prosecco I have ever tasted.
On the first evening at dinner in a local trattoria with Adriano Dal Bianco and his wife Franca, I had the chance to learn more about the family. Adriano’s father, Epifanio Dal Bianco started the business in 1946 with a relatively small plot of land, in a part of the Veneto shaped by local family traditions. Adriano started working in the vineyard when he was six, he went on to study at the Conegliano School of Oenology, the first in Italy to offer a university degree program.
Conegliano/Valdobbiadene had not yet become the globally recognised wine region it is today. When Prosecco took off in the early part of this century, the Dal Bianco family began to develop their Estate and re-invested in the business by purchasing more and more land which allowed them to control a large part of the region’s premium vineyard areas where they now produce some of the greatest Prosecco and still wines made in the Conegliano hills.
With their Prosecco brand Masottina, the Dal Bianco family have created a sparkling wine of great finesse, the Masottina range includes: Prosecco Brut Organic DOC, NV; Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso NV; Prosecco Extra Dry DOC Treviso NV; Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut DOCG NV; Masottina “Conrad Granda” Brut, Rive di Ogliano Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG 2018 and Masottina “Le Rive di Ogliano” Extra Dry, Valdobbiadene DOCG 2018.
We tasted the range of Prosecco with Federico Dal Bianco, who is the company’s Export Manager and is one of Adriano and Franca’s three sons who now work in the family business. The wines that stood out for me were:
This is their best-selling wine. They produce approximately 350,000 bottles and last year, Stephen Spurrier awarded 96 Points for this wine in Decanter, one of the highest ever achieved for a Prosecco. It is slightly smoky on the nose, and is very fresh in style with lime fruit and lots of it. If you are looking for a fine example of premium Prosecco when out celebrating, make sure you look out for this one.
2018 Guerrieri Rizzardi Pinot Grigio €14.95
Stockists: O’Briens Wines Beers Spirits Ashbourne; Athlone; Ballybrack; Beacon; Blanchardstown; Bray (Quinsboro & Vevay Road); Carlow; Carrickmines; Citiwest; Contarf; Cork; Dalkey; Donnybrook; Douglas; Drogheda; Dun Laoghaire; Galway; Glasnevin; Greystones; Limerick; Lucan; Malahide; Naas; Navan Road; Navan Town; Newbridge; Newpark; Nutgrove; Rathgar; Rathmines; Sandymount; Stillorgan and Templeogue and Waterford (Ardkeen).
Last week I spent a few days visiting Guerrieri Rizzardi, the historic wine-growing Estate in the Veneto region. We stayed in Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda where the Counts Guerrieri, Augusto and Guiseppe own a centuries-old estate with vineyards and cellars.
The history of the estate Counts Rizzardi, dates back to 1649 Today, Guerrieri Rizzardi is still under the ownership of the Rizzardi family. It remains a family business with vineyards in the four Classico areas for the production of the Veronese wines of Bardolino, Valpolicella, Soave. Guerrieri Rizzardi is based in Bardolino, housed in the ancient building belonging to the Guerrieri family and its ancestors since 1450. All of their grapes come from estate vineyards and the wines are made at their cellar in Pojega. The family farm 900,000 hectares which is considered to be a mid-sized estate. The winery is an Eco winery and most of the power comes from solar panels on the roof, what is not used is sold back to the grid.
Harvest was in full swing while I was there and walking through the Calcarole Hills which is one of their Cru vineyards with Giuseppe Rizzardi really put the quality of these wines in perspective. We tasted the 2009 Guerrieri Rizzardi Calcarone Amaone della Valpolicella €70.00 the only Amarone to have wone the Gambero Rosso Red Wine of the Year Award. It was spectacular, O’Briens have the 2011 vintage in stock priced €70.00 and believe me that is really worth the investment.
O’Briens stock a comprehensive range of Rizzardi wines, I loved the 2017 Guerrieri Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave Classico €15.45 that we had at dinner in La Loggia a restaurant in Bardolino on the first night. Made from old vines grown on the best sites on the famous hill of Costeggiola it was served with a selection of smoked fish and fresh prawns with a Marie Rose sauce.
This was a rich Soave with stone fruit and honied aromas and ripe lush ripe apple/pear flavours with a slightly spicy finish. It worked beautifully with the fish and sitting there enjoying the foodat sunset on the Western side of Lake Garda as the Autumn sun was setting was a magical moment.
Our featured wine today is the 2018 Guerrieri Rizzardi Pinot Grigio €14.95, produced in the Veneto region. This is a hugely popular wine and one of O’Brien’s best sellers! Look out for it on offer in O’Briens in November at €10.95. This is a classic Pinot Grigio It has all the lovely ripe stone fruit flavours, flavours of pear with a hint of tropical fruit. Pinot Grigio is a versatile grape, it pairs well with many food styles, including salads, it goes well with chicken and pork and is especially good with fish, which is maybe why it is so popular.
Wine Events https://jeansmullen.com/
Demystifying Organic, Bio-Dynamic and Natural Wines 26th September, 2019 at 7.00 p.m.
In the Rediscovery Centre, in Ballymun, the National Centre for the Circular Economy in Ireland. A creative movement connecting people, ideas and resources to support greener low-carbon living.
They are holding an informative masterclass to explore the differences between conventional wine making and the natural wine movement. Those attending will discover the facts about sustainable wine growing, wild fermentation, organic, bio-dynamic & natural wine. More details in Jean Smullen’s Wine Diary.