Amidst the fury enveloping Friulian winemakers accused of illegally using flavor-enhancing additives in their Sauvignon Blanc (Jeremy Parzen has it well-covered here), the news comes without such concern that Alto Adige continues to sparkle.
This far-northern Italy winemaking region, split by the Adige River and with expanses of vineyards running high into the limestone foothills of the Dolomites, perhaps is best known for its crisp, elegant white wines yet 40 percent of the wines from the Sudtirol region are rossos.
That split was reflected when the latest regional results were released by the Gambero Rosso, Italy’s leading wine guide. The guide’s coveted 2016 “Tre Bicchieri” awards went to 27 Alto Adige wineries and of the 27 “Tre Bicchieri” wines 17 are whites.
Winning a Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award is much more than simply accruing street cred. Having the famed reputation is akin to being awarded a Michelin three-star award: The wines’ sales can soar, it offers winemakers some “flexiblity” in pricing and it puts you on a world tour (three stops in the U.S.) which offers unprecedented exposure to the important American wine market.
Of the 27 Alto Adige “Tre Bicchieri” winners, four were Pinot Bianco; three each of Sylvaner and Riesling; two Guwurtztraminers and two Saubvignon Blancs; a Müller Thurgau, a Terlano and a white blend.
The red wines included two Schiava wines (also known as Trollinger and Vernatsch, at 850 hectares the most-cultivated grape in Alto Adige); four Lagrein, two Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Noir. Also awarded was the Moscato Giallo Passito Serenade 2012, a sweet wine from the Cantina Kaltern Caldaro.
I was pleased to see the highly respected Alois Lageder be awarded a Tre Bicchieri for his Alto Adige Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Römigberg 2011. Each spring Lageder sponsors Summa, which invites around 70 quality-conscious winemakers from all over the world to the historical Casòn Hirschprunn in Magrè, This year was the 17th and was held March 21-22, attracting about 2,000 visitors from 35 countries. In collaboration with the charity Help without Frontiers, Summa collectis in excess of 37,000 € (about $42,000) for several projects in Burma.
More Tre Bicchieri results will come as they are released.
The advent of the grape harvest (and the “everything else” harvest) in western Colorado reminds me how the hopes of spring and efforts of summer come to fruition in autumn.
Last spring, as is habit, I was in northern Italy’s Veneto, the heartland of Prosecco DOCG where in a steep-hilled triangle roughly denominated by Valdobbiaddene, Conegliano and Vittorio Veneto some of the world’s best sparkling wine is made.
Two days earlier I had left Verona and Vinitaly and now was enjoying the view from top of the Marsuret winery in Valdobbiaddene with Alessio Marsura, who was explaining to a couple of visitors the lay of his family’s vineyards.
Marsuret Azienda Agricola was founded in 1936 by Alessio’s grandfather Augostino Marsura (Marsuret is a family nickname) and nearly 80 years later the family continues to produce award-winning wines in the heart of the most-prestigious of the Prosecco DOCG zones.
Despite also still recovering from the hectic experience that is VinItaly, Alessio said he was enjoying the quiet of the surrounding vineyards as he graciously shared his family’s Superiore di Cartizze Prosecco DOCG.
“From here,” he said, turning toward the still winter-brown hills, “You can almost see the vines where this wine is grown. It looks better in the summer, of course, but this gives you an idea of the difficulty of growing grapes in such steep area.”
The he turned.
“We make only five of our Valdobbiadene DOCG Proseccos and during the fair (VinItaly) someone called them ‘cult wines’, ” he said with a laugh. “Like your shirt.”
At the time I was wearing a wine-dyed jean shirt from Robert Mondavi and he was referring to article from the Vinitaly press corps that said the deep-indigo shirt was one of “two cult objects to be worn” during the fair.
The shirt, made by the Crawford Denim & Vintage Co. of Manhattan Beach, Cal., is hand-dyed with the Mondavi Heritage Red blend and features wooden buttons made from wine barrels.
Alessio turned away to look at the bare vines, and said the promise of summer seemed a long way off.
“There is much to be done between now and harvest, it’s barely spring,” he said. “So maybe it’s a good time to drink good Prosecco and get ready for a summer’s work.”
The well-traveled author Susannah Gold this week is in Sardegna, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (Sicily is the largest) and as she notes in this post, home of Europe’s second-largest cork factory. Enjoy.
Originally posted on avvinare:
I have the good fortune to be in Sardegna as I am writing this. A magical and mysterious land, I think of it as a place of beaches, crystal blue water, rocks, sun, sheep, silence, Vermentino, Cannonau and Pecorino,. What I didn’t know was that it also has the second largest cork factory in Europe after Amorim. I once interviewed the head of that Portuguese company but I have never had the opportunity to visit a factory – until now.
Italy is one of the most important producers of cork in the world. Of the 2.2 million hectares of cork forests, some 225,000 of them are in Italy, 90% of which are in Sardegna and the other 10% in Sicily, Calabria, Lazio, Tuscany and Campagna. The wine industry is without a doubt the largest client of the cork industry and uses 70% of Italy’s total cork production.
While some countries…
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As anyone with a backyard garden can attest, that cool and wet weather we enjoyed in May, dubbed “Miracle May” by some water watchers, left most of western Colorado about a week to 10 days behind the regular time when it comes to harvesting fruit and vegetables.
The same is true for grape growers, many of whom this weekend said they still are waiting for their grapes to ripen fully.
The wet spring following a mild winter was very good for the crop, which appears to be one the best in recent years.
“We’re a little behind but all of the fruit looks great,” said John Behr of Whitewater Hill Winery on 32 Road. “It’s really nice to be able to drive down the rows and see bunches of grapes.
“I could get spoiled.”
Deep winter freezes and late spring frosts repeatedly have sliced into the area’s grape crop since 2011, leaving many winemakers, particularly those who prefer to stay 100-percent Colorado grown, to cast an anxious eye at their dwindling supply of available wine.
“I’m down to eight wines and I usually make 17,” said Nancy Janes, Behr’s partner and the winemaker for Whitewater Hill. “So I’m really glad this year came along.”
Janes and a few other growers already have picked some early ripening white-wine varietals but most growers said their grapes need at least another week or so of warm, late-summer days and cool nights to fully develop the desired levels of balance between sugars and acidity.
John Garlich of Bookcliff Vineyards said his grapes in the Vinelands area south of Palisade were about 10 days out from harvest and John Barbier at Maison La Belle Vie Winery in Palisade said his are at about the same stage of development.
Still, Barbier said he’s eager to take full advantage of a big harvest.
“My reds are getting a bit short so this year will be very good for us,” he said. “I want to stay 100-percent Colorado and refuse to buy (out-of-state) fruit, so I can use a good year.
“I think this year I will make some extra cases of wine because I know I can store them and they only will get better with time.”
“I already got some early Chardonnay from Kaibab (Sauvage) and everything else was about normal,” she said. “But after veraison things are little slower and taking a bit longer to get ripe. I can’t explain it.”
Naomi Smith of Grande River Vineyards said she was anticipating a big crop and that Grande River winemaker Rainer Thoma was ready for “things to pop.”
“I think everything is going to ripen all at once, just like the cherries and peaches did,” Smith said. “I think this is going to be a good year for us and other growers.”
Procrastinators beware: Late arrivals to Saturday’s Festival in the Park, the signature event for the annual Colorado Mountain Winefest, were stopped by a sign near the front gate announcing “Event sold out.”
What? Sold out?
How could that be?
For the first time in the event’s 24-year history, ticket sales this year were capped. While a cap of 6,000 tickets (plus the 350 VIP tent admissions) into tree-shaded Riverbend Park might not seem like much, you couldn’t get one if you waited until Saturday morning.
“We sold out late yesterday,” said Cassidee Shull, executive director for the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology, during a brief interlude Saturday prior to the gates opening. “We sold out of everything – the dinners, the wine bus, the VIP tent.”
That eye-catching red-and-canary yellow at the front gate warning “No Tickets Available” revealed how much this event, again this year sponsored by Alpine Bank, has grown in its two-plus decades and was a very public announcement that Colorado’s most-populer wine-oriented get-together no longer strictly is a local event.
“We really want to people to pre-plan their Winefest,” said Shull, reflecting the oft-heard comments about potential over-crowding. “If we can get them in the habit of buying their tickets ahead of time, it will keep this a fun experience for everyone.”
Shull said last year’s record attendance at Winefest fell just short of 6,000, a level that seemed just about the max in the comfort zone for both wineries and attendees.
At times, particularly during the mid-day crush, the lines at the winery booths get long and a bit pushy as winelovers, helped along by a little inebriation augmented with a bit of dehydration, jostle for their favorite pours. Putting a lid on tickets sales may help keep some of the crowding under control.
Next year’s Colorado Mountain Winefest, the 25th annual, is set for Sept. 15-18. Just sayin’.
So who is Natale Verga?
If you guessed an Italian winemaker you’d get credit for being mostly correct.
But there’s more.
I first saw the name Natale Verga, a winery in Cermenate, a small (9,000 population) commune in the Province of Como in northern Lombardy, while gazing at the Italian section in my local wine shop.
I was looking for an affordable Barolo, an oxymoron in most cases, and my eye was caught by Verga’s straightforward label, which simply reads “Barolo,” the winery and the vintage. Hanging from a shelf-talker was the price, a very modest $19.99.
That’s about $16 less than the next-closest price and way below what many other Barolo DOCG winemakers are asking.
On the shelf below was a similar label reading “Barbera D’Alba,” this one a DOC priced at $13.
Natale Verga is the current proprietor of the family owned winery founded in 1895 by Giancarlo Verga. Information even on the website is scant, but this much is available: The winery is huge and typically modern, with lots of shiny stainless steel and the capacity to handle 25,000 bottles per hour.
Thanks to seven different labels and multiple wines (the Natale Verga label includes 21 different wines), aggressive marketing and multiple investments in new technology, the wines are distributed in more than 30 countries.
A video on the website, narrated by Natale Verga, tells an interesting story of the 120-year old winery but oddly skips over what Verga’s monologue refers to as “difficult challenges” and unexplained “unfair play,” apparently from competitors.
“Today we are facing a new challenge,” Verga says in the video without bothering to elaborate. Then he affirms, “We will overcome any difficulties” and goes on to thank some employees who stuck around “when it would have wiser to leave.”
With that cryptic remark, what Natale Verga has overcome is the price hurdle of an affordable and quite delicious Barolo and Barbera D’Alba.
Notes: Natale Verga 2008 Barolo DOCG (current vintage is 2010), $19.99, purchased. Notes of roses, blackberries, dark plums.
Natale Verga Barbera D’Alba DOC, $12.99, purchased. Mocha, dark cherries and raspberries.