“Oh, that’s yummy,” she said, the first truly expressive thing she’s said about the wines I’ve brought to dinner. While there’s not been a week she and her husband haven’t enjoyed the wines that are my share of the meal, tonight the delicate fruit and a sparkling acidity of the Gavi 2009 Principessa Perlante evoked a new response.
“That’s really nice, what did you say this was?” she asked, her dinner, straight out of Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food,” forgotten for a minute. “I really like this.”
The Principessa Perlante ($13-$18) has great fruitiness but it’s super-dry with only 12.5 percent alcohol, both attribute my hostess looks for in a wine. My once-a-week hostess/chef loves dry whites (her husband drinks it all but prefers Italian reds) and last week we all gladly sipped the Principessa Gavia Gavi, the still version of Italy’s wonderful white grape, the Cortese di Gavi from Piemonte.
The wines are very pale straw in color, with a nose of pineapple and apples and a plate hinting of green apple and tropical fruits, perfect for these warm summer nights and lighter meals. Both wines are produced by Vigne Regali, an 18th-centure winery in Strevi, Italy, now owned and operated by the importers Banfi Vintners. The grapes are sourced a few kilomters away at the Banfi’s Prinicipessa Gavia Gavi estate, which exclusively grows the Cortese di Gavi grape.
“Perlante” signifies the light perlage (the ribbon of bubbles from the bottom of the glass), and while I’ve read the Principessa Perlante described as a “frizzante” (compared to the heavier ribbons of bubbles in a spumante), the Principessa seems lighter and more delicate than a frizzante. Even the bottle, a heavy, slope-shouldered version of a classic sparkling wine bottle, evokes the pleasurable anticipation of something special.
I mentioned in my last post that while I was in New York for VINO2011NY I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Marilisa Allegrini of the Veneto wine producer Allegrini.
We were attending a charity wine tasting benefiting the American Cancer Society where Marilisa was pouring some her wines alongside Cristina Mariani-May of Castello Banfi.
In spite of being close to the end of a long wearying day, with plenty of New York’s finest snow to negotiate and a late dinner yet to attend, I found Marilisa delightfully charming and eager to educate consumers about her Corvina-based (along with rondinella and molinara) Valpolicella wines.
Valpolicella, which translates to “valley of many cellars” (perhaps because of the area’s long history of winemaking) is a DOC wine-making region west of Verona and east of Lake Garda.
The Allegrini winery makes wines using a system where a single vineyard of locally grown fruit goes into each wine.
Marilisa said all of the Allegrini fruit is estate grown, she said, coming from 70 hectares of vineyard in the communes of Fumane, Sant’ Ambrogio and San Pietro, all within the Valpolicella Classico DOC.
When I asked her to explain the difference between her basic Valpolicella Classico (made of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara grapes) and the deeper, more concentrated Palazzo della Torre (Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Sangiovese) and the intense Superiore La Grola (Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, Syrah and Sangiovese), she said it starts in the vineyards, where green cropping lowers the fruit load on the vines dedicated to the Superiore.
Her brother Franco is the winemaker, and Marilisa said he adds to the wine’s intensity by using variations of the ripasso (double-fermentation) technique.
“This gives the wine more intensity and concentration as well as a longer aging potential,” said Marilisa, whose family name has been making in the area for at least 500 years and today is synonymous with fine Valpolicella wines.
She also described the Superiore as “halfway” between the basic Valpolicella and the Amarone.
Those at the tasting also had the chance to sample Allegrini’s La Poja, a 100-percent Corvina wine aged in barriques. Very dense and complex, it’s full of dark fruit and round tannins and a silky finish. A great wine for a snowy evening in New York City.