Saturday, June 29, 2024

National Prosecco Week Wraps up with a Look at Asolo Prosecco

As we wrap up National Prosecco Week we get ready to start next week for National Sparkling Wine Week.  Like you needed an excuse to pop open some bubbly!  Recently I attended a virtual event on the wines of Asolo Prosecco sponsored by the Asolo Consorzio and hosted by Studio Cru with an overview of Asolo and a tasting panel led by Alessandro Marchesan.  Such a great opportunity to learn more about this quality wine region in the Veneto and taste a variety of styles of Asolo Prosecco. 

The Asolo Prosecco Wine Region 

Prosecco is so mass produced that it’s important to understand the regions that are making quality Prosecco including Asolo and its neighbor Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Today we focus on the Prosecco wines of Asolo that are named after the town itself within the Treviso province of the Veneto region in northeastern Italy.  

Located only about 1 hour north of Venice, this wine region has a unique geography setting. It sits at the foothills of Monte Grappa and the Dolomite mountain range to the north, but is also not too distant from the Adriatic Sea. These factors influence its climate creating a balance between a continental and Mediterranean climate with winds from both the north and south. 

Prosecco wine region map
Copyright of Asolo Prosecco Consorzio

Asolo’s Prosecco wine producing history stems from a production of bulk wines as well as selling the wines locally. Since 2012 the area has increased plantings due to zonation research they conducted that identified the best areas for planting.  That along with producers from the small family run businesses that occupy the region paying strong attention to producing quality wines have changed the vision of Asolo Prosecco wines. Although the market for Prosecco has grown tremendously in recent years, production in Asolo has always been there well before the Prosecco craze. It is actually the fourth biggest DOCG sparkling wine producing region in Italy.  

Asolo Prosecco wines became a DOCG in 2009 and in 2014 was the first to start the Extra Brut category for Prosecco wines that are low in sugar and full of fruit.  The wines of Asolo are defined by their distinct freshness in their bubbles and their salty, mineral finish.  The wines are made from a minimum of 85% Glera along with up to 15% of other local non aromatic grape varieties to include Verdiso, Perera, Glera Lunga and Bianchetta Trevigiana. 

The Wines 

The 2022 LeTerre Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato Dry was brightly straw coloerd with aromas of apple, pear and citrus.  Crisp with soft bubbles and notes of lemon with a hint of honey ending with a salty finish.  ABV 11% 

2022 LeTerre Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato Dry

The 2022 Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry was a brilliant pale straw color. There were aromas of citrus, apple and wet stone. On the palate the wine was crisp with bubbles tingling the tip of the tongue. It showed nice fruit with juicy tart apple and citrus with a lingering finish. 

2022 Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry

The 2022 Case Paolin “Col Fondo” Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Sui Lieviti Brut Nature was an interesting wine to try.  Not my personal preference, but everyone has their own preferred styles.  A great learning experience on col fondo wines though that I’d like to share. 

2022 Case Paolin “Col Fondo” Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Sui Lieviti Brut Nature

What is col fondo?  Col fondo is when the wine produced in the traditional or classic method where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and it not disgorged.  How does col fondo differ from pet nat (if you are familiar with those wines)?   Pet nat wines are bottled before fermentation is complete.  The sui lieveti on the labels translates to “with the bottom” since the wine is remaining with the natural yeasts or lees and sediment on the bottom of the bottle. 

Back to the wine, this wine is made from organic grapes that are certified organic.  The grapes are grown on the slopes of Montello in their oldest vineyard, about 30 years old.  The wine spends 15-18 hours on the skins and is fermented in steel tanks with secondary fermentation in the bottle. Pale straw colored with a greenish tinge and slight haziness to the wine from the “sui lieviti.  Floral aromas with citrus and yeasty notes.  Bone dry, light-bodied, crisp and clearn with mouthwatering acidity, citrus pith notes that seemed slightly bitter to me with  minerality on the finish.  Alessandro recommended drinking this wine with asian foods or lobster rolls.

Asolo Prosecco wines
Copyright of Asolo Prosecco Consorzio

There will be more Asolo Prosecco wines to come as well as my feature on this region in the Appetito magazine next week. Stay tuned! 

Have you tried the wines of Asolo and what are some of your favorite Prosecco producers?

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Prosecco wines to try for yourself.

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.  

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Lugana: The White Jewel of Lake Garda

If you’ve traveled across northern Italy and visited many of its great lakes you may have stumbled upon Lake Garda that straddles the region of the Veneto and Lombardy.  With such charm and beauty as well as great proximity to so many wonderful surrounding towns, it’s not a surprise that one finds themself falling in love with the area.  In addition, this area is home to so many great known wines of Italy to include Valpolicella, Amarone, Bardolino and the Lugana white wines we are talking about today. 

Lugana wine region 

It's a challenge to pick Italy’s great white wines with so many to choose from.  Time and time again when I have tried a bottle of Lugana I’m reminded how great these wines can be.  Lugana wines are produced in the southern part of Lake Garda split between the Lombardy and Veneto region. You will find these wines produced in the town of Peschiera del Garda on the Veneto side and in Lombardy Lugana is produced in Desenzano, Pozzolengo, Sirmione and Lonato. 

Lugana wine comunes at Lake Garda

Lake Garda is the ideal climate for growing these grapes.  It helps moderate the temperatures creating a rather mild climate with cool winters and breezes that help cool down the hot summers.  

Lugana is made from the native Turbiana grape.  Many of the wineries that produce Lugana will use 100% of the Turbiana grape, but there is an allowance of up to 10% non-aromatic white grapes.  

Turbiana grapes in Lugana wines
Turbiana grapes - copyright of the Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC

Lugana wines are produced in a variety of styles: your standard still white, Superiore, Riserva, late harvest (known as vendemmia tardiva) and a sparkling spumante.  About 90% of the Lugana production is made in the standard still white wine version, but there is something for everyone with this one wine and it’s interesting to see it in its various styles. 

The wine I am sharing today is a Lugana DOC still white wine.  These wines are typically enjoyed young.  Beautiful floral aromatics with a possible hint of almond.  They’re fresh and bright on the palate showing citrus notes.  As you approach the Riserva and Superiore versions the wines will change in structure, texture and intensity of flavors.  

The Wine 

Monte Zovo’s Lugana vineyards are situated in the Lombardy region split between the Pozzolengo and Desenzano comunes set at the base of San Martino della Battiglia tower at about 100 meters above sea level.  

San Martino della Battiglia tower in Lombardy
San Martino della Battiglia - copyright of Wikipedia
The 2022 Monte Zovo Le Civaie Terralbe Lugana DOC is made of 100% Turbiana grapes. The soil of this area is morainic white calcareous clay that is rich in minerals. The grapes are hand harvested and chilled on the spot. The grapes macerate for 8-10 hours and are fermented at low temperatures for 15-20 days. The wine spends 5 months on the lees and 2 months in the bottle. 

The wine was straw colored with pretty aromatics of stone fruit with a touch of honey and petrol and some citrus. Light to medium-bodied, this wine was crisp with refreshing acidity and bright, tangy citrus. A nicely balanced wine with some saltiness on the finish. SRP $25

2022 Monte Zovo Le Civaie Terralbe Lugana DOC
Have you tried the wines of Lugana?  What about a visit to Lake Garda?  What are your favorite sites?  I love to hear from my readers so drop a comment.

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Lugana wines to try for yourself.

*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.  

Sunday, June 9, 2024

A Taste of Castellina in Chianti with Cecchi Wine Estates

Some months ago I had the opportunity to attend a virtual tasting with the renowned Cecchi family showcasing wines from a few of their estates hosted by Andrea Cecchi, owner and winemaker of the Cecchi wine estates, along the Cecchi enologist, Maria Bracali, and PR agency Wellcom.   

The Cecchi Winery 

The Cecchi wines were first established by Luigi Cecchi in 1893 due to his passion for wines and winemakingToday the winery is led by Andrea Cecchi, the 4th generationThe Cecchi headquarters was established in the 70’s in the heart of the Chianti Classico territory, Castellina in Chianti.  This year is their 130th anniversary celebration. 

The Cecchi family first started in Castellina in Chianti, but over the years has expanded to include 6 estates in total.  Five estates are located within the Tuscany wine region with an expansion into Umbria with one of their estates.  Andrea said his mission is to “develop the terroirs, but the different personalities and identities”.  

Cecchi wine estates
Map sourced from Famiglia Cecchi
Outside the Cecchi headquarters, their first acquisition was Villa Cerna in the 60’s, which is located in Castellina in ChiantiThey renovated the villa converting it into a winery as well as the almost 200 acres of vineyards.   Following Villa Cerna, they acquired Val delle Rose in 1996 located in the southern part of Tuscany known as the Maremma in the Grosseto provinceThis estate occupies 460 acres of vineyards used mostly for the Sangiovese grape in producing Morellino di Scansano DOCG wines along with some VermentinoAround the same time in the late 90’s they broke out into the Umbria wine region acquiring Tenuta Alzatura in Montefalco for the production of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wines across 3 parcels of land over about 70 acres of land along with some Trebbiano Spoletino. 

The next acquisition for the Cecchi family was another estate in Castellina in Chianti, Villa Rosa, which they purchased in 2015 with about 90 acresLastly, a few years later, they bought about 15 acres of vineyards in Montalcino near the Sant’Antimo AbbeyThis winery has not been named yet, but is planned to be used for the production of Brunello di Montalcino.   

Cecchi’s values are focused on close attention to the environment in which they live and grow their grapesAndrea stated that the passion lies in the agriculture. Good land helps to produce good wines. They were the first Tuscan winery to install a wastewater treatment plant in the early 90’s that helped to reduce energy consumption and purified waterThey also put this treatment plant at their Val delle Rose estate in 2012In 2021 they also converted the Tenuta Alzatura and Val delle Rose estates to be organic. 

The Cecchi family has always taken an experimental approach to winemaking working with new clones, paying close attention to vineyard management to produce high quality grapes along while investing in new technology within the cellarsThey also have recovered and preserved several native grapes.  

The Cecchi Wines 

I tasted the following wines during the virtual tasting 

  • 2021 Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG SRP $20-25 
  • 2019 Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva $35-40 
  • 2018 Cecchi Valore di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione $60 
  • 2020 Villa Cerna Primocolle Chianti Classico DOCG $25 
  • 2019 Villa Cerna Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva $35 
  • 2020 Villa Rosa Ribaldoni Chianti Classico DOCG $30 
  • 2019 Villa Rosa Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione $70  

Andrea shared that their grapes are fermented and aged seperately and blended during the bottling process in order to demonstrate the characteristics of the vintage and the wines eleganceThe wines also spend malolactic fermentation in stainless steel to maintain control during the wine’s delicate phase.  

Gli Scudi Wines 

Let's take a look at the wines by estate starting with the Famiglia Cecchi Gli Scudi” wines. These wines are grown in Castellina in Chianti, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. They have a more international taste with use of the barrique versus the large barrel used in the Villa Cerna and+ Villa Rosa wines

Cecchi Gli Scudi Chianti Classico wines

The 2021 Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOCG is the flagship of the Castellina in Chianti estate and their first Chianti Classico wine made. Made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% other local grapes. Fifty percent of this wine is estate grown and 50% is made from growers. It’s crucial that the partners show the distinctive characteristics of the brand which include the expression of the varietal, balanced tannins, freshness and good structure. 

This wine spends 6 months in barriques and 2 months in the bottle. Ruby colored with black cherry aromas and a touch of spice. Dry and medium-bodied on the palate with notes of cherry, tobacco, and a hint of olive towards the lengthy finish where the tannins smooth out. A nicely made, ready to drink Chianti Classico. 13.5% SRP $20-25 

Next from the Cecchi estate is the 2019 Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG. This is their “cru” wine made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine spends 12 months in barrique and tonneaux with 3+ months in the bottle. Ruby in color with a brick rim. Heavier on the aromatics than the last with aromas of ripe cherries and spice. Medium-bodied with bright acidity with more tannin present than the last. Cedar notes on the lengthy finish. ABV 14% SRP $35-40  

Last up on the Cecchi Famiglia wines is the 2018 Cecchi Valore di Famiglia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. This was my personal pick of the litter from the Gli Scudi wines. Per the requirements of the Gran Selezione, this wine is made from 100% Sangiovese to show the elegance and purity of the grape in the territory where it shines best. The vineyard was planted in 1965 and they made this wine for the first time in 2015. The soil is made of flysch from the Apennine Mountains. The wine is aged 15 months in tonneaux and 3 months in cement vats with 12+ months in the bottle.  

Ruby in color with a tinge of brick. A perfumed nose of cherries, rose petals and a rustic, earthy edge. Lots of sapidity on this wine with tart cherry notes, spices and polished tannins with a toasty finish. An ageworthy wine that I’d love to see evolve in the bottle over the years. ABV 14.5% SRP $55 

Villa Cerna wines 

Next up we have the historical estate of Villa Cerna bought in 1962, but was built in 1011 A.D.   The 2020 Villa Cerna Primocolle Chianti Classico DOCG is grown in soils rich in clay. Primocolle stands for first hill as it was the first hill discovered in Chianti Classico. This wine is made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino that spends 9 months in barrique and 3+ months in the bottle. Ruby colored with a brick tinge and savory aromas with black cherry, spice, leather and a hint of balsamic. Juicy on the palate with good acidity, deep cherry notes, baking spice and tobacco. An enjoyable, drinkable now Chianti Classico. ABV 13.5% SRP $25 

The 2019 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG is 95% Sangiovese with 5% Colorino as well. The wine spends 14 months in barrique and 12+ months in the bottle. Ruby colored with a brick edge. Rich black cherry on the rose with spice and tobacco. Medium-bodied and dry, with darker cherry notes, cocoa, cedar box with a tinge of smokiness. A complex, savory wines with aromas and flavors that may you come back for more taste after taste. My favorite of the Villa Cerna wines! ABV 14% SRP $35 

Villa Cerna Chianti Classico wines

Villa Rosa wines 

If I really had to lean towards one of these three states it was the wines of Villa Rosa. The Villa Rosa estate is situated on 80 acres at various altitudes with clay soils. These are historical wines with great aging potential. The 2020 Villa Rosa Ribaldoni Chianti Classico DOCG is made from a single vineyard with 100% Sangiovese. The difference between the production of these wines in comparison to the Villa Cerna wines is the use of concrete after maceration. The wine is aged 12 months in tonneaux with 6+ months aging in the bottle. Deep ruby colored with beautiful aromatics of juicy, ripe black cherries. Medium bodied and nicely balanced with juicy cherry notes with great sapidity. ABV 14.5% SRP $30 

The 2019 Villa Rosa Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG is also made from 100% Sangiovese. Maria, the enologist, expressed how this estate is in the middle of cypress woods and how the wildflowers and broom influence the vineyards and the wines. This wine is aged 12 months in oak casks and spends 12 months in cement plus 6+ months in the bottle. Deep ruby colored with a perfumed nose, bright black cherry with spice. Medium-bodied and dry on the palate with sour cherry and silky tannin. My pick from the Villa Rosa selection. ABV 14% SRP $70 

Villa Rosa Chianti Classico wines

The personality of the Cecchi labels demonstrate a “balance between innovation and tradition, along with the unique characteristics of the vintage”.  Today the Cecchi estates produce 8.5 million bottles grown over 830 acres of vineyards.  

Pairing Chianti Classico with Food

Usually if I'm going to enjoy my favorite grape Sangiovese I'll tend to pair it with a red sauce based pasta dish or with beef.  Since I don't have the access to wild boar, one of my favorite Tuscan specialties, or even the known fiorentina bistecca, I had to settle for some grilled steak tips.  

steak tip pairing with Chianti Classico
I also wanted to make something light for these warm days that may also pair well with Chianti Classico and looked into some typical Tuscan dishes.  That's when I realized I had never made panzanella before.  Panzanella, also called panmole, is basically a dish I've pretty closely created a dozen times with a variety of different additions throughout the years.  It's a Tuscan based salad made with dried bread, ripe tomatoes and a oil and vinegar based dressing.  You can add some cucumbers as well like I did and usually top it off with some fresh basil.  Since I grew my garden from seeds this year it's taking my basil a little while to become an herb I can use in cooking, but I had made some homemade basil recently so I decided to add some of that into the dish.  The perfect summertime meal when you just need something light and not too heavy.

Chianti Classico pairing with Panzanella
To be honest the array of Chianti Classico went well with both dishes.  I can always enjoy a Chianti Classico on it's own, but these wines weren't too heavy or too tannic to not pair well with the panzanella and I couldn't complain about it's natural pairing with the steak tips.  What are some of your favorite Chianti Classico pairings?

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Cecchi wines to try for yourself.

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.  Importers: Volio Imports and Terlato Wines