As some of you know, one of my study methods is to create a quick “Top 10,” an at-a-glance list a few key points from a certain country or region. They’re broad, general facts that will test my memory (or, more like, alert me to the things I still have to memorize). I want to provide my Top Southern Italian 10 for you here, but I’ve included a few anecdotes as well—just a few findings that I found interesting that may help with memorization (or, at the very least, entertain you for a moment).
When we think of Northeast Italy, we cannot forget Trentino, Alto Adige, and the Friuli regions—known predominantly for light, fruit forward, easy drinking white wines, typically for early consumption. There’s a broad range of international varieties produced. Specifically in Trentino and Alto Adige, which share geographic, cultural, and political ties to Germany and Austria, we find many varieties that grow in those countries as well. In Friuli, the aptly named Friulano is a dominant white wine grape, of course I believe most of our brain’s will veer toward Pinot Grigio grown in Grave di Friuli DOC. And don’t forget about the red wine grape Schiave. Pop Quiz: Where are more prestigious white wines produced and what is the dominant grape responsible for these higher quality wines? (You can find the answer below this post.)
Today, however, I want to zero in on Veneto: specifically, Valpolicella because there’s something going on in there that, even in my Level 3 I kept getting confused. And, unfortunately that confusion came back to me in my Diploma Studies. I want to take the time to dive into the definitions of basic Valpolicella, passito/appassimento, recioto, Amarone, and ripasso and (hopefully) solidify that understanding with a conjunctive tasting.
Today I’m zero-ing in on the northwest portion of Italy, specifically the key regions for the key red wine grapes grown—Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. Pop Quiz:Can you describe each of these grape varieties’ key characteristics? How would describe the market positioning for each?
If you’ve been touring Central Italy with me, then you know we’ve stopped on the West Side and East Side—but what about poor Umbria stuck smack dab in the middle? It is technically on the West Side, as it is on the west side of the Apennine mountain range, but in my mind I keep it separate.
When I think of Umbria I think of white wines made from Grecchetto, and this may be because that was the focus in Level 3. And while there’s not loads of details on this central wine region in our Diploma text, it does go into a bit more detail. So below I’ve compiled a list of key points as well as a little tasting.
Before moving forward, test yourself. How would you describe the climate and terroir of Umbria? What are the key characteristics of the Grecchetto grape and what wine styles are produced from it? What is the key red wine grape? Describe its characteristics and the wine styles produced.
On our last exciting episode of Central Italy Diploma Theory and Tasting, we walked along the west coast. (See DipWSET Theory and Tasting—Central Italy (Part 1)) Today, we take a look at the east coast. A fun little factoid I recently realized: If you take a look at the map of Central Italy, you see the Apennine mountains run down the center of the country “like a spine,” some say. Well, if it was a spine, it would have scoliosis—the mountain range curves, bulbs out on the east side, which means there’s less distance between mountain foothills and coastal ranges. So, unlike the expansive wine regions of the west coast, where vineyards planted inland have more continental climates and receive cooling influences from altitude, on the east side, we have a warm Mediterranean climate cooled by the Adriatic air that can reach some of those inland locations. Just thought I’d point that out because I thought it was cool.
Today we’re going to do a little review of Marche and Abruzzo and listen to Metalica. For a more general overview of Central Italy, based on WSET Level 3, please see Wine Region Overview: Central Italy.