Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, your graduate

My 5-week wine course is finito. At the end of class, I received a certificate (for perfect attendance, I think) emblazoned with the name GamberoRosso and an invitation to move up to the next level -- a 12-weeker at 600 euros. They obviously see potential. But I think my dream of becoming a sommelier ends right here with my certificate and my list of the best Italian wines for under a 20. I'd like to go back for an evening in October dedicated to Alto Adige wines. But on second thought, I'd prefer to just return to the region itself and pop into random cantine, Sideways-style. Who's with me?

Ok, what did we cover this week? Sparkling wines and vino dolce -- the drinks you have just before and just after the meal. Btw, drinking dessert wines on an empty stomach is not as bad as you might think. Until you get up from your chair, that is.

On to our final list... Don't be sad. I have a whole list of wine recommendaions from the teacher which I am determined to try. I will report back. Promise.

First, a word on these four wines. They were all exceptional. In previous weeks there was one or two that I didn't care much for. Not this week. If you spot them, particularly the Passito, on a menu one night, do yourself a favor and spring for it. You can toast me in absentia.

1) Prosecco di Valdobiadene from the Tanore vineyard in the Veneto region. Prosecco is the classic Italian aperativo. But in the bubbly category, it is leagues behind its French cousin, champagne. This one could change your mind if you think all Proseccos are the poor man's bubbly.

2) Franciacorta Brut from Ferghettina, a cantina half way between Milan and Brescia. This was a bit more flavorful than the Prosecco, and will run you probably twice as much: 12-15 euros per bottle probably. But then all wines with DOCG grade (the top in its class) will set you back a bit more. This one is a young sparkler that actually ferments in the bottle. We tasted a 2005. Che magnifico! More export details here.

3) Le Sponde, Recioto di Soave -- the first of two sweet wines, or vino dolce. This wine comes from the Coffele vineyard outside Verona. It's made from a perculier grape called the garganega. It's what they call a "creeper" because the vines like to stretch out their arms. In this area, the vintners tend to situate them on pergolas to get the most sun exposure. We tried a 2003. It was incredibly smooth with a powerfully fruity taste. According to the vintner, it's best with dry cakes and biscotti, but also with cheeses like Gorgonzola.

4) A Passito di Pantelleria Ben Rye from the Sicilian wizards at Donnafugata near Trapani. Check out all the awards this baby has won in the past few years. If your travels take you down to Trapani, they do tours and tastings. Or, if you're in Edison, NJ, check out their lone US distributor. (And then drive to the multiplex on the New Brunswick border and have yourself a nice picnic aside Route 1.)...This is a really fine dessert wine. It has a brandy-amber hue and an intense aroma and equally intense taste. It lingers long on the palate. You'll be yodeling zibibbo (the name of the grape) before the night is through. That's zee-BEE-boh!

Again, imbibe with care.

For my previous wine class posts check out:

Week 4
Week 3
Weeks 1&2

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