Vermentino, a Tasty Italian White

Until last month, I didn’t know anything about Vermentino. Now because at work, we have these limited releases wine kits that include a Vermentino in the lineup, I had to try one. So I tried a commercial equivalent.

vermetino-notes

This goes for $25 before tax at the BC Liquor Store.

It was really tasty and a good balance between a Sauv Blanc and Pinot Grigio. I sometimes find the former too tart and with citrus and green apple dominating, while the latter I sometimes find it too… easy to drink. Anyway, I’m so glad I’ve been exposed to this because it offers something in between. With flavours of white peach, lime, almond, and green apple, it’s delicate and refreshing enough to enjoy on its own, however, offers enough robustness to complement dishes.

Have you tried Vermentino? What are your thoughts?

 

An Intro to Italian Wine Labels

From what you smell and taste to the rules of each wine region, you’re relying on your memory to help you appreciate and understand what it is you’re enjoying. You use what you remember and what you know to describe what you’re seeing, smelling and tasting, and even how the wine makes you feel. Simply, when it comes to understanding the world of wine, it’s memorization.

studying wine

The appreciation and understanding of wine is highly reliant on your memory.

I’ve mentioned that Italy is hard. Even though I can say I haven’t visited the whole country, I have no excuse when it comes to knowing what to expect because it’s all memorization. The problem is, there’s a lot to remember! If you’re trying to understand Italian wine labels, learn the wine laws first before trying to remember the regions because some parts are actually confusing (case in point).

Intro to Italian Wine Laws

DOC Italian wine

Two different bottles. Sometimes the relevant info is found on the back label such as on the bottle on the right.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica – Grapes can be sourced from a larger area rather than a restricted one like the DOC or DOCG wines below. You’ll find a lot of wines from the south with this on the labels since there aren’t many DOC or DOCGs there.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – When you see this on the label, you’ll know that it comes from the specified area that allow only certain varietals and a minimum alcohol level. Depending on the area, there could also be regulations regarding wine making methods and minimum aging.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantia (DOCG) – Has all the requirements of Denominazione di Origine Controllata, but also must be bottled in the production region. These wines may also undergo tasting by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Simple right? Think you got it? There’s just a bit more to Italian wine laws (Classico, Riserva, Passito), but I’ll save that for next week’s post.

Let’s Talk Chianti

Italy was one of the hardest countries for me when studying WSET 3. The regions, the grapes. Ack! The only way to get better or recall what I learned is to keep referring to my book (boring), but what’s more effective (and quite enjoyable) is actually drinking wine.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a Chianti in bed. Have you heard of Sangiovese? That’s the main varietal you’ll find in this wine. In Italy, unlike say here in Canada or the States, and like in France, the wines are referenced by the region it’s from, not the grapes they’re made with. Chianti’s don’t have to be 100% Sangiovese, though. Wines here can have up to 20% other varietals in the blend.

Chianti Classico
Take me to Tuscany!

Where is Chianti?

You must’ve heard Tuscany… in central Italy.

Tuscany wine region

Tuscany in red. Image from Wikipedia

This famous beautiful region is where you’ll find Chianti. The major nearby city is Florence. Speaking of Tuscany, you must have heard of Super Tuscan wines! But do you know what they are.

What’s a Super Tuscan?

By now, I’m sure you figured out that it’s wine from Tuscany. But what makes it “super?” If a wine contains other grapes like the Bordeaux ones Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, then it’s considered a Super Tuscan. The maritime climate in Tuscany is ideal for these Bordeaux varietals.

How did French grapes make their way to Italy?

In response to the low quality wine that was being produced in Tuscany in the 70s, producers started making wine that wasn’t within the Italian wine laws. That is they didn’t follow the rules that dictated what varieties can go in the wine and therefore couldn’t label them as Chianti DOC or DOCG (more about these acronyms next week). Indeed, the wines were great, and still are I’m told. I can’t say for myself since I don’t think I’ve ever had a Super Tuscan. Have you had one? What did you think? And if you’ve had both Chianti and Super Tuscan, which do you prefer? 

Looks like I need to go buy myself a bottle of Super Tuscan.

Italy by Region

Phew! TGIF! It has been a looooong week. With moving this week, feeling under the weather and wine studies, not to mention working full-time, this wine lover’s pooped. I’m struggling right now with how to make this post interesting. It’s one of those nights, one of those weeks, so please forgive me.

As previously mentioned, I’m finding memorizing Italy a bit difficult. What I love about it though is that you’ll find vineyards throughout the whole country.

Rome

Pictured is Rome, Italy. In Lazio, just outside the Eternal City is Frascati DOC.

Each geographical region has areas under vines:

Northwest Italy

  1. Piemonte
  2. Lombardy
  3. Liguria

Northeast Italy

  1. Trentino-Alto Adige
  2. Friuli-Venezia Giulia
  3. Veneto

Central Italy

  1. Emilia-Romagna
  2. Tuscany
  3. Marche
  4. Umbria
  5. Lazio
  6. Abruzzo
  7. Molise

The South and Islands

  1. Campania
  2. Puglia
  3. Basilicata
  4. Calabria
  5. Sicily
  6. Sardinia

Guess who will be hard at work memorizing these and more this weekend?

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You’ve probably had this Italian Wine

If you’re a regular wine drinker, I’m probably right. I know I had a glass or two or three or more of this before I started taking wine seriously. According to the WSET 3 book, it’s the second most important red wine DOC (Italian designation that specifies geographical area, grape varieties and minimum alcohol level. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata).

You probably had Valpolicella made in the Veneto region, which is located in Northeast Italy, the same region where you’ll find the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, and the magical city of Venice.

It’s mainly made of the Corvina varietal, and can also contain Rondinella and Molinara among other grapes that are permitted. If you’ve ever had Valpolicella Classico DOC, then you had some of the very best Valpolicellas.

Red grapes in Valpolicella

Valpolicella DOC wines only contain red grapes, the principal one being Corvina. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

You may not have had Amarone della Velpolicella DOC, Recioto della Valpolicella DOC or Ripasso della Valpolicella DOC wine. All these DOCs use semi dried grapes but their end result are different. Here’s what I learned in class because the way the book explained it, frankly, sucks.

Valpolicella Classico DOC is partially made from semi-dried grapes.

Amarone della Valpolicella DOC is completely made with semi-dried grapes.

Recioto della Valpolicella DOC is made completely with semi-dried grapes as well, however, fermentation is stopped early producing a full-bodied, sweet red wine.

Lastly, Ripasso della Valpolicella DOC wine is made by mixing the basic Valpolicella wine with the unpressed skins of the Amarone della Valpolicella or Recioto della Valpolicella. Basically, the wine will be refermented by doing this.

Because the teacher put me on the spot when he asked me about this very topic, I’ll always remember this. If what you do doesn’t make you step outside your comfort zone, you’re not improving.

Montepulciano, the Grape and the Town

So it’s starting. My first daily post begins today and will continue up until exam time. In WSET 3 class, we covered Italy this weeks so the next several posts will be on that.

I find Italy incredibly difficult – the varietals, the names of the regions. And it’s not just these unfamiliar Italian names on their own that are truly testing my memory, but because I’ve come across a town and grape with the same name! Right?! These Italians don’t make it easy! Case in point: Montepulciano.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a town in southern Tuscany. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

A town in the Tuscany region, it’s also a varietal that you’ll find in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). So, Montepulciano, the varietal, is not actually used in the wine that comes from the town Montepulciano. In fact, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG uses the varietal Sangiovese as its main grape. Confused yet?

Here’s the trick to remembering what’s what. If you see di or d’, the word it precedes is a place. I don’t know Italian, but based on the other Latin based language I do read, write and speak, French, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo would mean Montepulciano (the grape) from Abruzzo (the place) or Montepulciano of Abruzzo. So in case of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, it is wine that comes from Montepulciano, not wine made of Montepulciano.

More on Italy tomorrow! Make sure you come back. If you have any questions, please please, please submit it in the comment section at the end of this post. Not only will my response satisfy your curiosity, but it’ll help me tremendously answering them!