THE UNIQUE WINE EXPERIENCE
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Marcello Russo – Founder
Château Lafite Rothschild 2018 Magnum
El Dorado 15 YO
Diplomatico Selección de Familia
FROM OUR MAGAZINE
SPARKLING WINE, PAS DOSE’ AND EVOLUTION OF TASTE
The world of taste has never stood still, over the centuries it has experienced constant evolution. These changes have always concerned both the sphere of wine and about food in general. Gualtiero Marchesi, for example, on the wave of Nouvelle Cuisine, has brought a great revolution in our country. Until then, the processing of ingredients, with very elaborate preparations, had a central role. It is precisely Marchesi in Italy who gives new dignity to the raw materials and the quality that distinguishes them, paving the way for an unprecedented style where the preparations are simplified, and the ingredients emerge with their intrinsic characteristics.
The same goes for wine. Around the eighties and nineties many enthusiasts loved full-bodied and very structured reds, produced using small barrels to ensure that the hints of wood significantly affect the wine itself. Even critics valued that type of label, and the market consequently did the same. Over the decades the picture has changed a lot and today we find ourselves in a period in which a different trend is consolidating, in some ways almost opposite. To describe it you have to take a step back. The world of tasting, among the various approaches, uses one that divides the scents of wine into hardness and softness. In the first group there are acidity, sapidity and tannins; in the second one there are sugars, alcohol and polyalcohols. Last ones include glycerin, essential for giving the wine viscosity, therefore density and softness. A well made wine, among the various characteristics, gets a balance between these aspects, or in any case a reasoned proportion upstream. Having clarified these two dimensions, we can say that for some years there has been a tendency to enhance hardness. Let’s leave aside the tannins, which derive from the use of the skins in the wine making process, and mainly concern red wines and the so-called orange wines. In wine shops you can find more and more often wines with greater acidity and freshness than in the past, more sharp. The sapidity is also enhanced: it can be reflected, for example, in subtle, barely perceptible iodized scents, or in clearer and more marked saline notes.
The world of sparkling wines is not excluded from this new wave. Indeed, if we talk about the Classic Method in particular, the theme takes on great centrality. In fact, we know that these wines are classified according to the quantity of residual sugars found in the bottle. Extra-dry, brut and extra-brut, for example, are words that identify a specific quantity of residual sugar. We can say that, due to a game of balances between the different dimensions that we have seen, the soft component will emerge more in a sparkling wine with more sugar. Conversely, a smaller quantity of sugars will leave more room for acidity and sapidity, therefore for hardness.
Today, in line with the above trend, there is ever greater attention for sparkling wines with a very low, or even zero, sugar content. The category is called zero dosage, or pas dosé; the name derives from the dosage of the liqueur d’expédition, the one that precisely determines the quantity of sugars that will remain in the bottle. More evident hardness means sharp wines, with acidity in the foreground and sapidity which can be expressed with salty notes, or notes linked to the world of minerals, including for example graphite.
Pas dosé are versatile wines, able for different occasions. For example the aperitif, where freshness plays a fundamental role to enjoy drinks without pairing, or at least accompanied by light appetizers. Also as regards the possible combinations for lunch and dinner, the zero dosages are highly adaptable and leave many doors open. Here is a possible direction, which starts from the absence or almost no sugar, and therefore from their characteristic of essentiality. In this sense, a combination with equally essential dishes such as raw fish, perhaps tartare, can be interesting, based on the quality and purity of the raw material, which is not even cooked, but only delicately seasoned.
One of the most interesting producers in the Champagne world is Tarlant. His “Zero Brut Nature“, in particular, is produced with a blend of grapes that include Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and other ancient vines. The management is organic, with great respect for nature and an approach that aim to the least possible intervention by men. First fermentation is in steel tanks, so the wine age in barrique for six months, then there is the second fermentation and the wine rest on the lees for at least six years, finally disgorging by hand. The perfumes stay between the world of flowers and that of citrus fruits, together with references to more enveloping sensations, such as those of honey. In the mouth it shows a very fine perlage, and, naturally, a prominent presence of the tendendcy of hardness: refreshing acidity, and a saline texture as a counterpoint. It has a great persistence, with the aromas that accompany the palate for a long time, leaving a beautiful memory of this artisanal maison that is increasingly sought after today.
Over 15 years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Branded Content Lead in Chora, where he deals with podcasts. Sommelier AIS, he writes for Intravino and takes care of @HellOfaWine on Instagram. He teaches wine communication at the Catholic University. He deals with the same theme in the “La Retroetiquette” podcast, of which he is co-author, and with speeches at dedicated events.
THE ORANGE WINE BETWEEN EDGES AND SYNTONIES
If we had to summarize what orange wines, or macerated wines, are, we could say they are wines produced starting from white grapes, but using the production process of reds, so keeping the skins in contact with the must. The time of this contact is variable: it can go from a few hours to several months.
There has been growing interest for some years in this type of wine, which at first glance can lead one to think of a new phenomenon. In reality, orange wines have very ancient origins, we are talking about thousands of years ago. They have always been produced in Georgia using kvevri, traditional terracotta amphorae typical of the region. This is not the only area that has a historical link with the macerated wines. The area that develops around the border between Friuli and Slovenia also has a close connection with orange wines. This geographical area, in particular, has played a fundamental role in the rediscovery of this particular production method.
In recent years much has been said about orange wines. They have often been framed as extreme wines, as the right choice when you want to try something daring, perhaps even a little difficult. In short, like difficult wines. On the one hand, this perspective has some truth to it. The presence of tannins, due to contact with the skins, gives the wine a third dimension made up of hardness and edges. Furthermore, the combination of white grapes and maceration gives the wine hints that for many may be wild, or unfamiliar. Another point: often the macerated wines, especially in the case of prolonged contact with the skins for months, result in textured wines of great consistency. So much so that someone, jokingly, sometimes calls them “eat and drink” wines.
This important structure, on the other hand, opens up an equally significant and less highlighted theme: orange wines are very versatile, especially when it comes to food pairing. The reasons for this adaptability are varied. One, just mentioned, is certainly that of the body. A more present structure than that of the classic whites allows the orange wines to leave the most common pairing perimeters, which want them combined mainly with delicate dishes, often based on fish.
The maceration times, and the relative intensity that derives from them, are decisive for precisely evaluating the most suitable combinations. We can say, for example, that it is often a good choice for white meats and medium and long-aged cheeses. Going more specifically to wines characterized by long macerations, a fundamental point is the resulting intensity.
Precisely this intensity opens up various pairing opportunities, which in some circumstances can resolve cases of complex combinations. This is the case, for example, of spicy dishes, typical of oriental cuisine. An orange wine of good intensity often has the right characteristics to support the comparison with another important intensity, that of spices. The important thing, in this case, is to keep an eye on the tannins. If too accentuated, their edges could conflict with the strong personality of the spices.
A very important issue is then that of temperature. Playing with the degrees, in the world of orange wines, can give interesting results. Starting from the assumption that the serving temperature of these wines is around 15 degrees, it must be considered that lower temperatures emphasize the hardness, therefore acidity, sapidity and tannins, while higher temperatures bring out the softness, therefore the sugars, the alcohol and the glyceric component. If this happens for any type of wine, with orange wines the breadth of scents that unfold at different temperatures is, in my opinion, truly remarkable.
So much so that it often happens to me, at the restaurant, to choose just one wine for the entire dinner, an orange wine, characterized by a significant maceration time. Served fresh, to start with, it can accompany many types of appetizers, such as veal meatballs. As the wine rises in temperature, it is as if it gradually becomes adaptable to each passage of the dinner. A little less cold to accompany a first course, for example fresh pasta with duck sauce. And then, with a slightly higher temperature, an important second course, perhaps a meat of great intensity, for example lamb.
As already said, everything is related to the amount of time the wine has spent on the skins, and consequently to its intensity. In the case of less marked macerations, the combinations must be reconsidered proportionally. Munjebel VA Bianco 2019 Di Frank Cornellissen can be a good example. Born on the slopes of Etna from a blend of native white berries grapes and the processing involves 4 days of maceration. It is an elegant, complex wine, made even more special by the fact that the cuvée comes entirely from old ungrafted vines that are between 60 and 90 years old. The contact with the skins is a gentle touch that further accentuates the characteristics of breadth and finesse. And in this specific case, going back to talking about food, the right choice can fall into the world of white meat or that of fish, for example with a Mediterranean soup.
Over 15 years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Branded Content Lead in Chora, where he deals with podcasts. Sommelier Ais, he writes for Intravino and takes care of @HellOfaWine on Instagram. He teaches wine communication at the Catholic University. He deals with the same theme in the “La Retroetichetta” podcast, of which he is co-author, and with speeches at dedicated events.
SUGAR CALLS SUGAR: WINE PAIRING WITH CHRISTMAS SWEETS.
Christmas holidays are unique because, for many, it is the right time to treat yourself to something special at the table. Special cured meats, maybe that caviar to be tasted once in a while, or a good handmade nougat as well as an artisan panettone. The world of Christmas sweets, in particular, is full of choice to close a lunch or dinner at home. Sometimes we tend to think that a Classic Champagne is perfect for both opening the meal and closing it with dessert pairing. That’s true just in case the chosen one has a certain amount of residual sugar. A demi-sec sparkling wine, for example, can work, because its sugars fluctuate between 33 and 50 grams per litre; as well as one sweet sparkling wine, where the threshold of 50 g/l is exceeded. Without going into the technicalities, it is enough to keep in mind a very simple quote: sweet calls sweet. It is not an absolute principle and there are many exceptions, for example when it comes to dark chocolate, but it’s a good basic rule. Not only to avoid unsuccessful pairings, but also not to waste a valuable bottle, perhaps that Champagne kept for months and months waiting for the right opportunity. It’s a typical holiday risk, and it doesn’t happen only with sparkling wines: we have a valuable bottle aside, we’ve been waiting for a long time the right opportunity to open it, and, driven by the enthusiasm of the Christmas spirit we make the wrong choice.
So, in order to avoid mistakes at the end of the meal, let’s remember to always indulge the presence of sugar with other sugar. Technically that’s what it’s called pairing by concordance. The rule does not concern sparkling wines only, but all sweet wines. Among them, in particular, there are the raisin wines, of which Italy is very rich at all latitudes, from Alto Adige to Pantelleria. These are wines made through the processing of grapes withered. The withering can take place on the plant, with a late harvesting process of over-ripening, or after harvesting the grapes, leaving the berries dehydrated for a certain period of time.
What is sought through the withering process is a greater concentration of aromas and sugars, which will be found, then, also in the glass after processing. For a good wine pairing with a dessert, choosing just any passito it is not enough. The structure of the cake we are going to eat, for example, is a key element to be taken into consideration. A Paradiso cake, for example, has a very different structure compared to a panforte, decidedly more important, since, among the ingredients, we have honey, almonds, candied fruits and various spices. If in the first case we can opt for a delicate wine, for example a Moscato d’Asti, in the second case the choice can go up a more structured product, such as a Vin Santo. Another point to be considered concerns the level of sweetness, so the amount of sugars present in the dessert recipe, because there is sweet and sweet. A yogurt plumcake, in in this sense, is very different from an apricot jam tart. In the first case a light sparkling wine from Malvasia grapes can be a good solution. In the second case you can opt for a raisin Zibibbo arriving from Sicily, where the warm climate facilitate the sweetness of the grapes and, consequently, the final product. Continuing with the factors to keep in mind when looking for the right match for a dessert, we can consider its aroma too. This can result from the aromatic herbs included in the recipe or from the intrinsic scent of one specific ingredient. An example can be that, unmistakable, of candies in panettone, characterized precisely by a marked aroma. In this case for the pairing, always in a logic of concordance, can be evaluated a wine of good intensity. Intensity, to be clear, is that parameter that describes in quantitative terms the strength of the scents expressed on the nose and on the palate. Different wines obtained from aromatic grapes typically have great intensity such as Moscato, Malvasia or Gewürztraminer. The latter is the basis of the passito Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten signed by the historic South Tyrolean company Hofstätter, ideal to combine with a good panettone. A Gewürztraminer from late harvest of great thickness, which takes its name from one of the prestigious cru from the estate vineyards. A key characteristic is its surprising freshness, decidedly above the average in the category of sweet wines, and essential to avoid weighing down the end of meals which at Christmas can already be challenging in themselves. The low alcohol content, around 7%, also helps outline a lean and elegant profile. Honey and aromatic herbs on the nose, apricots, pears and candied citrus fruits on the palate. The very long persistence characterizes this Gewürztraminer as the right choice to round off a Christmas lunch or dinner, with the idea of carrying the sweet flavour of the holidays with you for as long as possible.