As is usual for this time of the year, my wine travels took me to Verona, Italy this month. Back at Vinitaly, it was the usual mix of early morning starts, long, teeth-stripping tastings and late night dinner parties.
The weather in Italy was surprisingly warm for this time of year. This presages perhaps a very warm vintage and if this continues, then Italy will have a vintage similar to 2003, when most of Western Europe suffered heat waves. A hot vintage usually means an early vintage — one where the grapes ripen quickly and are ready to harvest early. The risk with this is that acidity, which adds finesse and sometimes longevity to wine, diminishes quickly. Extreme heat also tends to eradicate any refreshing characters in wine. So everybodys fingers are crossed.
What impressed me overall at Vinitaly was that the majority of wines at most of the tastings I attended are available in India now. Perhaps the most special event I attended was the annual grand tasting conducted by Italian wine magazine Civiltà del bere. The theme of the tasting was — The Pioneers of Made in Italy. It showcased 12 Italian producers who have taken their brands to the rest of the world — including India — and have become synonymous with the best of Italy. Names like Santa Margherita, Zonin, Falesco, Lungarotti, Frescobaldi, Tignanello (from producer Antinori), Sassicaia (from producer Tenuta San Guido), Mastroberardino, Pio Cesare, Banfi, Masi and Donnafugata may sound familiar.
Here are my tasting notes on three memorable wines at Vinitaly 2011.
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
The Santa Marghertia group was the first to create the Pinot Grigio style in Italy. From the Alto Adige region, this wine is extremely fresh with notes of grass, spring flowers, banana and citrus on the nose. The palate is intensely fruity with distinct flavours of peaches and pears. Very light with a long, clean, mouth-watering finish. Imported by Amfora Wines, Delhi.
Marchesi Antinori Tignanello
A true icon, this wine needs no introduction. Sold as a Toscana IGT, its nose is earthy, meaty and almost chocolatey with hints of minerals, floral perfume and even some tobacco leaf. This wine seems to float on the palate and is amazingly subtle and complex. The word that comes to mind is layers: layers and layers of flavour. The palate is powerful, juicy, somewhat spicy and yet delicate. One of the best wines of Vinitaly for me, it will last at least 10 to 15 years. Imported by Berkmann Cellars, Mumbai.
Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria 2008
From Marsala, Sicily, this wonderful elixir of a sweet wine seems to do very well in Japan and China. Delightful golden amber with pale gold flecks in the glass, this wine smells like a walk in the garden on a summer afternoon. Perfumed with notes of orange, orange peel and marmalade with honey and orange blossom notes, this wine is medium-bodied, not cloyingly sweet but refreshing and a bit earthy. Imported by Aspri Spirits, Mumbai.