On the Road with the Grape Guy

Milano Wine Week - "Digital Wine Week" (part 2)

17 Dec 2021


(October 2021) ... Trust the Italians to come roaring out of the gate to create a wine “event” virtually during a pandemic that is the “first wine event in history to connect the city of Milan with 11 metropolises worldwide in seven key export markets - the USA, Canada, the UK, Russia, China, Hong Kong and Japan.”
For the Toronto market six “Masterclasses” we're arranged, three on the Monday (October 4th) and three on the Tuesday (October 5th) simulcast from Milan to a room at the Dymon Wine Cellar bracket which is a beautiful place unto itself - and Canada's largest wine storage facility.

On this, the second day of the “Masterclasses” and tastings the three topics were Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti (the second of these is a real guilty pleasure of mine); Brunello Riserva and a look at the “Hinterland Vineyards of Monte Zovo”.

Bubbles Bubbles Everywhere ... (Masterclass I)

Moscato MasterclassThis was the largest of any of the tastings on any of the two days - 13 wines in total – and a great way to start the day. The full title of the class was “Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti: Join the Wines From the First UNESCO Winemaking District of Italy”. As the long title suggests, this area was the first UNESCO heritage site and the first to receive that designation in Italy. Here they have approximately 10,000 hectares in production making 90 million bottles annually, and in 2021 it is said they will pass the 100 million bottle mark. The Consorzio representing these two wines was established in 1932, and the region got DOCG designation around 1967. The biggest market for these wines is the United States, which gobbles up 80% of the exported wines from the region. And the origins of these wines start in the late 1800s ... Asti Spumante being the more traditional starts in the 1890s, while Moscato d'Asti is a relative newcomer, being born in the 1950s.

The wines of choice ... (the top six of the 13) - in no particular order

Matteo Soria Asti DOCG Brut “Prima Bella”
Nice refreshing wine made in a dryer style: lemon, apple and floral takes center-stage with nice length to the finish - and that finish has an almost mineral characteristic. “I could drink the hell out of that” – anonymous.  (*** ½+)

Casa Vinacola Marenco 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG “Scrapona”
A single vineyard Moscato that delivers that traditional light effervescence, plus peachy, apricot, pineapple, mineral and balancing acidity; it goes in sweet but finishes dry - no cloying-ness here and excellent length.  (*** ½+)

Cantina Bava 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG “Bassa Tuba”
The Cantina makes two d’Asti (as far as I can figure) they started in the 1950s and then created this version in 1992, as they were looking for a richer style: pineapple, peach, lemon, floral, mango, and guava - this one delivers on more tropical fruits with a nice complexity and richness on the palate - nice job here.  (*** ½+)

I Vignaioli Di S Stefano Moscato d'Asti DOCG
There's an element of dryness here among the apricot, peach, pineapple and apple fruit ... There's even a subtle herbal / savory character, which brings this one up from "typical" to "interesting".  (*** ½)

Cantina Sociale di Vinchio Vaglio Serra 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG
This was one of those “wow” Moscato's because of the complex layering of aromas and flavours. On the nose there's a subtle pine note then we get the usual white peach, apple, pineapple and citrus undertones - incredibly drinkable with its dry-ish finish that makes it quaffable without being cloyingly sweet. Pure yum.  (*** ½+)

Cantina Sociale Di Alice Bel Colle 2020 Moscato d'Asti DOCG ‘Paie’
Probably my shortest review of the six wines, but no less enticing: nose of ginger ale and pineapple, while the palate has peach, ginger and an almost spicy character. Nice balancing acidity helps keep the palate fresh.  (*** ½+)

Masterclass 2: "Brunello, Le Riserva"

Brunello MasterclassSeven Brunello's that have spent a little more time aging and all from one hell of vintage (2015) ... And while all seven selections were a delight, I'll put up my top five here:

The Wines ... Brunello Riserva 2015

Talenti 2015 Pian di Conte - Brunello de Montalcino Riserva DOCG
This Brunello is made with grapes sourced from 40-year-old vines, age 24 months in cask - then bottle-aged: First things first - the acidity here is upfront and - it really holds the wine together. There's also a slighttouch of VA on the nose - but that does not translate to the palate. Licorice, balsamic, earthy and sour cherry with a rich mouthfeel loaded with spiced fruits like cherry and strawberry. Quite an intense experience.  (*** ½+)

Sassodisole 2015 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
Nothing but basic, simple and tasty Brunello here - floral notes on the nose, there's a sort of lean fruit character on the palate, with red and sour cherry plus blackberry and hints of balsamic on the finish ... Nothing is “in your face” but it's also very enjoyable and a delicious sip.  (*** ½+)

Col di Lama 2015 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
This is a small producer farming a mere 8-hectare piece of land using wild fermentation practices and leaving the wine in cask 24 months (or so). A big cherry nose with blackberry, cola, fig, cigar, wild blueberry, and brambly notes with good acidity on the finish. The fruit here is lush on the palate and finishes with some woodsy, smoky and good tannic bite.  (****)

Caparzo 2015 Brunello de Montalcino Riserva DOCG
A real mix of tartness from the acidity and richness from the fruit. The nose is full of lovely cherry, licorice, tobacco, smoke and balsamic, which follows onto the palate - the acid punches back at the fruit and the tannins are silky, but certainly present, which keeps the wine very balanced.  (****)

Fattoria dei Barbi 2015 Brunello di Riserva DOCG
This wine spends 3 years in oak and is a selection of the best grapes from the oldest vineyards; it is only made in selected years (in recent memory there was no Riserva made in 2009/2002/2014). It's earthy and seemingly lean but with smoky notes, juicy red fruit, dried cherry, fig, balsamic and a big tannin bite. Quite the revelation as there is just great balance in this wine - nothing overwhelms or under delivers ... though it does need time to fully integrate and open.  (****+)

Masterclass III : The Terroirs of the Lake Hinterland and Related Single Vineyards of Azienda Agricola Monte Zovo

Monte Zovo MasterclassDelivered to us by owner Diego Cottini who presented five very interesting single vineyard wines; like their peachy, salty-minerally and citrus pith / zest version of Pinot Grigio (2019 Wohlgemuth) that also showed apple notes and a little weight. A Corvina-based Rosato (2019 Phasianus) that was light in both color and flavour doling out peach skin and peach pit along with strawberry and lemon / lime notes. And a Pinot Nero (2017 Crocevento) from the Garda region on a two-hectare vineyard located between 700 and 800 m above sea level; an interesting version of Pinot that showed typicity of Pinot Noir (sour cherry, earthy, violets) and unique characteristics (tar, smoky-licorice, pomegranate) plus dried strawberry and red currants.

Before we get into the two best wines, I'm reminded of the best word play from the class which happened to be this: "every year a winemaker must fight against the sky to create their wine.”

Monte Zovo 2020 Oltremonte Sauvignon Verona IGT
A Sauvignon Blanc started in 2012 from an 8-hectare plot sitting at 800 to 900 m above sea level. There's more to the wine than meets the nose or palate - but let's try to describe it here: there's a lovely grapefruit zest note with plenty of other citrus characteristics plus a touch of vanilla cream ... Rich and generous with a creamy texture across the mid palate; all with great freshness and length.  (*** ½+)

Monte Zovo 2016 Calinverno Rosso Veronese IGT
A red blend of Corvina / Corvinone / Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) and Croatina dried on the vine and late harvested, all taken from a 12-hectare plot at 280 m above sea level and aged 2 years in oak. The fruit is cold fermented for 1 month - and when the fresh grapes come in they weigh 600 kg per hectare, and once the drying process is complete they weigh between 300 and 400 kilograms per hectare. This is a wine that's rich and round with licorice, spiced-plum, coffee / latte, blood orange, cocoa – while both the acidity and tannins help to create a complete and complex drinking experience that finishes long and almost luxurious with a subtle vanilla tinge. A 15% alcohol creates the sweet finish perception.  (****+)


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