Vinitaly: a masterclass in Italian wine
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Vinitaly: a masterclass in Italian wine

Relearning Lambrusco and tasting niche native grapes

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Fri 15 Apr 2022 3:35 PM

Returning to Verona for Vinitaly post-pandemic was an exciting time for everyone in the wine world. After all, the Italian wine showcase par excellence has always acted as a festival for all those who circle bottles. Producers and consortia unite, journalists and bloggers rave on their respective channels, and the wine-loving public savour the opportunity to deepen their knowledge. Aside from the Santa Maria Novella-Porta Nuova wine train, packed with the grape passionate, the 2022 edition will remain forever imprinted on my mind for the collection joy of returning to the halls to celebrate Italian wine.

Micro Mega Wines

My first stop was at Micro Mega Wines, Vinitaly’s sub-section dedicated to niche wines and often little-known native grapes. Having attended a Vinitaly online seminar helmed by Ian D’Agata ahead of the trade fair and recently visited Tortona for the Timorasso previews, my focus was on tasting another native white grape, Nascetta, hailing solely from the Novello township in Piedmont. Glinting in the glass, the 2020 bottlings vaunt enticing herbal and brackish notes with a distinctive halo of spearmint. Another D’Agata suggestions is Tazzelenghe, which is as micro as a native grape can get. Eight producers in Friuli Venezia Giulia have bandied together in an effort to save this varietal, which means “tongue cutter” due to the aggressive tannins and high acidity levels. Set aside to age (I tried a 2016 and 2013), the outcome is a layered and poised wine that delights from nose to taste buds.

Relearning Lambrusco

A highlight for this year’s Vinitaly was the Lambrusco tasting led by wine educator Filippo Bartolotta. Held in the bombastic Emilia Romagna pavilion, seven glasses of Emilia Romagna’s oft-maligned bubbles awaited our attention. Temperature is everything with this red grape that calls for food and whose eclecticism dazzles when made with tender loving care. The tasting began with a saline amber-hued 2020 Lambrusco di Sorbara before moving on to a buttery grand cru and transparent sour cherry version, followed by a rose gold, almost bubble-less Reggiano DOC, a cherry red Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC, another Reggiano DOC with the acidity of citrus and a taut Grasparossa di Castelvetro to close. What a learning experience!

Learning about native Italian grapes

Vinitaly 2022
Nosing Falanghina at Vinitaly 2022. Ph. Marco Badiani

Another showstopper at Vinitaly 2022 was the Coldiretti farmers’ union’s Great Native Italian Grapes tasting. Eight small-scale producers from eight Italian regions took us through a speed date of their native grapes and challenges, from a sparkling Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi in Marche, via an exotic Falanghina in Campania, a bitterish Rossese di Dolceacqua from Liguria, a heat-seeking Negroamaro from Puglia, and a utterly beguiling DOC Tai Rosso from Veneto.  

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