Category Italian

These wine novices in a class of their own

Students in Jim Campanini’s wine class listen as the “Wine Novice” talks about his passion. COURTESY PHOTO

The Nesmith House was glamorous and full of life for the first class of “Vino Rosso: The Incomparable Red Wines of Northern Italy.” Nineteen enthusiastic oenophiles met Thursday in Lowell to learn about the four pillars of prestigious Italian wine – Super Tuscan, Chianti, Barolo and Brunello – from the Piemonte and Toscana regions. We also discussed the top red wine of the Veneto – Amarone della Valpolicella – which is one of my favorites.  My “students” sampled seven wines which were paired with the Wine Goddess’ small plates of Italian treasures, including baked eggplant parmigiana and meatballs stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and Vidalia onions.

The 2-hour evening came to a sweet conclusion when students toasted their success – each had to pass a 10-question final exam – with a glass of Vin Santo di Chianti Classico, a decadent dessert wine made from native Trebbiano Toscana and Malvasia Bianca grapes. As it that wasn’t enough, the Wine Goddess served homemade dried cherry and almond biscotti to resounding applause.

So, as the Italians would say, we had some serious fun.

The group asked some really good questions and amazed me with their keen senses of smell and taste. Most were spot on in deducing the basic aromatic and flavor profiles of the wines, and didn’t hesitate to delve deeper into the complex layers when presented with more structured, powerful bottlings. I was proud that they learned so well.

Jim Campanini teaches a wine class at the Nesmith House in Lowell. COURTESY PHOTO

For those who were shut out of this first class, a second has been added for Thursday, Nov. 8 at the same location. Contact Middlesex Community College to register, or go on the school’s website.

I want to congratulate my students for their attentiveness, energy, and support. We couldn’t develop elegant wine education programs like this without your help. And the same goes for MCC and its staff, which brought this program to life and continues to support it with its own resources, including the fabulous Nesmith House location. This was our third wine class collaboration since last year, and we’re planning two special programs in the spring of 2019 – one on sparkling wines and the other on the ancient volcanic wines of southern Italy. Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascarelli and Taurasi are just a few that come to mind.

To show you that my students command the utmost respect, here are several exam questions they learned to master. If you don’t know the answer, you should take the class. Salute!

Italian Red Wine Class Final Exam

Instructor: Jim Campanini, IWS

1.      In which wine region is Sangiovese the “king of all grape varieties”?

a.      Piemonte

b.      Toscana

c.       Veneto

d.      All of the above 

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Taste your way to an education in Italian wines (like I did)

By Jim Campanini
If you are truly interested in developing your global wine acumen, there’s no better way to start than with the Wine Scholar Guild’s Italian Wine Scholar program that begins Saturday, Oct. 13.
My mentor , Jo-Ann Ross, will be teaching Unit 1 on Northern Italian wines, which covers Piedmont, Trentino, Alto Adige and Val
D’Aosta.
I began my Italian studies with this class two years ago, and it was exceptional. I met wonderful people in the wine trade, restaurant owners and chefs, sommeliers, and young and older professionals who love wine.
We studied the different Italian regions — their customs and history — and learned about the unique native grapes and distinctive wine-making styles that have given Italy top-tier status with other global producers ...
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Six wines (other than Chardonnay) to perk up the palate

Giesen Sauvignon Blanc features rich and vivid grapefruit and tangerine traits.

If you’re suffering from summer Chardonnay overload, here are few white wines — and new vareitals —  that can pep up the palate for autumn.

Pieropan Soave Classico is a gem from the Veneto region.

• Pieropan Soave Classico 2016, $14.99 — Nino Pieropan’s 50th anniversary vintage is quite a knockout, scoring an outstanding 92 point rating from Wine Enthusiast magazine. For less than $15 a bottle at The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover, it’s an outstanding buy.
Soave is made principally from  the native Garganega grape that excels in the Veneto region. Pieropan’s vineyards are located in an historic zone high atop a walled-in  village outside Verona...

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Grapes can’t talk — so the Wine Novice will

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

If grapes could talk – some winemakers insist they can whisper to them – Italy’s more than 1,000 varieties could tell stories of how they fueled papal conquests, Roman legions on the move, and even the seductions of emperors and kings.

When I open a bottle of Italian wine, I often wonder who trod the ancient soil of the vineyard where the grapes were grown. The great Caesar? Augustine? Or maybe a Bendictine monk who would later become pope.

The history, culture and cuisine of Italy remain fascinating to this day.

That said, if you enjoy Italian wines or want to learn more about them, I’ll be holding another fun night of vino viniferous education on Thursday, Oct. 11, from 7-9 p.m. at the gorgeous Nesmith House in Lowell...

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Lacryma Christi may just have you weeping for joy

Terra Mia’s Lacryma Christi has a distinctive label and story to tell.

Just the name – Terra Mia’s Lacryma Christi di Vesuvio Bianco – is enough to intrigue a curious wine drinker to investigate what’s in the bottle. So begins today’s journey into a truly unique white wine from the Italian province of Campania.

According to archaeologists who analyzed residue left on ancient casks, Lacryma Christi comes closest to matching the version of wine drunk by the ancient Romans who lived around the still active volcano Mt. Vesuvius, which overlooks the Bay of Naples.

Lacryma Christi, which means the “tears of Christ”, was a very prized wine in the Middle Ages.  Iit still  lives up to its reputation today although few non-Italians know about it.

Centuries ago, the Romans exported it throughout th...

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Part 2: There’s a lavish Brunello for most budgets

La Poderina 2004 is bright, energetic and silky smooth as it celebrates its 14th birthday.

In a recent column, I wrote about the versatility of the sangiovese grape, and focused on the high end Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino from Tenuta Il Greppo in Tuscany. Biondi-Santi is a collector’s wine, selling for high prices. But you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to enjoy this exquisite and highly revered Italian red. Listed below are several Brunellos from my own cellar that I’ve cracked open in recent months as they hit their peak drinking window.

La Velona is modest in scope but still very pleasant.

Il Valentiano Brunello Campo di Marzo 2007 – The years have been kind to this middle-tier Brunello, which sold for $24 a bottle  when it hit our shores six years ago...

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Biondi-Santi Brunello: Sangiovese at its best

Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino has a rich history in Italian viticulture.

Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape in Italy and also among the most versatile.

It reigns supreme in Tuscany, where sangiovese (translation: blood of Jove or Jupiter) is the primary grape for four distinctly incredible wines: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile Montepulciano (not to be confused with the southern Italian varietal and wine Montepuciano D’Abruzzi).
Sangiovese is also used to craft iconic Super Tuscan wines, mostly from Bolgheri, where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.

So how can the same grape produce uniquely, different tasting wines?

It’s all in the varietal’s multiple clones and, of course, the terroir (land, soils, cl...

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Prosecco Part Two: Cartizze ‘cru’ and 4 DOCG delights

A nice holiday selection of Prosecco Superiore DOCG bottlings. See tasting notes below.

By Jim Campanini

So what’s the difference between Prosecco DOC and Prosecco Superiore DOCG sparkling wines?

Location, location, location. And a few more production details.
The Prosecco DOC classification zone is broader, covering about 44,000
acres under vine in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions
around Treviso.

Prosecco Superiore DOCG zone is much smaller — only 17,000 acres — and runs from Valdobbiadene in the west to Conegliano in the east. This small zone has
the steepest hillsides which form an embroidered network of   sloping vineyards.

Fagher Valdobbiadene Le Colture Brut.

The Belluno Prealps to the north creates annamphitheater effect to shield  vineyards from harsh winter weat...

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For a road trip, bring a six-pack — of vino

Rosa dei Masi from Italy s Veneto region

Rosa dei Masi from Italy s Veneto region

It’s party pack time, a six-bottle sampler for a weekend getaway or an extended trip to the beach.

In my mind, the key to any good summer road trip includes a rosé, a crisp white wine, and a punchier red varietal or blend.

Andiamo! (Let’s go!)

THE ROSATTOS: There are simple, good rosés, and then there are the complex, intriguing styles that turn happiness into total bliss.

Costaripa Rosamara Chiaretto from the Lake Garda region in Lombardia

Costaripa Rosamara Chiaretto from the Lake Garda region in Lombardia

Two sublime examples are Rosa dei Masi from Italy’s Veneto region and Costaripa Rosamara Chiaretto from the Lake Garda region in Lombardia. (Both are available for less than $15 in New Hampshire.)

The Masi company is one of Italy’s leading wine innovators as well as producer of the prestigious Costasera Amarone...

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Need a Thanksgiving Day wine? Here are 21 great selections

My wine experts agree: Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday and the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings goes best with American wine.
However, there are some wonderful Italian, French and Greek wines that pair well with the holiday meal. That said, here are 21 suggestions from some of the best wine directors in the business. Unless where noted, all wines are from California.
Please patronize your local retailers and enjoy — God Bless America!
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Jo-Ann Ross

Jo-Ann Ross

Jo-Ann Ross is a Napa Valley Vintners’ Greater Boston Wine Ambassador as well as New England’s first certified French Wine Scholar and Italian Wine Scholar.
Honig Sauvignon Blanc, $15.99 — The “H” in Honig has a yellow bee on the label as a dedication to its organic vineyards.
Acacia Carneros Chardonnay, $11...

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