Italian Wine Course in Utiel/

Italian Wine Course in Utiel.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a course run by the Valencian Governments Tourism Ministry as an observer. The course , an introduction to and tasting of wines from around Italy was held in the Bodega Redonda, the HQ of the controlling body for the wines of Utiel-Requena, in Utiel. The course is aimed at broadening the knowledge of professionals in the tourism trade, including bodegas, country hotels, guest houses and restaurants. Around twenty people engaged in this activity in the area attended and the course was led by Luca Bernasconi, himself Italian, of `Mesclat´ in Beltran Bigorra, Valencia.
Luca is a very personable guy and his `walk´ through the various DOCG´s of Italy , their vineyards, regional grapes and wine styles was comprehensive, easy to follow and very interesting. The nearly eight hours this took, spread over two afternoons was punctuated by a tasting of 18 wines from across Italy to illustrate the huge variety of wines available from this wine producing giant. In fact Italy produces some 48.633 million hectolitres of wine annually, is the largest grower of grapes of any nation in the world, has the third largest vineyards in the world, is the largest exporter of wine and has some 350 regional grape varieties as well as the internationally recognised noble varieties.
We commenced with the Valle de Aosta in the North followed by Liguria, and Lombardy. Here there are a huge variety of wines and styles. Popular and known the whole world over is Asti Spumante and this was the first wine we tried. The Moscato de Asti Martelleti at 5% ABV is an aperitif, an easy drinking frizzante lemon in colour with bright flashes, not a lot of bubbles and more of a tiara than a  crown. On the nose apricots predominated and it was deceptively light and fresh. In the mouth it was  full but fresh, quite sweet and with a long full finish. It had good depth.
Next Luca introduced us to Barolo and the Valtellina, Francia Corta and other subzones. Then we moved on to the Trentino Alto Aldige, directly adjacent to Germany.  Second wine was very much in the germanic style, a Muller Thurgau from Bottega Vinae, 2009 and 12.5%ABV. This was pale lemon with green flashes, clean and bright with good legs. On the nose it was quite closed and on the palate there was good acid, minerals, and it was fresh with a long finish.  This was not a terribly popular wine with my fellow tasters, described as `correct and without fault´ by the winemaker at Coviñas, it was uninteresting from a grape without much in the way of characteristics though apparently quite typical of the zone.
Next we moved on to the Veneto and Friuli Venecia Julia, the last of the Northern regions. The Veneto is the the largest producing  region in Italy.
Next wine was a Pinot Grigio Friuli 2009, 13%ABV from Cormons. This was straw, clean and bright  with long slow legs. This showed a little more on the nose, but was still restrained, with a very slightly rubbery touch. On the palate there was initially a prickle, then fresh acid attack, round but steely dry with a long finish.
Next we moved to the Emiliana Romana home to many famous wines including of course Lambrusco, a wine very popular here in Spain, ( Alcampo supermarkets carry at least 10 different lambruscos.) First of the two we tried was a 2009, Lambrusco Vino Frizzante Seco, Vigna Migliolugo and 11%ABV. This had nice bubbles, a good crown, and was a deep cherry red. On the nose light cherry fruit, sweets and a little cinnamon. However on the palate it was very dry, very short and very disappointing! By contrast the Lambrusco Otello, Nero de Lambrusco from Cantine Ceci was a different kettle of fish. This had a very full and persistent crown, and was purple black, with long legs. On the nose the fruit was jammy and in the mouth it had much fuller fruit, and a persistent finish. Recommended with the sausages and sliced meats of the region.
Next we moved back to the Trentino Alto Aldige for the first proper red. This was a Tereldego Rotaliano from Vina Cornileone, a 2006 12%ABV. It was carmine red, with long legs. On the nose blackberry fruit was very evident and this was carried into the mouth. A warm blackberry fruit, very slightly bitter aftertaste with balsamic touches and a long dry jammy finish, not unlike pomegranate. This had a nice structure and depth.
Next region was the Piemonte, home to Barberas. First wine was a Barbera de Asti, 13%ABV, 2008 from Scanavino. This wine was very much from the fresh and fruity school. A nice deep red, even to the rim and with very long legs. On the nose nice black jammy fruit, good alcohol, spices and balsamic notes. On the palate light fruit, a long persistent slightly bitter cherry finish. Second was a Barbera D´Alba, a Fontanabianca 2006 from Bruet at 14% ABV. Again this was a nice deep red, with long legs. On the nose quite smooth, black cherry and complex. On the palate less fruity, perhaps slightly more integrated, concentrated and powerful with a leathery long finish. Finally we finished the first session with a Dolcetto de Alba, San Martin 2008 from Serralunga d´ Alba. This is Piemontes early ripening grape variety making attractive every day reds. A medium ruby red with long legs, on the nose it was quite sweet with red and black fruits. On the palate a pleasant fruity red, an easy drinker with sufficient fruit to cover the slightly bitter edge.
The second afternoon session commenced with a look at the Marches where Verdichio predominates. This grape is also known as Verdejo, Macabeo and Viura in different parts of Spain where it is used in white Riojas, Rueda, and of course in Catalan cavas and widely across DO Valencia and DO Utiel-Requena. We were straight into the tasting in this session and commenced with a Verdichio del Castelli de Jesi. This was Casal de Serra, a 2009 and 13% ABV, a Classico Superiore. To the eye it was yellow, clean and bright with long legs. The nose was still closed but it was well structured on the palate, full and with a long finished. My colleagues recognised some of the characteristics though none of us found fennel.
From here we jumped to Sardinia, where a relative of Bobal, the Bovale Spagnola grows together with a variety of other grapes. We tried a Vermentino, a Costamolino 13%ABV 2009. This was pale gold with bright flashes and long legs. Citrus and tropical fruits dominated the nose and the palate was full on fat fruit, a very nice body, spicy with structure and a long finish. This was a wine for fish, shellfish and rice dishes and was well liked by all the tasters.
Back on the mainland we moved on to the Campania and a Fiano de Avellino. Some believe this to be Italy´s finest white wine and this was a 13%ABV, 2006 from Villa Raiano one of the better producers. This was also gold, even to the rim clean and bright with long legs. On the nose white flowers, tropical fruits and citrus. On the palate it was bone dry, spicy with a long dry finish.
Then it was North again and across country to the Abruzzo and Montepulciano de Abruzzo. The wine was a 2008 Valle Reale from young vines and 13% ABV. In colour it was indeed a young purple, coating the glass and with long legs. On the nose alcohol, black wood fruits and bitter cherries, but in the mouth red cherries, smooth tannins and a fruity and balanced finish. Nice wine.
No Italian wine course would omit Tuscany and especially Chianti. We were to taste two examples. First was a universally disappointing Colli Senesi, 2008 12.5% ABV with a minimum of 75% Sangiovese in it. Cherry red with long legs and cherry and plum on the nose it was dry and bitter on the palate. Not to the taste of my fellow coursemates!
The second wine was San Christophe, Sangiovese 2008 from Carandelle, and also 13% ABV. This was a marked contrast being cherry red with long legs and a much fruitier, boiled sweet nose. On the palate it had elegance, minerals, and was nicely structured with black fruits. As it opened up it became creamier and smooth.
Following a discussion on the Basilicata and its wonderfully named aglianico del vulture, though sadly not a tasting, we moved to Calabria and then the Puglia. Next wine was a Primitivo from 2006 from Ognissole, 14.5%ABV. This was a deep ruby red with long legs. and an elegant spicy jammy nose. On the palate aromatic blackberry fruit and tannins were balanced nicely in a persistent long finish.
And thus to Sicily, the new California some say given the amount of money being invested in wineries although sadly marsala is in decline.
Wine 17 on our tour was a Rossoibleo 2007 Nero de Avola 113%ABV. Deep Cherry in colour with long legs, this had a sweet jammy nose with hints of chocolate. On the palate chocolate, bitter fruit then  a slightly contradictory sweet fruit and a long finish. Lastly we tried a Vino de Pago, Nerobaronj 2004 from Gulfi, 14.5%ABV. This was a deep red cherry edging to terracotta. On the nose huge fruit, cherries and very complex and sweet. On the palate the fruit was more morello cherry, slightly bitter but with good depth and a long finish.
This was an interesting course enjoyed by all who attended. My overriding impression is that Italy now produces some technically sound innovative wines rather than the artesenal rustic wines I remember from ten to fifteen years ago. Fortunately there are now more Italian wines available here in Valencia so this will not have been a wasted experience. The whites ranged from steely bone dry to full and fat and the reds from dry and bitter to full well structured, spicy and complex with great depth- a good contrast all round. My thanks go to the DO for the invitation and to Luca.   
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