Petersham Nurseries’ head sommelier, Mattia Scarpazza, gives Imbibe the low-down on five of his favourite northern-Italian wines
The north of Italy produces some of the most recognisable and distinctive wines in the world: Barolo, Amarone della Valpolicella, prosecco and Pinot Grigio to name a few.
However, to anyone who has tried to better understand its regions and subregions, it can be confusing and diverse, with the possibility of planting in numerous valleys, by lakes, rivers and even coasts.
And with 192 appellations, both DOC and DOCG, producing wines using different grape varieties and blends – not counting all the ITG wines – the north of Italy represents a challenge.
That’s why sommeliers and retailers should pay close attention to its wines. They have some great stories attached to them, as well as different styles that can offer great pairing opportunities and make your Italian wine selection sparkle.
Here is a selection of five wines that you may have missed in this abundance of choice.
1. Nosiola Fontanasanta, Elisabetta Foradori
Elisabetta Foradori made the Teroldego grape variety famous in the late 1980s thanks to her massal selection of it, which led other producers to follow suit.
She is now one of the most influential producers in the Trentino Alto Adige region, and practises biodynamic growing and winemaking as a long-term member of the Biodynamic Association.
In 2009, she released Nosiola Fontanasanta, a white wine made in accordance with her philosophy and aged in tinajas (amphoras).
The wine is defined by its elegance and clean aromas that harmonise with its velvety, weighty sensation on the palate. A truly entertaining wine for every occasion.
2. ‘Convento SS. Annunciata’, Bellavista
The Franciacorta region is better-known for its sparkling wines, but the SS. Annunciata Chardonnay is a prime example of its ability to produce still wines.
Bellavista is one of the most prominent wineries of the region, which started producing wine as early as 1978.
Annunciata has an elegant imprint with notes of ripe lemon, lime, fresh peach, white pepper and wildflowers with a soft, creamy mouthfeel, and a long aftertaste.
These light, fresh aromas with undertones of oak make it an interesting food-pairing wine.
3. Pelaverga di Verduno ‘Basadone’, Castello di Verduno
With less than 20ha of planting, limited to the northernmost village of the Barolo appellation, Pelaverga is a niche production and unlikely to increase.
Castello di Verduno winery was the first to plant a dedicated vineyard of Pelaverga in 1972, with a second planting in the late 1990s, yielding a total yearly production of 10,000 bottles.
In contrast to the local hero, Nebbiolo, Pelaverga wines are bright and light, with strawberry aromas and a distinctive black pepper note. Well priced, it is an ideal wine to sell by the glass to spice up a selection.
4. Schioppiettino, Ronchi di Cialla
The producer’s eldest son, Pierpaolo Rapuzzi, confessed over lunch that during the 1970s the Schioppiettino grape could not be entered in local competitions as it was considered extinct.
Undeterred, the family entered their wines as Merlot. When they won gold medals for their ‘Merlot’ they admitted that it was Schioppiettino. This so impressed the local regulatory bodies that they added it to Colli Orientali DOC in 1989.
Schioppiettino has pronounced flavours when young, a fresh palate and moderate alcohol making it ideal for lunch. The wine ages beautifully, developing complexity and mellowing. It is perfect for a wine pairing menu, not least because there is whole range of vintages dating back to 1977.
5. Lagrein Riserva ‘Amperg’, Klaus Lentsch
Klaus Lentsch has long been a winemaker in the Austrian-speaking part of the Trentino Alto Adige region.
He took over the winery in 2008, focusing on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Grüner Veltliner. But it is the Lagrein that showcases his ability as a winemaker.
Lagrein wines can be earthy and somewhat rustic, but ‘Amperg’ is not, with prevalent flavours of rose, violet and blueberries. On the palate the wine is vibrant with soft tannins, characteristic of the northerly region and high altitude. A great party wine.