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Wine — Tasting


Posted by Tom Kisthart on

Join us September 30th, 2015 for the first installment of our 'Underdog Wine Series' from 6:00 to 8:00. It is a free sampling of 6 wines.

If you've read any of my posts with some degree of frequency, you've probably heard me rant about Soave before. I'll start with the quick version of why this wine (and area) called Soave matters.

There was a brand of wine that came in a big black bottle whose name became synonymous with the term Soave. I don't like to name names (actually I do) let's just say the winery rhymed with 'cola'. Aptly so. The wine inside said bottle didn't taste much like anything. Mostly because they cranked so many grapes out of the vines that the resultant wine is rather dilute.

Enter real Soave

Anytime there is such a widespread consumer misconception about a particular region it typically drives prices down and quality up (of the dedicated producers). Not a bad situation as long as you're the consumer that's in the know. The producers have to work extra hard to show how good their wines are and that they have little in common with the brand (or style) that everyone associates with the region.

There's my introduction, onto the wine

Soave is an area within northeastern Italy that is a good deal inland from Venice near the city of Verona. The region specializes in white wines made from the Garganega [gahr-GAH-neh-gah] grape. Garganega is not much grown anywhere else. Ask me to describe what it's similar to and Pinot Grigio is the first thing that comes to mind although that's admittedly lazy. The other grape commonly used to make Soave is Trebbiano di Soave in the form of a supporting role and can often impart a slightly floral component to the wine. Chardonnay is also now permitted, although there a more than a few skeptics.

At some point many years ago there were volcanoes in this area. What we have today is mostly a mix of volcanic and limestone soils. It is the soil, many believe, some dispute, that imparts a mineral taste to the wines. Minerality is tough to recognize in a wine when you're starting out tasting. I suspect some mistakenly use it as a descriptor when there is an absence of flavor. Next time you have a mineral water, leave it on your tongue for a little bit and try to spot that sensation the next time you have a wine that is typically mineral. Here is a speculation on minerality that is my own as far as I know. You can have a wine that is very mineral on the palate without a whole lot of other flavors. Wine geeks like myself will probably love it. Normal humans probably won't. When you have that same mineral backbone along with more complex flavors, that minerality is the special sauce that makes people say "wow" even if they don't realize that's what's playing a large part in causing that wine to seem special to them. Just a humble theory.

Onto the wines. Really now

Pieropan is considered one of the greatest producers of Soave. So much so that the mega company Gallo, looking to expand their fine wine presence, just secured the US distribution rights. Pieropan's entry level Soave is always a tremendous bargain. I was just reading a description of the nose that said almond blossoms and marzipan which sounds so fitting but I don't think I've ever smelled either. Beyond their entry level Soave they make what are called 'cru' or single vineyard Soaves. While the bottles last we'll get to taste them tonight.

2013 Pieropan 'Calvarino' Soave Classico - This comes from a special hillside vineyard with volcanic soil. It has similarities to a good Alsatian Pinot Gris. Experiencing this wine is like drinking from a purest stream, rocks and all! There's a coveted wine award in Italy which only a small amount are given each year called
Tre Bicchieri (3 glasses). This wine often get's it and that is the case with this vintage. Getting 3 glasses doesn't just mean that a wine is great, it also means that this wine is a true representation of a particular type of wine, typically tied to a place.

Pieropan 'La Rocca' Soave Classico - We don't have any in the store to sell tonight but can special order it. This vineyard is situated in chalky soil versus the volcanic Calvarino. It is a broader wine that approaches Chardonnay in body (unoaked) and even has some tropical / exotic fruit notes. Retail price is about $40.

Please only one taste per guest on the above 2 single vineyard wines.

2014 Suavia Soave Classico - This wine is made with 100% Garganega in volcanic soils. We poured this in a tasting recently and much to my delight it most everyone loved it. I like the description from the winery Nose: "
it shows fresh notes of apple, Kaiser pear and jasmine together with tropical fruit. Palate: smooth and creamy, it offers almond and mineral brightened by crisp acidity." This winery has some fascinating other wines like a 100% Trebbiano di Soave which is awesome but I find unsellable at $35 a bottle. I'm waiting until it goes on 'closeout' and then I pounce...

Inama Soave Classico - This, to me, is the lightest of the wines we'll be tasting tonight. It is fresh, with slight aromas of white flowers and a lightly mineral palate. It very much tastes like Soave should to me. I enjoyed a bottle with my girlfriend on our balcony one recent warm Sunday afternoon and it gave us that nice warm, fuzzy feeling beyond the buzz of alcohol.

Anselmi San Vincenzo - This is the producer that I mentioned in last week's email that decided to stop labeling his wines as Soave. He got fed up with trying to influence the governing body (or Consorzio) over the appellation to make the regulations stricter. Now instead of pestering EU bureaucrats he just makes Soave and rides around on one of his many motorcycles with his attractive wife. I know what I'd rather be doing. He blends 10% Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in with the Garganega which makes for a unique slightly richer example. The Sauvignon Blanc adds an additional layer of complexity perhaps with a touch of greenness.

As always thank you so much for reading. I hope you have the chance to stop by tonight to taste a representation of what I feel to be some of the most underappreciated wines in the world.

I look forward to setting up our next installment of the 'Underdog Wine Series'...

Soave Tasting - 'Underdog Wine Series'

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

Join us on Wednesday, September 30th 2015 from 6:00 to 8:00PM for the first installment of our 'Underdog Wine Series'.

Soave is one of the world's most under appreciated white wines. This is largely in part because the region - near Verona, in Italy's Veneto - got a bad rap for mass-produced wines tasting like mineral water with a drop of lemon. There are however many quality focused producers that can't sell their wine for nearly what it is worth due to this miss-perception that many drinkers have. Those in the know win.

Our tasting will focus on some of the best Soaves that I've come across in sampling all that I can get my hands on. The lineup is still being finalized but it may include a red wine that is not considered Soave but made in the same area by a producer of Soave. There is a category of Soave called Cru (or single vineyard) that I would like to feature one of. However the ones I've been tasting from the 2013 vintage haven't been up to the quality level I expect and that may be due to the year or the wines simply requiring more time in bottle. Be sure to be on our email list for updates and news on future tastings in our 'Underdog Wine Series', You can add yourself here.

This one will be a free tasting.

Notes on the Friday Wine Tasting, August 21th 2015

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

The following is from our email newsletter. If you're not on the list, click here to add yourself.

Hello Everyone,

I love underdog wine regions. Last week it nearly brought a tear to my eye seeing how well the 3 Muscadets sold at the tasting and throughout the week. Not one person responded by saying "I don't like sweet wines". Progress.

I really want to continue championing neglected regions and have ideas for upcoming tastings. The first one I'll announce will be a Soave tasting. Some of you may remember those big black bottles from Bolla. Real Soave tastes nothing like that watered down stuff. It tastes like drinking a volcano. Maybe that's a bit extreme but the volcanic soil in the area around Verona (northeast Italy) lends itself to the character of this white wine. I'll announce details of the tasting next week. Thinking about making it a Thursday tasting in addition to our Friday one. If the response is good we'll make it a series of tastings featuring one neglected area at a time. The underdogs. Craft & Curd knows how it can be. We're fighting the fight though.

Friday's Tasting

Continuing on the underdog theme we'll finish tonight's tasting with a Lambrusco. You may think of Riunite when you hear that word but the one we're pouring is not quite as sweet. However it is also light red, slightly sparkling and a bit sweet. Some purists claim real Lambrusco should be dry. The dry ones I've had can be interesting but I find the sweet ones much more drinkable and versatile at the table. Lambrusco comes from Emilia Romagna an area in Italy known for rich fatty foods. So when you're making a pasta with cream sauce, grilling sausages or throwing together fresh mozzarella with tomatoes think Lambrusco. I'll break out some more of the spicy prosciutto spread tonight (which by the way no one has bought but me, you don't know what you're missing) Check out some of the things you can do with it in the kitchen in this New York Times article:

We'll be starting the tasting with a dry sparkling rose from the same producer who makes the Lambrusco. I was turned onto it by my friends and former co-workers at Bianchi's Enoteca (Susan, Romeo & myself worked at Bern's Fine Wine & Spirits during the same period). I highly recommend checking this great Tampa wine bar out if you're not familiar with them. One of my favorite places to grab a drink and discover new things. Hint: don't ask them for a glass of 'Cabernet'.

If anyone saw some of my pictures from the beach this past weekend you might have noticed a bottle of Verdicchio that I was drinking. Verdicchio di Matelica refers to both the grape and the region it is grown in central Italy's Adriatic coast. Although this particular zone is land-locked it is still the perfect accompaniment to many types of seafood. The wines can age pretty long just as long as the producer doesn't seal it with a synthetic cork as I'm starting to see (another way to bring a tear to my eye). Luckily for us this one is closed in screw cap. Verdicchio will be another candidate for our developing underdog wines series. I haven't tasted enough good ones yet but I know they're out there.

I'm also really excited by another Cabernet I've just found from Paso Robles called Broadside. It is a steal. Don't look to Napa for value in California. Look south to Paso. I think it will be a hit.

There will be more wines, of course, and some new additions on the gourmet side. We just got in these excellent crackers or crisps as they refer to them with cranberry and hazelnut. And if you've had the awesome fig & coco spread we carry, we now also have their sister spread which is fig & orange. Those two combined with a new goat cheese that we've gotten in from Vermont Creamery called Bijou will be awesome together.

See you tonight my friends. We appreciate everyone who comes to the tastings and everyone who pops in during the week to support your local small wine, cheese and beer shop. Don't forget the underdogs.

(Tasting: 6:00 to 8:00 Every Friday $10 Per Person)