Dec 08: Alessandro Nesi, Sommelier in the family winery being run since 1882, now by the fourth generation of Piccini family of Tuscany, which has extended its operations to Puglia and now to Etna in Sicily, was in India for about three weeks and stopped by in Delhi to introduce the Etna white and red from the family estate Tore Mora at a Lunch at Hyatt Regency, writes Subhash Arora who enjoyed them along with the Valiano Chianti Classico and a Brunello 2011 from the family estate in Montalcino
When I first tasted an Etna white wine over a dozen year ago during my first visit to Sicily, I was not enamoured by it. But after tasting from different producers over the next few days, i really fell in love with it. The volcanic minerality, the fullness on the palate, the great homogeneity makes me salivate. So, when I had an invitation from Prestige Wines and Spirits for Lunch on December 6 at La Piazza at the Hyatt Regency with a promise to taste Etna White and Red produced by Torre Mora acquired by Piccini a couple of years ago, I was quick to accept the invite. Also on the cards was my favourite Chianti Classico from Valiano Estate in Castelnuova Berardenga in the Province of Siena.
Another important reason was that Alessandro Nesi, Corporate Sommelier and travelling marketing person for the group was going to be in Delhi after spending 3 weeks in India. I have known Alessandro for several years and meet him regularly at Chianti, Chianti Classico Anteprima and Montalcino every year. A very pleasant person, it is always fun to exchange notes on happenings in the area, so I was pretty excited to meet him again. Rare presence of Shaji Paul, the F & B Director of Hyatt Regency was another factor that made my day; food and service has always been consistent here for the last 25 years.
Torre Mora is a small estate of 13 hA spread over 2 plots at a height of around 700 meters. It focuses on organic and sustainable farming and traditional methods of wine making. It is the latest acquisition by the family winery known for volumes of quaffable wines. I have always liked the Memoro from its winery in Maremma, Tenuta Maraia- a value for money wine from grapes in four corners of Italy.
Valiano is a 230 hA property in Castelnuovo Berardenga, close to Siena and produces full range of Chianti Classico wines. In 2014 when Chianti Classico Consortium introduced Gran Selezione, this was also added to the portfolio. What I tasted at the Tuscan Tasting last year in February, 2018 with Alessandro convinced me that it would be one of the best value-for-money high quality wines when imported to India; I have reasons to believe that the procurement and registration is under process.
Villa Al Cortile is the Estate owned by Piccini in Montalcino where Brunello di Montalcino is made also from organically grown grapes-another high end wine from the Estate, served at the table.
Alessandro was kind enough to explain about the wines of the day to each guest individually. The code of ethics at La Piazza does not encourage talking to a group at the table. Piccini Prosecco Extra Dry doc- A glass of Prosecco is always a welcome drink on arrival- I made sure I had only half a glass of the 600 million bottles produced in this North Eastern region of Italy last year. It had about 12014 gms of residual sugar making it perfect for the Indian palate but nothing outstanding.
But the next glass of Torre Mora Etna Scalunera DOC Bianco was not the only glass I had- exploding with volcanic minerality and balanced acidity. It was fresh on the palate and long on the end. Elegant wine with herbal notes and good vibrancy. Reminded me of the conversation I once had with one of the top producers of Sicily who had finally managed to buy some land in the area; it’s difficult to buy land in the hily, volcanic area where Mount Etna is active and lava is strewn all over the vineyards every once in a while. He explained to me that although the main grape of white wine in Etna, Carricante was grown in many other parts of Sicily, it showed its unique form only in Etna-in other places it was just another ordinary grape. The taste of this wine amply evidenced that, with almost 100% of the grape with a dash of Catarratto, the second white grape in Etna white.
Before the Red Etna variant, we tried the Valiano Chianti Classico-another premium wine from the house of Piccini which is known for value for money wines and hence sells more of Piccini Chianti docg wines at good prices (around Rs. 2300). Mostly made from Sangiovese (95%) and the balance Merlot (5%) makes the flavour smooth and acidity lively, making it compatible with Indian food with fatty texture-it was certainly a perfect match with the divine pepperoni pizza dished out by the Chef. Flavour of black cherry and plums was persistent; with a full and pleasant mouthfeel and good structure with ripe tannins. (At Rs. 3500 MRP it is a good value for money wine).
Torre Mora Etna Scalunera Rosso doc with 95% Nerello Mascalese and the balance Narello Cappuccio it was a nicely balanced wine with soft tannins and decent structure and slightly soft on the palate. It was elegant, harmonious and balanced wine with long after-taste that went well with the pasta.
Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino docg 2011 was still young though after decanting the tannins had been tamed and it had become soft on the palate. Full of red berry fruits like black cherries and liquorice made it very pleasant on the palate, especially the spicy notes that gave it complexity as well. I was obliged to order a lamb shank just to try the match and I am glad I did-it was a classic match.
The wines were all of top quality, not including Prosecco which was plebeian but passable. The food and the company were excellent and the atmosphere relaxed-or was it due to more wine than what one would drink normally! But it was a consensus that Alessandro should spend more time in Delhi and that there should be more tastings in this format.
I am already looking forward to meet Alessio in Tuscany in mid-February and sample a host of wines from the different estates.
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