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Posted: Wed, 11 December 2019 12:55

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Festa Italiana 2019 sparkles with a Masterclass for Italics Wine Club

Dec 11: The 12th edition of Festa Italiana 2019 was celebrated in Mumbai recently with several activities organised by the Indo Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IICCI) which also organised a Masterclass on Italian Sparkling wines on November 27 conducted by Luca Bernardini and Cavaliere Subhash Arora at the newly opened VIVITALIA, center for exhibits and other activities relating t in Urmi, Lower Parel. This was followed by the well-organised annual event with dinner on the lawns of Taj Lands End n Bandra on November 29

Spumante, Frizzante and Bollicine (bubbles) are very much a part of Italian winemaking and drinking culture. Every region has its own version of sparkling wine with Prosecco being the most popular category currently of Spumante (sparkling wine). In principle, there are three basic styles of sparkling wine- double fermentation in the bottle (Methodo Classico) like Ferrari and Franciacorta, second fermentation in the tank (Martinotti Method)- popularised as Charmat method and carbonation in the bottle (like Coca Cola) like some Frizzaante (sparkling wine with very low atmospheric pressure like Coke. 

Bubbles of Spumante

Spumante is the umbrella under which the three popular bubblies are classified- starting from the Northeast Italy where one finds ubiquitous Prosecco, then a Rose Spumante that is classified simply as a Rose Spumante (though in India many importers sell it as the Pink Prosecco-because most wineries making Prosecco also make the pink version and although in principle the Consortium of Prosecco doc has already announced the category of Pink Prosecco, it has not been in the market yet. From here we go to Franciacorta, the Capital of wine made from grapes basically similar to champagne in the Province of Brescia in Lombardy (Lombardia). Going further west is Asti in Piedmont from where Moscato d’Asti was showcased.

Type and style

Spumante eclipses Frizzante which has a much lower pressure of 2.5-4 psi and even a crown cap can withstand the pressure whereas Spumante has a pressure of 5-6 psi, similar to champagne which are closer to 6 psi- twice the pressure in car tyres. Carbonated wine is barely fizzy and a screwcap can well handle it. Spumanti (plural for Spumante) have different styles of residual sugar- 0-12 gms (Brut), 12-17 gms (Extra Dry), 17-32 gms (Dry). Thus one has to watch out for the fallacy-Dry always means sweet-sweeter than Extra Dry. In India there is almost equal proportion of Brut and Extra Dry Prosecco available, a majority preferring the latter with about 12-14 gms of sugar/liter.

Wines Tasted

Prosecco made from 100% Glera grape (previously referred to as Prosecco grapes before 2009 when the new classification of docg was introduced) from Astoria, a winery close to Conegliano in the classic docg area was the first sparkling wine made in the most north eastern part of Italy in around 1870. Galie Prosecco di Treviso Extra Dry doc in a sturdy bottle with diamond cut design is a typical bottle of the estate making a huge variety of Prosecco in several styles. The winery has constructed a beautiful Tasting showroom on the main highway about 10 kms from the city where one may taste dozens of variants and buy wines in beautiful bottles- a hallmark of the winery very popular with tourists.

Interestingly it is sold as Spanish Prosecco in Madrid where I had tasted it at MadridFusion last year. At 11% alc, and a lot of mousse that gushes out on uncorking, makes it a pleasant sight and also bubbly on the palate. This is an excellent accompaniment with light snacks or even by itself. Fresh and crispy wine with pale colour is very perfumed and with persistent taste and a juicy finish. One can taste it at the Mesa Bar and Restaurant at Aerocity in Delhi (or perhaps at a wine dinner/Masterclass of the Italics Wine Club).

Sensi Rose Brut: Produced in Treviso-capital of Prosecco, this Rose Brut Spumante is primarily to meet the market demand for a Rose Brut; it is made from 100% Pinot Noir also by Charmat (Martinotti) method. At the outset, the colour of the bottle is very feminine from outside-pink as if it were crafted for every female. The wine was very fresh and juicy and aromatic with ample notes of strawberry fruits, black berries and raspberries. It’s a bonus that the alcohol level is low at 11%, same as in Prosecco.

Bellavista Franciacorta: Franciacorta created waves in the early 1960s when Berlucchi came out with the champagne styled drinks with second fermentation in the bottle. Using grapes similar to Champagne-Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and yet allowing a sprinkling of the local grape Pinot Blanc, the wine was well loved by Italians and foreigners.

Bellavista is one of the top producers that started around 1970. This bubbly has around 77% of Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and only 1% Pinot Blanc (the exact proportion is neither that important nor same in every vintage-it depends on the winemaker- blender what he finds most charming as combination) what he uses. Using the Methode Traditionelle (Champenoise method in Champagne), this Spumante has undergone two and a half years of ageing in the bottle, making it smooth and creamy in the mouth. The mousse is fine and persistent, the flavour mineral with a touch of lemon, the mouthfeel is persistent and long, it leaves the mouth pleasant. Complex, zingy and delicious example of an Italian bubbly.

Marchesi di Barolo Moscato d’Asti

Moscato is perhaps the oldest grape in Italy-it can give very dry to very sweet wines-does better with sweet wines. Asti in Piemonte was the Western-most region represented in the Masterclass. When one thinks of sparkling wine in Piemonte (Piedmont), Moscato d’Asti is the first name that comes to mind. Marchesi is a very old producer from Barolo and has done a good job in making this wine that would work well as a dessert or with very hot food from India or South of Italy. The grape must is chilled and fermented in autoclave-like in Martinotti method for Prosecco. The carbon dioxide with lovely mousse is entrapped the wine. Fermentation is stopped by cooling down the process, leaving a high residual sugar of about 140 gms/lit compared with 14 gms in the Prosecco, keeping the alcohol level to a minimum of only 5%. Thanks to the grape characteristics the aroma is intense and rich in aromatics – quite reminiscent of peach and apricot. Acidity is also not very high and makes for a pleasant freshness and finish.

The service at the Vivitalia was remarkably good and the Grano Padano cheese and ready to eat sausages provided an opportunity to fill the hungry stomachs and provide food and wine match which in any case with these wines was easy. Great evening as everyone agreed before leaving the tasting room where Luca had prepared a Power Point presentation and Arora kept on elaborating the beauty of Italian bubblies as the two went along elaborating.

Festa Italia Finale

Festa Italiana has been conducting annual events globally to promote Italian products including those in the field of gastronomy which are being sold in the country. The 12th edition was a culmination of various activities organised by the Indo Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IICCI), presided by Cesare Saccani. It was a pleasure to see Stefania Costanza, Consul General of Italy in Mumbai. Claudio Maffioletti. CEO of the Chamber was seen receiving all the guests very warmly, including those who are doing business in India and those that were being felicitated at the dinner which was beautifully laid out with several live counters and a fabulous spread of Indian and Italian cuisine. A few sponsors like Ducati, Marangoni, Aperol Spritz (with a beautiful cycle stand), wine producers interested in Indian market and a couple of other sponsors decorated the periphery of the lawns, made it an evening memorable. Pity I had to catch a flight to Delhi that I could not afford to miss as I had to catch another one from Delhi for Amsterdam, next morning. Next year, I hope there are so such clashes.

Subhash Arora



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