July 13: After a few aborted attempts to have an Italian Wine Masterclass during the current Pandemic, the Indo- Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IICCI) was finally able to organise one on July 9 at the Diva Restaurant at the Italian Embassy, New Delhi, conducted by Cavaliere Subhash Arora, aided by Luca Bernardini in Italy, who took the select few invitees on a virtual and tactile visit to Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Apulia (Puglia) with 4 wines and the food that was truly a divine match with these wines
Covid times have their limitations and the list of invitees to the masterclasses, kept on getting clipped to follow the rules strictly even though the Diva-The Italian Restaurant at the Embassy, refurbished completely during the lockdown, is fully sanitised restaurant that follows all the prescribed norms. The in-house food and wine expert from IICCI, Luca Bernardini who is in Italy had to be content with a virtual Presentation.
There were 4 wines served during the evening with Primi Piatti and a Dessert - from 3 wineries in 3 regions-starting with Veneto. As Arora explained, Veneto in North Italy is known for its Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone but it is the Prosecco wine region which is the most relevant area with the total sales of Prosecco touching a high of around 600 million bottles a few years ago. In 2019, The Prosecco Hills received UN Heritage Site recognition, making it even more popular for wine tourism. Thanks to the creation of two separate appellations and Consortiums-Prosecco doc and Prosecco Superiore docg in 2009, doc wines produced in 4 provinces- Gorizia, Pordenone, Trieste, and Udine in the Friuli region, were also included.
Arora feels more comfortable talking about any region or country with the map in front and had requested the IICCI to arrange a map of Italy which was provided to all with the details of wines to be tasted in the evening.
Astoria Prosecco Brut doc
Astoria Wines, owned by Paligato family, was founded in 1987 in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene belt. With 40 hA of vineyard on these hills, it qualifies to make docg wines but also produces a host of other sparkling wines supplemented by a substantial number of still wines. Astoria wines is about 6 kms from Conegliano which is 40 minutes by car, around 60 km from Venice. They have a beautiful wine shop and a wine lounge, full of tempting bottles in a vast collection. https://www.astoria.it/en/
Astoria Tiemo- Venetian Republic Collection
As a tribute to the history of glass- making and the region, Astoria has introduced 6 different wines in special hand-crafted but machine made bottles which differentiate each wine. Tiemo is a doc Brut Prosecco (residual sugar under 12 gms/liter). It uses 100% Glera grapes and has 12% Alc. With a nose of white flowers, it had freshness on the nose and very good presence of white fruits on the palate and an elegant and harmonious demeanour. The straw golden coloured wine being imported by Amphora and sold at the MESA Wine Bar in Aerocity, was an ideal match with the Salmon Tartare, capers and dill cream cheese crostini.
Puglia (Apulia) is known as the Wine Cellar of Europe. It is among the world’s top ten largest wine producers, producing more wine than the entire Germany. In the past, large steel wine tanks were transported to the north in order to give colour and alcoholic strength to wines. But beginning with the 1980s, the demand required focusing on quality wines and the new laws did not make it possible to blend these bulk wines with local wines. The better producers have learned to balance the fruitiness and the alcohol strength distinctively and make alcohol rich wines. The grape yields are higher than the other regions. This is ideal for large-scale production, about 30-40% of which is bottled. Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Nero di Troia are the most popular red wines. The region still offers wines at affordable prices.
It is a company based in the seaport of Trani, about 40 kms north of Bari with the Winery in Murgia, about 40 kms west of Trani and 60 kms west of Bari. The company specialises in special foods from small villages, that have survived centuries of tradition and wines. The next two wines-Zulfe Fiano White and Baldorie Primitivo Red were selected from this winery.
Fiano is a high-quality, white-wine grape variety used widely in southern Italy, particularly in Campania. Used mainly as a varietal wine, Fiano is nutty and textured with floral and honeyed notes, spice and tropical fruit flavours like pineapple. It would be unfair to compare it with the volcanic grapes of Campania- in fact, Fiano di Avellino is a docg wine.
Zulfe is 100% Fiano still wine from the Murgia region in Puglia. It is organic, medium to full bodied wine with highly perfumed notes of white flowers and green apples. Refreshing and delicious on the palate with notes of burnt almonds, this dark gold coloured wine can be a good match with chicken and white sauce or even pork dishes. It was a heavenly match with the Saffron Risotto with Shrimps, which was delicious and al dente.
Baldorie Red is a 100% Primitivo which is a grape similar to Zinfandel of California. Primitivo wines are generally high alcohol wines but this one at 14.5% has an acceptable level. Intense ruby red coloured wine has notes of red berries and black pepper with full flavours of ripe red fruits with silky tannins and good length and notes of liquorice and black pepper. Although it was paired with the favourite local dish- Orecchiette pasta, crumbled sausage with a dollop of burrata, I had requested to change the vegetarian pasta to Melanzane Parmigiana- a dish made with aubergines, tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella cheese that I felt would go better with the full bodied wine and strong tannins. I was not surprised that this was perhaps the best match in the Menu of the evening.
Emilia Romagna is an amalgamation of two different regions- Emilia in the west and Romagna in the East with the capital Bologna in the middle. It’s known for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Aceto Balsamico from Modena and Parma Ham. Lambrusco sparkling wine (though still versions are also available) comes from the Emilian half. The region extends almost across the entire Italy, from the Adriatic Sea in the West, touching Liguria in the West.
Piadina is a famous Emilia Romagna dish- like a Mexican Tortilla and Indian roti/paratha-which is available at Artusi Ristorante owned by Oscar Balcon in Delhi NCR and inspired by this region.
Emilia is located in the west and includes the main cities of Modena, Reggio, Parma and Piacenza. This part of the region is well known for the production of the Lambrusco sparkling wine, appreciated by wine lovers and hated by wine snobs. Generally, the wine produced in this part of the region is sweet wine from different parts of Emilia and most wines are IGT.
There are various levels of dryness / sweetness, including secco (bone dry / dry), amabile (off-dry / sweet) and dolce (very sweet). Sweet Lambrusco was very popular in the United States in the late 1970s-1980s, reaching a high of over 13 million cases in 1985. The wine has high acidity and berry flavours. Sparkling wines are made by Charmat method with the second fermentation in pressurized tanks called autoclaves.
Borgofulvia- part of Ferrari and Perini group since 1882-in Piacenza, is the latest member of F&P Wine Group. It has a complete range of products including still and sparkling wines.
Borgofulvia Lambrusco Rosso Dolce IGT was served with the dessert- Baked Cheesecake with Berry Compote. The low alcohol (7.5%) sweet wine was low in tannins although the acidity was vibrant and again it went perfectly well with the dish which was not too sweet.
The evening was an intimate one with a lot of interaction with the guests. Most participants loved the food and wine combinations and agreed that even the Lambrusco- the grape and the wine, was an excellent match with the dessert. They appreciated that the regions chosen were off the beaten track-of Piemonte and Tuscany.
It also highlighted the fact that the wine does not have to be a top quality wine to match with excellent authentic cuisine of Diva. Wines should be of good quality to drink on their own and as they all agreed, go better with the food. Kudos to Diva for an excellent cuisine and matching professional service. The invitees dispersed with a request to do more such events and thanked IICCI, Luca and Subhash for the excellent Presentation.