2012 Simply Italian Great Wines
MIAMI, FL – Italian winemakers were in Miami again yesterday at the beautiful Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for the 2012 Simply Italian Great Wines event. I say “again” because this is the third event I’ve attended in the past six months that brought some of Italy’s best winemakers to South Florida. However, this event far surpassed the others in both venue and program, but especially in turnout. There were nearly 300 importers, distributors, wine merchants and wine writers in attendance. The other events I attended had such low turnout that I ended up feeling badly for the Italian winemakers, who had paid so much in both time and money to come to Miami.
The simple truth is this: we need a stronger showing of Italian wine, and a more engaged Italian wine community, here in South Florida.
The success of the 2012 Simply Italian Great Wines event is due to the organizer International Event Exhibition Management (IEEM), which is an Italian company that has its headquarters in Verona, Italy. They reached out to, and included, the Italian community, in advance of the event, something that previous organizers were not smart enough to do and I think that may partly explain why their events were not as successful. For the most part, Italians will advocate for other Italians. If we know in advance that producers are coming from Italy, we’ll all do what we can to help them succeed. I was very surprised to learn that, less than a week before the other events, key people in the Miami Italian community hadn’t been invited or informed.
Italian wines are among the best in the world, and Italy is the largest wine- producing country in the world yet, while in our sister site community of New York Italian wines are omnipresent, here in South Florida they don’t have nearly half the showing as they do there. I honestly don’t understand this, nor do I understand why any of the wine producers that were at 2012 Simply Italian Great Wines would have any difficult finding distributors in our area. Why? Because the wines were superb!
I will not rest until the wines I tasted yesterday are sold in South Florida! My favorite was the Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Classico, 2004,”Morar” from the Valentina Cubi winery, which is located in Valpolicella, east of Lake Garda and north of the Province of Verona, in Italy’s Veneto region. As soon as they poured this wine into the glass in front of me, I was in love. The bouquet was an intoxicating blend of ripe fruit aromas and bitter cherry. Call me crazy, but I detected Rosemary, too, and perhaps some other herbs. Valentina Cubi produced 19,000 bottles of this wine.
The Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Classico, 2004,”Morar” is a varietal with this mixture: 70% Corvina, 25% Corvinone and 5% Rondinella. As for the winemaking process: in the beginning of January, the grapes are crushed and fermented in conical tanks at 14°C, with daily plunging. The wine is aged for 12 months in barrels followed by another 12 months in large vats. It is aged an additional 6 months before release. Recently, Valentina Cubi transformed from a traditional vineyard to an organic one, something which I’ve noticed is becoming increasingly popular in the north of Italy.
Amarone is more full bodied than Valpolicella because it’s higher in alcohol content due to the mixture of both ripe and dried grapes. The wine had an intense ruby garnet red color. The tasting notes indicated that it is best paired with, “…red meat, game and aged cheese.” I Googled the Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Classico, 2004,”Morar”to find out what the retail price is and found one online wine seller that had it for $55. This Amarone has a Wine Enthusiast rating of 93. I will order it online, as it can’t be found in South Florida because Valentina Cubi’s winery fact sheet had a blank area next to “Importer in Florida.” (At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a video of Albano Vason of Valentina Cubi speaking to Vinitaly.)
The 2012 Simply Italian Great Wines schedule provided wonderful learning opportunities. The day began with an introduction to Federdoc by its charismatic President, Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, who spoke enthusiastically about the significance of Federdoc, which is the only inter-professional organization in Italy. It is, “the ‘table’ around which representatives of the agricultural, industrial, cooperative and commercial components of the sector assemble to deal in a calm and constructive way with the problems of the appellations.” (Note that I found it amusing they needed to add the word “calm” to this description – so fitting for we Italians!)
Curbastro also spent time explaining, in depth, Italy’s wine appellations and showing how they appear on the wine label. He pointed out that DOC and DOCG are sub-appellations of DOP, so you will not always see the DOP on an Italian wine label.
Curbastro’s session was followed by a tasting and discussion, led by local Italian wine expert Charlie Arturaola, on the “Great Whites of Italy,” during which we tasted some excellent whites, mostly Pinot Grigios, from northern winemaking regions in Italy, including Tuscany.
The following wineries were represented during this tasting: Castello Banfi, Azienda Vitivinicola Furlan Gian Franco, Concilio, Primosic, Pitars – Azienda Agricola Cantine San Martino, Castello di Buttrio, Tenute Tomasella, Pali Wines, Gradis’ciutta and Zuani. Of the wines we tasted, two really stood out and wowed me. These were the Primosic Pinot Grigio Murno Collio 2010 and the Castello di Buttrio Friulano Colli Orientali Del Friuli DOC. Primosic does have a Miami importer, but Castello di Buttrio is looking for one.
The Primosic Pinot Grigio Murno Collio 2010, though a young wine, had a complex, yet light flavor. I’m generally not a big fan of Pinot Grigio, or really of white wine in general, but I have to say that I really, really, really enjoyed this one and I would definitely buy a few bottles for dinner parties. The wine is 100% Pinot Grigio and is aged for 3 months in the bottle prior to release. It has a strong yellow color and the bouquet wafts with hints of spring white flowers and apricot.
The pairing notes for the Primosic Pinot Grigio Murno Collio 2010 advise to serve it with, “….milk roasted meat (not generally how I roast my meat, perhaps this is a preference in their region of Italy?), vegetables, stuffed guinea fowl, grilled fish and raw milk cheeses.” I did some online research, but I couldn’t find any online shops where this wine can be purchased. Other, similar wines from this producer, were selling for about $15 per bottle.
Castello di Buttrio Friulano Colli Orientali Del Friuli DOC was a 2010 vintage and this wine was really divine. In fact, this was probably my other favorite of the day, which is disappointing only because, again, I can’t find it here in Florida. When are the local restaurants and wine merchants going to finally realize that there is a very large population of Italians and Italian Americans in South Florida – and we want more Italian wines!!
But I digress…back to the Castello di Buttrio Friulano Colli Orientali Del Friuli DOC. What a delightful wine. It had a lovely clear, pale gold color. This wine is comprised of 100% Friulano grapes. 70% of this wine ferments in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 18°C and the remaining 30% ferments in French Oak barrels. The wine is aged for 8 months in addition to the fermentation. This wine pairs perfectly with Prosciutto San Daniele, as well as young, mild cheeses.
This presentation and tasting was followed by another, “Veneto: Land of Excellence,” during which I tasted the Valentina Cubi Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Classico, 2004,”Morar” I referred to earlier. The wineries present during this presentation included De Stefani, Rechsteiner di Florian von Stespski Doliwa, Azienda Agricola Gorgo, Cantina F.lli Zeni, Azienda Agricola Domenica Fraccaroli, Azienda Agricola Buglioni and Valentina Cubi.
The other wine that impressed me during this session was the Azienda Agricola Domenico Fraccaroli Valpolicella DOC Superiore Ripasso 2008. This wine had a vibrant bright red color and the bouquet found me inhaling hints of ripe cherries, blackberries, chocolate and vanilla. The wine is comprised of the same grapes in the Amarone I loved so much, but in different concentrations. There is 50% Corvino, 40% Corvinone and 10% Rondinella. The wine is aged for 14 months in Oak Tonneau and for an additional 12 months in the bottle.
Unfortunately, and once again, I couldn’t find Azienda Agricola Domenico Fraccaroli Valpolicella DOC Superiore Ripasso 2008 online and they’re looking for a Florida importer. The retail price, which appeared in Euros, would be about $16 per bottle.
The Veneto session was led by Lyn Farmer, local wine expert and also the Director of the Miami Wine and Food Festival, which takes place each year in April. Farmer gave a lovely presentation and also invited commentary from the winemakers. The session concluded with an appearance by the Consul General of Italy in Miami, the honorable Adolfo Barattolo, who said a few words about how Italian wine is one of Italy’s greatest accomplishments.
Following the informational sessions, everyone migrated to a grand ballroom area where the winemakers, including some that were not part of the educational sessions, were available for more tastings of additional wines they produce and for questions.
IEEM did a great job bringing together wine lovers, distributors, merchants and writers with Italian winemakers. However, what remains to be seen is if the South Florida wine community will smarten up and truly embrace the genius that is Italian wine and start making more of it more available — and visible — here.
I, for one, would really like to see a much more active and engaged Italian wine community throughout South Florida.
Video from the Vinitaly Tour with Albano Vason, winemaker from Valentina Cubi