A Taste of Wine Series is Back, Featuring Italy!
On Saturday April 12th, 2014 NLC is hosting what promises to be another excellent wine show. This one night affair is different than the annual fall show in October, as rather than serve wines from multiple wine producing areas, our A Taste of series focuses on just one region or country. The concept started in February 2010, with our inaugural show – A Taste of Australia. Since then we have followed up with A Taste of…. Italy (2011), Chile & Argentina (2012) and North America (2013). The timing is perfect for another Taste of Italy show as this country offers so much diversity and value in the wines that they produce. As one of NLC’s fastest growing Old World wine categories, the time is right to introduce our clients to some of the new Italian products that have recently been submitted to NLC. Of the more than 120 products that will be offered on the 12th of April, over 50 will be new to our market, with another 35+ wines considered new releases, having hit our shelves within the last three months.  

Before starting with NLC in February of 2008, I helped open a short-lived restaurant on Water Street called The Vault. As a new Sommelier, I wanted to educate my customers on grape varieties largely unknown to them. One of these varieties, a personal favourite, is Barbera. Barberas are a specialty of the Piedmont region in Northwestern Italy. Often referred to as “poor man’s Pinot Noir” – a nod to ever prevalent aromas and flavours of cherries, as well as a high acidic profile found in both varieties – this grape can be found at a fraction of the price compared to what most Pinot Noirs go for in the world today. At that time, NLC only carried one Barbera, a far cry from the ten that we currently stock and the nine additional that will be offered at this upcoming show. Whereas Barbera can make wines of great value (check out the one on the shelf by Ricossa – Sku 7414, a steal at only $14.98), the nine new products that will be offered in mid-April range in price from $15.65 (Sku 14580 – Boutinot Barbera da Vine DOC) to $48.98 (Sku 13976 Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba Fides). I am very excited to be able to try so many wines crafted from this variety. I hope that those of you reading this article will get to sample some of these very food friendly wines as well! 

In addition to the wonderful Barberas that we see almost exclusively coming from this country, Italy is known to have 100’s, if not 1000’s, of other Vitis Vinifera grapes growing throughout its 20 regions, or zones (please note that all 20 Italian regions do specialize in grape growing and wine making of some sort!). Yes, those in attendance on April 12th will have the option to try perennial favourites like Moscatos, Pinot Grigios and Sangioveses, but they will also be introduced to amazing grapes like the trio from Campania – an Aglianico (red) and two whites: Fiano and Greco. Both are said to go divinely with shellfish and seafood. I count no less than four Fianos and two Grecos at this show. Gone are the days when Italian white wines are frowned upon – my Sommelier instructor in Toronto in 2006 used to say, “if it is a white wine and it tastes like lemon water then it is Italian”J. In addition to the two just mentioned, there will also be a Vermentino, a Vernaccia and a most amazing Arneis, which I will do a short write-up on at the end of this piece. For those of us in attendance who like bubbles, in addition to the three off-dry Moscatos being offered, there are also at least six Proseccos being poured. The Italian wine industry is getting new life breathed into it, due in large part to the great success of its sparkling wines in the international market.  

A Taste of Italty provides an excellent learning opportunity for those who want to know more about Italian wines. In addition to reading about a country’s wines the other way to learn is “liquid to lips” – the fun part! The great variety of wine and excellent value offered at this show will be sure to impress the seasoned oenophile, as well as beginners, and everyone in between. I will end this introduction to our upcoming A Taste of Italy with a short summary on some of the new wines that people can expect to try on the night in question.  

Sku 14563 – Ruffino Prosecco - $18.98
Ruffino is a well-established Italian producer here in Newfoundland and Labrador. This winery’s Prosecco hails from the Veneto region and is a fairly new addition to their portfolio, which makes sense as Prosecco is a very hot style of wine right now! Prosecco is a drink in its youth type of wine, and don’t be fooled by the label saying “extra-dry”, as in the world of sparkling wines this term actually implies that the wine does have some residual sugar left in it. This wine has aromas and flavours of crisp lemon and green apple with some floral notes and a slight peachy finish. The fine bubbles, and crisp acidity, make this a perfect aperitif vino, as well as a match for many foods – including traditional dishes like shellfish, seafood and many pizzas, as well as fun and unique treats such as popcorn and potato chips (I am serious – try it if you don’t believe me! J).  

Sku 14445– Cordero di Montezemolo Arneis Langhe DOC - $26.38
This wine comes from the Langhe area in the region of Piedmont (the same region as mentioned above in my Barbera rant) and is crafted from 100% Arneis. Rarely seen outside of this region (there are small plantings of this variety in Australia and California), Arneis has only started to shine as a varietal wine over the past thirty to forty years – before this it was primarily used to soften the grip of high acid and tannic reds made from Nebbiolo. This very aromatic vino is fruity, floral and nutty. I get peaches and apricots on the nose with a slight bitter almond finish. Bitterness is a common term used to describe many white wines from Italy – a trait that makes these wines all the more food friendly! 

Sku 14569 – 2008 Bottega Brunello di Montalcino - $54.06
I focus on this product, not because of its high price, but rather because it is widely regarded as one of Italy’s top wines (one of the infamous 3 B’s, along with Barolo and Barbaresco). Crafted from 100% Sangiovese Grosso (the only permitted grape variety in a Brunello di Montalcino!) this wine should stand the test of time. After fermentation this wine is aged at the winery for four years – of which two and a half are in oak barrels. Key buzz words used to describe these wines include: robust, savoury and velvety. This wine exhibits aromas and flavours of both red and black fruits, along with ample notes of vanilla and spice – by-products of the amount of time that it spent in oak barrels. Make sure that you try this wine, as they are rare, and as you can see usually quite expensive.

NLC’s second ever A Taste of Italy happens on Saturday April 12th, 2014 from 7-10pm at the Convention Centre in St. John’s. The cost of admission gets those in attendance a $10 taxi voucher, booklet, and a sampling of cheeses and breads to pair. As well, with the purchase of an Italian product, attendees will receive a free bottle of Sku 14568 - Bolla Retro Verona Rosso IGT (Regular price: $17.97). As we have done in the recent past, customers making purchases at the show will have the option of having their wine order delivered to the Liquor Store of their choice. I will be in attendance on the 12th of April…hopefully you’ll join me! Get your tickets here!

Andrew Facey
Senior Product Knowledge Consultant