Young to Young Tasting 2016: Part 1

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I’m pleased to say that I’m back for another round of Young to Young tastings. The concept is that selected wine bloggers (of which, again, I’m the only foreign one!) sit in a sterile VIP room, far above the bustle of the trade show and taste wines from new, interesting, small producers. 

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The Vinitaly wine tasting has one huge Achilles heel: Verona’s transport system. A producer from Sicily called the shuttle bus from the city centre as bad as one of Dante’s circles of hell. From personal experience, I can say that trying to find a parking space is no better.

So here we are, twenty five minutes after the tasting’s supposed start time and there are only four of the dozen writers and two of the three producers. Once again, Verona’s traffic has thwarted even the best made plans.

Finally, the tasting gets underway and we get to discover today’s selection of “Young to Young: Giovani Produttori Incontrano Giovani Consumatori.” (If you’re interested, you can see last year’s posts here and here.)

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Despite my whingeing, I actually quite like these tastings because it’s an efficient way to see who are the next generation of quality wine producers in Italy. These people are sure to be the names that we will hear more and more about as they establish themselves in their field and region.

We start with a producer from the Oltrepò Pavese. When I think of this region, to be honest, the first wine which comes to mind is the sparkling Bonarda which makes up the most significant part of local production.

Today, however, we try a Methodo Classico (i.e. Champagne-style) wine from Azienda Agricola Calatroni. It’s 100% Pinot Noir. We learn that the Montecalvo Versiggia hills are especially suited for growing Pinot Noir. The soil is heavily calcareous (limestone) which enhances the best qualities of this grape variety.

Stefano, our speaker today, is 31 years old and is the seventh generation of his family to work these 15 hectares of vines. He works alongside his older brother Cristian and they are in the process of converting to organic agriculture.

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He speaks well; lively, engaging and interesting. A particularly poignant moment came when he touched upon a short experience (3 months) working in the vineyards in the Barossa Valley. For him that was the moment when he realised that winemaking was not something necessarily stuck in the past but something that could be interesting and innovative.

His wine, Pinot 64 Brut is a straight Pinot Noir, Blanc de Noirs, which spent at least 36 months on the lees. So fresh, bursting with citrus fruit, it’s a great way to start the day. The nose is hugely expressive with some toasty notes but they don’t overly dominant. The taste is similarly elegant and the acidity is integrated and refreshing.

The style is very international but I’m not going to try and deny that it’s not very pleasant. I’ll be looking forward to trying more wines from this producer in the future. The price point – 16 euros a bottle  – is admittedly higher than your average sparkling wine from this region, but this wine can easily take on Champagnes, English sparkling wines and other quality sparkling wine.

Next we have Cardone, who are based in Puglia, right in the heel of Italy, near a town called Locorotondo. I’m going to be uploading a video of our speaker talking about the fragmented history of winemaking in this area but right now my phone battery is dead, so my apologies, but you’ll have to wait a little longer.

In short, however, the story is that after many decades of grape-growing, their father started, in the early 1990s to do his own bottlings. He and his sister are the third generation to tend the vineyards, and we hear that they represent the renaissance of the area.

The wine that we try is a blend of local grapes: Verdeca (approx 65%) Bianco d’Alessano (~30%) and another 5% old unknown (suspecting a bit of Fiano) varieties.

The combination of Verdeca and Bianco d’Alessano gives the wine its unique character and complexity. I have to admit that I’m not overly familiar with either variety but this morning was a great opportunity to discover them.

Verdeca, apparently, gives a practically transparent, straw yellow colour.

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First impressions reveal a heavily citrus profile; plenty of zesty lemon peel. There’s no denying that the wine is well-made, but looking back, I would have liked something a little more distinctive. The mouthfeel is very soft (I would suspect batonnage and malolactic fermentation then aging in inox) but it has a nice persistent length. 7 euros.

Finally, we have BioVio who are in the Pigato DOC Liguria.

Having adopted organic agricultural methods in 1989, they were one of the very first (along with Stefano Bellotti and others) not to put chemicals in the vineyards. Caterina, 26 years old and an oenologue having trained at the winemakeing school in Alba, said that she was most inspired by her parents.

In the same way as Cardone previously, they have been grape growers for many generations but only started making their own wine in 2000. Now the farm is run by husband, wife and three daughters. They have 9 hectares on a fertile and rich land near the Ligurian coast. Caterina explains that even though the vineyards have been in the family for so long, there was never the idea of making a quality wine with their grapes. Their production was just limited to their own personal consumption as table wine.

We try the Pigato DOC 2015 “MaRene.” It may be young, but it was by far the most curious of the three wines that I tasted this morning.

It has a distinctive yellow colour, which is apparently representative for the Pigato grape variety. On the nose, it’s herbaceous (native Mediterranean plants) and fruity (pinapple) and a little minty. The mouth is surprisingly intense. Mineral and musky, with a pleasant salted almond character at the end.

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