The Advice Sisters have a lot of opportunities to attend events called “walkaround tastings,” throughout New York City, as vintners from various regions bring in samples to promote to wholesalers. These are important industry events because wine cannot be sold in the United States except either directly at a winery or through a wholesaler.
Often these walkaround tastings are large events featuring literally hundreds of different wines and often hundreds of vintners. So was the combined Slow Wine and VinItaly event held on February 3 at the Metropolitan Pavilion. This reviewer had hoped that terrible weather had kept the crowds away this annual festival of Italian wines is a huge event, and this one was very well attended despite the bad weather. Conducting an organized tasting was very challenging due to the crowds and the fact that there were more than 140 producers at this combined event, pouring upwards of 1,000 different selections. Now that’s a lot of Italian wine!!!!
Last year at this wonderful event, we learned that “Vino Slow” isn’t what you might think. They’re not for slackers, or for people who like to drink slowlh. “Slow” wines are those with a high organoleptic quality (in other words, involving the senses including taste, color, odor, and feel), and which combine characteristics of the land they originate from. These wines have a signature. Slow Wine seeks to find those wines that are not mass produced and that are healthier and tastier for you and better for the environment. Slow wine isn’t necessarily organic wine, but more significantly, wine that is made with a focus on achieving the highest quality given the circumstances. The efforts in growing, making and appreciating this wine reflect that quality is valued more than convenience.
That said, rather than try to see and taste everything, the Advice Sisters focused on Italian sparkling wines as Valentines Day was approaching, and festive wines are always fun to drink no matter what the occasion (or when it’s just “Tuesday.”).
Italy is known world wide for two sparkling wines, Prosseco, which comes from the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the north of Italy, and Asti (also known as Asti Spumante produced throughout southeastern Piedmont. Sparkling wines are fun for celebrations and special events, but they are also fun to mix with fruit juices and fruits, and make everyday meals feel more special. If you are having a party and are on a limited budget, serving a sparkling wine is a nice option, as there are tasty options in every price point.
Prosseco is probably the best known of the Italian sparkling wines in the United States, and for years, the grape from which it is produced (the glera varietal) was commonly called Prosseco. This is encouraged producers from outside the traditional producing regions to the north of Venice to call their sparkling wines Prosseco even though they do not meet the origin criteria specified by the Italian authorities. As such, the producers are trying to get the word out that Prosseco is a wine made from Glera grapes.
We tasted a number of Prosseco wines at the event including Zardetto’s Prosecco Brut (2012) which was a crisp wine with a lemony nose. It had some apple on the palate, but the moose was a bit flat for our tastes. Castello Banfi was featuring a Brut Prosseco which was bone dry with some peach on the palate – a perfect base for a Bellini. They also has a fruity and we found almost dusty Extra Dry that would make an excellent party wine.
Mediatis Incontri Prosseco was also extremely dry and crisp with some bitter notes on the finish, while Dom Beriton Prosseco, which was actually created and blended by the importer proved to be quite elegant and very dry.
We did not find any Asti’s on the floor (though that did not mean that none were being featured), thoug we found a traditional Champagne style sparkling from Casanova Della Spinetta. Contralto, is a traditional wine made in the Champagne style from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. The wine was very toasty and rich and would rival many of the fine wines from the French cellars. The winery is also a Unesco Heritage Site and is about 200 years old.
There was also one brewer (Collesi) featuring a range of different ales made from different grains and fruits. Bottled in sparkling wine bottles, those that we tried were crisp and light and would make a good alternative for pairing with Italian antipasto and cheeses.
This review does not even begin to touch the diversity of wines shown at the paired Slow Wine and VinItaly event. For more information see www.vinitalyinternational.com and www.slowfood.com. We hope to go back next year, and sample even more varieties.
**Thanks to John Dunham, The Advice Sisters’ wine enthusiast, for this report.