I heard about the wine course on Italian wines organized by Incanto from a friend, and thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to learn more about - and taste - Italian wines. For a long time, my experience with Italian wines was limited to that bottle of light Chianti ordered in pizzerias. But the times have changed and Italy is now experiencing a wine renaissance. From Alto Adige to Sicilia, the country produces more and more high quality wines of unique character, many from indigenous grapes that do not grow elsewhere.
Incanto is a friendly Italian restaurant in San Francisco's Noe Valley district with a wine list comprised entirely of Italian wines. The 6 weeks course is designed and run by Incanto's Wine Director, Edward Ruiz. Our first class occurred last Saturday and was dedicated to sparkling wines.
After an informative general introduction on Italian wines, we discussed and tasted four sparkling wines, two from the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC and two from the Franciacorta DOCG.
Wines from the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC are made with at least 85% of Prosecco, a variety that has been cultivated in the Valdobbiadene cool pre-alpine hills for two centuries. Valdobbiadene produces the best quality Prosecco, and, because of its reasonable price and freshness, is one of Italy's most popular sparkling wine.
The first wine that we tasted was the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Drusian. Showing a light color and citrus aromas on the nose, the wine was dry and crisp, with tingling bubbles on the palate. The finish was fresh with slightly bitter aromas. It was a very pleasant wine and should be an excellent aperitif.
The second Prosecco was very different. The Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Cartizze Bisol comes from the Cru Cartizze, a small, hilly, and stony place, with a constant humidity, and where the Prosecco grapes ripen slowly. The wine had a deeper color than the first one. It exhibited an aromatic floral nose and sweet ripe fruit on the palate. I found it rather dense and rich for a Prosecco, although I think that I preferred the fresher and crisper style of the first one. Because of its sweetness, it should be a good wine to have with pastries or cookies, maybe some almond biscotti...
I never had any wines from Franciacorta before, and I was eager to taste the two following wines. In the past, this region was mostly making still wines but it recently gained some international reputation with the production of sparkling wines made with the Méthode Champenoise. The appellation's authorized varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero.
The first Franciacorta was the Franciacorta Cuvee Brut Bellavista. The wine had a golden color and a fresh nose of green apple. On the palate, it was nutty, yeasty, full of fine bubbles with a finish that I found elegant, lightly bitter and toasty. I really liked this wine that could easily pass for a Champagne.
We ended the tasting with the Franciacorta Prima Cuvee Brut Monte Rossa. The wine had a deep golden color, pear aromas on the nose, with a note of petroleum. On the palate, it was smoky and dense with a persistent finish, although at the end, I still preferred the elegance and refinement of the Bellavista.
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