Grandi Marchi – Great Producers and their Great Wines

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Courtesy of the Italian Trade Commission in Montreal, Savvy Company participated in a by-invitation-only tasting and brunch featuring the Istituto del Vino Italiano di Qualita Grandi Marchi (Institute of Fine Italian Wines Premium Brands) at the Hilton Bonaventure. 

The stated aims of the Institute are to:

        give direction and incisiveness to the development of quality Italian wine and to the brands which express this on world markets

        to organize and develop training and educational activities contributing to the promotion of Italian wine culture in the world.

The president of the Institute is the Marchese Piero Antinori, and the members include the following wineries:  Alois Lageder, Antinori, Biondi Santi S.p.A, Ca’ del Bosco, Carpene Malvolti, Donnafugata, Jermann, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca D’Almerita, Tenute Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari, Tenuta San Guido, Umani Ronchi.  These wineries are located from the far north of Italy, through Piedmonte, Tuscany, Umbria, Puglia and Sicily.  Their wines are as varied as their terroir, and their history tends to be long and illustrious.  I’ve highlighted a few of these great producers below.

I tasted the fine, fresh, fruity Cuvee Brut Prosecco di Conegliano of Carpene Malvolti.  Based in the Veneto, this winery was established in 1868.  It’s founder, Antonio Carpene, was a famous oenologist and chemist who worked with Pasteur in France.  On his return to the Veneto, he decided to create a champagne-like wine from the native Prosecco grape.  In order to retain the fresh fruit aromas and flavors of the grape, he used a Cuvee Close Charmat method for second fermentation.  He was also responsible for founding the first school of oenology in Italy, at Conegliano, about 40 km north of Venice.

I spoke with Giovanni Folonari of Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute.  The Folonari family purchased Ruffino wines in the early 1900s.  This is a extremely large producer with very well-known wines produced from grapes grown on estates across Tuscany and one in Friuli.  Giovanni and his father worked with the firm, primarily involved in vineyard operations and grape production.  In 2000, they decided to establish their own separate business focused on the limited production of premium wines from their own estate-grown grapes.  They purchased 8 properties, 7 of which are located in Tuscany.  From these properties, they produce a range of wines, including Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Supertuscans from Bolghieri.  They also produce a limited number of white wines, including a very aromatic and full-bodied Roero Arneis.

Also present at the tasting was Chiara Lungarotti, a joint director, with her sister Teresa Severini, of Lungarotti, based in Umbria.  Said Chiara, when her sister Teresa returned from Bordeaux in the early 1970s with her degree in oeneology, she was one of the first women in Italy to be so qualified.  The family is committed to art, wine and culture, as well as having a strong focus on the environment.  For instance, they have initiated a biomass project which transforms all their vine cuttings into pelletized fuel which is used to produce heat for the winery, steam for cleaning barrels, and cooling for their fermentation tanks.  Lungarotti Rubesco, a blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo is bright, fruity and well-balanced – and available as a general list product from the LCBO (#41947).  The Lungarotti Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Reserve is a single vineyard blend of the same grapes.  It spends only a few months in barrel, but several years in bottle to evolve to a powerful but elegant balanced wine.  It is available as a Vintages Online Exclusive ((#51771).

Of course, a tasting of fine Italian wines wouldn’t be complete without an Antinori wine.  The offered wines included the great Tignanello, but I wanted to try something less recognized, so opted for the Tomaresca Bocca di Lupo, which is an Aglianico produced in Puglia.  Aglianico is one of Italy’s lesser known noble grapes, which produces a dark, full-bodied, intense and well-structured wine.  Definitely a wine for cellaring!  It is also available through Vintages Online (#926311).

 So many wines, so little time . . . , but what a treat to have the principals of some of the most esteemed wineries in Italy all in one room, and available to talk with great passion about their wines, their family, and their commitment to great Italian wines!

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