Aug 07 2009
By Brett Ashley McKenzie
The whole gang at Just Grapes was psyched to learn from our Cream Wine Company rep Shane Salois that Cream had recently added an Italian portfolio to its stellar wine offerings. Their timing couldn’t be more perfect: Just Grapes is offering an in-store “Wines of Italy” Master Class on Thursday, August 13th, taught by none other than Shane Salois himself!
Earlier this week, Cream hosted an industry tasting of their newly acquired portfolio, featuring bold Barberas, classy Chiantis, and crisp Proseccos among dozens of other varietals. Because we so rarely open our dessert wines in-store at Just Grapes, I was thrilled at the chance to taste our 2008 Elio Perrone sparkling Moscato d’Asti, the oddly named “Sourgal” (which is anything but!). I can see why so many regular Just Grapes customers keep coming back again and again for this delightful dessert wine. Honeyed and perfumed, it is sweet and aromatic, the perfect end to any meal.
I was so excited about another Elio Perrone wine that I had to call Just Grapes’ Wine Buyer Maggie Smith to gush about it before I even left the tasting. Fans of the popular FRV 100 Sparkling Gamay would love the Perrone 2008 “Bigaro,” a blend of Moscato and Brachetto (like Moscato, a Piedmont varietal). This sparkling rose-hued sweetie tastes like a vintage cherry vanilla ice cream soda. It’s not for anyone who swears by dry Italian wines, but it’s definitely off the beaten path and a luscious, creamy treat for any sweet tooth!
One of my favorite parts of tasting Italian wines is exploring as many Italian varietals as I can (there are literally THOUSANDS, and I’m not exaggerating!). Monday was my first exposure to a number of Italian grapes I’d never tried before, including the plummy, juicy Nero di Troia, and the hay-colored, nutty and full-bodied Pecorino.
Anyone whose ever had a conversation with me in the store knows I’m a bit of a literature and history nerd, so I develop big crushes on wines with extraordinary histories. Nero di Troia (also known as Uva di Troia), as you may have guessed, has its roots in the fallen city of Troy. The Greek hero Diomedes (a featured hero in Homer’s “The Iliad”) was one of the warriors who helped bring Troy to its tragic demise. He went on to found a town named “Troia,” which is guessed to be the origin of this grape. The wine features notes of violet, plum and cherry, and Cream’s offering, the Terravecchia 2006 “Citerna,” was ripe and silky on the tongue.
Pecorino is a varietal that was so near extinction that, for a time, it was believed to have already been lost forever. You are, no doubt, familiar with the phrase “you need a thick skin,” often advice given to someone who can’t handle criticism. Pecorino suffers from a thin skin, which is believed to have contributed to its near-extinction. It’s surprisingly difficult to find information on Pecorino in traditional research channels. A Google search is more likely to offer results pertaining to Pecorino cheeses, which are Italian hard cheeses made from sheep’s milk (which, surprisingly, the nutty Pecorino wine pair PERFECTLY with!).
I encourage anyone interested in learning more about these and other fascinating Italian wines to register for our Wines of Italy class next Thursday. We’re really privileged to have as passionate a teacher as Shane for this class, and you’ll leave the store armed with knowledge about varietals that you may never have known existed!