Cover image: Piedmont wines: Malivrà Roero Arneis and Babera by San Michele © WhereNYC
Tucked away on the second floor of a department store overlooking the Ground Zero Memorial Park and steps away from the catherdralesque Westfield Oculus Mall, the casual observer may miss Eataly Downtown, but like its sister location, it gigantesque Italian food court can still barely hold the floods of office workers and tourists who frequent the stalls and markets. This year’s Slow Wine Trade Show took place Eataly Downtown’s sit-down restaurant Osteria della Pace, where members of the press and industry hopped from one table to another sipping some of Italy’s upcoming vino contenders.
In between slurps of wine, visitors indulged in a little salumé hospitality of specially arranged charcuterie, savory parmesan cheeses, salads and canapés. Perpetually crowded, it seemed better to forego the hors d’œuvres and get straight to the wine.
Known for the full body reds, clean crisp wines and spicy rosés, in a glass Italian wines capture the charm and rusticness of the Mediterranean climate. Whether Northern or southern, Tuscany, Lombard, Piedmont or Sicily, the wines of Italy are both subtle and intense depending on the grape, harvest, year and method.
While there were the usual welcomed suspects of full-bodied reds with a superb long finish such as Roccapesta Calestaia 2011 Sangiovese and Mosnel’s Franciacorta Brut Rosé – a beautiful champagne-style sparkling rosé, the noticeable trend at this year’s show is to think outside the norm and bring something new to the glass. Many of the reds from the Italian peninsula showcased, for example, are surprisingly mellow and much more accessible.
Who were the winners this year? Although it is almost impossible to judge every wine fairly given the amount of sipping and spitting, there were a few that will happily linger on the palette. In Piedmont’s corner, some of the evening’s most memorable Italian reds included a light single-vineyard Malvirà Roero. It had an unusual but pleasant flavor thanks in part to the fossilized sandy soil. From Lombardy, Cascina Belmonte’s organic dry red Naturae Rebo 2015 was also another exceptional find. Very compatible with any meat or tomato-based pasta dish.
For unashamedly classic long finish reds, look no further that L. Monsanto Castello Chianti 2013 with a very deep flavor but surprisingly clean finish. Its other red, the Il Poggio 2011 is a spicy pasta’s best companion. Flying the Sicilian banner, the Tasca d’Almerita, a very rich red, gave a beautiful warming sensation that spread to my toes. Sangiovese fans should consider the Castello Di Magione 2015, which would be best enjoyed on a cold, rainy day or when tucking into a steamy deep dish pizza.
Catering to a younger, economically-minded generation looking to maximise on affordable wines, Italian wine producers are offering more lighter-bodied, cleaner finish reds along with the rich big guns. These table wines should not be dismissed as pale, forgettable, but rather pleasant and easy to enjoy throughout the year.
Alongside the beautiful complex reds of Roccapesta Tuscany, the Ribeo, aged for two years, with light tannins, is a great ready-to-drink wine. Next, the Riserva had a slight cherry taste, strong but followed with a clean finish. Ronc Soreli Pinot Nero 2016, (the Italian term for Pinot Noir) was very similar to a Georges DuBœuf Beaujolais that could go well with a roast chicken or turkey. There were bargains for anyone planning ahead. Piedmont-based Villa Giada’s Nizza retailing at $28 normally best if aged 13 years is readily inexpensive now and will keep in any cellar.
Inversely, while many vineyards are offering lighter, clean-finish reds, the trend for vino blanco this year has gone other way. with bolder flavors and higher complexity. That is not to say classic, crisp, tart Sauvignon blancs have suddenly disappeared. On the contrary, white wines can also pack a punch of long-lasting flavor. Some had the heaviness of a French chardonnay with a slight fruity finish such as Marotti Campi’s 2015 Luzano. Similarly, the Pinot Bianco chardonnay blend from Manincor was a bit on the strong side for a blanc, but for fans of Chardonnay, this would not disappoint.
Younger wines do not necessarily have lighter taste. Those aged in steel are often aggressive in character when young and eventually settle down with age. Cascina Belmonte’s 2016 Groppello Rosé was a vibrant pink with an intense taste. The steel Manzoni 2015 was far less aggressive, almost mellow in comparison.
The final surprise, however, was the wines from Slovenia that debuted at this year’s Slow Wine. Burja “Bela” 2015, ZPG Vipavska Dolina with a fragrant honey and white flower bouquet with a complex white, with fleshy pear and pineapple on the palate, which according to wine expert Kristen Smart of Indie Wineries, has a richness which feels like and white chocolate melting on your tongue. Balanced acidity and great structure from the skin contact. The other Klinec Rebula 2011, Goriška Brda, Medana, Slovenia (100% Rebula or Ribolla Gialla, Ms. Smart said that the textured mouthfeel is layered with burnt orange, cheese rinds, and a little nuttiness, and is best enjoyed with cured meats.
The variety of tastes and surprises of this year’s showcase of affordable Italian (and Slovenian) wines made the 2017 Slow Wine trade show all the more memorable. Whether enjoying them on their own or with a meal, each kind of wine had its own unique character and taste.
For more information on news or upcoming events, please visit Slow Wine.