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Vinitaly International Academy Begins in New York

Vinitaly came to the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York this year on February 3, bringing wine, and an ambitious educational focus. The program consisted of a dozen seminars, focusing on not only specific regions or classifications of wine, but also on marketing and importing wines from Italy. Attendees were able to attend an inaugural series of certificate seminars, under a newly formed Vinitaly International Academy (VIA), to allow members of the wine trade to deepen their knowledge of Italian wine in top international markets. They will be repeating this approach at all Vinitaly International events around the world in the coming year.


Dr. Ian D’Agata was nominated as the Scientific Director of VIA, and served as presenter of the three certificate seminars offered, which I attended. He was a very informative and engaging speaker, with energy and humor. The only downside was the hurried presentation, which he admitted, was due to tight time scheduling, and I suspect this being the inception of the program. Each “academy” was officially allotted 45 minutes, but ran somewhat longer. Hardly enough time to taste, listen and ask questions. Thankfully he encouraged us to taste ahead and multitask. I hope that future seminars are allotted double the time.


One very confusing problem was that the pouring numbers on the placemats did not follow the order on the handouts. This was not addressed until after lots of tastes and notes were taken, and though he hurriedly tried to sort out the problem, it was not entirely successful, at least in my case. The tipoff for me was wine #8 from Franciacorta which was clearly rose’, but listed as Extra Brut. As a result, I can’t honestly report on many of the individual wines’ characteristics poured at the seminars, but will only give a general summary of each presentation and their wines.


First seminar: “Barolo’s Cannubi: Italy’s oldest and most famous Grand Cru”
• 949 estates, 1800 hectares under vine, in 9 communes
• 150 to 400 meters of elevation with mostly Tortonian, sandy soils
• Cannubi is the oldest Barolo area under vine, with the highest elevations, a crest that runs from southwest to northeast in central Piemonte.
• The Barolo designation came long after the Nebbiolo grape became famous
• Area was heavily influenced by French viniculture
• The primary clone is Lampia, with Miche’ and Rose following, all red grapes
• San Lorenzo, Boschis, Valletta, and Muscatel are regions within Cannubi, and wines may carry these designations. One owner may grow in different spots, and can choose to blend or bottle separately, much like in Burgundy.
• Eight examples poured, all 2009 vintage, all balanced and fine


Second seminar: “Italy’s answer to Champagne: Franciacorta”
• From Lombardy, near Brescia, sparklers made here dating back to 1200 AD
• DOC was designated in 1967 and the DOCG in 1995
• Uses Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc either in blends, or alone, using in the bottle secondary fermentation. Bulk process not allowed.
• Wines are required to spend more time on lees than either Champagne, Cava or Prosecco, in all categories: NV demands 18 months, Vintage demands 30 months, but more is often the norm
• Wines tend to be rounder and less acidic than Champagne, often showing tropical fruit
• A variation made from 100% Chard called Saten is produced, with a lower pressure of only 5 atmospheres. Very appealing wines.
• Twelve examples poured, including NV, Rose’, Vintages (2006-2009), various dosages, including a 1961 bottling of NV Rose’ that was remarkably fresh.


Third seminar: “Amarone, the velvet underground: treasures to be shared”
• Technically “Amarone della Valpolicella”, made with the same grape varieties as Valpolicella from the Veneto
• Wines are a blend of mostly Corvina, with Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara Oseleta, and Negrara.
• Uses a process of appassimento, drying the grapes for several months before fermentation to increase concentration and alcohol. 16-17% ABV is common, but not evident due to the balance of these wines
• To maintain the quality and heritage, a self regulating group called Amarone Families was formed
• Eleven  examples poured, from 2007 to 2010, one from each of the Families
• Many do not de-stem prior to fermentation, leaving bitter notes in these wines. After all, Amarone means bitter.

There were other seminars on Prosecco, Puglia, DOC Colli Piacentini, the Slow Wine Organization, and  marketing wines to restaurants, which I did not have time to attend.
If and when the Vinitaly Tour comes to your region, by all means try to attend. It will be very worthwhile.

Bernard Kenner


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