Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wine Classes #13-#15- Italy, Germany and Austria

It's finally time to catch you all up on our wine classes.  Over the past two weeks we've completed three classes- Northern Italy, Southern Italy and Germany and Austria.  This is a post full of a lot of information, so it may be tough to read unless you are searching for a wine.  Skip down to Germany and Austria if you are looking for a diverse wine great with almost any food or one that's wonderful for sipping.  If you are looking for a heavier wine to go with a dark meat dish, Southern Italy's calling your name!  Northern Italy is a bit moderate, nothing too rich or sweet, but a great variety.

Northern Italy:

A Barbera d'Asti

A Langhe Nebbiolo-
from Piedmont region-
similar to Barolo

A White Piedmont-
Cortese or Arneis grape
An Amarone
A Pinot Grigio
from Friuli
                        A  Soave

Just for a quick recap on the wines:

Nebbiolo is a thinner skinned grape and the wine is very aromatic (similar to Pinot Noir).  It is very acidic and has a strong tannin finish.

White Piedmont is grown in an area with limestone rich soils, which makes it very acidic.  It is a pale greenish color, with a fresh and crisp citrus taste- mostly due to the fact that it is unoaked.  

Barbera d'Asti (*my favorite of the lecture*) is a very food friendly wine, as it has a lighter body and is softer in tannins than the Nebbiolo.  It smelled of toast, cherry and vanilla.

Pinot Grigio from Friuli is likely Italy's most famous wine export in North America.  It is very aromatic and has an all around medium characteristics- body, acid, fruit intensity and alcohol- which make is a crowd pleaser. Loved this one as well.

Soave, from the Veneto region, which surrounds Venice, this is made from the Garganega grape and is similar to Chardonnay.  We thought it smelled like asparagus with slight smells of citrus.

Amarone is from the western region of Valpolicella.  It is a blend of Corvina, Rondinela and Molinara grapes.  An interesting part of this wines process is that is its dried on bamboo mats for several months after harvest.  It is very full bodied and has a somewhat sweet taste reminding you of chocolate covered strawberries.   Baby Amarones are great value wines.

Southern Italy:

I actually took pictures of our bottles to make it easier for this class.  From left to right:

Super Tuscans, which are usually over $100, are very similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was created as an attempt to replicate a French Bordeaux, so it is a very dark wine with smoky scents and a very full bodied taste.  Oh, and nobody spent hundreds on this bottle, rather ours was a baby Super Tuscan.  

Nero d' Avola, from Sicily, is a deep, dark red wine with jammy dark fruit and soft tannin flavors.

Aglianico is the main red grape of the Campania region.  It has a firm tannin taste with smells of dark fruits.  This is a great wine on a budget- we bought it for only $13 and it was delicious.

Brunello (similar to Chianti) is a blend of grapes including Sangiovese.  It is a great wine to sip with very meaty and tomato-based dishes, as it does take on a meaty flavor itself.  **My favorite of this lesson**

Primitivo is a grape similar to that of red Zinfandel.  It is lighter bodied red with a very juicy taste.  A great summer red wine as it's not heavy.

Falanghina, the only white wine from this lecture, is a very aromatic wine with tastes of nectarine fruits, minerals and almonds.

Overall Southern Italy has great red wines, with which they've mastered the art of wine pairing.  So, if you plan to make a tomato based dish with pasta and or steak- you have to try one of these reds.  They are not definitely not all sipping wines.


Germany is known more than anything for their Riesling, which is the most versatile food-pairing wine in the world.  It goes with the very flavorful indian and chinese dishes, as well as fish and steak.  So, when in doubt, pair with Riesling. It is a sweet wine with some weight and high acidity, which makes it not too sweet.

The far left bottle is Liebfraumilch, meaning "beloved mother's milk" in German.  Has anyone out there heard of "Blue Nun," a popular wine in the U.S. during the 80's?  Well, Blue Nun is a Liebfraumilch.  It is sweeter than the Riesling and is a crowd pleaser among new wine drinkers.

Finally, the Spatburgunder, which was the only German red wine we tasted.  It is a Pinot Noir that ages well and is at a lower price point than a French Pinot.

Overall, Riesling was **my favorite from this group.


Our final lesson covered Austrian wine, it was by far the most unmemorable, but that could be because I could still taste the dark reds from the Southern Italy course.  Still, they were unique and worth trying over the summer as they are all light wines.

First, Zweigelt, which was the only red grape from the group, is similar to a Pinot Noir with a cherry fruit and very peppery flavor.

Next up, Gruner Veltliner, which was **my favorite of the trio.  It is a great crowd pleaser with it's honey and toasty flavors.

Finally was the Austrian Riesling, which was difficult to find, as it is in such low demand as compared to a German Riesling.  And let me tell you, they taste nothing alike.  The Austrian has more of a Chardonnay flavor, and is completely dry, no sweetness at all.   Worth trying to see the differences.

Hope I didn't bore you with all my catching up.  Wine has been such a fun new hobby for us.  It is amazing how every bottle tastes so different- yet they all are great for their own reasons.  We plan to finish up the last 9 lectures by the end of April....but then I don't know what we'll do with our Thursday nights?!??!!  This is what our group off 12 polished of Friday night.

And I've decided to start collecting the corks, something I should have done from the beginning...I'm sure I'll be able to make something with them.

Now go out and get a bottle of German Riesling, it's sure to go great with whatever you're having for dinner tonight!

Next week it's Spain and Portugal!  

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