Similar to our climate here in Virginia, Italy is experiencing temperatures in the 45-to-60+-degree range, as spring is rapidly approaching both here and there. Join City Vino in-store this coming Saturday, February 26th, from noon to 4:00 pm for a taste of “Spring in Italy.”
To throw you a curveball, our first stop to explore “Spring in Italy” is Gabriele Rausse Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia. It may not be an international destination, but with his winemaking roots in Italy, Gabriele Rausse brought his love of Italian grape varieties to VA. He came to VA in 1976, when he was hired to start Barboursville Vineyards for the Zonin Family, who are a prestigious winemaking family that goes back many generations. The Zonin’s established their winery in central Virginia, as they believed it mimicked the Piedmont in Italy.
The Virginia wine we selected for you to try first is the 2020 Gabriele Rausse Malvasia Bianca, from Madison County. The wine is made from the Malvasia Bianca grape, which has its roots in the Mediterranean region, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, and the island of Madeira. This Virginia-grown-and-produced wine is a pale lemon yellow in color, with high acidity and a light body that refreshes and cleanses your palate with every sip. It has aromatics of light white flowers, with lemon and lime citrus notes that are repeated on the palate. There are also some flavors of honeysuckle and tropical pineapple. A good sipping wine that can be served alongside light seafood dishes or ones with some spice.
Now we head to Italy itself. This spring journey takes us to the commune of La Morra, in the Province of Cuneo, in the Italian region of Piedmont, which is in the Northwest part of the country. La Morra borders the municipality of Alba, which is known for its wines made from the Barbera grape, and it is not far from the hilly area to the south in the province of Asti, called the Langhe, which is known for wines made from Nebbiolo. These grapes are both important, as we will present to you two wines from the Rocche Costamagna winery.
The Rocche Costamagna winery was established in 1841 by Francesco Costamagna, and continues into its fifth generation. They practice sustainable farming techniques, and also avoid use of pesticides and herbicides. They respect the natural balance of their vineyards. They allow their wines to macerate (soak with the skins) for a long time, and then age the wines in Slavonian oak barrels from northeast Croatia. The barrels are highly regarded in Italy, due to their compact fibers and tight grain, meaning the flavors imparted will be softer.
The first of our two wines made in La Morra is the 2019 Rocche Costamagna Barbera d'Alba. Alba indicates that the grapes were grown in that area. The wine is made from 100 percent Barbera, which is the most cultivated red grape variety in Piedmont. The color of this wine is deep ruby red with some purple tinges. Aromatically, the wine has lots of notes of fruit—especially plum and Morello cherries. The plum and cherry flavors are prominent on the palate, with a light aftertaste of almond. For pairing, try dishes with mushrooms or truffles, lamb, cured meats, creamy risottos, and medium aged cheese
Our second wine, also made in La Morra, is the 2019 Rocche Costamagna Nebbiolo, from grapes from the Langhe DOC in Italy. Made from 100 percent Nebbiolo, this ruby red colored wine has aromas of black raspberries, blackberries, roses, and some spice. Normally Nebbiolo is a very tannin grape, but the winemaker’s goal here was to produce a wine with more soft and silky tannins. This is a wine to pair with fatty or salty meat dishes, roasts, mushrooms or truffles, and blue cheese.
The last stop in Italy is again in the Northwest, as we go between Turin and Asti in the village of Castelmuovo Don Bosco. The distillery named after the village was founded in 1890, and then purchased by Carlo Quaglia, who is the grandfather of the current director. Did you notice? We dropped distillery in there without a blink. Our final “Spring in Italy” contender is the Bèrto Vermouth Bianco Extra Secco, from the Piedmont, in Italy. This extra-dry Vermouth is made from a blend of Trebbiano, Cortese, and Chardonnay. It is flavored with wormwood, dittany, marjoram, ginger, lemon, cardamon, tarragon, and lavender for a minimum of 50 days. It is 19 percent alcohol, and a great spirit to sip. Or, it will create incredible martinis if you are so inclined.
We hope to see you this “Spring in Italy” this weekend. Saluti and ciao.