Monday, September 20, 2010

The Professor and Terre del Principe

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had numerous occasions to try Terre del Principe’s wines. At their winery, wine tastings, Vinitaly, too many to count. I have never, however, never, ever, participated in a wine tasting like the one I had the opportunity to sit in on Sunday.

Benvenuta Vendemmia at Terre del Principe. They, like many wineries throughout Italy, invited the public to their ‘home’ to witness the fall harvest. This one was special. This event featured a vertical wine tasting of two of their wines. Le Serole and Centomoggia. AND this wine tasting was led by Professor Luigi Moio, Campania’s most respected winemaker. The first time that this winery has ever organized a tasting of all these vintages at one sitting. History was about to be made.

A packed cantina…a patient professor…glasses ready…class is in session.

Professor Moio began with an introduction. A prologue, if you will, on his thoughts about how a particular grape has an enormous sfida, a challenge to represent a territory. How he, along with Terre del Principe’s Peppe Mancini, started out on this journey so many years ago. How could Pallagrello Bianco…a grape that had vanished from the ‘charts,’ make a wine that could fa volare il territorio (make this territory take flight)? A grape – after visual examination – that resembles chardonnay. A grape that is odorless. A grape whose acidity MUST be checked on continuously while on the vine…to catch that acidity at the right point…harvest time.

A vertical wine tasting conducted by the winemaker. As we tasted Le Serole vintages 2006-2009, Prof Moio involved the audience-or I should say-his class in the olfactory portion. As the years ‘rolled by’, we noticed aromas in earlier vintages which were no longer present in later ones. We tasted levels of acidity that varied in each glass. Like a true professor, Moio was at the white board…pen in hand…drawing diagrams…explaining what happens and why, perchè...Le Serole 2006 was the favorite here.  A testimony to how well a fine white wine can age.

The room was silent. Many mesmerized like I was. Hanging on to every word.

Bring on the reds. Centomoggia vintages from 2003-2007. Casavecchia grape. Another challenge. Terre del Principe needed to experiment the first couple of years to understand when the best period for harvest would be. This grape has a tendency to close during the fermentation process. What did this grape need to make a fine wine? Year after year the aroma of dark fruits evolved into cherry. Full bodied, clean. I was taken by the deep dark purple color. Many agreed that all around Centomoggia 2004 was the year for this wine. Here we detected spices, it had evolved. It was at its optimum level.

So what is the purpose of a tasting such as this? These wines are young…the winery is young.

This tasting, in my opinion, gives the wine enthusiast a chance to learn.

A chance to experience.

And in this case, a chance to make a little bit of history with Terre del Principe and Professor Luigi Moio.

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