Italian Stars

August 1, 2010

By Tony Ventura

The “stars” were supposed to be first tasted at the end of the 17th century. The Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, who lived in an abbey in Hautvillers in France’s region of Champagne is credited with first discovering the method by which to make this famous sparkling wine.

I doubt most of this fairy tale. However, one cannot doubt the fact that the winemakers in the Champagne region of France use only the classic method in making true Champagne, that magical sparkling wine that keeps emanating those tiny beautiful bubbles from the bottom of your flute.

The battles have previously been waged on the topic of what to call this type of wine. It’s now standard operating procedure to be able to label sparkling wine Champagne only if it has been produced in France’s Champagne region. The European community agrees with this fact. The fact that you can still buy an American sparkling wine labeled as Champagne can be the subject of a future column.

The worldwide demand for Champagne has soared, especially in the emerging economies of China, India, and Russia. Not unexpectedly, prices have also soared. Italian vintners have taken notice of this fact, and have striven to make very high quality sparkling wine in the classic French method called méthode champenoise. The Italian term for this method is metodo classico.

The producer Ferrari, in Italy’s Trentino region, has been synonymous for well-made Italian metodo classico for over a hundred years. The French would call most of their wine blanc de blanc, since they are made with 100% chardonnay grapes. Trentino’s northern neighbor, Lombardy, is also famous for making metodo classico. The most common imported into the U.S. are called Franciacorta.

Naples may be famous for their Neapolitan pizza, but it wouldn’t be the first place I looked for a fine example of metodo classico. I was taken by surprise recently when I tasted two examples from Feudi di San Gregorio in Italy’s Campania region. This winery has been famous for making authentic modern wines from such indigenous grapes as Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, and Aglianico.

They hired the expert French Champagne producer, Anselme Selosse , to consult on making two sparkling metodo classico wines made from two of their indigenous grapes. From the mild yeasty nose, to the burst of fresh flavorful tiny bubbles in my mouth, I immediately knew that southern Italy could now represent another place that produces excellent metodo classico. Look for Feudi di San Gregorio’s Dubl Greco and Dubl Aglianico the next time you want to taste some Italian stars.

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