For my second wine tasting event I chose to explore the wine region of Valpolicella in Veneto, Italy. Veneto is one of my favourite wine regions for their bold reds and crisp Prosecco, but also for their long history of producing high quality wines that have become emblematic of Italian wines the world over.
The event included three red wines from the region: Valpolicella Classico, Ripasso and one of the great red wines of Italy, Amarone. What is interesting about these three wines is that they are all made from the same blend of grapes indigenous to the region, but are incredibly unique between them due to different modes of production. And so it’s the perfect opportunity to experience how the same grapes can express themselves in different ways according to the wine making process.
Here’s a nice info graphic which briefly explains this difference from Tommasi winery…
Here’s how the evening went…
The guests from the first tasting event remained enthusiastic and came this time bringing friends. From the 13 people I had the first time, the group had grown to 30, which was quite a feat to manage in an intimate, home setting. Among the guests were people who liked wine but didn’t know much about it, people who worked in the industry producing or selling wine, and even a couple of sommeliers.
The people who didn’t know much about wine were curious and enthusiastic about the experience, asking questions and openly sharing their thoughts. Also the people from the wine industry were enthusiastic and happy to try the wines and food pairings and discuss their wine related experiences with others passionate about wine. In fact, the least open minded people at the event were the sommeliers who seemed more engaged in showing the others how much they knew about wine rather than engaging in the experience itself.
This was unfortunate as it’s not the kind of atmosphere I want to create, and a good reminder for myself as a sommelier to consider how I talk about wine to others. My aim with these events is to experiment with the tools I learned during my course and create an evening where people passionate about wine and food, at any level knowledge or preparation, can engage in that passion and share it with others.
I provided a small booklet with information about the region, the wine making process, common aromas found in these wines, and an explanation of the thought behind the food pairings.
This booklet serves a few purposes. One being the hope to maintain an informal and friendly environment where people can learn about the wines without me becoming the “teacher ” giving a lesson. (I teach English, so it’s a role that comes quite easily to me). Another reason being it’s a momento that guests can take home with them and possibly refer to in the future. It also helps me create a “look” for the evening and an identity consistent with my blog and other events as it includes my illustrations.
I also set out some jars containing the spices and fruit that are common aromas in these wines. These included cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, peppercorns, and marinated black cherries. In this way guests could familiarise themselves with these aromas and see if they recognise them in the wines.
Strawberry fields forever, soft rose petals and vibrant simplicity in a wine that’s approachable and at the same time beautifully refined. Bright, lively ruby colour with violet reflections, delicate and inviting aromas of fresh strawberries, cherries and cranberry with rose petal accents framed by warm spices of vanilla and cinnamon, soft and fresh on the palate with medium-high acidity, timid tannins and a silky, light body, incredibly balanced with a smooth, elegant finish.
Musky maturity and decadent overtones in a wine that’s sultry, soft and smooth. Compact ruby colour with garnet reflections, somewhat subdued on the nose with aromas of stewed dark fruits, amarena cherry and chocolate with earthy undertones of moss, forest floor and tabacco, more intense on the palate, soft and mineral with smooth tannins, medium acidity and medium body, well balanced with a spicy finish.
A vigorous, bold and rich wine with lush aromas and impactful flavours. Compact garnet colour, complex aromas with a depth of expression, amarena cherry, roasted plums, dark berries, dried figs, dried violets, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and clove, tabacco and liquorice, on the palate intense and vibrant with a medium-full body, surprisingly high acidity, velvety tannins and a persistent finish with returning notes of mocha and raspberry, in a well-balanced, smooth and energetic wine.
The food pairings
Characteristic of Valpolicella is a fresh acidity with an aroma profile of fresh red fruits and hints of spices. In this pairing we aimed to balance the high acidity of the wine with the creamy, slightly sweet flavour of pumpkin, made more complex with the goats cheese and pancetta. The complexity and persistence of the aromas in the dish, together with the crunchy texture of the toasted bread, is reflected in the lively and vibrant aromas in the wine. The result was a harmony of bright, fresh flavours, dynamic textures and a warm, spicy finish.
With Ripasso, we pass from fresh acidity to a more rounded, slightly sweeter wine with greater complexity and structure. In the choice of food pairing, we aimed to balance this roundness with salty, spicy and aromatic flavours. The succulence of the braised pork is mitigated by the potato purée, and also balances the bold tannins and high alcohol in the wine, leaving the palate clean with an aromatic persistence. This wine was slightly more acidic and dry than expected, but nonetheless the pairing was a success.
Amarone is one of the great Italian red wines with a full, round body, yet with a high acidity and tannicity well integrated, intense aromas with a depth of expression, and a long, aristocratic persistence, all thanks to the particular method of using dried grapes. In pairing this wine, it’s necessary to find a dish with a strong enough character to support it without being overshadowed. For this reason we chose duck breast, a slightly sweet meat with a persistent flavour, made more complex by being grilled and then sautéed with orange, ginger and Armagnac. The result was a rich and complex harmony of bold flavours that rested on the palate long after the meal, showing a wine and dish of great class and sophistication.
My compliments to the chef!
Next event we’ll be exploring the wines and dishes of California, stay tuned!