"Beverly HIlls--There was much to learn at the Simply Italian Great Wines seminars and tasting"

.. By Joe Hilbers

It was not until the decade of 1970 that Americans really became interested in wines. It was a new generation and like all before them wanted to invent their own life-style and interests.

The wine industry responded with new wineries, more plantings, new varietals and as the result a new interest in wine tasting. With all this new attention soon to follow were wine writers like yours truly. Actually the dean of all wine writers in Southern California was the late Robert Balzer, then writing the first wine column appearing in the Los Angeles Times.

In knowledge about wine Robert was way ahead of his time and often conducted wine courses for consumers and of course attended many wine tastings. I often sat with him at these tastings and at one recall saying that we had already heard much about these wines and varietals. Robert responded by saying that he never went to one of these events without learning something new. He summed it up by saying that "there is always something new to learn about wine."

This proved to be a remarkably true statement which explains why we recently attended two seminars at the Simply Italian Great Wines tour conducted at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. This proved to be an all day event with five different seminars, then a three hour tasting with twenty two Italian wineries participating.

The first seminar we attended was entitled "The Sparkling Life-Fresh & Fun from Fruili". The Friuli Venezia Giulia region in located in the far northeastern part of Italy and includes the provinces of Pordenone and Udine. The "Friuli Grave" appellation in recent years now enjoys a large D.O.C area thanks to some wines of the highest quality. We tasted nine wines some made from local varietals like Glera and Ribolla gialla. Popular for the region is Pinot Grigio and we tasted some that were 100 percent of this varietal. All the wines we tasted were white with one exception, a Antonutti Spumante Rose Extra Dry which included Merlot and Refosco. Its bright pink color most attractive.

Conducting this seminar was Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser. We had the opportunity to chat with Tim and learned that he had, until recently, made his home in San Francisco. We had to add that this was our home town as well where we grew up.

The second seminar we sat in on was "Traceability & Regulation of Italian D.O.C wines, with focus on Franciacorta: One territory, Three Denominations".

This was conducted by Riccardo Curbastro, one of the owners of the winery and vineyards, some located in the towns of Caprilo and Isee. Here we tasted both red and white wines starting with a remarkable sparkling wine, Franciacorta D.O.C.G Brut made with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Another sparkler was Franciacorta D.O.C.G Rose Brut made with Chardonnay and Pinot Nero.

Riccardo devoted much of this seminar to how wines are chosen to be labeled D.O.C or D.O.C.G. He likened Italy's wine production as a pyramid with five sections, all generic production at the base, then generic with identity of vineyards, vintages and varietals. The top three, as the pyramid narrows in size are reserved for wines with distinctive appellations and a known consistency in quality Next D.O.C and finally at the top the D.O.C.G designation for wines with protected designation of origin.

Four of the five wines we tasted were either D.O.C or D.O.C.G. The three red wines included Curtefranca D.O.C 2013 RossoVigna Santella del Grom, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Barbera. We gave this wine high points.

Another red was one hundred percent Pinot Noir, 2011 Serbino IGT. The wine we liked best was Rontana - Sangiovese Colli di Faenza D.O.C 2016 with one hundred per cent Sangiovese grapes, but then we have a particular fondness for this Grape varietal.

At the walk around tasting first we dived into the food table which included cheese stuffed ravioli and pasta in a mushroom tomato sauce.

The wineries represented were from all the famed Italian appellations, Tuscany, Piedmont, Veneto, Campania, Marche and Lombardy

At the walkaround we directed our first visits to wineries from Italy's famous islands, Sicily and Sardinia. We have a special interest in wines from Sicily since our mother was born there, coming to the U.S. as a three year old with five year old sister.

The wineries in Sicily recently began looking at some of their native varietals like Nero d'Avola, Eughenes Syrah and Nerekki Mascalese. The same is true in Sardinia with local varietals like Isula, Lakana and Mamuthone

The seminars were well attended with not an empty seat to be found and the walk around was a full house as well.

Simply Italian may have been the wrong name for the event since the seminars proved there are no simple Italian wines.

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Last Update:10/25/19

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