Thursday, May 19, 2011

Great Wine Tasting at Screwtop in Arlington

Last night CiaoDC participated in a wonderful wine tasting class at Screwtop Wine Bar and Cheese Shop.  Beth Wolfe from Siema wines hosted the tasting of 6 different red wines that Siema imports.  A little bit about Siema to start - Siema is an importer out of Springfield, VA that brings in wines from smaller family-owned vineyards in Italy, among other countries.  Beth explained that because some of the estates are so small, Siema is the only U.S. importer for some of their wines.  Another great part about the size of these farms is that it allows Siema to really get to know the families who grow the grapes and produce such amazing wine.

To start, Beth dispossessed us of a common confusion between two very different wines: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Montepulciano (from Tuscany).  

The first is one that many people familiar with Italian wines have probably tasted - Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  Siema imports this one from the Galasso family in the Abruzzo region, which is east of Rome and north of the "heel of the boot" - Apulia.  Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is a versatile wine that goes with many different types of food, most descriptions state that it has light fruit flavors with soft tannins.  After tasting it, I would have to agree.  

The second wine was a Montepulciano from the town by the same name, in Tuscany. More specifically, this one comes from the Corte alla Flora Estate, run by the Cragnotti family.  Unlike the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, this wine is made from the Sangiovese grape, as opposed to the Montepulciano grape.  It is a cheaper version of a more rare wine from Montepulciano - the Vino Nobile.  This wine was my favorite out of the six,with, as Siema would say "a full-bodied bouquet with spicy berry notes."  I wouldn't disagree and noticed especially that it doesn't hit you with flavor when you first taste it, but it has a really nice finish.

From the Montepulcianos, we moved onto two very Old World Italian wines that are really more designed to be had with food: Barolo and Brunello.  And trust me, after tasting them, I would not be sipping on them without pairing them with a serious meal.  

We started with a Barolo from the Piedmont region (in the northwest corner of the country, bordering on France).  This particular Barolo comes from the Rocche Costamagna cantina and villa, which is in a city called La Morra.  Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape, which Beth explained is somewhat finicky and difficult to work with.  Part of that difficulty plays into its higher price.  Beth warned us that we would notice immediately the strong tannins in this wine.  While difficult to explain what tannins really are, wine experts will tell you that they can come from the grape skins, stems, and seeds, and sometimes even the barrels the wine is placed in to age.  Beth told us the sensation we would experience was a somewhat sour taste on the sides of our tongues.  She was right on the money.

From the Barolo we moved onto one of my personal favorites, Brunello, from Montalcino in Tuscany.  Brunello is made from the Sangiovese grape, but only grows in the Montalcino region due to its particular climate and soil.  Brunello is widely regarded as the most prestigious of the Tuscan wines and comes from a specific clone/variety of San Giovese.  Like Barolo, it is best when paired with food, particularly hearty, Tuscan style food.  Most producers will tell you that you should not drink a Brunello until it is at least 5 years old because the aging process improves the quality of the wine.  Brunello cannot even be bottled until it has aged in barrels for at least four years!  I promise you, though, it is definitely worth the wait.

Moving into a type of wine that is less "serious" and a little more fun to most, probably, we tasted two different types of Lambrusco.  Both bottles come from the oldest Lambrusco producer in Italy, Chiarli.  Chiarli has its vineyards in the Emiglia-Romagna region, which is in the central north, just to the north of Tuscany.  It is made from the Lambrusco grape and generally brings to mind the thought of a sweet carbonated wine, perhaps even that cheap jug wine some of us drank in college.  Fortunately, the Lambruscos we tasted were anything but college-style.

The first Lambrusco was Chiarli's Lambrusco Dolce NV, which considering that dolce means "sweet" in Italian, it makes sense that this one was the sweeter of the two.  It was also a dark red color with very slight carbonation.

The second Lambrusco was the Lambrusco "Vecchia Modena" NV, and reminded me more of a rose' both in color and taste.  The carbonation was much more intense on this one, but served chilled, would be refreshing on a hot summer day.

Overall, this wine tasting was a great learning experience, even for someone who considers themselves familiar with Italian wines.  There is so much to learn, and Beth did a fabulous job explaining it all to us and answering our questions!  You can purchase all of these wines and many others at Screwtop.  If you're interested in future wine tasting classes at Screwtop, click on the link to this post.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a thorough description I can almost taste the wines. Also, thanks for clarifying the different types of Montepulciano!