Fine Italian sparkler
It's a long way from the gently rolling forests and meadows of France's Marne Valley to the craggy Alpine passes that stretch north from Trento to the Brenner Pass where Italy meets Austria. But from a wine enthusiast's standpoint, these disparate regions share a surprising aspect: Both are producers of excellent sparkling wine.
But it could happen. With Franciacorta in Lombardy, Trento is one of the very few Italian denominated wine regions devoted entirely to the production of sparkling wines by the Metodo Classico ("Classical Method," a legal way to say "made just like Champagne" without abusing the French term), using any combination of the traditional Champagne grape varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Pinot Meunier, plus, optionally, Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc).
Lots of wine regions around the world make sparkling wine, and hundreds of producers seek to replicate the Champagne process, subjecting wine to a second fermentation in the individual bottle to create its appetizing fizz. Most of them, though, frankly fall well short of the original.
So imagine my surprise to open today's featured wine - a very modestly priced "Metodo Classico" from an Italian corporate conglomerate, Gruppo Mezzocorona - and discover a dry, toasty, rich and complex sparkling wine that could easily escape detection if it were slipped in as a "ringer" in a tasting flight of real non-vintage Champagne.
Made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, fermented in the bottle for a full 24 months on its own yeast lees to build complex flavors, Rotari "Arte Italiana" Talento Trento Metodo Classico may be the best $10 sparkling wine I've yet encountered. It's a strong contender for holiday feasting or New Year's toasting, or just about any time that circumstances call for popping a cork.
Rotari "Arte Italiana" Talento Trento Metodo Classico ($12.99)
This clear, straw-color Italian sparkling wine is fully carbonated with a fine and persistent bubble stream that lasts for a full hour in a glass left untouched as a curious experiment. Clean apple and light toast aromas lead into a creamy and full flavor, tart apples nicely balanced by fresh-fruit acidity, fresh and long. A very fine sparkling wine made by the traditional fermented-in-the-bottle process used in Champagne, it's made from a Champagne-like blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir ("Pinot Nero" in Italy). U.S. importer: Prestige Wine Imports, NYC. (Nov. 27, 2006)
FOOD MATCH: Bearing out the principle that quality sparkling wine matches well with just about everything, I paired it with great success with a spicy, Sichuan-style stir-fry of tofu with green peppers and onions ... and a cross-cultural dose of chipotles en adobo to add complexity to the heat.
VALUE: It's a great value at this low-teens price from a local vendor, but it's possible to do much better online, with many retailers - including today's Wine Advisor sponsor, WineLibrary.com - offering it for as little as $8.99. See "Find this wine online" below for details.
WHEN TO DRINK: Like all sparkling wines, it's intended to be drunk as soon as it's made, and needs no further maturing. This one has the complexity and richness to hold up to a bit of cellaring, though, so you needn't be in a hurry to open it.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Look up vendors and check prices for Rotari sparkling wines on Wine-Searcher.com:
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Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006