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Sampling the Wines of Lombardy

Source: Wikimedia Commons

by Vincent J. Cannato

It is hard to feel bad for the Lombardy region of Italy.  It is one of the wealthiest regions in the country.  Its capital, Milan, is a center for fashion and finance and the area is graced with the beauty of the Alps and Lakes Como and Garda.

Yet to Americans the wines of the region are often over-shadowed by those of neighboring Piedmont or of Tuscany.  A tasting put together by The Wines of Lombardy in Washington, DC, last Tuesday (June 22), tried to change that.

A good cross-section of the region’s wines was on display. There were sparkling wines from the Franciacorta area.  There were wines made from Nebbiolo and Lugana as well.  From the Oltrepó Pavese area in southwestern Lombardy, there were a couple of well-made Pinot Nero wines.  In the past, I’ve only had wines made from Bonarda from Oltrepó Pavese, but these Pinot Neros were new to me.  (Editor’s note: Pinot Nero=Pinot Noir.)

Two of them stood out. The two wineries are close to each other, but their styles are very different. The 2004 Pinot Nero Riserva Pynos from San Michele ai Pianoni was an intense Pinot, with notes of spicy licorice. This was a wine that needed food.  As a Pinot, it went well with the salmon dish at lunch, but it had enough heft and spice that made the wine work even better with the beef dish.

The second Pinot came from the Torti Tenimenti Castelrotto winery.  Its 2006 Pinot Nero Poker di Vino Re di Denari was quite a bit different than the Pynos from San Michele ai Pianoni.  It is light and ethereal, having seen little to no oak, with definite cranberry notes.

This year, the Torti family has introduced new labels and names for their wines based around the theme of poker.  This Pinot Nero is the King of Diamonds.  There also was a fine white sparkler made from Pinot Nero called Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades) and a pleasant Barbera Regina di Cuori (Queen of Hearts).

Tasting new, indigenous grapes is always a fun part of tasting wines and the highlights of this tasting were two wines featuring two such grapes.  The 2008 Terre Lariane Bianco Vigne del Lago from the Sorsasso winery near Lake Como is made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and the native grape Verdessa.  It was a compelling and mouth-watering blend.  The Sauvignon Blanc gave the wine nice acidity while the Verdessa added some nice roundness. A hint of mouth-watering saline minerality made me keep coming back to the wine during lunch.

The second wine was the 2001 Garda Classico DOC Rosso Superiore Don Lisander from Monte Cicogna, a winery near Lake Garda.  This wine is made mostly from the native grape Groppello, blended with a little Barbera, Sangiovese, and Marzemino.  When I first tasted this wine, I was surprised that it was from 2001.  It still had a wonderful freshness and vibrancy to it.  A well-balanced and lively wine, the Don Lisander was medium-bodied with notes of cherry.  It went well with the beef served at lunch, but also drank well on its own.

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