Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Somming It Up, Week 1

Last night I attended the first lesson of the first level of the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS).

I've already taken the class, in fact all three levels, but due to a mix of weddings, busy tour seasons, and my fear of exams (I freak out before all exams, even an eye exam causes me anxiety!), I have not yet taken the final.

As a year and a half have passed since completing the courses, I am reviewing the first and third levels this Spring with the plan of diving head first into the exam in June without having a lot of time to accumulate anxiety!

Beginning the course last night brought back so much excitement and passion for wine that it has energized me and I am ready to roll. I'll be reporting about once a week to keep myself in check and to add to the pressure. Will I pull it off? I'm banking on it!

Last night we tried a Franciacorta, an amazing Riesling from the Oltrepo Pavese, and a Chianti Classico that was corked.

The Franciacorta was lovely, a Satèn with a nice soft perlage and a beautiful nose. I got white peaches, raw hazelnuts, a bit of salt... I couldn't stop sniffing it! And it was equally pleasing to taste and drink. Nice acidity to clean the mouth and get the appetite running. The Satèn has between 3.5 and 4.5 atmospheres, which I'm still learning about. Champagne has 6 atmospheres.

Franciacorta, seen in center below Lake Iseo, Lombardia

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Franciacorta, I highly recommend you give it a try. Like Champagne, it is re-fermented in the bottle and made with one or a combo of the following grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir. The soil is also similar to that of Champagne, so it is similar. The higher end Franciacorte I've tried have been up there with many Champagne. I once told the owner of a Franciacorta winery that I wanted to bath in his wine. It was sublime. (Those tasting notes are in a box somewhere! Must find the name of that Franciacorta producer!).

The Riesling had the most amazing nose I've ever gotten on a Riesling. Kerosene, eucalyptus, sage, oregano... the combo of scents reminded me of an herb that grows in Tuscany called nipitella, that goes wonderfully with porcini mushrooms. The wine was round and persistent in the mouth, much softer than the nose had been, but equally complex. I've decided I must drink this Riesling with a nice plate of Porcini risotto. Or maybe a carpaccio of Porcini would be better? I'll just have to try it all!

The Chianti was pretty bad, which made me happy since it was a Chianti Classico! Score for the Chianti Rufina area! As I often say, just because it is a Classico doesn't mean it is going to be a great Chianti. I was unable to get the name of the winery (which is probably best for them!) but it had a gold label. I'll recognize it if I run into it in an enoteca, and I'll avoid it for sure!

What did a corked Chianti smell like on first impact? Almost like a low end Lagrein that had been poured into a dusty glass. That was the thought I got. The whole cork taint issue is frustrating. Everyone says it is super obvious, but until last night I'd never been so absolutely sure a wine was corked. I think it was my defining cork moment that everyone talks about (ie all the wine experts, geeks and fans that I hang around).

Well, it is time to get studying. This is just a drop of what I've got to understand in June!

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