Started in 2014 as a way introduce American wine consumers to significant import producers from within specific wine regions around the world, LUX welcomed the opportunity to present the wines of Pieropan, Renato Ratti, and Brancaia wineries.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to bring these wines to America when you have the ability to [experience] the flavor combined with the food,” says Giovanni Nencini, Managing Director at LUX Wines, because, he adds, “In Italy, there is no wine without food.” To illustrate this, the lunch menu from Pizzeria Mozza was designed to compliment the selections from each winemaker.
Beginning with white wines from Pieropan accompanied by antipasti that included marinated baby peppers with tuna, Brussels sprouts with prosciutto breadcrumbs, and fried potations with ceci and herbs and then followed by an Insalata of Rucola, funghi, and Piave, winemaker Dario Pieropan says, “We always make wine for the food, never for the market.”
Pieropan explained that his family started one of the first wineries in Veneto at the end of the 18th century, so the history of his wine is also the history of his family. In fact, this year marks an important anniversary for his father at 50 vintages, which, as he notes, is “a long, long story.” An important chapter of that story is represented by the fact that only three or four wineries in Italy are able to age white wine like they do. Pieropan says when people ask why their wines age so well, he tells them that the reason is because his father is really precise in everything he does, and, he says “When people put a lot of love in their job, something is different.”
Nencini adds that, “There is something special in this territory to make wines that are expressive of that territory, but also have longevity that is quite amazing in white wines.”
Two Pieropan wines accompanied the first course: Pieropan 2015 Soave Classico (90% Garbanega, 10% Trebbiano di Soave - SRP $20) and Pieropan 2014 La Rocca (100% Garbanega - SRP $30). When discussing the Soave Classico, Pieropan explained that the soil in Soave is volcanic, resulting in a wine that the winemaker describes as having “great acidity, great minerality, and great personality.” In contrast, the La Rocca is grown in oceanic soil that gives more fruit notes as well as “a lot of body and cream.” Pieropan clearly believes that the soil is a key component to winemaking since as he says, “The wine is never born in the winery, but always born in the vineyards.”
The second course consisted of four of Pizzeria Mozza’s signature pizzas: Squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata; Bianca with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere, and sage; Bacon, salame, fennel sausage, guanciale, tomato, and mozzarella; and Prosciutto di Parma, rucola, tomato, and mozzarella.
Paired with the pizzas were two red wines from winemaker Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti Winery. Ratti began by explaining that, Italy is the same size as California and and is also similarly straight, narrow, and long, but the difference is that Italy has 20 different wine regions and 20 different food regions. Because of this, he says, “Within 4 hours of driving, you can experience totally different wine and totally different food.”
The first wine, Renato Ratti 2014 Langhe Nebbiolo (SRP $25), is made from grapes named from nebbia (fog in English) because the grape is picked at the foggy time of day. Ratti explains that Nebbiolo is also considered to be one of the most sensitive grapes that changes based on the soil in the microclimate where its grown, so even in a short distance, the same type of grapes can result in very different wine.
The Renato Ratti 2012 Marcenasco Barolo (SRP $50) is also made from the Nebbiolo grape, but those that grow in a very specific 10-mile by 10-mile “Barolo Zone.” Ratti explains that if a winery is “lucky” to have their vineyards inside the Barolo Zone, they can call their wine Barolo. However, if they are outside, the wine can only be called Nebbiolo. “The Nebbiolo will never become a Barolo,” Ratti says, “And the reason is in the glass.” He describes the Nebbiolo as “more elegant…softer and fruitier,” but the Barolo is, “a more powerful, stronger wine.” Ratti also noted that his father has been recognized as the man who first mapped the Barolo Zone by recording the names of the different single vineyards. In 2010, his work was recognized as the official map of the single vineyards of Barolo, the only appellation that has single vineyards officially mapped.
Nencini says that “[Pietro Ratti] is able with his wines to really represent the character of the [Nebbiolo] grape in a particular place, which by chance happens to be the village where they produce the most elegant Barolo that you can drink.”
The Super Tuscan wines of winemaker Barbara Widmer of Brancaia Winery also perfectly accompanied the bold flavors of the pizzas. Originally from Zurich, Widmer’s parents traveled to Tuscany on holiday, but quickly fell in love with the region, the food, and the wine. Since her dad’s background was in advertising, Widmer said that he knew “it’s much easier to sell something good than something bad,” so when he decided to become a winemaker, he wanted to make outstanding wines and never compromise in quality, which still remains the philosophy at Brancaia today.
The first Brancaia wine, Brancaia 2010 Il Blu (50%Sangiovese, 45% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon - SRP $85), is a Super Tuscan made from grapes grown in the county Classico region, which is the countryside in Tuscany between Florence and Siena. Widmer pointed out that there are not many people who want to store wine for ages, so while winemakers are, ”always proud that our wines will be lovely in about 20 years,” she adds, “they also have to show nicely today.” So, that’s what she tries to do.
“One very important thing for Brancaia,” Widmer says “is that the wine starts in the vineyards, not in the cellars, so we focus on getting the perfect ripeness and then try to do as little as possible in the cellar.” This philosophy is particularly evident in the Brancaia 2012 Ilatraia (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Petit Verdot, and 20% Cabernet Franc - SRP $70), a Super Tuscan from Maremma on the south coast of Tuscany. This vineyard is very close to the sea; therefore, Widmer says, the challenge is to achieve the perfect ripeness and not have too much acidity. Also because of the climate in Maremma, Widmer explains that the roots have to go deeper into the soil transferring its typicity into the grape. “Even though the Ilatraia is made from French grape varietals,” she says, “it really shows beautifully the typicity of Maremma.”
By sharing the winemaking philosophies of these three notable Italian winemakers, LUX’s goal is that American wine drinkers will better understand “the deep love of wine that comes from generations of living among vineyards and wineries in some of the world’s most revered wine regions.”