A Quick Trip to Italy

The past 15 months have been a global horror show in countless ways. So many lives lost, so many left without family, so many left facing lives of illness and disability. And then there are the millions upon millions of jobs and businesses lost, fortunes evaporated, savings engulfed. When COVID-19 hit hard in March of 2020, life on this planet turned upside down. And it’s staying that way in too many corners of the world. 

But there are glimmers of hope to be found. Cases and hospitalizations are dropping, the number of vaccinations continues to climb, and slowly, oh so slowly, daily patterns and community habits are becoming recognizable once again. 

As communities begin to regain some sense of themselves, a number of the most-missed parts of our lives are becoming possible again. Eating indoors, spending time with folks outside our Covid bubbles, and attending public events are among the activities that were immediately popular as pandemic guidelines began to soften. And, without wanting to jinx themselves, or anybody who shares their desires and needs, many people have begun to talk about traveling. Traveling! One of the more challenging, non-fatal, realities of the past year or so has been the inability to move freely. Not just from one nation to another, but from our homes to the grocery store or place of worship. That seems to be changing. In late May the European Union said that they would welcome travelers from other parts of the world if they can prove they have been vaccinated. 

But picking up and going will not be a simple matter. The rush to normalcy, whatever that is, is already bringing crowded planes, overpriced lodging, and a labyrinth of pandemic protocols to stumble through. For many, hopping on a plane to visit family or see long-awaited international wonders, is just going to have to wait. Happily, as paradoxical as it might sound, just because you can’t travel doesn’t mean you can’t travel. 

With wine, far away places are always only an arms-length away. Just last month I had the great luck to visit a few places in the land of La Dolce Vita, and I didn’t even have to leave my office. 

My first stop was in the northern Italy region of Trentino-Alto Adige, an unsually warm climate given its northern latitude. The narrow valleys above the Adige River trap heat in the summer months, which allows a diverse array of grape varieties to thrive there, not only those known as early ripeners. But we didn’t go all that way for those grapes. We came for chardonnay and pinot nero, with a big side of fizziness. And we found it in the 2015 Endrizzi “Piancastello” Brut Riserva TrentoDOC, aka Trentodoc, the name given to the sparkling wines of the Trentino region.

In the glass it’s a clear, brilliant, lemon gold, with a fine and insistent perlage. Wafting aromas fill the air, replete with scents of lemon and lime, spring flowers, wet stones, and green herbs. Once in the mouth the wine shows itself to be filled with mouth-scrubbing acid, and a textured mouthfeel that only grows with time. Delicate notes of biscuit and apple lead to a long and lingering finish. The wine is balanced, concentrated, with a pleasing depth.

60% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir 12.8% abv
$25 SRP

We couldn’t stay in the beautiful mountain valleys of the north very long as we had places to go and wines to meet. Before too long we found ourselves in Chianti, in the heart of Tuscany, one of the first demarcated wine regions in the world. More specifically, we landed in Chianti Classico, the heart of this historic zone, near the town of Gaiole, one of the first villages to be included in the edict handed down in 1716 by Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Owned by the Frescobaldi family, a leading power in Tuscan wine going back to the 13th century, Tenuta Perano sits in a southern-facing sloped amphitheater about 500 meters above sea level, a perfect site for producing ripe and concentrated wine grapes. The 2017 Frescobaldi Tenuta Chianti Classico is living proof of this.

Tenuta Perano 2017 shows a clear, garnet core to a soft, rose rim. On the nose are aromas of cherry and vanilla and oak, along with hints of wet stones, green herbs, and white flowers. On the palate, you are presented with vibrant acid and grippy tannins, plenty of red and black cherry, and a touch of earthiness on the finish. All parts come together for a seamless and delightful whole. This is a versatile wine that can work well with roasted meats, red sauce pasta dishes, and everything in between. Easily a fun treat all by itself, too.

Sangiovese and complementary varieties (per winery); 13.5% abv
$33 SRP

Until you can find a way to get over to Italy, or any other inviting wine region for that matter, take comfort in knowing that international travel is only as far away as your local, independent wine shop. There you’ll find folks eager to guide you on your adventures in the wine world. Cheers!

**samples from wineries via Colangelo & Partners
**Photos courtesy of The Grape Belt

4 thoughts on “A Quick Trip to Italy

  1. Ann Waters

    What a thought-provoking post – I’m glad that you had a chance to go. We made it to Portugal just before the pandemic hit and I’m reliving that trip with every bottle we bring home from the wine shop now. And, of course, mixing in many gorgeous local wines too. We are smack dab in the Monticello ava and are quite spoiled.

    1. Tom Riley

      Thank you so much for reading. I wish I had gotten to Italy. The trip was purely virtual and vicarious, as the wines carried us to Italy, and we were nowhere near an airplane. Really hoping Europe is in the cards for next year but many of our fellow citizens refusal to get on board worries me. Enjoy the riches of Monticello. I’ve had little VA wine but have enjoyed everything I’ve had a chance to taste. Be well. All the best, Tom

  2. schmitztc

    We will be leaving PA for a weekend in NYC. My son in law’s favorite little neighborhood wine shop will be our first order of business. I am taking your recs with me!!

    1. Tom Riley

      I think the bubbles will be hard to find, but the Chianti should be an easy find. Check out some of the previous suggestions from Spain and France. Lots to discover. Have a great time! We just got back from five days in Brooklyn visiting our younger daughter. Can’t wait to get back. Cheers!

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