"Reality is an illusion that occurs due to a lack of wine". Anonymous
As we headed off to the Colonnara winery on that Sunday morning, I was reminded of the first year that we almost attended this event back in 2009. It was during our three month stay in Italy before my husband, Jim, and I moved here permanently. Our son and his wife were visiting, and we had planned to take the four hour drive to Venice from Le Marche. On our way to the autostrada, we stopped by the Colognola cantina to introduce our son to our friends at the winery and to taste their latest offerings. If Lord Voldemort wanted to destroy this event, he could not have found a better way. The day was a disaster. Rain came down in buckets - well, almost literally. The tented area set aside for the event was a mud pit, and everyone was running around like crazy trying to solve the problem. A truck load of gravel was being put down, but it just could not keep up with the rain which washed it away almost as quickly as it hit the ground. Needless to say, it was a very short visit for us. And the thought of driving to Venice in the downpour was not too enticing either, but we kept to the plan and off we went. Each year as Cantine Aperte approaches, I think about this day and wonder if this year the weather will be fair or foul.
As Jim guided the Alfa over the windy roads and up the hill to Cupramontana and the Colonnara winery, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was the perfect day - sunny, warm, but not too warm, with cotton candy clouds dotting the sky and a soft breeze that whispered, "summer is coming". Of all the possible wineries open for visiting, we chose Colonnara because, today, they were featuring the sboccatura. In Italian, sboccatura is the word used to describe the process of disgorging the yeast (lees) from a sparkling wine made in the classic champagne method( methodo classico in Italian). As we were to learn, cleaning the yeast sediment from the wine without losing bubbles is more art than science. It is a deceptively simple yet technical process that now can be done mechanically. But today, Colonnara would be demonstrating the traditional process, done by hand, one bottle at a time.
We, of course, joined them at the bar where I looked to find a new Colonnara wine for tasting. And there I found it, the Cuvee Tradition. This is the first sparkling wine produced by Colonnara back in 1968, and it has been produced each year since. A methodo martinotti (charmat), it is made from a selection of quality Verdicchio grapes and aged for a longer period of time than the typical brut or extra dry made by the charmat process. The extra aging gives it a more refined nose and palate. In the glass the Cuvee Tradition is straw yellow with a fine perlage. It exudes scents of mimosa and stone fruits along with a hint of almond. This brut is soft in the mouth with a fresh taste that finishes with the flavor of toasted almonds. I was impressed by its more mature and distinctive palate. This is definitely a wine for more than aperitif, and I know I will be enjoying it often.
As we waited for our friend, Massimiliano, the President of Colonnara, who was still down in the cellar with a tour group, I decided to have my second taste of the day, the Luigi Ghislieri. Okay, this wine was not new to me, as a matter of fact it rates highly among my favorite sparkling wines. Named for a former Cooperative Chairman who in the 1970s restored the sparkling wine tradition in Cupramontana, Luigi Ghislieri is one of Colonnara's top sparkling wines. It is a methodo classico, bottle aged for a minimum of 30 months. In the glass, the color is a warm straw yellow with a fine and dignified perlage. The nose exudes scents of honey and almond. And the taste is elegant and soft with a well balanced acidity. This is a wine to be sipped slowly and savored, a more complex wine, a wine for moments of contemplation.
Down in the cellar, it was cool, dark, and quiet, but for me a sense of expectation filled the air along with the perfume of previously opened bottles of wine. At this point in time, the nearly fully matured bottles of Luigi Ghislieri had been resting on wooden racks for more than 2 years.
The process was both interesting and educational to observe, but the best part was yet to come - tasting the wine before the liqueur d'expedition was added. As the wine entered the glass, I noted a citrus aroma. It had a lighter color than the finished Luigi Ghislieri and a fine perlage. I do not know what I was expecting, but the most surprising thing for me was how dry this wine was. It had an appealing tartness on the palate similar to a granny smith apple. While I could see the possibilities for this as a dosage zero (without the liqueur d'expedition), this really made me appreciate what the addition of the liqueur d'expedition does to enhance the depth and flavor of the sparkling wine and produce its distinctive palate. I will be looking forward to tasting the finalized product in a few months.
Thank you Massimiliano and Colonnara for continuing my education about the sparkling wine making process!
For more information about the Colonnara winery visit their website at www.colonnara.it