Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right. Mark Twain
The Moncaro winery is located in the neighboring town of Montecarrotto, a town that my husband drives through with continuing trepidation because this is where a few years ago he spent several hours in the police station as they cited him for driving without a license. (Well, who knew that our American drivers licenses were no longer valid in Italy, leaving us in the unenviable position of not being able to drive our car until we secured Italian drivers licenses - a monumental, multi-month task if you are an American especially if you do not speak the language fluently. But, that is another very long story.)
We stopped by the Moncaro cantina earlier in the week to buy some of their sfuso. The term sfuso is generally translated as "loose" which in the case of wine means it is pumped directly from the tanks into your 5 liter bottle. In Italy, this is the very affordable wine the locals drink daily. While Jim and I were waiting in the cellar, the sound of merry voices floated down from the tasting room above, and that was enough to convince me that we should head upstairs and join the party. There were several Moncaro sparkling wines I wanted to taste, so I was on a mission - taste them all.
1. Fiori di Seta, a frizzante (Frizzante is not a term generally used for sparkling wines in the U.S, but it is one of two classifications of Italian sparkling wine the other being spumante. The difference is in the level of pressure in the fermentation process. The frizzante, made under less pressure, produces fewer bubbles. In general, frizzante is of lesser quality and costs less than a spumante which can be made in either the charmat method or the classic champagne method. )
2. Opale, a methodo martinotti (charmat)
3. Madreperla, a methodo classico (the classic champagne method)
4. Ametista, a sparkling dessert wine
As the Fiori di Seta was poured into the glass, I was expectant. I watched the very pale yellow liquid filling the glass and the sparse bubbles rising with a yawn like a sleepy child. As is typical of the Passerina grape, the bouquet was aromatic with subtle notes of flowers and herbs and a balance of sweetness and acidity. On the palate, the wine was very approachable, crisp and clean with a hint of citrus and herbs. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the Moncaro Passerina frizzante. We brought a few bottles home and drank them with everything from antipasti to chicken and pasta, and now it is time to return for more.
The second sparkling wine in our tasting line up, the Opale, is probably Moncaro's most popular sparkling wine. Opale is made from 100% verdicchio grapes by the charmat method with both the first and second aging in stainless steel tanks. Opale is a pale yellow, and in the glass the perlage danced the tarantella. The nose emits citrus, flowers, and a hint of honey. On the palate it maintains some of the mineralness of the Verdicchio with hints of fruit. It is fresh and easy to drink. I will serve this as an apertif or with fish.
Finally, it was time to try the dessert wine, Ametista. Ametista is a very particular wine, made from 100% Lacrima di Morro d'Alba grapes. Lacrima is a grape that is only grown in this small hill top town in the province of Ancona in Le Marche. It's name means tears, and it is said that when ripe the grapes weep. The wine from Lacrima is distinctive with a deep purple color and an intense bouquet of roses and violets. In this sparkling version of the wine, these features are dominant, however, the pallet is sweet with the taste of fresh berries. This was an interesting surprise. I am sure it will be wonderful paired with chocolate. I am already planning to serve it with a torta caprese. But it would also pair well with other desserts such as fruit tarts. (You can find a recipe for torta caprese here www.channelingnonna.com.)
For more information about the Moncaro winery, visit their website at www.moncaro.com.