A glimpse to the right made me stop. Backing up, I walked in.
To know the wine of Emilia-Romagna it’s important to understand the region and food. My first lesson from Davide Castagnole from Cantina Braschi and the Enoica Group.
Davide is as passionate about the Emilia-Romagna region as he is about the wine. South of Milan and north of Florence, the region runs from just east of Genoa (to the west) and extends to the Adriatic Sea.
It’s packed with historical cities, culture and the arts (composer Giuseppe Verdi, movie director Federico Fellini, and historical painter Antonio Alegri “Correggio”). It’s one of the most important areas for sports cars and motorcycles in the world (think Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani, and Ducati), and many don’t know it’s pretty much the gastronomical center of Italy!
What I Learned About Emilia-Romagna After Eight Minutes With Davide
- Bologna is the region’s capital
- It’s composed of nine provinces (Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì‐Cesena)
- It’s where urban planning started- the Romans set up colonies in Rimini and Piacenza planning each aspect
- Home to the oldest university in the world in Bologna (there are older but these were the first to offer degree programs)
- First public library in Europe, Malatestiana opened in 1454 in Cesena
- Leonardo da Vinci designed the Port-Canal of Cesenatico
- Packed with medieval, Romanesque and Renaissance buildings
- There are 2 DOCGs (Albana di Romagna and Colli Bolgnesi), 19 DOCs and 9 IGPs; wine production in 2016 was about 7 million hectoliters (78.2 million cases), the third most of any Italian region (after Veneto and Puglia).
The Italian Food, Wine, Travel group virtually went to Emilia-Romagna this month. Scroll down to read other adventures from this group’s members. We’ll be live on Twitter Saturday, September 2 at 8am Pacific, 11am Eastern and 17:00 in Italy. Type the hashtag #ItalianFWT into the search bar to read the conversation, and feel free to comment and/or ask questions too!
The Gastronomical Center of Italy – Step aside Rome and Florence!
Culinary traditions are like old buildings in this region- you turn a corner and yet another one. We’re talking Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses. How about Prosciutto di Parma (with melon or wrapped around figs and grilled). Lasagna, Bolognese sauce– yep they’re from this region, as is Mortadela Bologna and Balsamic vinegar. Pasta is king with more types and preparations than you’ll ever know. And everyone needs to try a Piadina sandwich.
Cured, smoked and salted is how you’ll find pork and beef, boiled to but not sure I’d like that rendition. The region’s western edge touches Focaccia and Pesto while the eastern incorporates seafood. And I haven’t even mentioned desserts.
Take Me To The Wine – Indigenous Grapes
Emilia-Romagna succumbed to international varieties, as many regions in Europe, but focus is now on local grapes: Albana, Famoso, Montuni, Pignoletto, Trebbiano Romagnolo, Bonarda, Fortana, Lambrusco, Malbo Gentile, and Sangiovese di Romagna.
Sangiovese di Romagna
Although this is the king of Tuscan grapes (and the most widely-grown in Italy), the Romagna area claims its origins. It’s the primary variety in Brunello di Montalcino (100%), and blended with other grapes in Chianti, Morellino di Scansano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Super Tuscans.
Emilia-Romagna didn’t show its best face historically as bulk wines were popular, thin and insipid. Research prevailed uncovering different qualities of Sangiovese dependent upon the clone. According to Jancis Robinson, “…two of the finest clones, R24 and T19, are in fact from Romagna”.
Other factors play a role in the final wine too- it’s environment (give it heat void of dampness), and elevation (it doesn’t like heights), and soils. Careful cultivation and astute winemaking can equal magnificent wine.
Cantina Braschi is a winery focusing on the characteristics of the vineyard to produce high quality cru, or single vineyard designated (100%) Sangiovese. No blending- it reveals itself without the common addition of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, which add richness, structure, and lushness. These are desirable characteristics for sure but why dress it up? Sangiovese is sometimes described as having a “nervous” personality- the acidic structure. However using this as an advantage, with care and modern technology it can produce elegant or robust, food friendly wines.
Credible Authenticity- The Braschi focus is in line with a growing desire…dare I say trend. Many levels of consumers want to know the wine has real people and history behind it, from details about the winery and vineyard location to winemaking techniques. Having an authentic story and credible brand is important for many consumers today, two items at the heart of Cantina Braschi.
An Exquisite Treat For The Halcyon Days of Summer
Cantina Braschi shared a few bottles including a Riserva Sangiovese from their Tenuta del Gelso vineyard in Bertinoro. Planted in the hills of the Forlì Apennines, this is the southeastern section of the region closer to the Adriatic. Production is small averaging 5,000 bottles.
I spoke with winemaker Vincenzo Verrocchio about the Sangiovese di Romagna from their Gelso vineyard. It lies at an altitude of 110 meters (about 300 feet) on calcareous clay soil facing the Adriatic Sea. He described the wine comparing it to a racehorse- it can be brilliant and bright but needs to have the right conditions. The Gelso vineyard has desirable Mediterranean conditions so it’s a matter of managing them to find a balance. 2013 was a cooler vintage in this area.
Clear, pale, ruby-garnet, abundant fruit greets you: fairly substantial tart cherry, red plum and berry aromas. After ten minutes it had an intriguing floral-herbal thing going on (violet and rose, dried herbs and tobacco). A demanding acidic structure lifts the flavors and tames the tannins, which are silky and integrated. Mark and I thought it could lay down a few more years and be even more enjoyable.
Il Costono is on the lighter side of medium bodied, with medium acidity and tannins. Since the region is known for meats and pasta, I paired it with beef meatballs in a light roasted red pepper-tomato sauce over sheets of pasta. The pairing worked, but strangely a bite of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette made it shine. Andrea Immer-Robinson once told me acid loves acid!
- Vinification: 25-day temperature controlled maceration, fermentation in stainless tanks, 30-months aging in large Slovenian oak casks and second use French oak barrels. 6-months additional bottle aging.
Next Up: Monte Sasso Famoso Rubicone IGT, 2016 (ABV 12%, €8.50)
Famoso is a white, aromatic grape variety, a.k.a, Uva Rambela, Valdoppiese, and Bianca di Spinello. It’s been cultivated in Emilia-Romagna since the Etruscan times. Between the 15th to 19th centuries it was widespread, used for table grapes. However, people didn’t like its intense aromas and abandoned it, leaving it for extinction until 2000 when the Montalti family spotted it in a few rows of their old vines in Mercato Saraceno near Forlì.
Katarina Anderson of Grapevine Adventures talked to winemaker Vincenzo Verrocchio who shared the story. “They took shoots out of the old plants and replanted them. Today this Famoso is thriving in the small Podere Montesasso vineyard, producing about 5,000 bottles.” It’s kind of a dream grape: aromatic, thick skinned, disease resistant, and wonderful tasting with experienced hands.
This was my first Famoso adventure and a fresh wine it was with just enough character to keep you thinking.
- Color: clear, oat straw
- Aromas: Clean, pronounced aromas of citrus (white grapefruit), floral blossoms, Linden flowers, less ripe white peach and sea breeze mixed with dried herbs
- Palate: Dry, medium+ acid with a medium body and length, more citrus, mineral and dried herbs.
- Vinification: 10 day maceration in temperature controlled (14C) stainless tanks followed by fermentation, no malolactic fermentation, aging sur-lie in stainless tanks for 4 to 6 months.
Cantina Braschi wines are a great discovery, especially given their affordability! And there are more to discover through Enoica, their boutique winery group.
#ItalianFWT members introduce you to many aspects of Emilia-Romagna:
- Our September host, Lauren at The Swirling Dervish delves into The Winemaking Traditions of Cantina Braschi.
- Jennifer Gentile-Martin of Vino Travels shares her discovery of Romagna Albana: The 1st White DOCG of Emilia Romagna.
- Jill Barth, author of L’occasion serves as our guide to a favorite local tradition with Ancient + Native: Rural Festival Emilia.
- Katarina Andersson, host of Wines of Italy Live Stream and Grapevine Adventures, explores Podere Palazzo – An Organic Winery in the Heart of Romagna.
- Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla introduces us to a unique specialty of the region with Nocino: A Green Walnut Liqueur from Emilia-Romagna.
- And here at Savor the Harvest I share the region’s main attractions: Italy’s Heart and Soul of Wine and Food.
Traveling to the Region? An inside tip to get your indigenous grape fix on is to visit the Enoteca Regionale Emilia-Romagna, a wine bar/shop/educator in the basement of a 13th century fortress. This organization also works under the government to help wineries and businesses with marketing.
Disclosure: These bottles were shared with me, all comments are exclusively my own.