The way we discover new wines is changing and, of course, technology plays a role, front and center. At a recent gathering at Wine & Wall in San Francisco to taste Italian releases from the Lux Wines portfolio, we were treated to a 360-degree virtual reality tour of three prominent estates. Aerial views of the regions, walks through the vineyards and conversations with such notable producers as Marilisa Allegrini were part of the sensory experiences that preceded those of taste and smell.
Lux Wines, created by E&J Gallo Winery in 2014, is an importer and purveyor of fine terroir-driven selections from around the world. Their expanding portfolio includes A-list brands from some of our most notable appellations. One of 20 Italian regions, Friuli Venezia Giulia is the country’s most northeast location. There, in the viridescent hills below the Dolomites is the Jermann
Winery, producers of fine wines for three generations. The northerly Ruttars and, to the south, Villanova estates combine for nearly 400 planted acres, but differ in terroir.
After the visual tour of both estates, Felix Jermann, part of that third generation, introduced us to a chardonnay sourced from 14 different vineyards and a crisp blend of local varietals.
Described as their best interpretation of chardonnay, the Jermann Dreams Delle Venezia 2017 ($70), aged 11 months and awarded 93-points by James Suckling, expressed floral, stone fruit and citrus aromas with integrated flavors and a crisp finish.
Named for the wineries’ original owner, the Jermann Vintage Tunina 2016 ($65) is described as “a unique field blend of chardonnay, sauvignon, ribolla gialla, malvasia istriana and the rare native variety picolit,” a grape commonly used in dessert wines. The penetrating aromas, an expressed minerality and layered stone fruit, tangerine and spice flavors balanced a crisp acidity with a rounded mouthfeel. Critics across the board rated this wine in the mid-90s.
Moving to the northwest, home to Italy’s great Barolo wines from the Piedmont region, we used the oculus to survey sweeping views of vineyards and the new hilltop Renato Ratti winery in Annunziata, where Pietro Ratti has overseen the production of Renato Ratti wines for 30 years. On this evening, Pietro poured single-vineyard Barolo wines from each of the winery’s two sites.
Barolo wines are produced exclusively from the nebbiolo grape, whose name originates from the Italian word for “fog,” something it confronts near harvest time each vintage. We began with the Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco 2015 ($58), a dry wine with soft tannins. Evidence of winemaking on this property dates back to the 12th century; this release had an expressive, perfume bouquet and lush, savory and black licorice flavors.
From one of the oldest regions in the Barolo district, the highly rated Renato Ratti Barolo Conca 2015 ($105) comes from the small Conca Vineyard near La Morra. Pietro explained that, due to global warming, the sub-region is getting much less rainfall annually, but torrential conditions damage vines and complicate growth management. The elegance of this wine begins with the balanced floral, berry and spice notes on the nose followed by austere, yet fruit-forward flavors and a balanced minerality.
On 264 acres encompassing seven unique sites in northeast Italy’s Valpolicella Classico appellation, Allegrini, led today by CEO Marilisa Allegrini, has overseen appassimento winemaking (wines made from dried grapes) in the region for six generations with vineyards that are bio-diverse and dry-farmed. The Allegrini estates are located near Lake Garda, the largest fresh water lake in Italy.
The single vineyard, site-specific Allegrini La Poja 2013 ($80-$85) was classified out of the Valpolicella designation because it consists of 100 percent corvina veronese, exceeding the 95 percent maximum permitted. Sourced from 40-year-old vines and bottle-aged for four years, the La Poja expresses the depth and richness of an elegant wine with dark berry flavors that linger.
A blend of corvina, corvinone, rondinella and oseleta grapes that are dried on racks for 90-120 days prior to fermentation, the Allegrini Amarone Della Valpolicella 2014 ($85) originates from fossil-laden soil and presents itself as a rare mineral amarone. Amid high praise from critics, it expressed, on this night, opulent baked fruit flavors and a bright acidity that carried through the finish.
Both Allegrini releases substantiate the rationale for the designation by Gambero Rosso magazine as Italy’s 2016 Winery of the Year. These wines and others in the Lux Wines portfolio are available online at wine.com and in wine shops throughout the Bay Area.
Guest columnist Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email email@example.com.