The full extent of my Italian wine knowledge comes from The Wine Show. I have watched Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys drink their way through bottles upon bottles of vintages by world renowned vineyards or eccentric independent wineries. I have heard them describe the unique aromas and velvety textures. Understandably, this has got me hooked on Italian viticulture, and desperately wanting to try these wines for myself.
So imagine my excitement at being invited by Moraco & The Wooden Cellar to attend the Italian Wine Workshop this past Wednesday. This event was organized by the Italian Trade Agency, in collaboration with the Italian Embassy, and hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut. It is the very first event of its kind in Lebanon, dedicated solely to shedding the light on Italian wines and beverages.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who found this workshop very educative. See, not everyone knows that Italy is the world’s number one wine producer – I sure didn’t. Additionally, Italia is home to nearly 350 indigenous grape varieties grown over 20 wine producing regions, with more than 800,000 registered wine bottlers. This monstrously large number of producers is the fruit of ages of viticulture and wine making.
In attendance were Lebanese importers and distributors exhibiting an array of over 400 wines by more than 100 Italian producers. To accentuate the already vibrant Italian vibes, quality cheeses and charcuterie were laid out for the tasters to enjoy, and the talented chefs of the Four Seasons served impeccable pasta prepared at a live station.
I spent the workshop tasting delicious Italian wines most of which I had never tried before, like the wide collection of sparkling wines imported by Moraco including fun proseccos, fizzy pinks, and flavored bubbly wines. I also enjoyed many familiar wines like several Chianti Classicos and Pinot Grigios, and one distinctly memorable Amarone.
The highlight of the evening, though, had to be the Guided Wine Tasting by Italian sommelier and oenologist, Paolo Peira. The itinerary included 14 bottles from different Italian producers and winemaking regions: four dry whites, one sparkling rosé, seven reds, one sweet white, and a Grappa. Among the vintages we tried, was a refreshingly light Pinot Grigio, an exquisite Vino Nobile, a cloyingly sweet Nero d’Avola infused with almonds, and finally a Grappa that I could barely sniff let alone sip.
Throughout the tasting, Peira discussed the uniqueness of each wine on the list, commenting on the different regions that these wines were grown in and how Italy’s varied terroirs play a major role in ensuring the success and individuality of Italian wines. I was glad to learn that Italian wines are growing in popularity in Lebanon, and for good reason. While France still reigns supreme with a whopping 76.5% share of imported wines, Italy comes in second with a share that seems to be rapidly rising. The last two years have witnessed a 27.8% rise in Italian wine imports, and 51.3% rise in sparkling wine imports specifically.
According to the ITA, this will be the first of many such events prepared for the coming year. They aim to grow the public’s exposure to Italian wine and, hopefully, increase their appreciation in the process. Personally, thanks to this workshop, an extended vacation in Italy, and The Wine Show, I find that Italian wines are steadily ranking higher on my list of favorites.
If you’re interested in learning more about Italian wine, start by exploring the below list of 14 wines I tried during the guided tasting. I’ve also included the name of each wine’s Lebanese supplier.
Italian Wine Tasting Itinerary by the ITA
- Bottega : IGT Pinot Grigio delle Venezie from EBA Development & Distribution
- San Paolo : DOCG Frascati Superiore from Aziz Delicatesse
- Barone Pizzini – Pievalta : DOC Verdicchio dei castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2016 by remomero
- Porconero : IGP Paestum Falanghina 2016 by Les Caves des Taillevent
- Sgarzi Luigi : Vino Spumante rosato “Perla Rosa” by Moraco General Trading
- IGT Terre siciliane : Nero d’Avola alle mandorle by Alessandra di Sicilia
- Badia a Coltibuono : DOCG Chianti Classico Riserva “Cultus Boni” by Baroudy Investment Group
- Poliziano : DOCG Vino Nobile di Montepulciano by La Cave de Joël Robuchon
- Trerose : DOCG Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Santa Caterina by Interal s.a.l.
- Antiche Cantine Marchesi di Barolo : DOCG Barolo by Gabriel Bocti s.a.l. i.e. Vintage Wine Cellar
- Prunotto : DOCG Barbaresco 2011 by enoteca the house of wine
- Masi : DOCG Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Costasera” 2011 by Tire Bouchon
- Riccadonna : DOCG Asti Spumante by EAM – Etablissement Antoine Massoud s.a.l.
- Luxardo : Grappa euganea by Najjarco
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