Italy’s Lightness of Being Seminar at VanWineFest 2024

Filippo Bartolotta
Filippo Bartolotta

While Italy has been known to produce robust, hearty reds, many of the country’s greatest wines offer a lighter touch without sacrificing flavour. This seminar, “Italy’s Lightness of Being”, led by Filippo Bartolotta and Michaela Morris, took us through sparkling wines, white wines with texture, and much more.  Winery principals, Fabio Bosio, Tommaso Chiarli, Daniel Grace, Stefano Inama, Nicola Mazzella, Ciro Urciuolo, and Urs Vetter will discuss their wines and how they contribute to the lightness of current Italian wines.

Featured Wines

Cleto Chiarli Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC 2022
Collefrisio Filare Rose Montepulciano 2021
Azienda Agricola Inama I Palchi Soave Classico DOC 2021
Danimi Vaticale DOCG Greco 2021
Fontanafredda Derthona Timorasso Colli Tortonesi 2022
Empson & Co. Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2021
Il Molino di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2019
Vietti Langhe DOC Nebbiolo ‘Perbacco’ 2020

Our Seminar Discussion

Our winery principals with Michaela and Filippo at the right
Our winery principals with Michaela and Filippo at the right

Filippo and Michaela discussed the history of Italian wines and different wine regions, focusing on the change in wine style in Italy, and moving toward lightness. Italians may say they have made wines forever, but their wines have changed.  Italian wines in the far past used to be lighter, produced for quantity rather than quality, lacking elegance. With the shock of an American wine winning in the Judgement of Paris, Italian winemakers moved to make big, bold wines; Arnold Schwarzenegger, opulent style wines. Super Tuscans for example arrived on the scene intending to reach perfect scores by an American wine reviewer. 

Filippo introduced us to one of the great heroes of mythology, Perseus, who he said is the hero of lightness. Perseus was sent on a task to kill Medousa. Perseus obtained winged sandals, an invisible helm and a magical sword. Using wind and clouds and a shield Perseus approached Medousa as she slept and beheaded her with eyes averted to avoid her petrifying look. He buried her head under water and from her head, the winged horse Pegasus was born. Filippo then noted contemporarily that our Medousa was big opulent wines that petrified the differences, so their big wines became too similar across regions.

Recently winemakers learned that you can have lightness in wines, consisting of precision, definition, and transparency. Lightness can bring diversity back to Italian wine. Eight winery principals spoke to us about their wines. We covered Lambrusco, Timorasso, Soave, Greco, Nebbiolo, Chianti Classico wines and much more from Piedmont down to Sicily. Light wines can be built to have structure and aging potential, according to Filippo. He also noted that you can get flavour concentration and texture from wines without weighing you down. It is in part due to Italy being a country of coastlines underlain with land once part of the sea.  You are never too far from the sea, sea breezes, and limestone soils.  These components help to make light wines.  Throughout the conversation, the speakers discussed how producers in each region are capturing brightness, acidity and balance to produce lighter style wines that still have flavour, precision, and complexity. The wines showed lightness with their enjoyability, but also their complexity and style. No frivolous wines.  Lightness should make you want another sip, another glass of wine.

My Wine Tasting Notes

Azienda Agricola Inama I Palchi Soave Classico DOC 2021 – Made from the Garganega grape. It has great popularity so many wineries began making it, without the equivalent amount of quality.  One of the champions of this wine is Inama.  Stefano Inama, works with his sons, to produce quality Soave. This wine is oaked but still has achieved lightness.  This wine is a result of 20 years of work. This wine is from a selection of grapes. The revolution for this wine started around 2011 to improve viticulture.  They spent eight years updating the vineyard management for these grapes, in particular pruning, soil management, and minimizing chemicals.  They judged the grapes on a plot-by-plot basis. This is the third vintage of this particular wine.

This wine has a deep, bright lemon colour.  Rich, deep aromas of tropical fruit, and touches of honey and butterscotch.  Fuller body, dry with a soft, smooth mouthfeel.  Citrus, apple, butterscotch and floral flavours.  Smooth flavours.  Medium-plus acidity adding texture to this wine.  Medium-plus length.  Delicious. 5 stars

Danimi Vaticale DOCG Greco 2021 – Greco di Tufo is another ancient variety.  The grape shows a lot of minerality and acidity.  The acidity is high when the wine is first made so they apply battonage to the wine temper the acidity and add texture. This wine you can drink for up to 10 years. 

A medium-minus intensity mix of lemon and green colours.  Light aromas of mint, white flowers, tropical fruit and black pepper.  This wine is dry, with medium-plus body and smooth mouthfeel.  Vibrant acidity.  Citrus flavour with black pepper flavour without being peppery.  How interesting!  Some noted that there may be some sulfur / smoky aroma coming from the volcanic soil where the grapes are grown. I think that the soil may be imparting the non-peppery black pepper flavour.  4.5 stars

Fontanafredda Derthona Timorasso Colli Tortonesi 2022 – Timorasso was one of the forgotten varieties in Italy.  In 2000 there was only 3 ha of this variety and now there are 300 ha.  In Piedmont, you typically think of Barolo, of red wines.  But today, we were presented with this indigenous white grape variety. Timorasso has aging potential and Fontanafredda wants to make this variety the most important white wine in Piedmont.  Fabio, the Export Area Manager for the winery, noted that the high acidity of this grape leads to lightness and freshness. 

A deep, bright lemon colour in the glass.  Light aromas of ripe apples and dried citrus.  Fuller-bodied, dry with a silky mouthfeel.  Medium-plus acidity.  Apples and touches of stone fruits and minerality on the palate.  There is also a streak of tart acidic tension in this wine. Medium-plus length. 4.5 stars

Azienda Agricola Inama I Palchi Soave Classico DOC 2021, Danimi Vaticale DOCG Greco 2021, and Fontanafredda Derthona Timorasso Colli Tortonesi 2022 wines
Azienda Agricola Inama I Palchi Soave Classico DOC 2021, Danimi Vaticale DOCG Greco 2021, and Fontanafredda Derthona Timorasso Colli Tortonesi 2022 wines

Collefrisio Filare Rose Montepulciano 2021 – Montepulciano di Abruzzo is the grape variety to produce this wine. This grape used to be made into big, opulent wines in Italy.  In the 1980’s some producers began to make lighter versions of this grape.  To make serious rose wines is a difficult task, we were told.  Rose wine can express the vibes of terroir better than a deep, over-extracted red wine. 

This wine has a bright, medium-intensity peach colour.  A medium-intensity nose with aromas of dried peaches, and touches of cherry and toast.  It is dry with a light lean body.  It has a light acidic prickle that fades.  Dried apples with some tart red fruits and pepperiness on the finish.  Light minerality as well.  Medium-plus length with highly drying tannins on the finish. 4.5 stars

Cleto Chiarli Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC 2022 – Lambrusco di Sorbara is one of the twelve related grape varieties that make this family of grapes.  Fondatore means founder. This wine is their foundation.  Lambrusco di Sorbara is their most important variety at the winery and they have been producing this wine since 1860. This grape also produces a dry style of wine.  Other Lambrusco varieties produce off-dry wines. Some of the grapes for this variety do not fully ripen.  This gives the wine freshness and higher acidity.

A cloudy pink grapefruit colour.  Medium-intensity aromas of cherries and cranberries.  Fuller bodied but has a light mouthfeel due to the medium-sized creamy bubbles.  High acidity.  Tart cherries, cranberries and red apples on the palate. 4.5 stars

Empson & Co. Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2021 – There are no trees on the higher elevations of Mt. Etna, but there is a bracing wind that brings bracing acidity to Nerello Mascalese, the main grape of this region. The climate is a collision of the Mediterranean climate and the sub-alpine climate giving you wind, rain, and big differences in diurnal temperatures.  This leads wineries to be able to harvest late in the year, in October through November.  Sometimes the grapes struggle with ripeness. Nerello Mascalese tends to be pale in colour but has tannins and astringency to give texture to the wine. The winery, Pietradolce, started in 2005 is located on the lower slopes, facing north.  The north side of Mt. Etna protects the vineyard from some of the rain.

A lighter translucent garnet colour.  Light floral, red fruit and sweet spice (mace & nutmeg) aromas.  Medium-plus body, with a soft, smooth, round mouthfeel.  Medium-plus acidity and light tannins.  Red fruits, mace and nutmeg flavours. Dry, medium-intensity tannins on the finish.  Medium-plus length.  A very nice wine. 4.5 stars5 stars

Collefrisio Filare Rose Montepulciano 2021, Cleto Chiarli Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC 2022, and Empson & Co. Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2021 wines
Collefrisio Filare Rose Montepulciano 2021, Cleto Chiarli Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC 2022, and Empson & Co. Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2021 wines

Il Molino di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2019 – Il Molino di Grace is an organic winery. Daniel noted that their area is a steep, rugged, forested region, and that terrain captures the complexity of Chianti Classico. Lightness is not just the poor soil, it is the illumination of light back on the region.  Chianti Classico has not had a swagger since the time of the Medici family. Since the turn toward the Gran Selezione tier of wine, we are getting more authentic, sophisticated, quality Chianti Classico.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese. He noted how clean, elegant and the lightness of this wine to sip.  There is now a sense of energy and vibrancy to Chianti Classico wines according to Daniel. 2010 was the first vintage of Gran Selezione.  Their winery was the first to produce a 100% Sangiovese-based Gran Selezione.  Other wineries blended in other indigenous varieties into Gran Selezione at that time.  There are now more wineries making 100% Sangiovese-based Gran Selezione wines.

This wine has a dull, deeper garnet colour.  Very aromatic, showing cedar, red fruit and sweet spice aromas.  Dry, medium-plus body, lean, with medium-plus tannins and medium acidity. This wine is fruity with red fruit and red cherry flavours, plus sweet spices. Sweet red fruit on the finish, plus stronger tannins.  A wine that can age. 4.5 stars

Vietti Langhe DOC Nebbiolo ‘Perbacco’ 2020 – In 2020 they harvested each parcel in their vineyards separately.  They separately vinified and aged 42 Barolo and 9 Barbaresco parcels. Over 18 months they tasted these wines continuously and assessed them for quality; which in their evolution are more refined, more fruit-driven, have tannic grip, etc.  We then blend those wines that fit our criteria to make this wine, Perbacco.

Medium-plus intensity translucent garnet colour.  Light aromas of red fruit and a touch of oak.  Lighter-bodied, dry, with a soft mouthfeel.  Light cherry and red fruit flavours.  Medium-plus acidity and lighter tannins.  Medium-plus length with light cherry flavours on the finish and medium tannins.  A delicate wine. 4.5 stars5 stars

Il Molino di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2019 and Vietti Langhe DOC Nebbiolo Perbacco 2020 wines
Il Molino di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2019 and Vietti Langhe DOC Nebbiolo Perbacco 2020 wines

Thank you to VanWineFest 2024 for providing me a seat at this seminar, thanks to the winery principals for their insights and wines to taste, and lastly thanks to our moderators, Filippo Bartolotta and Michaela Morris.

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

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