Red Wines of Italy
The red wines of Italy might just be the most exciting and interesting in the entire world. As you travel from the Alps and Dolomites in the north to the fiery crucibles of Vesuvius and Etna in the south, a wealth of indigenous and fascinating varieties reveals itself, along with a culture that is thoroughly wed to the idea that a meal is incomplete without wine.
Yet understanding Italian wine can also be extremely difficult without guidance. That wealth of indigenous varieties means exploring a new landscape for most drinkers, and that ironclad union of food and wine means that most of these wines require the proper accompaniments to be fully enjoyed. Lastly, Italy is a land of contradictions, rules that are made to be broken, and the undeniable tension between tradition and modernity.
Unfortunately, visiting Italy is out of bounds for almost all of us for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these wines, and learn more about them. It’s this fascinating and confusing world that we will explore together in this class. Each week for four weeks, we’ll dive into a key part of this world: a region, a variety, or a style of wine that helps explain the unique and remarkable world of Italian red wines.
Fortunately, you’ll be in great hands for this exploration. Beyond my long career working with Italian wine, we’ll be joined by Hayley Black, Territory Manager for Leonardo LoCascio Selections and one of the most passionate and knowledgeable Italian wine experts I know.
Each week will have a different theme, and will feature three wines that help explore the theme, as well as relevant history, geography, geology, and cultural explorations. Classes will be conducted via Zoom, and will run from 4:30 pm Pacific - 6:00 pm Pacific. We will be skipping Saturday, July 4th.
Week One: Under the Tuscan Sun - June 27th
An exploration of this remarkable and historic land, viewed through the lens of three different expressions of the famed local grape Sangiovese.
Castellari Chianti Classico 2018 - SRP $23.99
Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2015 - SRP $64.99
Grattamacco Bolgheri Rosso 2017 - SRP: $29.99
Week Two: Into the Mist - July 11th
A quest to better understand the great grape of Northwestern Italy, Nebbiolo, and an investigation of Italy’s answer to Burgundy.
Damilano Langhe Nebbiolo “Marghe” 2016 - SRP: $24.99
Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2016 - SRP: $47.99
Arpepe Rosso di Valtellina 2016 - SRP: $39.99
Week Three: The Land of Fire and Water - July 18th
Southern Italy has for far too long been ignored when discussing the great wines of not just the country, but all of Europe. Yet on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. Etna, as well as the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea, wines of tremendous power, intensity, and complexity are born.
Mastroberardino Aglianico Radici Taurasi 2015 - SRP: $46.99
Etna Rosso: Benanti Contrada Monte Serra Etna Rosso - SRP: $51.99
Cantele Salice Salentino Negro Amaro Riserva 2015 - SRP: $14.99
Week Four: The Italian Soul - July 25th
Italy is a land of contradictions. While we often think of the great Italian wines as springing forth fully-formed from the land, the honest truth is that some of the great wines in Italy are in fact the result of not just nature, but of human labor and ingenuity. However, the constant theme throughout all of these wines is a focus on wine as food, of wine as an integral part of the dining experience.
Lini 910 Lambrusca Rosso NV - SRP: $16.99
Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018 - SRP: $14.99
Zenato Amarone 2015 - SRP: $59.99
For those of you in the greater Seattle area, you can receive all twelve bottles, plus these four classes, for just $500: the wine alone is worth almost $450! Those of you outside of Western Washington, these wines should be available in all 50 states, and Hayley and I will be happy to help you source any or all of these wines from local retailers.
In addition to the wines, you will receive tons of detailed information about the regions, wines, producers, as well as menu suggestions for each class, as these wines are all at their best when enjoyed with food.
All classes run from 4:30 - 6:00 PM Pacific Time unless otherwise noted
Each of these classes is offered individually. Recommended wines will be provided below or upon enrollment. If you are a Western Washington resident, you can contact Zach directly to make purchase arrangements if desired. Most classes will have a second instructor, stay tuned for more details.
August 1 - Champagne
Virtually all of us have had Champagne at least a few times in our life, yet the vast majority haven’t really given the wine itself much a thought. In this class, we’ll discuss some of the history, geology, and climate factors that have created this marvelous wine, and how it remains a vital and vibrant wine region.
August 8 - Merlot
No grape has been more unfairly denigrated than Merlot. Whether it’s a certain movie, or just an emphasis on fruity, boring wines, we’ve mostly forgotten that some of the finest wines in the world are made from Merlot. In this class, we’ll explore some great examples of the variety, and discuss why it should be a part of every wine lover’s collection.
August 15 - Rosé
Summertime and rosé have become synonymous, but do you actually know how to pick out a good bottle of rosé? Turns out that just looking at the color of the wine can mislead you. This class will focus on three different price tiers, and the best ways to ensure you get the most wine for your money when drinking pink.
August 22 - GSM
The rise of the GSM blend has had a major effect on the world of wine...and it’s also partially responsible for my marriage! The captivating blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre has its roots in France, but has spread around the world. In this class, we’ll explore why this style is so popular, and how to find a good one.
August 29 - Sauvignon Blanc
Fresh, crisp, zingy, and tart: these are the ideal descriptors for a late-summer white wine, and they help explain why Sauvignon Blanc has become one of the most widely-planted white varieties in the world. In this class we’ll look at the grape in both its native land of France and further afield.
September 13 - Yakima Valley
Here in Washington State, there are a bunch of great places to grow grapes, but arguably none finer than the Yakima Valley. In this class, we’ll explore some of the great vineyards and varieties that make this one of the most exciting American wine regions.
September 20 - Sicily
Sicilian wine was once almost entirely dominated by bulk production and Marsala, but the modernization of the island’s wine industry has revealed that some wines of incredible complexity and profundity can be born here, especially on the slopes of Mt. Etna, an active volcano...now that’s a wild place to grow grapes!
September 27 - Prosecco
All hail the new ruler of sparkling wine. We all love Prosecco, but what actually do we know about it? In this class we’ll look at the vast range of quality levels within Prosecco, as well as learn some tips for how to find the best wine for your money, and even a few fun Prosecco-based cocktails!
October 4 - Syrah
I’m not sure I can say I have a “favorite” red grape, but if you forced me to pick one, it would probably be Syrah. Its combination of aromatic complexity and expressiveness, diverse flavors, and intensity makes it one of the most remarkable varieties on the planet. In this class, we’ll look at expressions from three different countries that all showcase this noble grape.
October 11 - Alsace
Tucked away on the eastern border of France lies a magical region that seems straight out of a fairy tale...and it happens to be home to some of the absolute best white wines on the planet. The incredibly diverse geology and the dedicated farming and winemaking of Alsace make this a wine region you absolutely must explore.
October 18 - Cabernet Sauvignon
The (almost) undisputed ruler of red wine is Cabernet Sauvignon...so does it deserve that lofty perch? Why have many of the world’s most celebrated (and expensive) wines been made from Cab Sauv? How can us mere mortals find a good bottle without breaking the bank? That’s what we’ll discover in this class.
October 25 - Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc’s story is one of the overlooked middle child, in many ways: not the long-celebrated oldest child like Chardonnay, nor the novel youngest child like Sauvignon Blanc, it’s always been more in the background. Yet in the hands of great growers and winemakers in places like France and South Africa, it’s showing that it can indeed rival those more famous siblings when it comes to quality and complexity.