Monday, November 07, 2011

Moments from the Merano wine festival

7 Novembre
View of the hill behind city center

The Passer river which runs through town

view towards the newly snow capped mountains

Kurhaus-site of the event

After 3 months without a weekend off, I found a dogsitter and a great excuse to escape into the north of Italy for the Merano wine festival.  It is really a great event for wine lovers and I would definitely put it on your list of things to do in Italy worth a special trip.  Merano is in Alto Adige, not far from Bolzano where the German influence is much noticed.  All the roads are well kept, the streets and sidewalks are clean as a whistle and both German and Italian are spoken and almost all signs are in both languages.
It is well known for its house of cure and thermal baths and also the gardens of Trauttmansdorf Castle (none of which I visited, unfortunately)
The wine festival is by invitation only for the wineries and all wines must be judged by a panel to be accepted.  The clientele is much different than Vinitaly where there are mobs of the young and those who are there to get plastered.  Here, I noticed most visitors were knowledgeable wine types who were there to try new grape varieties and regions as well as famous vintners from France, Italy and the rest of the world.
My old friend, Matteo, from the slow food master's program and voted best young sommelier in Italy a couple of year's ago came over from Locarno to join me and he did his homework prior to arrival.  With 70 of the best wineries and wines written out, 2 men on a mission proceeded to find 69 of the 70 in one day with a few extras thrown in.
Matteo trying the Marche organic wines on Friday, this from Mida winery near me in Castorano

My friends who were kind enough to bring me along to Merano, Brenda and Graziano

Matteo enjoying a nice wine from a father and son team from Sicily and the Marabino winery; I loved their reserve Nero d'Avola called Archimede.
The first day of the festival was dedicated to Organic and Biodynamic wineries and someday I hope to be included with my wines.  The biodynamic wineries were few in number and mostly were outside of any control organization, meaning if they wish, they can call themselves biodynamic, even if they farm organically like me.  In the USA, the rules are fairly clear and there is a control body which certifies a vineyard as biodynamic.  Also, just to clear up another difference between the US and Europe; I can call my wines organic here, but in the states I can only say organically farmed, as a wine labelled "organic" in the states includes a "no sulfur added" stipulation.
Saturday and Sunday are the "grand tasting" days with wines from around the world and the first stop for us was in the Bordeaux room where I relived my youth.  I first starting drinking wine in my early 20's and rapidly advanced from German whites to French whites and then Bordeaux.  The aromas were simply wonderful and I was reminded how long-lived the top wines are.  My favorite of the whole weekend, in fact, was a 1996 Ch. Figeac which is 1/3 each of Cab. Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab. Franc.  I enjoy wines with a good dose of Cab. Franc!  Also excellent was Angelos, Ch. Lynch Bages, Gruaud Larose and others too numerous to mention.  Then it was "off to Piemonte"  for Barolos and Barbarescos, followed by Tuscany including Brunellos, Chianti Classico Riserva, Bolgheri, etc.  Ornellaia was, as always exceptional, as were all the major houses from the west and south.  I found myself liking the 100% Sangiovese wines from the Chianti region more than their regular offerings. We ended up with the crowds in the Champagne room and then finished with some miscellaneous offerings from other areas including South Africa, Austria, and the US.  I used my ticket Sunday to check on some of the lesser known regions in Italy like Molise and Basilicata and Puglia, trying Aglianico, Primitivo and from Lazio, Cesanese.  I discovered a couple of grapes I didn't know about, like Blaufrankish from Austria, Grapello from Lombardia and Perricone from Sicily, all interesting.  Just to clarify, I spit everything I tried, which doesn't mean you won't feel some effects of the alcohol, but you need to do that to survive a day of tasting.  Also there was an entire hall with food products to try which helped a bit.
One of the few americans in attendance and she was working for a Tuscany winery, providing the english speaking explanations for the non italians

What can I say-only in Italy!

Brenda, Graziano and me in front of the grape sculpture in Merano

I am excited to get into the Bordeaux room!

Matteo in the biggest hall on Saturday

View from the balcony
My wonderful dinner at Sissi with chef Andrea

After the amuse, a "carpaccio" almost of wild boar hunted in Germany/Hungary with mushrooms and truffles

Gnoccheti stuffed with mushrooms and liberally covered with black truffles.  colors of the italian flag provided by Parmigiano grated and toasted (red) and parsley

Cap of the priest, the best cut of this free range German veal with black truffles over a puree of peas and potatoes.  Stacked neatly nearby are not french fries, but celery root battered with rice flour and fried

The surprise dessert which is vanilla ice cream surrounded by a dense whipped cream flavored with-boh-I forgot and kumquats

Andrea Fenoglio, the chef and me
While I was there, I had a superb dinner at ristorante Sissi, orchestrated by the maestro chef Andrea Fenoglio who makes sure everyone in the dining room is happy, cheerfully answers all your questions and then runs back into the kitchen to oversee the work there. I had a blast and enjoyed everything he served, including the wines by the glass which paired nicely with the courses.  


elena said...

wine, and food. And snow, and wellness. This place is definitely great! I love it :D

hotel Treviso Italy said...

For sure, it was a great event. Everything looks delicious!