Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tasting Event: Italy's Northern Lights

Nicolas Soufflet, standing; Bill Gotti at right

Hollywood wine tasters were once again treated to a fun and informative night out by Nicolas Soufflet and Bill Gotti at Gotti's Hollywood restaurant, Victor's Square.  The Thursday night soiree was a follow-up to Soufflet's previous Tuscan tasting, this time showcasing the wines of the northern areas of Piemonte, Friuli and Veneto.

The crowd was a little larger this time around - our party of fourteen took over an entire corner of the restaurant - but it was  still a very comfortable number, and all could hear Soufflet clearly as he imparted some of his extensive knowledge of Italian wine history.  In addition to the wines, there was a lovely risotto with green peas presented by Gotti and his staff which served as a wonderful nosh while perusing the wine selections.  Everyone was very complimentary of the whole experience.  They loved the learning as much as the wine.

The tasting was a bargain at $25 - the risotto was included - and the wines were discounted for those who wished to purchase some.  (Disclaimer: I purchased the tasting and two bottles of wine at the discounted price.)

Here are the wines we sampled:

Asti Classic Dolce Aromatico - From Asti in Piemonte, this is 100% Moscato Bianco.  That's the oldest grape in Italy, and the vineyards for this wine were founded in the 9th century.  It's produced by Casa Abbazia, as were several of the wines on the menu.  It's very pale with a bit of a funky nose and a sweet, tangy, fizzy presence on the palate - a very nice opener, with only 7.5% abv.

Friuli Aquileia Bianco Di Valpanera - A Friuli Aquileia white blend from Agricole Valpanera was next.  This bianco is aged in stainless steel.  It sits very pale in the glass with a floral nose and a crisp minerality.  Those minerals are a Friuli touch, according to Soufflet.  He pointed out that  many French varietals are cultivated in Friuli.  This wine features 40% Chardonnay, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Friuliano.  I felt the Chardonnay was responsible for the nose, the Sauvignon Blanc for the taste and the Friuliano for the finish.

De Valier Soave Del Veneto - Our third wine was a Soave from Veneto.  This comes in at only 11.5% abv, with white peaches, pears and apples on the nose, along with substantial minerality.  There's a wonderful nutty flavor which really hangs around a while.  This was particularly good with the risotto, which was a Venetian recipe - heavy cream, butter and parmesan cheese.

Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso - The first red of the evening was perplexing.  On first sniff, I and everyone sitting near me, picked up a strong scent of movie theater popcorn. "Odd," I thought, "but maybe it's the wood."  Guess again, wine geek.  This 100% Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso is aged 12 months in stainless steel and refined for three months in the bottle.  I can't explain it except, as Soufflet offered, to say it's the terroir.  The popcorn element did subside after a while, leaving a much fruitier aroma.  It's a medium ruby color and a fairly tannic drink at first.  A spicy pepper taste mixes with a cranberry flavor, but with a darker side to it.  Soufflet told me that stainless steel aging of red wines is not uncommon in Italy. This wine is produced by Agricole Valpanera.

Abbazia Barolo 2004 - The vineyards from which this Barolo is sourced date back to the 9th century.  The wine offers a medium red color that is easily seen through.  It appears to have already started turning colors on the edges.  It's supposed to take on more of an orange tint with age.  The tart candy nose is very fragrant and floral.  The taste is quite dry and rather tannic.  This wine drank rather hot and was not too smooth.  It wasn't very well-received at my end of the table.

Abbazia Brachetto Piemonte -  This wine is red, red, red with a dark pink foam - gorgeous!  The nose smells of figs and nuts with a fresh and juicy element.  It's sweet and frothy on the palate, tasting of apples and strawberry.  This wine was supposedly used by Cleopatra in seducing Julius Caesar.  He reportedly found it almost as charming as Cleo.

Soufflet works the room


  1. It was a fun wine tasting. My favorite wine of the night was the Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso. Looking forward to the next Nicolas wine tasting. Excellent teacher.

  2. Yes, he is. My favorite was the Soave.