Road Tripping & Tasting: Wines of Emilia-Romagna

Even before I’d watched Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy on CNN, I was invited to a virtual tasting of Emilia-Romagna wines. Alas, my shipment didn’t arrive in time for the scheduled event. But, like so many Zoom events, a link of the recording was sent to me post-event. It all worked out well because, as it turns out, the wines I received were completely different from what Daniele Cernilli, a.k.a. Doctor Wine, showcased in the virtual tasting.

Be that as it may, I’m simply glad I had the chance to taste wines from an Italian wine region I love so dearly!

Geographically speaking, the wines are from Romagna, from North to South. And several are designated Superiore, which is just what it seems. Wines labeled as such benefit in quality from longer aging, less production by hectares, and offer a fuller body.

On a recent cross country road trip, I arrived with two bottles in-hand to my Italian-American friends in Tucson, Arizona, as they were hosting me for dinner. One, a 2019 I Diavoli Le Rocche Malatestiane Romagna Sangiovese Superiore, priced at less than $20 a bottle, has a label design of colorful hand-drawn bats. This wine is produced in the hills of Rimini, from vineyards located between the clay soils of San Clemente and the chalky soils near Gemmano – near a natural bat habitat referred to as “devils that live in a cave.” It’s an easy-drinking medium-bodied wine, telltale of its year spent in stainless steel, and bursting in bright red raspberry, licorice flavor. We enjoyed both wines with a plate of rigatoni and red sauce with sausage, but we especially fell for the Fattoria.

It was 1970 when the Sangiovese reserve Vigna delle Lepri (translation: vineyard of the hares) was first produced in Romagna from a clone named “Biondi Santi” or Sangiovese Grosso. The 2014 Fattoria Paradiso Bertinoro Vigna delle Lepri Sangiovese Riserva exhibited complex, dark ruby lusciousness in layers of red berry jam, violets and a hint of pipe tobacco or cigar, with the slightest mocha. This 100% Sangiovese Grosso was vinified in steel and aged at least 4 years in large oak barrels before bottling and laying down for a year before shelved for purchase. From time of purchase, this bottle can be cellared for 30-plus years and best enjoyed with braised meats, game, grilled red meats, chocolate and fine cheeses.

Next, I opened a bottle of delicate, impressive white wine: A 2019 I Croppi Albana Secco produced by Celli. I cannot recall ever tasting an Albana grape, one I learned was the first to get the DOCG seal in 1987. This golden yellow nectar was all that and then some, with grapes that grew in the good life of a soil mixture of clay and a bit of limestone. From there, the grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks. This is an excellent wine to enjoy with noodles, grilled fish or poultry. Priced less than $20/bottle.

Back to reds, a 2018 Notturno Sangiovese DOC Predappio of Drei Dona was aged in wooden casks for 6 to 8 months. Sangiovese accounts for 80% of grapes grown in this Romagna region. This wine had a bit too much acidity for my palate, but I could’ve been thrown off by the finish of balsamic vinegar.

Watching Stanley Tucci in Emilia Romagna was a thrill, especially since I’ve made a few trips there and he visited at least one stop I made in Modena, to tour the museum and barrel rooms of the oldest balsamic vinegar producer, Giuseppe Giusti. My published story on balsamic vinegar may be accessed HERE.

By the time I opened the next white wine, I was immersed in warm Florida weather and eager to sip on what turned out to be an all-time favorite Italian white wine: a 2019 Fattoria Zerbina Bianco di Ceparano DOC Albana Secco of Romagna. Might I say, WOW! This is the quintessential summer sip for 2021. Bright gold with a fresh citrus bouquet, and on the palate, a cornucopia of refreshing grapefruit and a bit of lemon citrus. It is the perfect pairing for salads, grilled or fried fish, asparagus (!) and chips and onion dip, my favorite by the pool. Less than $20/bottle, this is a wine worth stocking for summer.

Finally, the weather cooled a bit (70s), and it began to rain. Watching Stanley Tucci passionately consuming the best pasta in the world prompted me to purchase homemade pasta at the local farmers market here in Fort Myers, Florida. And with this pasta, I pretended I was in Rimini with Tucci, and I opened my last bottle of Romagna wine, a 2018 Noelia Ricci Godenza Sangiovese Predappio, located at the foot of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Appenino of a once war-torn Forli. These large sangiovese grapes ferment for six months in steel; 8 months in bottle.

I must note that the missing link in Tucci’s CNN show is the pairing of wines with the 20 food regions of Italy he’s showcasing. If only he’d reach out to me, I’d happily co-host and speak on behalf of the wines. But I digress.

Noelia Ricci is the woman behind the wine’s success and has a fascination with the land’s animals of the past. Each label represents an animal once found on the land. For this bottle of Predappio, an illustration of a monkey is interpreted as a wine with its feet firmly planted in its land. The wine is representative of its vineyard of mostly sandstone, which attributes to its lovely bouquet and approachable taste. It’s not the most complex wine I’ve tasted, but it’s a perfect pick for an everyday red table wine. Raspberry forward, clean and bright.

Fruire!

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