My ultimate 2009 new wine discovery was a 2006 Malvasia delle Lipari, made by Hauner, on a volcanic island off of Sicily. I became interested in the the grape, which is actually a group of grape varieties, mostly white but also red, that can be used to produce unimaginably delicious late harvest desert wine, dry white and red wines, and even some sparkling wine in Emilia. The grape is predominantly grown around Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, and a wide smattering of European and New World wine geographies. Interestingly, it was also once referred to as Malmsey, nomenclature now solely uttered around and about the island of Madeira’s sweet white family of Malavasia wines.
I was really really keen on this second opportunity to taste the sparkling Venturini Baldini Malvasia Dell’Emilia, a wine that had already captured my palate and intrigue. My first swing at this wine was months back at a gathering of the Boston Wine Writers hosted by a really good guy with a serious cache of “wine smarts”, Jonathon Alsop at the Boston Wine School. For a group of New England wine writers, the BYOB get-together competition is built around producing a wine that nobody has tasted, has access to, and/or has ever heard of. We tasted tiny production Russian River Chardonnay, old Pinot Gris from Alsace, early 60’s unclassifed Bordeaux, and sparkling Malvasia among others. It’s hard to be all that critical tasting so many divergent wine styles together, and it’s why I was pleased to present the Malvasia in a more clinical setting as a member of my son’s sparkling graduation line up.
This IGT classified sparkler, made from the Malvasia di Candia grape and selling for $15, might turn off sparkling traditionalists who won’t appreciate surprising and pronounced aromatics wafting skyward through fluted crystal stemware. I love it. Venturini is a serious producer of natural wine with vineyards favorably situated in the Emilia region which lingers in the wine shadows of more popularly accepted neighboring wine districts than, let’s say, Lambrusco. Produced in the Charmat method relying on a bulk second fermentation outside the bottle, the wine has a strong and steady flow of bubbles with a nose of flowers and of all things, crisp and fresh cucumber. This cuke, green freshness is not off-putting; it is dominant and exotic in its fairest interpretation. There is also an herbal component that mixes with the crispness and floral aromas to create an aromatic character you can recognize ten feet across the room. Yet, it is never overwhelming or overpowering. The wine finishes with good crispness and acidity and a good long finish.
Champagne traditionalists beware. For hedonists, $15 gets you a deliciously unique and festively serious wine that can be poured with cured meats, strong cheeses, or as an aperitif all by itself. It is a wonderful wine to drink in this warm summer weather, delivering refreshing crispness and flavorful notes. It is exciting and will turn heads, even amongst a clan of stemware clinging, know-it-all wine writers.