Around Italy in 180 minutes with dbHK

From Timorasso to Vermentino Nero, Italy’s little-known grape varieties had their moment to shine at a dinner hosted by the drinks business HK and VinoVeritas.

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Michael Palij MW introduced some of Italy’s most unknown grapes over dinner at Operetta

Home to some of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions in the world, Italy has basked in the adulation of wine consumers in the UK and the US for decades with its famous and not so famous grape varieties.

However, Hong Kong has historically been dominated with Italy’s more commercially known grapes such as Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio but consumers’ diversifying tastes and increasing interests have led some wine importers to source little-known wines from all corners of Italy.

And so, in partnership with Hong Kong’s Italian wine specialist VinoVeritas and Michael Palij MW, dbHK hosted a dinner which took in some of Italy’s premier wine regions, including Veneto, Piemonte, Marche, Puglia, Tuscany and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia in a ‘180 minute’ journey, paired with a four-course Italian dinner at Operetta.

Prosecco ‘26esimo I’, Derthona Timorasso 2014, Verdicchio Di Matelica DOC 2014, Minutolo ‘Rampone’ 2015 

The evening started with a premium Prosecco, ‘26esimo I’ by Treviso producer, Andreola, where Palij sketched out the overwhelming popularity Prosecco has seen over the years, especially in the UK where it has taken over Champagne in sales.

“Prosecco is in a world of its own,” he said. “But to find the best you need to look on the slopes of the Dolomites where the soil has a high limestone content, where Andreola’s vineyards are. People are confronted with Prosecco at every turn but it’s uncomplicated and fun and should just be drunk that way.”

Moving on to the Minutolo, ‘Rampone’ 2015 by I Pastini in the Itria Valley, Puglia, Palij opened with: “I’m fairly confident that no one in this room has ever had Minutolo before. Almost completely lost in the past, the Carparelli family discovered a clone of Minutolo and is now the world’s largest producer of this attractive aromatic grape, owing its orange peel characteristics to Muscat, one of the parent grapes.”

Travelling 500km or so up Italy’s east coast is Matelica in Marche which nestles opposite Tuscany. The old vine Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva ‘Mirum’, La Monacesca’s flagship, has scooped Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchiere award four times. Palij explained Verdicchio’s high acidity and high alcohol and long ageing ability was due to Matelica’s wide diurnal temperature range, as the valley has no rivers.

Finally, to end the first course, Palij introduced the Timorasso from Monleale, Piemonte, which is made by the highly regarded producer, Walter Massa. Due to Palij’s involvement in bringing Timorasso to the attention of wine critics, including Jancis Robinson in the late 1990s, he affectionately referred to it as his “signature” wine.

“Now it’s one of the most sought-after white grape varieties in the world,” he said. “But 10 years ago, no one had ever heard of it. Walter Massa saved it from distinction as Phylloxera devastated the crops in nearby Gavi which has since been replanted with Cortese which is much simpler to grow.”

The Massa family’s dedication in saving Timorasso, a tricky grape with high concentration and yet such tiny yields has earned them the enduring respect of the world’s wine community.

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