Sip and Study Italian Whites in Anfora's Virtual Wine Class

An interview with Adrian Weisell

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By David Hammond

After one sip of Riofavara Moscato di Noto, 2015, purchased a few weeks ago from Oak Park's Anfora Wine Merchants (128 S. Marion), I said to Carolyn, "We have to get a case of this!" It was that good.

Riofavara is just one of the four Italian white wines to be sampled during a Zoom-enabled Virtual Wine Class to be conducted by Adrian Weisell on July 11. Class beings at 8:30 PM.

In the past few months, we've participated in several virtual wine and spirits tastings, some awesome, others not-so-awesome, so I wanted to get Weisell's perspective on the tasting he would be leading.

What is your goal with the virtual wine class?

The central tenant behind Anfora Wine Merchant is to celebrate Italy's native grapes. Italy has, by far, more native grapes than any other country in the world. Much like Italy's archeological and artistic treasures, this vast biodiversity has been thousands of years in the making and is part of the country's cultural heritage and patrimony. This richness can seem overwhelming.

Italy's biggest strength is also its weakness. The plethora of native varietals, as well as a history of fragmented regulations coupled with regional identities, has made wrapping one's head around Italian wine onerous and vexing. Italy has done a terrible job at marketing itself. In the last thirty to forty years, they have made leaps and bounds; however, in terms of classifying and regulating the different grapes and the overarching appellations. Advances in genetic testing have helped better identify and categorize Italy's grapes, and this has led to the beginnings of an effective way to communicate and educate sommeliers and other wine professionals.

Anfora is providing a forum where people can participate in a knowledge- and education-based tasting. The goal was to have the classes at our store, but with COVID, that's not possible right now, so we'll present the class virtually. The goal of the tasting is to begin the process of demystifying the world of Italian wine; doing it virtually is our first step; doing it from the comfort of your own home is an added bonus!

What wines will you be tasting and why did you choose these wines?

The weather is hot at the moment, and aromatic whites are typically high toned and refreshing. The most known aromatic white is probably Sauvignon Blanc.

In general, when thinking aromatic whites, think strong aromas on the nose: citrus, herbs, and flowers. I chose the specific wines for this class because they are all classic examples. And I wanted wines that were true and faithful expressions of each varietal and terroir. 

The wines we'll be tasting are:

 1-Principe Pallavicini Frascati Superiore Poggio Verde
 2- Masseria Frattasi Taburno Falanghina
 3- Riofavara Moscato di Noto, 2015
 4- Tintero Langhe Arneis

If people want to accompany the tasting with food, what would you recommend?

These are different wines and might not all pair well with the exact same thing. Fish and seafood are a safe bet, however, as well as chicken dishes. A little spice wouldn't hurt, as the highly aromatic tones contrast nicely with the heat. One could potentially venture into a pork dish as well, as most of the wines have good acidity that can cut through the richness. Consider the classic combo of pineapple and ham, or to make it more Italian, prosciutto and melon. For the more vegetarian inclined, summer pasta dishes like pesto or grilled zucchini would go well too.

What are two or three things you think people should understand about Italian whites?

There is no shortage of variety. Italy's southernmost tip is more south than the northern coast of Africa, while on the north end, it borders Slovenia, Switzerland, France, and Austria. Italy is both Mediterranean and Continental and everything in between. Italian wines manifest this geographical vastness. You find whites that hold up to oak and can age much like Burgundies. Similarly, you encounter acidic, bright, high-toned wines rife with tension, not dissimilar to German or Alsatian wines. Of course, with a coast as long as Italy's, there's no shortage of coastal saline whites; and with the Alps and the Apennines, there's no lack of bright and fresh mountain wines.

If you're interested in joining in Anfora's Virtual Wine Class on July 11, you can buy your tickets here. For $65, you will get online guidance from Weisell and a chance to talk about the wines (if you want to), as well as the four wines mentioned in this article, which you can pick up during the week of July 6 at Anfora Wine Merchants.

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