I was thrilled to find a bottle marked down to $5 at my supermarket. But later, I tasted Italian sparkling wines at their best.
This happened at an Italian wine lunch for the L.A. Wine Writers (above) at Cafe Del Rey. Two Proseccos and two other sparklers were poured, and they were impressive.
The first was 2Castelli Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene (above). The bottle was labeled extra dry, which in Champagne means sweet, but this deep gold, fruity wine was not sweet. The suggested retail is $23, but online prices are lower. There's also a Brut, or dry, version of the same wine.
Step up a few notches and you have not a Prosecco but Franciacorta La Montina Saten (above). This wine was made according to the classic Champagne process and spent a good 30 months on the lees. The final fermentation took place in the bottle. Very dry and a little citrusy, it is 100% Chardonnay. You could serve it with serious food, not just as a party sipper. The suggested retail is $35.
For a pretty bubbly that's serious too, look for Franciacorta La Montina Rosé Extra Brut Millesimato (above). Coppery-colored, crisp and dry, this wine is 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. The juice spent a few days on the skins to give it color and 40 months on the lees. The price is about $40.
The lunch highlighted Taste of Italy promotions now underway and scheduled to continue in 2017. The attention switched from wine to cheese as Genny Nevoso, executive director of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West in Los Angeles, spoke of how Americans are defrauded by ersatz Italian foods.
She cited Parmigiano Reggiano (above), the famous Italian cheese made only from milk, enzymes and salt and so strictly regulated that an individual wheel can be traced back to the cows that produced the milk and the grass they ate. Such a cheese is never adulterated with phony ingredients.
What would those be? How about cellulose? You've eaten that if you've used those green or red canisters of American "Parmesan" cheese. Check the label, and you'll see that powdered cellulose has been added as an anti-caking agent and calcium proponate as a preservative.
Nevoso organized a master class in Italian cheeses recently at the Four Seasons. The cheeses were Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano (above), Grana Padano and Piave. They would be delightful with Prosecco at a holiday party--that's what accompanied them at the tasting. And magnificent over pasta instead of that adulterated boxed cheese.