A new Renaissance is being relived in the consumption of these wines, perhaps not in quantity, but the very way of consuming them is changing, enjoying them as a meditation or even in cocktails.
Appreciated in all the European noble courts until the beginning of the twentieth century, sweet wines were the most drunk. In the last 15 years, consumption has suffered a seemingly unstoppable decline. The factors that have contributed are many: first of all the squeeze on the use of sugars (obviously they have a high sugar content), but also the rise in temperatures and the greater diffusion of heating in homes (they were wines also used in the past to "warm up" given the high alcohol content). At the base of this transformation there is above all a profound change of tastes in the use of wines, due to constant research in the oenological field, which has led to a greater variety and quality of products and which has ended up relegating the sweet ones to the moments of party or after a meal. The erosion of consumption in the Italian market is offset by exports, which instead is growing, reaching an average of 80% of total production. Fortunately, in recent years sweet wines are at the center of a new interest, which does not focus on quantities, but on how to use them and lives them rather as meditation wines or even as valuable ingredients for cocktail contemporaries.
What are the types of Italian sweet wines?
In the north-west, where they are born, we find Asti and Moscato d'Asti, in the north-east we find passito da Traminer and sweet wines from Friuli, such as Picolit. In the center, when we talk about sweet wine, we think above all of Vin Santo, in Tuscany, and passito wines, in Lazio. In the South and in the Islands, passito and fortified wines such as Marsala dominate. Sweet wines are usually tasted according to taste, that is in pairing with desserts or alternatively, alone, like wine at the end of the meal or, for those particularly fortified, for meditation. In recent years we have tried to rejuvenate these habits by including sweet wines in the cocktail menus, also to bring them closer to the world of young people. The first to promote this movement was Pellegrino Cellars with the one he called "Marsala Revolution".
The new life of Marsala in cocktails
Taking inspiration from this "revolutionary" wine, loved by Garibaldi, we tried to give new life to Marsala. "Each revolution aims to establish a different order, a contemporary, easy way of drinking, out of the ordinary, totally breaking with the one that remained in vogue for over a century until a few decades ago", he says. Benedetto Renda, director of Cantine Pellegrino. Old John, Bip Benjamin, Uncle Joseph, Horatio (names in honor of the great English entrepreneurs who sensed the commercial potential of Marsala in the nineteenth century and decreed its success) today have become a new line dedicated to mixology. These bottles want to tell the different styles of Marsala (Marsala Superiore, Marsala Superiore Riserva, Marsala Soleras or Vergine, Marsala Vergine Stravecchio or Riserva) to a young and less educated audience from the wine point of view. To complete the range there is also the Marsala Ambra Superiore 2012 Anita Garibaldi, dedicated to the woman who loved the revolutionary. From Grillo, Catarratto and Inzolia grapes, grown in the hinterland of Marsala and Mazara del Vallo, intriguing for its intense amber color, it is a versatile wine (the "lightest" of the team, a Marsala Superiore, with 18 degrees of alcohol and 24 months of barrel aging), with pleasant notes of apricot and carob, and slight hints of thyme and black pepper. And let's not forget that this wine is also often used in cooking: here is the recipe for sweetbreads with Marsala.
The Torcolato of Braganze, a micro production that is produced on one striss of hilly land of about twenty kilometers, between the rivers Astico and Brenta, in the territory of Braganze, in the Vicenza area. It is first mentioned in 1754 when explaining the production process: the Vespaiola grape, native to the area, is put in the form of "torcolato" or the bunches are left in withering, twisted and hung with a rope from the beams of the barn (mainly to save space and protect the precious berries from possible rodents). During this period the berries lose much of the water they contain, favoring a high concentration of sugars, before being "pressed”And left to ferment in small oak barrels. Since 1996 the Doc has been recognized but since time immemorial we find the Magnifica Fraglia (Confraternita) del Torcolato to preside over the correct procedure. Among the major producers of this micro production to date we find Fausto Maculan with his daughter Maria Vittoria.
Ra'is Essence of Baglio di Pianetto represents the history of a people. Already known at in the imperial court of Frederick II, Moscato has become the wine par excellence for celebrations in Sicily from generation to generation, closely linked to the island's pastry tradition, where the intensity of flavors takes the form of baroque delicacy. P.rproduced from Moscato grapes harvested on the estate of Contrada Baroni in Noto, in the lands of white limestone, this Moscato tells of the favorite wine of Count Paolo Marzotto from a very young age. The name is inspired by the ltuna fishermen's net, because it is said that Muscat captures the Sicilian sunlight and spreads it among its golden and coppery reflections.
The recioto della Valpolicella it is a wine with an ancient history, which dates back to Roman times. The vines used are indigenous, namely Corvina (in the measure from 45 to 95%), Rondinella (from 5 to 30%) and Corvinone (up to a maximum of 50%). In ancient times the drying came conducted on racks used for the cultivation of silkworm for about 3 months but today they are set up in suitable rooms (called fruit rooms), suitably ventilated. Finally it is aged for at least 3 years in small oak barrels. To this wine it is also dedicated a traditional and deeply felt festival, the Palio del Recioto which is traditionally held in the Easter period. One of the most historic wineries that produces it with all the trappings of the traditional method is the Meroni farm in Sant'Ambrogio di Valpolicella. It boasts among the ancestors of the Antonio Pesenti family, Italian economist and politician and member of the Constituent Assembly and a dedication, shown on the label, by the famous Veronese poet Berto Barbarani in a letter from 1943, where he appreciates this wine.
Among the heroic wines (i.e. produced in particularly adverse conditions and harvested exclusively by hand) one cannot but admire the tenacity of winemakers which produce the passito di Pantelleria. Among the most iconic labels with a strong allure, the Pantelleria Passito Ben Ryé 2016 Donnafugata, whichin Arabic it means "fwind chill". This is because, as the inhabitants of this impervious island like to say and which often suffers from severe droughts, the wind that blows between the grapes is a constant on the island. L'Author's label celebrates love, care and effort which is necessary to produce this wine on a unique and fascinating island.
Photo above of the Brembati Pastry Shop in Villa d'Almè (Bg)
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