Di Karen Phillips

clooney.jpgWhere do I begin? Winerdì, January 15th shone the spotlight on Pinot Nero. Vincenzo Di Meo and Fabrizio Erbaggio led discussions (in 2 languages) on this finicky grape. A grape that is often difficult to cultivate. It has very thin skin, so at times, it can be succeptable to infections, rot and mildew. It is at home in regions with a dry, cool climate. And the fun doesn’t stop here. It needs to be carefully monitored during the vinification process, as well. It ferments violently and may boil which speeds up the fermentation process. But enough about its problems. Vincenzo calls this an elegant wine and with the wines chosen for our evening, we were able to see why.First stop, Sicily with Cusamo’s Pinot Nero 2007. Here we have a wine whose vineyards are in the south. The first time with Pinot Nero for Cusamo. A nice effort. The vineyards are 800 meters above sea level. A different soil than the northern Italy where Pinot Nero is usually grown. It needed a while to breathe. It was interesting to notice how the aromas as well as the flavor slightly changed over the course of the evening.Going up the boot, we arrive in Umbria with Castello della Sala’s Pinot Nero della Sala 2005. These grapes are harvested at 400 m above sea level and according to the web site, fermentation completed at 26°C in French oak barriques (Alliers, Troncais), as well as malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in the barriques for 8 months, after which it is bottled. It is then aged in the bottles for 15 months in the historical cellars of Castello della Sala, before release. As Vincenzo always points out, the territory always has an impact on the final product. This was quite evident during the tasting. I will not say that it was better than the Sicilian offering, only different. Two wines from Alto Adige, Frank Haas Pinot Nero 2005 and Hofstatter Mazon Riserva 2004. Here we have elegance displayed in each wine with the intense aromas of red berries, cherries, and wild berries. Fabrizio commented on how Pinot Nero is the perfect wine because it is easy to pair with a wide variety of dishes.We enjoyed the wines with our buffet afterwards; pizza from Stefano Pagliuca, polenta with a rich ragu sauce, lasagna, and insalata rinforza.