March 15, 2010

In Vino Veritas at Harvard

Veritas (truth in Latin) is the well known motto of Harvard University. Harvard Law School has a thriving wine society, cleverly named In Vino Veritas. In February, I had the distinct pleasure of leading a tasting of Italian wines at one of the bi-weekly events. A thirsty crowd of about 70 wine enthusiasts gathered to taste an eclectic selection of wines from different Italian regions.

I'm a big fan of Italian wines. There is a huge number of interesting grape varieties used in Italian wine production and, in general, Italian wines seem to offer food friendly balance at every price point. In between tasting the wines and enjoying good company, and aided by some terrific maps of the regions, courtesy of the Italian Consulate in Boston, we touched on the country's historical wine journey, wine laws (appropriate, given the audience), food pairings and grape varieties.

All the wines for the tasting were sourced in Boston. First up, a delicious and fresh Arneis from Roero in Piemonte. This white DOCG wine, from the Ascheri winery, is aromatic, fresh and quite delicious. Sometimes used to soften Nebbiolo in the Roero, this was a favourite with many. Not often available at the LCBO, it's worth searching out and serving with pasta with a light cream sauce or with a variety of seafood.

Next up for tasting was a Vermentino from Sardegna. This one had 15% Nuragus in the blend - not an everday varietal. This had less on the nose and wasn't quite as fine as some other Vermentino I've tasted recently from the LCBO. For Ontario shoppers, there are still a few bottles of a very tasty Crabilis Vermentino 2008 lurking on some shelves.

Then onto the reds, starting with a trip back up to Piemonte, and a Barbera d'Alba, again from Ascheri. The winery is located in Bra - home of the slow food movement. There is so much delicious Barbera grown and produced all over Italy, and most especially in Piemonte, but this one was a little thin. Still, the interesting thing at wine tastings is the range of opinions for any given wine, and more than a few folks liked this one.

Off to Tuscany next, and a nice Rosso di Montalcino from San Felice winery. Good body, nice balance and juicy dark fruit and cherries on the nose and palate made this Sangiovese wine a real winner. Rosso di Montalcino is often referred to as baby Brunello. Usually made from grapes from vineyards close to those used for Brunello, and barrel aged for less time, Rosso can be drunk considerably younger than Brunello and is often great value.

Still in Tuscany, we next tasted a baby Super Tuscan - (winery description, not mine). With about 70% Sangiovese, the rest mainly Cabernet grapes, and not much aging, this one could best be described as rustic. But given the right food............

Last up was a wine from Puglia (the heel) produced by the organic winery, Perrini. Negroamaro is widely grown in the region, sometimes bottled as a straight varietal and sometimes blended with Primitivo, another main Puglia grape. This was pretty good - juicy, nicely balanced, briary (in a good way), definitely a little brooding and rustic, and crying out for some kind of rich stew that we didn't have on hand. Negroamaro is often available at the LCBO and is a great food wine, despite, or perhaps because of, the meaning of its name - black and bitter.

Now why exactly was GrapeScot leading a wine tasting at Harvard? Well, it's a long story, best told over a glass of nice Italian wine. But in the meantime, here's a terrific blog to while away the hours with your own glass of wine. On second thoughts, this blog will take you all over the world on adventures that few experience, so perhaps you'd better open a new bottle before embarking. See if you can see a GrapeScot family resemblance in the author.


"Thank you again for hosting last night's event. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and your work was greatly appreciated. I received comments from multiple people regarding the helpfulness of the resources and information."

Jonathan Truppman, President, In Vino Veritas