Today I was invited to a very unique event hosted by the “Vinum & Cibus Italici Consortium”. We were all gathered at “Wildebeest” restaurant, where the newer consortium was showcasing a few of their bottles of wine. This was done through a narrated wine tasting, focusing specifically on the Veneto region.
A “consortium” is an association of two or more individuals, companies, organizations or governments; created with the objective of participating in a common activity or pooling their resources for achieving a common goal. (According to Wikipedia). In this case it was a group with 30 plus years of experience, coming together as of 2015. Their goal, to penetrate international markets with their collective of wineries and agri-food producers. Today we were gathered to drink and fall in love with their wines, their first step at really representing within the Canadian market.
We were all greeted with a welcoming glass of sparkling wine. It was bagged up and the tasting was blind, this would be the same for the wines to follow. The goal was for us to taste and try, to fall in love before judging the wine by its bottle. This was a clever idea, and it really helped to exemplify the reveal. Unfortunately I won’t be able to recreate the same experience for you through my writing, but I can at least describe the wines that we had and the food that paired with it. Both well planned and well presented.
A sumptuous spread of meats and cheeses were laid out and ready for everyone to pick at with fresh crusty bread and cheesy crisps. Thinly sliced prosciutto, spicy sausage, grainy and smooth mustard, sharp blue cheese, creamy brie, green Greek olives, sticky honey, candied nuts, and a rich chicken liver pate.
There was also a bright beet salad to nibble on. Red and yellow beets with carrot, Parmesan, oats, and a spicy granola for crunch.
Servers came around with devil-ed eggs filled with fois gras. They were a creative way to dress up boiled eggs, offering up tangy and salty notes.
The “Tuna tartare” was served on little sheets of deep friend wonton. The fish was light in texture, seasoned in sesame and garlic, and the chip offered a crunch to follow.
The presentation portion of the afternoon began with a short video highlighting the grapes we would be tasting today, and the region of Italy in which they come from. As I mentioned earlier, the tasting was focused on wines from the Veneto region, solely Verona to Venice.
As we tasted and tried, our experienced sommelier and host walked us through the sensations, tacking on tidbits of information. Facts like how prosecco originated from the mid 1900’s, but back then it wasn’t filtered like it is today. Therefore this “natural wine” was murky. Fast forward, its popularity increased to the point that there are over five million bottles produced a year!
Admittedly, I drink for the feeling and less for the taste. So it was nice to be able to learn more about what it was that I was actually having. On top of guessing what kind of wine it was and where it was from, we were each given a sheet of paper to jot down notes on aroma and taste, then told to guess how much the bottle would be worth, or rather how much we would pay for it.
As per proper tasting set up, each place setting was also given a spit bucket and a glass of water to help taste and cleanse between sips. I hate spitting of any kind, so didn’t. Plus I don’t like wasting good wine. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but cringe at those who did. Everyone was drinking to taste, and here I was, drinking to digest.
The first glass that we were greeted at the door with (our welcome sparkling) was by Anna Spinato, Prosecco Brut Organic 374769. It is available at any BC Liquor for $17.99. Looking at it, with its neon green wrap and its cartoonish label, this isn’t a bottle I would naturally gravitate towards. It doesn’t look as prestigious as the other bottles of sparkling that would surround it, nor is it one that you would gift to impress. But tasting it like this, really has you surprised. It tasted like a clean and fresh bubbly wine that is triple the price, and it is organic to boot. I definitely won’t hesitate to pick up a bottle of this in the future.
Based on the matching labels, you can tell that this one is also by Anna Spinato. Spumante Brut Rose Organic 623306 at any BC Liquor, for typically $15.99. This too was an organic, another sparkling, in rose.
The third glass, was the Canella 2016 Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 675785, available at “Everything Wine & Marquis Wine Cellars” for $30.49 + tax. It was drier with more body and sweetness. Aromatic with orange peel and florals. This was a pristine sparking wine, made in a predominately red wine region.
Our fourth glass and first red was deep and fragrant. A smooth clean drink that had good acidity. Our sommelier suggested chilling it beforehand to help showcase its pops of fruit. Cantina Negrar 2014 Valpolicella Classico (1.0L) 74963 at Marquis Wine Cellars for $14.69+ tax.
The following wines are classified as Valpolicella, and lucky for us, our host is the only Canadian Valpolicella wine expert. For this designation, corvina is the one grape variety that must be 95% of the blend.
Cantina Di Negrar Verona Corvina 59919 available at “Everything Wine” for $18.99 + tax. It is more fragrant and woodsy, with the flavour of berries being central. Another smooth bottle that our host suggested we chill first.
Glass number 6 was the Cantina Negrar 2015 “Le Roselle” Valpolicella Ripasso 292250, available at “Marquis Wine Cellars” for $28.61 + tax. This was 100% corvina grape, and its bouncy, sour cherry notes took centre stage. This was a sharper red, fuller bodied with more tannins. “Tannins” is a textural element that makes wine taste dry. This was a “boozier” wine that snaps back at you, it tasted as lip puckering as it smells, with spicer notes and more acidity.
Our final red was the Amarone Classico – Negrar 2015 44784, available at BC Liquor ON for $42.99. This was naturally the strongest of our tasting, which is commonplace as their tends to be a build up during wine tastings. It was heavier with a 16% alcohol content, amped up with more aged fruit like withered grapes and dark cherries.
And to end our afternoon, we finished with a white, something fun and light. The third of Anna Spinato’s sparkling collection: Moscato Spumante Dolce Organic 266437 available at BC Liquor ON for $15.99. A sweet organic dry Prosecco with cider notes and aromatic florals and fruitiness. Our host turned us on to the idea of using this as a way to “rinse with bubbles”. This is an off dry wine with a high residue of sugar. The balanced acid offers a nice palate refresher, and a jolt of caffeine, pairing perfectly with the sharpness of blue cheese or dessert.
In conclusion this was a wonderful introduction to the Vinum & Cibus Italici Consortium. And this wine tasting format was a great way to introduce value. Each bottle is affordable and you might not necessarily gravitate to it because of its budget pricing or vivid label. So this was a lesson on not judging a book by its cover, and that the most expensive thing on the shelf might not necessarily be the best or suit your needs the best. Look out for the best value for what you are tasting, something that you might not get from reading the label alone.
I enjoyed my experience and hope my recap gave you something to consider the next time you visit your local liquor store.