My first taste of Ferrari sparkling wine was aboard last month's rosé cruise on the Hudson River. It was the 2008 Perlé Rosé and I knew from the very first sip that I was on to something great! Intrigued, I asked about the winery and found out that in addition to many International awards, Ferrari was named the 2016 "European Winery of The Year" by Wine Enthusiast and 2015 "Sparkling Wine Producer of The Year" at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity shortly thereafter to sit down with the very charming Matteo Lunelli, President of Ferrari Trento, to taste a selection of his delicious wines and discuss how Ferrari symbolizes the "Italian art of living".
Ferrari was started over 100 years ago by Giulio Ferrari, a winemaking pioneer, in the Trentino region of the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy. Giulio travelled and studied oenology throughout Italy, Germany and France, most importantly in Champagne. He realized that Trentino had the right terroir to grow chardonnay and was the first to bring that grape to Italy. The vineyards he planted there are some of the best vineyards for making sparkling wine. This high-altitude area has a strong diurnal shift of temperatures. It is warm and sunny during the day which ripens the grapes and much cooler at nighttime, keeping the acidity levels high and preventing over ripening. Giulio didn't want to make simple wines though, he wanted to cultivate excellence by producing exquisite sparkling wines in the classical method, with the second fermentation in the bottle, as is done in Champagne. These are high-quality wines made only from grapes grown in the area and using sustainable agricultural methods. They are a unique expression of mountain sparkling wine.
In 1952, Giulio, who had no heirs, chose Matteo's grandfather, Bruno Lunelli, a friend and local wine shop owner, to take over the winery and so began the next phase of leadership for the Ferrari wines. Under the Lunelli family, Ferrari wines have become known as Italy's leading luxury Italian sparkling wine and the toast of many important Italian events in culture, show business and sports. As Matteo told me, "Our sparkling wine is linked to many emotions of the time. They symbolize the Italian art of living and the joy of life".
Matteo and I tasted 5 different sparkling wines, starting with the Brut Non-Vintage ($25), which spends over two years on its lees. This is 100% chardonnay and it has a wonderful balance of fruit and yeast with a touch of bread and almond flavors. There is a bright freshness to the wine which is creamy and elegant on the palate. For me, it was calling out for some food. I would've loved an assortment of cheeses and other antipasti to go along with it! Next up was the Brut Rose Non-Vintage ($30) which is a blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir. The chardonnay gives the wine elegance, minerality and citrus notes with the pinot noir bringing in structure and a taste of rose petals. Moving on to some of their vintage sparkling wines, there was the 2006 Riserva Lunelli ($59) with its unique richness on the palate from its time spent in Austrian wooden barrels. This is a wine that could easily pair with the bolder flavors found in meat and poultry dishes. Then, the 2008 Perlé Nero ($78), a blanc de noirs ("white from black"), made with 100% pinot noir grapes but vinified as a white wine. Talk about fresh! This one starts off with citrus, yeast and apple flavors and finishes with a touch of almond on the palate. The next and last wine I tasted was my favorite, the 2004 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore ($120) which, Matteo referred to as the "pinnacle of their production". This wine spends over 10 years on its lees! It has a lot of complexity while still maintaining freshness. This is a "cru" wine, from a single vineyard which wine critic Robert Parker awarded 96 points. What struck me most with this wine was the balance of richness and brioche flavors, the bright acidity and how every element was in perfect harmony. This is a wine that could stand up to any dish without overpowering it or getting lost in it.
All of the Ferrari sparkling wines should make it to your table for many occasions, not just special occasions. We should all experience the "Italian art of living", and that to me, is living well!