The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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Page 63 of 116

june 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  63 it should be fixed. As much as 40 percent of processed grapes, however, may ultimately be sold as bulk wine because those lots don't fit the style or quality parameters of the winemaking team. In addi- tion, a list of those rejected lots is given to the viticulturalists to explore new or better varieties that could be used in that vineyard. "We need to first understand what grape will perform well in a specific spot based on the style of wine we're trying to produce," explains Lucio. Meanwhile, on the other end of Italy in Sicily, the Stemmari wines are cultivated in estate vineyards along the ventilated southern coast of the island. The wines carry a Sicilia DOC appellation. As you glance across the portfolios of the three brands, one notices traditional indigenous varieties such as the Mezzacorona Teroldego and Pinot Grigio and Stemmari's Nero d'Avola alongside modern blends like Stemmari's Dalila, which blends together Grillo and Viognier. Traditional or modern, each wine bears a stamp of quality and a distinctive- ness that comes from utilizing the right grapes grown in the appropriate terroir. These days if you taste 20 different Nero d'Avola wines, most are being made in a New World style that features ripe fruit and new oak. Lucio feels that any wine has to "speak to the dialect of its region, and barrique doesn't belong to Italy. We're rediscovering the aromatic profile of grapes like Nero d'Avola by not following New World strategies." He is careful to point out that traditional winemaking and grape growing is not necessarily the answer either. "Historically, the style of the wine was coming from the vineyards, but we have addressed issues like sulfur usage and canopy management to eliminate off characteristics that those issues would produce in the finished wines." With over 7,000 acres of vineyards owned or controlled by Gruppo Mezzacorona, the winemaking process ultimately does start in the vineyard. For the company's Trentino-based brands Rotari and Mezzacorona, a team of five viticulturalists are in daily con- tact with the winemaking team. What makes this even more challenging is that 5,000 of those acres are spread out among 1,600 growers. And on top of that, each grower has to submit two samples of grapes from their vineyard for analysis by the winemaking and lab teams. That means almost 25,000 samples of grapes are evaluated in a normal year. What Lucio is most proud of is the "family" feeling among not just the winemaking team but everyone included in the production process, including those 1,600 growers. "We're trying to improve the lives of our grow- ers by teaching them better farming methods, so their children will keep doing what their parents did." It's encouraging to know that there are still quality portfolio's like that of Gruppo Mezzacorona that give us reliable consistency and value, in a marketplace that's saturated with overly processed, over-priced wines. It's also a testament to a great team effort. "We're a big company" explains Lucio, "but we're very close." A good example of how Lucio and the team work together to produce unique wines in the marketplace are the Rotari sparkling wines, made at Rotari's state-of-the-art winery in Trentino in Italy's Dolomite Mountains and carrying the Trentodoc appellation. The modern Mezzacorona winery, just north of Lake Garda, in Northern Italy's Trentino region.

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