Is your summer half empty or half full?
Recently, I overheard several people lament that, following the Fourth of July, the summer season “is all but over.” Blasphemy!
Don’t be a summer-doldrums type person.
If things need perking up, do what I do: Turn to Trentino (generally called Trento), a high-altitude autonomous province in northeast Italy where some of the best sparkling wines refresh Alpine skiers and hikers all year round.
For centuries, Europeans have vacationed here against the breathtaking backdrop of the Swiss Alps and Dolomites. They’ve also come to eat the local cuisine, marked by Austrian, German and Italian influences, and to drink the “mountain” wines – chilled, sassy whites and silky bubblies that rival the elegance of French Champagne.
What makes Trento’s sparklers so distinctive? Just like France’s Champagne region is unequalled for the limestone “terroir” in which grapes are grown, Trento’s vineyards – whether located on the valley floor or steep slopes – can rely on glacial deposits for nutrients and barrier-forming mountain ranges to protect against a brutal northern climate. Vines get plenty of sunshine. That’s what Guilio Ferrari saw in 1902 – the potential of growing Chardonnay for the production of bottle-fermented sparkling wine. He later founded the sparkling house of Ferrari. And in 1993, Italy created the regional Trento DOC – the country’s first appellation dedicated exclusively to crafting traditional method sparkling wine.
What follows are four TrentoDOC sparklers to enjoy an endless summer all year round.
Cantine Monfort Brut Rose, $34.99 – A 50-50 mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, this dry sparkler (12.5% alcohol) is more crisp than creamy, making it a versatile companion for most food dishes including pork, chicken and seafood. It’s gorgeous in the glass – tiny bubbles exploding in a sea of salmon-pink liquid – and wonderfully scented with red fruit traits. Strawberry and apple flavors glide across the palate. Silky, smooth and fresh as an Alpine breeze.
Altemasi Millesimato Brut, $30 – The best, hand-harvested Chardonnay grapes from multiple Dolomite vineyards comprise this 2014 vintage bottling. The pale, yellow-gold wine is bottle-aged on its lees for 36 months prior to disgorgement, resulting in a luxurious texture. Bubbly and persistent, there’s no quit on fruity aromatics or peach and lemon flavors. Winemaker Paolo Turra suggests Altemasi with deep-fried prawns or scallops in a Marsala sauce. I enjoyed it with a fried seafood platter at Brown’s Lobster Pound in Seabrook, N.H., where you can your own bottle to the table.
Cantina d’Isera 1907 Brut, $26 – Crafted at a 112-year-old cooperative of more than 200 associates who grow red and white grapes in Isera’s mineral-rich, hillside vineyards. This all- Chardonnay sparkler is steel-tank fermented and aged 30 months on yeasts. It’s delicate, flavorful and delivers baked-bread nuances. It paired well with a garden salad topped with grilled chicken,
Cantine Ferrari Brut Rose`, $27 – The House That Giulio Built (Ferrari) remains the sparkling wine benchmark more than 100 years after its Trentino birth. Brut Rose`, a Pinot Nero (80%)- Chardonnay (20%) mix, is the showboat of the winery’s classic line with 200,000 bottles produced annually. My wife and I found it a superb match with grilled salmon and a Greek salad. (Seared tuna in olive oil is also recommended.) Fragrant notes of red fruit, especially strawberries, lift off on beady, everlasting bubbles. A creamy mousse pampers the mouth. It’s complex, finishing with subtle biscuit and sweet nut flavors. Refined and well worth the price.