It’s always nice to see members of the wine trade – importers, writers and enthusiasts gather at a wine tasting. At the very least there are some stories to tell, some wine to taste and something new to learn.
On a busy midweek afternoon, all the seats at Italia at The Park were full. The occasion was a masterclass by Maura Marciante, export head for Zonin Wines, and Aspri Spirits, their importer. We were tasting their popular flagship wine, the Prosecco, along with their Soave, Asti, Amarone and Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, only a few wines from their vast portfolio. Zonin has notched up several firsts in India’s difficult marketplace. Italy’s largest private family-run wine company, with Europe’s largest team of oenologists and viticulturists and with a massive 2,000 hectares of vineyards (“One hectare is equal to one football field,” she explained descriptively) Zonin has been doing well in India in the 15 years it has been around in India.
On to the tasting. Their Prosecco is the highest selling in UK, Germany and several other countries, and they make a whopping 4.5 million cases every year – almost an industry by itself. But they don’t treat their Prosecco like an industry, said Maura. Rather, to keep their millions of litres as fresh as can be, they employ a “Prosecco bank” technique, where juice from the freshly-pressed Glera grapes are stored in massive stainless steel tanks at zero degrees to keep the aromatics constant. “You can imagine, it costs a lot to do so. We start our vinification only after we receive specific orders. So we actually bottle Prosecco every single day of the year. Being a large company, we can afford to do this, where many others can’t,” she adds. As a result, the Zonin Prosecco is light, fruity and quite the easy drinking aperitif it’s meant to be. “It’s really a wine for every occasion.”
On to the Soave 2012, made from 2 indigenous Italian grapes, Gargarnega (95%) and Trebbiano (5%), two from Italy’s enormous list of 355 indigenous grapes. “Soave means gentle in Italian,” she explained. It could have done with a tad more chilling, but the light body, crisp acidity and notes of apple and pear with some minerality from the soil upheld the meaning of the word.
Then came the Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2012, their ‘baby’ Amarone, fermented on Amarone to give extra body, structure and complexity. Followed by the Amarone della Valpolicella 2011. A delightful rich strong wine, its heady bouquet of red berries, liquorice and chocolate and mouth filling fruit made it an enjoyable sip, worth the 91 points bestowed on this vintage by Wine Spectator. “I love to have it with chocolate myself,” disclosed Marciante, “I always think of it as having big shoulders, a meditative wine.” Truly, decanting would have accelerated the pleasure of tasting it.
Rounding up the array on the day was the Asti, its low alcohol, fizz and sweet notes of red fruit making it a perfect accompaniment for both sweet and savoury food. I’ve often wondered why there isn’t more Asti available in India, seems such a match with our tastes and our food.
Marciante is quite clear that Zonin isn’t resting on its India laurels. “We have been sort of pioneers in this market because our presence in India dates back to the year 2000. There was a dip after the terror attacks of 2008, but slowly business has picked up again, and now we are pretty happy, mainly because we are represented by Aspri Spirits. If I am not wrong, the import of Italian wines in India equals approximately 2,00,000 cases. We represent 15% of this, and we aim to reach within next year the 20%.”
Meanwhile, she is enjoying her Amarone with tandoori lamb, even as she’s been ‘’rediscovering her white wines”, with her favourite being Zonin’s Tenuta Ca’ Bolani Sauvignon Blanc – a perfect cross, according to her, of Sancerre and Marlborough. “It speaks of its terroir – more fruit, far less gooseberry.”
Zonin Prosecco is available in Karnataka for Rs 1852
Zonin Soave 2012: Rs 1951
Zonin Asti: Rs 1772
Zonin Amarone della Valpolicella2011: Rs 5402
Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2012: Rs 2192
Prices may vary in different states.