Two Gentlemen from Verona meet Two Gentlemen from Lowell: From left, Jim   Campanini, Luca Speri, Dickie Rourke and Dario Pieropan at the Boston Wine
Two Gentlemen from Verona meet Two Gentlemen from Lowell: From left, Jim Campanini, Luca Speri, Dickie Rourke and Dario Pieropan at the Boston Wine Expo. ( PHOTO BY KEVIN COUGLIN )

Now I know how Bacchus, the Roman god of wine (and intoxication), would throw a 21st century party.

It would be held over two days at the majestic waterfront Seaport Hotel and he'd call it the Boston Wine Expo 2013.

Bacchus -- Dionysus to the Greeks -- would entice 219 wineries from the world's best wine-producing regions to show up on a snowy day, pop the corks on nearly 2,000 different wines, and open the doors of a great hall to a flood of grape enthusiasts.

"Bere giu e vivere su, amici!" Bacchus would shout over the loud speakers (Translation: "Drink up and live it up, my friends!")

It's easy to be overwhelmed at a big event. For instance, why get bogged down in sampling wines you can buy off the shelf when there are so many new products to experience? That was the sound advice I received from the Wine Wizard, Dickie Rourke of Tutto Bene Wine & Cheese Cellar, and the wine connoisseur, Kevin Coughlin of Tyngsboro.

At Rourke's suggestion we honed in on the big Italian reds -- the Super Tuscans, Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico, Montepulciano Riserva and some new and exciting Sangiovese blends.


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They were fantastico!

The highlight of the day, however, was a special invitation seminar -- Two Gentlemen of Verona -- presented by Empson USA. It featured wines from two of Italy's oldest wine-producing families, the Pieropan and the Speri.

While Shakespeare's tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet made Verona famous, Pieropan and Speri wines have been captivating Italian wine lovers for more than a century.

Luca Speri, 33, is Speri's sales manager and son of Carlo Speri whose family has owned and worked the Verona vineyard for five generations. Speri's passion for the family's signature product, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, was infectious.

Equally passionate was the other gentleman of Verona, Dario Pieropan, a fourth generation winemaker for his family's highly acclaimed Soave Classico "Calvarino" and Soave Classico "La Rocca." The latter was judged Italy's "2001 Wine of the Year," a distinction that carries the weight of a Papal decree.

During the 90-minute seminar, we sampled wines from each family's "vault" of best vintages dating back nearly 30 years.

Pieropan's 1989 Soave Classico Calvarino was an extraordinary experience.

Soave Calvarino is a blend of Garganega (70 percent) and Trebbiano (30 percent) grapes produced from 60-year-old vines located high on the family's hilltop vineyard. The juice ferments in cement tanks. Now 24 years old, the straw-colored 1989 Calvarino was incredibly fresh and expressive in white fruit flavors and hints of almonds.

We also tasted the 1996 and 2010 La Rocca vintages made from 100 percent Garganega grapes. They were simply beautiful in the glass and on the palate.

Moving on to Speri's Amarone della Valpolicella, I thought this was a trick from Bacchus. How could anything taste so good and deliver layer upon pleasurable layer of bittersweet silkiness and dryness? My palate was spinning in complex textures and flavors. The was a wow encounter with greatness, and Luca Speri attributed it to the family tradition of doing everything by hand.

The Speri Amarone is produced from three grapes, Corvine Kerosene, Rondinella and Corvinone, grown at the highest elevations in the Veneto region. The grapes are picked in October and dried on mats for at least 100 days. The process is called appesimento or rasinate (to dry or shrivel). The dried grapes are pressed by hand and the juice is aged in oak casks for three years. Once bottled, it ages for another year.

At 28 years old, the 1985 Speri Amarone exhibited remarkable balance for such a high alcohol wine (15 percent). The taste was a collection of bittersweet black currants and a mesmerizing blend of dried plums and black cherries and tobacco. It had a divine finish.

We also tasted the 1995, 2001 and 2007 Speri Amarones and the consistency of quality was incredibly delightful.

Bravo, Dario and Luca. Viva Verona!

Read more at http://blogs. lowellsun.com/winenovice.