The table is set for an evening of "The Incomparable Wines of Northern Italy," a two-hour learning and tasting seminar at the elegant Nesmith House in Lowell, presented by yours truly as part of Middlesex Community College's adult continuing-education program.

Tonight's class of 20 "students" is sold out; however, because of the number of inquiries received, MCC has graciously added another class scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. (To register, go to www.middlesex.mass.edu and type in "vino rosso" in the search button).

I've been excited about this "class" for a while.

Along with the Wine Goddess, my wife Mary Lee, I've been sampling wines for weeks, winnowing down the list to seven selections that best represent the classic wine-growing regions of Piemonte, Toscana and the Veneto.

Four of the wines are classified DOCG, the top tier of Italy's modern quality pyramid; three are at the next level, DOC; and one is an innovative IGT wine.

An added feature is the Wine Goddess' simple but authentic food pairings that she prepares herself.


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The seminar's objective is to assure that students leave with a better understanding and appreciation of Italian red wines. We'll cover how each region has its own unique grape varieties, terroir and mesoclimates.

We'll take a deep dive into the four pillars of great Italian wine -- Super Tuscan, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Amarone -- by learning the grapes that go into each. We'll experience the unique tastes by sampling representative foundation wines.

For instance, Sangiovese -- the king of all Tuscan grapes -- is the primary source for Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. We'll touch all bases with a 92-point Chianti Classico and a Banfi Rosso di Montalcino.

We'll also learn about Veneto's Valpolicella region and wine, which is crafted from Corvina Vernonese and Rondinella grapes, and serves as the foundation for the famous meditazione wine Amarone.

Students will come to know of the appasimento process -- air-drying grapes before vinification -- by tasting Allegrini's innovative "baby Amarone" Palazzo della Torre IGT. (This wine has made Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 list six times over the past decade).

Then there's Nebbiolo, one of my favorite varietals. This classic Piemonte grape is the exquisite key to the masculine Barolo and the feminine Barbaresco. We'll sample two site-sensitive versions and compare the differences.

 

And what would any study of Italian wines be without a taste of food-friendly Barbera, the winemaker's go-to wine and the Piemonte's most productive by volume (30 million bottles per year).

I know you can't all be there, so if you want to follow along on your own, following is the wine list (or you can register for the Nov. 8 class).

Veneto region: Tomassi "Rafael" Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC; Allegrini Palazzo della Torre IGT.

Piemonte region: Michele Chiarlo Cipressi Nizza DOCG (Barbera); Travaglini Gattinara Nebbiolo DOCG; Renato Ratti Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo DOCG.

Tuscany region: Banfi Rosso di Montalcino DOC; Volpaia Chianti Classic DOCG.

The above wines were purchased for $25 or less at New Hampshire and Massachusetts wine outlets, including The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover and Vino Italiano in Waltham.

Robert Foley, one of Napa Valley's most accomplished winemakers, will be pouring three of his top Switchback Ridge creations on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 1 to 5 p.m., at The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover. This is one tasting you don't want to miss. Foley's highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah will be available to sample. The event is free and open to the public. Owner Sam Messina is will be offering one-day-only, special pricing on these gems.