Nesmith House was glamorous and full of life for the first class of "Vino Rosso: The Incomparable Red Wines of Northern Italy."
Nineteen enthusiastic oenophiles met last Thursday in Lowell to learn about the four pillars of prestigious Italian wine -- Super Tuscan, Chianti, Barolo and Brunello -- from the Piemonte and Toscana regions. We also discussed the top red wine of the Veneto -- Amarone della Valpolicella -- which is one of my favorites.
My "students" sampled seven wines which were paired with the Wine Goddess' small plates of Italian treasures, including baked eggplant parmigiana, and meatballs stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and Vidalia onions.
The two-hour evening came to a sweet conclusion when students toasted their success -- each had to pass a 10-question final exam -- with a glass of Vin Santo di Chianti Classico, a decadent dessert wine made from native Trebbiano Toscana and Malvasia Bianca grapes. As if that wasn't enough, the Wine Goddess served homemade dried cherry and almond biscotti to resounding applause.
So, as the Italians would say, we had some serious fun.
The group asked some really good questions and amazed me with their keen senses of smell and taste. Most were spot-on in deducing the basic aromatic and flavor profiles of the wines and didn't hesitate to delve deeper into the complex layers when presented with more structured, powerful bottlings.
I was proud that they learned so well.
For those who were shut out of this first class, a second has been added for Thursday, Nov. 8, at the same location. Contact Middlesex Community College to register, or go on the school's website.
I want to congratulate my students for their attentiveness, energy and support. We couldn't develop elegant wine-education programs like this without your help. And the same goes for MCC and its staff, which brought this program to life and continues to support it with its own resources, including the fabulous Nesmith House location. This was our third wine-class collaboration since last year, and we're planning two special programs in the spring of 2019 -- one on sparkling wines and the other on the ancient volcanic wines of southern Italy.
To show you that my students command the utmost respect, here are several exam questions they learned to master. If you don't know the answers, you should take the class.
Italian Red Wine Class Final Exam
Instructor: Jim Campanini, IWS
1. In which wine region is Sangiovese the "king of all grape varieties"?
d. All of the above
2. Which of the below listed wines is not made from Sangiovese?
a. Chianti Classico
b. Brunello di Montalcino
c. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
3. "Riserva" on an Italian wine label refers to:
a. Longer aging.
b. Higher price.
c. Higher alcohol content.
d. Estate vineyard.
4. Name this late-ripening, high acidic, low-tannic, food-friendly wine that is Piemonte's top bottling by production volume.
5. Put the Italian Wine Quality Pyramid in its proper order.
a. 1 Vini
b. 2 DOC
c. 3 DOCG
d. 4 IGT
6. True or false: The term "Classico" on Italian labels signifies that the wine was produced from the historic wine-growing region.
7. The process of air-drying grapes prior to vinification is called:
a. Malolactic fermentation.
b. Alcoholic fermentation.
c. Vino di meditazione.
8. Which of the following is not an Italian grape varietal used to make wine?
9. Which Italian wine-growing region reserves its best "cru" vineyard sites to grow Barolo?
10. The Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) symbol of authenticity is found on this wine.
a. Super Tuscan
c. Chianti Classico
d. Brunello di Montalcino
True or false: By law, Brunello di Montalcino must contain 100 percent Sangiovese and be aged four years before it can be sold to the public.