I was feeling like the luckiest guy in the world last Monday night. It had been two years since we emerged from a major health crisis with our young daughter, and the news from her regular checkup was perfect. No signs of tumor recurrence. Vitals: perfectly healthy.
When my family was in the thick of it two years ago, wine was simultaneously the least important thing in my life, and the most welcome sign of normalcy. Opening a bottle offered an escape, but also a connection to people I’d met in the business, as well as nature’s mysterious (and faraway) rhythms. Drinking a wine also offered a quick glimpse of a tradition and history I wanted to make my own, even if — at that moment — it seemed remote and unlikely.
We now go through a ritual like so many families with a history of a terrible disease: the calendar is divided into parcels of time between tests. Fortunately, those time allotments are further apart now. In fact, we are unbelievably fortunate: it has been smooth sailing since she went into remission.
Still, the eve of Scan Day — as its become known around here — is a nervy moment for my wife and I. It brings up the pain and anxiety of those days in early 2016 when we first learned of the condition. It’s a little bit like a parole hearing: Will we keep our freedom by day’s end?
To celebrate last Monday, we turned to bubbly — because that’s what you do when you celebrate. The wine we uncorked has one of the longest names in the wine world that I have encountered: 2012 Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige Mach Riserva del Fondatore Trento DOC. It comes from the heavily influential enology school located just north of the city of Trento (we recently sampled their precise and elegant still white wines of Müller Thurgau and Nosiola).
I’ve been spending this year studying for the Wine Scholars Guild exam on Italian wine, and it has me enamored with Northern Italy’s traditional method sparkling wines. In 1902, the oenologist at the institute — Giulio Ferrari — experimented with Chardonnay grapes in the Adige River Valley and he soon realized the potential they had to make remarkable, bottle-fermented sparkling wine. Today, the institute’s reserve bottling of sparkling wine — a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Nero — is named after its first director, Edmund Mach. (Ferrari went on to establish his own estate, so it would be a little misleading if they named it after him).
The wine was exactly what we wanted, with zero deviation from what an elegant, delicious sparkling wine should be. Sure, it offered little in the way of surprises, but sometimes, that’s just fine. Those four years it spent of the lees lent the wine a superb texture with delightful aromas that seemed to dance from the glass. Cheers: Two years down, hopefully a lifetime to go.
2012 Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige Mach Riserva del Fondatore Trento DOC
Trento DOC, Italy
Grapes: Chardonnay (70%) and Pinot Nero (30%)
Aging: On the lees for 4 years
Ratings: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
• Food-friendliness: Impeccable
• Value: Very Good
Tasting Notes: What this wine lacks in surprise it makes up for with precision. This is a dead-center, bullseye of a sparkler, conveying the dazzling freshness and comfort of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (not Noir, we’re in Italy mind you) when they undergo the traditional method. Full and exquisite mousse, aromas conveying notes similar to fresh yellow apple, white flowers, brioche and walnuts. On the palate, there was also a line reminiscent of lemon zest, and another, on the finish, recalling anise seed. Lovely through and through.
Serving Suggestion: This traditional method sparkling wine is a tried-and-true wine for those classic occasions in which you’d reach for Champagne. Given its high quality, four years of aging on the lees, and a price range in the mid-$30 range, why not select it for a wedding? A case of it would certainly go a long way and offer just as much delight.
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