Italian sparkling wines, Let’s talk about the Hidden Gem

Italian sparkling wines, Let’s talk about Durello

From west to east, first comes Asti Spumante, from the town of Asti in Piedmont, probably the most traditional one, the one whose corks had popped into the air on New Year’s eve for decades in the majority of Italian homes, no matter the social class. Asti Spumante is made using the Moscato Bianco grape and originally was processed the traditional method (Champagne techniques) but transitioned to the Martinotti-Charmat (tank method) which better preserves the aromatic richness of the Moscato grape.

Then there is Franciacorta, which takes its name from a sub region of Lombardy, in the province of Brescia. Franciacorta is produced from three varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco. It’s the elegant and precious Italian traditional method that showed the world those great sparkling wines can be produced outside of France, too.

Trento DOC, from Trentino, nowadays successfully follows its footsteps. Trent DOC is a high-quality traditional method sparkling produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Nero with Chardonnay playing the dominant role. They can also be supplemented with Pinot Bianco or Meunier.

Finally comes Prosecco, which is produced in almost the whole Veneto region and part of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Prosecco is the name of the wine and Glera is the name of the grape that is dominant in the sparkling that is made the by Martinotti-Charmat method. It may not be the most traditional or refined one, but it is surely the most popular at the moment and the one that is being produced and sold the most at present. The highest quality and most famous Proseccos being produced in in the Cartizze region.

And yet, that’s not all.

In Monti Lessini, a district in the province of Verona, to the east of the Lake Garda and practically halfway between Franciacorta and Prosecco they still grow and produce wine from a lesser known autochthonous variety called Durella.

What is Durella?

Durella is an Italian autochthonous grape variety, known for its high acid,

originated and grown on the Lessini Mountains area, which more or less means to the north / north-east of Valpolicella. There are two DOCs within the Monti Lessini district base on Durella, Monti Lessini DOC & Lessini Durello DOC.

From the Durella grape they produce Durello sparkling wine from the Lessini Durello DOC. As it often happens with wines, its name has a popular origin. It comes from the adjective “duro”, that means “hard”, and refers to the thickness of the peel of its berries and to its capability to stand hardships and, therefore, to provide regular harvests and pretty good yields.

The popular origin of the name is also the reason why the grape variety is often called Durello (with a mutation from feminine to masculine gender) as the wine itself. Although it’s not an error to talk about Durello (masculine) variety, you can’t refer to the wine with the noun Durella (feminine).

And what is Durello?

Proven that it is a wine with a long history, it was found that it has been produced since the 18th century. Lessini Durello is an expressive sparkling white wine with a minimum of 85% Durella and made in two versions; Spumante, which is made the Martinotti-Charmat method and Spumante Riserva, which is made traditional method.

What’s special with Durello Sparkling wine?

The grape and the winemaking style, as it often happens when it’s about wines, play a pivotal role, but what’s really different, here, is the land.

Lessini Mountains have a volcanic soil that provides the grapes with a distinctive minerality, that can’t be found elsewhere.

The wines are characterized with bigger structure and acidity than Prosecco with recognizable honey, orchard fruit with aromas and flavors complimented by lemony and intense mineral presence. The wine is less creamy than Franciacorta but better acidity and lift. This all makes for great aging potential.

Best Durello sparkling wines are those who rested on their yeasts long enough to allow them counterbalance primary aromas of the berries, so that the wine develops its full aromatic potential.

A couple of my favorite producers:

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