Ferrari conquers Hong Kong
Not the car, the quality bubbles!
By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine-Chronicles.com
23 June 2016
Today more than ever, Ferrari impresses people worldwide as an ambassador for the Italian art of living.
No, I do not mean the automaker, but rather the sparkling wine producer, with vineyards in the extraordinary natural monument of the Dolomites, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2009.
The appellation is Trentodoc, which can define itself as a sparkling wine from the mountains, thanks to a special blend of elements: land, high altitude and climate. Just several months ago, I had visited the region, and tried some of the sparkling wines from there. The star remains Cantine Ferrari Trento. Indeed it is not for nothing that Wine Enthusiast awarded the estate as European Winery of the Year in January this year.
Over a century ago, back in 1902, Giulio Ferrari took advantage of cooler climates high in the mountains to make sparkling wine using the Champagne method. After two world wars and economic depression, Ferrari chose Bruno Lunelli to take over.
To illustrate the worldwide appeal of these wines, current CEO Matteo Bruno Lunelli travelled to Hong Kong during Vinexpo in May 2016, to host a very special lunch at the city’s top Italian restaurant 8½ Otto e Mezzo.
Chef Umberto Bombana’s delicious foods are so highly prized that you need as many as six months notice to reserve a table. But thanks to Hong Kong-based Gregory Bielot, an ambassador for all things sparkling and bright, I obtained an invitation to lunch in a private room at the restaurant. Thank you!
Lunelli brought some of his very best wines to pair with the superb cuisine. We were a small group, and restaurant manager Sandro Brusco, hailing from Calabria in southern Italy, took the time to explain the composition of each dish – and why the wines paired as well as they did. I did not want this culinary chronicle to end.
Take for example the Perlé single vintage line – the estate’s higher-end flagship wine. A 2006 vintage, which I had first tried at the Merano Wine Festival a few years ago, fooled many a wine expert at a posh restaurant in Kiev (Ukraine) when I brought a bottle with me to Ukraine. The wine educators and sommeliers all loved it. They thought it was just as good as some Champagne.
For the first time ever, here in Hong Kong, I enjoyed the top-of-the-line Giulio Ferrari. The 100% Chardonnay from a specific vineyard – Maso Pianizza – ages for over 10 years on the lees in bottle. Only about 40,000 bottles produced. It was superb, as you can read in the tasting notes below.
Furthermore, this lunch proved, yet again, how darn enjoyable bubbles can be throughout a meal – not just to start with. And how fine quality bubbles are best served in Burgundy glasses, to focus on their aromas.
Tasting notes: wines in bold, I liked in particular; when red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana.
Things started off well enough with the chipper and vivacious Trento DOC Ferrari Brut NV, 100% Chardonnay, aged in bottle for about two years, which I could have sipped throughout the day. A most welcome welcome drink.
Then came more serious libations, with the first of three heavenly pairings. Take the Confit Abalone Carpaccio. Perfectly textured, thick enough to appreciate the feel on the palate, yet with such focused flavors accentuated by the sweet pepper and semi dried tomato with Italian caviar, from Calvisius. “An Italian caviar,” emphasized Lunelli.
And the match, as I post these notes several weeks later, still makes me very thirsty: a bright and fresh tasting Ferrari Perlé Rosé Trento Doc 2008 (80% Pinot Noir, vinified as rosé wine and the rest Chardonnay), its freshness matched by gorgeous fruit aromatics.
Lunelli does not like too much residual sugar: “We try to get richness from the ripeness of the grape, rather than the residual sugar, so about 3-5 grams,” he explained. The floral aspects with a touch of almond as well as raspberry flavors matched the carpaccio very well, as did the texture of the wine.
Next came a most savory homemade Cavatelli pasta dish with shellfish ragout and sea urchin: a rich and savory dish that demanded a substantial and vinous bubbly.
We got it, with the vinous and deep Ferrari Riserva Lunelli Trento Doc 2006. Served in a wide Burgundy style glass and tasting like a fine Burgundy – a wine with superior weight to the Perlé that was quite good a few years ago.
The fermentation in large oak Austrian oak casks play a role no doubt, as Lunelli explained in this video.
Certainly a longer time aged in bottle (at least 7 years), lending more texture on the palate as well as structure. 100% Chardonnay coming from vineyards surrounding Villa Margon, the wine exuded a lemon custard like flavor as well as brioche like notes and salted almond. Quite fresh as well, not feeling “old” in any way and a long and pleasing finish. Bravo!
Then a most tender veal tenderloin accompanied by parsley gnocchi found a fine pairing with the Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore Giulio Ferrari Trento Doc 2004, which had superior focus and precision to the preceding wine, but perhaps not quite the breadth of the 2006. For me, for this lovely lunch, it was a tossup between the two as wine of the meal, although the 2004’s precision may make it ultimately the better wine. And very youthful at that, so a wine to revisit, say, 5 to 10 years later.
Finally, a deliciously marinated wild strawberry dessert with vanilla and pistachio and rice gelato: rather decadent. The Ferrari Demi Sec NV Trento Doc was merely OK. It guess it went with the dessert, but I am not a demi sec fan per se and almost prefer dry Champagne, even with dessert.
Indeed, I kept going back to the 2006 and 2004 wines – and did not want the lunch to end.
Really, it just sucked that we had to go, as this lunch is easily on my top ten lunches list, ever.