Perlugo, sparkling Verdicchio from Pievalta

perlugo sparkling verdicchio

The first time I tasted this wine, a sparkling wine from Verdicchio, it was during our first visit to the winery in the Marches and it was the first occasion that I sat down to taste with grape grower and winemaker Alessandro Fenino and his wife Silvia Loschi, who manages the estate.

“Because we come from a tradition of classic-method sparkling wine,” he told me, “we decided to make this wine, a homage to Barone Pizzini,” Pievalta’s sister winery, where Alessandro and Silvia both worked for many years before leaving to found the winery in Castelli di Jesi.

Honestly, I had never even heard of a sparkling Verdicchio before that day and I was a little skeptical.

From Garganega to Greco, winemakers across Italy are introducing new sparkling wines and many of them never rise above the level of novelty and curiosity. Because of the ever growing demand for sparkling wine, it will always have that allure for winemakers. But not all grapes work well as sparklers.

I liked the wine a lot when I tasted it with Alessandro but didn’t have the time or the occasion to really “live” with it.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to open a sample bottle at home (sent to me by the importer). My wife, Tracie P, and I opened with my bandmates (my band is Nous Non Plus) paired with fried tortilla chips and guacamole and salsa.

The first thing that impressed me about it was how fresh the wine was. In part, I think this is due to Alessandro’s skill as a veteran sparkling winemaker. He comes from one of the best wineries in Franciacorta, after all.

But I believe its Alessandro’s talents as a biodynamic grower that really sets this wine apart from the many new entries for sparkling wine from Italy. I saved one glass in the bottle and sealed with a sparkling wine stopper. The wine was still very fresh the next day and the fruit and beautiful herbaceous quality were even more pronounced and distinct. That really blew me away.

Where Champagne can tend toward steely minerality and gripping acidity and Franciacorta toward delicate aromatics and ripe white fruit, this wine had a gorgeous sage note to it that I loved and its stone fruit flavors were beautifully focused. As I mentioned above, the more it aerated, the more delicious it became.

I loved the way that it stood up to the heat of the salsa and the guacamole and the saltiness of the chips seemed to be echoed in the savory character of the Verdicchio. Great wine…

Jeremy Parzen

A great series on Castelli di Jesi by @WalterSpeller (@JancisRobinson)

castelli di jesi

Above: A view from the Pievalta winery.

In case you missed it, we wanted to share a wonderful and highly informative series of posts by wine writer Walter Speller on Castelli di Jesi, its varied growing zones and macroclimates, and tasting notes from some of its leading wineries.

Walter published this in-depth profile of the appellation late last year on, where he posts regularly on Italian wines and appellations.

“Pievalta’s young but very talented winemaker, Alessandro Fenino…” writes Walter, “told me he looks for elegance in wine, and no wonder. As a winemaker originally trained in making metodo classico wines, for him it is all about balance.”

Click here to read Walters five-part series, a must-read for Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi lovers.

Franciacorta expert Franco Ziliani reviews Barone Pizzini & has kind words for the Extra Brut

In case you don’t know Italian wine writer Franco Ziliani, he’s one of Italy’s leading wine critics, its top wine blogger, and is widely considered the leading authority on the wines of Franciacorta today. He is the author of Vino al Vino, one of Italy’s most popular wine blogs; Le Mille Bolle Blog, a site devoted to Italian sparkling wines; and he also authors a column for the website of the historic food and wine guide Cucchiaio d’Argento.

Our translation of his February 4, 2013 post for the Mille Bolle Blog follows.

barone pizzini extra brut

I won’t add much here but will invite you instead to read a post that I devoted last September to Barone Pizzini in Provaglio d’Iseo and its wines.

Well known today as the first organic winery in Franciacorta, the estate began experimenting with organic farming in 1998. In 2001, its vineyards — 47 hectares including 25 separate parcels scattered over the townships of Provagliao d’Iseo, Corte Franca, Adro e Passirano — were granted organic certification. Its vineyards are scattered over some of the best growing areas in Franciacorta thanks to their exposure and the subsoils.

The winery’s handsome cellar, which I visited recently, reminds the visitor of Italy’s historic rational architecture style. Wines were first produced there in 2006 and 2007 and in 2010, the winery’s offices and salesroom were also opened onsite. The estate produces a range of Franciacorta and its wines are solidly reliable and impeccably well made. But most importantly, they’re very pleasing to the palate.

I liked the non-vintage Brut, made primarily from the estates 2010 vintage (80%). It was an earnest wine, round on the palate, enjoyable, approachable but not banal, and better than the entry-tier Brut from many well known houses.

The 2009 Satèn, only recently disgorged (October 2012) and soon to be released, showed beautiful intensity in its color, a vibrant straw yellow. It was round in the mouth, with creamy flavors and a nice salty finish.

I liked Brut Rosé 2008 so much that I’ve decided to write about it on another site where I celebrate the unique qualities and greatness of rosés. Its cuvée includes 80% of brilliant Pinot Noir. I also liked the Bagnadore 2005 and I promise to review it here shortly.

Today, I’d like to direct your attention to another Franciacorta that’s part of line produced by the winery, whose general manager, Silvano Brescianini, I’ve known for at least twenty years. I met him back when he was a talented chef at XXVII Miglio di Erbusco (and then later at San Domenico in Imola and San Domenico in New York). Who would have thought that he’d have such an outstanding career (having served as winery manager and vice president of the Franciacorta consortium)? My goodness, Silvano, you’re such a big shot! (I better keep this red-headed A.C. Milan fan on my good side!)

The non-vintage wine is made from grapes from the 2008 harvest, 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Nero, fruit sourced from the vineyards Ciosèt, Troso, and Prada, with a yield of 90 quintals per hectare, aged on its lees for 24 months. It’s the winery’s Extra Brut, which the estate recommends serving as an aperitif paired with Parmigiano Reggiano, crudo, consommé, culatello, and other encased charcuterie.

If it were up to me, I’d like to see what the wine could do when paired with a wider range of dishes, like the fantastic menu at a Franciacorta restaurant that I love, the Dispensa Pani & Vini in Torbiato di Adro, where you’ll find a maestro and genius in the kitchen whose name happens to be Vittorio Fusari (another old friend). Likewise, I wouldn’t mind pairing it with the cuisine of Stefano Cerveni, a world-class chef, at his wonderful Due Colombe al Borgo Antico in Borgonato di Cortefranca

There were no ifs, ands or buts about how much I like this Extra Brut (my favorite category above all others). It was brilliant gold in the glass, with fine and cohesive bubbles. An earnest nose, focused, very dry, with notes of salted almonds, citrus, white fruit, white flowers, and a nice touch of minerality that helped to give the wine a complex and elegant bouquet.

I liked the wine even more in the mouth. It was focused, masculine, assertive, full of life and energy, rich with flavor, expansive, nuanced, and insistent. The salty finish tasted of almonds as it lingered on the palate. Balanced and playful but not cute or flirty. It’s a Franciacorta that takes the field and shows you its unique personality. Maybe you like it and maybe you don’t (but how the hell could you not like this wine?). But all will agree that this unique entry stands apart from the rest.

A fine Franciacorta that I recommend you try without hesitation.

—Franco Ziliani
Le Mille Bolle Blog

Pievalta report: tasting 2012 and revisiting 2010

Last week, Pievalta winemaker Alessandro Fenino began tasting the 2012 parcels and revisited the 2010 reserve wine. His notes follow…


We were pleasantly surprised by our tasting of the 2012 base wines. It was a difficult vintage where heat and drought had stressed the youngest vines. And the heat during harvest didn’t bode well for great aromas.

But when we sat down to taste the 2012 wines (one wine for every vineyard parcel), we found that our ugly duckling had become a swan: aromas of fresh flowers and great elegance for this harvest, flavorful in the mouth and refreshing on the palate. At the same time, our lab analysis told us that the wines had good acidity with a pH around 3.1. But lab results don’t tell you if the wine is good or not.

So we decided to age all of the wine produced from our San Paolo vineyard because we feel that it will make for an excellent reserve wine.

We used the wines from our Maiolati Spontini vineyard to create a 2012 Pievalta. The wine is fragrant with spring aromas and it promises to become an irresistbly fresh, easy-to-drink wine.

We also tasted the 2010 San Paolo and decided that it’s ready to be bottled. This spring we’ll bottle this great vintage and the we’ll watch it grow.

At the moment, it’s dominated by citrus and mineral flavors, with brilliant hints of aromatic herbs. In the mouth, the body of the wines is balanced by good acidity and the classic vein of savory flavor that the vineyard gives us each year.

—Alessandro Fenino
grape grower and winemaker
Castelli di Jesi