The Union of Authentic Grape Growers and Winemakers (and the best soppressa I’ve ever tasted)

Alfonso and I were dinner guests last night in the home of Stefano and Katerina Menti who live just above the village of Gambellara (Vicenza). They were hosting the first-ever meeting of the new Unione Viticoltori Autentici — Union of Authentic Grape Growers and Winemakers. The acronym UVA spells grape in Italian.

From left, clockwise: Eleonora Costa and her husband Luigi Armanino of Crealto (Monferrato); Nicola Ferrari of Monte Santoccio (Valpolicella); Stefano and Katerina Menti of Menti (Gambellara); Francesco Cirelli of Cirelli (Abruzzo); Alfonso; and my good friend Riccardo Zanotto, producer and distributor (Treviso).

Although Riccardo kept joking that the get-together felt like a meeting of Freemasons, you couldn’t help feeling that these young winemakers shared a sense of esotericism. After all, in a world dominated by the Zonins (literally down the road) and the Gajas (at the upper end of the scale), there’s not much place for authentic wine.

Everyone was showing their best wines and there wasn’t a loser in the bunch. But the star of the evening was Riccardo’s soppressa from Tuscany. It was easy to slice, like a conventionally made soppressa, but once on your knife, it was more like a chunky pâté — hands down the best soppressa I’ve ever had. “Pig. All it has in it,” said Riccardo, “is pig.”

I loved all the wines and wish I had time this morning to post my notes on each one but I’ve got to head over the fair now.

Two highlights were…

Stefano Menti’s gently sparkling lees-aged Garganega was the type of wine I wish Tracie P and I could drink every day. A balance of salty and bright citrus and white stone fruit, chewy and fresh… fanfriggin’ delicious.

And the old-vine Grignolino by Crealto was fantastic… Fresh and bright on the nose, tannic but sill very light in the mouth, definitely one of the top 5 expressions of Grignolino that I’ve ever tasted (and if you’ve only tasted commercial Grignolino this is a good benchmark for what traditional Grignolino can be).

Of course, you can’t have a meeting of a new secret society without a secret society dog…

I’m off to my first day at the Italian wine industry fair Vinitaly… stay tuned!