RICHARD ESLING: Head to Bologna for great wines as well as great food

Chiara Cecchetto and Giacomo Savorini, director of the Cosorzio Vini Colli Bolognesi
Chiara Cecchetto and Giacomo Savorini, director of the Cosorzio Vini Colli Bolognesi

Bologna is one of those Italian cities which, in the UK at least, seems only to be known for one thing – Bolognese sauce for your pasta.

Who hasn’t been tempted to a Spaghetti Bolognese, or Spag Bol, if you want to be really trendy?

But few Brits know where it is, let alone what else it may be known for.

The city is in Central Italy in the Emilia Romagna region – south of Verona and the lakes, and North of Florence. Tourism was, until recently, all to do with industry and business, a lot of which is based around the city.

Although there are far fewer now, there used to be dozens of trade shows, business conferences and seminars every year. However, good old Ryanair has opened up a route to Bologna, which alongside BA and Easyjet, makes it accessible to a wider range of budgets.

Although great pasta comes from Bologna, many other great things do too, including Parmigiano Reggiano – the best Parmesan – made close by, and some very interesting wines. Last week, the Consorzio dei Vini dei Colli Bolognesi held a tasting of food and wines, determined to show just what this area can produce. The Consorzio represents the interests of the many small, independent wine-makers in the hills surrounding Bologna. The tasting was held in a small Italian restaurant called Burro e Salvia, in Shoreditch, an ‘edgy’ quarter of London, perfectly aligned with the character of the wines on show.

Vineyards and olive groves have prospered in this region of Italy since Etruscan times, improved by the Romans and developed ever since up until the present day. Many of the wines produced in this area are right on cue for the modern wine-drinker, with lighter, refreshing and interesting characteristics.

One of these is Pignoletto, a bubbly made either fully sparkling or frizzante and a great Italian alternative from the ubiquitous Prosecco made slightly further north. The Orsi winery produces a natural wine from the Grechetto Gentile grape variety, using natural yeasts, with no clarification or filtration. The secondary fermentation in the bottle is not disgorged, keeping the spent yeasts in the bottle which make the wine cloudy. The effect gives the wine an intense, yeasty aroma and taste, with apple and grapefruit flavours. The crisp, dry, refreshing acidity, together with these intense flavours and aromas, produces a very contemporary style, great as an aperitif and even better with local specialities such as Tigelle or Passatelli.

Another modern and interesting wine is a sparkling red made from 100% Barbera grapes. An organic wine coming from the Corte d’Aibo winery, the wine is frizzante and made sparkling in pressurised tanks, like Prosecco. The colour is light ruby and the aroma has hints of violets and red berries. It is dry, full bodied and another great accompaniment to pasta, such as vegetable lasagne and goats cheese.

The show tasting was not all about frizzante wines and some of the still, dry whites were world class. The Manaresi winery produces a stunning wine called Duesettanta, from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Grecheto Gentile. An elegant, balanced and harmonious wine, combining international varieties with traditional local varieties to great effect.

With a choice of UK airlines now serving Bologna, this beautiful, scenic wine region is easily reachable in order to discover more of the Colli Bolognesi wines and the delicious foods to accompany them.

Have a look also in the supermarkets and independent merchants for Pignoletto – cloudy or clear.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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