Wine of last week: Nino Franco 2010 Grave Di Stecca Brut, a triple surprise of a bubbly


September and October have been all sparkly on #winestudio. We've been tasting Prosecco from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG region in Italy - which I'll talk about more in depth at the end of the month.

Today, I want to talk about the wine we opened last week - Nino Franco 2010 Grave Di Stecca Brut. The first thing to note about this wine is its color. When I received the bottle, I assumed the glass was gold. It wasn't until I popped the cork and poured my first glass that I realized that rich, golden, inviting hue came from the wine itself! The bottle is clear. Surprise number one.

The second surprise is that while we're in the midst of a two month tasting of Prosecco from this one region - this wine is labeled neither Prosecco nor DOCG. It's so different from every other Prosecco made in the region that it was not granted permission to put those terms on the label. This 100 percent glera wine spends 6 months on the lees (the amount of time it spends hanging out with the yeast) which is much longer than typical Prosecco. It does undergo its second fermentation outside the bottle - which is typical of Prosecco.

And then, it's aged. This bottle is a 2010. The conventional advice is to drink Prosecco young, usually within a year or two of its vintage. The Grave Di Stecca isn't even released for two years. Because so much of this is outside the norm, the wine is released as a vintage Brut.

The taste is the final, wonderful surprise about this wine. The aroma isn't too unexpected - it smells of brioche and apples. It's taste, though, is unexpected and completely delicious. There's a creaminess and the taste of sour apple and some citrus that isn't unusual in Prosecco plus a nice hit of minerality. But, there is also a surprising underlying taste of ginger that runs through from sip to finish. It's complex and dry, and confused my palate in the most delightful way.

I think the last time I was this confused upon first sip of a wine was when I had my first taste of orange wine. I was genuinely surprised by what I was tasting because I had no frame of reference for it - my brain didn't know what category to place it in. The same happened with the Grave Di Stecca. I had never tasted a wine like it, and that for me is an amazing wine experience.

During our #winestudio chat, Tim from Nino Franco said that we should taste this next to the top Cuvee of top Champagne houses. Interestingly, just a few days before opening the Grave Di Stecca, I had the chance to enjoy a bottle of 2006 Dom Perignon. A day later a friend mentioned on Facebook that she was at a Chandon dinner, drinking several vintages of Dom. I commented that I had just had the 2006, saying "toasty, fruity, balanced - very clean. no surprises." The no surprises part was not meant as a put down. Nobody wants a surprise in the $750 bottle (yes - way overinflated - it was bottle service at a night club) of anything they just ordered. We ordered Dom. We wanted Dom.

But, two days later I had this 2010 aged glera that is just full of surprises from the saturated color that makes you think the bottle itself is gold to the taste of ginger into the long finish. This was such a joy. Going in with no pre-conceived notions and having my tongue ask, "This is good, but what the hell is it?" is one of the most exciting things that can happen when drinking wine.

Another great thing about this joyful, unexpected, golden glera - I could buy 15 bottles of it for the price of that bottle of Dom. It's SRP is $49. Definitely more than most Proseccos out there, but then again, this isn't Prosseco. It's a single vineyard, grower sparkling wine that's in a category all by itself. Definitely the most surprising thing I drank last week - last month - maybe even all year.

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