Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Night in Tuscany at the Boston Wine School

          Last week I had the opportunity to attend a wine class and dinner at the Boston Wine School in Allston. Boston Wine School offers a wide variety of classes in a fun, casual, and relaxed atmosphere-what they call a 100% snob free zone. Classes include general introductory or 101 style classes, as well as themes like all Italian, Spanish, or French tastings.

          I attended A Night in Tuscany which included a variety of Tuscan style red wines and dinner by Bottega Fiorentina in Brookline.

          The evening started off with a glass of 2012 Villa Antinori Toscana, a light sparkling white from central Tuscany. I'd had this before, and it's definitely one of my favorite Italian sparkling wines. There were plenty of hors d'ouvres to enjoy with the wine including Sopressata, bruschettini con pomodoro e cannellini (tiny bruschetta with tomatos and white cannellini beans), and fresh focaccia.

          Next we sat down for an informal classroom style session where the instructor started by going over the seven "S's" of wine tasting: see, sniff, swirl, smell, sip, savor, and spit (optional). See the wine by tilting your glass and observing the color on the outer edge- this will tell you a lot about the wine including its age. Take a quick sniff to judge whether the wine is corked (it will smell moldy), swirl to aerate the wine which brings out more if it's natural aroma and then really smell it, and finally taste and notice the favors (fruity, spicy, floral, dry, oaky, etc). I skipped the step of spitting out the wine (obvi!)

          We repeated these steps for several different Tuscan wines, and tested each of them with bites of meat and cheese to see what paired well together and how the food and wine changed each other's flavors.

Meat and cheese plate: Speck (smoked proscuitto), ricotta freca, pecorino pepato, parmagiano reggiano

          The wines we sampled were all Sangiovese or a blend that included the varietal. It was interesting to see how the same grape can taste completely different based on the age, how it's produced, and what it's blended with. We tried:
  • 2012 Gini Sangiovese
  • 2010 90+ Cellars "Lot 63" Chianti
  • 2011 Erik Banti Morellino di Scansano
  • 2010 Gracciano della Seta Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
  • 2010 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico
          The 90+ was definitely the wine with the most interesting story; 90+ Cellars is a Boston based company located right upstairs from the Boston Wine School. 90+ works with name brand wineries to repackage and sell surplus wines under the 90+ label. Wineries don't have to discount their wine and erode the brand, and consumers get to enjoy name brand wines at a discount. While the label will include some basic information, part of the fun is you never know exactly what you're going to get (although you can find the wines you love again by looking for the lot number on the bottle).

          My favorite wine we tried was the 2010 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico which tasted earthy with hints of leather, berries, and dried plum. Like most of the wines we tasted this was very affordable and retails at aroun $12-$15.

          After the class portion was complete, we enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner with another taste of our favorite wine, plus a bonus white or red to pair with the food. I chose the 2009 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, which went very well with everything.

Pasta rosette: baked lasagnette with tomato and cheese sauce
Pollo Cristina: chicken baked with nutmeg and wine, Spinaci alla fiorenta: baked spinach and cheese
Dessert Affogato with vanilla soy ice cream and french press decaf
          The classes at Boston Wine School are fun for a night out with girlfriends or a date. It's a great way to learn the basics of wine tasting in a friendly and casual atmosphere.

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