Emilia-Romagna, more than just ham and cheese

xThe wedge-shaped northern Italian province of Emilia-Romagna lies just above Tuscany, and south of Piedmont. Centred around the city of Bologna, Emila Romagno is famed not so much for its wines, but for its two inimitable food products: Parmesan cheese, and Parma Ham.
The regulations and traditions surrounding Parmesan and Parma Ham would be familiar to anyone with knowledge of wine bureaucracy, with every detail of their production stipulated and inspected to the nth degree. The typical connoisseur for these once humble products is also the equal of any wine-buff, with their intimate knowledge of producers, methods and even terroirs.

Both products have their Consorzios; bodies which protect and champion quality.

Parmesan – for me one of the truly great cheeses – is a cow’s milk cheese (from grass-fed cows only) that requires 600 litres of milk to make just one 38Kg cheese. Different grades have different amounts of ageing, but most are between 18- and 24-months old when they reach the shelves of retailers in the UK. The best Prosciutto de Parma is also around 18 – 24-months old when ready to eat, and must come from the rear legs only of three specific breeds of pig (Largewhite, Landrace and Duroc to be precise). The painstaking process of salting, drying and ageing is totally chemical-free, and again to my mind, produces a product almost without equal.

The wines of Emilia-Romagna are generally less well-known in export markets. It is a relatively big producing region (actually 4th-biggest in Italy on total volume), with around 75% of wines being red, though less than 10% being DOC or DOCG. The only truly famous wine name of the region is Lambrusco, the huge majority of which is easy-drinking, unclassified, fizzy and sweet, though far more serious DOC versions do exist.

Grape varieties include Malvasia, Trebbiano, Albana and Ortrugo for whites, with Barbera, Sangiovese and Bonarda common for reds. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are increasingly planted, and the indigenous reds are being joined by more and more Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, in blends and varietal IGT wines.

Few Emilia-Romagna wines are available in the UK at present, but please see the list of all available UK Emilia-Romagna wines on wine-searcher.com

the tasting

Il Poggiarelli (Italy) Gutturnio dei Colli Piacentini Riserva 2000
The DOC Colli Piacentini allows varietal wines from half a dozen grapes, plus a couple of specific permitted blends, one of which is Gutturnio, a mix of prediminately Barbera with some Bonarda. This Riserva spends around 24-months ageing before release, although only some of that time is in oak before transfer to bottle. Dark, opaque, purple-black in colour, the nose is filled with bramble, spice and minty blackcurrant. There is a layering of toffeed, smoky oak. Quite fleshy and full on the palate, with a smooth texture and intense vinous flavours; lots of earthy, bramble darkness, good concentration and grippy, but fine tannins. This is quite mellow into the finish thanks to the polished dark fruit and oak, and is a ripe, modern wine of very good quality.

Cantina Lini (Italy) “Corrigia Ruberrimum” Lambrusco Reggiano DOC
A non-vintage frizzante wine of 11.5% alcohol, this is a traditional, quality Lambrusco that is quite dry and only gently sparkling. It is a deep, brilliant crimson colour. It has soft brown-sugar and strawberry pulp aromas, with a little hint of briar. On the palate it is only gently frizzante, with quite a robust, serious, earthy palate with lots of cherry and quite intense plum-skin grip. Mouthfilling and well-textured, there is plenty of racy raspberrry acidity and lovely balance. Very good indeed/excellent.

Vallona (Italy) Pignoletto Colli Bolognese 2003
Valloni is a highly-regarded producer of this wine, from the white Pignoletto grape and the DOC of Colli Bolognese. Pignoletto can be made sparkling and passito, but this is a dry, aromatic wine. The colour is pale, pale gold with a hint of green. There are light, fresh, straw and pear aromas and nuances of honeysuckle. It is quite rich and thick on the palate, with pear fruit and a grippy peach-skin note. There’s a robustness and intensity, and just a hint of a rather astringent note, that suggests a touch of over-extraction possibly in such a delicately-flavoured wine. Good length, and some personality here. Good/very good.

Poderi Morini (Italy) “Beccafico” Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore 2001
Emilia-Romagna’s take on the great grape of Chianti, this wine must have at least 85% Sangiovese in the blend, the other 15% can come from a list of authorised red grapes. This has a medium ruby colour and sweet, slightly minty, red fruit nose. There is just a little spice, and a background note of sweet oak. On the palate there is good fruit sweetness, with a soft, svelte palate of ripe fruit and a drying edge of tannin. It has good acidity that starts to bite into the finish, whilst a mellow oakiness plays against it. Decent length, and a very good, very modern style wine.

List all stockists of Emilia-Romagna wines on wine-searcher.com