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villa parens blanc de noirsPremium sparkling wine from Italy? Zut alors!

Italy is not exactly renowned for their white wines, a reputation earned by the boatloads of ordinary Pinot Grigio that finds its way to our shores. And high quality sparkling wine, outside Franciacorta, is also relatively rare. But there are plenty of exceptions especially in  the Fruili-Venezia Giulia region tucked away in the Northeast corner of Italy where white wine and Prosecco are specialties. For the past several decades, Villa Parens has been at the forefront of the quality revolution taking place in the region. If these two sparklers are any indication we should be giving Italian white and premium sparkling wines a bit more love.

They are simply gorgeous. Made in the traditional method with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle, they are a world apart from the simple Prosecco we’ve come to expect from the region and rival comparably priced Champagne.

Rosé de Noirs 2013 Dosage Zero    

Made from 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes, this is aged for 36 months in the bottle on the lees, and that patience pays off. The color is a lovely pale salmon with copper highlights with surging, energetic bubbles enhancing the visual display. Aromas of strawberry and rose petal play on the nose, but it’s the textural evolution that makes this wine shine. It opens with creamy fruit, gains tensile strength in the midpalate as the dynamic mineral core emerges, and then finishes with great length and purity. Delicate and silky but with an underlying tenacity that lends a hint of seriousness to the proceedings, it is quite dry with no sugar added but maintains its suppleness without becoming edgy or angular. Exquisitely poised. (Dosage Zero, aka Brut Nature means that no sugar was added before bottling.) Score: 93  Price: $54

Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut NV

This is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Ribolla Gialla, the latter an acidic, floral grape indigenous to the region that complements the richness of Chardonnay with stony minerality. The Blanc de Blanc has a complex nose showing lemon and hints of tangerine, with slight almond notes, whisps of fresh cheese, and a faint, subtle smokiness that played hide and seek—sometimes it was there, sometimes not. On the palate, it’s all charm and generosity. The 24 months spent on the lees lends it a plump texture supported by racy acidity, and a shorter more playful finish. Score: 91  Price: $42

Produced from grapes grown in Collio, a sub-region bordering Slovenia, both wines have a pure, mineral core that unfurls at midpalate and sails through the finish. It is that and the chiseled textures that make these wines standout.

These are small production, artisanal wines that can be purchased in the U.S. only through DOCG Imports in San Diego. They have a fine line up of carefully selected, Italian wines from small farm, family-owned wineries that are the soul of Italian winemaking. As wine lovers, we often complain about homogenization and the increasingly corporate nature of the wine business. Just as it’s important to support small, local wineries, it’s also important to support the small, independent distributors and importers such as DOCG Imports who make these special wines available to us.

Sparkling wines are too often associated with wild celebrations and special occasions. But serious wines like these can be appropriate for more reflective moments as well. The heady melodies and drums that flutter and kick like bubbles in Terence Blanchard’s Ghost of Congo Square put these wines in a quieter, more pensive space:

Review based on industry samples

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