Atlas of Italian spumante

The books themselves are worthy of note. With over 650pp many with colour plates, they weigh in at a considerable amount which, in my view, is something of a disadvantage. Colour plates abound and the paper is of a luxurious weight. But the title seems somewhat incongrous for a work concentrating on metodo classico wines in Italy when one of the most famous regions - Franciacorta - doesn't even permit the word 'spumante' to be used in conjunction with its output. But these are books for real lovers of Italian wines with true scholarship underlying the writing. The Foreword and history by Giampetro Comelli, head of Forum Spumanti, are a fascinating insight into how effervescent wines have developed in Italy since ancient times. It wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that Italy really became engaged in the production of spumante when it imported 50,000 cuttings of French vines which were planted between Asti and the Oltrepò hills of Pavia. Casa Gancia in 1888 winning a gold medal at the London Expo for the 'world's best sparkling wine' known as 'Gancia-Champagne, French type'. However, phylloxera, and two World Wars put a lid on Italian spumante production and development. It was not until the 1970s that spumante producers would start the proliferation, organisation and marketing that would set Italian spumante on a new road which is the blueprint for today.

Classic Method by Region - Vol I
Whilst this is the first substantial volume looking at spumante production according to the region where it is produced (classic method only), in fact this is only part of a larger work in which the author will be producing further volumes about spumanti made from the Charmat method. This volume concentrates on the four main regions of spumante production – Alta Langa, Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese, and Trento. In the context of other producing nations this is still a relatively small production – France ships around 300million bottles each year, Italy less than 24million. The author has written an introduction to each region which encompasses the character, geology and viticulture.

Classic Method by Variety- Vol II
For those without much knowledge of spumanti in Italy, they would be amazed at the diversity of offers, both in terms of the region (see article The Italian Way: sparkling wines) and the variety out of which it is made. Of course, the common varieties are present, often used in combination with local ones, but there are plenty which are produced from entirely autocthonous varieties such as Ribolla Gialla. Italy's own grape varieties are, I believe, one of the reasons why the country's wine market will continue to grow in the years ahead. Of course, there are grape varieties widely dispersed - Pinot Grigio and Prosecco (now Glera) - which have been popular for many years but even they have seen sustained growth. In the appendix to this volume are a summary of the main varieties to be found. The main part of the book is a journey through various selected wineries throughout Italy based upon their sparkling wine production using specific varieties. Each is a personal account by the author of a company's wine production (told in the first person) which is often a story of their family background and the founders of the company whose vision started the business. Full colour plates of the main players enhance the experience of getting to know family members. Beautifully photographed throughout one is left in no doubt that depsite the claims of terroir this is a people business driven to produce wines at the highest level.

The volumes represent a history of these fascinating wines enhanced by sensitive portraits of its wine-makers. Definitely one for the library.

Atlas of Italian spumanti
(Italian and English versions)
euros130
2 volumes
650pp+

Classic method by region - Vol I
Classic method by variety - Vol II

Carlo Cambi editore
October, 2009

by Andrea Zanfi

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