Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

Before we began.

I’ve never taken a quiz to test my knowledge of wine. Living in Italy for all these years, including six months in Tuscany, people are usually surprised I know very little. I can taste the difference between great and awful, detect whether something is dry or fruity, and with my eyeballs I can discern red from white. But I don’t know by name what’s what. I know a Chardonnay is white and that means it usually goes with white meat, but is it dry or sweet? I don’t know! And if asked to pick up something at the grocery store that goes well with steak, here’s what I’d do: Find the cheapest red wine available, and then buy something that costs $2 (or euros) more than that one just to make it clear that I’m very sophisticated.

All of that changed, seriously, last week when I went with two girlfriends to a real life wine tasting in Rome.

I’ve done these before, in Italy, North Carolina, and Australia, and didn’t get much out of them except for a buzz and a couple of bottles to take home. The “instruction” was limited to “red goes with dark meat, white goes with white meat,” which even I already knew.

The wine tasting was put together by City Wonders tours, a great group I would definitely trust again. It was held at Roscioli, a splendid restaurant in the middle of downtown Rome (near Torre Argentina) with a private tasting room.

Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

Our charming tasting room.

There were only six of us at the wine-tasting, and we chatted with each other enough so that everyone felt really comfortable and happy but there weren’t any forced ice-breakers. That’s because Alessandro, our guide/instructor, took over from there.

Alessandro was fantastic! I forgot to ask him where he learned his English, because it was flawless and he was even able to be genuinely funny.

Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

Alessandro, our guide/instructor/sommelier.

We were given six glasses of wine (pretty full!). Two whites, four reds. Each one was paired with a food. Some predictable, some surprising. With each pairing, Alessandro explained what each wine was, where it came from, what the food was, and where it came from. The main thing I learned here is to pair the wine with a food that comes from the same place. This is because, he told us, the grapes and food come from the same soil and pick up the same notes. The meat comes from animals who eat the same grain that shares the soil with the grapes. Amazing. Another reason: the grapes have been developed and cultivated over centuries alongside these foods, by local people. They’ve been raised together like siblings (my words, not his), so they naturally bounce off of each other.

Here were our pairings.

1) Kata’ 2012, Cantine Olivella (13 Euros)………. Bufalo mozzarella, semidried cherry tomatoes, fresh burrata from Andria

2) Suoave Classico 2012, Cantina Gini (14 Euros)……….Cravanzina di Langa

Intervallo: Fresh Pesto from Pra la Baita and cracker to cleanse the palate between those wines and the next reds.

3) Noto Nero d’Asola 2011, Marabino (15 Euros)……….Red tuna fish 3 Torri 2010

4) Nobile di Montepulciano 2009, Contucci (39 Euros)……….Strolghino di Culatello Antica Corte Pallavicini; Capocollo di Maiale nero di Cinta Senese

5) Barbera d’Alba Slectio 2011, Fratelli Sobrero (15 Euros)……….Salame from black pork from Monti Nebrodi

6) Barolo Ciabot Tanaso 2009, Fratelli Sobrero (34 Euros)……….Pecorino Romano dop 12 months, Brunelli; Parmigiano Reggiano Red Cows, 36 months

The surprising one was the tuna with the red wine. What’s this? Fish with red wine? Yes, and it was heavenly.

Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

Answering one of my dumb questions.

Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

Alessandro showed us precisely where each wine and food was coming from.

Friends, I learned a lot. I took notes. So in no particular order, I shall share with you what I learned on my wine-tasting tour from City Wonders:

  • 90% of the flavor of the wine comes from the skin. Many cheap wines are produced from just the juice, which is obviously greater in volume than skins, while the premium bottles use the skins, too. That’s why there can be a big price difference between two wines from the same region. It’s not all about just the label.
  • Cheap (and most) wines are “made in the cellar, not in the vineyard,” says Alessandro. Meaning they are mixed together from this and that.
  • When people say they like “Cabernet” or “Merlot” it doesn’t really mean anything because they’re so different from one producer to the next. With experience and tasting to see what you like, you’ll start to say I like this producer – not this type. (I’ve been doing this wrong!)
  • Taste with your brain, not with your mouth. Taste the soil. Is it smokey? Then it’s volcanic soil. Do you taste flowers? Those are the flowers also grown in the soil. Omg.
  • The more complex the soil (more layers), the better the wine.
  • Wines grown in colder climates are often more expensive because hot areas mean more volume. Heat = Less disease, more product.
  • Italians don’t love Chianti (what??????).
  • Italy produces about 1850 different varietals (keep in mind Italy is the size of Arizona).
  • Mix dry wines with oily foods.
  • Excellent wine varietals start in really small areas with small productions. Then the demand for them make the producers expand the area. They call the wine the same, but it’s not really the same because it’s coming from different soil, different sunlight, etc. The word “Classico” on the label means that it came from the original vineyard. A very small area. That’s why a Soave Classico (see #2, above) is more expensive than a regular Suove.
  • No sulfates = No headache.

Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

I remember looking at this glass in particular and thinking, it looks like a melted jewel. Just gorgeous.

Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

Really yummy food with each glass.

Wine Tasting Rome City Wonders Roscioli

All for sale after you’ve tasted!

So y’all, obviously, this was all totally awesome. I completely recommend it to anyone visiting Rome, or anyone who lives in Rome. It’s a great idea for a date night or groups of (adult) friends.  I appreciated that we were given a range of prices to taste.  You can buy any of the wines to take with you and you’ll know just what to pair it with.

To book your own experience, go here.

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