On Tuesday, August 18th, I had the pleasure of attending an Italian wine dinner as a member of the Keeper Team featuring two female Italian winemakers, Arianna Occhipinti and Alessandra Bera at the Austin restaurant, Bufalina. This was the first trip for both of the winemakers to Texas in an effort to promote their wines.
Arianna Occhipinti is from Sicily. Her winery is called Azienda Agricola- Arianna Occhipinti, which includes 10 hectares of vines and 15 hectares of olive groves.
Alessandra Bera’s winery is called Azienda Agricola Bera and is located in Piedmont in the Langhe area between Alba and Asti. The winemaking tradition goes back centuries in the Bera family, but only at the end of the ‘70s did they start producing wines to bottle and sell with their own label. The farm is spread over an area of 30 hectares, 23 of which are vineyards that also extend into the nearby towns.
The four course dinner was accompanied by wines with each course.
The first course was freshly pulled Mozzarella, Asian Pear, and Mexican Marigold, paired with two white wines, the 2013 Occhipinti “SP68” and 2013 Bera Vittorio e figli “Arcese”.
The grapes varieties of SP68 Bianco are Albanello and Moscato di Alessandria where the terroir is composed of red sand and chalk from sub-Apennine limestone. The vines average 10 years old. The wine is aged six months in stainless steel vats and 1 month unfiltered in bottle.
Arcese wine is a blend of Favorita, Arneis, Cortese, and Sauvignon Blanc. The Favorita, a native grape to Piedmont, adds bright acidity and a pleasant citric tang. Arneis adds a hint of pear while Cortese rounds the blend out.
The second course was a Summer Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Romesco, Red Pepper, Tomato with two red wines, 2014 Occhippinti “SP68” and 2011 Bera Vittorio e figli “Ronco Malo” Barbera d’Asti.
The grape varieties of the SP68 Rosso are Frappato and Nero d’Avola. The terrain is composed of red sand from sub-Apennines of calcareous (chalk). The vines are average age of 10 years. The wine is aged 6 months in stainless steel vats and 1 month unfiltered in bottle.
With four years of age on the Bera 2011 Barbera d'Asti, this wine was quite fresh and all at our table commented on how much they liked this wine.
The third course was Pizza with Braised Goat, Garroatx Mozzarella, Herbs and Fennel Pollen paired with 2012 Occhipinti Frappato.
The Frappato is made with Frappato di Vittoria. It is produced on a red sand soil from sub-Appenine of calcareous (chalk) with vines that are on average, 55 years old. It is aged 14 months in large 25 hectoliter Slovenian oak barrels and then 2 months unfiltered in bottles.
The final course was Yogurt Panna Cotta with Melon paired with 2013 Bera Vittorio e figli Moscato d’Asti.
Moscato d’Asti is a complicated wine to produce because it is partially fermented. The tradition of this style of wine is to prematurely stop fermentation in order to reach 5.5%. Alessandra, the winemaker uses very ripe grapes of the utmost quality and by not manipulating it with chemical products in the cellar, it remains bright and expressive. This wine is produced with the “Moscato” grapes, and it represents almost half of the Bera production.
The origin of Moscato d’Asti dates back to the times of the Greeks and then the Romans. In Italy the area of choice is southern Piedmont, in particular the province of Asti Canelli, Santo Stefano Belbo in the province of Cuneo, and Strevi in the province of Alessandria.
This dinner was another great learning experience for me. It was very interesting to discover Italian wines produced by females winemakers that are new to me and to taste wines from two different regions of Italy, Piedmont and Sicily, at one dinner.