Last week, as I was visiting the Lombardy region in the North of Italy, by the stunning (and big) lake of Garda, I visited a famous local producer Costaripa in the town of Valtènesi.
This is a land of rosé wines, where the most popular grape is local one called Groppello, also used to make reds.
Owned and headed by the otherwise winemaker of Bellavista winery in Franciacorta, Mattia Vezzola, I have discovered how elegant and characterful Costaripa wines are, focused on an authentic and refined expression of their local terroir and grapes.
You can learn about the family passion and the Costaripa project since 1936 on the winery website costaripa.it.
The angle of the tasting was not only to discover Costaripa wines, and sharing with its brilliant winemaker, but also to learn about the local Grana Padano cheese, a succulent hard cheese from Northern Italy that is often used as a grated cheese but that is also excellent enjoyed as a table cheese.
Is Grana Padano the Perfect Wine Pairing Cheese?
This tasting tended to demonstrate so…
Hard cheeses are natural excellent friends for wine as their texture and taste pairs with our favorite beverage well, never overpowering the wine too much, or confusing things with too creaming a texture or too strong the flavors.
In addition, Grana Padano has the advantage of coming in various ageing levels (also called vintages), offering a palette of slightly different textures and flavor strength that can virtually match any wine, from the finest to the fullest.
Grana Padano Vintages
The cheese is made following strict rules of production that guarantee its provenance and its quality, from how the mil is produces to how the cheese is made.
The ageing levels are also standard so you always know what you’re buy and what taste to expect, let’s run through and detail them:
Grana Padano 9 Mesi:
This is the youngest (as in lesser aged) Grana Padano, aged at least 9 months, and no more than 16. It is lighter in flavor, and not crumbly, but rather creamier with an elastic texture. Its flavors are soft and creamy, tasting like field flowers and delicate butter. A wine that matches elegant wines such as crisp whites or the Costaripa Rosamara Rosé (see below).
Grana Padano Oltre 16 Mesi:
So, this is aged at least 16 months, and no more than 24. Its texture starts to get quite crumbly from the ageing, we enter the world of grating cheeses. It’s got more acidity than the 9-month-old, and more herbal and lactic flavors. It also melts in your mouth more easily, coating your palate with delicious yet still subtle nutty and cheesy tastes.
It is extremely versatile for pairing with wine, as it has intermediary flavors, a little strong in aromas and flavors, but too much. Great for sparkling wines like the Mattiavezzola rosé and light reds such like Campostarne (see tasting notes of both wines below).
— Julien Miquel #Wine (@JMiquelWine) June 16, 2017
Grana Padano Riserva:
Aged for a minimum of 24 months, or two years, it has stronger flavors, and crystals of tyrosine (a protein component) are present make it a little crunchy. More animal notes, more cooked and nutty flavors, increased savoriness, oilier texture and much longer in taste.
This is a wine for full-bodied red wines but also dessert wines as the beverage needs to withstand the aromatic and flavor intensity of the aged cheese. When it works though, it is a spectacular cheese to pair with wines.
During this tasting, I also had the rare opportunity to taste a 30-month Grana Padano which is not easy to find. If you can come across it though, jump on the opportunity as it truly makes for an outstanding tasting experience, smoky and rich.
2016 Rosamara Rosé
This is certainly the most iconic wine by Costaripa, probably the winery’s most famous Rosé.
89/100 pts. With a delicate and slightly pale color, it is however very bright with hints of purple making look particularly elegant. The nose is fresh and citrusy, filled with aromas of pink grapefruit, esters and fresh grapes. Dry, super fine and elegant palate, with bursts of red berry flavors. Floral and very fine, an outstanding rosé that drinks like you’d drink a cloud!
NV MattiaVezola Brut Rosé
Sparkling wine blended from 80% Chardonnay with 20% Pinot Noir. It was vinified in part in rosé and in part in red, from grapes sourced in the most suitable limestone/clay areas of Garda and Franciacorta. 35% was fermented in 228-litre white oak (American) wine casks.
90/100 pts. Super delicate salmon pink color, with outstanding and rare gold/copper hues making it look very unique. Nutty, mineral and subtly floral nose. The palate is just as elegant, restrained and mineral with delicate flavors of fresh grapes, lime as well as ripe lemon.
This is a red wine made mainly from the local Groppello Gentile grape, yet blended with some Marzemino, Sangiovese, and Barbera. Aged for at least 12 months in small white oak barrel.
Score 89/100 pts. It has a relatively light but bright red color. It is complex and super aromatic, dominated by primary flavors and spices. Floral, aromas of violet and black pepper, plenty of cooked apples. The palate is extremely soft and delicate on a relatively light body accentuating its elegance. Good acidity. A food-friendly (and should I say cheese-friendly) wine that can also be enjoyed on its own to fully appreciate it subtlety and complexity.