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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Italy produces more wine than any other country; over 6.5 billion bottles were produced in 2016 alone. With vines planted all over the country, wine is ingrained in its culture, and is a standard component of any meal. The kosher world has always had Italian wines; however, the Contessa Annalisa project is taking it to the next level.

As the weather turns warmer, the easy-drinking and refreshing wines are often the types we look for. Most of us don’t want to be sipping a rich red on a hot summer day, but a crisp white, or fruity rosé—those sound appealing! Contessa Annalisa is a project sourcing wine from all over Italy. They work with storied producers on kosher runs, allowing the kosher-keeping consumer to experience the breadth that Italian wine has to offer. Contessa Annalisa offers your usual moscato, sangiovese and pinot grigio, but it also introduces exciting new wines. Let’s look at a few that are perfect for spring, and into summer.

Gavi di Gavi: Piedmont, in Northern Italy, produces some of the country’s most significant wines. Perhaps most famous in kosher circles for the sweet wines made around the city of Asti, the region produces many dry and more serious wines as well. About 50 miles away from Asti, Gavi is known for its unique, dry whites made from the cortese grape. Named for the region, Gavi wine is a regular in the Italian section of (non-kosher) wine shops, and now kosher consumers can enjoy it too. The Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi 2015 ($14) merits its “di Gavi” designation by coming from within the comune (or town) of Gavi proper. Produced by Marchese Luca Spinola, the titled owner, Andrea Spinola, traces his notable noble family’s history in the region for close to 1000 years. All this talk about where the wine comes from—but what does it taste like? Somewhat similar in character to pinot grigio, but more intense, this award-winning Gavi is straw-yellow in color with characteristic greenish highlights—the wine is steely, fresh and lively with honeydew and citrus flavors. Light and easy to drink, it’s delicious on its own, and would be even more delightful as a complement to lighter fish or poultry dishes. The Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi is a must-try for any white-wine lover.

Lambrusco Rosé: Lying to the southeast of Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna is heralded as Italy’s food capital. It’s the birthplace of renowned classics like lasagna, balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Their most famous wine? Lambrusco. Named for the grape from which it’s made, this fruity, fizzy and often somewhat sweet wine is the perfect foil to the rich, and sometimes heavy, food of the region. Produced by Gavioli, a winery with over 200 years of history and experience, Contessa Annalisa Lambrusco Rosé ($12) is a great example of the style. It is fruity, and floral on the nose, with apple, strawberry and candy notes joining in the mouth. It’s semi-dry, giving it wide appeal. The sweetness helps to counteract the saltiness of another Emilia-Romagna specialty: salumi, like prosciutto and coppa (kosher versions, made from beef or veal, are becoming more and more available). With or without food, this eminent wine is one that no wine drinker should skip.

Rosé: For a more familiar-styled rosé option there’s the Contessa Annalisa Collection Rosé 2016 ($14). From Puglia (the heel of the Italian boot), this wine is produced from a blend of organic aleatico, primitivo and aglianico grapes. Rosés are all the rage lately, and wines like this help us understand why. The producer, Polvanera, seeks to produce a wine that expresses its territory, with “high drinkability and typical elegant, fresh and mineral notes.” Perfect for sipping outdoors, this fresh rosé is light and crisp. Floral aromas partner with tastes of strawberry, raspberry and cherry, along with a pleasant bitter streak of grapefruit pith. It would pair well with a picnic on the beach, and a hot summer day.

With the weather warming, these wines are a perfect place to start exploring the diversity of Italian wine. With their easy drinking nature, they’re perfect for the Four Cups as well. But don’t stop with these—the Contessa Annalisa project has much more to offer, including reds and a unique version of perennial favorite moscato. Look for them wherever better kosher wines are sold.

By Aaron Hollander