Lunch with Matteo Lunelli: Pairing Ferrari Metodo Classico with Food at Ristorante Tosca

Cinghiale (wild boar)Matteo Lunelli, Chairman of Ferrari, and his importer, Palm Bay International , hosted a lunch this week at Tosca, one of Washington DC’s finest Italian restaurants, to introduce the sparkling wines of Ferrari to a small group of wine writers. Ferrari sparkling wines are made using traditional French varieties and the méthode champenoise (called metodo classico in Italy) and traditional French varieties grown on the mountainsides of Trentino in an appellation called Trento DOC. The sparkling wines are among the very finest produced in Italy and compare favorably with their counterparts in Champagne. We provide our notes on the wines and the dishes they were paired with below.

Bill Hambrecht and Gary FarrellMatteo Lunelli

Ferrari, The Winery

Ferrari is a large family owned and operated winery that was founded in Northern Italy’s Trentino region in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari. After studying Champagne making in France, Giulio Ferrari returned to Italy with the goal of producing sparkling wine equal to the finest French Champagne. In 1952 Giulio, not having any children, sold his winery to Bruno Lunelli, the owner of Trento’s best know wine bar. In the decades that followed, Lunelli and his sons built Ferrari into one of Italy’s most famous and highly successful producers of metodo classico sparkling wines. Today under Matteo Lunelli and cousins Marcello, Camilla and Alessandro Lunelli the third generation at the helm, Ferrari is becoming a global company expanding its production and sales into new international markets.

Ferrari sparkling wines are produced from grapes grown in Trentino, a mountainous region ideally suited for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The company owns a 120 ha estate situated at 300-700 meters and purchases grapes from more than a 500 neighboring small wine growers. Production of 5 million bottles annually is in the hands of a team of eight winemakers led by chief winemaker Marcello Lunelli and six agronomists. The company follows sustainable viticultural practices and is developing new organic vineyards. Like many great wineries, it collaborates with local university researchers to develop new and improved methods of vineyard management and wine production.

Food and Wine Pairing

Our tasting included six Ferrari sparkling wines and five dishes beautifully prepared for the occasion by Tosca’s Executive Chef, Massimo Fabbri. As we discovered, Ferrari wines are refined, elegant and richly flavored. Each is beautifully balanced with a fine mousse and notes of lees and brioche. Above all, they are terrific food wines that can accompany a wide variety of dishes. They are at their best when paired with refined Italian cooking like we enjoyed at Tosca. Following are our tasting notes in the order the wines and dishes were served:

Ferrari NV Brut Metodo Classico Trento DOC ($25) 89

(100% Chardonnay) This Blanc de blancs is crisp and very dry. It offers aromas of ripe orchard fruit, fresh bread, and a hint of almonds. It is leesy and creamy on the palate with a lively mousse and shows excellent structure and balance. Aged 24 months on the lees with the base wine predominantly from the 2009 vintage.

Pairing: Lobster salad with green peas, Burrata cheese, caviar and Ferrari dressing

Ferrari NV Rosé Metodo Classico Trento DOC ($37) 90+

(60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay) The pink salmon colored Rosé displays fresh ripe red berry fruit aromas and flavors with hints of yeast, a rich creamy mouth feel, and a chalky, dry finish. Showing a tad more sweetness than the NV Brut, the Rosé is aged 25-30 months on the lees.

Pairing: Squash blossom filled with crab meat and chives on a yellow pepper puree with radish and mache salad

Ferrari 2004 Perlé Metodo Classico Trento DOC ($35) 92

(100% Chardonnay) The Perlé is Ferrari’s best known sparkler in Italy and is widely served by the glass at the top wine bars. Estate grown on limestone soils, it is rich and fruity with aromas and flavors of apple and pear with hints of almonds and notes of yeast and brioche. On the palate it is complex and harmonious. Superb value!

Pairing: Tortelli pasta filled with heirloom tomatoes and ricotta cheese, with tomato water and basil pesto

Ferrari 2005 Perlé Rosé Metodo Classico Trento DOC ($75) 92+

(80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay) This rosé has a lovely dark salmon rose hue with candied red raspberry fruit and hints of almond and freshly baked bread. It is rich and creamy on the palate and is tightly structured. Aged on the lees for five years and disgorged a year ago, the wine is absolutely delicious and shows great aging potential. Has sufficient weight to pair with assertively flavored dishes.

Pairing: Risotto with spumante and gorgonzola

Ferrari 2005 Perlé Nero Metodo Classico Trento DOC ($90) 92+

(100% Pinot Noir) This yellow gold sparkling wine is a very dry extra brut that shows high altitude freshness and crisp acidity. With autolytic aromas and flavors, it also reveals light red cherry fruit notes and is very refined and delicate on the palate with a light creamy finish. Made from Trentino’s highest altitude, very low yielding Pinot Noir vineyards and aged for 6 years on the lees and disgorged in 2011.

Ferrari 2001 Giulio Ferrari Metodo Classico Trento DOC ($100) 94

(100% Chardonnay) Medium gold color and aged for 10 years on the lees, this rich estate-bottled reserve cuvée is very complex and refined with leesy aromas and flavors of grilled pineapple, crème brûlée and white chocolate. It is elegant with great depth of flavor and richness on the palate and an extremely persistent fine finish. Ferrari’s top-of-the-line cuvée.

Pairing: Grilled Spanish sea bass with white beets with basil, heirloom carrots, spring pea puree and fresh herb olive oil

Wine and food enthusiasts will find helpful guidelines and an extensive table of suggestions for pairing Ferrari wine and food in the International Wine Review’s Report #14 The World of Sparkling Wines and Champagne.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler

July 2012