High mountain Chardonnay: the fine Alpine fizz of Ferrari Trento

Ask anyone in the wine trade who makes the best Italian sparkling wine and the answer will invariably be Ferrari Trento. Winery founder Giulio Ferrari is credited with introducing Chardonnay to Italy, and this mountain-grown fruit from Italy’s Alpine North gives the wines a distinctive character. Anne Krebiehl MW talks to Ferrari president Matteo Lunelli at a special anniversary dinner and discovers why Chardonnay is the bedrock of the company’s rise to fame.

Ask anyone in the wine trade who makes the best Italian sparkling wine and the answer will invariably be Ferrari Trento. Winery founder Giulio Ferrari is credited with introducing Chardonnay to Italy, and this mountain-grown fruit from Italy’s Alpine North gives the wines a distinctive character. Anne Krebiehl MW talks to Ferrari president Matteo Lunelli at a special anniversary dinner and discovers why Chardonnay is the bedrock of the company’s rise to fame.

mm By July 10, 2018
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Amidst the impressive line-up of wines was “a paradigm of balance and freshness”… Ferrari’s brut nature wine, Ferrari Perlé Zero.

The masterclass at Francesco Mazzei’s new Fiume restaurant was billed as a celebration – of Chardonnay grown in the Alpine heights of the Trentino mountains, of the 30th anniversary of the Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Guide and of Ferrari Trento’s unparalleled track record for sparkling wines in it.

 Ferrari
Chardonnay is the secret of their success. Gino, Bruno and Mauro Lunelli, Ferrari Trento

“In 30 editions of the guide, the sparkling wine estate that has been most awarded by far is Ferrari,” said Gambero Rosso senior editor Marco Sabellico.

Those familiar with Ferrari Trento will know that it is the leading house for traditional method sparkling wine in Italy. Based in the city of Trento, in Italy’s Alpine north, it is mountain viticulture and vineyards at altitudes of up to 800m that define Ferrari.

 Ferrari
Ferrari president Matteo Lunelli, London, July, 2018

“In these wines you find snow and sun – the sun of the Mediterranean and the snow of the Alps,” explained Ferrari’s president Matteo Lunelli.

He belongs to the third generation of Lunellis to run the company, after its intrepid but heirless founder, Giulio Ferrari, chose the family to take over. Giulio Ferrari is credited with introducing Chardonnay to Italy, selecting clones in conjunction with the local viticultural school, pioneering traditional method sparkling wine and imbuing the company with its quality ethos.

“We only show Chardonnay tonight: this allows us to demonstrate the territory of Trentino,” Lunelli said about the wines on show. “We think the Ferrari style is extremely linked to Chardonnay.”

 Ferrari

The wines tasted were:

  • Ferrari Perlé, the house’s gold standard for Blanc de Blancs, made from 100% Chardonnay with a minimum of five years ageing on lees.
  • Riserva Lunelli is a gently oak-aged style
  • Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore is a wine made in especially good years
  • Giulio Ferrari Collezione is a single vineyard wine made in special years from the Maso Pianizza vineyard, a 12ha Chardonnay site at an altitude of 500-600m.

“We always were convinced that the full expression of mountain Chardonnay of the Trentino required long ageing,“ Lunelli said.

But amidst the impressive line-up of vintages of Ferrari’s flagship Perlé brand and its rare prestige cuvée Riserva del Fondatore, a stunning and unusual wine also appeared, holding its own amidst its siblings. On that warm summer evening it stole the show for me (despite the undoubted beauty and majesty of the 1997 Giulio Ferrari Collezione) … a paradigm of balance and freshness… Ferrari’s brut nature wine, Ferrari Perlé Zero

 Ferrari

“With Perlé Zero we wanted to express fully the essence of Trento Chardonnay – because this wine is naked,” Lunelli declared. He explains that the family was already trialling zero-dosage sparkling wines in the 1970s, before this had become either fashionable or really acceptable.

“It was probably too early,” Lunelli concedes.

Nonetheless, this very latest release from Italy’s premier sparkling wine house shines with freshness. Lunelli credits the longstanding cellar master Ruben Laurentis with the finesse of this latest release. The current release of Perlé Zero is a blend of four vintages – 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010 – the neck label says Perlé Zero 11 which stands for the year of tirage.

The base wines for it were aged in stainless steel, wood and glass – and here Lunelli explains that some of the wine had been aged in magnums and disgorged before undergoing the second fermentation – a technique also employed by Champagne Bollinger and some other houses to add extra creaminess and texture. Perlé Zero 11 was disgorged in 2017 and it is only the second iteration of this cuvée. The first one was Perlé Zero 10 which was created from 2006, 2008 and 2009 base wines.

Perlé Zero 11 has a most refreshing lift of crushed citrus foliage on the nose while the palate combines streamlined drive and creamy elegance. It is scented and serious and has all the elegance we expect from a Ferrari. It was the perfect wine for that summer night.

The wines of Ferrari Trento are distributed in the UK by Enotria & Coe 

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