We recently attended the Zenato wine dinner hosted by Ponti Wine Cellars at Basilico, the Italian restaurant at The Regent Singapore famed for its Italian buffet. Zenato Winery is located in San Benedetto di Lugana, on the gentle hills surrounding the southern part of Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. Zenato is one of the most renowned wineries in the wine producing region of Lugana, having been credited for putting the Lugana appellation on the wine map, with their successful range of whites made from local grape variety Trebbiano di Lugana.
We started off the evening with a glass of Zenato Laguna DOC Metodo Classico Brut in hand, breadsticks and a delicious slice of pizza. The bubbly was clean and creamy with notes of apple and pear – a refreshing start to the evening.
Our starter was a delightful medley of yellow fin tuna, salmon tartare, toasted pistachio, wild fennel and citrus-dill oil. Although we liked the combination of ingredients, the flavours of the dish were not enhanced adequately and its result was a rather bland dish. The large portion of fennel made the dish a little ‘busy’ and we would have liked the citrus flavours to have packed more of a punch. Fortunately, sprinkling a fair amount of sea salt did help boost the dish up a notch.
With our starter, we had the Zenato Lugana San Benedetto DOC 2009, made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugano. The wine was bone dry with stone fruit aromas and flavours, balanced acidity and a wonderful citrus finish which helped gave our tuna and salmon starter a much desired uplift.
Waiting with bated breath for the next dish – wild boar and “seiress” ricotta agnolotti with black truffle, baby artichokes and meat jus – it was well worth the anticipation! The four generous parcels containing a rich, gamey filling of shredded wild boar, paired with a thick jus was heavenly – so good that the ladies seated beside us used their remaining bread from the basket to ‘mop’ the plate clean.
This course was wonderfully paired with the Zenato Cresasso Corvina Veronese 2005 made from 100% Corvina Veronese. Corvina is one of the classic grapes of the Veneto region of Italy and is usually the predominant grape in the blends used for Valpolicella. Corvina’s thick skins lends the grape to raisining without rot, a technique used to produce richer and dessert styled wines such as Amarone and Recioto (which lucky us got to try as well later).
The terrain in which the grapes are grown is characterised by its particular type of soil consisting of chalk moraine and little stones. This wine is named Cresasso by Zenato as an embodiment of the the uniqueness of the terroir from which it comes.
The Cresasso has a rich ruby color, with a nose of cherry and blackberry. The palate displayed generous doses of red fruit and stewed prunes. Its soft and elegant structure makes Cresasso a perfect partner to rich, full-flavored dishes like the delightful wild boar and ricotta agnolotti we were served. We can imagine this robust wine will also pair well with roasts and grills.
Just when we were really working up an appetite, it was time for part tre of our meal – our course of roasted Wagyu beef tenderloin 9+ with asparagus tips, ratte potatoes and ripassa wine reduction. What a stunner of a dish this could have been…unfortunately, it was way too overcooked and lean to be classified as a grade 9, no less. Something here got seriously lost in translation. Our exact words used to describe the meant was ‘it might have been better around my waist’. As greedy as we are, we had to pass on this dish after a couple of (painful) mouthfuls.
This course was paired with the Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2007, a blend of 80% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella and 10% Sangiovese. The Ripassa is so named because as soon as the fermentation of dried grapes is completed for the Amarone, selected lots of Valpolicella are then “repassed” on the Amarone pomace to start a second fermentation that gives the wine deeper colour, increased extract and more complexity.
This wine has a bouquet of ripe, black cherries, fruit preserves and cedar and a palate that immediately brings to mind dark chocolate and more cherries. It is a delicious wine ideal with all game, roasts, and grilled and barbecued dishes (shame all we had was a leather belt).
Thankfully, we loved our cheeseboard, which came next. The amarone “drunken” cheese with fruit mostardo and blue di mucca cheese with quince jelly was a lovely way to wind down the mean. The amarone “drunken’ cheese was mild and gentle while the blue di mucca contrasted wonderfully with pungent flavours characteristic of its kind. Paired with the quince, a winner hands down.
Our cheese platter was served with the Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2006, a blend of 80% Corvina and 10% each of Rondinella and Sangiovese.
The best and ripest of the dark-skinned grapes of primarily Corvina and Rondinella are meticulously picked during harvest and stored for several months after to dry. The concentrated sugars in these near-raisins ferment to complete dryness, creating the Amarone wine, a wine with high alcohol (often 14%-16%), black fruit flavours and an intense, dark color.
Interestingly, the original fruit of this painstaking effort was Recioto, a sweet red wine that was an indulgence for Roman kings and nobility in the days before processed sugar, when sweets were a prized rarity. Alas the production sometimes went awry and the wine fermented to dryness instead, producing by chance a brooding and highly alcoholic (and in those days, disappointing) wine the winemakers named Amarone, or Big Bitter One. Today, Amarone is highly sought after and its popularity with wine connoisseurs all over the world has since surpassed that of the Recioto.
The Zenato Amarone is aged in French oak for 18-24 months followed by one year in bottle. It has intoxicating aromas of liquorice, cassis and the ripest of wild berries, and a luscious mouthfeel filled with complexity. It paired beautifully with our platter of mature cheeses.
Our final dish for the evening was a baked yellow peach with “amaretti” crumbled and almond gelato. The almond gelato was delicious and had a wonderful sharp almond flavour which was well balanced with the sweetness of the yellow peach.
We had the Zenato Recioto della Valpolicella 2006 as the befitting accompaniment to our dessert. The creation of Recioto wines begins the same way as that for the Amarone, except that fermentation is halted while there is still some residual sugar left in the wine to produce a dessert wine that is both luscious and decadent. The Zenato Recioto has an intense nose of fruit preserves, chocolate, cinnamon and clove and tastes of blackberry jam and cherry liquor with a viscous, syrupy mouthfeel.
On our way out of Basilico, we couldn’t resist a rove of the buffet table and spied an exciting spread of Italian antipasti, cold cuts, cheeses and desserts, and made a mental note to return.Basilico 1 Cuscaden Road Level 2 The Regent Singapore Ponti Wine Cellars Ground Floor, 204A Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068640 | 6733 0369