By Rick Riozza

It’s funny—but for so many American wine enthusiasts, it’s hard for them to wrap their mind around the name of one of the world’s most prestigious wine rating guides around:  Gambero Rosso—which literally means “red prawn”.

For more than twenty years, Gambero Rosso has been a leader in Italy’s food and wine sector.  In its efforts to promote Italian culinary excellences, it offers a variety of courses on food and wine for every level of expertise and also organizes a number of international events, inviting only select prize winning companies to participate.

Alongside the Italian monthly, Gambero Rosso Wine Travel Food is the international magazine in English, read by experts, epicures and wine enthusiasts everywhere.

gambero4And as opposed to a “100 point” or “five stars” system, Gambero rates wine with a “glass of wine” symbol to denote excellence:  “Three Glasses”—better known in Italian and around the world as “Tre Biccheri” [tray bee-kee-AIR-ee], “guarantees premium quality.”

As mentioned above, Gambero organizes a number of international events.  In my memory, the impressive events have been held only in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  So I’m very proud to report that for the first time in our Coachella valley Gambero Rosso recently teamed with the Palm Springs Life Festival and the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage to produce the stellar two day wine tasting and culinary event titled, In Vino Veritas (In Wine there is Truth).

Well the truth is—our desert rarely sees such an array of premium Italian wines under one roof.  Actually, most of the wines presented can be labeled as “over the top”.  All of the wines were curated by Gambero Rosso, which included 30 of the most distinguished Italian wineries and winemakers, who were also on-site to personally present their best wines.

Ritz-Carlton’s Executive Chef, Bruno Lopez, was on hand as well, preparing multicourse wine pairing luncheons and a dinner during the two day affair that included all of your favorite vino d’Italia.  Certainly Antinori comes to mind, and indeed that wine was served with the dishes.  Let’s hope and pray that there will be a second Gambero Rosso event in our valley soon.

franciaSo much great wine at this event to talk about—and as you readers know, we do our very fair share of covering Italian wine.  But one vino d‘Italia that amazingly gets so little press here in the US, is Franciacorta [Frahn-cha-Core-tah]. Only one winery producer was present featuring Franciacorta: Ferghettina—who brought to the tasting their top of-the-line wine: Brut, Milledi Brut & Rosé Brut.

If you haven’t guessed already, Franciacorta is a sparkler.  (For the record—other nice whites and under-appreciated red wines are also made.)  Produced in Lombardy, it has built itself the reputation for making Italy’s best metodo classico.  It’s a bubbly that sees itself on par with the best Champagne Houses.

Actually it’s very French in the manner it’s fashioned.  As just stated—it uses the méthode champenoise style—that secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle, and, the wines of Franciacorta are made also with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero).  These vines may not be native to this northeast area of Italy—north of Milano, but the grapes have been growing there since the Napoleonic times.

Critics from everywhere in the world (except maybe France!) agree that Franciacorta is the bubbly bomb!  And adding to the assessment is the fact that a great bottle of Franciacorta goes for around $150 as opposed to $300+ high end Champagne.  “Every day” French Champagne can go for around $30 to $70; Franciacorta sells for around the same prices, but—as the critics continue to say, it tastes like a $100 French.

The predominant claim about Franciacorta is that it has all the tasty French Champagne notes of apples, bread, chalk, citrus, cream, minerals, nuts, smoke spices and spice—without, that over-the-top lemony taste.

Of course, that’s all really up to you and your palate.  But do remember this sparkler next time you’re up for a fun patio party.  It’s a very sexy quaff—clearly delicious, and as you always seem to pull it off, your wine maven status bumps up.

The Ferghettina non-vintage Brut sells for less than $30—that’s a great deal.  Check out the selection over at Total Wine & More in Palm Desert, 760.346.2029

By the way—if the name Gambero Rosso has been kicking around your head as you’ve been reading this article, you have reason to.  Those fans of The Adventures of Pinocchio (from the Italian novel: Le avventura di Pinocchio) will remember those two conniving characters, the Fox and the Cat, (la volpe e il gatto) who pretended to sport disabilities—the Fox lameness and the Cat blindness, were always leading poor Pinocchio astray.

They even attempted to kill him.  They take Pinocchio to the Osteria del Gambero Rosso—the Red Prawn Inn, where they eat big and leave the bill for Pinocchio to pay.  Later, in disguise, they try to hang Pinocchio, but he escapes. Anyway, near the end of the book, Pinocchio encounters the Fox and the Cat again when looking for a place for Geppetto to recuperate. This time, the pair have become impoverished, whereas the Fox is now truly lame, nearly hairless, and tailless (the Fox had to chop off his own tail to sell for money), and the Cat now truly blind.

Che dice Volpe? ♬ [kay-deechay-vol-pay] ♬ What Does the Fox Say? 

Rick is your somm-about-town working wine events & tastings, and now can’t get that tune out of his head. Contact