At the very top of the podium, and the very first DOCG awarded in all of Italy, stands a little humble white grape named Albana. Grown only in the heartland of Emilia-Romagna, and introduced to the area by ancient Romans, it was likely named by them too, (Albus is latin for white.) Albana is said to be a red grape in a white grape’s clothing. It is full-bodied, tannic, and aromatic. Maybe it was this robust character – the grape’s high acid, exotic, floral, and phenolic nature – that made it stand out as the most inspiring candidate for the very first DOCG designation in 1966.
Azienda Agrícola Tre Monti dates back to the early 1960s, beginning with the inspiration of husband and wife team Sergio and Thea Navacchia. After Thea’s death in 1989, friends Francesco Spagnolli, Vittorio Fiore, and Donato Lanati joined in the endeavor. The winery farm estate lies in the center of Imola, where all of the vineyards are managed (as of 2014) with sustainable viticulture, including inter-row cover-cropping and organic practices. The winemaking is now handled by Vittorio Navacchia, with a deft hand and minimal intervention. This bottling is fermented in stainless steel, and then refermented in bottle. At just 11% alcohol, this bubble is ever so slight and can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, in any vessel you can find to pour it in.
This wine is a chameleon. At once it appears simple, lithe, and green, but then it shape-shifts into something more exotic, becoming robust with ripe pear topped with white cherries. It is somehow clean as cotton, fluffy as sea spray foam, delightfully dry and perky, and yet as fruity and juicy as tangerine wedges alongside bites of plump red tomato. It keeps up an intrigue of aromatic wood, like nag champa or san paolo, while also being intensely clean and mineral. This is a favorite Bergamot pastime, finding wines that aren’t one-dimensional or easy to pin down, but are most definitely easy to please.
Albana is barely ever made bubbly, it is much more common as a dry, middle-of-the-road white. It is also made as a sweet Albana Passito wine, where grapes are botrytised or air-dried to make a sticky.