Interview of the Week : Charles Scicolone – “Piazza Life” Gianluca Rottura

Interview of the Week : Charles Scicolone – “Piazza Life” Gianluca Rottura

Perigord 172a

Whenever my father tries a new style wine, loaded with oak, vanilla, and ripe fruit, he shakes his head in disappointment and says, “This wine is not sincere. A wine should be sincere ! ” Maybe it’s because Charles Scicolone is Italian and born in the same year as my father, that he reminds me of him. The two are very similar. Besides both being earth signs, they take me back to a time when, let’s be honest, things were better.

I do not remember when I first met Charles, but it was probably in the very late 90′s and I immediately liked him. Look at him. Look at his hair. He looks like you can stick him into any Italian painting from any era and he would fit. I remember stopping by the restaurant “I Trulli” and their wine store “Vino” to chat with Charles and admire the great wines he would help select.

I admired those wines because, like Charles Scicolone, they were sincere. There were no disguises or fakery. He selected those wines because he loved and respected them and knew where they came from. Charles views wines as people; they are constantly evolving but must always be true to their roots. If a wine comes from Sicily, it should have Sicilian character and not be masked by the international costumes in the forms of low acidity, over-ripe fruit, vanilla, and too much oak (to name the main villains of the many). It is thanks to people like Mr. Scicolone and his influence that winemakers are resisting the tidal waves of conformity. He urges them to stick to what they know best: telling their stories through their wines.

Charles’ resume is anvil heavy. Besides being a wine consultant, writer, and educator, he helped build up ” I Trulli ” into one of New York’s top restaurants and their wine store ” Vino ” into a go-to destination for Italian wines. When you are as good as Charles, the name James Beard will follow you around. Besides the coveted James Beard nominations for outstanding wine service and wine list (6 years running), he also coordinates the wines for the Italian themed James Beard Awards. On the charitable side, you can also throw in the St. Vincent’s Hospital Kids Project Fundraiser. The list goes on and on, but I can assure you his credentials are unmatched.

Charles the man is much more impressive than his resume. I love to listen to him tell stories. Whenever I am curious about a wine or vintage of a wine I did not try, I ask Charles and if he says it is good, I will order it without even trying it (something I almost never do). He formed a super team with his amazing wife, Michele, who is one of America’s most important food writers. When you meet them, it gives you hope in marriage and a strong belief that all couples should be like them. I mentioned to a group of friends who also know Charles that we should make a movie about him. Until then, check out what he had to share with Piazza Life.

1) What do you look for in a wine? Character? Balance? Price/Value?

Price/Value, Character, Balance are not concerns. I am interested in which wines go best with the food I am eating. I never drink wine without food. When you go to a bar in Italy and order a drink or a glass of wine, they always send out small sandwiches, peanuts, etc. If the wine costs under $20 – even if it is $12 – and if it goes with what I am eating, I will order the wine. I will not order a wine no matter how special it is if it does not go with what I am eating. First comes the food, then the wine.

2) We have seen the wine world change dramatically and mostly for the worse. Where do you see wine going?

When I first started drinking wine in 1968, almost all the wine went with food. Then came the international style wines – over-concentrated wines aged in new barriques, which have so much wood and vanilla, they do not taste like wine. It was like drinking vanilla with your food. When I was the wine director for ” I Trulli ” in NYC, wine makers from Italy would come into the restaurant ( we only had Italian wines, 600 of them on the list) and try to sell me an international style wine made for the American market. All these wines taste the same. They have no sense of place. I would ask them if they drank these types of wines at home. Their answer, after some hesitation, was “NO !” Then I would ask, “Why are you trying to sell something you will not drink?” I am happy to say that, recently, there are many winemakers that are making wines less overly-international styled. There is some hope!

3) As a wine educator, what were the main points you tried to stress the most to your students to help them get it.

Know how the wine is made. In other words, what is the style of wine? Do they use stainless steel, barriques,large barrels etc ? What grape/grapes are used and where does the wine come from? If it comes from California or Australia, you already have a good idea of the style. Don’t be afraid to say that you do not like a wine, even if it is very expensive. There are very expensive wines that people go crazy for; I will not drink them. It’s not because of the price but because of the style. Give me a $16 Piedirosso instead.

4) I envy your travel schedule. You go places most people could only dream of visiting. What are your favorite places and where do you visit most?

Italy is #1. I love every region and have been to all of them more than once. The best region for food and wine is Piedmont, especially in the fall. I love the food in Rome and if I were a rich man, I would live in Rome. Naples and the Amalfi coast – I go there often. All of Italy is wonderful. I also go to France. Paris and Northern Provence are my favorite places there.

5) Do you believe in an After Life?

One can only hope.

6) Favorite meal and favorite wine (they do not have to pair well with each other, just favorites individually) ?

As I said before, the wine has to pair with the food. Fiorano per 1995 with lamb in Rome- in the oven, fried, or on the grill. I once had the perfect meal in Rome: Zucchini flowers, deep fried and stuffed with Mozzarella and anchovies, Pasta Amatrciana, and baby Lamb and potatoes in the oven.

7) Being married to Michele, you guys have formed a Super team : Food Expert and Wine Expert. Do you guys ever disagree on a wine or dish?

We discuss the food and the wine. Most of the time Michele will make a dish and I will then pick a wine to go with it. For the most part, Michele leaves the wine up to me. Sometimes, I will have an older wine that is ready to drink and will ask Michele to make a dish that goes with the wine.

8) Speaking of your marriage, how did you two meet?

We met in a singles bar on 1st ave. I saw a very attractive young woman sitting at the bar, but she was with someone. Next thing I know, she is standing next to me with a cigarette in her hand. I do not smoke but the friend I was with did. I snapped my fingers and said to him “Light it”. And the rest is history.

9) How will the emerging markets of China and India affect wine style and wine business?

China will keep the prices of expensive wine high and is a hugh market. I was talking to someone from India that imports food to India from all over the world. He knows all about wine and liquor but does not drink. He said that the taxes on these items are so high, that only the wealthy can afford to drink. He did not see India as a good market.

10) If you could live in any era, which would it be?

I was a Medievalist in my former life, so may be the Middle Ages. But I like it here now.

11) Would you not travel to Italy for 3 years for $ 5 million?

I would travel to Italy for 3 years for much less than that.

12) Which are your favorite soils for producing wines?

Volcanic soil, limestone, clay. gravel, marl. Campania, the Rhone, Piedmont etc

13) Can you leave me your amazing wine collection in your will?

The last question is very interesting..

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Tasting the Red Wines of Campania

Seminars for both the white and red wines of Campania were given on the same day. I attended the seminar on the white wines but was unable to stay for the red wine seminar. However, I was able to taste and drink the red wines at the dinner held at Del Posto and at the walk around tasting that was held between the seminars. It was very interesting to be able to taste wines from some producers that I did not know.

The Grapes

Aglianico:-this is a black late ripening grape, which may have been brought to Greece by the Phoenicians. The Ancient Greeks then introduced it into Southern Italy and it took root in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. Aglianico is mentioned by Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD) in his Natural History. It may be one of the grapes used in Ancient Roman’s most famous wine Falernian. Aglianico, along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, are often ranked as the three top grape varieties in Italy. See Jeremy Parzen’s http://dobianchi.com/2008/01/29/aglianico-ellenico/ excellent article on how Aglianico got its name. Taurasi, made from Aglianico (Campania), is one of Italy’s great wines. They can last many years. Recently I had wines from the 1958 and 1968 vintage and they were wonderful.

Piedirosso – means “red foot” in Italian because the bottom of the vine has a red-colored triple-branched stem like a dove’s foot. In the local dialect it is also know as Palombina (little dove) and Pere’e Pallummo (dove’s foot). Nicholas Belfrage in his book “Brunello to Zabibbo” says “…Piedrosso is a very ancient grape and may be identical to the Colombina mentioned by Pliny.” He also says that Piedirosso is related to the Refosco from Friuli.

“Both… are members of the Cot family of grapes. Of which the best-known example is Malbec. The Refosco has a peduncolo rosso-a red stem

I really enjoy wines made from 100% Piedirrosso. They are fruity with aromas of plums and cherries and a hint of spice. These wines are inexpensive, well under $20 and worth the effort to find.IMG_5012

Quintodecimo Terra d’Eclano Aglianico Irpinia DOC Made from 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay and tufa. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and the harvest is from the middle to the end of October. The maceration period is about 20 days and malolactic fermentation takes place naturally in barriques. The wine spends between 18 and 24 months in new barriques depending on the vintage and another year in bottle before release. I believe the winery is organic. This is a full-bodied wine with aromas of tobacco,cassis and leather.IMG_4904

Taurasi DOCG  2009 Donnachiara 100% Aglianico coming from the 20 hectare estate vineyard Torre le Nocelle. Ilaria Petitto from the winery said that all of Donnachiara’s red wines are made from grapes from this vineyard. The soil is volcanic, the vines are 30 years old, the training system is Guyot and there are 4,000 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place the first week of September. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing and there is no filtration. The wine is aged for 12 months in 225-liter French barriques, and 24 months in bottle before release. This is a big complex wine with berry aromas and flavors, hints of cherry and plum and a touch of cacao and coffee.IMG_4967

Terra di Lavoro Roccamofina IGT Made from 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso. The Gaiardi Estate produces only this wine. The vines are planted in volcanic soil and there are very low yields. The training for the vines is spur-pruned Cordon, there are 1,800 plants per hectare, the vineyard is at 1,485 ft. with a western exposure. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 20 days. Maceration lasts for 14 days with pumpovers. The wine is aged in French barriques (225 liters) for 12 months. 70 of the barriques are new and 30 are second passage. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a full-bodied wine with aromas of berries and plums and hints of licorice and coffee. The wine was aged in new barriques but I did not pick up any of those international aromas and flavors.IMG_4979

Ragis- Made from 80% Aglanico and 20% Piedirosso La Vigna Di Raito. The soil is shallow and mostly sand on a chalk rock layer. The Aglianico vines are cultivated on Guyot espalier and the Piedirosso on pergolas, a system characteristic of the Amalfi Coast. The exposure is south-southeast and there are about 3,500 plants per hectare.There is separate vinification for the two grapes in stainless steel vessels for over 15 days under controlled temperatures. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barrels. The two wines are transferred into 500 liter French oak barrels and blended. They remain here for 12 months. Then the wine spends another 12 months in bottle before release. It has the power of the Aglanico with the aromatic hints of the Peidirosso, which makes it an elegant wine with a lot of body. This is the first time I have tasted this wine.

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Lacryma Christi di Vesuvio Rosso  Casa Setaro  Made from Piedirosso 85% and 15% Aglianico. The vineyards are at 220-350 meters and the manual harvest takes place at the end of October. The vines are15-25 years old and the training system is guyot and pergola Vesuvian. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and temperature controlled fermentation. Racking takes place with pneumo-pressing. Maturation is in stainless steel for at least three months, followed by three months in small oak barrels and then aged in the bottle. The wine has aromas of dark fruits, berries and fern, with mineral undertones in the background. On the palate it is full, soft, and fresh.

 

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Filed under Aglianico, campania, Casa Setaro, Domodimonti winery, La Vigina Di Raito, Lacyma Chrisiti di Vesuvio, Piedirosso, Qointodrcimo, Ragis, Terra d'Eclano, Terra di Lavoro

Gnocchi and Boca

Company was coming and Michele wanted to make something from her new cookbook: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook: 200 Favorite Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Pasta, Main Dishes and Dessert. She asked me what I was in the mood for but with so many delicious choices, I could not make up my mind. Then I saw the picture of the Basil Ricotta Gnocchi in Tomato Butter Sauce and I knew that was it. I planned to match it with the 1985 Boca.IMG_5102

We started the evening as we usually do with Champagne:IMG_5095

Champagne Delamotte Brut NV 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Nero and 20% Pinot Meunier. Light and fresh with citrus aromas and flavors and good acidity. The sister house is Salon and both are part of the Laurent-Perrier group. At $38 a bottle, it is a bargain and is our current house champagne.

Boca 1985 Campo Delle Piane La Meridiana made from 85% Nebbiolo,15% Vespolina and some bunches of Bonarda.  Boca is Piemonte’seasternmost DOC zone, and with theexception of the also little known area of Sizzano, it’s northernmost as well. It is entirely surrounded by a mountainous national park. It forms something of a southerly exposed amphitheatre at 400-500 m elevation, just west of Lago d’Orta.IMG_5099

For over 60 years, Antonio Cerri, the owner of La Meridiana, made Boca from his one half hectare of vines. He seemed more concerned with making Boca than with bottling and selling it.  Enter Cristoph Kunzil, a Swiss importer of Italian wines. Antonio was ready to retire and Mr. Kunzil saw an opportunity so he bought the land and the cellars. He spent time with Antonio to learn the history of the place and the wines. The La Meridiana winery does not exist any more and Mr. Kunzil calls his winery Le Piane.

Gary Olson of Artisan Wines Inc., the importer and distributor, put me in touch with Mr. Kunzil who told me that the current wines under his Le Piane label are made the same way as the wines of Anthonio Cerri, and added that the cellar may be a little cleaner.  Long fermentation occurs for about a month and no yeast is added. The aging is in barrels of 20hl for 5 years or more for the  wines that were made by Mr. Cerri and 3-4 years for the Le Piane.  Le Piane owns the Cerri wines, and sells them as a rarity to show the potential of the Boca region.

Mr. Kunzil said that the1985 was the best of the bottled wines of Mr. Cerri, still young and with a lot to give. The 1985 was bottled in 1995. The wines from this area are lighter than the ones from around Alba and therefore were a perfect combination with the ricotta gnocchi and light tomato sauce. I was very impressed with the wine. IMG_5096

Barbaresco 1998 DOCG La Spinona. I00% Nebbiolo. The winery is located in the town of Barbaresco and it is a family run winery operated by Pietro Berutti, his son Gualtiero, and grandson Pietroparlo. They only use their own grapes.

They have 10 hectares of vineyards on the historic Faset hill with a south-southeast exposure. The vineyard is at 270 meters and the vines are 35 years old. Harvest is by hand in October. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and there is skin contact for 14/21 days. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is racked and spends 2 years in 2,500 Slovenian oak casks. On the label there is a picture of a special breed of hunting dog raised at the winery.  One of the dogs saved the son of Pietro from drowning and so they put a picture of the dog on the label. This is a fruity, spice, fragrant and elegant wine. It is made it a style which reflects all the Nebbiolo characteristics but is ready to drink sooner than most. The 1998 was at its peak. IMG_5097

Chateauneuf–du–Pape 1995 Chateau-Fortia (Baron Le Roy De Boiseaumarie) Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre in Magnum.

After a manual harvest the grapes are destemmed, crushed and fermented separately in 9 to 150 hl concrete vats or stainless steel vats of 50 to 150 hl which are temperature controlled. Fermentation lasts for 20 to 25 days depending on the vintage. Malolactic fermentation takes place in 33 to 40 hl concrete tanks. Then the wines are racked and the different varieties are blended together. The wine spends 12 to 18 months in “founder” (metal tanks) where they will be fined and filtered prior to bottling and remain in the bottle for several months before release. Yields in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are limited to 35 hectoliters per hectare and they are below the limit. This is a big impressive wine and I decanted it before serving but I should have done it a few hours before.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Barbaresco, Boca, Campo delle Piane, Champagne, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Delamotte NV, Italian Red Wine

Tasting the White Wines of Campania

 

For the first time in a number of years I am not going to Campania this year.  I will miss being on the Amalfi Coast and visiting Naples but I am making up for it by drinking a lot of wine from Campania.

Under the banner of Campania’s Wine Excellence, the region hosted a series of tastings, seminars and dinners earlier this month. I attended a dinner and a seminar and Grand Tasting at Del Posto Restaurant.IMG_5001

The seminar was in two parts: the first was a tasting of the white wines of Campania and the second featured the red wines. Three of my favorite white grapes were represented: Falanghina, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di D Avelliano.

Nichols Belfrage in his book, Brunello to Zibibbo,(1999) states, “This grape (Falanghina), which some have suggested may be of Greek origin, and which some have tentatively indentified as the grape from which Roman Falernian was made, has been known as Falanghina only since the 19th century. (A falanga… is a type of wooden stake used for supporting a vine; the suffix –ina makes it a small wooden stake.) The grape Falanghina is a late-ripener, which requires well exposed, sunny slopes and not-too-excessive production to shine, but when it does so it shines brightly, making a wine of good extract and flavor, with a firm acidic backbone enabling it to resist the passage of time in the bottle. It is a grape of real interest deserving wider national and international attention.”

I tasted two wines made from Falanghina:IMG_5004

Casa Vinicola Setaro Minos Campania IGT 2012 100% Falanghina.  The production area is the Trecase resort town of Bosco del Monaco and Tirone  inside the national park of Vesuvius. The soil is of volcanic origin and is rich in potassium and trace elements, loose and sandy. The owner of the winery, Massimo Setaro, was present and said that these vines are not grafted onto American rootstock because phylloxera cannot survive in this soil. The age of the vines is 15 – 25 years and the vineyard is 220 to 305 mts. above sea level.  Harvest takes place the second half of October and there are 4000-4500 vines per hectare and the training system is espalier with pruning goyot. The grapes are hand harvested, there is a sorting then a cold maceration in silos insulated to temperature of around 4°C for 48 to 72 hours. The wine is racked and pressing is in a pneumatic press. Clarification of the must and fermentation at a controlled temperature 10 – 12°C.  The wine remains on the lees for 3 months.  It is straw yellow, with hints of broom and quince combined with mineral tones made it for me a real Falanghina del Vesuvio.  On the palate it is fruity and very pleasant with an elegant mineral volcanic character. IMG_5005

Cantine degli Astroni Colle Imperatrice Campi Flegrei DOC 2011. 100% Falagina The vineyards are at 200/400 meters and the exposure is southeast. The soil is volcanic ash and clay loam and the training system is guyot. Harvesting is by hand and takes place the first week of October. There is cold maceration and fermentation takes place in stainless steel for two weeks. There is whole berry fermentation, the grapes are not pressed. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks for a few months. This is a very well balanced wine with floral scents, ripe fruit, a hint of smoke and a touch of honey.

The ancient Greeks brought Greco di Tufo grapes into the area around Naples about 2,500 years ago. It may have been one of the grapes used to make Falernian, a wine much prized by the ancient Romans. Greco is a late ripening varietal and the phenolic compounds in the grape contribute to the wine’s characteristically deep color. Greco is best when it is found in the volcanic hills in the Avellino province in central Campania. Only 8 villages can legally claim to make Greco di Tufo. One of these villages is Tufo from which the wine gets it name. Tufo is also the name of the rock on which the village is built. Greco thrives here because there is tufaceous, volcanic soil rich in sulphur and a relatively dry microclimate. The vineyards in this zone are between 400 and 450 meters.

According to the DOCG regulations, Greco di Tufo must be at least 85% Greco and 15% Coda di Volpe.  Sparkling Greco di Tufo spumante is also produced.

Greco di Tufo can be drunk after 3 years but in the hands of the right producer can last for 20 years or more.IMG_4982

Cantina di Marzo Greco di Tufo 100% Greco.  I sat with Mr. Somma, the owner of the winery, at the dinner at Del Posto and he said that it was the oldest cantina in Campania and that his ancestor introduced the Greco grape into the zone. The vineyard has a southwest exposure and is at 250 to 500 meters. The age of the vines is 5 to 20 years and the training is guyot. Harvesting is by hand in the middle of October. Lightly pressed must and must run are blended together. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Fining is on the lees. Clarification is by cold and light filtering.  The wine has nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of orange blossom, minerality, good acidity and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

In his book Brunello to Zibibbo, Belfrage says the following about fiano di Avellino. “Fiano is either a native grape of Campania or a member of a family of grapes called Apianes brought to southern Italy from the Peloponesse, once called Apia. … it is mentioned specifically by Pliny in his Naturalis Historia… ‘the bees give Fiano its name, because of their desire (for it).’ Pliny’s etymology has since been challenged…it is not bees (apes), but wasps that are attracted to the sweet grapes, and it is claimed that the name really derives from appiano, a type of apple, or Apia, once a place name in the province of Avellino now called Lapia.”

La Guardiense Colle di Tillo Sanno 2012 100% Fiano. The harvest is by hand in early October and the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks for 15 days. The wine has floral hints with a touch of white peach.IMG_4905

Esoterico Fiano D’Avellino IGT 2011 Donnachiara Made from 100% Fiano from the Montefalcione vineyard. The soil is volcanic, chalky clay, the vines are 6 years old, the training system is guyot and there are 4,400 vines per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing. The late harvest takes place the first half of November. 20% of the fermentation takes place in French barriques. The wine is naturally clarified and there is no refrigeration or filtration at bottling. This is from a new line of wines. They are almost dessert like and very different form the regular white wines.IMG_5011

Fiorduva Furore Bianco Costa D’Amalfi DOC 2011 Marisa Cuomo The wine is made from 30% Fenile, 30% Ginestra and 30% Ripoli. The production zone is in Furore and the surrounding municipalities on the Amalfi coast. The coastal terraces are at 200/500 meters and are south facing.  There are 5,000 to 7,000 vines per hectare. The training system is pergola. The soil is limestone-dolomite rocks. Harvesting is by hand the third week of October and the grapes arrive intact in the cantina. After pressing the juice is inoculated with selected yeast. Fermentation takes place for about 3 months in oak barrels at 12°C. The wine has very nice fruit with hints of apricot, raisins, a touch of candied fruit and good acidity. This was my favorite wine at the tasting.

 

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Filed under campania, Cantina di Manzo, Cantina Marisa Cuomo, Cantine degli Astroni, Casa Vincola Setaro "Minos", Falanghina, Fiano, Fiano di Avellino, Fiorduva Furore Bianco, Greco di Tufo, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

A Lunch in Honor of Antonio Mastroberardino

The passing of Antonio Mastoberardino, the legendary wine producer from Campania, saddened me.  I immediately called my friend, Philip di Belardino, who was largely responsible for bringing the Mastroberardino wines into this county and promoting them.  I suggested to Philip that we have a lunch in honor of the memory of Antonio.  I suggested SD26 in NYC and Philip agreed because the owner Tony May was a friend of Antonio and a lover of his wines.  We decided to invite a few of the people who had promoted the wines in this country and representatives of Winebow, the present importer.

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During his lifetime, Antonio had been presented with many honors for his work in preserving the indigenous grapes of his region including, Fiano del Avellino and Greco di Tufo.  With the permission of the local government, he planted a vineyard inside the walls of Pompeii from which he made a wine called Villa dei Misteri.  I always remember Antonio saying that you cannot understand the wine and food of a region unless you understand its culture.  He received the title of Cavaliere del Lavoro.  See Tom Maresca’s excellent article:  http://ubriaco.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/ave-atque-vale-antonio-mastroberardino/

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Piero Mastroberardino

For our lunch, each guest was asked to bring one bottle of Mastroberardino wine.  What better way to honor Antonio then to drink his wine?  Piero Mastroberadino, Antonio’s son heard of the lunch and with his daughter Camilla came to NYC to attend.  We were greatly honored by their presence.

Mastroberardino Wines at the lunch

Lacryma Christi Bianco 2012 made from 100% Coda del Volpe

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Fiano di Avellino 1982

Ten years ago when I was the wine director for I Trulli Restaurant, a wine salesmen asked me if I wanted two cases of white wine.  The youngest, he said, was 20 years old and he did not know if they were any good.  He said that the producer was Mastroberardino and I agreed to take them. Among the wines were a few Greco di Tufo’s from the 1983 vintage and a few Fiano di Avellino’s from the 1982 vintage. Both the Greco and Fiano were drinking like young wines. Now ten years later I was able to drink the 1982 Fiano again and it was still in great shape with very little sign of aging. I believe that both the Greco and Fiano were fermented in cement tanks and aged in large chestnut oak casks, one reason why they may have lasted so long. Of the 24 bottles I received, only two were not drinkable.

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1997 More Maiorum 100% single vineyard Fiano di Avellino. The name means “observance of the customs of our ancestors.” This wine was showing some signs of age but was still very nice. It did not hold up as well as the 1982 Fiano I mentioned above.

Lacrimarosa   2012 Campania IGT Rose made from 100 Aglianico

Lacryma Christi Rosso 2012 Made from 100% Piedirosso

Aglianico Irpinia IGT Vintage 1998 made from 100% Aglianico and drinking very well.

Taurasi Riserva 1958, 1968  and 1977

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Looking over notes from almost 25 years ago I came across this from Palace Brands Company the importer for Mastroberardino at the time:

“The soil is poor in organic substances but with a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and mico-elements. Taurasi spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. The aging depends on the vintage, the 1977 Riserva was aged 3years in oak, and one batch spent 7 years in oak”.

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They were right about the aging.  The wine was in excellent condition.

Sheldon Wasserman in his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1985) says that Mastorberardino is the zone’s best producer. He says about their Taurasi, “At Mastroberardino they pick their grapes late to produce wines with more richness and character. Taurasi is aged in either oak or chestnut casks. Mastroberardino uses both. They age their riserva for four years, for the first year in the traditional large chestnut casks and then in casks of Slovenian oak ranging in capacity from 30 tom 50 hectoliters”.

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Piero brought these three wines from the winery and they were all in very good condition especially the legendary 68 and the 77.

1997 Radici Taurasi Riserva

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Centrotrento Taurasi Riserva D.O.C.G. 1999 This wine was made in honor of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the company.  On the label appear the figures of 3 men that played leading roles:  Angelo Masteroberardino (1850-1914), Michele Mastroberardino (1866-1945) and Antonio Mastroberardino (1928 -2014).

1999 Radici Taurasi Riserva 

 2000 Radici Taurasi Riserva

 Magnum of 2005 Radici Taurasi Riserva  

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Taurasi “Radici” DOCG  100% Aglianico Mastroberardino SPA. (Campania)  Piero Mastroberardino said that the vineyards for Taurasi “Radici” are located on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard was much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months in French barriques and Slovenian oak barrels and remains in the bottle for 24 months before release. Piero made a point of telling me that the barriques were second and third passage. These are full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a touch of leather.

Will the wines from the late 1990’s age as well as the older wines? I believe so because none of them were showing any signs of age.

 

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Filed under Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Mastroberardino, Taurasi

Montefalco Sagrantino- Umbria’s Jewel

I have been a big fan of Sagrantino di Montefalco from the first time I visited the town of Montefalco a number of years ago. I knew the passito version of the wine, but that visit was the first time I was able to taste and drink the dry version of the wine from a number a different producers. Now I am a big fan of both.

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Eataly was the location of the 3rd annual Sagrantino Festival held in New York City earlier this month.

The tasting included a number of producers that I had visited in Montefalco. This was an opportunity to to speak to them, taste the new vintages and find out the latest news from Montefalco. Marco Caprai from the Arnaldo Caprai winery, Filippo Antonelli from the Antonelli San Marco winery and Liu Pambuffetti  from the Scacciadiavoli winery were in attendance.IMG_4925

The Grape

Sagrantino is indigenous to the hills of Montefalco and the surrounding area in the region of Umbria. It has no relationship with any other known grape variety cultivated in central Italy. It is believed that the name comes from the early cultivation of the grape by monks for sacramental wine and its use by local farmers especially during religious feasts and festivals. Sagrantino Passito has been produced for many centuries but the dry version has only been on the market for about 30 years.  Today there are 74 producers of Montefalco Sagrantino and the production zone is five times its original size (122 hectares to 660 hectares).

All the wines are 100% Sagrantino. As of the 2009 vintage the wine must be aged for at least 36 months of which at least 12 months must be in oak

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Sagrantino di Montfalco DOCG 2009 Particaia The harvest takes place the in the middle of October. There is a long maceration of at least 3 weeks. Aging of the wine is in small wooden barrels of French oak-barriques or tonneaux once the malolactic fermentation is completed. The wine is aged for a total of 36 months: 12 months in small oak barrels, 12 months in steel(this was the only wine aged is steel) vats and 12 months in the bottle.  This was the only wine aged in steel vats. It was the lightest of the wines with soft sweet tannins and a hint of vanilla.

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Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2008 Scacciadiavoli The means drive away devils)   Harvesting takes place from the middle to the end of October. Vinification takes place for 3 or 4 weeks in French oak vats and the temperature is controlled. Aging is for 16 months 1/3 in 30 HL casks and 2/3 in French barriques and in bottle for a minimum of 9 months. This is a complex, elegant wine with intense fruit, hints of red fruit, plums, spice and a touch of herbs and leather.

Liu

Liu

Liu said that they always had the same clone in the vineyard. Sagrantino is a dark and tannic wine. Liu spoke about tannin management and how this was done in the vineyard and the winery. She said that every vintage is different and therefore the tannins will be different. In order to get a balanced wine, the grapes must be picked at the right moment and maceration is according to the vintage. She said that they have a m   selection- only one clone in the vineyard.

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Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 Antonelli San Marco. The grapes are hand picked the first week of October and there is a final selection in the cellar. Vinification involves using the force of gravity because there are two levels in the cellar. During fermentation the skin is in contact with the juice for 20/30 days and then malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine clarifies spontaneously and there is no need for filtration. The wine is aged in toasted French oak barrels for 6 months and in larger oak barrels for 18 months.

Filippo  Antonelli said that they use to use chestnut woods for the barrels buy it gave to much tannin to the wine. Now they use oak from France and Germany. The wine settles in fiberglass lined cement vats for six months and another 12 months in bottle before release. The winery is certified organic.

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Filippo Antonelli

This is a rich, complex wine with hints of blackberry, cherry and citrus. Filippo said that because of the nature of the Sagrantino grape( high phenolics and anthocyanins and tannin) this wine could age for 20/30 years. When I visited Marco at the winery a few years ago I tasted a 1985 Sagrantino which was over 25 years old and was drinking very well. I also tasted a 1985 Sagrantino passito, which was also drinking very well. Marco added that the people in Montefalco are divided on when passito should be drunk at Easter — either with the lamb for dinner or with the traditional Umbrian dessert Ciaramicola.

Filippo said that 2007 and 2009 were warm vintages and in these years the wine has citrus aromas and hints of oranges and pineapple.

He told us that he wished Sagrantino month could be  in February because St Valentino came from Umbria and the Sagrantino passito is a great combination with chocolate.

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Montefalco Sagrantino Collepiano DOCG 2007 Arnaldo Caprai.  Harvest takes place the last days of September and the first week of October. After a general crushing-destemming process, there is constant pumping over performed, as Marco said, to draw color and tannins from the skins. Maceration lasts for 30 days. The wine is aged in French oak for 22 months and in bottle for at least 6 months. The wine is big, yet elegant with hints of jam, clove and a touch of vanilla. This wine seemed much less modern in style than the ones I had tasted in the past. I asked Marco if they were doing something different and he said “NO”.

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Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 Tenuta di Castebuono. Hand picking of the grapes in October.  The soil is muddy clay with a good agronomic potential and resistant to summer aridity.  There is cold pre-maceration for 30 hours in wooden barrels. The wine is aged for 12 months in tonneaux and for 16 months in large barrels. The wine has hints of blackberry and blueberry with touches of cherry and leather.

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Filed under Antonelli, Castelbuono, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Momtefalco, Perticaia, sagrantino, Scacciadiavoli

Carnevale at Restaurant SD26 NYC

I have always wanted to go to Venice for Carnevale.  It seems like such an interesting and exciting celebration, yet somehow I keep on missing it. Perhaps it is because Carnevale falls 40 days before Easter.  The date changes every year and I would need to plan ahead.  Since I did not make it again this year, I did the next best thing and Carnevale at SD26, one of New York’s best restaurants. There, Carnevale is celebrated every Sunday in March

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Masks are a big part of Carnevale and guests are given a fabulous feathered mask when they arrive.  Throughout the evening I Giullari di Piazza, a group of Neapolitan street performers led by Alessandra Belloni danced around the restaurant playing music and singing Neapolitan songs. They were dressed as characters from the Commedia del’Arte such as Pulcinella, Arlecchino and Ricciulina.  Some of the restaurant guests danced with them.  It was lively and great fun.

Since the menu consisted of foods typical of Naples we drank a red wine from Campania.

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Az. Agr. Monte de Grazie Biological Winery Rosso 2008
The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti grows almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red. This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has ageing potential. I had the 2009 with the owner of the winery, Dr. Alfonso Arpino, on the Amalfi coast last year and it may be the best wine he has made so far!

 

 

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