Category Archives: Italian White Wine

Fiorano: A visit to Azienda Agricola Boncompagni Ludovisi

Alessia Fiorano Rosso Azienda Agricola Boncompagni Ludovisi.

On a June day in Rome last year, the temperature was over 100 degrees as we waited outside the city records hall for Alessia Antinori to pick us up and take us to her winery. Not one of her father, Piero Antinori’s wineries, but to the winery of the late Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa, her grandfather.  I was finally going to see where Fiorano, my favorite red wine, was made.

When the Principe died a few years ago, he left half of the estate to his daughter, who is Piero Antinori’s wife and mother of Alessia.  She then gave her share of the estate to her three daughters.  Alessia lives in Rome and since the winery is only twenty minutes away, just across from the Ciampino Airport, Alessia took over the management of the estate.

The other half of the Boncompagni Ludovisi estate was left to a distant cousin of the Principe who has released a 2006 Fiorano Rosso with the original Fiorano label under his own name, Principe Alessandro Jacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi. He also made a white Fiorano, but is using different grapes than the original.  Alessia said that she hoped they could come to some agreement about the label without going to court.

Restored Tank

Restored Tank

As we were driving to the winery Alessia told us that she was making a number of improvements since her part of the winery was in disrepair. It fact there was not much left and Alessia has undertaken a major restoration.IMG_1915

I asked her about the vines and she said that the people who had worked for her grandfather told her that he ordered them covered with dirt but then a few years later ordered them to be uncovered. In an interview with the late Italian wine writer Luigi Veronelli, Alessias Grandfather said that he would destroy all the vines so that his son-in-law would not get them because Piero did not make wine the way he did. I guess he changed his mind.IMG_1914

Alessia said that her first vintage was going to come from the vines that were uncovered.  Later, when new vineyards are planted, there will be a massal selection of old vines.  She said that the winery was almost ready for its first harvest.  Alessia said that she and her sisters hope to continue the legacy of their grandfather and of the Estate.  This is very good news.

The 1985

The 1985

Despite the very hot day, when Alessia offered to open a bottle of the 1988 Fiorano Rosso, I could not refuse the offer. As I sipped the wine I did not think about the heat only of the well-structured, elegant and smooth wine with aromas of cherry and leather, the long finish and the wonderful lingering aftertaste. This is a great wine!

The 1995

The 1995

A few months later Alessia was in New York and came to dinner at my apartment along with her husband. She brought with her a bottle of the 1995 Fiorano Bianco and a bottle of a 2010 red, which she had made. She said that this wine will be the second wine of the Tenuta di Fiorano and a label and name had not yet been chosen.IMG_2255

 In Rome I had bought a bottle of the 2006 Firoano Rosso made by the new Principe to compare.  It was an easy-drinking wine in a modern style and did not bear any resemblance to the original Fiorano Rosso.  Alessia’s wine was a much bigger, more complex wine with good fruit, but since it was a 2010 it was difficult to judge and needs time to develop.IMG_2254

I also opened a 1994 Fiorano Rosso (made by the grandfather) and it needed at least 10 more years to be ready to drink.   I believe Alessia said that the last vintage made by her grandfather was 1995.

Next time:  the story continues with a visit to the winery in May of 2013 and the improvements Alessia has made.

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Filed under Alessia Antinori, Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Vernosa, Fiorano Bianco, Fiorano Rosso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Roma SPQR

Rome in the spring is magical.  It is my favorite time to be there. Michele and I were spending a week in Sorrento and what better way to begin and end our travels than in Rome.

ROMA

ROMA

The days were becoming warmer and longer and just walking around the city and taking in the sites was a pleasure. Looking at the official seal of Rome, SPQR meaning ‘The Senate and the People of Rome,’  always reminds me that Rome was once the most important city in the world.  We sat in the outdoor cafes on sunny mornings enjoying cappuccino and cornetti and watching the world go by. At night we would stop for a Campari and soda or a Negroni at one of the roof garden bars watching the setting sun.  But as I have said before, I love the food in Rome and the highlights of the day for me are lunch and dinner.

Here are some favorite restaurants we went to on this trip. Some we have only been to a few times, others we have been going to for over 30 years.

all'Amatriciana

all’Amatriciana

The first time I went to Il Matriciano ( 39-06-32500364) Via dei Gracchi, 55, was in 1981 and have been going back whenever I was in Rome, until two years ago.  On that trip, we sat outside and were disappointed in the service and the food.  The waiter wanted to serve us the antipasto, which included a slice of pizza, but I just wanted zucchini flowers.  He seemed to think he knew more than I about what I wanted and kept on suggesting dishes that were of no interest to me.  The menu has barely changed over the years and I always order the same things when I eat there.  It annoyed me and the experience was just not the same

We decided this year to give the restaurant another chance. On our way there, Michele said, “Let’s ask to sit inside because that is where all the Romans are.” When we arrived the owner offered us a table outside but we insisted on inside.  After moving a few tables around, we were seated. The restaurant filled up very quickly and Romans sat at every table inside.

Fragoline and Gelato

Fragoline and Gelato

Our waiter was very good considering it was a busy Sunday afternoon.  He only spoke to us in Italian which we preferred.  As usual, I ordered zucchini flowers (I cannot get enough of them) to start. These were perfectly deep fried with a small amount of mozzarella filling and more than a hint of anchovies.  I ordered the bucatini all’Amatriciana.  Along with one or two others, this is one of the classic Roman pastas. Some places serve it with rigatoni but it is not the same. Then I had abbacchio (baby lamb) roasted with potatoes. It was cooked to perfection, moist with crisp skin. For dessert I had tiny fragoline, wild strawberries, and gelato. Michele loves fragoline and orders them every chance she gets.IMG_3159

The Barbera “Latina” 2007 from Cascina Castlet went very well with the pasta and the baby lamb. The restaurant had returned to form and produced the perfect traditional Roman meal. I was very happy.

Crostini

Crostini

Last year we went to restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Salita de Crescenzi, 3906 68880 3034, for the first time and liked it so much that we decided to go again this year.  Michele made a reservation on line and when we arrived in Rome we confirmed the reservation just to make sure. This is also a traditional Roman restaurant. We ordered crostini with truffles and quail egg, bucatini all’Amatriciana and grilled lamb. Once again we had the fragoline with gelato for dessert.  Michele really likes the food here.IMG_3084

 The wine was the 2009 Montepulciano D’Abruzza, from Emidio Pepe.  At less than 40 euro, it was a real bargain in a restaurant. The wine was big but with a lot of fruit and not as tannic as I expected. I should have asked them to decant the wine. Most of my experience with this wine has been with vintages that are 25 years and older.

Carbonara

Carbonara

Roscioli Salumeria Vineria con Cucina – Via dei Giubbonari 21-22. This is not only a restaurant but also a salumeria, a shop specializing in salumi and cheese. Michele likes the restaurant because it has the best spaghetti carbonara in Rome. It can also be very creative with items like the hamburger di bufala with grilled ham and a balsamic drizzle, and the burrata e alici. This time we both ordered the carbonara. Michele is right, it was terrific.IMG_3076

 The wine was the 2008 Cerasuolo (Rosè) 100% Montepulciano d’Abuzzo from Eduardo Valentini. I believe it is Italy’s best Rosè and it was less than 40 Euro.

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci

Da Giggetto (39- 066861 105) at Portico D’Ottavia 12 A, in the Jewish ghetto. It was a chilly and cloudy afternoon in Rome as we made our way to the restaurant. We sat   inside in one of the small rooms that look onto the street.  I do not need to look at the menu because I always order the same things: fiori di zucca ripieni con mozzarella e alici (small and crunchy but very good), carciofi alla giudia  (fried artichokes) and spaghetti con vongole veraci. The clams were small and tender with just the right amount of parsley, garlic, olive oil and a hint of hot pepper. Michele had fava beans with guanciale. We have been going here for many years and have never been disappointed.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Palatium- Enoteca Regionale Via Fattina 94   39-06-6920 2132. This is a restaurant run by the region of Lazio. All of the food is typical of the region. The wine is only from the region and a real bargain as most of them are between 10 and 14 euros. There is a very large selection. The restaurant was a few doors down from our hotel on the Via Frattina and as luck would have it we went there on the night that it rained. I had cacio e pepe which is a typical Roman dish and Michele had mozzarella in carrozza, a very large toasted sandwich.IMG_3197

We drank a bottle of Lazio I.G.P “Colle DE” Poggeri”  2011 from Cantina Stefanoni 100% Roscetto (Trebbiano Giallo). The harvest took place from 10 to 15 of October. Fermentation is on the skins for about 12 hours. The must fermentation is in wooden barrels for about two months. The color was yellow with golden reflections and the wine looked like it might have oxidized. This was not the case; it was fresh, soft and well balanced with good fruit aromas and flavors.  It is a bargain at 10 euros.

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Filed under Da Giggetto, Emidio Pepe, Il Matriciano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Palatium-Entoca Regionale, Restaurant Armando al Pantheon, Restaurants Rome, Roscetto, Roscioli, Valentini

Return to Sorrento

Michele and I have always been captivated by the scenery along the Amalfi Coast and especially the views from Sorrento. We decided to return to Sorrento again this year and rent an apartment with just such a view.

The view from our terrace

The view from our terrace

We found an apartment with a terrace and a fantastic view of Mount Vesuvius and the surrounding area. The cruise ships anchored right below the apartment, and at night so did the fireworks barge.  It looked like a private fireworks display just for us.  It was quite a sight!IMG_3101

The apartment did not have WiFi so we had breakfast in the morning and drinks at night at a cafè/bar called the Square and read our e-mail.  The first night in Sorrento we went for dinner to a restaurant called ReFood. There was a big display of fresh fish at the entrance that looked very appealing, though most of the tourists in the restaurant were eating steak.  Not a great idea.

Calamari

Calamari

We went for the fish and vegetable dishes which were very good.  I ordered an Etna Bianco Superiore 2006 Pietramarina from Benanti made from 100% Caracanti.IMG_3092

I had the grilled calamari and Michele had pasta with zucchini and cheese. Michele enjoys the zucchini in Italy because the variety they grow is less watery and has more flavor than the kind grown here.

One of the reasons we like to visit Sorrento is that it is easy to take the bus or the local train to visit surrounding towns and we don’t need to rent a car. One of our favorite places to go is to Restaurant Lo Stuzzchino, a scenic half hour bus ride from Sorrento in the town of Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi.

The owner of the restaurant is Domenico (Mimmo) De Gregorio who is also the sommelier. In the kitchen are his father Paolo, his mother Filomena and his wife Dora. Often when Mimmo was calling an order into the kitchen we would hear him holler “Mamma”.  It is a true family restaurant.IMG_3103

Last time we were there he introduced me to a wine made from the Caprettone grape from the area around Mount Vesuvius.  I really liked this wine and asked if he still had any. He said he had a wine made from this grape but from a different producer. So he brought over a bottle of the 2011 Caprettone from Casa Barone.

Ravioli

Ravioli

The food at Lo Stuzzichino is excellent. I ordered the ravioli again. There were six, two filled with cows milk ricotta, two from sheep and two from goat. Each pair had its own special sauce. Michele had pasta with potatoes and provolone cheese, a typical dish of the region, which she really enjoyed.

Antico Francischiello Restaurant is about 20 minutes by bus from Sorrento. It is a lovely restaurant with a great view of Capri and excellent traditional food so we returned again this year.

Antipasto

Antipasto

There was a group of Japanese tourists in the restaurant when we arrived that were having a very good time eating ravioli followed by whole fish roasted in a salt crust.  After lunch most of them ordered tea, which was served in teapots, and there were the small traditional teacups for them to drink from. The interior of the restaurant in very elegant and it is the only restaurant in the Sorrento area to be honored as one of the Historic Restaurants of Italy.

We started with a vegetable antipasto, which we had enjoyed the last time we were here, and it was just as we remembered it. The dish that was our favorite was home made pasta with artichokes and squid, something we have never had before.IMG_3142

They have a nice wine list but they were out of a number of things because they were waiting for a delivery. The owner recommended a Fiano di Avellino “Ventidui” 2011 from Villa Araiano and it was a good choice.

We also returned to Torre del Saraceno, which is one of the most expensive restaurants in the area. The tasting menu that we ordered was 125 Euros a person but there were ten courses. My favorite course was the risotto topped with crispy seaweed.  It is a very elegant restaurant and the service is excellent. The chef Gennaro Esposito travels a lot, and in March we saw him outside SD26 in NYC where he was doing a special dinner.IMG_3132

The wine I ordered was the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 2006 Villa Bucci. 100% Verdicchio from vines which are 40 or 50 years old. This is a great white wine that I do not drink or write about often enough. It is aged for at least 1-1/2 years in Slavonian oak casks of 50 and 70 HL, very unusual for a white wine, plus in bottle for one year before release. It is very complex and elegant with hints of hazelnuts and honey and a touch of spice.IMG_3150

In Sorrento on the last day we returned to Restaurant Basilica. We sat outside in a corner table in the shade. I started with marinated white anchovies followed by pasta with scampi and tomatoes. Michele ordered mozzarella di bufala and said it was excellent. It looked so good that I had to order it, too.  It was delicious.IMG_3148

They had the 2004 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini, 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This is one of my favorite white wines and it was about $55, less than retail in NY so I had to drink it. The waiter could not get the cork out of the bottle so he had to push it in.  Then he decanted the wine so there was no way to chill it.  We drank it at room temperature and I enjoyed it so much that I will never chill this wine again.

 

 

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Filed under anchovies, Antica Francischiello, Basilica restaurant, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lo Stuzzichino- Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Restaurant REfood, Sorrento, Torre del Saraceno, Villa Bucci

Tasting Sagrantino di Montefalco

I’ve said this before and will say it again — Sagrantino di Montefalco is one of the great wines of Italy.  As a grape it ranks right up there with Nebbiolo, Aglianico and Sangiovese.

Sagrantino a is big complex wine with a very dark color, rich red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of spice, leather and prune, good acidity and a long finish.  It is a wine that can age for many years.  For more information on Sagrantino see http://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/part-ii-sagrantino-di-montefalcotasting-the-wine/

Sagrantino originally was a passito or sweet wine.  A little over 40 years ago they also began to make a dry version. Sagrantino in both its forms is not very well know in the U.S so whenever I have the opportunity I like to write about the wine.  They are a good buy as most of them are around $40 a bottle.

The Wine Media Guild had a tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant featuring the wines from Montefalco in Umbria.

The speakers were Guido Guardigili of Perticaia, Peter Heiborn of Tenuta Bellafonte and Marco Caprai of Arnaldo Caprai.

Here are the Sagrantinos that were at the event along with one white wine, which I really liked.

IMG_2859

Trebbiano Spoletino 2011 Perticaia 100% Trebbiano Spoletino. Harvest takes place the third week of October. A soft pressing of the grapes takes place under inert gas. Cold static clarification  of the clear must in stainless steel tanks and the wine rests for 6 months on the fine lees. I visited this winery a few years ago and Mr Guardigli did a tasting of this wine with some local cheeses and it was a great combination. $24

Sagrantino 2007 Perticaia  The harvest takes place in the second week of October. Maceration is for at least 3 weeks with temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging is in small French oak barrels – barriques or tonneaux –  for 12 months until the malolactic fermentation has been completed, then 12 more months in vats followed by 12 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, a touch of prune and a hint of cherry, $48IMG_2873

Sagrantino 2008 Romanelli the vineyards are at 350 meters, the soil is silt-clay and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. After the grapes are hand harvested they are destemmed and lightly pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation with frequent pumping over and maceration lasts for 45 to 60 days. After racking, the wine is aged in French wood barrels ranging in size from 225 liters to 2,500 liters. The wine is filtered before being bottled and remains in the bottle for 10 months before release.

Sagrantino di Montefalco “Collepiano” 2007 Arnaldo Caprai.   Made from 100% Sagrantino from the Collepiano vineyard at 200-300 meters above sea level. The soil is clay-calcareous and there are 6,000 vines per hectare. The training system is cordone speronato and the harvest takes place from the third week in September to the beginning of October. The wine spends 24-26 months in French oak barriques; Marco said that some of the barriques were second passage. It is kept in bottle for a minimum of 6 months before release. This is a big modern style Sagrantino and the most expensive of the tasting. It has concentrated red fruit aromas and flavors and undertones of oak and vanilla. $60IMG_2863

Sagrantino 2008 Tenuta Bellafonte This is their first vintage and their vineyards are 12 years old and are 260 to 320 meters above sea level. The training is cordone speronato and there are 5,500 plants per hectare. Mr. Heilborn explained that the grapes are not crushed, only destemmed, and are put into vats where they start to ferment without any additional yeast. Maceration takes place through the pressure on the peels and lasts about two weeks. When asked if anyone else does this for Sagrantino his answer was “no”. After the wine rests for a few weeks and is decanted a few times and is aged in Slavonian oak barrels of not less than 30 hectoliters. The malolactic fermentation takes place naturally, activated only by the cellar temperature. The wine is checked and decanted as needed for the 40 months that it remains in the oak barrels. He added that the wine is bottled without filtration and any deposits at the bottom of the bottle are an indication of the guarantee of such production choices.

Sagrantino 2007 Antonelli  Harvest begins in the second week of October, with hand picked grapes placed into boxes and then a final sorting.
Vinification is by gravity with fermented on the skins for 15-20 days at a temperature of 25 degrees; followed by malolactic fermentation. Clarification is spontaneously without filtration. Aging  in 500-liter oak barrels lightly roasted for 6 months, then in 25 hl oak barrels for 12 months; assembly and clarification takes place in cement tanks for 3 months and the wine remains in the bottle for at least 12 months before release. This is a complex and elegant wine with hints of blackberry and plum with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. I visited this winery when I was in Montefalco a few years. They make excellent wines and the highlight of the visit was a 1985 Sagrantino that was 25 years old at the time. The wine was drinking very well and it proves that Sagrantino can age. $38

Sagrantino 2006 Tenuta Castelbuono- -How can I not love this winery when they say “The decision to use large barrels over small barriques was crucial to the creation of a wine with such a long aging potential”? There are 6,250 vines per hectare and the training is spurred cordon. There is a cold pre maceration for 30 hours in wood barrels. Skin contact is for 15 to 20 days and the wine is aged 12 months in large barrels and 12 months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with aromas and flavors of blackberries and blueberries and a hint of leather. $37IMG_2869

Sagrantino 2007 Scacciadiavoli (Drive away devils) 2007 The vineyards are at 900 feet with a south/southwest exposure and the training system is spurred cordon. There are 2,300 vines per hectare.   Harvest takes place at the end of October. The wine is aged in different sized oak barrels: used barriques, tonneaux, and 30HL barrels for 16 months. The wine from each different type of barrels is blended together to make the final blend. It is aged in bottle for 9 months before release. $39IMG_2862

Sagrantinio 2008 Le Cimate The 19 hectare vineyard is at 360 meters with a south/southeast exposure. The soil is clay moderately calcareous with 4,400 plants per hectare. After the grapes are crushed and destemmed the skins are macerated for 20 days with three pumpovers each day. Aging is for 36 months of which 8 are in barriques and 4 in large barrels. The wine is filtered and put in bottles for 6 months before release. $NVIMG_2861

Sagrantino  2008 Colle del Saraceno –Az. Agr. Franceseco Botti This may be the oldest winery in Montefalco producing Sagrantino. It is a very traditional winery. The vineyards have a southern exposure. The wine has  an aromas of dried fruit with hints of prune and spice and a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $NV

Sagrantino Passito 2008 Colle Del Saraceno-Az. Agr. di Francesco Botti. There is a long period of natural air drying of the grapes. This is a big rich wine with flavors and aromas of blackberry, cinnamon and dried fruit– it was almost liquor-like. $NVIMG_2875

Sagrantino Passito 2008 Cantina Colle Ciocco the harvest takes place at the end of September. This wine is produced from select Sagrantino grapes left to wither on the vine for over 3 months and the yield is very limited. After several rackings the wine is aged for one year in 5HL oak barrels. This is a wine with intense aromas and flavors of blackberries, dried cherries and a hint of spice. It is a dessert wine but I have been told that at Easter in Montefalco they drink it with lamb. $NV

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Filed under Antonelli, Arnaldo Caprai winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Perticaia, sagrantino, Sagrantino passito, Scacciadiavoli, Tenuta Bellafonte, Umbria

With A Little Help From My Friends

The Westchester Italian Cultural Center is located in Tuckahoe about a half hour by train from Grand Central. The center preserves, promotes and celebrates the rich heritage of classical and contemporary Italian culture by encouraging an appreciation of the Italian language, arts and letters, history, cuisine and commerce through educational programs, exhibits and events.  Patrizia Calce, the director of events for the center, asked me if I would do a wine and food tasting for members and their guests featuring Wines and Foods of Northern Italy.   IMG_2809 I was more than happy to do so but I explained to Patrizia that I would need a little help from my friends.  The first one I called was Gary Grunner of Grapes on the Go, a wine importing company.  Gary said he would donate the wines of Tenuta Santa Maria in Pieve in the Veneto and would also attend the event to say a few words about the winery.  Gary then asked Douglas Giachino of Vinvino wines if he would supply the wines of Andrea Oberto from La Morra in Piedmont.  Vinvino also distributes the wine of Tenuta Santa Maria della Pieve for Gary and Giachino agreed to help, too.

Last but not least I asked Louis Coluccio of A.L.C. Italian Grocery in Bay Ridge Brooklyn to supply the food.
Louis replied “Just tell me what you need.”  A.L.C. sells both top quality imported Italian food products and prepared foods to take away.  It is the closest I have come to an Italian food shopping experience in the New York area. IMG_2820
With so much cooperation and great wine and food lined up, the tasting at the WICC was a sure success.  Over 40 members and guests attended.

The Wines
Prosecco NV 100% Gela-formerly known as Prosecco, Luccio.  The grapes come from the rolling hills of the Veneto countryside just north of Venice and are harvested by hand. A soft pressing occurs and the juice is placed in stainless steel tanks. Before the primary fermentation process is concluded, the wine is run into a pressurized tank where a secondary fermentation takes place allowing it to become a sparkling wine.IMG_2812Soave “Lepia” 2010 IGT made from 100% Garganega Veronese. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve The soil is clay with calcareous-marly subsoil. The training system is the pergoletta, and there are 3,800 vines per hectare. The grapes are harvested in September at different times of ripening and crushed separately, with cold pre-fermentation skin contact. The grapes are gently pressed and fermented. The wine is blended in January and racked in stainless steel tanks with the thin lees. Then there is a short bottle refinement. The wine has flavors and aromas of pears and peaches with a hint of almonds and nice minerality. I like this Soave because it reflects the indigenous grape and the terroir. $22IMG_2813Gavi “IL Mandorlo”  2011 Tenuta San Pietro 100% Cortese.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. Soil is limestone-clayey with a good mineral content and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The grapes are hand harvested in the middle of September. Soft crushing is followed by fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using natural yeast from the cellar. This is a well-balanced wine with floral hints, fresh fruit aromas and flavors and good acidity.  $16IMG_2816
Dolcetto d’Alba 2010 Andrea Oberto-La Morra, Piedmont
There are 4,500 plants per hectare, the soil is clayey and calcareous and the exposure is southwest. The training system is Guyot with short trimming. There is manual harvesting of the slightly overripe grapes in 20-kg perforated crates through a careful selection of the bunches. The grapes are transferred into the cellar where they are crushed and destemmed within hours.
A short cryo-maceration and thermo-controlled fermentation takes place at around 30 °C, and soft pumpovers  are frequent. There is a short maceration of the marc, about 100 hours. Racking takes place in stainless steel vats, where the must is thermo-controlled. In the vats the alcoholic fermentation comes to an end and the natural malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged for 8 months in stainless steel vats. $18IMG_2815Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 DOC Andrea Oberto 100% Nebbiolo
There are 4,000 vines per hectare. Vinification is the same as above except that the juice is in contact with the skins for 200 hours. Aging is for six months part in stainless steel and part in wooden casks. $22IMG_2814
Barolo 2008 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo Andrea Oberto Long maceration of the marc about 300 hours and racking in wood casks, where the natural malolactic fermentation takes place
Aging for 24 months in oak casks and 2 months in stainless steel vats and 6months in bottle before release. $45IMG_2818
Valpolicella Ripasso 2009 DOC made from 75% Corvina, !0% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve. The vineyards are located on clay hills with calcareous layers. The training system is the pergoletta, there are 5,600 vines per hectare and the harvest is by hand at the end of September. In the middle of October when the grapes have reached their optimal maturation and sugar level, they are pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless tanks for 25/30 days with daily pump over. The wine is later macerated and fermented a second time on the skins and raisins of the grapes used for Amarone, which are still rich in sugar.  This is followed by 24 months of aging in tonneaux and barriques where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged for 6 months in bottle before release. $35
Gary said that a new law was passed that limited the production of the Ripasso wines. For every bottle of Amarone produced they are only allowed to produce two bottles of the Ripasso.

IMG_2817Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 2007 made from 75% Corvina, 10% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve  The training system is the pergoletta and there are 5,600 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in wooden trays inside rooms with well-circulated air for 4/5 months. In the middle of January after reaching their desired sugar content and losing 25%/30% of their weight, the almost raisin like grapes are pressed and fermented for 25/30 days at controlled temperatures with daily pumping over. After a period of decantation and refining in French barriques and Italian oak tonneaux, malolactic fermentation takes place. After 48 months the wine is bottled and remains for 6 months before release. It is a complex and elegant wine with hints of dried cherries, prunes and spice. The finish is very long and there is a lingering aftertaste. $90

Contact the Vinvino Wine Company- 212-463-7880 to find the retail store near you that sells these wines.

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Filed under A.L.C. Italian Grocery, Amaro, Amarone, Andrea Oberto winery, Barolo, Dolcetto, Grapes on the GO, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Ripasso, Soave, Tenuta San Pietro, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve, Vinvino Wines, Westchester Italian Cultural Center

From Rome to Williamsburg, Brooklyn


When in Rome last June, Michele and I enjoyed lunch at Pier Luigi, a favorite restaurant for fish.  After our meal, we got into a conversation with Lorenzo Lisi, an owner, who said that he and his partners were going to open a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which they found similar to the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.  The new place would be a version of Antica Pesa, one of the oldest restaurants in Rome, known for its classic Roman cooking.

I love the food in all 20 regions of Italy, but as I have often said, if I were a rich man I would live in Rome.  One of the main reasons is the food.

Williamsburg seems like a big trip across the river, but in reality, it took us less than a half hour to get to Antica Pesa from our Manhattan apartment.  When we entered Lorenzo Panella, the general manager, greeted us.  Since it was a cold night, he graciously seated us in front of the fireplace until our other guests arrived

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Fried Calamari

At the table, we ordered the tasting menu.  The highlights included perfectly fried calamari, marinated skate with sauteed escarole, linguine cacio and pepe, schiaffoni all’ amatriciana (a pasta resembling rigatoni, though I would have preferred it with bucatini) and a very tasty lamb crop.IMG_2807We brought our own wines and the corkage fee here is $25 per bottle.  The beverage director, Gabriele Guidoni, is a true sommelier and before long we were having a discussion about Italian wine.

The WinesIMG_2797
Langhe Bianco Nascetta- Anas- Cetta DOC 2010 Elvio Cogno.
Made from the Nascetta grape (autochthonous Novello Bianco). This grape is of Mediterranean origin and might have originated in Sardinia. Cogno first produced the wine in 1994 and there are records of it going back to the 19th Century.  He is one of the few that make it now.  The Nascetta vineyards are at 350 meters and the 4,000 vines per hectare are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Harvesting is at the end of September. The wine is vinified in 70% stainless steel and 30% in barriques. It is aged 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in barriques and is 180 days on the lees. After 3 months of bottle age it is released.
I visited this winery a few years ago and Valter Fissore,  Elvio Cogno’s son-in law and the wine maker, said that it has a mineral character but when it ages, it resembles Riesling! It is a very elegant wine with good fruit, a long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_2803

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 100% DOC 2005, Edoardo Valentini.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe.
The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.
In one of her books, Jancis Robinson says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was a special clone of Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Both the importer and Edoardo’s son, Francesco say it is Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo.IMG_2804

Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 1979 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks and lightly filtered before bottling. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black cherry and a touch of leather and spice with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, Note: this was NOT the Vigna Monticchio but the regular Rubesco which made it even more impressive!IMG_2805

Barbaresco Campo Cros Martinenga 1982, 100 % Nebbiolo Tenuta Cisa Aisnari dei Marchesi di Gresey.
In his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines Wasserman describes the wine as: “Tobacco and cherries on aroma; full of flavor, extremely well balanced; long finish the best Martinegna to date.” This is his note from 1985; I tasted the wine with him a few years later and was very impressed. 30 years later his description still stands and  the wine is at its peak. Wasserman also says that the 1982 was almost perfect and gives the vintage four stars, his highest rating. He gives the wine three stars with a possible four. After drinking it with dinner I give it the extra star, too.IMG_2806

Amarone 1961 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the Guyot  method with 5.000 vines/ha.
Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.
Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1961, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it was racked twice annually prior to bottling.
Dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice.  The wine was showing its age. 1961 was a very good vintage for Amarone.

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Filed under Amarone, Antica Pesa Restaurant. Brooklyn, Bertani, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Marchesi di Gresey, Mrchesi di resey, Nascetta, Rubesco, Umbria, Valentini, Valter Fissore

Surprising White Grapes From Campania

I have always been of the opinion that the most interesting and unique white wine grapes in Southern Italy come from Campania.  Some of these grapes (Asprinio) make wines that should be drunk young, while others make wine (Fiano di Avellino) that can last for 20 years of more.

Many of these grapes originated with the Ancient Greeks who colonized Southern Italy during the period known as Magna Grecia. They referred to Southern Italy as Enotria – the land of wines.  In his book, Vino,(1980) Burton Anderson says, “What the Greeks called Entoria, at least in the beginning, was part of the Salento Peninsula where the Enotri people dwelled… the Greeks noted that their native vines fared so well in Southern Italy that they referred to their colonies collectively as Enotria.”

Grilled Baby Octopus

Grilled Baby Octopus

I was asked by Franco Bengazi of the Wine Emporium to invite a few journalists to a tasting of his wines from Campania. The tasting and lunch was held at SD26 and the menu was based on the food of Campania. The speaker was Marco Melzi, a representative of the Wine Emporium, whose passion for Italian wine is matched by his knowledge of the subject.  Here are the four white wines that were served.

Az. Agr. I Borboni Asprinio Spumante NV. 100% Asprinio d’Aversa. $20  Produced in the Aversa and Giuliano zones from sandy soil mostly of IMG_2646volcanic origin where philloxyera could not survive. The vineyards are at 80 meters. Hand harvesting takes place the first week of September and temperature controlled fermentation lasts for 15 days.  Aged in stainless steel for 4 months. The foam stability time is 60 days in an autoclave (Charmat method). It remains in the bottle for 30 days before release. This is a sparkling wine with good bubbles nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of lemon and a slight touch of bitter almond in the aftertaste. It was almost impossible to find Asprinio in this county 10 years ago.  Today it is not impossible just difficult but worth the effort.  It is a good food wine.  There is also a non-sparkling version of Asprinio.

Asprinio is a grape whose origin in unknown but it is grown almost exclusively in the area around the town of Aversa in the province of Caserta north of Naples.  There are only 250 acres under cultivation. The name may come from the Latin asper (tart, bitter) and it can have a sharp lemon tinge to it and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The training system for the vines is know as Alberata Aversana, which may be traced back to the ancient Etruscans. In this method the vines can climb to a height of 15 to 20 feet or more attaching itself to nearby trees. One plant could produce over 200 pounds of fruit. Today only about one half of the growers use the Aberata Aversana method.
There is also a non-sparkling version of Asprinio that is also very good.

Marco said that this was the original sparkler of the King of Naples, born out of a desire to be no less than their French relatives. It was the wine of choice in Naples until the 1950’s.

Burton Anderson in his book Vino says the following about Asprinio (Asprino), “The habitual wine of the city (Naples) used to be Asprino. The vines were supposedly brought from Champagne during one of the French dominations. By the 1980’s good Asprinio was difficult to find even in Naples.” He also says that Asprinio is or was then grown in Basilicata. “ … in fact all of the Asprino of Basilicata winds up in Naples.”

Linguine di Gragnano with Clans, Grape Tomatoes and Parsley

Linguine di Gragnano with Clans, Grape Tomatoes and Parsley

Az.Agr. Apicella Costa Di Amalfi Bianco 2011. $17
Made from 60% Bianca Zita and 40% Biancolella in Tramonti. The exposure of the vineyard is mostly southwest and they are at 300-400 meters. The training system for the newer vineyards is the espalier/guyot with 4,000 – 5,000 vines/hectare.  For the older vineyards it is the traditional pergola (tendone method) with 2,500 vines per/hectare.  Harvesting is by hand the second half of October with a careful selection. The must is left to settle by a static cold system and selected yeast is injected into the must. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 20/30 days. The wine remains on the lees 4/5 months.  The wine had a deep yellow straw color with nice fruit, hints of honey and oil, good acidity, slightly bitter with a long after taste. This is an old style wine, which can go with seafood in a tomato sauce and works well with salami and cheeses. I really enjoyed it.  Marco said they were the first winery to bottle wine in Tramonti.

Biancolella as know as Bianca Tenera because of its thin skin.  It is best known as a grape used in wines produced on the Island of Ischia. It grows best in volcanic soil alone the maritime coast. It is grown along the coast north and south of the city of Naples. It is mostly used as a blending grape.

Marco said that Bianca Zita was a local name for Falanghina. IMG_2650

Az Agr. Orazio Rillo “Fontanavecchia” Falanghina Taburno 2011. $16  Made from 100% Falanghina in the Benevento region of Campania.  The grapes are hand picked and put into little baskets. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel and the wine is aged in stainless steel.

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 know 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.”

Falanghina today is very popular in Rome and more and more good examples are coming into this country. IMG_2648

Cantina Dei Monaci Fiano Di Avellino 2011 100% Fiano di Avellino. $18 Fermentation and aging is in stainless steel. Fiano has small thick-skinned berries. This is a complex wine with overtones of honey and hazelnut and floral hints.
I quote again from Belfrage, “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…that 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 Avelliano now called Lapia.”

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Filed under Asprinio d'Aversa, Biancolella, campania, Costa Di Amalfi, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Sparkling wine, Spumante

A Pleasant Surprise!


It was a cold wet afternoon as I made my way uptown to Felice 64, a wine bar on 1st Avenue and 64th Street, to have lunch and taste wines.  Since I was not familiar with the restaurant or the wines, I was not sure what to expect.
I am happy to report that it was a pleasure.  The wines were from the Colline Lucchesi, a zone I am not very familiar with and the wine bar and the food reminded me of Italy.

Jacopo Giustiniani

Jacopo Giustiniani

Jacopo Giustiniani, the owner of the Felice 64 greeted me, and told me something about himself.  He said that he came to the US in 2007 and went to work at Sant’Ambroeus, a restaurant and café owned by his uncle. After six months there he decided to open a wine bar and now he has three of them.  He also own Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani in the Colline Lucchesi along with his brother Matteo who is the wine maker.

Jacopo said that Colline Lucchesi is a small zone and there are only ten producers.  Farroria Sardi Giustiniani is the largest producer and they make only 60,000 bottles a year.  They have between 12 and15 hectares in vines.
I asked a question about one of the wines and Jacopo was not sure of the answer so he called his brother at the winery outside Lucca a got the answer.

The Wines of Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani

Jacopo believes that the Colline Lucchesi is the perfect place in Tuscany to make white wine. It is in the northwest part of Tuscany between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apennine mountains. They get the benefit of the warm sea breezes and the mountains protect them from the cold and winds from the north. The soil and the climate give the wine good acidity and minerality, while the big difference in day/night temperature gives the wine its aromatic flavors.  He said that the winery was using sustainable agricultural methods now and it will become organic in a year.

With the white wines he suggested I try the Tartare di Salmone – diced raw salmon, lemon, avocado and mesclun. It was very good.IMG_2406
Vermentino 2011 Colline Lucchesi D.O.C. Fattoria Sardi 100% Vermentino. The vines here are 25 years old. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures and the wine matures for four months on the lees. There is no malolactic fermentation. This is a light, fresh wine with good acidity and hints of herbs, grass, grapefruit and nice minerality. It is a very good food wine.IMG_2404
Jacopo said that they have a different clone of Vermentino than they have in Sardinia or Liguria. He feels that their clone produces a Vermentino which is elegant, lighter and more aromatic.  IMG_2405
Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Colline Lucchesi D.O.C. Fattoria Sardi. 100% Sauvignon Blanc.  The grapes are from three different vineyards. The wine is fermented in second passage barriques and is matured on the lees for six months. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine spends six months in barriques, 50% new and 50% second passage.  The wine has aromas and flavors of herbs and grass with a hint of peach in the finish and aftertaste.IMG_2407

Felice Sardi Bianco 2011 “Saint Ambroeus” 2011 Colline Lucchesi. D.O.C. made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Grechetto.  Fermention and malolactic fermentation take place in French oak barrels as the wine is aged on the lees for 6 months. The wine is aged first in barriques and then in stainless steel.

The Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Grechetto come from a
2 hectare vineyard, which they rent.

Felice is the name of Jacopo’s grandfather on his mother’s side. It also means “happy” in Italian.  “Felice” is a private label and is only sold in Jacopo’s restaurants and Casa Lever restaurant. Both the red and the white are very good restaurant wines.

With the red wines he suggested Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, fresh pasta ribbons with a veal ragu. It was perfectly cooked and the ragu reminded me of Italy.IMG_2411
Jacopo said that they use a number of French grape varieties because they have been in the Lucca area for over 200 years. These grapes came here in 1805 when Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi ruled there as Queen of Etruria.IMG_2408Villa Sardi Rosso 2010 Colline Lucchese D.O.C  80% Sangiovese 5% Canaiolo 5% Colorino and 5% Moscato Nero di Lucca. Part of the wine is aged for 8 months in 20HL oak barrels and the remainder in cement tanks. The wine is aged for 4 months in barrel and then released. This is a fresh light wine with nice fresh fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, strawberry and a touch of pepper. This is a very good food wine.IMG_2412Fattoria Sardi Rosso 2010 Costa Toscana IGT made from 50% Colorino, 40% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. IMG_2413Felice Rosso “Sant’Ambroeus” 2009 Colline Lucchesi D.O.C. 60% Sangiovese and 40% Merlot. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques and six months in bottle before release.

Merlot “Sebastiano” Colline Lucchesi D.O.C.2010 85%, Merlot 5% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.  Fermentation is in cement tanks for about 20 days. The grapes come from the “Virgin Mary” vineyards and the vines are 30 years old. The exposure is south/southwest. It is aged in French tonneaux oak barrels for 18 months. This is a full-bodied wine with aromas and flavors of red and black berries and a hint of spice. The wine can be enjoyed now but it will age very well.
Sebastiano was the name of Jacopo’s grandfather on his father’s side.

The “Sebastiano ” is $30 all of the others are about $14 which makes them a good value for the money.

Jacapo said that they also make a Rosè like the French do in Provence, which is very popular here and in Italy. He would have liked me to taste it but it was sold out.

 

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Filed under Colline Lucchesi, Fattoria Sardi, Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani, Felice restaurant, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Jacopo Giustiniani, Villa Sardi

Umbria Comes to NYC

Mayor Bloomberg issues an Official Proclamation declaring November “ I Love Umbria Month” in New York City. There were events taking place in Eataly and Di Palo Fine foods among others. As I walked toward Eataly to attend a tasting of Umbrian wines, I could not help but think of the two major storms that we had endured in just one week:  the first was Hurricane Sandy and on this day it was a nor’easter bringing high winds, rain and snow.  Madison Square Park was closed as it had been during the hurricane and as I made my way across Fifth Avenue, I could only hope that the storm would not be as bad.

Porchetta for lunch


Only 4 of the 7 wines had made it to Eataly because of the hurricane but that was the least of the problems that Sandy had caused.Dan Amatuzzi, Beverage Director of Eataly, and Marco Caprai from the Arnaldo Caprai winery were the day’s speakers.  Mr. Amatuzzi spoke about Umbria and its wines in general and Mr. Caprai spoke mostly about Sagrantino.

The Wines

Bianco di Torgiano “Costelllato” DOC 2011 Terre Margaritelli made from Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Grechetto and Fiano. The winery is located on a hill called Miralduolo between Perugia and Assisi, the vineyards are 200-250 meters above see level, with clay soil and there are 4,000 to 5,000 vines per hectare. The wine is aged for a short time in French oak barrels from the Bertrange Forest in the Nevers region.  With Chablis to the northeast and Sancerre to the southwest, this is one of the most highly regarded forests in France since the variety of oak (Quercus Petraea) has a very dense grain.

The wine is well-structured with aromas of apple, dried fruit, herbs, and a touch of hazelnut. There is a nice aftertaste with a hint of almond.  Bianco di Torgiano is not seen very often in this country. Todi Sangiovese  “Belforte” DOC 2010 Cantina Tudernum made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot. The Cantina is located on the slope of Todi’s hills along the ancient Strada Tiberina. There are 3,300 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week in October. It is aged for 6 months in barrels of durmast oak (Quercus Petraea) and then additional aging in bottle prior to release. This is a recent DOC. It is a fruity, easy-drinking wine with fresh  aromas and flavors with hints of raspberry and cassis.Sagrantino di Montefalco “Collepiano” 2005 DOCG Arnaldo Caprai. Made from 100% Sagrantino from the Collepiano vineyard at 200-300 meters above sea level. The soil is clay-calcareous and there are 6,000 vines per hectare. The training system is Cordone Speronato and the harvest takes place from the third week in September to the beginning of October. The wine spends 24-26 months in French oak barriques; Marco said that some of the barriques were second passage. It is kept in bottle for a minimum of 6 months before release. This is a big modern style Sagrantino with concentrated red fruit aromas and flavors and undertones of vanilla.

Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito DOCG 2005 Tenuta Rocca di Fabbri made from 100% Sagrantino. The estate is on the rolling hill to the east of the Montefalco appellation. All the grapes are grown on the estate and the exposure is south-southeast. The harvest takes place at the end of October when the grapes are very ripe. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine is aged in oak barrels and then in bottle before release. The wine is bottled 32 months after the harvest. This is a full-bodied dessert wine with aromas and flavors of red berries and dried fruit. This wine for a passito also goes well with food and in Umbria they drink it with lamb on Easter Sunday.

The wines that did not make it to the tasting because of Sandy were:
Trebbiano Spoletino IGT 2011, Perticaia. This is a producer I know and have visited and like his wines but I have not tasted this particular wine.

Rosso di Torgiano “Rubesco” 2007 Giorgio Lungarotti. I have been drinking this wine since I visited the winery many years ago and consider it one of the best Italian red wines for the money.

Sargantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 Tabarrini Giampaolo. I do not know this producer.

Monini olive oil from Umbria was also served. It is a mild olive oil with a nutty, buttery flavor and low in acidity.

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Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Olive oli, sagrantino

The Legends of Italian Wine

Istituto del Vino di Qualitá /grandi marchi (The Institute of Fine Italian Wines/Premium Brands) is a group of 19 of Italy’s top wine producers that have joined together on marketing activities to improve both the image of Italian wine and to promote the member wineries. The members include Alois Lageder, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari, Tenute Antinori, Argiolas, Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo, Ca’ del Bosco, Carpenè Malvolti, Donnafugata, Gaja, Jermann, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca d’Almerita, Tenuta San Guido and Umani Ronchi. The President is the Marchese Piero Antinori.
All of the producers are older well-established wineries that are family owned. It is very unusual to get Italians to agree on anything so to have so many producers from different regions cooperate like this is even more unusual.

Their first event in NYC, “The Legends of Italian Wine,” was held at the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave.  17 of the 19 producers were  at the event (only Gaja and Tenuta San Guido were missing) and there were wines from ten of the Italian regions.

As I tasted the wines, I felt that there was a movement away from the over extracted oaky wines of the past few years. Even those producers that make wines of this type spoke about terroir and using less new oak. There were only two wines that were a little too international in style for me, but they were not over the top.

Listed below are six wines, which I felt were particularly interesting:

Pinot Grigio “Porer” Alto Adige DOC 2011 Alois Lageder 100% Pinot Grigio. (Alto Adige) Fermentation and aging on the lees in stainless steel tanks and the wine is matured in stainless steel tanks and large oak casks. Clemens Lageder, representing the winery, said that the vineyard faces east and gets the morning sun. He feels that because of this the resulting wine has a touch of smoke and good acidity. This is an elegant Pinot Grigio with a lot of body.  It is soft and creamy with a long finish and nice aftertaste. $25

IL Falcone Castello Del Monte Riserva DOC 2006 Rivera Made from 70% Nero di Troia and 30% Montepulciano. (Puglia).   The harvest is in the middle of October, with the older vineyard of Nero di Troia sometimes picked the first week of November. Maceration and color extraction are carried out in stainless steel tanks for 12/14 days with frequent pump-overs and delestage.  Sebastiano Decorato, the sales director and a member of the family that owns the winery said that this is done to obtain better extraction and soften the tannins. The wine is aged for 12/14 months in 225-liter French oak barriques of various ages. The wine is filtered but not cold stabilized and released after one year of bottle aging. This is a wine that should get more attention. I have been drinking it for a number of years and it never disappoints. $30

Taurasi “Radici” DOCG 2006 100% Aglianico Mastroberardino SPA. (Campania) Piero Mastroberardino said that the vineyards were 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 in 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. This is full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a touch of leather.

There was a dinner the night of the tasting and I was sat with Piero. He said that a few people said that his wine should be more concentrated. I could not believe this!.  This is a great wine, a unique wine the can last for 40 years or more. I have the 1989 1995,1997 and 1999 vintages of this wine. Piero said, to my relief, that he would not change anything. $65  

RubescoVigna Monticchio” Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2006 Cantina Giorgio Lungarotti SRL (Umbria) 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The Monticchio vineyard is the Brufa hill is near the town of Torgiano. Giorgio Lungarotti said that this vineyard is at 300 meters and the soil is mostly clay. He feels that this is a unique vineyard, which gives the wine its unique character. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 15/20 days of maceration on the skins. Aging is in oak barriques and barrels for about 12 months and following a light filtering it remains in the bottle for four years before it is released. This is an elegant wine with red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of cherry, tobacco and spice. The 2006 is the current vintage.  I have been drinking this wine since 1981 when I first visited the winery in Torgiano and drank the 1973 vintage. The wine was granted its own DOCG in 1990. The Rubesco Riserva is a wine that can age for 30 years. $55

Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Greppo DOCG 2007 Franco Biondi Santi. (Tuscany) 100% Sangiovese Grosso-BBS11 clone. The BBS11 is a very special clone that goes back to the beginning of Brunello.  Bondi Santi is the only producer that has it.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place in concrete vats. The wine is aged for 3 years in Slovenian oak barrels and released into the market after five years from the harvest. This is a legendary wine that can last for over 100 years. They still have the 1888 and 1891 at the winery and they are still in good condition. $150

Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva  “Di Costasera” DOCC 2007 Masi Agricola SPA (Veneto) made from 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta and 5% Molinara. The hillside vineyards face southwest. At the end of September/beginning of October the best bunches are picked and laid out in on traditional bamboo racks (arele) in special lifts where the natural drying process (appassimento) is controlled by the NASA system. By the middle of September the grapes have lost about 40% of their weight and have a great concentration of sugar. Only the Corvina grape is subject to slight touch of botrytis (noble rot). The Oseleta grape gives greater tannic structure and deeper color to the wine after drying. The grapes are gently pressed after partial destalking and are fermented for 45 days in large Slovenian oak barrels or in stainless steel vats at cellar temperature. The malolactic fermentation takes place in 38/40-hectoliter barrels for 35 days induced by the inoculation of selected yeasts highly resistant to alcohol. The wine is aged in 600 liter Slovenian and Allier oak casks-1/3 new, 1/3-second passage and 1/3 third passage. The wine is aged in bottle for six months before release. This is a big full wine, with aromas of ripe fruit, jam and a hint of balsamic. On the palate it is smooth and rich with a long finish and great aftertaste. $85

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