Category Archives: Italian White 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

Donnachiara at The Leopard at des Artistes

Along with 6 other journalists I was invited by Ilaria Petitto to the Leopard at  des Artistes for a Donnachiara Campania Wine Workshop.  Ilaria is the 5th generation female to run the estate and is in charge of all operations.

Ilaria Petitto

Ilaria Petitto

The workshop was held in the restaurant’s cozy private dining room.  We tasted and drank the wines of Donnachiara and discussed the region of Campania and its wine.  We spoke about what people think when the hear Campania:  the Amalfi Coast, Naples, Pizza, Wine, etc., were cited.  It was the consensus that Campania produces the best white wine in Southern Italy and certainly has the most interesting white grape varieties. The importance of the Aglianico grape and Taurasi was also discussed.

Iliara then told us about the wines that she had chosen to match with the menu.

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Falanghina Beneventano Santè Brut IGT 100% Falanghina.  Ilaria said that the vineyard is in Torre Cuso, the best location to grow Falanghina.  The soil is volcanic chalky clay.  There are 2,500 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of October.  Fermentation lasts for 40 days. Illaria referred to the production method used as the Martinotti method for sparkling wine (The Charmat method, as it is more popularly known, was invented by Federico Martinotti in Asti in the 1920’s).  Refermentation takes place at low temperatures in autoclaves for about 6 months. Then the wine matures on the dregs for another 2 months. The wine had very good bubbles; it was fresh, delicate with floral and citrus aromas and flavors. It was the perfect wine for the appetizers which were very much in the tradition of Campania.

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Falanghina Beneventano 2012 DOC 100% Falanghina the vineyard is the Torre Cuso, the best location for Falanghina. The soil is Volcanic, chalky clay, the vines are 16 years old , the training system is guyot and there are 2,500 vines per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed befor pressing. Cold fermentation is in stainless steel and there is extended maceration. This is a crisp white wine with citrius fruit amomas and flavors nice acidity and good minerality.

With the first two wines we had: crisp fried zeppole, potato croquettes known as panzerotti, miniature mozzarelle in carrozze and bite size pieces of torta Pasqualina, a spinach and ricotta pie.

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Greco di Tufo 2010 DOCG 100% Greco di Tufo The soil is tuffaceious and the training system is espallier. There are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place during the second week of October. Illaria said that the grapes come from highly rated vineyards. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing. Cold fermentation with extended maceration. No oak used. This is a wine that needs at least 5 or 6 years of bottle age  before it is ready to drink, she remarked. This was served with the Parmigiana di zucchine con scamorza e salsa al pomodoro and it was a perfect combination. The wine was just starting to come around, it has nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of smoke and a touch of almonds in the finish and aftertaste.

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Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2007. 100% Fiano.   The soil is chalky clay and the training system is Guyot. There are 4,400 vines per hectare and the 4 hectare vineyard is located at 600 meters.  Harvesting takes place during the second week of October. llaria said that 2007 was a very hot and dry vintage that produced a very concentrated wine with scents ranging from candied fruits to flora. She believes the aging potential of the wine is 15/20 years and I agree. This is a wine with good structure and body. There were floral notes, aromas and flavors of citrus fruits, good acidity and a hint of smoke. This was an excellent compliment to the Scialatielli ai frutti di mare, short strips of homemade pasta typical of Amalfi in a seafood and tomato sauce.

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Greco di Tufo IGT Ostinato Campania  2011 100% Greco. This single vineyard is 4 hectares and it is outside the DOCG zone in Venticano, Torre Le Nocella.  The soil is clay and limestone.  The age of the vines is 20 years, the training system is Guyot and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. A late harvest takes place the first half of November. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing.  Fermentation is for 12 months 20% of which is in French barriques. The wine is naturally clarified and there is no refrigeration or filtration at bottling. The first time I drank this wine I had it with pasta and clams and it was a terrible combination. The label said Greco di Tufo, but it tasted like a dessert wine. At the workshop dinner, it was served with crostino di pane ciabatta con fegato grasso, toasted ciabatta bread with foie gras.  The combination was sensational, since like certain dessert wines, it goes well with foods like foie gras or cheese.

I told Ilaria that I found this wine to be very confusing since there is no indication on the bottle that it is a dessert wine.  She said that it is in a smaller bottle (500ml), the bottle is clear so you can see the darker color. I said that this should be clarified on the label for the sake of the consumer.

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It becomes even more confusing because of the next wine, the Esoterico Campania Fiano 2011 IGT 100% Fiano.  The soil is volcanic, chalky clay, the age of the vines is 6 years, the training system is Guyot and there are 4,400 vines per hectare. Everything else is done just like the Greco except the final result is different. The wine is light in color and while it has more body  than the regular Fiano, it does not really taste like a dessert wine.   I would not drink it with fegato grasso.

Ilaria said that the Greco was darker in color and more like a dessert wine because of the nature of the Greco grape. In both cases it is not the wine I have a problem with, but the labeling, which needs to be clearer

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Taurasi DOCG 2007, 2008 and 2009. 100% Aglianico coming from the 20 hectare estate vineyard Torre le Nocelle. Ilaria 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. 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. I find these red wines to be more modern in style but not over the top and they all needed more time.IMG_4900

It was served with costata di manzo alla griglia con sale rosa cristalino dell’Himalaya e pandellate di Friarielli e patate, grilled rib eye steak with Himalayan pink salt, broccoli rabe and potatoes. The wine worked much better with the steak, which was so good that I ate the

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Filed under campania, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Fiano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Taurasi, The Leopard at Cafe des Artists

Tasting Six “Tre Bicchieri” Wines

Walking around the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Tasting, an annual event, I was pleased to see a number of wines that I like that were chosen for their highest award.

Malvasia Istriana Collio 2012 DOC 100% Malvasia Istriana Ronco dei Tassi (Friuli) IMG_4828

A little background on this first winery.  When I was the wine director for I Trulli Restaurant in NYC, I went every year to Vinitaly, the wine fair in Verona, with Nicola the owner of the restaurant.  We became friendly with a producer from Friuli and always visited him.  He shared his booth with another producer from Friuli, Ronco dei Tassi.  The Coser Family, who owned Ronco dei Tassi, were very nice and  we would also taste their wines.  However, it was embarrassing because we did not like the wine. This went on for a few years. Then one year we tried the wines and were amazed at how good they had become! We tasted through their entire line and liked them so much that Nicola decided to import them. Today they are among the best wines made in Friuli.

There are 1.2 acres of 60-year old vines 650 feet above sea level in the heart of the Collio zone near Cormons. After a vigorous selection and soft pressing, the wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using selected yeasts. The wine is bottled in the spring 6 months after the harvest. There are only 3,000 bottles produced.

Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi” 2012 DOCG Feudi Di San Gregorio (Irpinia,Campania)

Maurizio De Rosa

Maurizio De Rosa

As I was walking around I saw Maurizio de Rosa, North American representative for Feudi Di San Gregorio pouring wines. I had not spoken to Maurizio in some time and stopped to catch up and to taste the wines. I always enjoy speaking to Maurizio because he is very knowledgeable on the subject of Italian wines, the wines of Campania and Taurasi in particular.

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The Cutizzi vineyard is in Santa Paolina. The vines are 15 years old and they are at 1,600 ft. There is a southwest exposure and there are 4,500 vines per hectare. The soil is deep, finely textured, moderately alkaline and very calcareous. Harvest is in mid October. The grapes are destemmed and undergo a gentle pressing, followed by a cold settling for 48 hours. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged on the lees for 4 months in stainless steel tanks with daily batonnage (stirring of the lees).  After 2 months in bottle the wine is released. The wine has hints of peaches, pears, white flowers and a touch of spearmint. There is crisp acidity, minerality and a hint of almonds in the finish. The winery was started in 1986 and I visited there a few years ago. It is very impressive and has a very good restauran

Chianti Classico Estate Riserva 2009 DOCG Badia a Coltibuono (Tuscany) made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo.IMG_4818

I first went to the winery in 1983 and remember drinking the 1978 Chianti Classico  Riserva at the restaurant on the property. I have been drinking it ever since.

Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti was pouring her wines and I see her often at tasting in NYC.

Emanuela Strucchio Prinrtti

Emanuela Strucchi Prinetti

The grapes are organically grown and vinified using natural yeast. The winery has minimal environmental impact, they use gravity flow, manual grape sorting, and the destemmed fruit goes to the fermentation tanks and vats for separate vinification.  There is a piston cap punch-down system and maturation is mostly in large casks and not in small barrels.

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This is the 1982 vintage- my last bottle

Barolo Villero Riserva 2006  DOCG100% Nebbiolo, the Michet clone. Vietti (Piedmont)

I first met Alfredo and Luciana Currado owners of the Vietti winery in 1981 when I went to visit them. We became good friends and I saw them often in Italy and in NY. The winery is now in the capable hands of their son Luca.

The vineyard is in Castiglione Falletto and has a south/southwest exposure. The average age of the vines is 37 years. After alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 19 days, the wine is macerated on the skins for a total of 33 days.  The wine is then immediately transferred into small barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation. It is then aged for a period of time in 30HL casks. The wine is bottled without filtration.

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Lost the picture of the 2008

Barolo “Bricco Pernice” DOCG 2008. Cogno (Piedmont)

I have been a big fan of the Cogno-Marcarini wines ever since Sheldon Wasserman introduced me to them. Elvio Cogno now has his own winery and the winemaker is his very talented son-in-law Walter Fassore. Walter makes traditional classic Barolo.  I have visited the winery a number of times and have met with Walter here in NYC.

Made from a sub-variety of Nebbiolo called Lampia. The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level with 5000 vines per hectare and faces southward. The grapes are from the finest vineyards in Novello, in the most historic part of the Ravera cru. Harvest is in October. Fermentation in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with pumping over and 30 days maceration with submerged cap. It is aged for 24 months in large Slovenian oak barrels 25/30 HL. It remains on the lees for 90 days and spends12 months in bottle before it is released. This is a classic, traditional Barolo; well structured and elegant and is going to need a lot of time to develop.

Coevo Toscana IGT 2010 Cecchi (Tuscany)

Andrea Cecchi

Andrea Cecchi

Someone I have known for a number of years and enjoy seeing and talking to is the very personable Andrea Cecchi. We always have discussions on the changing wine scene in Tuscany and what is going on in the American market. He was very pleased when I told him that Coevo was a Super Tuscan I could drink and enjoy.IMG_4839

The area of production is Castellina in Chianti, for the Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon and the Maremma Toscana for the Merlot and the Petit Verdot.

Made from 60% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. At Castellina in Chianti the vineyards were at 200mt and in the Maremma at 250mt.  The soil and climate are very different in these two regions and certain grapes did better in different zones.

There are 5,000 plants per hectare and the vine training is spurred cordon. The grapes are picked by hand, the Merlot is harvested from August 23, Petit Verdot from September 12,Sangiovese from September 25, and Cabernet Sauvignon from October 5

Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The alcoholic fermentation takes place with the skins.  Maceration is for 3 weeks for the Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 weeks for the Merlot and Sangiovese. The wine is aged in barriques and tonneaux for 18 months and in bottle for 12 months before release.

There is no sign of vanilla or over concentration, the calling cards of Super Tuscans. It is a balanced, elegant wine with red fruit, violet and earthy aromas and flavors and a hint of pepper. It has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. The wine needs a few more years to develop.

 

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Filed under Badia a Coltibuono, Barolo, Cecchi, Cogno- Marcarini, Gambero Rosso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Malvasia, Ronco dei Tassi, Vietti

Wine Gifts

Manufacturers of wine gadgets often claim that their product will improve your wine drinking experience.  Most turn out to be nothing more than gimmicks.  But a few months ago I went to a demonstration of the Coravin Wine Access System and was very impressed.  It allows users to pour and enjoy wine from a bottle without pulling the cork!IMG_3437

Greg Lambrecht, the inventor and founder of the company, demonstrated how the Coravin worked. A thin hollow needle is passed through the foil and cork to access the wine.  Then the bottle is filled with argon, an inert gas. The pressurized argon pushes the wine through the needle so it flows into your glass without permitting any oxygen to enter the bottle. Once the needle is removed, the cork naturally seals itself.  The wine remaining in the bottle continues to evolve naturally.  Five ounces of wine can be removed at one time.IMG_3432

Greg turned the bottle over but no wine seeped out. He had a bottle of Vietti Barolo “Castiglione” 2008 and had written on the label the date when wine was first removed with the Coravin–it was over a year ago. I know the Vietti wines and this was showing very well with no signs of age despite the missing wine.  Greg did the same with a white wine with the same results.  Greg said restaurants could use the Coravin for their wine by-the-glass program and retail stores for wine tasting.  For home use, you could drink a glass of white with one course and a glass of red with another.  It is also useful for older wines with corks that are difficult to remove

Felidia Restaurant has a special Coravin by-the-glass list of upscale wines.  The people that I know that have the Coravin are very happy with it.  Hoping I will get one for Christmas!  The Coravin cost $299 and the Coravin Capsule three-pack is $29.95 www.coravin.com and www.coravin.com/tec for a video. IMG_4446

For those who enjoy older wines and want to ensure easy cork removal, there is also the Durand. It is intended to remove only older fragile corks from bottles with an inside neck opening of approximately 3/4 inch. Basically, the Durand is a combination corkscrew and Ah-so. $125 www.thedurand.com

Books

Friends of Wine: In Vino Veritas by Michael Belardo. This is a photo essay of people in the wine business by a gifted photographer who is also in the wine business. There is a great picture of me sitting in the cellar of the legendary Bottega del Vino in Verona. www.Amazon.com

Beyond Barolo and Brunello: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines by Tom Hyland. The book is divided by region and there are descriptions of 550 wines from more than 475 producers.  Also available on Kindle.  www.Amazon.comIMG_3148

Wine

Here are a few wine gift ideas. Since all of these wines will age, the prices of the older vintages will be higher.

Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore, single vineyard, Methodo Classico. 100% Chardonnay $95

Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo 100% Trebbiano – Edorardo Valentini  (Abruzzo) $95

Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos,” 100% Chardonnay. Rene & Vincent Dauvissant (Chablis) $165

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 100% Verdicchio. Aged in large oak barrels (botti) — Villa Bucci (Marche) $ 47

 Etna Bianco Superiore “Pietramarino” 100% Carricante –Benanti (Sicily) $48IMG_3439

 Montepulicano d’Abruzzo, 100% Montepuliciano – Emidio Pepe (Abruzzo) $85  Faro, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello, Cappucio, Acitana and Jacchè – Palari (Sicily) $85

Barbaresco “Ovello” 100% Nebbiolo – Produttori del Barbaresco (Piedmont) $57

 Faro, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello, Cappucio, Acitana and Jacchè – Palari (Sicily) $85

 Barolo “Vigna Elena”  100% Rosè a sub-variety ofNebbiolo – Cogno (Piedmont) $85

 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 70%  Corvina Veronese and 30% Rondinella – Bertani (Veneto) $88

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Filed under Coravin, Durand, French White Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine

Wine and White Truffles at SD26 in NYC

This is the holiday season but it is also the season for white truffles. As the weather turns colder one can dream of Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo and il tartufo bianco of Alba on pasta, risotto and eggs. Sometimes the dream becomes a reality.  On Tuesday afternoon, a friend called and asked if I was free Thursday night.  When I said yes,  he invited me to join him and two friends for the white truffle gala dinner at SD26 in NYC.  Of course I accepted!

Beni di Batasiolo, a wine producer from Piedmont whose wines I know and like would supply the wines.  It promised to be a very memorable evening.

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Tony May Presenting Our Truffle

The main dining room was filled to capacity.  Tony May and his daughter Marisa May, the restaurant owners, graciously welcomed the guests.

The hors d’oeuvres were served at the table and included robiola cheese and mushrooms on toast, crostini with cured lard and anchovy (a favorite), and tartra Piemontese with crispy sage and paddlefish caviar on olive oil potato purèeIMG_4361

The wine was the Gavi del Comune di Gavi “Granee” DOCG 2012 100% Cortese. The vineyards are at 100/200 meters and there are 3,500 vines per hectare. They use the Guyot system modified into small arches. There is soft pressing with static decanting, and the alcoholic fermentation is under strict temperature control. The wine is bottled after malolactic fermentation. The wine has aromas of white flowers with hints of white peaches, citrus and good acidity which made it go very well with all the hors d’oeuvres.

Our Truffle

Our Truffle

Each table of diners received a very large white truffle placed on the table with a truffle cutter. The truffle was ours to grate on the next three courses.  Tony May spoke about the truffles and showed us how to grate it.  Every one covered their dishes with the truffle, but it was so big that there was some left over and each of us took some home. Michele made pasta with the truffle the next evening.

Beef Crudo

Beef Crudo

The first course was Fassone beef crudo with fresh porcini and olio extra virgine novello served with the Dolcetto d’Alba 2011 “Bricco di Vergne,” 100% Dolcetto. The vineyard is located between the towns of La Morra and Barolo, on very steep slopes facing southwest at 480 meters. The soil has layers of sand and sandstone, which lightens the structure of the mainly marly soil. Grapes are harvested by hand around the last week in September. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place with maceration on the skins between 8 to 10 days. This is an elegant, well balanced fruity wine with a lot of red fruit and a hint of cherries that worked very well with this dish.

Truffles and an Egg

Truffles and an Egg

The menu said Sunchokes and Potato Gratin with young Fontina and chives, but what arrived was toast with melted Fontina topped with a poached egg.  The warmth of the egg brought out the aroma of the truffles we shaved on top.  It was wonderful–I just love truffles and eggs.

 We had this with the Barbera D’Alba “Sovrana” 2011, 100% Barbera. The vineyards are in Barolo and La Morra at 400/450 meters, facing south and southwest in the area that is usually reserved for Nebbiolo.IMG_4363

It is calcareous soil rich in potassium and the vines are 55 years old. The excellent position and the age of the vines along with the soil makes it a Barbera with unique qualities that can age. The harvest took place on Oct 2nd. Alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins is in stainless steel tanks for 10/12 days. In the spring the wine is transferred into oak barrels (second passage) where it matures for 12/15 months. After careful sampling the wine is assembled into the final product. The wine remains in bottle for 8/10 months before release.  This is a Barbera with good structure, tannin, fruit and acidity and it will age.

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

Tony demonstrating the proper use of the Truffle grater with Marisa May

The next course was the Toma Piemontese filled ravioli del plin, with toasted hazelnuts and sage, a classic  Piemontese dish.  This was a perfect combination with the Barbaresco DOCG 20010 made from 100% Nebbiolo. The area of production is the semi-circle of hills surrounding the three ancient villages of Barbaresco, Nieve and Treiso and part of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, a tiny village overlooking the Tanaro River. Harvesting takes place from Oct 10 to 20.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place along with long maceration on the skins in stainless steel. The wine is aged for one year in traditional Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. This is a very traditional Barbaresco and it was perfect with this dish.IMG_4364

Last but not least there was pan-seared saddle of venison, barbera wine infused pear, and foie gras. Two Barolo’s were served with this dish.  The Barolo DOCG “Vigneto Boscareto” 2003 made from 100% Nebbiolo in its subvarities: Michet, Lampia and Rosè from the village of Serralunga. The soil is marl composed of limestone and clay, intermingled with sand. The terrain is hilly and the vineyard faces south/southwest at 300 to 400 meters. There are 3,700 vines per hectare and the average age of the vines is 25 years. The training system is classic guyot modified with arch canes. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in October. There is traditional red wine fermentation with maceration on the skins for 10 to 15 days. After fermentation the wine is aged in traditional oak casks for at least two years and one year in bottle before release. 2003 was a very hot vintage but this wine was showing well. There were hints of ripe fruit, plums, spice, figs and tea.IMG_4366

Barolo “ Corda della Briccolina” 1996 100% Nebbiolo from the three sub varieties. The vineyard is facing southwest which in this area it is called a vigneto di mezzogiorno. The soil is calcareous marl rich in limestone and calcium carbonate. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place followed by 15 days of maceration then a decanting process. The wine is aged for at least two years in barriques and one year in bottle before release. 1996 was an excellent vintage for Barolo. This wine has aromas and flavors of red berries with hints of cedar, spice, licorice and a touch of vanilla.IMG_4367

For dessert there was a “Domori” Dark Chocolate Tortino and white truffle gelato. Moscato D’Asti “Bosc D’la Rei” 2012, made from100% Moscato Bianco accompanied the dessert. The grapes are grown in soil that is marly and calcareous and the terrain is hilly. The exposure is northwest, there are 3,500 plants per hectare and the vineyard is at 380 to 410 meters. Average age of the vines is 15 years. The training system is guyot modified into small arches. Harvesting is by hand the last week of September. A soft pressing of the grapes takes place and the juice is cooled to 0°C. and stored in refrigerated vats. Fermentation (partially fermented with abundant residual sugar) begins a month before bottling. It is a very slow process and the alcohol reaches 5.5% by volume. This is an elegant aromatic dessert wine with hints of overripe fruit.

The Executive Chef at SD26 is Matteo Bergamini

The event and dinner exceeded my every expectation!

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Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Beni di Batasiolo, Dolcetto, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, SD 26, SD26, Tony May, Truffles

Meeting a Facebook Friend who Owns a Winery in Piedmont

 Massimo Pastura is a friend that I met through Facebook. I am always interested in his postings since he is the owner of Cassina La Ghersa in Piedmont. Recently Massimo contacted me and said that he was going to be in NYC and could we meet for lunch. He asked if he could bring some of his wine for me to taste. Since I knew of his winery, but had never tasted the wine, I was looking forward to our meeting.

Massimo Pastura

Massimo Pastura

Over lunch Massimo said that the winery is family owned and managed and he is the fourth generation. The winery is located in the hills between Nizza Monferrato and Moasca. His winery uses only the traditional grape varieties  the area and they are very proud of the different styles of Barbera that they produce. Massimo made it clear that they do sustainable farming– no herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used.

The WinesIMG_4304

Gavi “Il Poggio” 2011 made from 100% Cortese. The grapes are estate grown. The vineyard is between the towns of Gavi and Novi Liqure. The training of the vines is vertical trellis and simple guyot and grass is grown between the rows.  There are 4,500 vines/hectares and the soil is calcareous, limestone with a lot of stones. The vines are over 60 years old and they face southwest at 350 meters. Grapes are hand harvested in September. The grapes are crushed and soft-pressed after 12 hours of cryomaceration (holding the crushed grapes and the skins at extremely low temperatures before fermentation.) Static decanting of the must takes place for 12 hours before starting the fermentation with special selected yeasts inoculated in the must. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for a period of 10/12 days depending on the vintage. The wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 6 months.  Weekly vigorous stirring of the wine takes place in order to keep the lees in suspension and assure an adequate balance. After 2 months in bottle the wine is released. The wine has aromas and flavors of peach, tropical fruit, a touch of lime, nice minerality and good acidity. $20IMG_4305

Colli Tortonesi Timorasso DOC Bianco “Sivoy” (meaning slide or slipping) 2010. The soil of the Siovy hill is clay and very hard and the rain water slips down very fast into the valley.  The wine is mostly Timorosso with a little Cortese. Massimo said that the Timorosso grape is only produced in the Colli Tortonesi and there are only 52 hectares of vines. Timorasso is a very old indigenous variety which was almost completely ignored during the 1960’s and 1970’s but has made a comeback. Massimo made it clear that wines made from this grape get better with time and can age up to 10 years or more. The average age of the vines is 15 years. The training system is vertical trellis and simple guyot. There are 5,000 wines per hectare and the vineyard faces southwest. The harvest takes place in September. The grapes are crushed and soft pressed with a horizontal membrane press after 36/48 hours cryomaceration. Static decanting of the must tales place for 14/16 hours before the alcoholic fermentation (in stainless steel tanks for 15/20 days) starts using special select yeast inoculated in the must. The wine is on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 12 months and 8/10 months in bottle before release. $20IMG_4306

Barbera d’Asti “Piagè”   DOCG 2010 100% Barbera. In the Middle Ages Piagè was the place where the toll was collected. Grapes come from local estate grown selected vineyards. There are 5,000 wines per hectares and the average age of the vines is 10/15 years and the exposure is south/southwest. The soil is mainly clayey limestone with rocks. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, skin contact is about 12 days and there is frequent pumping. Malolactic fermentation takes place and heating if necessary by means of inoculation of malolactic bacteria to facilitate the start of the fermentation. The wine is then left to settle in cement tanks for a few months. Massimo said that this was his every day Barbera. The wine was very easy to drink with nice aromas amd flavors of red berries, a hint of cherry and current and good acidity. This is a red wine that can go with a number of different foods.$14

Barbera D’Asti DOCG Superiore Nizza “Vignassa” 1999 100% Barbera. Massimo said that the Vignassa vineyard was the first one planted by his grandfather after the vineyards were destroyed by phyloxera. The vines were grafted onto American rootstock “St George” aka “Rupestris du Lot” which is resistant to phyloxera. Over the years the St George rootstock became more and more deformed so everyone started to call the vineyard Vignassa- ugly-vines. He said that when they dig up one of the old vines the roots go down as much as five feet. The average age of the vines is 90 years. Before the fermentation begins the “salasso” (Italian for siagneè) where the juice is blended off the must after limited contact with the skin. Massimo said this gives a  higher content of extract, which makes the wine suitable  for longer aging. Fermentation takes place in French oak barrels of 52HL. The must is left in contact with the skin for 18/20 days. The dèlestage aspirates all of the must, which determines the fall of the cap on the bottom of the tank.The wine is aged in new French oak barriques: fine grain and medium toast for 24 months. The barrels are seasoned for 3 years before they are used. This is a big wine that is almost 15 years old and showing no sign of age. $75IMG_4307

Colli Tortonesi 2011 Croatina DOC 100% Croatina. Massimo said that he just started making wine from this grape a few years ago. Massimo said the grape was also known as Bonarda and Uva Rara. The vineyard is Tenuta Mongualdone in Sarezzano and the average age of the vines is 10 years. The soil is dark clay. Fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, with selected yeast, for 8-10 days with pumping over, followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is not filtered but lightly fined. The wine is aged in two, three and four yeas old French barriques. Only 2,000 cases are produced. $20. The distributor is T. Edward Wine, NYC

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Filed under Barbera, Cassina La Ghersa, Croatina, Gavi, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Massimo Pastura, Timorasso, Uncategorized