The Grandi Marchi Experience

Grandi Marchi (Istituto del Vino Italiano di Qualità) is an association of 19 Italian family owned wineries that have joined together to promote Italian high quality wine on the world market.IMG_8896

Piero Mastroberardino, Grandi Marchi President, said that “At the core of the organization are the friendships among these venerable families of Italian wine. We are united also by the hope to blend our human creativity and wealth of natural resources, and the desire to promote our cultural values beyond the boundaries of individual brands. We achieve this through research, education and market innovation.”

At the Grandi Marchi experience, a seminar and guided tasting held in NYC recently, 15 of the 19 members presented their wines. It was a very impressive lineup.

I was very pleased to see that the wines did not show any unpleasant oaky flavors and aromas. It seems that those top producers in this group who were using 100% new barriques are now moving away from this practice. It was evident in the wines.

The moderator was Gloria Maroti Frazee of The Wine Spectator.

The Wines

Cuvèe Annamaria Clementi, Franciacorta Riserva DOCG 2006 Ca’dell Bosco (Lombardy) made from 55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Bianco and 20% Pinot Noir. This is one of the leading producers of sparkling wine in Italy.

Ca’ Marcanda Vistamare, Toscana IGT 20014 Gaja made from 60% Vermentino in stainless steel and 40% Viognier in oak barrels and then blended together. I have not had this wine in a long time and really enjoyed it.

Vecchie Vigne, Verdicchio Dei Castello di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC 2012 Umani Ronchi(Marche) made from 100% Verdicchio. Verdicchio is a very underrated wine and this is one of the best. The speaker representing the winery said that the people of the Marche drink the most wine of any region in Europe and live very long lives.IMG_8902

Sassicaia, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC 2012 Tenuta San Guido (Tuscany) made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. Only 30% new oak now and the wine is drinking very well. The first vintage was in 1968.IMG_8903

Cerequio, Barolo DOCG 2011 Michele Chiarlo (Piedmont) 100% Nebbiolo. This is traditional Barolo with all the classical Nebbiolo flavors and aromas.


Signor Boffa

Barolo DOCG 2011 Pio Cesare (Piedmont) 100% Nebbiolo. Pio Boffa, owner of the winery, said that this was his traditional, classical Barolo. It was made the way Barolo was made in the past before there were crus. The grapes come from five different vineyards taking the best from each one and then blending them together.IMG_8905

Cabreo Il Borgo, Toscana IGT, (70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon) Ambrogio e Giovanni Flonari Tenute The two varieties are blended and aged in French oak barrels, 30% new, 40% one year old and 30% two years old for 16 to 18 months. This is a wine that can age.IMG_8907

Pian Delle Vigna, Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2010 made from 100% Sangiovese. Marchese Antinori (Tuscany). This is one of the best wines that Antinori makes, an outstanding Brunello.IMG_8909

Turriga, Isola Dei Nuraghi IGT 2011 made from 85% Cannonau, 5% Bovale, 5% Carignano and 5% Malvasia Nera. Argiolas (Sardinia) This is another wine that should be better known and was showing very well.IMG_8910

Rosso Del Conte, Contea di Sclafani DOC 2011 made from 62% Nero d’Avola, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. Tasca, Conti D’ Almerita (Sicily). The international grapes were added in 2000.


Signor Mastroberardino

Radici Taurasi DOCG 2009 Made from 100% Aglianico. Mastroberardino (Campania) Luckily I was introduced to this wine with the legendary 1968 vintage and have been drinking it ever since.


Signor di Corato from Rivera

IL Falcone, Castel Del Monte Riserva DOC 2009 made from 70% Nero di Troia and 30% Montepulciano. Rivera (Puglia) This is a wine that should be better known. It can age for 20 years or more.IMG_8916

Torgiano Rosso Riserva Rubesco Vigna Monticchio DOCG 2008 made fro 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo. Lungarotti (Umbria). This is another old favorite which I began drinking with the 1973 vintage.IMG_8917

Riserva Di Costasera Amarone Classico DOC 2009 made from 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta and 5% Molinara. Masi Agricola (Veneto). This is classic Amarone at its best.

Ben Ryè Passito Di Pantelleria DOC 2008 limited edition made from 100% Zibibbo (Moscato d’Alessandria) Donnafugata (Sicily). One of the best dessert wines of Italy.


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Le Macchiole: the Evolution of Paleo Rosso

I first met Cinzia Merli, owner of Le Macchiole a number of years ago and was impressed by both her and her wines, especially the Paleo Rosso. I have followed the many changes she has made in this wine over the years and was very happy to accept an invitation to a tasting and lunch at Eleven Madison in NYC. We would be tasting a number of wines going back to 1996.


Cinzia Merli

Cinzia said that making wine is a learning process and she is still learning. She feels that she can do what is correct with the land, making intense changes in the vineyard and cellar and does not follow convention. Over the years the name Paleo Rosso has remained the same but the grapes for this wine are different as is the aging process.

She said that she learns something every day, and does not know all of the answers but needs to figure it out. This is something I have never heard from a producer before.

Cinzia said Le Macchiole was one of the first wineries established in the viticultural zone of Bolgheri, located approximately 100 kilometers southwest of Florence along the Etruscan Coast in Tuscany. There are 22 hectares of land 2/3 covered by woods.

She said Bolgheri is among Italy’s famed wine producing regions, but this seemed far from a possibility in 1983, the year Le Macchiole was founded and a time when the area was known simply for close proximity to the sea and having abundant fruit and grain agriculture.

“My husband Eugenio and I started off with very limited, if almost no, resources” Cinzia recalls. “We gave up working his parents’ retail and restaurant business and bought a few hectares of land planted with wheat. We decided to plant vineyards starting with many varieties – sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and vermentino – so that we might see what grew best on our little property. That is how our life project began and, for me, our learning is still in progress. I believe that Bolgheri is in the early stage of development. It has just become aware of its potential and understanding of which grape varieties give their best to each part of the different soils; much is still yet to be accomplished here.”

As they cultivated and learned the possibilities for their land, the Le Macchiole strategy became single-variety wines beginning with the 1994 vintage. This was an unusual, perhaps daring, plan for a winery of the region to commit to at the time. The idea took shape gradually over years of tireless experimentation by Eugenio and Cinzia and with the help of Luca D’Attoma, the winery’s long time consulting enologist, who began working with them in 1991. Ultimately, vinifying separate varieties has been extremely successful for the winery allowing the wines of Le Macchiole to demonstrate the potential of terroir in Bolgheri differently.

The winery’s planting density is between 5,000 and 10,000 plants per hectare and vine growing is rooted in organic farming practices. Manual harvesting is followed by the sorting of bunches and then berries on a double sorting table.  The winery continues to evolve in both the vineyards and in the cellar .

The Evolution of Paleo Rosso

In the beginning, in 1989, the idea was to make a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes. In 1993, some Cabernet Franc was added to the blend. “Cabernet Franc is usually seen as the ugly duckling of the family compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. It is greener, rougher, untamable, a difficult challenge to manage. In Bolgheri, Cabernet Franc is something thoroughly different. Its tannins are softer, it is extremely fruity and amazingly fresh, characteristics that help us make the best of every harvest”, said Cinzia Merli.

The decisive turn came in 2000: due to the exceptionally warm summer season, the winery was forced to add a higher amount of Cabernet Franc to the final blend to give the wine freshness and acidity. And it began to dawn on them that they were ready for the big leap: transforming Paleo Rosso into a 100% Cabernet Franc wine. They completely changed the wine’s structure while keeping its name and the winery’s signature style unchanged.

Le Macchiole vineyards stand on alluvial, rich, clayey, deep and resilient soil, with a solid skeleton and suited to enhancing each grape variety’s characteristics. The climate is mild owing to the influence of the sea and summers are generally warm with day/night temperature swings. On average, temperatures are higher than in other Tuscan areas and the harvest is usually in September.

All the wine growing stages, from pruning to harvesting, are carried out by hand. Great attention is given to harvesting and sorting of grapes, which is carried out first in the vineyards and then in the wine cellar, on a double sorting table. Organic farming methods are used in the vineyards for the sole purpose of practicing sustainable wine growing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment. The basic idea is that human intervention on the plant should be kept to a minimum to respect its natural balance and give it a chance to strengthen on its own. This is very important to Cinzia because her husband Eugenio died of cancer in 2002 and she believes that the chemicals in the vineyard killed him.

The WinesIMG_8876

Paleo Rosso 1996 DOC– Bolgheri Rosso Superiore made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Franc from the Casa Vecchia (1984) and Madonnina vineyards (1977). There was a green harvest in late July and the harvest was in late September/early October. Fermentation lasted for 14/16 days and the wine was aged for 22 months in 225 liter oak barrels. All of the wine is unfiltered. This was my favorite wine and I drank it with lunch. It could last for a number of years.IMG_8881

It enjoyed the 1996 with mushrooms sautéed with pine nuts and quail egg

Paleo Rosso 2000 DOC– Bolgheri Rosso Superiore 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc from the Madonnina, Casa Vecchia  and Puntone (1993) vineyards. Green harvest from July 20th to August 10 and the harvest was from September 4 to 8. Fermentation lasted for 20 days. The wine was aged for 18 months in 225 liter oak barrels.


First 100% Cabernet Franc

Paleo Rosso 2001 IGT Toscana 100% Cabernet Franc from the Casa Vecchia and Puntone vineyards. Green harvest from July 30 to August 10 and harvest from Sept 3 to 9. Fermentation was for 25 days and the wine was aged one half in 225 liter oak barrels and one half in 112 liter oak barrels.

Paleo Rosso 2006  IGT Toscana 100% Cabernet Franc from the Casa Vecchia, Puntone, Casa Nuova, Vignone (1999) and Madonnina (2002) vineyards. Green harvest was in July and the harvest in the first two weeks of September. Fermentation lasts for 20 days. The wine is aged for 14 months in new 225 liter oak barrels and 10% in 112 liter oak barrels.

Paleo Rosso 2007  IGT Toscana 100% Cabernet Franc  from the Casa Vecchia, Puntone, Casa Nuova, Vignone and Madonnina vineyards. The green harvest was in late June and the harvest was the second and third week of September. Fermentation is for 20 days. The wine is aged for 14 months, 90% in new 225 liter barrels and 10% in 112 liter oak barrels. This wine seemed to have the most aromas of vanilla and oak. Cinizia said that because of the weather conditions it was aged differently.

Paleo Rosso 2008 IGT Toscana 100% Cabernet Franc from the Puntone, Casa Nuova, Vignone, Madonnina vineyards. Green harvest was in late July and the harvest was the second and third week of September. Fermentation for 20 days in steel and concrete vats. The wine is aged for 14 months, 75% in new oak barrels, 25% in barrels of second year use.IMG_8871

Paleo Rosso 2009 IGT Toscana 100% Cabernet Franc from the Puntone, Casa Nuova, Vignone and Madonnina vineyards. Green harvesting took place in late July and the harvest first and second week of September. Fermentation was for 20 days in steel and concrete vats and aging for 14 months, 75% in new oak barrels, 25% in barrels of second year use. Ciznia said this is a complex wine with floral and fruity notes with good structure.

Paleo Rosso 2010 IGT Toscana 100% Cabernet Franc from the Puntone, Casa Nuova, Vignone and Madonnina vineyards. Green harvesting took place in late July and the harvest first and second week of September. Fermentation was for 20 days in steel and concrete vats. Aged for 14 months, 75% in new oak barrels, 25% in barrels of second year use. Cinzia said the wine has good aromatic complexity, with lower alcohol than past vintages and with mineral notes.IMG_8869

Paleo Rosso 2011 IGT Toscana 100% Cabernet Franc from the same vineyards. Green harvest in late July and harvest is the second and third week of September. Fermentation for 20 days is steel and concrete tanks Aged for 20 months, 75% new oak (1/3 228 liters and 2/3 225 liters) and the rest in second passage barriques of 225 liters.




Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Le Mecchiole, Paleo Rosso

Tasting Fruit and Flower Liqueurs

When I went to the Villa De Varda tasting two weeks ago, I believed that it was going to be only grappa, but to my pleasant surprise there were also a number of liqueurs on the table. Michele Dolzan, General Director of the Villa De Varda Distillery said they only use the finest fruit and flowers from the Trentino area to make their liqueurs. IMG_8826

Liqueur Mela Verde (Green Apple) Made from Trentino green apples and grain alcohol. Michele said they use golden delicious apples, which are yellow green in color and are recognized as DOP “Mela Val di Non”. Trentino is famous for its apples. The apples are picked in September at ultimate ripeness after a careful selection. They are kept in an infusion of pure clear grain alcohol and refined cane sugar (16g/l) for 60 days in stainless steel vats and constantly monitored. The infusion is bottled quickly to retain the liqueur’s freshness. It is aromatic with the aromas of sliced green apples. It has some acidity and the slight sweetness of the green apple. 750ml $69.99

Michele poured some the liqueur into a half glass of prosecco and the flavor of the green apple became even more intense. It was a great idea and I really enjoyed it.IMG_8841

Liqueur Mirtillo (Blueberry) made from ripe blueberries picked in the forest of Trentino and grappa. Michele said the blueberries are gathered by hand in the coolest hours of the day to preserve their delicacy. They are kept in an infusion of grappa and refined sugar (20g/l) for 60 days in stainless steel vats that are constantly monitored. It has typical blueberry fruit aromas, which are very fragrant. 750ml $69.99

I once tried this at home, placed the blueberries in a jar, added clear grappa and sugar and stored it in a dark place for 3 months. When I opened the jar the liquid was still clear but the blueberries lost all their color. They tasted like grappa pills.

Limone Liqueur (Lemon) made from lemon and lemon skins and pure grain alcohol. Mr. Dolzen said the lemons come from Lake Garda. The lemons are picked at ultimate ripeness and are blended with thick, light lemon colored peel and then left in a pure grain distillate for 60 days. Purified sugar is added to the final infusion, 18g/l. This is a fresh tasting lemon liqueur which is not too sweet; you can really taste the lemon. 750ml $ 69.99IMG_8840

Elderflower Liqueur 100% fresh Elderflowers and wheat alcohol. Hand picked in the spring, the creamy white Elderflowers come from the nearby Trentino forests. They are macerated for 60 days in sterile, stainless steel tanks with wheat and refined sugar (22g/l). It has a floral, slightly fruity nose with flavors of fruit and herbs. It is very distinctive. This is 21% Alcohol by volume the others are 28%. 750ml  $79.99

Michele poured hot green tea into a cup and then added the Elderflower Liqueur. It was a pleasant surprise and made a great combination. IMG_8839

Liqueur alla Camomilla — an infusion of the heads of Chamomile flowers, in a pure distillate of wheat alcohol and Pinot Grigio grappa. Fresh picked from May to September, herbaceous Chamomile flower heads from the mountains around Trentino are infused for 60 days in stainless steel tanks with wheat alcohol, Pinot Grigio grappa and pure cane sugar (18g/l). It has delicate aromas and flavors of chamomile. I like it by itself. Michele recommends it slightly chilled but I like it at room temperature and when I have a sore throat I like to drink it with hot tea. 750ml $79.99

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Grappa at its Best

I have been a grappa drinker since the first time I went to Italy in 1970. I generally enjoy grappa after meals, but I also like it in espresso (caffé corretto), drizzled on Italian ices, in a fruit salad, with chocolate, etc.

Grappa and Chocolate

Grappa and Chocolate

Grappa tastings don’t typically include dinner so I was intrigued to receive an invitation to a grappa tasting dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant to meet the host, Michele Dolzan, General Director of the Villa de Varda Distillery, I found him seated at a table covered with grappa bottles.IMG_8947

Located in the small town of Mezzolombardo in the region of Trentino, the Villa de Varda Distillery is situated on the Piana Rotallana, a wide, highly fertile, well drained alluvial plain crossed by the Adige River and the Noce Stream at the foot of the Alps.

Michele said that it is a family owned distillery and they grow their own grapes (except for the Amarone grappa). The vines are cultivated using the pergola system.

Once Michele started talking about his grappa, I understood how knowledgeable and passionate about grappa he is and how very proud of the distillation method developed by his father Dr. Luigi Dolzan.

He explained in detail his father’s method, known as the de Varda Method, for the distillation for Italian grappa. There are four steps:  Selection of Raw Materials: carefully selected marc derived from the soft pressing of a single grape that has been picked from soft, fresh bunches still dripping with must.

Fermentation of the Must: conducted right after the marc arrives at the distillery. It takes place under controlled temperatures with select yeasts and enzymes.

Distillation: conducted slowly in exclusive discontinuous pot-stills where the “heads and tails” are eliminated, allowing the volatile components responsible for each grappa’s flavor to undergo evaporation and consequent condensation that enables the grappa to fully maintain the typical characteristics of the Trentino grapes.V

Maturation: the grappa remains in steel casks for at least 6 months. For a grappa to be considered Riserva Trentina it must spend more than two years in oak. Then the alcohol is reduced and the final spirit is refrigerated and filtered.

Villa de Varda GrappaIMG_8827

Grappa Pinot Grigio (I Monovitigni) 100% Pinot Grigio pomace. Michele referred to it as traditional grappa, because it is crystal clear. This is a fresh clean grappa, well balanced with nice fruit and aromas of ripe pears, peach and citrus notes. On the palate it is well rounded and it has certain smoothness but is unquestionably grappa! 373 ml $49.9IMG_8831

Grappa Moscato (I Monovitigni) 100% Moscato pomace Traditiona grappa. It has typical aromatic aromas of the Moscato grape with hints of orange blossom, apricot and a touch of pineapple. Michele Dolzan said that this may be the best grappa for “beginners” because it is so aromatic.” 375 ml $49.99IMG_8836

Triè Grappa Riserva made from Teroldego, Pinot Bianco and Muller Thurgau pomace. It is aged for a minimum of 36 months in medium toasted 225 liter French oak barrels, and then the lots are blended together. It has hints of dried fruits, plum, and wild flowers. 375ml $49.99IMG_8948

Grappa Amarone Riserva made from Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella from vineyards in Valpolicella. Mr. Dolzan said that the pomace for this grappa is from the dried grapes used to make Bertani Amarone. The grappa is aged for a minimum of 3 years in medium toasted 225-liter French oak barrels, and then the separate lots are blended together. It has hints of flowers and fruits with a touch of almond. 375ml $59.99IMG_8837

Grappa Amarone Stravecchia (Alta Selezione)  Michele said this is a special and limited selection 750ml in a fancy glass bottle with a wooden box. The skin/grapes are careful selected. This grappa is aged for 5 years in barrels that previously held Bertani Amarone. This is a very impressive grappa, smooth, well balanced with hints of almonds flowers, dried fruits and a touch of coffee.

Michele did not pour the grappa from the bottle but used a “wine thief” because he did not want to disturb the grappa. $249.99IMG_8855

All of the aged grappa had a golden yellow to amber color. Most aged grappa from other producers is darker in color and has a vanilla oaky component that makes it very unpleasant, in other words it does not taste like grappa. The aged grappa from Villa de Varda tastes like grappa and may be the best aged grappa I have ever tasted.

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A Sicilian Family Winery

Benedetto Alessandro, the oenologist of the Alessandro di Camporeale winery in Sicily, was the speaker at a tasting I attended recently of his company’s wines.


Benedetto Alessandro

This is a fourth generation family-owned and operated winery located in the small farming town of Camporeale, close to Palermo. The estate is at the foot of a hill overlooking the Mandranove Plain. There are 35 hectares of vineyards at about 400 meters. The climate is mild and the fertile clay and limestone-based soil are ideal for producing a wide variety of different grapes. He made a point of saying that the approach in the vineyard follows the overall values of tradition, experience and knowledge of the land. All vine related activities are carried out by hand, following organic farming principles such as biodiversity to combat parasites and using green manure to promote soil fertility.

The wines of Alessandro di Camporeale IMG_8816

Catarratto “Benedè” DOC Sicily 2014 100% Cataratto. The vines were planted in 1990 and are at 420 to 470 meters. The soil is clay and sand, the training system is guyot and there are 3,500 plants per hectare. Harvesting is by hand starting the 10th day of September. The grapes are destemmed and cooled, then a soft pressing takes place. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a low temperature for 15 days. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. It is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and another 2 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of apricot and white peach with a hint of almonds in the aftertaste. $19IMG_8817

Grillo “Vigna di Mandranov” DOC Sicily 2013. 100% Grillo. The vineyard was planted in 2009. It is at 450 meters, the soil is clay, the training system is guyot espalier and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand starting in the beginning of September. After destemming, the grapes are cooled and gently pressed in an oxygen free environment. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a low temperature for 15 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 6 months and in bottle for 1 to 2 months before release. The wine has hints of citrus fruit with touches of flint and herbs. A very nice example of this type of wine. $29IMG_8818

Nero d’Avola “Donnatá” Sicily DOC 2013 100% Nero di Avola. The soil is rich in clay, limestone and potassium. The vines were planted in 2000. The vineyard is at 380 meters. The soil is clay and sand, training system is spurred cordon espalier and there are 4,400 vines per hectare. Harvest starts by hand, the first week of September. Maceration is for 12 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in stainless steel and a small part in big oak casks. The wine remains in the bottle for 2 months before release. This is an aromatic wine with hints of blackberries and cherries with a very pleasing finish and aftertaste.

Benedetto said that Nero d’Avola was the most important red grape variety in Sicily. $19IMG_8821

Syrah Kaid l IGT Sicily 2011 100% Syrah The soil is clay and chalk with an alkaline reaction. The vines were planted in 1989, the training is spurred cordon espalier and there are 4,400 plants per hectare. The grapes are picked by hand in the morning the first 20 days of September. Maceration is for 12 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques and tonneaux and 6 months in bottle before release. This is a big wine, alcoholic with hints of cherry and black currants with a lot of vanilla, toasty oak and coconut. One of the wine writers present said that he likes the first 3 wines but this wine was out of balance and much too international in style. Benedetto agreed and said that starting with the next vintage 2012 they are using less barriques and more tonneaux and big oak casks .$25

He also said that Syrah is considered the “most Sicilian of the international grape varieties”.IMG_8822

Kaid “ Vendemmia Tardive” Late Harvest 2014 IGT Sicily 100% Syrah from a 1.5 hectare plot. The vineyard is at 400 meters and the vines were planted in 1989. Fermentation is for about 12 days at a low temperature. The wine is aged in Allier oak barriques for 15 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a dessert wine with nice rich forward fruit with hints of cherries, black currants and a touch of chocolate. It has a very pleasing aftertaste and a very long and complex finish. $35

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Filed under Alessandro di Camporale, Catarrato, Grillo, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kaid-Syrah & Late Harvest, Nero d'Avola, Sicilian Wine, Sicily, Syrah, Uncategorized

Velenosi and the Wines of the Marche

I have visited the Marche region of Italy a number of times and have always enjoyed it. Why the region is not better know in this country and more of a travel destination has always been a mystery to me.IMG_8812 They make excellent wine and great food. There are lovely rolling hills and some of the best-rated beaches in Europe. When I was invited to a tasting and lunch for the wines of Velenosi in the Marche I gladly accepted.


Angela Velenosi

Angela and Ercole Velenosi established the Velenosi winery in 1984. Since then Angela has been the person behind the success of one of the largest family owned wineries in the Marche.  Angela was elected the president of the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Piceni and represented the Marche region at the Expo in Milan.

At the tasting Angela said the heart of the company is in Ascoli Piceno, which is about 25 km from the Adriatic Sea. The vineyards are located on hills at about 200/300 meters overlooking the valley of the Tronto River. There are 148 hectares with vines.IMG_8774

Ulisse Patalocchi La Rosa, the export manger, spoke about the wines. He is very personable and knowledgeable and gave us an insight not only about the wines of Velenosi but also touched on the wines of the Marche in general. He is very passionate not only about the wine of the Marche but also about the region’s food and culture.IMG_8757

Passerina Brut NV 100% Passerina (Charmat method) The vineyards are at 200/300 meters, the soil is of medium texture and rather sandy, the training system is guyot and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are hand picked and placed in 20 kg boxes. Ulisse said the Passerina grape variety with its rich aromatic properties is particularly apt for making sparkling wine using the Charmat method. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and is aged on the lees for 90 days, this is a long process called Charmat Lungo. The wine has hints of white fruit, peach, citron and a touch of bread crust.IMG_8759

Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi DOC Classico 2014 100% Verdicchio. The vineyards are at 100 meters and they are the oldest in the original Castelli di Jesi area. The soil is of medium consistency tending toward sandy. The vines are cordon trained and spur pruned and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested in the morning or late afternoon in small boxes and kept cool until reaching the winery. The wine is obtained by the soft crush of the slightly overripe grapes, then pressed using a bladder press. The must is collected in refrigerated containers and brought to 5°C for static decantation before being transferred to stainless steel vats for fermentation, which occurs at a controlled temperature. Fermentation takes place by inoculating selected yeasts to prevent undesired fermentations. Ulisse said the overripe grapes and select yeasts give the wine its fruitiness and roundness. The wine has hints of green apple, honey, a touch of spice and a slight bitter aftertaste. Ulisse added that none of the white wines undergo malolactic fermentation.

Pecorino Falerio DOC Pecorino 100% Pecorino. The grapes come from selected vineyards of the Ascoli Piceno and are at 200/300 meters. Soil is medium mix tending to sandy and the training system is guyot. There are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is the same as above. Fermentation with inoculated selected yeasts. The wine is then stored in steel containers at a controlled temperature until sterile bottling. It is pleasantly fruity, with hints of apple, honey and spice.IMG_8761

Rosso Piceno DOC Superiore “Brecciarolo” 70% Montepuicano and 30% Sangiovese from company owned vineyards in the municipalities of Offida and Ascoli Piceno. The vineyards are at 200/300 meters; the soil is mainly clay, tending to limestone at Offida and medium mix, tending to sandy at Ascoli Piceno. The training system is guyot and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand in mid-October. After destemming, the grapes are channeled into 200hl steel fermenting vats, equipped with a pump over system and a temperature control system. Maceration lasts for 20 days. After fermentation the wine is drawn off into aged barriques. Ulisse said they are 2nd and 3rd passage. It is full bodied, with good fruit and a hint of cherry.IMG_8760

Lacrima di Morro 100% Lacrima di Morro d’Alba from company owned vineyards in the municipalities of San Marcello-Ancona at 100/150 meters. The soil is mainly clay, the training system is spur-pruned cordon and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Harvest usually takes place in September.  After destemming, the grapes are placed in temperature controlled steel vats. Maceration lasts for about 20 days with daily pump over. Ulisse said that this is almost done closed to save the fruity and flowery aromas of the grape variety. This is an aromatic wine with its own unique aromas and flavors. It has rich aromas of strawberry, marasca cherry and violets that seem to jump right out of the glass. It is full flavored, yet soft and lightly tannic with a hint of almonds. Ulisse said that Lacrima means tear in Italian, the skin of the grape is so delicate that when it is ripe a drop of juice falls. It can be served slightly chilled.IMG_8762

Ludi Offida DOC Rosso made from 50% Montepulciano, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from company owned vineyards in the municipalities of Offida and Castel di Lama. The vineyards are at 200/250 meters, the soil is mainly clay, cordon trained and spur pruned. Harvest is by hand in mid-October. After destemming, the grapes are channeled into 200hl steel fermentation vats, equipped with temperature control. Maceration is on the lees for 20/25 days. After fermentation the wine is drawn off into new barriques selected by the enologist from a range of handcrafted cooperage and left to age for 18 months. The wine was then assembled. It has hints of ripe fruit: cherry and blackberry with a note of licorice.IMG_8763

Rosso Piceno Superiore “Roggio del Filare 2010 70% Montepulicano and 30% Sangiovese. The vineyards are at 200 meters The training system is guyot. Harvest is in mid-October. After destemming, the grapes are channeled into 100hl steel fermenting vats, equipped with a programmable pump over system with temperature control. Maceration is for 20 days. The wine is aged in new barriques made from selected French cooperage for 18 months. It is a full-bodied wine with hints of hints of blackberry, cherry, spice and a touch of vanilla.IMG_8764

Visciole made from 80% Lacrima di Mora d’Alba and 20% cherry syrup made from an ancient variety of wild cherry (Prunus Cerasus), dark red and sour tasting. The ripe cherries are collected the first weeks of July, and then macerated, partly whole and partly crushed, with sugar. It is decanted for a few days and then filtered. This triggers a fermentation, which leads to the final syrup, which is soft and fragrant. The result is syrup with a high concentration of sugar, which is blended with the Lacrima triggering a second fermentation. The wine and syrup are mixed. The fermentation is stopped at about 14% alcohol by volume, with residual sugar. Ulisse said that “flavored wines” are an ancient tradition in the Marche dating back to the Middle Ages when it was used as a method to preserve wine. The natural syrup helped to prevent the oxidation of the wine and made it more aromatic. Today this would not be considered a wine because it is not made 100% from grapes. It would be perfect with chocolate and as I was drinking the wine I wished I had a piece to go with it.

All  the wines are an excellent quality to price ratio.

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Filed under Lacrima di Morrod'Alba, Ludi Offida, Marche, Passerina Brut, Pecorino, Roggio del Filare, Rosso Picerno Brecciarolo, Velenosi winery, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Visciole

Down Argentina Way

“The best measure of a wine’s worth is an empty bottle,”said Germán di Cesare the winemaker for Botega Trivento, the 3,185-acre estate in Mendoza Argentina,as I sat down to lunch with him. Germán is very personable and passionate about wine and an authority on traditional Argentine culture. He is also a skilled cook specializing in Argentinian cuisine.

German di Cesare

German di Cesare

Speaking about the climatic conditions in Mendoza, German told me that he pays close attention to location, soil and climate, and, at Trivento, the “Three Winds” that sweep through Mendoza and forge the identity of the terroir and are the true key to understanding the region. How to harness and work with these distinctive winds can be difficult, but German grew up here and instinctively knows what do.

He said that he is going back to older techniques, using concrete tanks and larger foudres for aging and pulling back on oak treatments. In his wine he is looking for freshness, fruit without heaviness, a wine that is both easy to understand and complex in flavor.

The WinesIMG_8652

Amado Sur Chardonnay, 2013, the production zone is Mendoza, Argentina. Made from Chardonnay with moderate amounts of Pinot Grigio and Viognier. The Chardonnay and Viognier come from the Finca Los Ponchos Vineyard, located in the Tupungato area of the Uco Valley, the highest altitude sub region of Mendoza. The Pinot Grigio comes from the Finca del Alto Vineyard in the prime Lujan de Cuyo region. The grapes are hand picked in the beginning of March and placed in small cases for protection. The 3 grape varieties undergo a period of cold skin contact after they are destemmed and crushed. The juices are fermented separately in stainless steel for 2-3 weeks, preserving the grapes’ rich aromatic flavor. The wines are blended and aged for 2 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of pear, pineapple and peach. $15IMG_8651

Torrontés Reserve 100% Torrontés 2014. Harvest takes place the first week of March. After crushing, a period of cold skin contact follows. The juice is then fermented in stainless steel at 55/60 degrees F for 20 days to preserve the grapes’ aromatics and flavor. The wine has hints of peach and apricot with notes of violets and tropical fruit. $18IMG_8650

Amando Sur Malbec Blend 2013 The soil is alluvial. The grapes are hand harvested in April and undergo cold maceration prior to separate fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Natural malolactic fermentation follows. The separate wines are aged for 8 months in French oak barrels. After assemblage the wine is aged for six months in stainless steel and then another 5 months in bottle before release. It has hints of cherry and strawberry with a touch of vanilla, and a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. $15IMG_8657

Malbec “Golden Reserva” 2013, 2012, 2011 100% Malbec Production zone Luján de Cuy, Mendoza. The grapes are harvested by hand in mid-April. Germán said that the grapes are hand sorted only by women because they have soft hands. The grapes are cold macerated prior to fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging takes place in French oak barrels of second and third passage for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. The wines have hints of berries, plums and notes of coffee and tobacco with a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. The 2011 is drinking the best at this time. All three went very well with the steak.$22

After we finished lunch, Germán looking around the table, repeated what he had said at the start: the best measure of a wine’s worth is an empty bottle.

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Filed under Argentina, Germand Cesare, Malbec, Trivento Winery, White wine