Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening

On Tuesday, February 4th, the BBWO Grand Tasting was held at Center 415 in NYC. The event was organized by the Consorzio di Tutela Batolo Barbatesco Alba Langhe e Dogliano representing over 450 wineries in Piedmont. I was not only invited to the walk around tasting on the first day, but also was asked to be a judge of a blind tasting of 2016 Barolo and 2017 Barbaresco the next day.

Part 1 was a walk around tasting of 200 producers from the Langhe presenting their wines. In the middle of the room surrounded by all the producers were two large round booths, one for Barbaresco and one for Barolo, divided by commune.

There was so much wine I wished the tasting part would have been two days, one for Barbaresco and the next day for Barolo.

There was also a seminar given by Alessandro Masnaghetti on Barolo and Barbaresco, which I was not able to attend.

These are some of the wines I tasted:

Barolo “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2015 Aurelio Settimo. The wine is aged for 42 months,18 in big French oak casks and 6 in new big oak casks of Austrian wood.This is a well-structured and balanced wine with hints of cinnamon and licorice, spicy and balsamic notes.Tiziana

I visited the winery 3 years ago and really enjoyed my visit with Tiziana Settimo, administrator of the winery.

 Barolo “Sperss” 2015 Gaja Fermentation and maceration takes place for 3 weeks. The wine is aged in oak for 24 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of dark ripe fruit, black cherries and prunes with a hint of cloves and black pepper.Angelo

Once many years ago Michele and I interviewed Angelo Gaja over breakfast for an article we were writing. It is something that never happened with anyone else and seemed so un-Italian!

 Barolo “La Rosa”2015 Fontanafredda Aging is in oak Allier barrels, 50% new for about 12 months and then racked into oak casks of 2,000 and 3,000 liters for one year. In January, I went to a Fontanafredda tasting where they had the “La Rosa” 1996- a truly great wine.

 Barolo “Bussia” 2015 Poderi Colla aged in large oak casks for 24 to 28 months. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of red berries, tar, licorice, and tea. This is a classic Barolo. I visited the winery three years ago and was very impressed with all their wine.

Barolo 2015 Pio Cesare Vinification in stainless steel with skin contact for about 30 months. The wine is aged in large French oak botti for about 30 months and a small amount in barriques as well. The wine has hints of black cherry, licorice, tobacco and spice, a classic Barolo. I have visited the winery a number of times and once Michele and I were invited to the home of Pio Boffa, owner of the family winery for dinner.. We had a great time. Pio was not at the tasting.

Barolo 2015 “Rocche Dell’Annunziata 2015 Rocche Costamagna The wine is aged in botti (large barrels) of Slavonia oak for 24 months and in bottle for one year before release. The wine has hints of raspberries and licorice with floral notes and a touch of spice.

I first met Alessandro Locatelli, who now runs the family winery, when he was a teenager in the 1980’s at the winery and several times since. I enjoyed speaking with him about the people we know in common.

Barolo “Sarmassa” Vigna Merenda Scarzello 2013 The wine is aged in 600 liter Slovenian tanks for 26 to 28 months. It is then aged an additional 12 months in bottle before release. 2013 was an excellent year. This is an old style traditional Barolo and I was very impressed by it

Barolo “La Serra” 2016 Marcarini The wine is aged for 24 months in Slavonian oak casks and six months in the bottle before release. It has hints of cherry, violets, licorice with a touch of spice and a note of violets.

I had not seen Manuel Marchetti since I was the wine director of I Trulli Restaurant in NYC and that was a number of years ago. It was nice to catch up.

Barolo “Cannubi” 2015 Damilano Temperature-controlled fermentation for 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels 30 to 50 HL. This is an elegant Barolo with hints of cherry, plum, tobacco, licorice, leather, a touch of white truffles, a long finish and a very pleasant aftertaste.  

Babaresco “Ovello” 2015 Produttori del Barbaresco The Orvello vineyard covers an area of 16.25 acres at 290 meters with a south/southeastern exposure. The wine is aged for 4 years in Slavonian oak barrels. This is a traditional Barbaresco and over the years Orvello has become my favorite of the single vineyards.

Barbaresco “Campo Gros Martinega” Riserva 2013 Marchesi di Gresy. The wine is aged in barriques for 12 months and then in Slavonian oak casks for 16 months and in bottle until ready for release. The wine has hints of dried roses, leather, tobacco, licorice and a note of violets. I visited the winery many years ago on the suggestion of the late wine writer, Sheldon Wasserman.

Barbaresco “Rabaja” 2016 Castello di Verduno There is 30 to 40 day macerations and extended aging in large Slavonian botti. The wine has hints of red fruit, spice, roses and a hint of tobacco.

Barbaresco “Montersino” Alessandro Rivetto 2016 Manual harvest. Stem pressing and cold maceration for 2 days after which fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for 20 days. The wine remains in oak casks for 18 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a balanced wine with hints of cherries and violets and touches of tea and rose petals.

I met Alessandro a few years ago at a wine tasting in NYC and I always enjoy speaking with him.

For more information on the tasting see.  https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2020/04/06/piedmonts-parade-of-fine-vintaged-continues/  a blog by Tom Maresca

On Feb 5th there was the World’s Best Palates tasting. Matteo Ascheri President of the Consorzio said it was the aim to assess the overall quality of the 2016 and 2017 vintage. The judges were Masters of Wine, press, wine critics and sommeliers. The panels were designed to be diverse so we could share the experience with others from different nationalities and wine trade areas. At my judging table the chairperson was from New Zealand, other members were from Italy, Spain, America and Latvia.

The chairperson tasted the wine and if it was approved it was poured for the rest of the table. There were 4 flights of about 10 wines grouped if possible by commune. There would be 6 minutes to evaluate, score and discuss each wine. Each panel member had an ipad for the scoring. The chairperson recorded all results and an average was taken for the 2007 Barbaresco and 2016 Barolo. My panel discussed every wine, sometimes we agreed and some times we were very far apart in our scores. The discussion was held before you put in your final score so that you could change it based on the discussion. I did not change any of my scores.

It was informative to taste blind and to hear the opines of the others on the wines. I really enjoyed the experience as everyone was very professional.

The final score for all the panels for the Barbaresco vintage 2017 was 98.1 and for the Barolo 2016 vintage 99.3.

Some of the wines I gave high scores to in the blind tasting were:

Barolo Momforte D’Alba Poderi Colla

Barolo La Morra Cabot Berton

Barolo La Morra Marcarini

Barolo La Morra Mauro Veglio

Barolo La Morra Corino

Barbaresco Neive Oddero

Barbaresco Nieve Massimo Rattalino

Barbaresco Nieve Adriano Marco e Vittorio

That night there was  Gala Dinner for all the produces and judges. The dinner was prepared by Massimo Bottura. Unfortunately I was leaving for 5 weeks in Italy and was unable to attend.

 

 

 

 

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Piedmont’s Parade of Fine Vintages Continues

Piedmont’s Parade of Fine Vintages Continues

February 13, 2020 by TOM MARESCA

Climate change has been very kind to the winemakers of Italy’s Piedmont, giving them a succession of beautiful growing seasons. And they have made the most of nature’s bounty, turning out a series of wines of the quality level we used to get only once or at most twice a decade. This is truly a golden age for Barolo and Barbaresco lovers.

The proof of that was everywhere at the Barolo Barbaresco World Opening, a huge showing of new releases of both wines held in New York during the first week of February.

As if in confirmation of what has been going on in Piedmont, weather in New York that week was unnaturally warm, and the crowd at the event large indeed. 148 producers showed about twice that number of wines from 2015 and 2016, and many luminaries had traveled from Italy to personally pour their wines and to greet old friends.

I did my best, but there was no way that I was going to be able to taste 148 young Nebbiolo wines in a single afternoon, much less nearly 300. In the old days, when I was a young snip, and when the father of this event was held annually in Alba, I would taste far more wines than that over its week-long duration, but non sum qualis eram sub regno Cynarae – and in just one afternoon, standing up, struggling for spitting space at the buckets (too few and far between), and trying to take legible notes: no way.

So I tasted as many as I could, chatted with some producers I haven’t seen in years, and was totally impressed by the quality of the wines on offer. I didn’t taste a single bad one, nor even a middling one, all afternoon.

That goes for both vintages, despite their differences. And the differences are many and striking. The 2015 wines benefited from a deep winter snow cover, which provided ample ground water reserves to carry the vines through the six torrid, rainless weeks that followed the mild spring.

The rest of the summer and fall were as fine as could be hoped for, carrying the vines in almost perfect condition to the harvest. One producer remarked to me that 2015 had a hot growing season, “but we’ve learned now how to deal with them.”  Here is the Consortium’s evaluation:

The Nebbiolo ripened perfectly, though slightly earlier than over the last few years. In particular, climatic conditions were seen in the second part of the summer that allowed for an impressive accumulation of polyphenols. The excellent quality of the tannins emerging on analysis will certainly ensure elegant, long-lasting wines with good structure…. The sugar content settled at average potential values of around 14–14.5% vol., while the acidity is perfect for Nebbiolo (6.5 g/l). With the ripening data at hand, the great balance that clearly emerges in the technical parameters goes well beyond the numbers, promising big wines. In general, considering the great balance shown in the ripening data we can say without any shadow of doubt that all the conditions are in place for a truly great vintage: one to remember, like few others in history.

Now, I’ve got to put some of that statement up to hope and/or hype, because I found the 2015s charming and intensely enjoyable – beautiful, with wonderful fruit and freshness – but not big. I may be wrong about that, but most of the producers I spoke to seemed to agree, indicating that for them 2016 was the great, structured vintage, not 2015. That doesn’t mean 2015 won’t age – just that it’s probably a 15- to 20-year wine rather than 50 to 100.

2016, on the other hand, just may be a 50-year vintage: Certainly, most of the producers I spoke with seemed to feel that way, referring to it almost unanimously as a “superb” vintage. The wines I tasted – mostly Barbarescos, which are bottled a year before Barolos – supported that judgement. They were big and balanced, with the kind of tannic ripeness and live acidity that in both Barolo and Barbaresco usually portends very long life and development in the bottle.

Here, for the record, is the Consortium’s evaluation of that harvest:

The late development seen in the early part of the year was made up for during the months of August and September. In particular, the second half of September was crucial for the components which will go into determining the structure of the wines, above all as regards the accumulation of phenolic substances. While waiting to be able to assess the real quality of the 2016 wines, as far as can be evaluated analytically we can look forward to wines with excellent balance, big bouquets and great structure, although in some cases lower alcohol contents will be recorded than in 2015. We can therefore expect a vintage featuring significant qualities which will be talked about for a long time to come.

That is surprisingly guarded for a Consortium statement: They usually veer toward over-optimism rather than caution. All I can tell you is that I loved the ‘16s I tasted, even though I think they really shouldn’t be drunk for a decade yet.

I’ll just list here, in alphabetical order, my best wines of the tasting. All were absolutely characteristic both of Nebbiolo and of the vintages as I’ve already described them, so I’ll keep my comments to a minimum.

Aurelio Settimo, Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2015 – forward, light, and well-structured: fine.

_____________, Barolo Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata 2012 – another lovely keeping wine, classically structured.

Brezza, Barolo Cannubi 2015 – nice indeed: wild fennel in the nose, wild cherry and herbs on the palate.

Cascina delle Rose, Barbaresco Tre Stelle 2016 – a big wine, yet welcoming, with great structure and balance.

Colla, Barolo Bussia Dardi le Rose 2015 – Excellent: classic Colla style and structure (if you don’t know what that means, you owe it to yourself to find out).

Conterno, Barolo Francia 2015 – very lovely, very young: cellar for ten years before you start them.

Gaja, Barolo Sperss 2015 – gorgeous, in that deceptively light, very structured Gaja style.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo Bussia 2016 – a lovely wine, all raspberry and fennel and wild cherry.

Livia Fontana, Barolo Villero 2016 – beautiful acid/tannin balance, great over-all.

Marcarini, Barolo Brunate 2015 – lovely and accessible: drink this and the other 15s until the 16s come ready.

Massolino, Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva 2013 – a great wine for long keeping.

Oddero, Barolo Riserva Bussia Vigna Mondoca 2013 – an extraordinary wine right through to its dark-chocolate finish.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Ovello 2015 – light and intensely wild cherry and, as with all Produttori wines, a bargain.

_____________________, Barbaresco Riserva Muncagota 2015 – big, fine, and structured: another great Produttori cru.

_____________________, Barbaresco Riserva Paje 2015 – Slightly bigger and more elegant than the Muncagota: very deep for a 2015.

Renato Ratti, Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2016 – fine, fine, fine! With the great structure characteristic of the ‘16s.

Schiavenza, Barolo Prapo 2015 – very big, old-style Barolo: needs time to soften its tannins; very good indeed.

As you can see from all the above, the teens of this still new century are creating wonders in Barolo and Barbaresco. We have to hope that the warming trend can be brought under control before all we can get in the future becomes a fine crop of Nebbiolo raisins.

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At Home with Michele and Charles

Just like everyone else, Michele and I are trying to make the best of being confined to home, which in our case is a small apartment.  For us that means we are doing a lot of reading, tv watching, household projects and of course, eating and drinking.  Luckily, we had done a big shopping trip when we returned home from Italy and stocked up on some of our favorite Italian ingredients.  I keep a supply of wines on hand, so whatever Michele decides to cook, or is able to cook with what she finds in the pantry or refrigerator, I can match a wine to it.  With a good supply of pasta on hand, there is always something good to look forward to.

 

One day it was one of Michele’s childhood favorites.  Broken spaghetti with peas, eggs and cheese.  She uses frozen peas for this dish, and they are perfectly delicious, sweet and fresh tasting.

 

 

Beneventano Falaghina ‘”Resilienza “2018 Donna Chiara made from 100% Falanghina  The soil is chalky and the training system is guyot. Harvest is the first two weeks of October. There is a soft  pressing of the grapes and then they are cooled  50 degrees F for 4 to 5 hours. This is followed a with static decantations.  Fermentation is at 57 to 60 degrees F in steel tanks for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine has floral notes with hints of citrus fruit, pear and apricot with good acidity and a long finish. I am always impressed by the Falaghina from Donna Chiara.

 

 

Another day, she tried a recipe from one of Marcella Hazan’s books.  It was spaghetti with bacon and zucchini.  It doesn’t look that interesting in the photos, but we liked it.

 

 

I was craving tomato sauce, so Michele made a simple one with olive oil, garlic, canned Italian tomatoes, and some basil that she had in the freezer.  It will have to do until we can get some fresh basil or plant some when the weather is better.

 

The only time we have pasta leftover is when Michele makes a double batch so that she can fry it the next day.  She mixes the cold pasta — any kind will do — with eggs and grated cheese and fries it in a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet until crispy and browned.  This was made with the remains of the spaghetti with zucchini and bacon.

 

 

 

Here we have spaghetti once again, with broccoli cooked until very soft with garlic olive oil and hot pepper.  Mashed with a little of the pasta water, it  makes  a kind  of  pesto  to  toss  with  the  pasta.

Soave Superiore DOCG “Monte San Pietro”  Sandro De Bruno made from 100% Garganega from the hills around Roncà, at 330 meters. The soil is volcanic, there are 4,000 vines per hectare, the training system is Pergoletta Veronese and the exposure is south. Fermentation is in big oak barrels of 30hl. This is a well-structured, complex wine with hints of tropical fruit,  citrus fruit white pepper and a floral note with a very pleasing after taste and a long finish. A great Soave.

 

This spaghetti was tossed with fresh scallops, garlic, parsley and hot pepper.  She finished it with some toasted breadcrumbs.

Barbera d’Alba” Bricco di Merli” 2001 Cogno  made from 100% Barbara from a 1.8 hectare vineyard at 300 meters, There are 4,500 plants per hectare and the training system is vertical trellised with guyot pruning. Vinification in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumping over. The wine is aged for six months in large Slavonian casks and  6 months in bottle before release. This is the fourth bottle of this wine I have had and it is showing very well for a wine 19 years old. Barbara can age. It has hints of dried prunes and cherries with a hint of spice.

 

Fresh fettuccine is the preferred pasta for a slow simmered Ragu Bolognese, made with pork, beef and a variety of vegetables.  But  we  had  it  with  dried penne rigati.

Montefalco Rosso 2016 Bocale made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sangiovese, 10 % Merlot and 5% Colorino.  Harvest is by hand the last days of September and the first days of October.  Vinification is with natural enzymes and there is no stabilization or filtration. The wine is aged in barrels and barriques for 12 months. The  wine has hints of violets and cherry with spicy notes

One day, a homemade pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella was a nice break from pasta.  It was even good reheated the next day.

 

A bunch of fresh asparagus was the inspiration for this creamy risotto.

 

Michele fried the remainder into cakes the next day, similar to the fried spaghetti I mentioned previously.

With so much bad news, good meals are a joy and a comfort.  We hope you are eating and drinking well too.

 

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A Wino Confronts a Virus by Tom Maresca

A Wino Confronts a Virus

This is the second article that I am sharing written by other wine writers to express their thoughts during this unusual time.  The author last week was Daniele Cernilli and now I present Tom Maresca, from Greenwich Village, NYC 

March 26, 2020  Tom’s Wine Line.   www.ubriaco.wordpress.com

The corona virus has definitely closed down the wine season: no tastings, no lunches, no new-release launches, no winemaker presentations – what Li’l Abner would have called a double-whammy for sure. For a few years now, I haven’t been too happy with most of what has been going on in the world outside of wine. Wine is altogether a pleasanter topic, and I would much rather spread some cheer than increase anyone’s gloom, so usually in these posts, I just focus on a wine or wines, and try to ignore everything else. But the coronavirus has created a whole new ballgame, and it would fatuous of me to try to pretend otherwise.

Here in New York we have entered a kind of lockdown. The streets of Greenwich Village, where I live, are now blessedly clear of the roving bands of gawping tourists who used to make it impossible to walk around my neighborhood – but that’s the only upside. The streets are clear of everyone else too – deserted, lifeless, shops closed. Every day looks like early Sunday morning in the Village of the Fifties, before the tourist boom, before the Folkie invasion, when in the evening only Village old-timers and a few Beats hung out in a few old bars – White Horse, Kettle of Fish – or a few small jazz clubs – Five Spot, Half Note. Charming memories of another time, but most of those are long gone, and their successors – all the new bars and restaurants – are now closed “for the duration,” as they said during WWII.

It’s difficult to imagine the degree of hardship that’s being inflicted on all the people who worked in the entertainment and hospitality industries, all the kitchen- and wait staff, somms and baristas, actors and musicians, stagehands and designers, all the support people in how many different fields, who are suddenly without salaries or without prospects. Not to mention all the thousands of others in countless other fields who now have to figure out how to work at home and tend their kids or – worse yet – were simply laid off without any severance or help.

And that’s only what things look like in this country. It doesn’t begin to measure the misery in the rest of the world, especially right now in Italy, where I have many friends, and where the coffins are beginning to pile up faster than they can be buried. These are grim times.

But enough of that: Nobody needs me to tell them how dire the situation can be or how to help those who need it, and I’m confident that readers of this post partake fully of the compassion and fellow-feeling that the community of wine exemplifies even in normal times.

Diane and I have been lucky: “Sheltering in place” hasn’t been too hard for us, since it fits our age and lifestyle. We still go out as early in the day as we can to do our necessary grocery shopping, and we years ago decided that most restaurants were either too noisy or too expensive or just plain not good enough to go to, so we continue to cook and eat at home pretty much as we always have. And drink at home, of course: Unless this quasi-lockdown goes on much longer than anyone expects, we’ve got enough wine stashed here to see us through.

As is widely acknowledged, it’s the psychic and emotional toll that’s most telling – no theater, no movies, no live music, and worst of all for us, not being able to see our friends, to break bread and sip wine with them while excoriating the clowns in the White House who have so screwed this thing up. The absence of that whole social dimension, plus the steadily increasing anger at how all this could have been and wasn’t prepared for, combined with the daily flow of confusing, self-serving disinformation coming from Washington – all that just plain wears one down.

I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Andrew Cuomo: Here in New York, our governor at least is speaking honestly and acting seriously. The world will get through this in some shape or other, but my world is never going to be right again until we can again gather people at our table for dinner and wine and companionship – what Alexander Pope, describing dinners with his best friend, called “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” As far as this wino is concerned, all the rest is window-dressing. That’s what life is for, and the loss of those human moments is the greatest loss the virus has – so far – inflicted on us. Call that superficial: It may well be – but it’s also true. In vino veritas, eh?

 

A Wino Confronts a Virus

March 26, 2020

The corona virus has definitely closed down the wine season: no tastings, no lunches, no new-release launches, no winemaker presentations – what Li’l Abner would have called a double-whammy for sure. For a few years now, I haven’t been too happy with most of what has been going on in the world outside of wine. Wine is altogether a pleasanter topic, and I would much rather spread some cheer than increase anyone’s gloom, so usually in these posts, I just focus on a wine or wines, and try to ignore everything else. But the coronavirus has created a whole new ballgame, and it would fatuous of me to try to pretend otherwise.

Here in New York we have entered a kind of lockdown. The streets of Greenwich Village, where I live, are now blessedly clear of the roving bands of gawping tourists who used to make it impossible to walk around my neighborhood – but that’s the only upside. The streets are clear of everyone else too – deserted, lifeless, shops closed. Every day looks like early Sunday morning in the Village of the Fifties, before the tourist boom, before the Folkie invasion, when in the evening only Village old-timers and a few Beats hung out in a few old bars – White Horse, Kettle of Fish – or a few small jazz clubs – Five Spot, Half Note. Charming memories of another time, but most of those are long gone, and their successors – all the new bars and restaurants – are now closed “for the duration,” as they said during WWII.

It’s difficult to imagine the degree of hardship that’s being inflicted on all the people who worked in the entertainment and hospitality industries, all the kitchen- and wait staff, somms and baristas, actors and musicians, stagehands and designers, all the support people in how many different fields, who are suddenly without salaries or without prospects. Not to mention all the thousands of others in countless other fields who now have to figure out how to work at home and tend their kids or – worse yet – were simply laid off without any severance or help.

And that’s only what things look like in this country. It doesn’t begin to measure the misery in the rest of the world, especially right now in Italy, where I have many friends, and where the coffins are beginning to pile up faster than they can be buried. These are grim times.

But enough of that: Nobody needs me to tell them how dire the situation can be or how to help those who need it, and I’m confident that readers of this post partake fully of the compassion and fellow-feeling that the community of wine exemplifies even in normal times.

Diane and I have been lucky: “Sheltering in place” hasn’t been too hard for us, since it fits our age and lifestyle. We still go out as early in the day as we can to do our necessary grocery shopping, and we years ago decided that most restaurants were either too noisy or too expensive or just plain not good enough to go to, so we continue to cook and eat at home pretty much as we always have. And drink at home, of course: Unless this quasi-lockdown goes on much longer than anyone expects, we’ve got enough wine stashed here to see us through.

As is widely acknowledged, it’s the psychic and emotional toll that’s most telling – no theater, no movies, no live music, and worst of all for us, not being able to see our friends, to break bread and sip wine with them while excoriating the clowns in the White House who have so screwed this thing up. The absence of that whole social dimension, plus the steadily increasing anger at how all this could have been and wasn’t prepared for, combined with the daily flow of confusing, self-serving disinformation coming from Washington – all that just plain wears one down.

I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Andrew Cuomo: Here in New York, our governor at least is speaking honestly and acting seriously. The world will get through this in some shape or other, but my world is never going to be right again until we can again gather people at our table for dinner and wine and companionship – what Alexander Pope, describing dinners with his best friend, called “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” As far as this wino is concerned, all the rest is window-dressing. That’s what life is for, and the loss of those human moments is the greatest loss the virus has – so far – inflicted on us. Call that superficial: It may well be – but it’s also true. In vino veritas, eh?

 

The corona virus has definitely closed down the wine season: no tastings, no lunches, no new-release launches, no winemaker presentations – what Li’l Abner would have called a double-whammy for sure. For a few years now, I haven’t been too happy with most of what has been going on in the world outside of wine. Wine is altogether a pleasanter topic, and I would much rather spread some cheer than increase anyone’s gloom, so usually in these posts, I just focus on a wine or wines, and try to ignore everything else. But the coronavirus has created a whole new ballgame, and it would fatuous of me to try to pretend otherwise.

Here in New York we have entered a kind of lockdown. The streets of Greenwich Village, where I live, are now blessedly clear of the roving bands of gawping tourists who used to make it impossible to walk around my neighborhood – but that’s the only upside. The streets are clear of everyone else too – deserted, lifeless, shops closed. Every day looks like early Sunday morning in the Village of the Fifties, before the tourist boom, before the Folkie invasion, when in the evening only Village old-timers and a few Beats hung out in a few old bars – White Horse, Kettle of Fish – or a few small jazz clubs – Five Spot, Half Note. Charming memories of another time, but most of those are long gone, and their successors – all the new bars and restaurants – are now closed “for the duration,” as they said during WWII.

It’s difficult to imagine the degree of hardship that’s being inflicted on all the people who worked in the entertainment and hospitality industries, all the kitchen- and wait staff, somms and baristas, actors and musicians, stagehands and designers, all the support people in how many different fields, who are suddenly without salaries or without prospects. Not to mention all the thousands of others in countless other fields who now have to figure out how to work at home and tend their kids or – worse yet – were simply laid off without any severance or help.

And that’s only what things look like in this country. It doesn’t begin to measure the misery in the rest of the world, especially right now in Italy, where I have many friends, and where the coffins are beginning to pile up faster than they can be buried. These are grim times.

But enough of that: Nobody needs me to tell them how dire the situation can be or how to help those who need it, and I’m confident that readers of this post partake fully of the compassion and fellow-feeling that the community of wine exemplifies even in normal times.

Diane and I have been lucky: “Sheltering in place” hasn’t been too hard for us, since it fits our age and lifestyle. We still go out as early in the day as we can to do our necessary grocery shopping, and we years ago decided that most restaurants were either too noisy or too expensive or just plain not good enough to go to, so we continue to cook and eat at home pretty much as we always have. And drink at home, of course: Unless this quasi-lockdown goes on much longer than anyone expects, we’ve got enough wine stashed here to see us through.

As is widely acknowledged, it’s the psychic and emotional toll that’s most telling – no theater, no movies, no live music, and worst of all for us, not being able to see our friends, to break bread and sip wine with them while excoriating the clowns in the White House who have so screwed this thing up. The absence of that whole social dimension, plus the steadily increasing anger at how all this could have been and wasn’t prepared for, combined with the daily flow of confusing, self-serving disinformation coming from Washington – all that just plain wears one down.

I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Andrew Cuomo: Here in New York, our governor at least is speaking honestly and acting seriously. The world will get through this in some shape or other, but my world is never going to be right again until we can again gather people at our table for dinner and wine and companionship – what Alexander Pope, describing dinners with his best friend, called “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” As far as this wino is concerned, all the rest is window-dressing. That’s what life is for, and the loss of those human moments is the greatest loss the virus has – so far – inflicted on us. Call that superficial: It may well be – but it’s also true. In vino veritas, eh?

 

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Message in a Bottle by Daniele Cernilli

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Message in a Bottle.  by Daniele Cernilli 03/23/20
Vigneti Pio Cesare Langhe

During these days of forced seclusion, I’m sure many of us we have all opened a bottle from our personal cellar. Each bottle for me has brought back special memories.

I have now been at home for a dozen or so days now and like all of you have gone out the minimum as possible. I have also, like all of you, been looking at the collection of wines in my cellar. They are not as many as you may think, however, because I tend to drink my wine rather than save it for long.

Many bottles are from producers I have known well for years, who make their wine in places I have often visited, many of which are very beautiful. Each bottle, each wine brings back a memory of a vineyard, of the face of an old friend, as if these were messages in a bottle that in a way comfort me and in a way make we want to revisit these people and places more than ever before.

The bottles make me remember discussions and tastings, many of which took place a long time ago. I remember the dreams of the then-young Silvio Jermann and Josko Gravner, in 1981, and my first visit to Brolio, in 1993, with Carlo Ferrini and Francesco Ricasoli, who had just taken charge of his family’s estate. Then there were the incredible landscapes, like the vineyards in the Langhe, those of the Sorrento Peninsula and Etna. And I remember the flavors of wines and the sound of voices as well as the stories told by a young Riccardo Cotarella, who with his salesman in Rome would try to “hawk” his Est to wine shops in the capital. He was totally unknown back then and at times would receive gruff responses.

In the end I open a bottle, which yesterday was a Barolo Ornato 2007 Pio Cesare, a magnificent wine that is perfect to drink right now. I had misplaced it behind some other bottles and this was actually a good thing because otherwise I would have opened it earlier and that would have been a shame.

I hope these memories will once again and as soon as possible be just those of concrete life experiences and encounters. And it would be nice if this took place in a somewhat different yet always wonderful world, like the one of wine and those who make it.

A media hug to all of you.  Daniele Cernilli. aka Doctor Wine, Rome, Italy

— The above was written by Daniele Cernilli from Rome.  From time to time, I will share with you messages I receive from other wine journalists about how are coping with the recent events.  — Charles


 

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A Lunch in Rome to Remember

 

Reservations at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina in Rome are hard to get even when there are few tourists in town. Livia Alyson Careaga, an old friend who is in the wine business, suggested we meet there for lunch and said she would make the reservation.  That was fine by us since the place is always crowded and service can at times be rushed.

Michele and I arrived first and all I said to the receptionist was “Livia.” She broke out in a smile and replied, “of course,” and showed us to a table.  While we waited, a waiter appeared and poured us complementary glasses of champagne.  He could not have been nicer and we realized we had never received such a warm welcome at Roscioli before and it was because of Livia.  When she arrived, Livia introduced him as Maurizio, and he poured her some champagne and told us the day’s specials.

Maurizio took our order and brought out a few dishes for us to try as we waited. In fact he brought out so much we had to cancel one of the courses.   

First out was a basket of pizza rosa, slices of crisp, thin focaccia slathered with tomato sauce.  Romans eat this for a snack throughout the day and stop in at the nearby Roscioli Bakery to buy it by the slice to eat out of its brown paper wrapper.

Fresh Cantabrea anchovies with olives on focaccia came next, a favorite of mine.

We also had burrata cheese stuffed with gorgonzola, something we had never had before.  It was served with cubes of ripe pear.

After the champagne, we ordered the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2014 made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo by Edoardo Valentini

The winery is organic and biodynamic. They only keep 10% of the production, the rest is sold to a local co-op. The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months, I believe. I visited the winery a number of years ago. Edoardo (d.2006) spent all the time talking to us about the terroir, the grapes and the vineyards.  He did not speak about how the wine was produced.This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and peach, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe. It is a great white wine. When I am in Italy I drink this wine whenever I see it on the wine list because it is less costly than you can buy it retail in the USA.

Roscioli is famous for their pasta alla Carbonara.  It was fantastic.

 

Michele had rigatoni alla Matriciana, which was excellent.

Livia had fettuccine with ragu, the pasta special.

Our second wine was the Chianti Classic Reserve 2006 from Castell’INVilla made from 100% Sangiovese sourced from the best vineyards on the property at the southeast corner of Castelnuovo Berardengo. The vineyards are at 300 meters and the soil is alluvial with pebbles and a mixture of lime, clay and sand. Harvest is by hand the second half of September and early October.  There is natural fermentation with native yeasts is stainless steel tanks for 12 to 14 days. The wine is aged in large Slavonian oak for 24 to 36 months. The wine is released a year or two after other producers’ wines. This is a Chianti Classico that can age and I have had a number of older bottles. The wine was hints of plum, black cherry, violets and a touch of licorice. I picked the white wine and Livia picked this one. I was happy she did.

Last was the lamb chops, the famous baby lamb of Rome, cooked perfectly.  Just then, the chef stopped by to say hello and we complimented him on the delicious meal.  He was very gracious and explained how he prepares some of the dishes.

 

Crunchy cannoli filled with sheeps’ milk ricotta topped with candied fruits and pistachios came out next.

Some beautiful little pastries appeared next, though we were too full to appreciate them.

In fact, we were having such a good time talking and drinking that we lost track of time. We were in the restaurant for over 4 hours, missing a 4:30 appointment.

This was our last meal in Rome for this trip and it was one that we will always remember.  Thanks to Livia Alyson for inviting us there and to the staff at Roscioli for their hospitality and good food and and wine.    We left the next day a few days ahead of schedule because of concerns about travel during the coronavirus crisis.  We hope to return soon!

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wine Tasting to Remember

 

Just before I was to leave for Italy I was invited by Riccardo Gabrielli of PR comunicare il vino to Il Gattopardo restaurant. Riccardo represents many of the best wineries in Italy and I am always happy to taste the wines and speak with Riccardo. At the time I did not realize that this was going to be my last wine tasting for some time given the present situation. I was very happy the wines were showing so well.

Riccardo

When I arrived there was only one other person at the table, Alfredo Miccoli, chef/owner of Al Mar restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. I know Alfredo and have been to his restaurant and was looking forward to discussing the wines with him.

THE WINES

Le Grane” Colli (Le Marche) DOC 2018 made from 100% Ribona (aka Maceratino) Boccadigabbia. Ribona is a rare gape varietal grown only in the province of Macerata. The 23 hectares of vineyards stand on hills in two separate zones in Civitanova and Macerata. The soil is sandy-clayey and the exposure is northeast and the training system is guyot. The grape clusters are soft crushed and fermentation lasts for about 12 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, whole slightly overripe berries are added to the wine. This second fermentation lasts for 10 days and allows an added extraction of compounds and aromatics from the skins. This is a well-structured wine with fragrances of ripe citrus fruit and a hint of melon.

La Lupinella Trebbiano Toscana IGT 2018 made from 100% Trebbiano. The vineyard is in Sant’Ansano (Vinci). The grapes are carefully selected by hand and a small part, about 2%, is picked from the bunches, set aside and later added during fermentation which takes place in terracotta jars, to intensify the aromatic character of the wine. The wine remains on the lees for a minimum of 6 months without undergoing malolactic fermentation and is aged at least 3 months in the bottle before release. This is a fresh fruity well-balanced wine with hints of peach, white flowers and a touch of almonds.

Pinot Grigio “Ramato” Friuli Colli Orientali 20i8 Valentino Butussi made from 100% Pinot Grigio planted in 1984, 1978 and 2004 on hill slopes of Eocene-era stratified marl and sandstone. There are 4,400 vines per hectare and the training system in guyot. Selected hand picked grapes harvested in September when the grapes have reached optimal ripeness. The grapes are destemmed and gently pressed and the resulting must is chilled to 10-12 degrees C. The free-run must is separated from the second-quality juice and sent to be fermented. The wine remains for 6 months in steel casks and 2 to 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of citrus fruit, with a touch of acacia blossoms.

Rosato di Nero d’Avola ”Luigia” IG 2018 IGT, Sicily Barone Sergio made from 100% Nero d’Avola. This is a Nero d’Avola vinified like a white wine. The wine is aged in steel for 6 to 7 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. It is an easy to drink fruity wine with hints of strawberry, cherry and black currants.

Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba DOCG “Garabei” 2017  Giovanni Abrigo made from 100% Dolcetto planted in 1968. The estate is situated on a hill in Diano d’Alba at a high altitude. They own 11 hectares of vineyards. The soil is sandy with a lot of gravel. The juice is fermented naturally on the skins for 8 days in stainless steel tanks. After racking the wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel and spends 4 more months in bottle before release. The wines are not filtered or fined. Sustainable farming methods are used. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherries and raspberries with a hint of spice and a touch of lavender. I was able to drink this wine with dinner one night and was very impressed it.

Costa Toscana IGT 2014  “Vallino”  La Regola made from Cabernet Sauvignon with a variable percentage of Sangiovese. The vineyards are at 150 to 200 meters. The soil is red Mediterranean with many stones. Harvest is by hand with a carful selection. Manual selection of grapes in the winery, medium maceration, fermentation is in natural concrete vats at a controlled temperature. After malolactic fermentation the wine ages for 12 months in French barriques of second and third passage. The wine remains in bottle for at least 12 months before release. This is a concentrated  wine with  hints of red and black berries, a touch of spice and a note of  vanilla.

Pietro Beconcini “IXE IGT Toscana Tempranillo 2016  The name is the Tuscan pronunciation for the letter X. The letter X stands for unknown vines. In the early 1950’s, 213 vines of unknown species were found in the vineyard which were called X vines. With help from the Ministry of Agriculture these vines were declared to be Tempranillo a few years ago. In June of 2009, Tempranillo was enrolled in the Tuscan register. As far as I know Tempranillo was never cultivated before in Italy.

This wine is made from 99.9% of Tempranillo and a touch of Sangiovese. The winery is located in the town of San Miniato. The vineyard is 3.5 hectares and the grapes are all from the new vineyards planted in 1997 using a massal selection from buds taken from the century old vines of Tempranillo from the Vigna alle Nicchie. The training is spurred cordon. Soil is sandstone with marine fossil formation, well integrated with abundant clay. 100/150 meters above sea level and there are 7,000 vines per hectare. Harvest the first 10 days of September. The grapes are dried for 4 weeks and they obtain a total yield of 70%. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled glass lined cement vats and maceration is for 3 weeks. Aging lasts for 14 months in 70% French barriques and 30% American oak barriques of second passage. 6 months in bottle before release. First passage in barriques is for the wine from the grapes of the historical vineyard Vigna alle Nicchie that goes into the wine of the same name. This origin of this grape variety is not known for certain.

Tintilia Del Molise Rosso DOP Cantine Catabbo made from 100% Tintilia from San Martino in Pensilis. The vineyard is at 300 meters and the soil in medium clay. The vineyard was planted in 1998. The cultivation is low cordon outcrop and there are 4,400 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand the first week of October. Fermentation lasts for 15 to 20 days. The wine remains in steel for 12 months and then in bottle until release. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry, with a note of dried flowers and a touch of licorice and spice.

Montefalco Rosso 2016 Bocale made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 10% Merlot and 5% Colorino. Harvest takes place by hand from the last ten days of September to early October. Vinification is exclusively with natural enzymes. The wine does not undergo any kind of stabilization or filtration. Presence of sediment should be considered a guarantee of authenticity. The wine is aged in barrels and barriques for about 12 months and aged in bottle for at least 6 months before release. This is a balanced wine with hints of cherry, violets and floral scents and a touch of spice.

Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2016 Pardi made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, Merlot and Cabernet 15%. Harvest takes place the first of October. Fermentation takes place with the skins for 10 days. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged in barriques for 12 months and in steel for 6 months. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of red berries, plum, clove and a hint of tobacco.

Trefiano Carmignano 2013 Capezzano made from 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet and 10% Canaiolo. The exposure is south/west and the vineyards are at 150 to 200 meters. The age of the vines is 22 years. The soil is clay schist and limestone. Vinification is in steel tanks. There is 7 days of alcoholic fermentation followed by another maceration with the skins, before racking at a controlled temperature. Malolactic fermentation is in French tonneaux. The wine is aged in tonneaux for 24 months and in bottle for about one year before release. This is a wine with hints of red fruit, violets, spicy notes and what I call the aroma of sunshine on the Tuscan pines.

 

 

 

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