In Praise of Chianti

No other region or wine in Italy have the magic of Tuscany and Chianti. Michele and I visited Tuscany in October for a little over two weeks and as always were captivated by the scenery, the food and the wine.

IMG_6643As a longtime Chianti lover, I was more than happy to attend the recent Chianti lovers U.S. Tour 2022. It included a seminar on Chianti followed by a walk around tasting with 24 Chianti producers presenting their wines.

vino2101-2-009BusiGiovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti and owner of Villa Travignoli made I few introductory remarks about Chianti and the importance of the American market for Chianti. He also said on more than one occasion: “Chianti is one of the best know wines and one of the least known wines.” Everyone knows the name but just what is Chianti?

IMG_6626

Robin Kelly O’Connor one of the presenters

Mr. Busi introduced the three presenters.  They were: Luca A. Alves, Chianti Wine Ambassador; Robin Kelly O’Connor, RKO Vine; and Adam Teeter, Vine Pair Founder.

Mr. Alves spoke about the history of Chianti, the Chianti Consorzio and the seven Chianti sub-zones. In answer to a question he explained the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico. He said that they were promoted together until 1996 when they separated. Chianti Classico is the center area  between Florence and Siena surrounded by the Chianti  sub zones. There are differences in the percentage of Sangiovese required, aging and grapes allowed.

IMG_6645

The Consorzio Vino Chianti was established in 1927 by a group of wine producers in the provinces of Pistoia, Siena, Arezzo and Florence. Later the Consorzio expanded to cover the whole production area covered by the DOCG. Now the Chianti production area is located in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Chianti wines are designated as: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, MontalbanoRufina, and the last, added in 1997, Montespertoli.  In addition is the return of the Chianti “Superiore” which can come from anywhere in the Chianti wine area with the exception of the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena. Superiore cannot have a name of an area on the label. There is also the Colli dell’Etruria Centrale. The DOC permits in the Chianti DOCG area the production of wines of a different quality from Chianti, which include reds, whites, roses, novello and Vin Santo.Chianti regions

The seven Chianti sub zones

Chianti can be made from 100% Sangiovese and it also have must be at least 70% Sangiovese but the law has limited the amount of international grapes such as Cabernet to 10%. Traditional Tuscan grapes like Canaiolo can also be used up to 30%, as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia, which are white grapes, up to 10%. Chianti may be released on March 1st of the year following the harvest. The sub-regions of Montalbano, Aretini, Pisane and Senesi may also be released on March 1st after the harvest. The sub-region of Montespertoli may be released on June 1st. The sub-regions of Fiorentini and Rufina may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest. Chianti Superiore may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest.

For the Riserva the wine must be aged a minimum of two years from January 1st following the harvest. For Chianti Fiorentini and Rufina, the Riserva has to spend at least 6 months in wood. For the Chianti Senesi Riserva the wine must spend at least 8 months in wood and 4 months in bottle.

IMG_6641The Wines

The tasting was blind and we were not given the names of the producers. All other information about the wine was given to us.

All the wines were Reserve from the 2017 Vintage

IMG_6616

Chianti Colli Pisane Pietro Beconcini made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cannaiolo and the vines are 65 years old. The soil is a base of sandstone  with considerable intrusion of marine fossil formations by the Pliocene period, well integrated with abundant white clay high in PH. Elevation is 100/150 meters. The training system is spurred cordon and the harvest takes place the first 10 days of October. Maturation is in Slavonian oak for 18 months and then the wine ages for eight months in bottle. The wine has hints of violet, leather and cherry. This is old style Chianti Reserve at its best and a great wine to go with food.

IMG_6617Chianti Montalbano “IL Fondatore”  Castagallo made from 100% Sangiovese. The soil is clayey, marly matrix. This single vineyard is at 400 meters and the vines are 30 years old. The training system is spurred cordon and the exposure is south. There are 5,200 plants per hectare. They practice organic farming. Fermentation takes place in steel vats and the wine is aged for 12 months in 10HL French oak casks and in bottle for 6 months before release.

IMG_6618Chianti Colli Senesi  Poggio Del Moro made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Syrah from 10 to 20 year old vines. The exposure is southeast/west. The soil is 79% sand, 15% clay and 6% light loam. The vineyards are at 335-365 meters and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Holistic agricultural practices are used with manure and green manure techniques. The grapes are hand picked and there is another selection on the sorting table.  Maceration is for 12 days at a controlled temperature with frequent pumping over of the must. There is gentle pressing of the grapes. The wine ages is 5HL oak barrels for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle and is bottled during the waning moons of June and July.

IMG_6622Chianti Montespertoli “Ingannamatti” Podere Dell’Anselmo made from 100% Sangiovese from the Ingannamati vineyard planted in 1993 and from other older vineyards. The soil is clay and limestone and the training system is spur cordon. There are 3,500 to 4,500 vines per hectare.  Traditional maceration for 10 days at a controlled temperature. The wine remains for 16 months is stainless steel vats and then two months in glass. The wine has hints of plum and cherry with floral notes 

IMG_6619Chianti Colli Fiorentini “Torre a Cona” Badia Corte made from 100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard. The grapes are hand harvested from the Badia a Corte vineyard that has typical Alberese limestone soil. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature with a selection of native yeasts with 15 days maceration on the skins. The wine is aged  in 25 HL Slavonian oak casks for 24 months and for 6 months in bottle before release.

IMG_6620Chianti Colli Aretini “Bucca Nera” Tenuta Di Cambriano   Made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet and Merlot. The soil is clay and gravel. The vineyards are at 500 meters with a south/west exposure and the training system is spurred cordon. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and the average age of the vines is 35 years. Fermentation is in stainless steel and the wine is aged in botti grandi for 24 months and 6 months in bottle before release.

IMG_6624Chianti Rufina Vigneto Bucerchiale  Fattoria Selvapiana made from 100% Sangiovese.  This single vineyard is at 250 meters and the vines are 43 years old. The exposure is south and the training system is spurred cordon. There are about 3,500 vines per hectare. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine ages in French barriques (only (10% new) for 15 months and in bottle for 9 months before release. This is a wine that can age and I have enjoyed older vintages of Selvapiana over the years.

All the wines were showing very well. I was happy to see the use of international grapes was limited and I enjoyed all the wines.

The presenters did an excellent job putting the wines in the correct order, of discussing each wine and describing the flavors and aromas, and if they could age. It was the most informative and professional tasting I have attended in a long time.

At the end we were given some tasty snacks to sample with the wines

IMG_6635

 including truffle flavored potato chips,

IMG_6638and pop corn.  It was an interesting combination.

IMG_6640

Leave a comment

Filed under Chianti, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Rufina, Uncategorized

Champagne, Barolo and a 1927 Madeira

Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing Mulligan, MW, are old friends and we are always happy to see them and share a good meal.  Mary, the first American woman to achieve the prestigious title of Master of Wine, is the owner of The International Wine Center  She and Ed are the authors of the best-selling “Wine for Dummies” series of books. As always we started with Champagne.

IMG_6585Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Brut 2006 made from equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes come from five Grand Cru villages and one Premier Cru village. Ed wrote in his book, Champagne for Dummies, the wine’s “…trademarks are its exquisite balance, its creaminess, its elegance, its very fine tiny bubbles and its complex flavors.” 

IMG_6567Michele preparing the appetizers

IMG_6569

With the Champagne, we enjoyed appetizers of smoked salmon in endive leaves, crackers topped with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, and marinated shrimp. 

IMG_6581Barolo “Rocche” 1989 Vietti Made from Nebbiolo – 75% Michet, 20% Lampia and 10% Rose. There are 4,600 plants per hectare. The wine is fermented for 22 days in stainless steel tanks with daily pumping air through the application of an old system called “cap submerged”. It is aged for over two years in Slavonian oak barrels, is unfiltered and is aged one year in bottle before release. My favorite Barolo has always been the Rocche.  This is traditional classic Barolo with hints of blueberry, violets, faded roses and leather. It was drinking very well.

IMG_6574To go with the wine, Michele made beef braised with porcini, whipped sweet potatoes and broccoli rabe with garlic.

IMG_6584Leacock’s Madeira Bastardo 1927  D’Oliveiras made from 100% Bastardo grape (a red grape) that has almost disappeared from the vineyards in Madeira. The wine has been in wood for over 80 years. The wine has hints of citrus peel, caramel, orange marmalade, with a touch of bees’ wax and a note of sea salt. This is the second great bottle of Madeira we had with Ed and Mary. The first a few months ago was a 1832 Madeira. Both were fantastic.

We had three different cheeses, dates, and nuts with the Madeira.

IMG_6591Dessert was a moist almond cake with raspberry sauce and creme fraiche.

Leave a comment

Filed under Barolo, Champagne, Dom Perignon, Madeira, Uncategorized, Vietti

New Year’s Day: Cotechino and Lentils

Michele and I look forward to having cotechino and lentils on New Year’s Day.  Imported Italian cotechino sausage is easily available at Italian food stores and on line.  It comes pre-cooked and just needs a quick reheating before serving.

Duck

For an appetizer, we had a few slices of smoked duck breast on crostini with French mustard and cornichons.  There was also a bit of excellent Pave’ cheese, a rich and buttery cow’s milk cheese.

IMG_6553Dolcetto D’Alba 1978 Fratelli Oddero made from 100% Dolcetto. I like older Dolcetto and have had more than a few  which were over 40 years old. The Oddero Dolcetto was in excellent condition with a touch of cherry, a hint of leather, and a note of smoke. It was the perfect wine to drink with the smoked duck and the cotechino.

 

mustardaTo go with the cotechino, we opened a jar of the Mostarda di Cremona, fruits candied in a mustard flavored syrup that we had bought in Rome.  These were made by the A. Fieschi Company and were nicely piccante.  The sweet and hot flavors were just right with the cotechino and lentils.

cotoCotechino with mostarda, lentils and mashed potatoes.  In Italy, lentils are eaten to bring good luck in the New Year.  We made sure to eat plenty!

Our dessert was simple, ripe pears with Pistachio Brutti ma Buoni cookies.

IMG_6560and a good cup of espresso.  

Happy New Year and Good Health from Michele and I!

6 Comments

Filed under Dolcetto

The Red Wines of Tuscany

My recent trip to Tuscany reminded me of how many fine red wines are produced in that region.  Here are just a few that I have enjoyed both in Tuscany and at home.

IMG_6543Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2018 Riserva made from 100% Sangiovese Tenuta Di Nozzole. The estate is located in the village of Greve in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The vineyard is at  300 meters. Harvest begins on the 10th of September. The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and crushed.  Fermentation takes place with the skins in temperature controlled steel tanks and the maceration lasts for 15/20 days. The wine is racked into stainless steel tanks for malolactic fermentation. Aging is for 16 months in large Slavonian oak vats with a minimum of 3 months in bottle before release. This is a classic, traditional wine with hints of red berries, cherry, raspberry, violets and a touch of cedar. I have been enjoying the wines of the Folonari family for many years.

IMG_6542Insoglio del Cinghiale Toscana IGT 2019 made from 33% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and  6% Petit Verdot. The wine is made by Tenuta Biserno but the majority of the vineyards are in a different location called Campo Sasso (Upper Maremma) just further down the hill from Tenuta di Biserno. The soil is mostly sand with a small amount of clay. 40% of the wine is aged in second passage French oak barrels. The oenologist are Michel Rolland and Helena Lindberg. The wine has hints of blackberries, strawberries, with peppery notes and a touch of vanilla.

IMG_6544Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 made from 100% Sangiovese. Silvio Nardi. This Brunello is a blend of the finest grapes from the Manachiara and Castel del Bosco estates with a northwest and southeast exposure at 350 meters. The soil is a composition of jasper and shale. The grapes are hand picked and sorted and only 70% of the grapes are used to make the wine.  Fermentation and maceration takes at least 24 hours, depending on the parcel, at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged for 12 months in new and used Allier French oak barriques and then for 18 months in large Slavonian oak barrels. Then it remains in the bottle for 12 months before release. This is a full bodied wine with hints of red berries, leather, tobacco and a touch of spice.

IMG_5067Chianti Classico 2019 Lilliano made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  After the quality-selected clusters are destemmed and pressed, the must is fermented and macerated in stainless steel for 18-20 days at a controlled temperature with programmed punch-downs and daily pumpovers. Maceration fermentation takes place in concrete and small stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature for 18-20 days depending on the vintage. The wine ages for about 12 to 14 months in large casks of French oak and partly in concrete. After maturation, the final blend is assembled, bottled and aged in glass for a minimum of 3 months. This is a wine with hints of red fruit, cherry, violets and a touch of cassis.

A0A7F85F-6BC8-496B-9537-050A996113D5_1_105_cChianti Classico Gran Selezione D.O.C.G.”Vigna di Corno”  Castello di Radda 2015 made from 100% Sangiovese. The grapes come from the single vineyard Il Corno (the vineyard) at 400 meters. The age of the vineyard is about 20 years. The soil is a clayey-calcareous type rich in texture. Harvesting  is done by hand in 20kg boxes by selecting the grapes first in the vineyard and then on a sorting table at the winery. Harvest is in the  beginning of October. The grapes are crushed and destemmed before fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks of 50hl.  Maceration is for 4 weeks or so depending on the ripeness of the grapes. Malolactic is in 5hl new tonneaux and the wine spends about 5 months on the lees. Aging continues in the same tonneaux for another 20 months, then in bottle for at least 12 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberries, spice, cassis, with a touch of cedar and a note of violets.

IMG_5898Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2015 Cecchi made mostly from  Sangiovese. The vineyard is at 350 meters and the soil is of medium consistency, calcareous Pliocene. Guyot training system. Traditional temperature controlled red wine vinification with the skins and fermentation and maceration lasts for 15 days. The wine is aged in small oak barrels for 24 months and remains for 3 months in bottle before release. This is a full bodied wine with hints of cherry, blackberry, violets and a note of leather and a touch of prune.

IMG_6035Carmignano 2017 Capezzana by Contini Bonaccossi Villa di Capezzana. Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The elevation is 180/220 meters and the soil is clay, limestone, schist and marl. The age of the vines is 20/40 years and the training system is guyot cordon spur. There are 4,500 vines per hectare and they use organic farming practices. Fermentation is with native indigenous yeast. There is a 13 day extended maceration period. Malolactic fermentation takes place in French tonneaux. Aging: 60% in 2nd and 3rd or 4th passage French oak tonneaux, 10% in new French oak tonneaux and 30% in 5/30 year old untoasted Allier or Slavonian 24 HL barrels for 12 months. The wine is aged for another 12 months in bottle before release. This is an elegant wine with hints of red berries with a note of blueberries and a touch of violets. I have a long history with this estate going back 40 years. This is a wine that can age. In 1985 I had the 1925 which at the time was labeled Chianti Montalbano.

IMG_1428Bruno di Rocca IGT Colli Toscana Centrale 2015 Montefili made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese from vineyards planted in the early 1980’s. The soil is galestro and the training system is spurred cordon. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeast. Aging for a minimum of 28 months in tonneaux for the Sangiovese and for the Cabernet Sauvignon in barriques (350 liters). The wine spends a minimum of 12 months in bottle before release. It is difficult to make this type of wine where the Cabernet Sauvignon does not dominate but this is a soft elegant wine.

IMG_5481 copyChianti Colli Senesi 2017 “San Nicola”  Az Agricola Campochiarenti, San Gimignano, Tuscany, made from 85% Savgiovese and 15% Canaiolo, Colorino, Foglia Tonda and Mammolo. The exposure is south, southwest along a hill at 180/230 meters. The soil is composed of silt and sand with a little clay. Harvest is by hand. Fermentation is in glazed cement basins of 90hl at a controlled temperature with pumping over and delestage. Maceration lasts for 12/15 days in order to obtain the highest extraction of color from the skins. The wine is naturally clarified, without adding any chemical products. Aging is in 20hl oak barrels for at least 9 months. The wine is bottled and stored in the cellar until release. The wine has hints of red berries, spice, tobacco and a touch of jam with a long finish and a very pleasing aftertaste. This wine will age.

IMG_5873Chianti Montalbano 2019 Artimino 1596 made from Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino. The vineyards are at 110 meters and the soil is silt and sand with a good percentage of clay. Guyot is the training system for the older vineyards and the rest cordon spur. The gapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks at a temperature of 22°C for 16 /18 days with a daily skin maceration process and frequent pumping of the must over the skins. After the first fermentation, the wine matures in stainless steel tanks for at least 6 months, 2 of which are on the lees. The wine is then refined in bottles for 3 months. The wine has hints of red berries and violets. 

IMG_5872Chianti Colli Fiorentino Darno Tenuta San Vito made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. Harvest takes place in October. Traditional red wine vinification with 10 to 15 day maceration on the skins with daily pumperovers for several days followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in glass lined tanks and stainless steel followed by some bottle aging. The wine has hints of red berries, cherries and violets.

IMG_1378 2Castello di Mugazzena “Gargatura” IGT Toscana 2017 made from 100% Syrah. The soil is clayey sandy terraced alluvial deposits. Training system is unilateral spurred cordon. Manual harvest. Grapes are destemmed and sorted. The grapes are pressed and then pumped into conditioned steel tanks where the juice ferments at a controlled temperature. There is pumping over, punching down and delestages. At the end of the alcoholic fermentation the wine is left to mature in contact with the skins between 10 and 30 days. The wine is separated from the vinaccia and it is pressed. Malolactic fermentation is complete two weeks after. The coarse lees are removed and the wine is pumped into French oak barrels, where it ages from 12 to 18 months. The wine has hints of blueberries, black cherry and a note of black pepper.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brunello, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Gran Selectione, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Nozzole CCR, Tenuta di Lilliano, Tenute Silvio Nardi, Tuscany

Puglia in Rose’ Master Class

I have visited the Southern Italian region of Puglia a number of times and I was the Wine Director and Sommelier for I-Trulli, an Apulian restaurant in Manhattan, so I have a fondness for the wine and food of the region. A few months ago the Association of Puglia in Rose’ arranged for me to interview some of their producers on Zoom and taste the wines with them.  Recently I received an invitation from the Association to attend a tasting of the wines of Puglia at the Leopard at Des Artistes in Manhattan, one of my favorite Italian restaurants.

Gianfranco Sorrentino, the owner of the Leopard introduced the first speaker.  Lucia Lettis, founder of Associazione Puglia in Rose’ and technical director. She said it is a producers’ association dedicated to Pugliese Rose’ wines. Their purpose is to promote the Apulian Rose’ Wine Brand in the USA and the world.

IMG_6506Puglia in Rosé is the first Association of producers dedicated to rosé wines of Puglia and was created to share, together with the Apulian wineries and commercial and institutional partners, the path of enhancement of rosé wine Pugliese. IMG_6508

To achieve this goal, the Association organizes events and prepares promotional activities aimed at trade in national and international markets. The objectives are to:

  • to qualify the image of Puglia’s  wines as Made in Italy products of excellence;
  • promote business opportunities abroad for Apulian operators;
  • give impetus to the international promotion activities of the Puglia brand

Caterina Baldini, Co-founder and project manager of Associazione Puglia in Rose’ spoke about the region.

Puglia, the ‘two seas land,’ is surrounded by the Ionian Sea and Adriatic Sea. This makes the region a perfect place for growing vines and olive trees. Puglia is 55% flat and 45% hilly and extends for over 359 kilometers between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. In general the soil is clayey-limestone. 

Rose’ wines have a long history in Puglia. The first winemaker to popularize the wine was Don Piero De Castris in 1943 when he produced a rose’ from the negroamaro grape at his winery in Salice Salentino. His first production was put in beer bottles and called “Four Roses” but soon, with the improvement in the bottling line, it became the first rose’ bottled in Italy and sold in the USA.

Today Puglia is the largest producer of Rosè wine in Italy. 40% of the national production comes from here.

The native red grapes which produce Rose’ are: Bambino Bianco, Aglianico, Negroamaro, Nero di Troia, Malvasia Nera and Primitivo.

Susannah Gold, a wine professional, spoke about the wines. She said the wines were arranged according to producer. There were 7 wines in all: 3 Rose’ wines,  3 red wines, and one white wine all from Puglia.

The Le Grotte Winery

IMG_6520

Spumante Brut Rosè NV made from 100% Nero di Troia. The soil is very mineral and an abundance of limestone due the near by marble quarries. The grapes are soft pressed and fermentation takes place in autoclaves for two months. The wine is light pink and it is fruity with hints of strawberry, raspberry and floral notes. 

IMG_6523

Puglia IGP Rosato”Selva Della Rocca” made from 100% Nero di Troia from Apricena and Gargano. The wine is in contact with the skins for 5/6 hours at a controlled temperature. The wine remains in stainless steel for 5 months and is bottled in March following the harvest. The wine is coral in color.  It has hints of red and black fruit with a touch of blackberry and a hint of spice.

IMG_6514Nero di Troia IGP “Petrata” Made from 100% Nero Di Troia. Temperature controlled maturation in stainless steel. The wine has black fruit aromas and flavors with hints of blackberry and blueberry.

D’Alessandro Winery

IMG_6512Puglia IGP “Cattedrale” made from 100% Malvasia Nera from Turi and the Itria valley. The soil is of medium texture with loamy clay. Harvest is manual.  There is skin contact for 15 days at a controlled temperature. The wine remains in stainless steel for four months and in bottle for two months before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, pomegranate and raspberry with a long fruity finish.

Terre Carsiche Winery

Vedeca Bianco “Agora” made from 100% Verdeca Bianco. The soil is Karstic formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. Harvest is in September. Fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature for 15 days. Aging takes place in large French durhast barrels for about three months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a wine with citrus fruit flavors and aromas with floral notes and a touch of spice.

IMG_6522Murgia Rosè IGT made from Bambino Nero and Malvasia Nera. Fermentation is in temperature controlled steel tanks. The wine has hints of red fruit, raspberry and strawberry and a note of spice.

IMG_6509Primitivo Gloria Del Colle Riserva “Fanova” made from 100% Primitive from the Castellana Grotte and Acquaviva Delle Fonti area. The training system is the Apulian goblet. The vines are at 33/350 meters. Harvest takes place the third week of September. Fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature for 15/20 days. Aging in big French durhast barrels for about 12 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with hints of sour cherry, blackberry, prunes and  a touch of spice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Puglia, Puglia in Rosa

Tasting the wines of Abruzzo

The Abruzzo region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, the rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies , it is considered part of the South.

I have visited Abruzzo a number of times and have always enjoyed the wine and food from that region. In fact some of my favorite wines are produced there.

It was with pleasure that I accepted an invitation to attend a tasting of the wines of Abruzzo from

IMG_6503The Charming Estates of Europe, a special project that links the flavors of wine from Italy and France and of fresh fruit from Greece and introduce them to the United States and Canada. The event was called The Charming Taste of Europe.

IMG_4649The organizer and speaker of the event was Susannah Gold and it was held at IL Gattopardo one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  Susannah is a true wine professional and it is always a pleasure to attend one of her events.  She went into great detail on the region of Abruzzo and the wines.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese.  The three most important wine designations are: Montepulciano di Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a Rose’ made from the Montepulciano grape. It is made from the free run juice and/or juice with very little skin contact and it can be light pink to dark red.

The Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo.

Of the local varieties, Pecorino, a white grape, is the most popular. Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

The Wines

IMG_6481Pecorino Superiore 2020 Abruzzo DOC Poderi  Antonio Costantini made from 100% Pecorino. The exposure is south/south east and the soil is clay. The training system is spalliera (vertical trellis trained with replacement cane pruning) and there is a manual selection of the grape bunches at full maturity. Grapes are soft pressed and then the juice is left to rest for a number of hours at a cold temperature. When the temperature is raised to 16/18C alcoholic fermentation takes place. The wine remains in stainless steel for a time and then is stabilized before bottling. This is a very pleasant wine with floral notes, hints of citrus fruit, apple, anise and field grasses.

IMG_6485Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragu di Maiale — We had homemade square spaghetti in a rich pork ragu, a local specialty.

IMG_6482Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2019 Riserva “Marina Cretic”   made from 100% Trebbiano  Tenuta Agricole Masciarelli The training system is the Abruzzo Pergola.  Harvest takes place the second week of October. Fermentation is in wood for 15/30 days. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. The wine has hints of ripe tropical fruit, caramel, honey and vanilla.

IMG_6489Cerasuolo  Abruzzo  DOC 2020 Valori (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The vineyards are at 300 meters and the training system is simple guyot, spurred cordon. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest takes place between October 10th and 15th. The juice  is in contact with the skins for 24  hours. Racking and soft pressing takes place. Cold fermentation and aging is in stainless steel. This is a rose’ light pink in color with hints of cherries, strawberries and a touch of almonds.

IMG_6493Patate Maritate — Potatoes with cheese, sausage and herbs.

IMG_6484Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2019 Francesco Cirelli (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The soil is clay and limestone and the training system is guyot. Harvest is at the end of September and the beginning of October. Harvest is manual. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed and there is a 12 day maceration, spontaneous fermentation in amphora with indigenous yeasts. The wine is aged for 12 months in amphora.  The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry and a touch of strawberry.

IMG_6494Brodetto alla Vastese — Our next course was a variety of seafood in a flavorful sauce.

IMG_6490Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva DOC 2017 “Ruberò”  Cantina Frentana made from 100% Montepulciano. The vineyards are in the municipality of Rocca San Giovanni, situated on hills overlooking the Costa del Trabocchi with a south/southeastern exposure. The soil is medium textured and calcareous. Harvest is manual the second week in October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes with maceration and fermentation with the skins for 10/15 days in small stainless steel fermenters at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French tonneau oak barrels for  for about 14 months, then more aging in stainless steel and then in the bottle for a few months. The wine has hints of black cherry, blackberry, violets with a note of spice and leather.

IMG_6491Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2015 “Casauria”  Podere Castorani made from 100% Montepulciano. The training system is the traditional overhead “pergola” trellis system of the Abruzzo region. The soil is deep clay with many underground rocks. Harvest is by hand the beginning of November with grape selection. Fermentation is in concrete tanks with manual pump over and delestages and extended maceration. Malolactic fermentation is completed during skin maceration. The wines ages on the lees in oak barrels and then for 6 months in concrete tanks. Finally the wine remains in bottle for 15 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, cranberries, licorice, a touch of spice and a note of tobacco.

In a future blog, I will report on the sweet wines of Bordeaux which were served at the end of the meal with dessert.

2 Comments

Filed under Abruzzo, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Pecorino, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo

Champagne and Sparkling Wine for the Holidays

Every year at this time, the Wine Media Guild would hold a Champagne tasting hosted by Ed Mc Carthy,  author of Champagne for Dummies.  I looked forward to attending, tasting the wines and hearing “Champagne Ed’s” commentary, which I would write about for this blog.  Because of Covid, the event was cancelled both last year and again this year.  Instead, I will write about the Champagne and sparkling wines that I have tasted over the last few months.

IMG_6182

Cosmico Vino Frizzante IGT Lazio 2019  Casale Certosa made from 100% Trebbiano from the Castelli Romani. The soil is of volcanic origin. The wine ferments in the bottle for about 12 months. Then there is the refermentation in bottle and the wine is disgorged  by hand.  Aging takes place in the bottle. The winery is certified organic. This is a wine with hints of citrus fruit, lemon, a note of pear and a touch of apple with good acidity.

IMG_5804

Benepop Vol.1”Benepop Ancestrale”  Sparkling wine made from 50% Falanghina and 50% Fiano Terre di Briganti The two varietals are separately processed from the beginning. The hand harvested grapes are carried to the cellar in 18kg bins and then double sorted, destemmed and pressed. The must clarifies itself with static gravity in stainless steel vats where it ferments with only the help of the indigenous yeast at controlled temperatures. The partially sweet wine is left to refine on its lees for about 6 months. At the beginning of the Spring the wine is bottled. The natural increase of the temperature favors the resumption of the fermentation inside the bottle and the yeast eats all the sugar in excess. It is recommended to suspend the natural sediment in the bottle before consuming it in order to fully enjoy this fun wine. Just gently turn the bottle upside down. The winery is certified organic and is biodynamic. This a a dry sparkling wine hints of citrus fruit, green tropical fruit, grapefruit and it is a very pleasant wine to drink.

IMG_5730 2

Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2018 Valdobbiadine Brut Natural Silvano Follador Made from 100% Glera. The soil is marl and clay. Organic and biodynamic farming methods are used but do not have certification. Dosage 0. Residual sugar 0.0% The wine is refined in cement vats for 6 months.  It has hints of apple, pear, white peach and apricot. I was very impressed by this Prosecco.

IMG_6441

DOC Trento Spumante Rosè +4 Reserve 2011 Brute Classico Method Letrari   made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir grown in calcareous soils. The vineyards are at 400 meters and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. The vines are trained with the traditional pergola trentina system or the modern guyot based on the age of the vines. The wine is aged for 28 months on the lees, four more than required by the official production code.  It is a brut (5,7 g/l – so on the lower side of the brut scale which goes from 12 g/l to 0 g/l). This is a consequence of the aromatic and phenolic ripeness which grants volume and taste on the palate and doesn’t require the “support” of sugar. It is a full bodied Sparkling wine with black fruit aromas and flavors a note of blackberries and a touch of brioche. I have always liked Spumante from the Trentino area and I believe it is the best zone in Italy to grow Pinot Noir. This is a very impressive wine. 

IMG_6050Cuveé Brut Metodo Classico (Champenoise) Tenuta Montauto made from 100% Sangiovese from a 15 year old vineyard at 200 meters on the coast south of Grosseto in the Maremma. The soil is clay and skeleton rich. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. The grapes are picked at full maturity by hand and harvest takes place after first week of September. The grapes are gently pressed to obtain a yield of 50%. Fermentation takes place using the cold techniques to enhance the aromas. Sugar 4.5 g/l.  This is a crisp, fresh fruity wine with hints of citrus, flint, a touch of passion fruit and a note of brioche. This was the first time I tasted a sparkling wine from Sangiovese made by the Champenoise method and I was impressed.  

IMG_5965Franciacorta DOCG Satèn Brut “1701”  2016 Società Agricola Cazzago San Martino made from 100% Chardonnay from a 10 hectare vineyard with morainic terrain with stones. The training system is guyot and there are 4,500 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place at the end of August. 80% of the hand picked selected grapes are crushed in a pneumatic press and fermented in steel tuns at a controlled temperature. 20% undergoes cold maceration with fermentation in new barriques. Aging is for 7 months in steel or barriques.  The second fermentation takes place the spring following the harvest. The wine remains on the lees for at least 30 months and 3 to 4 months following the disgorging. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, yellow fresh fruit, with a hint of brioche and a touch of pastry cream.

IMG_5795Reggiano Lambrusco NV “Concerto”  2019 Medici Ermette (Produced at Tenuta La Rampata in  Modena) Red wine, dry and lightly sparkling and fermented naturally. Made from 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara.  The training system is cordon speronato and the soil is clayey. The wine is certified organic. It has hints of red fruit, strawberry, raspberry and cherry.  The wine is dry and fruity with a clean finish and pleasing aftertaste. Concerto is the world’s first single vineyard vintage Lambrusco.  It is served lightly chilled.

IMG_5709

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV  Made from 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It has tiny bubbles, a fruity delicate freshness with hints of citrus fruit, ginger and a touch of brioche. It has become one of my favorite champagnes.

IMG_5692

Champagne Nathalie Falmet Brut NV “Le Val Cornet” made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from a single vineyard in the Côte Des Bar. The soil is Kimmeridian marl covered with Portland limestone. The champagne has hints of apricot, pear, apple and a note of almond. 

IMG_5693Champagne Vilmart & C. “Grand Cellier” made from 70% Chardonnay and 30%Pinot Noir.  Aging for ten months in used oak casks prior to blending for the second fermentation. The wine spends two years on the lees before disgorgment. It has hints of pear, apple, a touch of brioche and a hint of hazelnut.

IMG_5692Roses de Jeanne Champagne “Côte de Béchalin”. Cedric Bouchard. 100% Pinot Noir from the 1.5-hectare lieu-dit of Val Vilaine. The production is very limited.  This is a single-vineyard, single varietal, and single vintage, zero dosage Champagne, organic farming, low yields and harvesting at the right moment. Only free run juice is used and fermentation is in stainless steel with indigenous yeast. There is no filtering, fining or cold stabilization. The wines are bottled with no dosage under less pressure. This is full-bodied Champagne with hints of fruit, spice, lively acidity, a touch of pear and ginger, a note of dried flowers and a long and lingering finish.

IMG_6385 2Champagne 2014 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils made from 100% Chardonnay from 20% Cramant Grand Cru, 38% Chouilly Grand Cru, 32% Cuis 1er Cru and 10% Vertus 1er Cru. The soil is mostly chalk. Fermentation is in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation takes place and the wine remains on the lees for 65 months. The wine was disgorged in September 2020. The wine has notes of tropical fruit, with hints of mint and orange peel.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Leave a comment

Filed under Champagne, Champagne Wilmart & Co, Lambrusco, Prosecco, Sparkling Benepop, Sparkling wine

Tasting Romanian Wines

It is not often that I receive an invitation to a wine tasting for wines that made from native grapes that I do not know.  Such was the case when I was invited to Avra Estiatorio Restaurant in Manhattan to taste Romanian wines. 

unnamedRWINEThe speaker was Marinela Ardelean , a global wine and spirits critic.

Marinela said the event, called Open the Romanian Wine, was a planned to coincide with Romania’s National Day, which is traditionally held on  December 1st.

IMG_6410 The goal of the  Open The Romanian Wine Program  is to increase awareness and availability of Romanian wines in the U.S. marketplace and beyond. Romania is the 12th largest wine producer globally and sixth in the European market. Currently less than 10% of production is exported, and the domestic market is the main marketplace for distribution. Romanian wine producers are now lifting the veil on their stunning selections and demonstrating their winemaking skills. They are continuing an historic winemaking tradition of more than six millennia while working with approximately 165 native grape varieties. 

She added that six of the country’s newest wine producers were represented along with native varieties: Negru de Dragasani, Busuloaca De Bohotin, Tamaloasa Romaneasca, Babeasca Neagra and Feteasca Neagra which is the most renowned Romanian grape variety. 

The Wines

IMG_6414Rhien Extra Magnifique Brut NV (Chardonnay) The Iconic Estates.  After adding the selected yeasts for the secondary fermentation the wine is placed in bottles and kept in a horizontal position for 9 months followed by clarification for about 30 days. During this time the bottles are placed inclined on special desks and rotated twice a day and the impurities are trapped in the neck of the bottle followed  by disgorging and a dosage is added (Sugar 6.6 g/l. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, honey, floral notes, a touch of baked pears and a note of almonds $42

IMG_6440Hyperion Rose Feteascã Neagrã 2020 The Iconic Estate, manual harvest. There is short skin contact to insure some color. Then  the skins are separated from the juice and fermentation takes place for 10 days at 10 degrees C. Less are separated by graviton. This is a fresh and fruity wine with hints of strawberry and raspberry.  Sugar 3.2 g/l. $ 23

IMG_6418Spectrum Busuloaca De Bohotin Domenile Averesti.  After gravitational decanting which takes 24 hours, the must is fermented in 2,000 liter vessels at 12C for 18 days to archive the sugar content of 9.7 g/l  the controlled fermentation was stopped by cooling to 5C. The wine has aromas of rose petals, wild   strawberries, herbs, basil, grass and a note of honeysuckle.  $25

IMG_6424Bãbeasca Neagrã 2020 La Sapata. The winery follows organic agriculture rules and there are 4,300 plants per hectare. Vinification follows biodynamic and ecological rules. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of  prune, cherry and other red fruits. At $10 a bottle it is a bargain.

IMG_6426

Olt de Vie Negru De Drăgășani Avinces.  The grapes are double sorted  and destemmed before temperature controlled fermentation takes place. 30% of the wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. The wine has hints of black cherries, blueberries, a note of violets and touch of spice $13

IMG_6430Hyperion Feceascã Neagrã 2016 The Iconic Estate manual harvest. Maceration and fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 12 months at a controlled temperature. Selected yeasts are is used for alcoholic fermentation and wild yeast for the malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. The wine has hints of black and red fruit with dry sweet plums, spices, vanilla and a touch of chocolate. $24

2 Comments

Filed under Romanian Wines

Mà, What Are You Cooking?

IMG_6407

My friend, Gianluca Rottura, has written a new book that contains a wealth of knowledge and is a joy to read.  It is entitled Mà, What Are You Cooking? The In Vino Veritas Cookbook And Food GuideThe cover of the book is a photo of Gianluca enjoying his mother’s pasta when he as very young.

Gianluca asked my to write one of the two forewords for his book.  Here is what I wrote: 

When I was the Wine Director and Sommelier for I Trulli Restaurant and Wine Bar, and Vino, an all-Italian wine store, I met a lot of people who were interested in wine and food.  Most of them claimed to be experts, and in fact, a handful of them were.   But no one impressed me as much as Gianluca Rottura, the author of this book, who is the operator of his family’s wine store, In Vino Veritas.  

Gianluca’s passion and knowledge for Italian wine and food were apparent every time we met.  I loved our conversations, hearing his stories about his family in Italy and their history as farmers, olive oil producers, restaurateurs and winemakers.  Gianluca has his own olive grove and produces olive oil.  His immediate and extended family not only owns properties in Italy, they also have owned and operated Italian restaurants both there and in New York. 

Gianluca returns to Italy often and I always looked forward to hearing about his new discoveries and experiences.  His knowledge of Italian wine and food is unparalleled.  At home in New York, Gianluca teaches wine courses and a few years ago wrote a book entitled Wine Made Easy, which would be valuable for a wine connoisseur in the making.   Anyone with an interest in Italy should follow his blog, “Piazza Life” or read his website “Pizza and Coffee”.

I have often said that Gianluca has a great palate.  I joke that the reason that it is great is that it is the same as mine!   We  agree on and discuss often the importance of enjoying wine and food together.  By making the right combination, each one brings out the best in the other.  

This is something I learned in the past 50 or so years that I have been traveling to Italy, both for pleasure and for business.  From my first visit in 1970, I was struck by how much Italians cared about food and wine.  I loved watching whole families gather and seeing that everyone from the youngest to the oldest was relishing what was placed on the table.  They lingered there savoring each sip and bite and enjoying the pleasure of being together.

The Italian way of enjoying wine and food is something that I have tried to bring to my own life and I sought to instill in my clients and students.  Before my years at I Trulli, I also owned a wine store and taught wine classes.  One of my favorite subjects was a class on pairing wine and food that I taught with my wife, cookbook author Michele Scicolone, at the New School Culinary Center in New York City.  Other schools where I have taught include Macy’s DeGustibus, Cooking By The Book and The Silo.  I was very honored to have been nominated six times for a wine list and wine service award while I was at I Trulli.  Over the course of many trips to the Campania region of Italy where Gianluca’s mother’s family is from, Michele and I were inspired to write a seminal book about pizza entitled, Pizza Any Way You Slice It!, which preceded the current pizza craze we are experiencing today.  

Readers of this book are almost as fortunate as I am to know  Gianluca.  He loves sharing his knowledge with others and in the pages of Mà, What Are You Cooking? The Vino Veritas Cookbook And Food Guide you will be transported to Italy.  Gianluca will be your expert guide to such quintessential Italian arts such as making wine, cheeses, salumi and traditional methods of butchering.  He tells the reader about his life in Italy and the lives of the wine and food producers he has known.

IMG_6438

On the back cover is a picture of Gianluca eating pasta now that he is much older.

So my suggestion is that you open a bottle of your favorite Italian wine, pour yourself a glass and start reading!

The book makes a great holiday gift.  It is available at Amazon 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ma,what are you cooking, Uncategorized

Not a Turkey Dinner

For a number of years, wine and food writers Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow have been our guests for Thanksgiving dinner. This year we did not return from Rome until a few days before Thanksgiving so Tom and Diane suggested we come to their home instead. It could not have turned out better.IMG_6384

To accompany the Champagne, there were buttery cheese wafers and taralli topped with a soft cheese and American caviar.

IMG_6385 2Champagne 2014 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils made from 100% Chardonnay from 20% Cramant Grand Cru, 38% Chouilly Grand Cru, 32% Cuis 1er and 10 % Vertus1er Cru. The soil is mostly chalk. Fermentation is in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation takes place and the wine remains on the lees for 65 months. The wine was disgorged in September 2020. The wine has notes of tropical fruit, with hints of mint and orange peel.

IMG_6388Our first course was Foie Gras with fig jam and toasted slices of Diane’s homemade bread.

IMG_6390Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese 2005 Joh. Jos. Prūm made from 100% Riesling from the Mosel. The soil is Devonian shale with different layers and degree of erosion. The vines are 60 to 70 years old.  Grapes picked by hand and spontaneous fermentation takes place in stainless steel.   This is a delicious rich, smooth and elegant  wine with hints of white peach, pears, honey, dried apricot and good acidity that makes it go very well with food. It was perfect with the foie gras.

IMG_6392Brunello di Montalcino 1996 Casanova di Nevi made from 100% Sangiovese. The vineyard is located south of Montalcino at 275/320 meters and the soil is galestro with tuff and clay. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the plants are 25/30 years old. The raining system is spur-pruned cordon and the winery is organic but not certified. The wine is unfiltered and it is aged in 500-liter oak tonneau for 36 months and in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a full bodied wine with hints of blackberry, black cherry, plum and a touch of violets and a note spice.  The wine was showing very well with no sign of age and it was a pleasure to drink. This is a classic combination Brunello with wild boar and polenta.

IMG_6396Wild boar with polenta — The meat was long simmered with spices and red wine until it was fork-tender.  Polenta was the perfect complement.

IMG_6399Chateau les Ormes de Pez 2001 St.Estèphe made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine has hints of blueberry, blackberry, and cassis with a note of spice and a touch of cedar. This is an elegant and wonderful wine.

IMG_6402

Cheese — There were several interesting goat and sheep’s milk cheeses to finish off the wines.

IMG_6404Our Dessert was a Tarte Tatin made by Michele,

IMG_6406

We ended this wonderful meal with grappa. Tom loves his grappa and there is always a large selection to chose from. This time I had the Pojer e Sandri Pinot Nero. Crystal clear traditional grappa, just what I wanted.

5 Comments

Filed under Bordeaux, Brunello, Casanova di Nevi, Champagne, Chateau les Ormes de Pez 2001, Joh. Jod. Prum Auslese, om and Diane, Pierre Gimonnet Champagne, Uncategorized