Monthly Archives: June 2010

A Day with Chiara Lungarotti

Chiara Lungarotti, Gambero Rosso Italian wines 2009 “…Lungarotti wines…have reacquired the timeless allure that has earned this Torgiano estate a place among the most prestigious winemaking houses in Italy and indeed the world.”

 It was a bright sunny morning when Chiara Lungarotti arrived at my hotel.  We were going to visit the new Lungarotti winery in Montefalco and revisit the winery in Torgiano.  I had been there several times in the past and had stayed at their hotel and restaurant Le Tre Vaselle.  I can still remember the 1973 and 1975 Rubesco Riserva that I drank there back in1981.

Chiara Lungarotti and Her Wines

  Chiara is the CEO of Cantine Georgio Lungarotti and directs the company with her sister Teresa Severini Lungarotti   It was founded in the early 1960’s by their father, the legendary Georigo Lungarotti.  When Georgio Lungarotti died they became the first women to run a major winery in Italy.

Teresa Severini Lungarotti

I was in Montefalco for La Classificazione del Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG conference and since I was free on Saturday, I wrote to Cantina Lungarotti asking if I could visit. I was told the winery was closed on Saturday, but Chiara said she would only be too happy to meet with me. However she had been traveling a lot and would have to take her 2 and a half year old son along. His name is Giovanni but Chiara called him by his nickname, Mimmo, and he had missed his mother.

As we drove from the hotel to the winery we spoke about the new winery in Montefalco.

Chiara said that her father, Georgio Lungarotti, was interested in and had a passion for all things Umbrian. He was very active in getting the DOC for Sagrantino.

I mentioned that producers from Toscana, Trentino, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and other parts of Italy were coming to the area to make Sagrantino. She replied that these people were not from Umbria and did not understand it like her family did.   Montefalco was only a half hour from Torgiano and her family wanted to start another winery there and no place else. They looked for a long time to find the perfect spot to grow the grapes.

 You cannot plant grapes just anyway and expect to get good results, she said. They contacted a local man from Montefalco who had been supplying them with olive oil for over 20 years to see if he knew any places for sale. After some time he told Chiara that the land next to his was for sale and he believed it was one of the best locations in the area for growing grapes. Chiara agreed and they acquired the land.

The Winery in Montefalco

 

Chiara then gave me a lesson on setting up a winery.  She started with the topography of the land, going back to prehistoric times. We talked about, the soil, climate, and rainfall, the best clones, the number of vines per hectare and what was the best method to train the vines, and everything else that would affect the grapes. In the vineyard, she said, they use the most advanced viticultural techniques. Wine density and row spacing are optimized so as to guarantee the highest possible grape quality.  We also discussed the Sagrantino grape and how difficult it is to work with in order to get the correct balance between tannin and fruit.  

On the way from Montefalco to Torgiano I told Chiara that some of the other producers I visited who produced Sagrantino were certified organic by the EU. Chaira believed this was a bit much. She said that they had a long tradition of environmental awareness. In fact Lungarotti was chosen to be part of the Biomass Project because of their attention to the environment and to preserving the land.  This Project is a collaboration between the Lungarotti winery in Torgiano and Perugia University’s biomass research center. The Project is trying to recover energy from vineyard pruning by-products, and then use this energy in the winery, therefore transforming a disposal problem into an asset.  As we drove around the estate Chiara very proudly pointed out the number of trees they had planted over the years.

Torgiano

We went on a tour of the winery and spoke about how important it is to have a low temperature in the cellar. Chiara then explained the process for making their brut spumante and that they use the classical method the same as they do in champagne. Then we went to the part of the cellar that was the most interesting to me -where they keep the older reserve wines. There were bottles of Rubesco Riserva going back to the 1960’s. They did not have any bottles left of the first vintage of their “Super Umbria” St. Georgio. They did not expect the first vintage 1977 to sell out but it did. I should have asked Chiara if any of the older vintages were for sale.

The Wines of Cantine Lungarotti

I tasted a number of wines from the most recent vintages and was very impressed by the quality.  I started with the Pinot GrigioUmbria IGT 2008 I00 % pinot grigio.   It is made from the free run juice and vinified in stainless steel. This is a young fresh fruity wine with good acidity and a little more body then most Pinot Grigios.

Lungarotti Brut from 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir. Fermentation takes place in the bottle according to what the Italians call the classical method and it is all done by hand. The second fermentation is for 36 months.

Torre Di Giano “Il PinoTorgiano DOC-2008- made from 70% trebbiano and 30% grechetto. The wine spends time on the lees and 70% is aged in stainless steel and 30% in oak barrels but they are not all new. This is a very well balanced wine with good fruit and Chiara is a big believer in both the trebbiano gape and the grechetto grape.

Chardonnay Umbria IGT 2006- 90% chardonnay and 10% grechetto. Chiara said that the grechetto added a little extra to the chardonnay. The wine is fermented in oak barrels but was fresh and fruity with good acidity. One of the better Italian chardonnays I have tasted in a long time. Maybe it was the grechetto?

Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 2005 made from 70% sangiovese and 30% canaiolo. It is fermented in stainless steel. It is a wine that goes well with food because of the good acidity and red fruit flavors. I believe that it is one of the best buys in Italian red wine.

Rubesco Riserva  Vigna Minticchio Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2005 made from 70% sangiovese and 30% canaiolo. The same grapes and the same percentage as when it was first made in the1960’s. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel with maceration on the skins from 15-20 days. It had hints of cherries and blackberries and a touch of balsamic.  It was aged for ten years before it was released but now it is released after five. The first vintage that I had was the 1973. I visited the winery in 1981 and stayed in their charming hotel Le Tre Vaselle and had lunch in their excellent restaurant where I also drank the 1975. This wine can last for 30 years. The 2005 got the highest ratings from the five top Italian wine publications. I was lucky enough to drink the 1973 and 1977 few years ago and both were great. This wine would be on my top ten Italian red wines of all time.

San Giorgio Umbria Rosso IGT 50% cabernet sauvignon, 40% sangiovese and 10% canaiolo. Fermentation in stainless steel with maceration on the skins for 15-20 days. Chiara calls this her “Super Umbria “wine. It was well balanced with hints of blueberry and plum. The finish was long with a very pleasant aftertaste.

 

Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG  2005 100% sagrantino. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel with maceration on the skins for 28 days. They have gotten the correct balance between tannin and fruit. There was enough black fruit with a hint of blackberry jam to carry the wine. The winery in Montefalco is new and I have only tasted this wine and the 2003 but if these are any indication they made the right move to Montefalco. These will be long lasting wines.

Le Tre Vasalle

Sitting in the dining room at Le Tre Vasalle having lunch with Chiara and Mimmo I wondered how Chiara manages to do all that she does and take care of a very active 2 plus year old boy.  In addition to her responsibilities at the winery, Chiara is national chairman of the Wine Tourism Movement, advisor to Federvini, vice president of Women of Wine and is involved in many other cultural and wine activities. I asked how did she manage to do so much and all she did was smile, but you can hear the pride in her voice when she speaks of Umbria and the passion when she speaks of wine.

The bellaUvaspa- Grapes put to a Different Use

If you go to Umbria, a visit to Torgiano is well worth the trip. There is the winery, the wine museum, the olive and olive oil museum and Le Tre Vaselle, the hotel in which to stay. The restaurant is excellent and of course there is the wine. Today they have all the amenities one would expect from an award winning hotel, including a spa called bellaUvaspa. It is the first spa in Italy for wine therapy.

 

The winery and hotel complex includes a wine museum in Torgiano, a private collection of objects that span 5000 years of wine history.  On my first visit, the museum was very small and in order to enter it you had to ring the door bell of the woman that lived upstairs and she would come down and let you in. Now the museum has grown to some twenty rooms and includes an olive and olive oil museum.

Over the course of 30 years, every visit to Le Tre Vaselle has been memorable for me and my visit with Chiara and Mimo may have been the most enjoyable.

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Making the Perfect Espresso (Caffe) and Cappuccino

Universita Del Caffe Degli USA of Illycaffe

 Where can one learn the art of the barista and how to make the perfect espresso and cappuccino?  The answer is easy:  at the Universita del Caffe Degli USA.

 
          The Università del Caffè was created in Naples in 1999 by Illycaffe.  Its purpose is to promote and disseminate the culture of quality coffee using specific theoretical and practical activities. It offers a wide range of courses tailored to meet the needs and characteristics of various types of users: managers, bartenders, restaurant owners, hotel managers, coffee growers and consumers.  This program is so successful that there are now 19 international UDC sites.  

 The Illy Company was founded in 1933 by Francesco illy in Trieste, Italy. Two years later, he created the “illetta”, an automatic espresso machine that substituted compressed air for steam and created the modern espresso machine that we use today. 

 

I first tasted Illy Caffe in Trieste in 1994 and was amazed by how good it was. Even though it was very hard to find in the US, my wife Michele wrote about it in her dessert cookbook “La Dolce Vita”.  On our next trip to Trieste, we arranged to visit the Illy factory and were greeted by the late Dr.Enesto Illy, the son of the founder, who took us on a tour.  I have been hooked on Illy caffe ever since.  The Illy family still runs the company and in 2005, Andrea Illy, grandson of the founder, became the Chairman and CEO.

 I have been making caffe and cappuccino at home for many years. It is very good but not as good as I have had in Italy, especially in Trieste and Naples. I have a restaurant espresso machine and I use Illy caffe.  But what am I doing wrong? I hoped I would find the answer at the UDC.

The course I went to was held at the International Culinary Center in New York. It was a two day course given on Monday and Tuesday from 9:00 AM-5:00 PM. There were about 30 people taking the course and they came from all over the country. When I walked into the classroom there was coffee, coffee everywhere and all you could drink.


          There were two instructors from illy headquarters in Italy:  the very knowledgeable and entertaining Moreno Faina, a Specialty Coffee Association of Europe Qualified Instructor; and Giorgio Milos, Illy’s Master Barista, also certified by the SCAE. He is the man that has mastered the art of coaxing the beans into a brilliant cup of pleasure.

 The third was someone that I have known for many years David Rosengarten, an authority on wine, food, and cooking, and a very entertaining speaker.  David was the first to speak and also acted as a sort of moderator. He spoke about the history of coffee and told us that it may have started in Ethiopia or Central Africa, that it was first brewed in Yemen, how it came to be called coffee and its introduction into Europe by the Turks.

  In order to understand what a good caffe should taste like, we tasted a number of different coffees and in some cases tried to identify the components. The first coffee we tasted was Turkish and I found it very rustic and heavy.

 Next a terroir tasting: Ethiopian, Brazilian and Sumatra coffees. I found only slight differences between the three. 

 Next we had to try and guess the different aromas and tastes in the coffee.

We were given 3 cups of coffee. Two were the same and one was different. All you had to do was pick out the two that were the same from the one that was different. For example two cups were 100% Arabica beans and one a blend of Arabica and Robusta. First you had to say which were the same and then if they were the Arabica or the blend. This I was able to do.

             Next there was a discussion on decaf coffee. Signor Faina asked if anyone could tell the difference between regular and decaf. Many in the class said they could. He said that it was difficult to tell the difference between Illy regular and Illy decaf. We tasted both and less than half the class could tell the difference. Signor Faina said that on average only 20% could tell the difference.

 Lastly was the extraction time.  Is the coffee over-extracted (watery) or under-extracted (acidic). I was right on the money here because my caffe is usually one or the other, so it was easy.

The Espresso Machine

Then we learned about the beans.  There are two main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Canephone which produces the Robusta variety. Arabica is grown in the highlands and is considered to have more flavor, aroma, complexity and balance than the harsher Robusta. We were told by Signor Faina that his company produces and sells worldwide a single blend of premium quality espresso coffee made of nine varieties of pure Arabica. He went on to say that the unmistakable and invariable Illy taste and aroma, enjoyed cup after cup anywhere, all over the world, are the results of a perfect balance of beans coming from South America, Central America, India, and Africa.

          There are machines that can sort the beans by weight, color, ripeness and size. illy even has a machine that can remove the defective beans. In some countries this is still done by hand. Each student received a cup with 50 beans, five were “bad”, and we had to pick out the five. I found three right away: the whitish bean, the black bean and the dark waxy bean. But it took me sometime to find the immature and the light waxy bean. One bad bean will ruin the coffee.

          Mr. Faina said that over roasted beans were not good. As he put it, “be afraid of the dark.”

Mr Faina Talking about Espresso

Mr Faina Speaking about Espresso (Caffe)

         illy has only one factory and all the roasting is done here. Mr. Faina said that if the beans are lightly roasted, the coffee will have more acidity, be light bodied and less bitter. A medium roast gives more acidity, more body and aroma. This is the type of coffee that is preferred in Northern Italy. For Southern Italy, Illy uses a darker roast; it has less acidity, a little more bitter and a certain roundness and smoothness. It is all a matter of taste.

         illy also sells ground espresso coffee in the pressured cans for freshness.  There are special grinds for the espresso machine, Moka coffee for the stovetop coffeemaker, and another for the drip coffee maker. They also make coffee pods which give you almost perfect espresso every time.  As would be expected, they make a very good line of espresso machines.

Giorgio Milos Showing the Students How to Grind the Coffee Beans

        Signor Milos talked about the grinder.  He said the grinder is more important than the espresso machine. It is 55% grinder and 45% espresso machine.  If the grind is too fine, the water will take too much time to pass through (under extracted). If the grind is too coarse, too much water will pass through (over extracted). A grinder that has a slower blade speed is better because it makes less heat. During the course of the day, the barista may change the setting on the grinder 5-10 times to get the perfect flow: 25-30 seconds.

The Barista Making Espresso (Caffe)

   The Art of the Barista/Making the perfect “caffe” Espresso

 As the name indicates, an espresso is a cup of coffee prepared on the spot for immediate consumption. When brewed properly, it is an enormously complex drink with concentrated flavors and aromas that distinguish it from coffee prepared by any other method. Espresso is an extraordinary beverage and, like all extraordinary things, is very complicated in his structure. First of all, it is a solution, because it contains different elements (acids, proteins, sugars, fats and others substances). It is also an emulsion, due to the presence of oils, which hold aromas and give espresso his full body. Finally, espresso is a suspension, for the thick and persistence layer of foam (crema) that you can find on the coffee surface. To coffee connoisseurs, espresso is the quintessential form of coffee; the purest way to enjoy its aroma and flavor at their maximum intensity.

The Perfect Espresso (Caffe)

         It takes 50 coffee beans, nine atmospheres of pressure, seven grams of coffee, and 25-30 second of extraction to create an espresso of 25-30 ml volume.  Espresso should never be made one at a time. It is always better to make two cups. The cups should always be preheated. 14 -15 grams of coffee is then needed. Ideally, the coffee beans should be ground only as you need them. Two hours after grinding, 50% of the aromatic components are lost. The coffee must be pressed into the holder with a tamper at 40 lbs of pressure. The water temperature should be about 195 degrees and it should take about 5 seconds for the coffee to begin to flow. The cake of ground coffee is highly resistant and only the acidic elements will pass through.  During the next 20-25 seconds, the cake softens and the full range of elements flow through. After 30 seconds you get a bitter, watery cup.

 Never, never, never put lemon peel in your caffe (espresso) 

Espresso has less caffeine than brewed coffee.

Coffee, especially espresso may have some heath benefits.

Cappuccino

         Always steam the milk before making the espresso. A cup of cappuccino should be about 150ml, containing one espresso coffee and equal parts of steamed milk and froth. Fill the third part of a metal steaming pitcher with cold milk. The consistency of the froth will vary depending on the fat content of the milk. Whole milk will produce a very creamy, thick, velvety froth while 2% milk produces a less dense and somewhat stiffer froth. Non-fat milk yields a large volume of stiff, meringue-like froth that dissipates quickly.  Whole or 2% milk is recommended for the best flavor.

      Turn on the steam for a second or two to release any excess condensation.

       Submerge the tip of the steam wand below the milk’s surface and begin steaming. As the foam rises and the milk’s volume increases, slowly lower the pitcher so the tip remains submerged in the milk. Keep the wand steady and parallel to the side of the pitcher and do not move it around in circles or up and down.

      As the milk begins to heat, tip the pitcher slightly to create a whirlpool effect in the milk. This will help inject air for volume and build the froth. Steam until the milk has doubled in volume and the side of the steaming pitcher feels too hot to hold.  If you are using a thermometer, stop steaming when the milk temperature reaches 65°C.  You can tap the pitcher on a counter to eliminate any large bubbles that may have formed.

        You should always make two cups of espresso even when you are having cappuccino.

        Mr. Milos also used two pitchers. After he eliminated the bubbles, the milk had a silky look. He poured some of the foam into the second pitcher. He poured the milk from the first pitcher with one motion into the center and by moving his hand was able to make different designs. He poured the rest of the milk from the first pitcher into the second tapped in on the counter and repeated the posses.


       He prepared the espresso and poured the steamed milk over it. When done, run steam through the steam wand right away to flush out milk and prevent future clogging.

         Each student made espresso and cappuccino under the direct guidance of Mr. Milos. He held each student’s hand as we steamed the milk and then added it to the espresso pouring the milk directly into the center of the cup in one motion and moving the wrist to make a design.  Even mine looked good. The examples Mr.Milos showed us were works of art.

Pouring the Milk

        Mr. Milos and Mr. Faina gave the class some hints on ordering caffe in Italy.  Always say caffe when you are ordering espresso. Never order a lungo or a doppio. In most cases they will just let the machine run longer and you will get an over-extracted bitter, watery coffee. If you order a ristretto, short coffee, it should still take the same 30 seconds for the caffe to be done. If it is cold order caffe corretto (corrected coffee).  The barista will add a little grappa.

You should always make two cups of espresso even when you are having cappuccino.

Never order Cappuccino after lunch or dinner.

       It takes three years of study to become a coffee sommelier or as the Italian say- barista. I just received my Certificate of Completion from the Universita Del Caffe Degli USA. Illy gives different courses at the UDC and I am looking forward to taking all of them.

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Soave II The Wineries and the Wines

Bruno Trentini general manager of Cantina di Soave handed me an envelope and said, as a joke, that it did not contain soldi (money).   “But take it anyway because it is something you will enjoy.”   I assumed (which is always a mistake) that the other journalists in our group had received the same letter and when I went up to my room I put it away and forgot about it.

Very Medieval

On Sunday we were going to the Castello Scaligero in Soave to attend a ceremony and induction into the Imperial Castellania Di Suavia, a worldwide women’s organization that praises “il Vino Bianco Soave”.  The members are persons who love good wine and good food.  When we arrived, we found a band of costumed musicians playing medieval music and a coordinated flag throwing demonstration.  Many attendees also wore  Medieval attire.

Three Italian women were being inducted into the organization when Jonathan, the organizer of the trip, whispered in my ear to ask, “Can you make a short thank you speech in Italian?”  Before I could ask him what for, I heard my name being announced  and very nice things being said about me. As I made my way toward the stage I realized that the Society was inducting me as “Capitano Spadarino”, protector of the Women  of the Castle and for my contributions to Italian wine and food and Soave in particular.  They presented me with a spadarino, or short sword on an embroidered sash. That was what the letter in the envelope would have explained if I had taken the time to read it.  Yes, I did thank them in Italian and it is all on tape!

A Member of the I’Imperial Castellania Di Suavia and Capitano Spadarino

One of the highlights of my visit to Soave was a tasting in a vineyard arranged by Giovanni Ponchia, the enologist from the Soave consortium and our guide. We tasted 20 wines while looking at the vines growing on the Pergola Veronese. The wines were Soave Classico and Soave Classico Superiore and all single vineyards. The first 14 were Soave between tuff (a type of rock made from volcanic ash or dust) and basalt (volcanic rock, fine-grained that is usually black in color) and the last 6 Soave in black soil and white soil. We had detailed maps which showed where the vineyards for each wine were located and aerial photos of each site.  They really are into terroir and how it affects the wine. I was very impressed by the high quality of the wines.

Tasting in the Vineyard

These are the ones I liked the most:

Soave Superiore Classico “Foscarin Slavinus” 2007 Monte Tonde– 100% Garganega. Soft pressing and maceration on the skins for 24 hours- fermentation with the skins for 36 hours-fermentation in 50hl casks- aged in stainless steel tanks for one year and in bottle for 6 months months. $30

Soave Classico DOC “Casette Foscarin” 2007 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano Soave. The vineyards are in the North of the Soave Classico zone in calcareous soil of volcanic origin. The grapes most exposed to the sun are chosen and harvested at different times according to ripeness. The wine is soft pressed and aged in barriques and 5hl tonnellerie for about 6 months. $22

Soave Superiore Classico “Capitel Al Pigno” 2006 Bixio Produttori – 100% Garganega- The wine is aged 3 months in large casks and 4 months in bottle.

 Soave Classico “Corte Menini” 2009 La Mandolare  – 100% Garganega- traditional vinification without the skins, on the lees for 4 months in stainless steel tanks.

Soave Classico “Vigneto Senglialta” 2008 Balestri Valda Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave. The wine is aged in 20hl Slavonian oak.

Soave Classico “Frosca” 2008  100% Garganega. Gini Hillside vineyard with soil that is part calcareous and part tufaceous.  The grapes are soft pressed and fermented in both stainless steel and wood. It remains on the lees in stainless steel and wood and is then ages in small oak barrels.

Soave Classico “Salvarenza” 2007- 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano Soave. Grapes are from 90 year old vines from a part of the Frosca vineyard called Salvarenza. The grapes are harvested at the end of October which makes them almost late harvest. Fermented entirely on the lees in barriques of which 20% are new.  The wine remains in wood for 9 months.

What made visiting the wineries so interesting was that each one had something unique to show, tell or to taste. I also noticed that some of the wineries had olive or cherry trees planted near the vines depending where the winery was located. Almost all of them had spontaneous cover crops and grass cover between the rows of vines.

Trees and Grass Covering Between the Rows of Vines

 Cantina di Monteforte is a large cooperative that produces a wide range of wines including “wine in the box”. They gave us three wines to taste blind and then wanted us to rank them. I tasted the wines and said they could be the same, but no one answered me. After we voted we were told it was the same wine only the closure was different, cork, glass and synthetic cork. I could not tell much difference between the three wines. The wine closed with cork did come in #I. I like the glass closure but some producers were reluctant to use it because they were afraid it might crack and the glass would go in the bottle.

The wine I liked the best was the Clivus Soave Classico made from Garganica and Trebbiano di Soave from volcanic soil in the hilly area of the Monteforte d’Alpone district. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented in stainless steel.

 Ca’Rugate This is a family owned and operated winery. The Tessari family has owned vineyards in this area for four generations and opened this winery in1986. We were given a tour of the winey and the “Enomuseum” by Federica Bon. The museum is very interesting and worth a visit. The setting is a farm house of the late 1940’s and there are over 150 instruments and tools used by the Tessari family over the last 100 years for winemaking from the time the grapes enter the barnyard to the aging and bottling.

Federica then led us in a tasting of the wines and I was impressed with all of them:

Tasting Wine at Ca’Rugate

Soave Classico “San Michele” 2009- 100% Garganega $20 Next year they will add Trebbiano di Soave so that it will be different from their Soave Classico “Monte Fiorentine” which is also 100% Garganega. $30. Both vinified and aged in stainless steel.

Soave Classico “Monte Alto” 100% Garganega $39 The wine is vinified in stainless steel and the fermentation takes place in barriques (225 liter oak barrels) where it remains on the lees between 6-8 months.

Recioto di Soave DOCG 100% Garganega. The grapes are dried in plastic boxes in special “drying rooms” were the grapes become very concentrated. The spring following the harvest the grapes are crushed and fermented in oak barrels and aged in these barrels for 10-12 months.

Once again in order to demonstrate the importance of terroir, at Azienda Agricola i Stefanini, we tasted three wines.  Next to each was a container of the soil in which the vines were planted.  Francesco Tessari, the owner of the winery, and Giovanni Ponchia explained the soil and its relationship to the wine.

Francesco Tessari Pouring the Wine and Giovanni Ponchia Holding the Soil

IL Selese Soave DOC the wine is usually 90% Garganega and 10% Chardonay but the 2009 is 100% Garganega. The soil is alluvial clay, the vines are trained in the Espalier system and the vineyard is in the flat lowlands. This was from the part of the valley with  red soil, “Terra Rosa”. Fermentation takes place on the lees until March in stainless steel, and under goes partial malolatic.  It is kept in stainless steel until bottling.

Soave Classico DOC Monte di Toni  2008 100% Garganega, the vineyards are in the volcanic hills behind the winery. The soil is volcanic tufa, the average age of the vines is 25 years and they are trained in the Pergola Veronese system. It is fermented and aged on the lees until March in stainless steel and under goes complete malolatic fermentation.

Soave Superiore Classico DOCG “Monte di Fice” 2006 100% Garganega the vineyards are in the volcanic hills behind the winery. The soil is volcanic tufa. The wines are an average of 25 years old and are trained on the Pergola Veronese. It is fermented on the lees until March and under goes partial malolatic fermentation. Even though the two vineyards are a few meters apart, the Toni had more calcareous uplift stratum and the Fice is more ferrous volcanic soil.

Az. Ag Monte Tondo. This is a family owned winery.  The proprietor is Gino Magnabosco along with his wife and daughter Marta, who conducted the tasting, run the winery.

Soave Classico Superiore DOCG “Foscarin Slavinus “ We did a vertical of this wine from 2003-2009.  Monte Foscarino is basaltic origin and the slopes are very steep. The wines were all very good but the one that caught my attention was the 2004.  I asked if I could buy some to take back with me but was told it was not for sale.

 

Recioto di Soave DOCG 100% Garganega This is a selection of the best grapes with the highest sugar content. The grapes are handpicked and left to semi-dry in small crates and in well ventilated rooms called fruttai.  At the end of January the grapes are pressed and left to age for 18 months in small oak barrels.

Recioto Soave Spumante DOCG “Round Mountain” 2008 100% Garganega from the Soave Classical area. I do not think I have ever tasted this type of wine before. It is only made in small quantities. The grapes used are those most exposed to the sun with the highest sugar content. They are handpicked into small crates and dried in rooms called fruttai.  The wine is stored in stainless steel for 90 days after undergoing the Charmat Method to obtain a sparkling wine. This was a very interesting wine.

Of all the wineries that we visited perhaps the most interesting was Cantina di Soave in the town of Soave in a very lovely setting where there Borgo Rocca Sveva facility is located. This large cooperative makes Borgo Rocca Sveva, their top of the line brand right, down to Duca their wine in a box, and everything in between. The Company was founded in 1898 and today has over 2,200 members which make it one of Europe’s major wine producing companies. They give excellent winery tours open to the public and have a large retail store where you can buy wine and other products.

We went to visit the vineyards with the agronomist from Cantina di Soave and he explained how the coop works with the growers, the control they have over how the grapes are grown and, of course, all about the terroir and the different training systems for the vines.  They use all the latest modern methods in the vineyards, “Sistema Alta Selezione”, and are able to register the origin, health, quality level and variety for every batch of grapes delivered to the winery.  We were given aerial photos of the section of the vineyards we visited.  There were many olive trees planted near the vineyard and we were told that it was customary in this area.  Everyone connected with the winery was very helpful and gave us information not only about the winery but about Soave and the Veneto in general.

Capitano Spadarino Explaining the Pergola Veronese

Soave Classico DOC 2008 Borgo Rocca Sveva – 100% Garganega. The vines are planted in loose, medium-gravelly clay soil of volcanic origin. The wines are trained for the Pergola Veronese system. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented and aged in stainless steel.  $14.99

The Cantina di Soave  wine in the box, Duca del Frassino, was the best one I tasted.

Cantina del Castello – It is in heart of Soave just below the Scaligero Castle. While they have been making wines since the 1960’s it was not until Arturo Stocchetti took over 20 years ago that the winery reached its true potential. Arturo is very charming and has a passion for wine that you can feel when he speaks.  He always wants to produce typical wines that express the terroir in which the vines are planted. Arturo is also the president of the Consorzio Tutela di Soave.  He is very well known for his sweet wines and is a Recioto specialist. He makes two Recioto di Soave- Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG “Cortepittora” – 100% Garganega from the Pressoni vineyard of clayey basaltic soil of volcanic origin in the Monteforte d’Alpone zone. The grapes are hand harvested and dried in well ventilated rooms until Jan/Feb then undergo soft pressing and fermentation in Allier oak barrels, medium toast, 4 to 5 years old. It is aged in the same barrels for one year then aged in bottle for 1 to 2 years before it is released.

Our group with Arturo Stecchetti( In Middle) of Cantina del Castello

Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG “Ardens” 100% Garganega. Training system is the pergola Veronese semplice and short espalier.  Manual harvesting into small crates in a single layer. Dried in well ventilated rooms until Jan/Feb, very soft pressing with a 35% must yield. Fermentation is stainless steel for 30 to 40 days. The wine is “cleaned” by decanting which is the traditional method. The wine is bottled in May/June after a mild filtration that allows a natural refermentation “sur lie” in the bottle-the wine is on the lees until it is consumed. The wine spends 7to 8 months in the bottle before it is released. I understand why Arturo is a Recioto specialist now that I have tasted his wines.

Antonio Fattori Pouring Wine

Fattori winery Soave Classico “Danieli” the owner Antonio Fattori said that this was a family nickname. 100% Garganega from hillside vineyards of volcanic soil. Maceration for 36 hours, gently pressed with a pneumatic press. The wine is left for 24 hours and after static decantation the wine is fermented in stainless steel.

 Soave Classico “Runcaris” 100% Garganega. The average age of the vineyard is 25 years, in volcanic soil and the vines are trained in the Pergola Veronese system. Vinification and fermentation in stainless steel. Signore Fattori said that it was traditional to use 10% of late harvested grapes. He also said that they use nitrogen to control the fermentation process but do add a small amount of sulfites during the static decantation and bottling.

Soave DOC “Motto Piane” 100% Garganega. This wine borders on desert with a residual sugar content of 6.5 gl. The average age of the vines is 30 years. Guyot trained. Harvesting begins the second week of September and the grapes are handpicked. They are dried on straw mats for about a month. Maceration is for 24 hours. The must is fermented in stainless steel until alcohol reaches 2%. It is then put in large casks, tonneaux, and stainless steel to age. The wine remains on its lees until February and is bottled the following spring.

Reciotto di Soave DOCG “Motto Piane”(Flat Hill) 2008 100% Garganega. Vines planted on hill of volcanic origin and cordon speronato trained. The grapes are dried until the following March. They lose 50% of their weight and the sugar content is 33%, then the grapes are macerated for 72 hours. The must is decanted naturally and yeast is added. Stainless steel tanks are only used when the fermentation process is under way. It then goes into barriques until the alcohol level reaches 14 to 14.5. The wine contains 9 grams of sugar per liter which Signor Fattori believes is perfect. The wine is reracked stopping the fermentation process. Then it goes back into the same barriques for 14 to 15 months.

Az. Ag. PRA Graziano We had a tour of the winery and a tasting conducted by Laura Meile followed by a lovely lunch overlooking the vineyards. Giovanni Ponchia once again went into the vineyard, this time we could watch from our seats at the table, as he   talked about the soil, the Pergola Veronese, and the other training systems. All he had to do was point to what he was explaining.

Soave Classico 2008 100% Garganega Monteforte d’Alpone area and the vineyards are 25-30 years old. Vines are trained in the Pergola Veronese system and the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. $18.

Az.Ag Agostino Vicentini Agostino Vicentini This winery was in an area called the valley of the cherries because there were so many cherry trees planted here. Agostino is very passionate about his vines and his wines. He took us out into the vineyard and spoke about the vines. He liked the Pergola Veronese because it protected the grapes from getting to much sun and “burning”. However wind can be a problem because it can break some of the canes and he showed us some examples of broken ones which he removed. Agostino believed that grapes trained by Pergola Veronese were best for Recioto di Soave but felt that Guyot was best for his other wines. All of his white wines are in stainless steel.  Since he wants to let the wines reflect the terroir, there is as little interference by the winemaker as possible.

Agostino Vicentini with his Vines

Soave Superiore DOCG “IL Casale” 100%  Zone of production Colognola ai Colli. Guyot vineyard system and the grapes are picked when they are very ripe.

Recioto di Soave DOCG Zone of production Colognola ai Colli, localita S. Zeno. Grapes are selected and picked by hand at 32-35 brix and put in boxes and left to dry until March. The wine contains about 110 grams of sugar

 

Az. AG.Gini  Sandro Gini gave us a tour of the winery and a tasting of a wines from a number of different vintages going back to a good 1993 and a sensational 1990. As I said before I was very impressed with these wines especially the La Frosca 1990,  2001,2004,2007 and 2008 and the “Salvarenza” 2001 and 2007.  Sandro said that these wines need at least 3/4 years before they begin to be ready to drink.

This was one of the most informative and interesting wine trips that I have been on and I look forward to returning next year.  There is a real desire in this area to make wines that reflect the terroir without relying on oak.  Very few producers used new barriques, and if they did it is a small percentage. Some producers are using barriques that are 7 years old. Others only use stainless steel but the majority seems to use a mix a stainless steel, barriques, tonneaux and botti. I did not find more than one or two wines that I could say were over-oaked.

 

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