Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Legendary Edoardo Valentini

For 20 years, I wanted to meet Edoardo Valentini at his winery, but he did not welcome visitors.  Finally, the opportunity presented itself and a group of wine writers and I were standing before him in his home. We found the great winemaker seated in a throne-like chair with his son and grandson standing behind him and his wife and daughter-in-law off to the side. It reminded me of a scene from a Fellini movie about Italy in the 1930’s. We were not invited to sit down.

The wine writers had many questions but Valentini offered few answers. He said that he sold 90% of his grapes to a local co-op (Rosciano, which we also visited) and kept only the best for himself. He would not show us the cellar or explain how he made wine. All he would talk about was the terroir and the grapes.

Valentini joined us in our tour bus for a look at his vineyards.  On board, he told us that the average age of his vines was over 50 years and he uses the tendone method. The leaves cover the grapes like a canopy (pergola in Italian), so they were all in the shade. He explained that this protected the grapes from the hot Abruzzo sun. It was also important to protect the grapes from the heat coming from the ground so the bunches had to be a certain distance from the ground in order to avoid reflected heat. There were 2,000 vines per hectare. He emphasized that he was the only one growing the true Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grape. Valentini said that he wanted to have a conference on the Trebbiano grape, but no one would listen to him. At one point he suggested that we ask him a certain question.  When one of our group took him up on the idea and repeated the question, he replied, “That is the dumbest question I have ever heard.”

We returned to his house and were all standing around not knowing what to do. Michele turned to me and said, tell him we are friends of the late Sheldon Wasserman and his wife Pauline. I told him in my best Italian and suddenly he became silent. He looked up at us with tears in his eyes and began to praise Wasserman.  Sheldon and Pauline were the authors of The Noble Red Wines of Italy and were the first to praise Valentini’s red wine and pronounce his white and rose the best in Italy. They all became close friends. He asked if I knew where Pauline was and I said I had seen her the year before but had lost contact with her. All of a sudden we were invited to sit down and his wife brought out two pies she had made along with other foods. We ate, drank his wine, talked about Wasserman and wine and he was a like a different person.

When we were about to leave someone asked if we could buy some wine. He said no but he would give us wine. He gave us the white and the Cerasuolo, his rose, but would not give us any of the red. He said that he had very little red wine as he used most of his red grapes for his Cerasuolo. He said that he liked his white and rose better than his red.

After talking to him and drinking his wines I understood what the term “terroir driven” wine really means.

This was one of the last stops on this press trip and I had been given a lot of wine. I told the other people on the trip that I would trade bottles of other producers’ wines for bottles of Valentine’s wine.  Three for one, six for one it did not matter, I wanted the wine. I came back from the trip with eight bottles — all Valentini.

Edorado Valentini passed away at age 72 in 2006. I was glad that I had the opportunity to meet him and to talk to him and learn more about his wine. It was Sheldon Wasserman that had first told me about Valentini and his wines and was the one that urged me to go and visit him. For those that knew both of them they were two of a kind!

Edoardo’s son, Francesco Paolo has taken over the wine making and I was very curious to see if there were any changes in the wine. I was able to try them at a tasting arranged by the importer, Domenico Valentino Imports, at I Trulli Restaurant. 

The wines of Valentini – organic and biodynamic production.

 Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo 100% Bombino Bianco ?? DOC 2008. This is a very complex full wine with a lot of fruit, mineral undertones, good acidity and a great finish and aftertaste.

The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.

 Wine writer Jancis Robinson in one of her books says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. In the technical sheets given out by Domenico Valentino, it says Bombino Bianco. They said that the information was given to them by the Italian distributor and the blanks on the technical sheets were filled in by Francesco Valentini. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. I guess I will just have to go back again and talk to the son.  However, no matter what the grape, it is a great white wine.

 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2005 this was a little more developed, very complex and full with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste with that extra something that is difficult to describe.

 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC 2008 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. There was just a touch of strawberry in the wine but that may be the only thing it has in common with other rose wines.

 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo 2007 aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. More developed with very nice fruit aromas and flavors, mineral character and for a rose a great finish and aftertaste.

 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2006. This wine was big, rich and tannic with wonderful red and black fruit flavors and aromas. It needs many years to develop.

 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2001. At 10 years old it was not ready to drink. It still has a lot of tannin but with plenty of red and black fruit aromas and flavors. I have a few bottles of the 2001 and I will not open them for a few more years. I also have one bottle of the 1993 and I am thinking of drinking it soon.

 I Trulli’s chef prepared an entire roast suckling pig for the occasion.  Not only the red but also the white and the rose went very well with it. One of the things that impressed me about these wines was their great finish and aftertaste.  Edoardo Valentini’s tradition continues with his son Francesco and the winery is the Gambero Rosso winery of the year for 2011.


Filed under Abruzzo, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Valentini

Kevin Zraly and “Sangiovese!”

“Sangiovese!” Kevin Zraly shouted, and everyone in the room responded, “Sangiovese! Sangiovese! Sangiovese!” The master class entitled “The Waiting Game: Age Worthy–Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello dI Montalcino” had begun, featuring Mr. Zraly assisted by a panel made up of the presidents of three consortiums:  Ezio Rivella – Brunello di Montalcino (Formerly with Castello Banfi), Marco Pallanti – Chianti Classico (I had lunch with him the next day at Manzo), and Federico Carletti – Vino Noble (The owner of Poliziano).


The Italian Wine Masters was a daylong event in NYC that included master classes given by Kevin Zraly and a grand tasting of the wines of the four Consortiums that sponsored the event: Chianti Classic, Vino Nobile, Brunello and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Mr. Zraly is the founder of the Windows on the World wine course and author of the book by the same name. I took his course over 30 years ago and it was interesting to see that he had the same energy and style that he had way back then.

Kevin Zraly

  Kevin moved around the room talking, making sure everyone was following his directions and asking questions of the audience and of the panel. At one point he had everyone in the room stand up and look down at the glasses in front of them.  He asked about the color of each wine and said that if you can see through a red wine, it is ready to drink.  He also said that all of the wines had very good acidity and this is what made them good food wines. It is not only the tannins that make a wine age well, but also the acidity.  Kevin added that Italy is the only country were the term Riserva is defined by law.  If it is a riserva, it means the wines have to be aged longer.

 Kevin looked at the panel and said that 2007 was not a just a wonderful vintage, but an exceptional one, and all the panel members nodded in agreement.  He introduced Chianti Classico by first speaking of the flask-shaped bottles covered with straw. He said the wine was popular because everyone wanted to use the empty bottles as candle holders as they had seen it done in Italian restaurants. My wife, Michele, remembers buying candles that dripped in different colors specifically for those Chianti flasks!  We all thought it looked very romantic.

 Mr. Zraly quickly added that we have come a long way since then and spoke about the changes in the laws for Chianti Classico including the elimination of white grapes from the blend.  He asked Marco Pallanti about the grapes used in Chianti Classico today and the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero). Mr. Pallanti replied that Chianto Classico must have a minimum of 80% to 100% Sangiovese and 20% or other recommended red varieties such as Canaiolo, Colorino, and Malvasia Nera which are traditional, and/or international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

  Mr. Pallanti added that before 2005, Chianti Classic producers did not have to display the “Black Rooster”, the symbol of the Consortium, on the neck of the bottle. Now the Black Rooster trademark has been added to the Italian government’s bottle seal and is compulsory on all bottles of Chianti Classico. Both Consortium members and non-members have it on every bottle of Chianti Classico.

 The WInes

 Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2007 La Madonnina  Chiocchio 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Colorino. I liked the aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit with hints of cherry, good acidity, and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. $20

 Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva “Vigna del Sorbo” 2007 Fontodi  Panzano in Chianti 100% Sangiovese. This is a big wine with aromas and flavors of cherry. The wine was very concentrated and the oaky toasty flavor was not my style.  $60

 Chianti Classico DOCG 2007 Castello di Ama Gaiole in Chianti 80% Sangiovese and 20% Malvasia Nera, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Nero. This one had the most red fruit flavors and aromas and was very well balanced. $45

  Vino Nobile does not get the respect that it deserves in this country. It is caught between the more famous Chianti Classic and Brunello, and does much better in Italy and in other foreign markets than in the U.S.

  Kevin asked Federico Carletti to speak about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. He said the grape used is a local clone of Sangiovese called Prugnolo Gentile. The wine must be a minimum of 70% Sangiovese and a maximum of 30% of other red grapes such as Canaiolo, Colorino and Merlot, recommended or authorized by the region of Tuscany.

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2007 Salcheto 100% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) This wine had very good fruit with hints of blueberries and a nice mineral character. It had good acidity and is a very good food wine. All of the Vino Nobile that I tasted this day had an undertone of violets.  $35

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2007 “La Braccesca” Marchese Antinori  90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Merlot. This is a big wine with red fruit, minerality, tannic with good acidity. This is a wine that will age. $27

 Vino Nobile di Montepulicano DOCG 2007 Poliziano 80% Sangiovese 20% Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot. This is a rich concentrated wine with fruit, more than a hint of violets, leather, and a touch of toasted oak.  It has nice finish and aftertaste. $31

 Ezio Rivella said that they did not want the grape for Brunello to be called Sangiovese Grosso anymore but just Sangiovese. He added that Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese.

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Pinino 100% Sangiovese, I felt this wine was a little too oaky in the finish and aftertaste and not my style of wine. Since Brunello should not be drunk in my opinion until at least 10 years after the release date, it may get better with age. $60

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Castelgiocondo 100% Sangiovese, this is a wine  that I have been following for some time and it did not disappoint. $65.

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Uccelliera 100% Sangiovese. This is a great Brunello with good red fruit, leather and undertones of eucalyptus. It is powerful and elegant at the same time with a very pleasing finish and aftertaste. $75

 Kevin made a point of saying that there was a noticeable difference in taste between the three types of wine. He said they are all based on the Sangiovese grape but they all have their own charteristics.

 The Older Wines                                                                                                     

 Chianti Classico DOCG 1999 “Riserva Don Tomasso” Principe Corsini-Fattoria Le

Corti 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino and Canaiolo. From Magnum- $150 for the magnum.

 Vino Noble di Montepulciano DOCG 1999 Riserva Dei 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo Nero $145

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1991 Col D’ Orcia 100% Sangiovese. $ 200

 After we finished tasting the older wine, Kevin looked at the audience and said that the three older wines are all drinking very well and the audience and the panel all agreed.

I also agreed, they were drinking very well and not showing their age.

 The title of the Seminar “The Waiting Game: Age Worthy Chianti, Vino Nobile and Brunello” proved its point. Sangiovese can age and the reward is worth the wait.

  There was also a grand tasting of the wines which included the four Consortiums that sponsored the event: Chianti Classic, Vino Nobile, Brunello and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

 In a room called the “Sommelier Cellar”, there were older vintages of Chianti Classico and Brunello and selected bottles of Vino Noble and Prosecco. The 1990 Chianti Classico from Castello di Ama was drinking very well as was the 1995 Brunello from Barbi and the 2004 Brunello from Banfi.

 The 2008 Tenuta di Lilliano Chianti Classico and the Fattoria Le Corte 2007 Chianti Classico were two wines I enjoyed with lunch at Manzo in Eataly and they are great food wines.

 The Vino Nobile di Montalcino from Crociani, a very traditional producer, was one of my favorites and I liked all their wines. I was also very impressed by the 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulicano from Cecchi, which is also a great food wine.

Charles Scicolone On Wine every Wednesday at 6:05 Valerie’s

Join Roberto of Keste, Michele and I for a once in a life time pizza tour of Italy


Filed under Brunello, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine Masters, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

Chiara Lungarotti and the Wines of Umbria at the Wine Media Guild

 With only one free day when I attended last year’s Sagrantino event, I decided to ask Chiara Lungarotti to show me Cantina Lungarotti’s new winery in Montefalco. What better way to learn more about Umbria and its wines. Even though it was a Saturday she said yes.  Chiara and I talked about wine in general, Umbrian wine in particular, and her wines as we tasted them. I am always impressed with her wine knowledge so I invited her to come to NYC to do a presentation for the Wine Media Guild on the wines of Umbria. Chiara is very passionate about all things Umbrian and works very hard to promote her region and its wines. I was very happy when she accepted my invitation.

 Chiara planned the tasting to include at least one wine from each of the wine producing regions of Umbria. She said the two most important red grapes in Umbria are Sangiovese and Sagrantino and the most important white grape is Grechetto. All but three of the 20 wines we tasted were made with at least one of these grapes. Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot are also grown here.

 The Wines

 Grechetto di Todi Colli Martani “Montorsolo” DOC 2009 100% Grechetto di Todi Cantina Peppucci the vines are on the hills of Montorsolo which are rich in limestone and clay. The harvest takes place in the middle of September. The wine is clarified by the “debourbage” and fermented in stainless steel tanks with periodic “batonnages” then bottled and released. At $12 it is a very good buy.

 Chiara explained that traditionally Orvieto was amabile, slightly sweet, and it was only in the last 50 years that it has become a dry wine. Today she said very few producers make an amabile. There are many tunnels and caves under Orvieto built into the volcanic rock. Many of the wine merchants in Orvieto have their cellars in these caves right in the town. When the Duomo was being built, construction began in November 1290; the workers’ contract stated that they would be given this wine every day.

  Orvieto Classico Superiore “Terre Vineate” DOC 2009 50% Procanico, 30% Grechetto and 20% Verdello Durpeggio and Malvasia Azienda Agricola Palazzon. The wine is fermented in stainless steel for 20 days. It had more body then I expected and nice fruit with hints of white peaches $17

 Torre di Giano, Bianco di Torgiano DOC 2009 Lungarotti.  Made from 70% Trebbiano and 30% Grechetto. The soil is clay with good water retention and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. The Grechetto is harvested in the beginning of September and the Trebbiano in the middle of September. The wine is made from the free run juice, after a brief cryomaceration, and is vinified in stainless steel at low temperatures. It is kept on the lees at low temperatures until bottling. $15

 Sangiovese dell’Umbria “Vigna La Pieve” IGT 2006 Cantina Fanini 100% Sangiovese There are 5,500 vines per hectare. Fermentation and maceration takes place in stainless steel. This wine is aged in second and third passage barriques for not less than 12 months and in bottle for not less than six months before release. This a very pleasant fruity wine easy to drink. $23

 Assisi Rosso DOC 2008. Sportoletti Made from 50% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet. The vineyard is 400 meters above sea level and the harvest takes place in mid-September. Fermentation is stainless steel for 10/15 days with steeping and regular mixing. The wine is then aged in wood for some months and in bottle before it is released. I have not had many wines from this DOC and this one had nice red fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry. $18

 Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 2007 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone sub soil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks; lightly filtered before bottling. This is an easy drinking wine with red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of black cherry with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, a bargain at $15.

 Rubesco Riserva “Vigna Monticchio”, Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2005  Lungarotti Sangiovese 70% and Canaiolo 30% Fermented in stainless steel and maceration on the skins for about 25 days. It is aged in barriques for one year and then for several years in bottle before release. In the past it was aged almost 10 years before release, now it is closer to 5 years. The 2005 is the current vintage. I have been drinking this wine since 1981 when I first visited the winery in Torgiano and drank the 1973 vintage. The wine was granted its own DOCG in 1990. The Rubesco Riserva is a wine that can age for 30 years. $55

 Rubino 2006 Umbria Rosso IGT La Palazzola 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot the vineyard is 250/300 meters above sea level and the soil is clay, rich in skeletal deposits. Merlot is harvested the second week in September and the Cabernet Sauvignon the first week of October. Maceration is on the skins for 25 days in stainless steel. It is aged for 12 months in barriques. This is a big wine a with a lot of fruit, and a good finish and aftertaste. $50

 San Giorgio, Umbria Rosso IGT 2004 Lungarotti 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. The vineyard for the Cabernet Sauvignon is pebbles and tangentially limestone. The Sangiovese and Canaiolo vineyard is clay and sand with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000/5,000 vines per hectare. The harvest takes place the second week of September. It is fermented in stainless and maceration on the skins for 18 days followed by 12 months in barriques. It is aged in the bottle for 36 months before release. This is a big wine with red berry aromas and flavors and hints of leather and rhubarb. $62

 Recently Italian producers from outside Umbria have been coming to Montefalco and building wineries. Chiara also wanted to expand but wanted to stay within Umbria where she feels at home. A few years ago they brought land in Torrota di Montefalco and opened up a winery there. It is only 45 minutes away from the main winery in Torgiano.

 A few producers also make a Montefalco Rosso Riserva. Chiara felt that this was a mistake. She felt that there was not much difference between the regular and the riserva (the riserva is aged longer) and that it would confuse the consumer.

 Montefalco Rosso DOC 2008 Lungarotti Blends of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 10% Sagrantino. Soil is a combination of clay and sand, with 4500 vines per hectare.

The harvest takes place in September/October. It is fermented in stainless steel with 25 days skin maceration, aged in French oak barriques for 12 months, and six months in bottle before release. It has aromas and flavors of red berries, violets and a hint of coffee. $48

 Chiara said that in 1970 there were only 5 hectares of Sagrantino in Montefalco! The name Sagrantino comes from the Latin sacer, a holy wine used doing Christian festivals. The Passito is a sweet dessert wine and is the traditional version of Sagrantino di Montefalco.

 Alter Ego Umbria Rosso IGT 2006100% Sagrantino Cantina Peppucci Even though this wine is 100% Sagrantino the vineyards are outside the classified zone and therefore it is IGT and not DOCG. This is the reason for its name. $23. This is a good buy.

 Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 Lungarotti 100% Sagrantino. The soil is a medium mix with small pebbles and clay and the vineyard has full southern exposure. The harvest takes place in mid-October. Fermented in stainless steel with maceration on the skins for 28 days and aged for 12 months in French oak barriques. There is a light filtration before the wine is bottled and it spends 20 months in the bottle before release. This is a complex, tannic wine with red fruit, cherries and blueberries and a touch of spice. $48

 Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG  2005 Tenuta Alzatura 100% Sagrantino. The wine is fermented for 26 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with frequent pumping over. It is aged for 16 month in French oak barriques and eight months in bottle before release. It has concentrated black fruit aromas and flavors with hints of leather and coffee. The estate is owned by the Cecchi family of Tuscan fame.

 Sagrantino di Montefalco “Chiusa di PannonE” DOCG  2005 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino. The soil is of pleistocene origin, calcareous clay, rich in gravel and fluvio-lacustrine conglomerates(professor Attilio Scienza at Vino 2011).  Chiusa di PannonE is the name of the vineyard and it is 400 meters above sea level. Vines are grafted on rootstock 420A. The grapes are handpicked into boxes the second and third week of October. Fermentation in contact with the skins for 20 days and malolatic fermentation takes place in wood. The wine is aged in lightly toasted 500liter barrels for six months and 25HL barrels for 15 months. This is followed by assembling and clarifying in cement vats for three months and 2 years in bottle before release. The wine has not been stabilized or filtered. As I have mentioned before, I like the style of wine that they produce.  $40

 Passito 2005 La Palazzola Made from Trebbiano and Malvasia. The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level. 60% of the grapes are dried before pressing at the end of November.  Not too long ago they would have been able to call this wine Vin Santo but now to be labeled Vin Santo it must be produced in Tuscany.  This is a light sweet dessert wine with hints of apricot. $50

Drying the Sagrantino Grapes for the Passito

 Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito DOCG 2006 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino form the Balocco vineyard 340 meters above sea level with a southern exposure. The grapes are handpicked the second week of October and placed in single layers in crates. The bunches selected are the ones most suited for drying. The grapes are dried naturally on cane trellises for 75/90 days with the elimination of imperfect bunches. Vinification takes place using the force of gravity because there are to levels in the cellar. Fermentation in contact with the skins for eight day and malolatic fermentation takes place. The wine clarifies spontaneously with no need for filtration. Aging takes place in 10HL Slovenian oak barrels for 15 months. The wine settles in fiberglass cement vats for 3 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. This is a big dessert wine with rich dried fruit and tannin with blackberry, black jammy fruit flavors and a hint of spice. It is well balanced with a very long finish and a great aftertaste. When I visited the winery they opened a 1985 passito that was just lovely and I really enjoyed it. $50


Filed under Italian Wine, Umbria

My Interview with Ambassador Umberto Vattani President of ltalian Trade Commissiom

“This a Golden Age  for Italian Wines in the U. S”

During  Vino 2011 it was my privilege to interview Ambassador Umberto Vattani, President of the Italian Trade Commission.  Ambassador Vattani has had a distinguished career in service to the Italian government for many years. In 2005 he was appointed President of the Council of Ministers’ National Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE). Under his presidency ICE launched “Made in Italy” merging economics and culture. This highly successful marketing campaign celebrated the high quality and sophistication of Italian luxury goods. It also included partnerships with universities and research centers worldwide as well as many restoration projects in Italy and other countries. For his role in support of culture, he has received awards from the heads of state in many countries.


Ambassador Umberto Vattani


 Ambassador Vattani told me that the role of the Italian Trade Commission or Istituto Nationale per il Commerico Estero (ICE) is to disseminate news and information about important commercial developments in Italy and to tell the world about Italy. ICE, with its worldwide network of offices, informs journalists and buyers about the array of products and services that Italy has to offer and they help Italian producers keep current with the events and needs of distant markets.

 The ambassador also said that through Vino 2011, journalists and wine buyers from all over the country will come to NYC. They will have the opportunity to attend many seminars on wine and related subjects. Italy is so diverse that no other country could have had so many seminars on these topics. Italy has about 2,000 indigenous grape varieties as well as almost all the world’s major international varieties. The visitors will also have the opportunity to meet the producers from Italy that do not import their wines into the US.  On the last day there is a Grand Tasting with producers from Apulia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Tuscany and the Veneto.

 For the consumer, Vino 2011 has “Shop and Dine”. Consumers are invited to enjoy special tastings, seminars, by the glass promotions, and pairing menus at 28 participating wine shops and restaurants featuring some of Italy’s finest wines and food products. This program was launched to showcase the many ways in which Italian wines can be enjoyed, from casual entertaining at home to dining out. There is an Italian wine style for every cuisine, occasion and taste preference. 

 The Ambassador said that this is a golden age for Italian wine in US.  Italian restaurants are more popular than ever and when you go to an Italian restaurant you drink Italian wine. The U.S. is very important to Italy as a market and for the influence that it has around the world.

 Ambassador Vattani believes that the first introduction to Italian wine for most Americans was Chianti in the straw flask bottle. This wine became very popular and was served in almost every Italian restaurant. It seemed that the only wine Americans knew was Chianti from Tuscany. This began to change as more Italian wine began to come into the country such as Barbera from Piemonte, followed by more expensive wine like Barolo and Barbaresco. Then Pinot Grigio which has became the largest selling imported wine in America, and more recently Prosecco which has reached a new popularity. In fact Italian Wines have a 38% market share of wines imported into the US in terms of quantity and 30.3% in market value, making it number one in both categories.

   The Ambassador went to school in the US and has spent a lot of time here. He made the observation that when men go to a steak restaurant, they order martinis and beer. When they go to an Italian restaurant they order wine.  He also believes that women play a large part in what men drink. If a man goes to a restaurant with a woman he is more likely to order wine.

 According to Vattari, Italian food not only tastes good, but is good for you.  The simplicity of Italian food- -take the best ingredients and do very little to them—is what makes it so appealing and a much more natural way to eat. He has a plan to sent Italian chefs into schools and universities in the United States to teach about Italian food and products.

   He indicated that Italian products are made with care and attention to detail – Italian quality and Italian excellence that no other country can match. These quality products are like ambassadors in foreign countries.  They help to spread the Italian lifestyle. Many people in the US and around the world love Italy because of this lifestyle.  The ambassador said that the Italian life style makes people feel better. Italy, he said, has many piazzas where one can go for a walk, meet friends, have a coffee, have lunch, read a newspaper or just watch the passing scene. This is what life is all about.

  The ambassador wants to get young people, “the lap top generation” as he calls them, here and in other countries to follow the Italian lifestyle.

  I asked him about the Chinese market. Recently a case of French wine sold in China for $70,000 while the same case would sell in NY for $17,000.

He said the rich in China buy these wines not because they know what they are but because they are expensive. The more expensive the wine or the product the more they will buy.

In order to gain a better understanding of the Chinese market, ICE sent out a questionnaire to find out the drinking habits of the Chinese.  They learned that

in China at first it was the women that wanted wine and most of the wine was bought in restaurants.  Later, wine was bought in retail stores to impress a women or the boss or for a special occasion.  The ambassador is trying to make wine more “democratic” in China and interest the Chinese in the Italian lifestyle. He concluded that although there are no piazzas in China, there should be!



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Filed under Ambassador Umberto Vattani, Italian Wine

“Montefalco…Not Just Sagrantino DOCG” and my Adventures at Vino 2011

During the three days of Vino 2011, I had some interesting experiences, among them the honor of interviewing Ambassador Umberto Vattani, President of the Italian Trade Commission (ICE).  The next day, I attended the press conference on “The Future of Italian Wines: as Seen from the point of View of Leading American Wine Professionals.  I also attended seminars on Soave, the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Montefalco and attended the Grand Tasting. I also interviewed Aniello Musella, Italian Trade Commissioner in NY and the Executive Director for the US, on the state of Italian wines in NYC.

 The moderator for the panel: “Montefalco… Not just Sagrantino” was Lisa Granik MW.

The panel was made up of representatives from the 5 wineries presenting their wines.

Wine writers and wine buyers made up the audience.

 Professor Attilio Scienza Head of Enology Studies at the University of Milan was the main speaker and he talked about the terroir in terms of geography and soil composition.  The principal grape in Montefalco Rosso is Sangiovese and Professor Scienza said that Sangiovese comes from a combination of grapes some of them from Southern Italy: Calabrese di Montenuvo, Mantunico Bianco and Gaglioppo from Calabria and Nerello Macalese from Sicily. Ciliegliolo was the only one from Tuscany.

 Sangiovese has been a traditional grape variety in Central Italy and Umbria. It is the basic grape in Montefalco Rosso and Montefalco Rosso Riserva. Both of these wines are a blend of several grapes: 60/70% Sangiovese, 10/15% Sagrantino and the rest Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with some other varieties like Colorino.

 The five producers that presented their wines used stainless steel, barriques, tonneaux and botti (large oak barrels of 25hl) in different combinations to age their wines. Only one producer, Antonelli, does not use barriques. All the producers agreed that the two vintages that we tasted, 2006 and 2007 they were very good vintages. The harvest for the Rosso takes place during the second and third week of September.

  Montefalco Rosso Riserva

Filippo Antonelli at the Grand Tasting

  Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva 2006 Antonelli Made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Zone: Montefalco. Soil composition is clay, calcareous. Vineyard is 1250 ft above sea level. The vine density is between 3300 and 5000 per hectare and the training system is cordon spur. Vinification takes place in stainless steel for 6 months and the wine is aged for 6 months in 500 liter-tonneaux and then for 12 months in 25 liter carati. It is aged another 12 months in the bottle before it is released. The wine has flavors and aromas of red fruit with hints of cherries and strawberries,good acidity and a nice finish and aftertaste. Fillippo Antonelli said that one of the problems they have in the zone is sugar. The alcohol level of the wine is 14.5%.  All of the wines were between 14/14.5% alcohol.  Antonelli is one of the oldest producers in the zone and I like their style of wine.

 Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva 2006 Signae Cesarini Sartori 65% Sanviovese, 15% Sagrantino,15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Zone: Gualdo Cattaneo and Montefalco. Soil composition is clay limestone and sea deposits from a natural lake. The vine density 5,208 per hectare and the training system is cordon spur. Vinification is in botti, tonneaux, and barriques and the wine is unfiltered. It is aged in the cellar for 36 months and aged in bottle for another 12 months before release.

This was a bigger more tannic wine with aromas and flavors of cherry, vanilla and a hint of black pepper.

 Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva “Campo Della Maesta” 2006 Podere Casale Di Montefalco   I found it to be even more tannic with hints of red fruit.

Same grapes and vinification as the wine above but it was said that they have only a “few” barriques. Same Zone also.

 Montefalco  Rosso Doc Riserva 2007 Perticaia 60% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino,15% Colorino and 10% Merlot. Zone: Montefalco Soil composition Clay, with lake and sea deposits of pebbles.

Professor Attilio Scienza

Vine density 5,000 per hectare. Training system bilateral cordon spur. Vinification- cold soak for 24 hours, spontaneous fermentation at controlled temperatures and prolonged maceration on the skins.  It is aged 12 months in French barriques and eight months in stainless steel. I had visited the winery a few years ago and do not remember seeing any new oak for the red wine. The wine had dried fruit aromas and flavors with undertones of dried prunes. If I understood correctly when Guido Guardigli the owner of the winery was explaining his vine training system Filippo Antonelli said that with the bilateral cordon spur the grapes ripen two weeks earlier.

 Some of the members of the audience did not see the need for a Montefalco Rosso Riserva. They felt that there was not much difference between the regular and the riserva.  They are both made from the same grapes and aged in the same way, the only difference is that the regular is aged for 18 months and the riserva is aged for 30 months of which 12 has to be in wood. The wine buyers in the audience felt that the consumer would be confused by having two types of this wine.

 Montefalco Sagrantino  

For more information on Montefalco Sagrantino and what is going on in Montefalco see my two articles

  Montefalco Sagrantino is a very big wine and it can age for many years. It has a very deep color and a lot of tannin. All of the wines are between 14/14.5% alcohol. The harvest takes place the second and third week of October.

 Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Novelli Zone is Montefalco and it is 100% Sagrantino. Soil composition is clay with a good amount of pebbles. Vine density 5,000 per ha and the training system is Cordon spur. The wine is fermented in stainless steel for three weeks and aged for 18 months in selected new oak barriques. It is aged for another six months in bottle before it is released. This is a big rich wine with good fruit flavors and aromas of blackberries, black currants and a touch of vanilla from the oak.

 Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Perticaia 100% Sagrantino  Zone Montefalco, vineyards 1080 ft above sea level, soil composition clay, 5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Bilateral cordon spur. Cold soaking takes place for 24 hours, spontaneous fermentation at controlled temperature with prolonged maceration on the skins. The wine is aged first in barriques for 12 months, then in stainless steel for 13 months and finally in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine had aromas and flavors of cherry with hints of spice and cinnamon.

  Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino. Vinification and aging, same as the Rosso.  This wine is rich and powerful but elegant at the same time. It has aromas and flavors of fruit, blackberries with a touch of prune, and a great finish and aftertaste.

 Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Signae Cesarini Sartori 100% Sagrantino. Vinification and aging, same as the Rosso except it is aged for 48 months. This wine was a little different with aromas and flavors of coffee, cacao with some vanilla. There were also hints of spice and pepper.

 Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Podere Casale Di Montefalco Zone Gualdo Cattaneo.100% Sagrantino Vinification and aging, same as the Rosso. This had many of the same flavors and aromas as the wine above except for a hint of balsamic.

 One of the wine buyers in the audience told the producers that they were making wines that were too big and too tannic and that they should make wine that were more consumer friendly and could be drunk sooner. I felt that this was the wrong message.

They should not be making wine that is going to taste like many other wines on the market. They should not make a wine because they are told it will sell. They should keep their unique quality and make the best wine that they can and it will sell.

 Next time my interview with Ambassador Vattani, Chairman of the Italian Trade Commission.

 Charles Scicolone On Wine every Wednesday at 6:05 Valerie’s NY


Filed under Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, sagrantino