Monthly Archives: May 2011

Puglia: a taste from ITALY’S HEEL

I have always enjoyed the wine and food of Puglia since my first visit there over 30 years ago. It was then that I first tasted Primitivo, Salice Salentino, and orrechiette with  broccoli rabe among other great local dishes.  A number of years later I became the wine director for I Trulli in Manhattan.  The restaurant specialized in the wine and food of Puglia and our list featured the largest number of wines from Puglia in America.  Most of the food on the menu was from that region, too.  

 A few weeks ago I received an invitation (no it was not for a trip to Puglia, though last November I was invited on a press trip by Franco Ziliani to Puglia for the Radici Wine Experience. ttp://   It was a great trip and I hope to go back to Puglia soon.)  It was for a seminar and lunch of the wines of Puglia at Park Ave Spring Restaurant. I was looking forward to tasting the current vintages and comparing them to the ones I tried last year. How could one refuse an event with the title “Puglia: a Taste from Italy’s Heel?”

  The moderator of the panel was Anthony Giglio.  The panel included four producers whose wines were being presented: Beniamino D’Agostino, owner of Cantina Botromagano (a privately owned Cantina Sociale), Alberto Longo, the owner  of Masseria Celentano-Alberto Longo, Donato Antonio Giuliani, the winemaker at Cantina Teanum, and Antonio Gargano, President and CE0 of Casaltrinita (Cantina Coop).   Anthony said that all of the wines in the tasting were $20 or less and represented very good value. After tasting the wines I had to agree with him.

 Anthony then spoke about the region of Puglia and the grapes that are in the wine that we would taste:

 Greco — Its origin is Greece and it was first cultivated in Calabria and then in Campania and Puglia.

 Fiano– It was known to Pliny the Elder (d79 AD). Bees, api where attracted to its sweet clusters so it was known as apiano which later became Fiano,  

Moscato– It is Greek in origin and is widely present in the Mediterranean basin. It might be related to the Greek Anathelicon Moschaton and the Roman Apianei.

Malvasia Bianca –Most likely from the Morea area of Greece.

Aglianico — It may be Greek, or from ancient Phoenicia, or more precisely, Euboes ( see for more information). It is used to make Taurasi in Campania and Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata and is also found in Puglia.

Nero di Troia (Uva di Troia) — May have come from Asia Minor or is native to the commune of Troia (Foggia) in Puglia.

Primitivo — DNA testing indicates that it came from Croatia and is related to the Zinfandel grape. It may have been introduced by Benedictine monks into the hilly area of Gioia del Colle in Puglia.

 Montepulciano — The origin of this grape variety is not really known, though it is the second-most commonly grown indigenous grape planted in Italy (Sangiovese is #1).

 In response to a question on how the wines were aged, all of the panelists agreed that the use of all new oak was not good because the wine would lose its identity. They use a combination of new oak (barriques–225 liter barrels), second and third passage, tonneaux (500 liter oak barrels) and stainless steel to age the wine, depending on the producer.

Donato Antonio Giuliani

 Mr. Giuliani, in response to another question about the alcohol in the wine said that high alcohol is not a problem in the northern part of Puglia. If I understood him correctly he said that there is always a wind that blows across the land and unlike other places, it is cooler inland than it is by the sea. This would not be true of the Salento area in the south of Puglia which is much hotter. All of his wines were 13.5% alcohol. I was sitting at the same table with Mr. Giuliani at lunch and we spoke some more about his wines.


 Wines at the tasting

 Gravina DOP 2010 60% Greco and 40% Malvasia. Cantina Botromagano. Beniamino said sometimes they add a little Fiano and Bianco di Alessano. Production area is the countryside surrounding the town of Gravina. There are between 1,215 and 1,416 vines per acre and they are spur-pruned cordon. The harvest takes place in late September and the wine is fermented in stainless steel at controlled temperatures for 15 days.  The wine does not undergo malolatic fermentation and is aged for four months in stainless steel tanks. When I was in Puglia in November of last year, I had tasted the 2009.  Looking back at my notes, they were almost the same. It is a fruity fresh wine–almost like biting into a green apple with a slight touch of tropical fruit. They are the only producers of Gravina. $12

Beniamino D'Agostino

 I have known Beniamino D’ Agostino for a number of years and I visited Cantina Botromagno in November and spent time talking to him. He is very knowledgeable and informative.


La Preta 2010 70% Moscato and 30% Sauvignon Blanc Masseria Celentano of Alberto Longo.The Production area is the Settentrional Apulia.  There are 5,600 vines per hectare and the training system is spur-pruned cordon. Harvesting takes place at the end of August and the beginning of September. The grapes are gently de-stemmed and pressed and alcoholic fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is kept on the lees for 3 months. The wine was smoky and had fruity aromas. On the palate it was dry with hints of herbs surrounded by the fruit of the Moscato with a great finish and aftertaste. It was an unusual combination but it worked!   $18

Alberto Longo

 I first met and tasted the wines of Alberto Longo at Keste Pizza and Vino in NYC after Vino 2010 and was very impressed with his wines. From speaking with him, I found that not only does he have a great passion for the wines of Puglia but also for the food and the land itself.

 Vascello Salento Rosso IGT 2009 100% Primitivo Masseria Celentano- Alberto Longo — The production area is the municipal district of Manduria-Taranto. There are 5,600 plants per hectare and the training system is spur-pruned cordon. The harvest is late August to the beginning of September. There is stainless fermentation with prolonged contact with the skins. After malolatic fermentation, the wine is aged in French oak barrels and tonneaux (500 liters) for about 18 months. This is a fruity Primitivo with a touch of dry prunes and it works very well with food.  $20

 Otre Aglianico Puglia IGT 2006 100% Aglianico Cantina Teanum.   The name of the winery comes the ancient Roman city of Teanum  Apulum, which today is the city of San Paolo di Civitate. This ancient city was so important for the Romans that the whole region is called “Puglia” from “Apulum”. The Apulia region is the area of production. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and the training is espalier trees. The harvest takes place from the 4th to 18th of September.  27 days of prolonged maceration of the wines on the skins in stainless steel tanks. Maturing and aging in French oak, stainless steel tanks and in the bottle. This is a fruit forward wine with fresh fruit aromas and flavors and a nice finish and aftertaste. $15

 Alta Nero di Troia IGT 2008 100% Nero di Troia Cantina Teanum.  Production area is San Severo.  There are 5,000 plants per hectare and the training is espalier trees. The harvest takes place in the middle of September. There is a 20 day prolonged maceration of the wine on the skins in stainless steel tanks. Maturing and aging in stainless steel tanks, French oak and bottle. This was the lightest and of the three Nero di Troias that we tasted. It had fresh fruit flavors and aromas and a hint of violets with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste. This wine is 13.5% alcohol but one did not feel it. $10

 Negro di Troia Puglia IGT 2008 100% Nero di Troia. Casaltrinita.  Production area: Trinitapoli. There are 4400 vines per hectare trained in guyot and 2,500 in vine trellis.     The harvest takes place the first 10 days in November. The grapes are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with long skin contact. The malolatic fermentation is carried out in November. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for about 5 months and aged in bottle for six months before release.  This was a little heavier in style, with more intense fruit flavors and aromas but in no sense a heavy wine. $14

  Coppamalva Puglia IGT 2008 70% Nero di Troia and 30% Cabernet Casaltrinita. The Troia grapes are harvested in the first ten days of November and the Cabernet in the second half of September. The grapes are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The must remains in long contact with the skins. This wine had nice fruit but the Cabernet in the blend dominated. $13

 Pier delle Vigna Rosso Murgia IGT 2006 60% Aglianico and 40% Montepulciano Cantine Botromagno. The production area is the border area between Matera and Gravina. The vine training system of the Montepulciano is spur-pruned guyot and for the Aglianico, it is alberello-self supporting bush trained vines. There are about 4,000 plants per hectare and the harvest is in late October. The wine spends 24 months in new French Allier 225 liters oak barrels (barriques) 50% new and 50% once used. It is aged in bottle for a year and then released. I tasted this wine’s same vintage when I was in Puglia and again my tasting notes are similar. This is a more modern style wine with aromas and flavors of red and black berries, pepper and a hint of tobacco.

 Wines with Lunch

 Greco Puglia IGT 2010 100% Greco Casaltrinita 2,500 vines per hectare and trained with the apulian vine trellis and guyot. The harvest takes place in the first ten days of September. The grapes are gently de stemmed and pressed. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks; I do not think that malolatic fermentation took place. The wine was kept on the fine lees for three months.

The wine has aromas and flavors of citrus fruit and a touch of almond the same way I described it when I tasted it in Puglia.

 Otre Primitivo Puglia IGT 2008 100% Primitivo Cantine Teanum The grape harvest took place between the 15th and 16th of October. 27 days of prolonged maceration of the wine on the skins in stainless tanks. Maturing and aging in French oak and stainless steel and in the bottle. This is a full bodied wine with hits of dried fruit.

 Querciagrande Puglia IGT 2009 100% Nero di Troia Masseria Celentano-Alberto Longo Production zone: Settentrional Apulia. There are 5,600 vines per hectare and the training is spur-pruned cordon. The harvest takes place in the beginning of September. Fermentation is in stainless steel with prolonged skin contact. After malolaiic fermentation the wine is aged in French oak barriques and tonneaux for about 18 months. Of the three wines made from Nero di Troia, this was the biggest and a little more modern in style.

 Gravisano Malvasia Passita Murgia Bianco IGT 2005 100% Malvasia lunga. Cantine Botromagno. Production area is the best vineyard in Gravina and Spinazzola. There are 4,500 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot. The harvest is in mid-October. The grapes are sun-dried on reed mats. The wine spends 30 days in New French Allier 225-liter oak barrels (barriques) at 16ºC and in stainless steel tanks for 12 months. This is a traditional wine in the area and it was once made with the ancient Gravisano grape that long ago became extinct. Nice way to end the lunch with a dessert wine that was not too sweet with hints of toasted almonds apricots and honey.






Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Puglia

Renzo Cotarella and the Wines of Marchesi Antinori at Eataly

I have met winemaker Renzo Cotarella a number of times at Vinitaly, the annual wine fair in Verona and at ITrulli restaurant where I was the wine director.  Renzo has always been eager to talk about wine and answer all my questions. Thanks to him I am able to recognize a “corked” wine and explain why it is corked even when it is not obvious.   I was eager to attend a class he was teaching at Eataly.

 When Renzo walked into the room and saw me, he came over and said “Charles, we have to speak about Fiorano.”  The class was beginning so we could not speak until later, but that conversation will have to wait for another blog.

 Renzo began by talking about his years in the wine business and the history and wines of Antinori.  Many years ago Renzo tasted older Chardonnays with Darrell Corti from California (owner of Corti Brothers Fine Wine and Gourmet Foods Italian Grocery Store) and was surprised how well the wines had aged. When he became the winemaker for Antinori he wanted to make a white wine that would age but did not want to make just another Chardonnay. He turned to the local Umbrian grape Grechetto that would add acidity and minerality to the Chardonnay and make it more interesting. The wine he produced was Cervaro Della Sala and the way he spoke about this wine showed that he was very excited about what he had produced.

 His said that the blend changes according to the vintage, the hotter the year the more Grechetto is in the blend. The Grechetto is added at the last minute after he sees how the Chardonnay is developing. Grechetto may be anywhere between 5% to 20% of the blend.  Renzo said the first real vintage was 1986 and the wine is still drinking and has good acidity and minerality.

 Cervaro Della Sala Umbria IGT 2006 Made from 85% Chardonnay and 15%     Grechetto depending on the vintage. The grapes come from 15 to 20 year old vines planted at Antinori’s Castello della Sala Estate at elevations ranging between 650 and 1.300 feet in pliocene sedimentary soils rich in marine deposits with some clay. Renzo said that in 2006, all of the grapes showed a good level of sugar, balanced acidity and polyphenolic components. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in a special refrigerated conveyer until they are ready to be pressed. The Chardonnay and Grechetto are vinified separately and the must remains on the skins for 8 to 12 hours. Renzo said that this was done to maximize the wine’s aromas. The must is then placed in French barriques –Alliers and Troncais  – where alcoholic fermentation takes place over a period of 14 days. The wine stays on the lees in barriques for 6 months while malolatic fermentation is completed. The wine is then racked, blended and bottled and is released after ten months.

 Cervaro Della Sala Umbria IGT 2008.  The wine was vinified the same way as the 2006, however there was a big difference in the style and taste of the wines. Renzo said that it was very hot at the end of August 2006 and the grapes were over ripe and therefore the 2006 is rounder, bigger and riper then the 2008. Also, Chardonnay ripens before the other varietals and this can be a problem. When he is asked how a vintage will turn out Renzo said that it all depends on the weather in the last month. Weather-wise 2008 was a better year and the wine has better acidity and minerality. He preferred the 2008 but the weather was not the only difference.  Renzo said, and this really got my attention, that they are now using less oak (barriques).  He wants more bright fruit in the wine and which should reflect the terroir in which the grapes are grown. The 2008 was aged in barriques, 50% new and 50% one year old.  I really enjoyed the 2008.

The 2009 and the 2010 will have 3 months less of oak aging.  Renzo called this a unique wine and said that men liked the wine but women really loved it.

 Tignanello  Toscana IGT 2004 made from 85 % Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet and 5% Cabernet Franc. This has been the blend since the 1982 vintage.  The harvest was later than in the previous year 2003 which was very hot. The grapes come from the Tignanello vineyard, a 116 acre site at Antinori’s Tignanello estate. The vineyards face southwest with calcareous rocky-marl and limestone soils and albarese rock. There is a long maceration with frequent delestage, after fermentation, the wine was placed in new French oak barriques where malolatic fermentation was competed by the end of the year. After malolatic the wines were blended and left in barriques for 12 months in order to mature. Renzo said that the wine was tasted one barrique at time to make the final selection before bottling. The wine is aged one year in bottle before release. Tignanello was first released as a single-vineyard Chianti Classico in 1970.

Renzo said that Tignanello was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques, to use nontraditional grapes and leave white grapes out of the blend. Therefore it was the first Super Tuscan.  Tignanello is only produced in the best vintages and there was none produced in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1984, 1992 and 2002. He really caught my attention once again when he said that 2004 was a very good vintage but the grapes were very ripe. In fact he said that the wine was too big and too concentrated and he wanted to get away from this style of wine!

  Tignanello  Toscana IGT 2007.  Made from 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. This wine was made the same way as the 2004, or was it? Renzo began by saying that 2007 was an excellent vintage in Tuscany. I thought that the difference between the two wines was like night and day. The 2004 was much darker in color, bigger, more concentrated and lacking in acidity. The 2007 was a very well balanced wine, with good structure, soft tannins, good minerality, acidity, and bright fruit, In short, a wine that tasted like the place that it came from and would go very well with food. This is my type of wine and now I hope it is also Renzo’s.  He said that since 2004 they were moving away from these heavy, oaked red wines and moving toward more fruit and less wood in the wines.  Where the wine comes from is very important and the wine should reflect this.

 The first bottle of Tignanello that I tasted was from the 1975 vintage. I really liked the wine as well as the other vintages produced in the 1970’s. It seems to me that with the 2007 they are beginning to move back toward the wines of the 1970’s! One can only hope!

Renzo Cotarella

 Renzo said that they have in the vineyard what they call a “Master Selection”.  These are the same clones that they had in past and still use today. They did not replant with the “new’ clones of Sangiovese recommended by the Sangiovese Project 2000.

  Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri DOC 2001 made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah other red grape varieties. The Merlot was harvested at the beginning of September and the Cabernet from the middle to the end of September. After destemming and light crushing, the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are vinified separately.  Maceration is in stainless steel tanks over a period of 15 to 20 days, during which time alcoholic fermentation is also completed. The wine was transferred to French barriques of Troncais and Alliers where malolatic fermentation was completed by the end of the year.  The wine was then racked, blended and returned to the barrels for about 14 months aging. It was aged in bottle for about one year before release.  2001 was a very good vintage in Bolgheri but I found that this was big wine, over extracted, ripe fruit and a wine that was too modern for my taste.

 Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri 2007 Renzo said that they no longer use Syrah and have gone to a more Bordeaux style blend; Cabernet Sauvignon 57%, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Ideal dry conditions in September with warm days and cool nights allowed the grapes to ripen perfectly delivering exceptional high quality fruit. After 18 months of aging in new barriques the best lots were blended. The wine was then bottled and aged for 10 more months before release. As Renzo kept on saying,  2007 was an exceptional vintage in Tuscany. But it was not only the vintage that made the wine better. The demise of the Syrah was a factor as well as Renzo’s new approach to wine making. It is still a big wine but is well balanced with hints of black fruit and a very nice finish and aftertaste.

 Renzo said that Tenuta Guado al Tasso is located near the medieval village of Bolgheri in the area known as the Maremma and said that this area is very different from other parts of Tuscany. It is closer to the sea, it is warmer and there are breezes from the sea and from the land which help to moderate the climate. The soil is rich and there are fewer rocks and the elevation is good. He feels that wines from this area have “velvet tannins” and age very well. Sangiovese does not do as well here as the grapes used to make Bordeaux. The growing season is long and if you are not careful the grapes can become overripe and over-extracted. He does not like big dense wines and therefore picks the grapes before this happens.   The wine was first produced in 1990 and is not made in every vintage.

 Solaia Toscana IGT 2007 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Franc. The optimal climate conditions in mid-September and the first week of October allowed for a slightly early harvest with a careful, unhurried selection of grapes. The grapes come from a 25 acre southwest-facing vineyard that is 1,150 to 1,330 feet above sea level on stony, calcareous soil of marl and friable alberese rock. It is contiguous to the Tignanello vineyard in Chianti. The grapes were harvested by hand. The extraction process was carried out with alternating pumpovers with delestage according to the requirements of the three grape varieties. After alcoholic fermentation, the wines were racked into new oak barrels to undergo malolatic fermentation. The wines are aged in new French oak for about 18 months. After oak aging the wine was selected, blended and aged for one more year in bottle.

 This single vineyard wine was first produced in 1978 and was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Later 20% of Sangiovese was added to the blend according to the vintage. Solaia is only produced in exceptional vintages. I was surprised by this wine. It was more fruit driven then in the past with aromas of cherries and blackberriesand the oak was there but it was not excessive.


Filed under Antinori, Cervaro, Guado Al Tasso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Solaia, Tignanello

The League of Gentle Men at Restaurant Marseilles

League of Gentle Men at Restaurant Marseilles

 There was no theme for this meeting of the League of Gentle Men. Each member brought a wine that they particularly liked to share with the group. Unfortunately two of the wines this evening turned out to be corked.  

 As is our custom we begam with Champagne.  I was looking forward to this wine because I have not had the pleasure of drinking it before and 2002 was a great vintage in Champagne.

 2002 Pierre Gimmonet & Fils Champagne – Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from the Cotes des Blances. This was a great way to start off the evening. The wine was drinking very well with nice fruit and a mineral character that put everyone in the right mood for the wine and food that was to follow.

 1993 Rene & Vincent Dauvissat “Les Clos” Chablis A great wine from the best of the grand cru vineyards and an outstanding producer. Classic Chablis and one of the best I have ever tasted!


1992 Batard-Montrachet Domaine Leflaive This is a great white wine from one of the best producers. It was rich and delicate at the same time with hints of butterscotch.

1989 Beaucastel–  Chateauneuf-du-Pape  One of our members loves this producer, but the wine was corked, a great disappointment.

Barolo 1983- Marchesi di Barolo 100% Nebbiolo. 1983 was a very good but not great vintage. The producer owns vineyards in the Barolo area but I am not sure if some of the grapes were purchased. The wine was drinking very well and it had all the classic aromas and flavors of an old Barolo, including tar, leather, and tea, without showing its age.

1987 Chateau Latour (Pauillac)  made from 75 % Cabernet, 20 Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the blend depending on the vintage. I first began to drink Chateau Latour in 1968 with the 1963 vintage. 1963 was a very poor vintage in Bordeaux and the wine was selling in a wine store in Brooklyn for $3.99. For that price I bought a number of bottles and would drink them only with my then girlfriend, now wife, who was very impressed.  I still remember the aroma of the Latour when I opened the bottle. It wasn’t until later that I learned that Latour makes great wine even in off vintages. It has been my favorite Bordeaux ever since. It did not disappoint.

 1986 Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac) made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. 1986 was a very good year in Bordeaux and the wine was showing very well.

1982 Léoville Las Cases (St.Julien) Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 17% Cabernet Blanc 13% and Petit Verdot 5%. This wine for me was the red wine of the evening, a great wine in a great year.

1996 Vega Sicilia Unico-Ribera del Duero made mostly from Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon and produced only in good years and aged a minimum of 10 years before release.  This wine is aged in new French oak and new and used American oak for at least seven years and in bottle for about three years. This was a big wine but much too modern in style for my taste.

1953 Coteaux de Layon Moulin Touchais (Anjou) 100% Chenin Blanc This was one of the wines I was looking forward to tasting but it was corked, another disappointment.

1994 Savennieres – Roche Aux Moines, Domaine Aux Moines(Anjou) made from 100% Chenin Blanc. The soil is clay and shale. After pneumatic pressing fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, aging is stainless steel with a very limited use of new oak. This was a very interesting wine with a lot of flavor and fruit but with a dry finish.

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Filed under Barolo, Burgundy, Champagne, French Wine, Italian Red Wine

The “Concept of Chianti” at a Seminar and Tasting

It seems to me that with the exception of the Chianti Classico sub-zone, Chianti DOCG has an identity crisis.  The Chianti Classico sub-zone is the “original” zone between Florence and Siena.  It has its own Consortium and since 2005, when the government seal is put on a bottle it includes the Gallo Nero (black rooster) symbol. The Classico Consortium seems to want to distant itself from the rest of Chianti.

The other Chianti sub-zones joined together to a formed their own Consortium, called IL Consorzio Del Chianti Putto.  Its symbol was a cherub draped in grapes.  I say “was” because IL Consorzio Del Chianti Putto does not exist anymore nor does its symbol.

 When I was invited to attend a seminar and tasting by the Consorzio Vino Chianti, I was very interested in attending. How was this “new” Consortium going to promote Chianti and make it less confusing for the consumer? So many sub-zones, so many different grapes, the rules changing too often (adding new sub-zones, changing the grapes that can be used and the percentage of grapes).  With 2,650 members in the Consortium, they have a big job in front of them.

  The panel for the seminar was made up of Giovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio and owner of the Travignoli winery, Nicola Marzovilla, Giovanni’s importer and translator, Laura De Pasquale from Palm Bay international and wine writer Bill Marsano.  The moderator was Robin Kelly O’Connor of Christie’s fine wine auctions.

 After the introduction and some background information, Mr. O’Connor asked Mr. Busi to speak about Chianti and the Consorzio.  Mr Busi began by speaking about the Chianti sub-zones that were members of the Consortium.

 The Chianti production zone consists of areas which are determined by Italian law in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Giovanni said that he viewed the whole area as one large “Chianti Valley” characterized by hills with large terraces and valleys crossed by rivers.

 The wine can just have Chianti on the label or have one of the seven designated zones: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colli Pisane, Montalbano, Rufina, Montespertoli. In addition there is the Colli Dell’Etruria Centrale as well as the return of the Superiore classification.

Chianti Sub-Zones

 The Colli Dell’Etruria Centrale area is everything that has been left out of the other areas and at the same time included in them-I think?  The designation is positioned alongside the Chianti DOCG and permits the production in the same area of wines of a different quality from Chianti, with red wines being joined by white, rose, novella and Vin Santo del Chianti.

 Chianti can be 70-100% Sangiovese, a maximum of 10 white grapes (Malvasia and Trebbiano) and 15% of authorized red grapes such as Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah.

 Chianti Superiorecan be produced in all of the Chianti sub-zones with the exception f Chianti Classico.  Producers in these other sub-zones can make a Superiore but it cannot have the name of the sub-zone on the label. Superiore means that it has higher quality standards like lower yields and higher alcohol. It can be 75-100% Sangiovese, a max. of 10% Canaiolo, and 20% of other authorized grapes such as Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah etc. 

Giovanni Busi

 I asked Giovanni if the “new” Consorzio had a symbol and he said that it did not have one and that the old symbol of the Chianti Putto was a thing of the past.

 One of the subjects that came up was the blend used to make Chianti. Of the wines we tasted most of the panelists seemed to favor the wines that included native grapes and not international ones. Giovanni went as far as to say that Chianti should be made from 100% Sangiovese. He believes that when the Sangiovese 2000 project was completed they were able to single out the best Sangiovese clones. These clones were better and healthier than those used in the past and therefore Sangiovese did not need to be part of a blend but could stand on its own.

 I never understand why Chianti in straw-covered bottles is always mentioned. People seem to believe that 40 years ago Chianti only came in this type of bottle, but this is not true. Recently I had a 1964 Villa Antinori and a 1958 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Gold Label and both were in Bordeaux- type bottles. The Ruffino was not a Chianti Classico –the label just said Chianti. All the Chianti I brought 40 years ago was always in a Bordeaux type bottle.   

It was mentioned that Chianti in the past was made using the “governo method” (10% of the grapes, usually Canaiolo, were dried) and because of this it would not age and did not make a good wine.  I disagreed. The 1947 and 1958 Ruffino Gold Label were made with the governo method as were a number of other old wines which are still drinking today. One of the reasons it is no longer done was that it was too expensive and “old fashioned”. Giovanni said that the new clones of Sangiovese that they are using now are so much better that there is really no need to use the governo method.

The Wines

All of the wines were Riservas from the 2007 vintage.  2007 was a very good year in Tuscany right after 2001 and 2004. The number of bottles produced by each producer was very low, ranging from 3,000 to 20,000 bottles. If I understood Giovanni correctly the Riserva has to be aged for 18 months, and 6 of the months in wood. The price of the wines because they have the sub-zone on the label and are also Riservas are more expensive than a wine with just  Chianti on the label, would be between $20 and $30. The only retail price that we knew was the Travignoli at $28 because the importer was on the panel.

I agreed with the panel that the best wines were those made from with the local grapes. Some of the wines were aged in cement tanks, which might be making a comeback.

Chianti DCOG Riserva 2007Az.Agr. Corbinelli  The vineyards are located in the Certaldo/Montespertoli area. The wine is a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and other approved red grapes. Fermentation is on the skin for fifteen days. The wine is aged for 12 months in cement tanks and for three months in bottle before release. For this wine there is no wood aging mentioned and the total aging is 15 months-3 months less than the law allows according to Giovanni. One panel member said that the producer must have left out the three months in wood on the tasting sheet. Is it 3 months in wood or 6 months in wood- this was not made clear to me.


Chianti Colli Fiorentini “Villa Marcialla” DOCG Riserva 2007Fattorie Giannozza The vineyards are in Marcialli and the wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. Fermentation takes place for 3/8 days. Maceration for about 15 days is stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in big oak barrels (botti) for 26 months and 6 months in bottle before release.


Chianti “Ugo Bing” DOCG Riserva 2007Fattoria di Fiano The vineyards are in Certaldo, Loc. Fiano and are between 200/300 mt above sea level with a South-East/North-East exposure. The grapes are Sangiovese,Canaiolo, Merlot, Colorino and Syrah. Traditional fermentation with pumping over and delestage – 7/9 days. The wine is aged in 27hl cement vats and barrels.


Chianti “Cignozza” DOCG Riserva 2007- AZ, AGR. La Cignozza di Roberto Del Bruno. Location of Vineyards, Chianciano. 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo. They only produce Riserva during the best vintages. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for about 12 days with three pump-overs a day. Because of the density, the pump over is then substituted by the delestage (empting and refilling the tank). The juice is then left to settle in stainless steel tanks. After malolatic fermentation 50% of the wines is aged in tonneaux barrels to mature between January and February and the rest in large oak barrels for 24 months. It remains in the bottle for 5 months and is then released.


Chianti “Vigna La Quercia” Colli Fiorentini DOCG Riserva 2007AZ. AGR. Castelvecchio. Location of the vineyards San Casciano Val di Pesa. The wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Maceration for 48 hours and fermentation at controlled temperature for 15 days. The wine is aged in oak barriques for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. 


Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG Riserva 2007–  Castello di Poppiano Guiccardini. Location of vineyards, Montespertoli. 75 % Sangiovese, 20% Melo Cabernet and 5% Canaiolo. Fermentation in stainless steel vats and skin contact for 18 days. The wine is aged for 18/24 in oak barrels and three months in bottle before release.


Chianti Rufina “Del Don” DOCG Riserva 2007 Ag. Agr. Colognole. Location of vineyards Colognole (Pontesieve) 100% Sangiovese. There is skin contact for 12/15 days with frequent punching down. 50% is aged in Slovenian and French oak casks 20-30 hl and the rest in Allier tonneau of 500lt. It is aged 18 months in bottle before release.

Chianti Rufina “Tegolaia” DOCG Riserva 2007Travignoli Di Conte G. Busi SRL Location of the vineyards, Pelago 100% Sangiovese. Fermentation in stainless steel for 20 days. The wine is aged in oak barrels of 2,500 liters for 18 months and for 8 months in bottle before release.


Filed under Chianti, Italian Red Wine

Sunday “Linner” with Friends

Sometimes we like to invite friends on a Sunday for a combination late lunch and early dinner.  We begin at 4PM so that we are able to take our time eating and drinking well into the night.  I don’t know why this type of meal hasn’t caught on the way brunch has.  Maybe it’s because “linner” sounds more like something from the dry cleaner than a meal. 

 The rule of thumb for wine service at any meal is one bottle of wine less than the number of guests, which I feel is the perfect fit.  Like all rules, this one is made to be broken and we often go to one bottle per person, not counting grappa, etc., depending on the guests. This time was no exception.  The food, the wine and the company could not have been better and we did eat and drink well into the night. There were six wines altogether and two very interesting “after dinner drinks” to end the meal.

 The Wines

 Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV made from 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from three different years and the majority of the base wine is from the 2005 vintage. It had full fruit, clean with hints of citrus, flowers and slight mineral character.

 Ferrari Centanni 1902/2002- Millesimo 1995-Sboccatura 2002 Method Classico(Trento) The winery was founded in 1902 by Giulio Farrari. The wine is from the 1995 vintage and it was released in 2002. This bottle is, I believe, a replica of the one used in 1902.

The “punt” is not a push up but a push down so the bottle cannot stand and has to be on its side. This was a big rich and toasty wine with a great finish and aftertaste.

 Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru-Domaine Potinet Ampeau 1969 100% Chardonnay

There was some doubt that this wine might not show well but it did. It was showing its age but still had all the aromas and flavors of a wonderful white Burgundy.

 Chateau Musar 1998– Lebanon-after fermentation, maceration is for 2/4 weeks and the wine is aged in Bordeaux type barrels of Nevers oak for 12/15months. At the end of the second year blending takes place with the proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault varying with each vintage, the only deciding factor being taste. It is blended in the third year before being bottled and is aged in the cellar for 3/4 years. The wine is released after seven years. The grapes are grown in gravely soil with a limestone base in the Bekaa Valley. The grapes are hand picked. The wine is not fined or filtered and there are no chemical additives with the exception of the minimum dose of sulfur.

 Barbaresco “Pora” 1978 Produttori del Barbaresco 100 % Nebbiolo

The clay soil is rich in limestone with sandy veins. The Pora vineyard is at 300 meters with a south to south east exposure. The grapes are handpicked and placed into small baskets. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats for 2/3 weeks. Maceration is 18/20 days and then the wine is aged for 36 months in 20/50 hl oak barrels. It remains in bottle for another 8 months before it is released. 1978 was a great year in Barbaresco. This is classic Barbaresco, more rustic than elegant with hints of cherry, leather, tea and spice. It was drinking very well. This is one of the oldest cooperatives in Italy and it may be the best.  The name of the grape growers is written on the back label.

 Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1969 Remoissenet Pere & Fils 100% Pinot Noir.

This was classic red Burgundy at its best, very mellow and not showing its age.

 The red wines were complemented perfectly by the Lamb Shanks Osso Buco Style that Michele had prepared in the slow cooker. 

 Armagnac Vaghi 1942

The year 1942 was not a good year for wine or for the world as it was the middle of WWII. However it was a great year for Armagnac. This was the last bottle and I doubt if I will be buying any more as the price has gone over $600 a bottle.

 There was only a little of the Armagnac left so I brought out my last bottle of Levi Grappa. The last bottle for two reasons, it is the last bottle that I have and it was one of the last made by the “Angel of Grappa”, Romano Levi, before he died a few years ago.


Filed under Barbaresco, Burgundy, Champagne, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, White wine