Monthly Archives: June 2011

Frescobaldi Wines and an “orange” Pinot Grigio

Two wines made from the same grape by the same producer that are so different in style is uncommon.  It is even more unusual when the grape is Pinot Grigio.

 Alessandro Lunardi, the representative in America for the wines of Marchesi de Frascaboldi, invited me to a tasting that he was conducting on these wines. I expected all of the wines would be from Tuscany but it seems that the company is involved with wineries in other parts of Italy.

The producer of the Pinot Grigio is Attems in Friuli-Venezia Gulia and the estate is located in Lucinico in the Gorizia area of the Collio. The Collio Goriziano comprises a series of descending slopes (from which it derives its name) facing south, protected on the north by the Julian Pre-Alps, which act as a barrier to the cold north winds.


Attems Pinot Grigio 2010 IGT

2010 was a very good vintage for white wine in Friuli.  The Pinot Grigio grapes for the wines come from the area between the Collio and the alluvial area of the Isonzo. This wine is fermented in stainless steel and barriques. Fermentation takes place for 15 days. There is no skin contact and malolatic fermentation does not take place. It is a crisp wine with floral notes, fruity with hints of apple and pear. $19

Orange Wine

This wine goes back to the way Pinot Grigio was made during the time of the Republic of Venice. Ramato, meaning copper,  was the term used to describe the color of the wine. Some clones of Pinot Grigio can also be copper in color. The traditional vinification process led to the use of this name. The must remains in contact with the skins for 36 hours and this gives the wine a very distinctive coppery hue. The term “orange wine” is used to describe white wine where the juice has had skin contact.

Cuppa Ramato 2009Venezia Giulia Pinot Grigio IGT 2009.

The harvest took place near the end of September and the grapes were harvested by hand. Vinification in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature. Fermentation lasted for seven days. For this wine the skins remained in contact with the juice for 12 hours and the wine did not undergo malolatic fermentation. The wine is aged for four months in barriques and two months in stainless steel and one month in bottle before release. It has the color of a blush wine. The aroma is very aromatic with hints of strawberry and cherry. It is quite firm on the pallet with a nice fruit in the finish and aftertaste. It is a most interesting wine! $19

 The Frescaboldi wines

 Remole 2009 IGT Tuscany

The wine is mostly Sangiovese with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. Alessandro pointed out that the wine that goes to make Remole comes from the Frescobaldi vineyards in central Toscana. It is the wine that is not selected to go into the estate wine. There is a second selection when the wine from the different vineyards is going to be blended together to make the estate wine. Alessandro said that all the grapes used in the Remole are from the estate vineyards and it was a bargain at $10.  I had to agree.  Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 10 days and maceration for seven days. It is aged in stainless steel for five months and 2 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with fresh red fruit flavors and aromas that should be drunk young.

 Nipozzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG

Made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% from grapes such as: Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  2007 was a very good vintage in Tuscany. The estate lies in heart of the Chianti Ruffina area, covering 626 hectares at elevations between 250 and 400 meters. The soil is rich in clay and limestone. They use the “Nipozzano clone” of Sangiovese. Nipozzano means “no well” and they do dry farming and by law can only irrigate in an emergency. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 13 days and each variety is fermented separately. Maceration takes place for 25 days. Alessandro said that the wine is aged partly in two and three year old barriques and partly in large barrels 30 to 50 HL for a total of 24 months and three months in bottle before release. The wine tastes like Chianti with aromas and flavors of blackberries, blueberries and hint of pine and violets and good acidity. It is a wine that will age. This is an exceptional wine given the fact that 1,000,000 bottles are produced and it sells for $22

Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglione 2008 IGT
Made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Sangiovese. The Castiglione estate lies at an elevation of 200 to 250 meters and is composed of 513 hectares in the Chianti Colli Fiorentini zone in the Montespertoli area. It is the oldest Frescobaldi estate. The soil is composed mostly clay and sand. Fermentation takes place for 10 days and the wine is aged in barriques for 12 months and in bottle for two months before release. This was a little more modern in style than the other wines with a deeper color and aromas and flavors of mature black cherry and plum. $25

A few days later the American Institute of Food and Wine was doing a seminar and tasting with the title- Olive Oil: Complexities and Clarifications. Among the panelists were Loius Coluccio of Coluccio and Sons Inc. and Michele Scicolone author of The Italian Slow Cooker. We tasted eight olive oils from different countries and the best one in my opinion was the Marchesi de  Frescobaldi “Laudemio” (Tuscany) made from Frantoio, Moraiolo and Leccino olives. $38

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Filed under Chianti, Frescobaldi, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Orange wines, Pinot Grigio

The Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame Annual Dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC

 As co-chair of the Wine Media Guild I look forward to this event every year. At this event the WMG  pays tribute to those wine writers who have made a great contribution with their writing to the world of wine.  The inductees into the Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame were Gerald D. Boyd, Steven Spurrier and Tom Stevenson. 

We also give scholarships to students at New York City College of Technology and Fairleigh Dickenson University for wine study. Wine Media Guild Scholarship awards for this year went to Stjepan Lukic of City Tech and Erin Rouderbush of FDU.

 Another reason I look forward to the event is because it is BYOB. Each person attending brings at least one bottle of wine. Because of the love of good wine by the members of the WMG and their invited guests, everyone wants to bring a wine that everyone else will want to taste. What makes it even more exciting is that members and guests are only too happy to share their wines with people at other tables. One of the members gave me a 1986 Chateau Figeac to taste and when another member saw this he brought over a 1949 of the same wine for me to taste!

 But I get ahead of myself.

 The dinner was held at the Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. The reception was in the Grill Room and Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne 100% Chardonnay was served with a selection of hors d’oeuvres.  

 The first wine poured was a white wine Meursault 2007 100% Chardonnay from Pierre Morey.  It was very rich and full bodied with hints of tropical fruit.

The rest of the wines were all red.

 Gevery Chambertin Premier Cru La Combe Aux Monies Gallois 2002 100% Pinot Noir Domaine Dominique

The grapes are handpicked and sorted in the field and again on sorting tables in the winery. Cold fermentation is 2 to 5 days depending on the quality of the harvest. Fermentation takes place for 12-15 days depending on the year. Only natural yeasts are used. Temperature controlled mainly by remontage (crushing and pumping over) and piping.  Devatted and aged in Allier oak casks for 14 to 20 months depending on the year and appellation. This was a very good red to start with because it had typical Burgundy aromas and flavors.

Clos de Tart 2000 100% Pinot Noir Mommesson

This Grand Cru comes from18 acres of the very best slopes in the village of Saint Denis. The brown chalky soils contain a high proportion of clay particles, chalk for finesse and balance, small stones to help drainage and large flat rocks that heat up during the day and maintain a stable temperature at night. Low yield, old vines are harvested by hand and vinified in 6 separate lots. The wine is aged in new French Oak for 17 months. I did not taste the oak at all!  There is a mineral egg white fining and no filtering before the wine is bottled. This was a wine with a lot of character, with strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors and a hint of spice. It really developed in the glass. It is a wine that can be drunk now but I think it will be better with more age.

Barolo Riserva Monprivato CA’D’Morissio 1993 100% Nebbiolo Michet Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio

Monprivato vineyard is in the village of Castiglione Falletto. The harvest for the 1993 was most likely in the beginning of November. They use the traditional floating cap fermentation for 25 days. The wine is matured in medium Slovenian oak barrels for about 45 months. The wine is bottled six years after the vintage. In my opinion 1993 was an underrated year for Barolo. Most of the wines from this vintage are dinking very well right now and should last for a few more years. This is a complex, elegant wine with classic Barolo aromas and flavors: Faded rose, leather, tea, mature fruit and a hint of white truffles.

 Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo 1993 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Edoardo Valentini

This is a dark full bodied wine, with deep aromas of  black and red fruit, cherry and a hint of spice. I would have never guessed that it was 18 years old. This wine has many years ahead of it.

Barolo Villero Riserva 1982 100% Nebbiolo Vietti

1982 was an excellent vintage in Barolo. It took some time for this wine to open up but once it did it had all the characteristics of a great Barolo from an excellent vintage. The wine went very well with the food.

Barbaresco 1952 100% Nebbiolo Francesco Rinaldi

In my opinion 1952 was a very good vintage for Barolo and Barbaresco.  When wines are almost 60 years old, they have to show some signs of age. Both of these wines were still drinking very well. 

 Barolo 1952 100% Nebbiolo Francesco Rinaldi

 Chateau Figeac 1986

They use a completely different proportion of grape varieties than anyone else in Saint-Emilion because of the fine gravelly soil. The wine is made from 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and only 30% Merlot. Someone at the table said that it was the most Medoc of the Saint-Emilions.

 Chateau Figeac 1949

This is a great wine and one could only call it youthful.  It was one of the most balanced wines I have ever tasted. It has aromas of deep red fruit and mature Cabernet Sauvignon with a great finish and aftertaste. The 1986 was showing very well but the 1947 seemed younger.

Chateau Musar 1988 Gaston Hochar (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 handpicked. The wine is not fined or filtered and there are no chemical additives with the exception of the minimum dose of sulfur. In April I had the 1998 which was drinking very well with nice red fruit, leather and a hint of spice. The 1988 was very well balanced with mature red fruit, and red fruit and leather in the long finish and aftertaste.

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Filed under Abruzzo, Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Valentini, Vietti, White wine

The Wine of Rome: Frascati and Fontana Candida

The Porchetta trucks were the things I remember most about my first trip to Frascati.  Burly men in grease-stained aprons would cut slices from the whole roasted pigs flavored with herbs, salt and black pepper.  We would order it to go on hard rolls known as rosette.  The sandwiches were delicious!  Long tables were set up where you could sit to eat your sandwich and you were given a free glass of very young Frascati wine to drink.   “Drink Frascati young, it does not age”, I was told by all the Romans I met.

 So you can imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to a wine tasting at Eataly stating, “Fontana Candida invites you to challenge the common perception that Frascati is a wine to be only drunk young”.  They were not joking: among the wines to be tasted were a 2001 and 1997 Frascati–I had to go

Mauro Merz

 The speaker was Mauro Merz head winemaker at Fontana Candida. He said that he comes from a family of wine producers in northern Italy’s Trentino, a region famous for its white wines. He spoke in Italian and Lars Leight, a vice-president at Banfi translated.

 Mauro said that the blend for Frascati includes only native grapes: Malvasia Puntinata del Lazio, Malvasia di Candia, Trebbiano Toscano, Greco, Bombino Bianco and Bellone.

 He made it clear that he is loyal to tradition and his goal is to make wine that expresses the territory and the tradition from the area in which it comes. There is a movement on the part of some of the Frascati producers to add 10% international grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc to the blend. He said that this addition would not help the wine. The producers that want to do this are taking the easy way out by adding international aromatic grapes to the blend, as it would be much easier to make wine using these grapes. If this is done, he said, the wine would lose all sense of place and its “personality”.

 He also feels that Trebbiano Toscano should be removed from the blend because it was added in the past when producers were more interested in quantity then quality. He feels that the percentage of Malvasia in the blend should be increased as it is a better and more typical grape of the area.

 Fontana Candida has its own vineyards but they buy grapes from 210 different growers.  Mauro made it a point to say they buy grapes and not juice. In 2005 they started a vineyard-based project to help their growers. They hired a top agronomist and he acted as a consultant to the growers free of charge. Fontana Candida also paid the growers above market price if they produced healthier and more mature grapes. 

 The grape growing area of Frascati is shrinking. It is very close to Rome; in fact some of it falls within the boundaries of the Eternal City. If a grower can make more money selling his land than he can growing grapes then the grapes will be replaced by apartment houses. In order to keep the growers on the land, Fontana Candida will pay as much as 40% higher than the market price. Mauro said that the company feels that they are not just dealing with individuals but with families that have to make a living. Because of this, more and more producers are bringing their grapes to them. Quality comes above all else when it comes to the grapes, he said.

 There were eight wines in the tasting:

 Frascati Superiore Secco 2009 DOC Lazio – Made from 60% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. The grapes come from hillside vineyards in the DOC zone located in the province of Lazio, in the communes of Frascati, Monteporzio Cantone, Grottaferrata, Montecompatri and Rome. The grapes are harvested between September and October and immediately transported to the cellar. Vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and are gently pressed. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel and then bottled under nitrogen to protect its freshness and fruit. The wine has aromas and flavors of white peaches and apples. It has good acidity and minerality with a long finish and a nice aftertaste. $10.This wine would be perfect with a porchetta sandwich.

 Vigneto Santa Teresa Fascati Superiore 2004 DOC It is 30% Malvasia Puntinata del Lazio, 30% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano and 10% Greco. The grapes come from a 32-acre vineyard of which seven and a half are planted in Malvasia del Puntinata del Lazio and four acres in Greco. It is in the locality of Santa Teresa, in the commune of Rome. The 30 year old vines are trained using the cordone speronato system at 985 feet above sea level on soil of volcanic origin with a southern exposure. Mauro called it a “light soil that looked like talcum powder”. They are not allowed to irrigate so the roots of the vines have to go deep to find water.  Mauro said that 2004 was a difficult vintage because there was a lot of rain and humidity. There is a selective picking of the different grape varieties according to the rate of ripening. Malvasia was picked first followed by the Greco and then the Trebbiano. The Trebbiano and Greco were gently pressed followed by a classic white wine vinification. The Malvasia was cold fermented on the skins for 12 hours. After a natural clarification the must was fermented with selected yeasts and left to rest in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks until bottling in early spring. Mauro called this an elegant wine. The wine had white peach aromas and flavors and a hint of apple and smoke. It has good minerality, acidity and a finish and aftertaste of almonds. Mauro made an excellent wine in a difficult year.

Vigneto Santa Tresa Frascati

 Vigneto Santa Teresa Frascati Superiore 2001 DOC

Grapes, Vineyard and Vinification same as the above. Mauro said that 2001 was an excellent vintage. In the area they have an Indian summer which helps the grapes to ripen later. This a 10 year old Frascati and it was not showing its age. Round, balanced and elegant, white peach aromas and flavors with grapefruit on the palate and a long finish and lingering aftertaste.

 Vigneto Santa Teresa Frascati Superiore 1997 DOC

Grapes, Vineyard and Vinification same as the above. 1997 was an excellent vintage in all of Tuscany.The 1997 was much like the 2001 but with aromas of white peach and fuller bodied and a touch of smoke.

Mauro said something very interesting about the older wines. He said that he did not know if they improve with age but they stay in “character” as they mature. He gave Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren as examples, both were great when they were young and remained the same as they matured.

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2010 Made from 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, 10% Greco and 10% Bombino. Harvesting began in the final 10 days of September and continued until the end of October, producing perfectly ripe, healthy grapes with a golden color and high sugar content. The grapes are grown in selected hillside vineyards ranging between 650 and 1,300 feet in the communes of Frascati and Monteporzio Catone.  The volcanic soil is loose, porous and dry but not arid. It is rich in potassium, phosphorous and microelements. Spalliera, Guyot and Cordone Speronato training systems are used. First selected bunches of mature grapes are picked by hand. Then the best grapes from each bunch are chosen. Mauro made it very clear that the grapes are transported in small baskets directly to the cellar so that they will be in perfect condition when they arrive. The wine has floral aromas with hints of white peach and honey with bitter almond in the finish and a very pleasing aftertaste.

The vinification of the grapes for the Luna Mater is a process that he invented and takes place in three different stages. In the cellar the grapes are separated into two batches. This he called the “modern” stage. The first batch is cooled immediately prior to a gentle pressing to ensure maximum aromatic qualities. The second batch is destemmed, cooled and fermented in contact with the skins to produce a marked varietal character. This is done without oxygen to keep the grapes fresh. After 6-7 days the skins were removed, any longer then this and there would be too much extract.

 Three days later a small quantity of the best grapes were destemmed by hand and added whole to the fermenting must with their own natural yeast for bouquet and flavor. The berries remain in the must until the end of February. Mauro said that the alcohol helps extract tannin from the skins and pits.

 The wine is aged in 10HL acacia wood barrels.   According to Mauro, this is the best wood for the Malvasia grapes. He made the point that the barrels were not toasted and were steam folded. He did admit that in the 2007 vintage, the wine did see some toasted barriques. He felt that barriques did not give him the type of wine he wanted to produce and they are not traditional.  He now uses 10HL barrels. He is thinking of using 20HL untoasted acacia barrels in the future.

 The bottled wine is then left to age in bottles laid horizontally in the ancient tufa tunnels under the Frascati hillsides.

  Mauro said that Luna Mater means Mother Moon; it reflects the wine’s close ties to nature and the 50 old vines that are used to make this wine. He also said that the moon was very important in farming but did not go into detail.

 All of the Luna Mater wines are vinified in the same way.

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2009.  Harvest began in the second half of September and continued until the end of October. The fruit was healthy, mature, and rich in sugar and gold in color. The amount of fruit gathered was somewhat lower than average. This is a full bodied wine, well balanced with white peach aromas and flavors, bitter almond in the finish and a lingering aftertaste. $23

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2008.  The harvest period was sunny and dry and the quality of fruit was excellent. The quantity of grapes picked was even lower than in 2007. Mauro said that 2008, like 2007 will be remembered in Frascati as one of the best vintages of the past decade. This is an elegant wine, well balanced, with aromas and flavors of white peach with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2007.  The quantity of grapes harvested was lower than the preceding year. It was an outstanding vintage. This is the wine were Mauro used some toasted barriques but I did not notice it. It seemed lighter in style with good minerality and acidity.  It was showing no signs of age and was drinking very well.


Filed under Frascati, Italian White Wine

The Fiorano Rosso Dinners

The idea for the Fiorano dinners started when I saw an article with the title by Eric Asimov entitled An Italian Prince and His Magic Cellar in the New York Times. In his magic cellar, Boncompagni Ludovisi, Principe di Venosa, had two white wines one made from Malvasia di Candia and the other from Semillon.  Both were called Fiorano.  What the magic cellar used to contain, but no longer did, was the Fiorano Rosso made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

 Mr. Asimov praised the Fiorano Bianco, and rightly so. They are unique wines that can last 30 years or more. When I visited Rome I would drink Fiorano Bianco and even today it can still be found in Roman restaurants as well as in restaurants and wine stores in NYC.  There were 14,000 bottles of Fiorano Bianco in the cellar but all of the Fiorano Rosso was gone.  I like the Fiorano Bianco, but I love the Fiorano Rosso and would drink it and buy it whenever I could! 

 After reading the article I realized that Mr. Asimov had never tasted the Rosso. Once when I was invited to the Times to take part in the tasting panel, I told him that I had a few bottles of Rosso and would like him to come for dinner so that he could taste them.  It took two years before we could arrange our first dinner.  Eric wrote about the first dinner in an article entitled Mysteries With a Menu in the Times’ Diners Journal and another dinner in the same column in an article entitled Bygone Bottles.

 Altogether there have been four dinners, the last taking place in April.  As far as I know the last vintage of white or red Fiorano was 1995. The elderly prince has since passed away.  There was much speculation about what would happen to the property.  Luigi Veronelli, a well-known wine and food writer, who had interviewed the prince before his death quoted him as saying that he rather would pull up all the vines than see his son-in-law Piero Antinori get them. When he asked the prince about Piero’s daughters, his granddaughters, inheriting the property, he replied, “they follow their father and not me.” There was talk of building apartment buildings on the property because it was so close to Rome.

 All hope was lost – there was no more rosso to be found.  In December of last year, Mr.  Asimov wrote A Family Gets Back to Their Roots.  In the article he wrote,

“Now, though, the deed is done. The estate has been divided among various members of the Antinori family, and the 25 acres or so where the vineyard was planted is now in the hands of the three daughters of Piero and Francesca Antinori. They plan to replant the vineyard. Turns out that when the prince pulled up the vineyard he didn’t destroy it entirely. Some of the vines, which are by nature tenacious and tough, managed to survive. Using cuttings from the surviving vines, the three Antinoris, along with Renzo Cotarella, the Antinori wine director, hope to replant the original vineyard little by little beginning in 2011.” 

Two months ago I was invited to a tasting of Antinori wines given by Renzo Cotarella at Eataly. When Renzo walked in the room and saw me, he walked over and said “We have to talk about Fiorano”. I had to wait until the class was over before we could talk. Renzo said that they were able to find a few vines for the red grapes on the property and had produced a 2010. He said that I had more experience with Fiorano Rosso than anyone else. We agreed that we liked the red better than the white. I believe the only bottles of the red that he had in his possession were from 1988. I had a number of questions about how the made wine was made and would it be the same. Renzo said that he would be back in October and I immediately began planning our next Fiorano dinner so we could continue our discussion.

 In my opinion, Fiorano Rosso is a unique wine. At the dinner last year we had a 1967 that was given to me by a man from Holland. The wine was 43 years old, the fill was almost to the top, and the wine was fantastic showing no signs of age.  The big question for me is, will the Antinori daughters and Renzo Cotarella make a wine that is like other wines, or will they make Fiorano Rosso.


Filed under Fiorano Bianco, Fiorano Rosso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine