Monthly Archives: February 2012

Barolo Specialists Present and Past: Walter Fissore and Elvio Cogno

For many years Elvio Cogno was the winemaker for the Podari Marcarini in La Mora. His Barolo from the La Serra and Brunate Vineyards were exceptional. I can still remember a 1971 Brunate that I enjoyed with the late wine writer Sheldon Wasserman who introduced me to Cogno-Marcarini Barolo.  The 1971 was everything a great Barolo should be.  The aroma of white truffles seemed to fill the room.  In 1990 Elvio Cogno left Marcarini and started his own winery called Azienda Agricola Cogno in Novello.  Here is the link to an article I wrote when I visited the winery “A Unique White and Traditional Barolo at the Elvio Cogno Winery.”

Elvio’s son-in-law Valter Fissore is now the winemaker for the Cogno winery.  Over the years, I have gotten to know Valter and his wife Nadia.  I would see them often at Vinitaly and have visited them at the winery, most recently in November 2010.

Valter Fissore holding the Barolo Ravera 2008

Since Valter would be in New York City for the Gambero Rosso “Three Glasses” tasting recently, I asked him if we could meet. He invited me to visit with him and taste some of his wines, including four Barolos.

The Elvio Cogno Wines of Walter Fissore.

We spoke about Barolo Valters favorite subject.

Valter said that his vineyards have all three subvarities of Nebbiolo: Michet, Lampia and Rose but he does not use all three in any one of his wines.

He feels that 2008 was a great vintage because it was a very cold winter and the harvest took place on October 20th.  The wines have a higher PH than other vintages but also good acidity. Walter felt that that 2008 would make well balanced elegant wines.

Barolo Cascin Nuova 2008 DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo. The vineyard is 1.5 hectares and is facing south. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and they are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel stainless steel tanks with automatic pump over. The wine is aged in large oak casks for two years and six months in bottle before release. Valter said that this was a Barolo from young vines and one that could be easily enjoyed and understood and is ready to drink sooner.

Barolo Ravera 2008 DOCG made from Lampia and Michet. I tasted this wine from the barrel when I was at the winery in November 2010. It reminded me of Pinot Noir. When I tasted it this time from the bottle it was much less Pinot Noir like and was developing into a great Barolo. Valter said that this was a traditional Barolo in the style of Elvio Cogno, powerful and elegant. I believe this is Valter’s favorite.

Brico Pernice 2007 DOCG made from100% Lampia. This Valter called a Classic Barolo.  It is more tannic and needs more time to be ready. I tasted this wine last year and it has not developed much.

Barolo IGNAELENA 2006 made from 100% Rose- the label for this wine was made by Valter and Nadia’s daughter when she was a young child. This was my favorite.

Valter said that he is primarily a producer of Barolo and he produces Barolo without compromise. He produces a Barolo as it should be and not for the international market.   I find his Barolos to be balanced with elegance and finesse and to be some of the best produced today.

The Cogno-Marcarini wines from the Brunate Vineyar

That night we had dinner with Valter at the home of mutual friends.  Valter brought a Barolo Brunate Riserva 1986 DOC 100% Nebbiolo Cogno Marcarini, a classic Barolo with flavors and aromas of faded roses, licorice, tar, tobacco and a hint of cherry. It is a soft, well-balanced elegant wine.

About once a month, I meet with a group of friends for lunch.

When they heard I had had dinner with Valter and drank the 1986, they brought some of their older vintages of Cogno- Marcarini Barolo “Brunate” 1978, 1974, 1967 and 1964 to the lunch.

Enjoying these wines once again, I thought of Sheldon Wasserman and decided to look them up in his book, Italy’s Noble Red Wines.  Of the 1974 vintage in general, which he rates 2+ stars, he wrote, “… the vintage has not lived up to its expectations, though without question a few splendid wines were made.”  When he tasted the Cogno – Marcarini 1974 in 1984, he wrote, “Floral bouquet recalls tobacco and cherry, soft with a tannic vein, a shade astringent but still in all very good.”

The bottle of 1974 that I had at lunch must have been one of the “splendid wines”.  It had the best color of all the old wines and seemed to be almost young with many years ahead of it! It had the typical Nebbiolo aromas and flavors of faded roses, tobacco, licorice mature red fruit and a hint of white truffles and a great finish and aftertaste. It may be the best 1974 Barolo that I have ever drunk!

Wasserman gave the 1978 vintage 3 stars. He said that the 1978 Cogno- Marcarini Brunate tasted in 1981 from barrel had “Expansive aromas recalling raspberries and mushrooms, well structured, has style, balance, flavor and elegance; very well made, classic impressive”. He gave the wine 3 stars (possible 4).

At lunch, the 1978 took a long time to open up but once it did was showing very well but not as well as the 1974.

The 1967 vintage received 2+ stars. Wasserman tasted the 1967 Cogno Marcarini Brunate in 1985, gave it 4 stars and said  “… expansive, perfumed bouquet; firm tannic vein, texture of liquid velvet, a complex wine, elegant and stylish; very ready but there’s no rush to drink.”

The wine I had at lunch was showing its age. The color was a very light orange and it had flavors and aromas of a very old Barolo.  The wine was still drinkable but was not going to last much longer.

Wasserman gave the 1964 vintage 3 stars. He did not have tasting notes for the Cogno Marcarini Brunate 1964.

The 1964 Cogno Marcarini was much like the 1967 only it had a little more life. One point I have to make is that both the 1967 and 1964 tasted much better with the pizza we had for lunch. I love pizza Margarita and Barolo.

I am sure that if I tasted the 1978, 1967 and 1964 from different bottles the results would not be the same.  I am a firm believer that there are no great wines only great bottles of wine.

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Filed under Barolo, Cogno- Marcarini, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Piedmont, Piemonte, Valter Fissore

Slow Wine – A New Italian Wine Guide that Looks Beyond the Glass!

For 20 years, Slow Food co-published the Italian Wines Guide with Gambero Rosso, arguably the most famous and influential wine publication in Italy.  The much sought after “three glasses” awards helped to stimulate Italian producers to aim for maximum quality and to change the Italian wine scene and its image abroad.

But Slow Food, which has since split with Gambero Rosso, felt that something more was needed in a wine guide to give a realistic snapshot of the current Italian wine scene and to incorporate the values of the Slow Food movement.  Now Slow Food has its own wine guide “Slow Wine”

Slow Wine 2012 English version

 A Year in the life of Italy’s Vineyards and Wines-400 cellars visited, 3,000 wines reviewed. $25

This new guide was introduced at a press conference, followed by a tasting of the wines in the guide. The speakers at the press conference were Giancarlo Gariglio, one of the creators of the wine guide, of which he is chief editor and Fabio Giavedoni, also chief editor with a particular focus on the regions of eastern Italy.

The guide had a successful debut in Italy, where it is currently in its second edition.  It is now making its international appearance with the first English edition, which is about one-fifth the size of the original.

The book is divided by region from North to South

Mr. Gariglio and Mr. Giavedoni believe there is a need for a new Italian wine guide a number of reasons.  They feel that  wine cannot be judged by scores, symbols or other numerical evaluation, but needs to be assessed in a broader context. In their new format, three sections describe the cellars (producers) in their entirety:

Life (people), the stories of the leading players in the world of winemaking; Vines (vineyards), profiles of vineyards according to their characteristics and the way they are managed;  Wines, straightforward descriptions backed up by comprehensive statistics.

The “cellars” are viewed by 200 wine experts all former employees of Gambero Rosso .  They do not judge the wines in a tasting room but travel all over the Italian peninsula visiting the cellars of the producers.

Three symbols are used to evaluate each winery:

The Snail, the Slow Food symbol, signals a cellar that has distinguished itself through its interpretation of sensorial, territorial, environmental and personal values in harmony with the Slow Food philosophy.

The Bottle, allocated to cellars that show a consistently high quality throughout their range of wines.

The Coin, an indicator of great value.

Three symbols are also used to evaluate each wine.

Slow Wine, bottles of outstanding sensory quality, capable of condensing in the glass territory-related values such as history and identity.

Great Wine, the finest bottles from the sensory point of view.

Everyday Wine, bottles at the standard price level, which are excellent value for the money.

Not every wine has a symbol next to it but we were told at the conference that all the wines in the book are good wines.

In keeping with the Slow Food movement, at the bottom of the page on each winery is another list which rates the winey as to: fertilizers, plant protection, weed control, yeasts, grapes-estate grown or not and if the winery is certified organic.

The authors ended the conference with the following statement, “We are convinced that the battle against the homogenization of taste and the standardization of sensory characteristics may be conducted through knowledge of the land, vineyards and people that combine to form the Italian terroir.”

After the press conference there was a walk around tasting and I tasted a number of wines. Here are some of the wines that I liked:

Bianco Pomice 60% Malvasia della Lipari, 30% Carricante and 10% Moscato Giallo Tenuta Di Castellaro, Sicily 

Bardolino  2010 made from Corvina and Rondinella Le Fraghe, Veneto

Soave Classico” Calvarino” 2009 Made from 100% Garganega Pieropan, Veneto

Langhe Nebbiolo”No Name”2005 Borgogno, Piedmont, they said it is a Barolo of Protest?

Chianti Classico Riserva “Il Poggio” 2007 Made from Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino Monsanto, Tuscany

Chianti Rufina 2009 Made from Sangiovese and Canaiolo Selvapiana, Tuscany

Barolo “Nei Cannubi” 2007 DOCG Luigi Einaudi Piedmont

Barolo “Marcenasco” 2007 DOCG Renato Ratti ,Piedmot

Dolcetto Dogliani bricco Botti DOCG 2008 Pacchenino, Piedmont-They now produce a Barolo San Giuseppe 2007

Barolo “Ravera” 2008 DOCG Elvio Cogno, Piedmont

Roero MompessanoRiserva 2008 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo Cascina Ca’RoSSa, Piedmont

Contrario 2008 100% Sagrantino Antonelli, Umbria

Salento Rosato 2010, Made from Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera Cantina Rosa del Golfo, Puglia

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” Notári”2008 Nicodemi, Abruzzo

Ciró Rosso Duca San Felice Riserva 2009 made from 100% Gaglioppo Librandi, Calabria

Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico Riserva 2008 made from 100% Verdicchio Villa Bucci, Marche


Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Slow Wine Guide 2012

Sangiovese and Bistecca alla Fiorentina


I believe that wines made from the Sangiovese grape are some of the best wines to drink with food. Their red and black fruit aromas and flavors, the touch of violet, and above all their good acidity give them the ability to combine with food without overpowering it. I am speaking of those wines that taste and smell like the grapes they are made from and the terroir in which the grapes are grown.  I do not mean the big oaky international style wines that steamroll over everything, including the person drinking them!

A Mural at The Leopard at des Artistes

Wines like Chianti and Vino Noble di Montepulicano can be drunk and enjoyed with pasta, salami, pizza, etc. but what is often overlooked is that they go perfectly with meats, game, and all sorts of hearty dishes.

The Leopard at Café des Artistes is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in NYC.  The kitchen is best known for the foods of Southern Italy.  When I was invited to a lunch there by Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano , chef Vito Gnazzo matched their wines with typical Tuscan dishes,  I wondered how it would work out.  Chef Gnazzo made two dishes that were perfect combinations with the wines and could not have been better if I had them in Montepulicano!

The pappardelle al ragú di cinghiale e funghi di stagione (pappardelle with wild boar and seasonal mushroom sauce), wide strips of fresh pasta were cooked “al dente” and married perfectly with the rich boar and mushroom ragu.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina con Patatine Fritte

When they brought out the plates of Bistecca alla fiorentina con patatine fritte it was quite a sight! The sliced Florentine steak was perfectly prepared and complemented by the best thick-cut fried potatoes I have had in a long time.

The Vecchia Cantina Di Montepulicano is the oldest cooperative in Tuscany established in 1937. There are over 400 supplying members. The wines we had with lunch were produced under their Poggio Stella and Cantina del Redi labels.

Mr Ugo Pagliai, the enologist for Vecchia Cantina Di Montepulicano spoke about the Montepulicano area in general and what effects  rainfall and temperature have on the vines and  the harvest. He also spoke about the different clones of Sangiovese, such as R24, which I believe is the most popular.

Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2010 100% Sangiovese Poggio Stella. There are 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare. The training system is Guyot and spurred cord and the grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then refined in Slavonic oak barrels for at least three months. The wine has red berry aromas and flavor with good acidity. $13.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2008 made from 90% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo.  Poggio Stella. The vines are grown on hillsides and the soil is mostly crumbled rock with good skeletal content. The plant density is 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot and spurred cord. The grapes are hand harvested; fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel. The wine is aged in Slavonic oak barrels for 24 months. $19.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2006 “Briareo” Riserva Cantina del Redi made from Sangiovese and Canaiolo. The altitude of the vineyards is 340/400 meters and there are 4.000/5.000 vines per hectare. The training system is Guyot and spurred cord. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks followed by maceration on the skins for 8 to 10 days. The wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barriques, 12 months in large French oak barrels and 6 months in bottle before release. $29.99


Filed under Chianti, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, The Leopard at des Artistes, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

Tasting the Wines of Livio Felluga at Eataly in NYC

On our first visit to Friuli-Venezia- Giulia, Michele and I had the good fortune to stay at the Livio Felluga winery.  We stayed in beautiful guesthouse in the middle of the vineyard. Every morning, a woman would arrive to make breakfast. Michele mentioned that she liked fresh fruit and from then on there was fresh fruit. The members of the Felluga family could not have been nicer.  They helped us to plan an itinerary and wherever we went to dine, one or another of the members of the family would show up to see if we were all right. They did not get many visitors from America in those days.

The highlight of the visit was meeting Livio Felluga who was 79 at the time. He invited us to take a tour of the vineyards in his car, which I believe was a Jeep.   Michele sat in the front and I sat in the back.  As I recall, he never went under 80 miles an hour as we travelled over hills and along dirt tracks. Whenever we hit a bump, I felt as if I was flying through the vineyards!  All the time he was driving Livio talked about the vineyards and his wine.  It was the most exciting vineyard tour I was ever on! Today Livio is close to 100 years old.

Andrea Felluga

Over the years I have been a big fan of the wines of Livio Felluga and so, when I heard that his son Andrea Felluga was doing a tasting of their wines at Eataly, I just had to go.

Andrea began by speaking about the history of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and of his family.  Andrea said that his  father was born in 1914 when the area was part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. He explained how the shifting borders after WWI and WWII caused many problems. His family lost everything after WWII but Livio was able to remain on the Italian side of the border and start his winery.

The Wines of Livio Felluga

Pinot Grigio DOC 2010 100% Pinot Grigio.  Very ripe grapes are hand picked and destemmed and left to macerate for a short period before being soft crushed. After settling the must ferments in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. 30% to 40% of the wine undergoes malolatic fermentation and it remains on the lees for 4 months. Andrea said the wines had aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, honey, and white peach with a nice mineral note on the finish. $25

Friulano DOC 2010 100% Friulano (formerly known as Tocai)  This wine is made in the same way as the Pinot Grigio, though the Pinot Grigio grapes are picked about 10 days before the Friulano. This wine had a grassy note to it with flavors and aromas of apple and citrus, good acidity and a touch of almond in the finish.$28

Both of these wines have the now famous “Map Label.”  Andrea said that when they first produced wine Friuli-Venezia-Giulia was not a region that was well know and his father put the map of the area on the bottle so every one would know where the wine came from.

Abbazia Di Rosazzo  Colli Orientali  del Friuli DOC 2009 Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon, Malvasia,Friulano and Ribolla Gialla the grapes for this wine come from the vineyards of the Abbazia Di Rosazzo. The grapes are destemmed and left to cold macerate before they are soft crushed. Then the must is cleared by allowing it to settle.  Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with yeasts selected in Friuli. After 3 days, the wine is racked into oak casks where alcoholic and malolatic fermentation is completed. The wine is then aged in 5hl oak casks. This is a big, complex wine with rich fruit aromas and flavors and a slightly bitter finish.

Terre Altre DOC  Collis Orientali del Friuli DOCG 2009 Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon.   After destemming, the grapes are macerated for a short time. The grapes are soft crushed and then the must rests. The Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for about 10 months. The Friulano is fermented and aged in small French oak casks. After 10 months, the wines are blended and the bottled wine rests in binning cellars for about 9 months.  I have been drinking this wine since the 1980’s. This is an elegant and complex wine. Andrea described it as “captivating”.   I think it is a seductive wine. It is without a doubt one of the best white wines made in Italy. $65

Vertigo Venezia Gulia IGT 2009 made from 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are carefully destemmed and then crushed. Fermentation is carried out with maceration on the skins at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The juice is pumped over frequently for about four weeks, to extract color and aroma from the skins. The wine is aged for 12 months is stainless steel and small French oak barrels. Andrea said they were not new. After bottling the wine rests for at least 4 months before release. This is an intense, fruit forward wine with aromas and flavors of black cherry and spice. $60

Sossó  Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC 2006 made from Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Merlot and Pignolo. The grapes are destemmed and crushed. Fermentation is carried out with maceration on the skins at controlled temperatures in stainless steel. The juice is pumped over frequently for about three weeks. The wines are blended and racked into barriques–1/3 new– where they mature for 18 months. After bottling, the wine rests for a minimum of 12 months before release. This was the most international in style of the wines that we tasted. It is a big complex wine with aromas and flavors of cherry and ripe plums and hints of vanilla and oak. $65


Filed under Abbazia di Rosazzo, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Livio Felluga, Terre Altre

A Panel Discussion of Robert Mondavi at The New School in NYC

The Culinary Luminaries series of panel discussions at the New School University in New York City celebrates crucial figures of the past and present world of food and gastronomy.  James Beard, Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, Craig Claiborne, Joseph Baum, Clementine Paddleford, Pellegrino Artusi, and Michael Batterberry are among those whose contributions have been explored.  The series is sponsored by the Food Studies Program at The New School for Public Engagement. Fabio Parasecoli, Associate Professor of Food Studies is the head of the program.

Last Fall I attended the program on Pellegrino Artusi (Michele was on the panel) and enjoyed it very much.  After the event, Professor Parasecoli asked me if I would like to be part of a panel on Robert Mondavi. I told him it would be an honor.

Robert Mondavi, Culinary Luminary
The panel considered wine and its role in U.S. culinary culture through a discussion of the life and work of Robert Mondavi, the pioneering Napa Valley vintner. Mondavi championed fine wine as an integral part of the good life in any country.  The speakers explored his decisions as a producer, his marketing practices, his international collaborations and global influence, and related cultural and economic issues
.   This is the link to the video. It runs for almost an hour but I think you will find it very interesting.
Panelists: Tyler Colman, author of Wine Politics; Frank J. Prial, former New York Times wine columnist; Charles Scicolone, wine writer and wine consultant; and Julia Flynn Siler, author of the bestselling The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty. Culinary historian and New School faculty member Andrew F. Smith moderates.
The first speaker was Ms. Siler and she spoke about  the Mondavi family and how poor business decisions led to their downfall. She also said the no one from the Mondavi family would speak to her about her book.
Tyler Colman spoke about food friendly, estate wines in California through the lens of Robert Mondavi’s legacy.
Frank Prial spoke about his first meeting with Robert Mondavi in the early 1970’s.
I spoke about California wine in general, Robert Mondavi’s contribution to wine and his worldwide influence on wine. I also said that what Julia Child did for food in this country, Robert Mondavi did for wine.



Filed under California wine, Robert Mondavi