Monthly Archives: January 2013

Unique Red Grapes From Campania

Campania has a few unique red grapes that are not very well known. Along with the white wines of Campania that I tasted last week at SD26 in NYC with Franco Bengazi and Marco Melzi from the Wine Emporium, there were three red wines.   One of them I discovered when I went to visit the winery in Tramonti, high above the Amalfi Coast. Another, also from Tramonti, I first tasted at a restaurant nearby and the third I discovered many years ago when I was in Naples and needed a red wine to drink with pizza.IMG_2652

The wines

Cantina Federiciane Montelone di Napoli Gragnano DOC Sorrento Peninsula 2010, made from Piedirossa and Sciascinoso. Fermentation with selected yeast takes place in temperature controlled autoclaves.  This is a fizzy red wine that when poured has a lot of foam that quickly disappears in the glass. It is fruity with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of raspberries and strawberries, and easy to drink. In Naples they often drink sparkling beverages with pizza and Gragnano goes very well with pizza margarita. Marco said it is the authentic companion to all Neapolitan street food. $16

Sciascinoso, also know as Olivella, is used as a blending grape. The clusters and berries are large and it is a late ripener. I do not believe that I have ever tasted a wine made from 100% Sciascinoso.IMG_2654
Az. Agr. Apicella Colli di Salerno Piedirosso IGT 2011, made from 85% Piedirosso from ungrafted vines and 15% other red grapes. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the training system is mostly pergola. Harvest takes place the third week of October. The stalks are removed and the grapes are pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 10 to 12 days. Piedirosso is used mostly as a blending grape.  (It is one of the grapes in the blend for Lacryma Chrisit del Vesuvio.) It is difficult to find wine made from 100% Piedirosso but worth the effort.
The wine has fresh red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of black pepper and spice a long finish and nice after taste. The wine should be drunk young. It goes extremely well with dishes made with tomato sauce. It is a steal at $15

The Brasciole at SD26

The Brasciole at SD26

“The name (Piedirosso) translates as “red foot” and the grape is also known as Palombina or Pre’e Palummo meaning respectively little dove and dove’s foot in dialect, the latter because of its red-colored triple-branched stem like a three-taloned bird’s foot”, according to Nicholas Belfage in Brunello to Zibibbo.

Piedirosso is an ancient black skinned grape that does well in volcanic soil. It may be identical to the Colombina, the grape that Pliny the Elder d.79AD mentions in his Natural History.

Az. Agr. Monte de Grazie Biological Winery Rosso 2008IMG_2657
The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti gowns almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red.
This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has ageing potential. I had the 2009 with the owner of the winery, Dr. Alfonso Arpino, on the Amalfi coast last year and it may be the best wine he has made so far! $28.

SEE MICHELE AND I ON I-ITALYTV WNYC CHANNEL 25 SATURDAY AT 11PM AND SUNDAY AT 1PM.

 

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Filed under Amalifi Coast, Az. Agr. Apicella, campania, Cantina Federiciane, Gragnano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Monte de Grazie Winery, Naples, Piedirosso, Pizza and Wine, Sciascinoso, Sparkling wine, Tintore di Tramonti

Surprising White Grapes From Campania

I have always been of the opinion that the most interesting and unique white wine grapes in Southern Italy come from Campania.  Some of these grapes (Asprinio) make wines that should be drunk young, while others make wine (Fiano di Avellino) that can last for 20 years of more.

Many of these grapes originated with the Ancient Greeks who colonized Southern Italy during the period known as Magna Grecia. They referred to Southern Italy as Enotria – the land of wines.  In his book, Vino,(1980) Burton Anderson says, “What the Greeks called Entoria, at least in the beginning, was part of the Salento Peninsula where the Enotri people dwelled… the Greeks noted that their native vines fared so well in Southern Italy that they referred to their colonies collectively as Enotria.”

Grilled Baby Octopus

Grilled Baby Octopus

I was asked by Franco Bengazi of the Wine Emporium to invite a few journalists to a tasting of his wines from Campania. The tasting and lunch was held at SD26 and the menu was based on the food of Campania. The speaker was Marco Melzi, a representative of the Wine Emporium, whose passion for Italian wine is matched by his knowledge of the subject.  Here are the four white wines that were served.

Az. Agr. I Borboni Asprinio Spumante NV. 100% Asprinio d’Aversa. $20  Produced in the Aversa and Giuliano zones from sandy soil mostly of IMG_2646volcanic origin where philloxyera could not survive. The vineyards are at 80 meters. Hand harvesting takes place the first week of September and temperature controlled fermentation lasts for 15 days.  Aged in stainless steel for 4 months. The foam stability time is 60 days in an autoclave (Charmat method). It remains in the bottle for 30 days before release. This is a sparkling wine with good bubbles nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of lemon and a slight touch of bitter almond in the aftertaste. It was almost impossible to find Asprinio in this county 10 years ago.  Today it is not impossible just difficult but worth the effort.  It is a good food wine.  There is also a non-sparkling version of Asprinio.

Asprinio is a grape whose origin in unknown but it is grown almost exclusively in the area around the town of Aversa in the province of Caserta north of Naples.  There are only 250 acres under cultivation. The name may come from the Latin asper (tart, bitter) and it can have a sharp lemon tinge to it and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The training system for the vines is know as Alberata Aversana, which may be traced back to the ancient Etruscans. In this method the vines can climb to a height of 15 to 20 feet or more attaching itself to nearby trees. One plant could produce over 200 pounds of fruit. Today only about one half of the growers use the Aberata Aversana method.
There is also a non-sparkling version of Asprinio that is also very good.

Marco said that this was the original sparkler of the King of Naples, born out of a desire to be no less than their French relatives. It was the wine of choice in Naples until the 1950’s.

Burton Anderson in his book Vino says the following about Asprinio (Asprino), “The habitual wine of the city (Naples) used to be Asprino. The vines were supposedly brought from Champagne during one of the French dominations. By the 1980’s good Asprinio was difficult to find even in Naples.” He also says that Asprinio is or was then grown in Basilicata. “ … in fact all of the Asprino of Basilicata winds up in Naples.”

Linguine di Gragnano with Clans, Grape Tomatoes and Parsley

Linguine di Gragnano with Clans, Grape Tomatoes and Parsley

Az.Agr. Apicella Costa Di Amalfi Bianco 2011. $17
Made from 60% Bianca Zita and 40% Biancolella in Tramonti. The exposure of the vineyard is mostly southwest and they are at 300-400 meters. The training system for the newer vineyards is the espalier/guyot with 4,000 – 5,000 vines/hectare.  For the older vineyards it is the traditional pergola (tendone method) with 2,500 vines per/hectare.  Harvesting is by hand the second half of October with a careful selection. The must is left to settle by a static cold system and selected yeast is injected into the must. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 20/30 days. The wine remains on the lees 4/5 months.  The wine had a deep yellow straw color with nice fruit, hints of honey and oil, good acidity, slightly bitter with a long after taste. This is an old style wine, which can go with seafood in a tomato sauce and works well with salami and cheeses. I really enjoyed it.  Marco said they were the first winery to bottle wine in Tramonti.

Biancolella as know as Bianca Tenera because of its thin skin.  It is best known as a grape used in wines produced on the Island of Ischia. It grows best in volcanic soil alone the maritime coast. It is grown along the coast north and south of the city of Naples. It is mostly used as a blending grape.

Marco said that Bianca Zita was a local name for Falanghina. IMG_2650

Az Agr. Orazio Rillo “Fontanavecchia” Falanghina Taburno 2011. $16  Made from 100% Falanghina in the Benevento region of Campania.  The grapes are hand picked and put into little baskets. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel and the wine is aged in stainless steel.

Nichols Belfrage in his book, Brunello to Zibibbo,(1999) states “This grape (Falanghina), which some have suggested may be of Greek origin, and which some have tentatively indentified as the grape from which Roman Falernian was made, has been know as Falanghina only since the 19th century. (A falanga… is a type of wooden stake used for supporting a vine; the suffix –ina makes it a small wooden stake.) The grape Falanghina is a late-ripener which requires well exposed, sunny slopes and not-too-excessive production to shine, but when it does so it shines brightly, making a wine of good extract and flavor, with a firm acidic backbone enabling it to resist the passage of time in the bottle. It is a grape of real interest deserving wider national and international attention.”

Falanghina today is very popular in Rome and more and more good examples are coming into this country. IMG_2648

Cantina Dei Monaci Fiano Di Avellino 2011 100% Fiano di Avellino. $18 Fermentation and aging is in stainless steel. Fiano has small thick-skinned berries. This is a complex wine with overtones of honey and hazelnut and floral hints.
I quote again from Belfrage, “Fiano is either a native grape of Campania or a member of a family of grapes called Apianes brought to southern Italy from the Peloponesse, once called Apia. … it is mentioned specifically by Pliny in his Naturalis Historia… the bees give Fiano its name, because of their desire (for it). Pliny’s etymology has since been challenged…that it is not bees (apes), but wasps that are attracted to the sweet grapes, and it is claimed that the name really derives from appiano, a type of apple, or Apia, once a place name in the province of Avelliano now called Lapia.”

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Filed under Asprinio d'Aversa, Biancolella, campania, Costa Di Amalfi, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Sparkling wine, Spumante

A Night at Bern’s Steak House

During lunch at SD26, Ed said that they were thinking of flying to South Carolina because Mary needed to acquire more miles to qualify for a gold frequent flyer card from an airline. Their plan was to stay overnight and return the next day.

I suggested they go to Florida instead.  Ed said, “why Florida?”  Travis answered Bern’s Steak House.  We all knew about Bern’s but only Travis and Nicole had been there.  After a very brief discussion, Mary and Ed decided that they liked the idea.  Travis then said, “Why don’t we all go?”  So that is how a group of 8 of us flew to Tampa, had dinner at Bern’s on Sunday night, and returned to New York for dinner at my apartment on New Year’s Eve.  

One of the many wine rooms in Bern's

One of the many wine rooms in Bern’s

Bern’s Steak House may have the largest wine list in the world. They have over 1,250 wines on the list, 6,800 different wines, and a total of over half a million bottles.
Travis had contacted Brad Dixon, one of the sommeliers at Bern’s Steak House, so he was ready for us when we arrived. We discussed the wine list with him and he also made suggestions that were not on the list and told us all about them. He is very knowledgeable and was a great help when it came to Burgundy. IMG_2579
Since Ed always starts with Champagne, he ordered the Perrier-Jouet “Fleur de Champagne” 1996 in magnum to start.   Made from 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier, it comes in the popular and beautiful “Flower Bottle”. 1996 was a great year for Champagne. The wine was just starting to come around and will last for many more years.  It was a perfect start to a great wine evening.IMG_2567

Rully  Domaine Faiveley 1982 100% Chardonnay. The exposure is east and the soil is clay and limestone. Perfectly mature grapes are harvested and transported to the Faiveley winery in Mercurey. The must is extracted using a pneumatic press and settles in a vat overnight. Vinification lasts for 4 weeks. The wine is aged in vats for 11 weeks and the lees are stirred regularly. The wine is racked in Mercurey and transported to Nuits-Saint Georges, the headquarters of Domaine Faiveley, where it is prepared for bottling. This is how the wine is made today though it may have been different 30 years ago. This wine was showing its age but was still drinking well. It will not last much longer and I attribute its lasting this long to the excellent storage facilities at Bern’s. This wine was under $50. Bern’s has a large selection of older wines from Italy and less known parts of France for under $50.IMG_2569
Echezaux 1959.  This is a negociant wine from T. Thorin
and the label indicates the location of his offices which were in the village of Pontanevoux. IMG_2570Domaine Romanee Saint-Vivant 1962.  100% Pinot Noir This is 9.54 hectare vineyard just above the village of Vosne.  At one time, over half was owned by Domaine Merey-Monge but the vineyard however was tended by and the wines made by Romanée Conti.  Domaine de la Romanée is now the principal owner with 5.29 hectares. There are 11 owners altogether.

IMG_2573Romanée St. Vivant 1970 Marey-Monge 100% Pinot Noir in magnum. (We ordered magnums when they were available.)
All I can say is that the Burgundies were exceptional and none were showing their age.

Bordeaux Haut Batailley 1959. I believe it is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and a touch of Cabernet Franc depending on the vintage. Mary paid for this wine to thank us for supporting her quest for miles. It was wonderful. IMG_2577
Châteauneuf-du-Pape  1961 in Magnum Delas Freres This is a northern Rhône negociant that buys juice for their wines  in the southern Rhône.
1961 was an exceptional vintage and this was the best Châteauneuf-du-Pape that I have ever had. In fact a number of people said that it was too young! Today it is owned by the Champagne house Roederer.IMG_2583

Cossart Madeira Sercial 1905 – the oldest shipper of Madeira wine, established in 1745. Made from the Sercial grape. Sercial Maderia is the driest of the four classic varieties of Madeira. It is also the lightest and most acidic and delicate expression of Madeira and takes the longest to mature. Maderia Sercial is a white fortified wine made on the volcanic island of Madeira, which belongs to Portugal.  Of the two Madeira Sercials that we drank on two consecutive nights, the 1910 Leacock (New Years Eve) was showing slightly better.

After dinner at Bern’s Steak House you are taken to the dessert rooms, set in empty wine barrels!  They offer an array of interesting desserts and a full range of dessert wines to go with them.

We all had a great time and it was worth the trip!

We are back on I-Italy|TV:   This Saturday at 11:00 PM repeated Sunday at 1:00 PM.

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Filed under Bern's Steak House, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, French Red, French White Wine, French Wine, Madeira

Welcoming In The New Year!

We have never had a New Year’s Eve Party. The most we ever did was invite another couple over for dinner.  Since 1981 we have been going on and off– mostly on–to a friend’s party where we always have a great time. This year, however, another friend called Michele and invited himself to our house for New Year’s Eve.  We were going to be with him at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa the night before and I guess he figured why not make the party last longer.  Not only was it New Year’s Eve, but it was also his birthday.  Michele could not turn him down so she invited the whole group of friends who would be with us in Tampa to come for dinner.  It turned out to be a perfect New Year’s Eve with great food, wine and dear friends.

Since we were welcoming in the New Year we had four Champagnes.IMG_2595

The Champagne

Delamotte Brut NV Made from 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. It was light and fresh with citrus aromas and flavors and good acidity. This Champagne works well as an aperitif and was a nice way to begin this festive evening. It is a good value at $35IMG_2615

Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises Blanc de Noirs Recolte Brut 2002 100% Pinot Noir. The grapes come from plots owned by Bollinger that were not attacked by phylloxera in the Grand Crus of Chaudes Temes and Clos St. Jacques in Ay and Croix Rough in Bouzy. These three plots are maintained traditionally following the provignace method (burying a branch which is separated from the parent vine once it has taken root) and worked by hand with the help sometimes of a horse cart. This is a great Champagne – one that gets your attention and you drink very slowly.
IMG_2596

Krug Brut Grande Cuvée Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay– the percent depends upon the vintage. They blend about 120 wines from 10 or more different vintages and it is aged for at least 6 years in the cellars. All of their Champagnes are aged in used small oak barrels. They are all prestige cuvees- -made from Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages and are aged longer before release. The overall rating for the vineyards is 98% with Krug’s own vineyards rating 100%. This is the wine we drank at midnight to ring in the New Year.IMG_2599Krug Brut 1988 It is aged 10 years before release.
What can I say about Krug but that it is Krug! IMG_2601

The Red Wine
Burgundy
Corton-Bressandes 1990 Joseph Drouhin 100% Pinot Noir. There are 10,000 to 12,500 plants/h
Harvesting is by hand, sorting in the vineyard and again in the winery if necessary. Maceration and vinification take 2 to 3 weeks with the use of indigenous yeast and temperature controlled fermentation. Pigeage-pumping down of the must during fermentation tales place once a day until one half of the fermentation is complete. Then remontage- pumping over takes place until fermentation is complete. The wine is aged in French oak, mostly Troncay, 20% new barrels between 14 to 18 months. The barrels are weathered for 3 years before they are used. A fining collage is done to clarify the wine after a careful tasting. This could not have been showing better -great Burgundy.IMG_2602

Nuits-Saint- Georges Les Vaucrains (infertile land) 1980 Robert Chevillon The vineyard exposure is East by Northeast and the altitude is 206/280 meters with a grade of 15%. They are old vines, the vineyard is 1.6h and the harvest is by hand. The soil is regularly plowed and the vines are only treated when necessary. Once the grapes have been harvested, destemmed and vatted, they remain in the vat 5 to 6 days during the cold maceration process, fermentation starts naturally. There is a long slow fermentation. Primary fermentation is in stainless steel cuvees and then the wine is racked into the barrel. It is aged in oak barrels of which 20% are new for about 16 months. The wine is bottled by gravity. This was a very interesting wine with nice fruit and a hint of blackberry. This is a producer that I have very little experience with but after tasting this wine I will try to correct this in the New Year.

Hermitage 1990 E. Guigal 100% Syrah old vines. The soil is limestone gravel and sand. At the time Guigal did not own vineyards but purchased wine that had been vinified by growers according to the Guigal method. Robert M. Parker Jr in his book The Wines of the Rhone Valley and Provence states: “Guigal does not fine the wine and will not filter it.”  The wine is aged 3 to 3 1|2 in wooden barrels and large foundres. Parker goes on to say “He (Guigal) is a great believer in long wood aging and is always the last to bottle his Hermitage. On the Guigal 1980 Hermitage Parker says “ Giugal bottled two separate lots of the red Hermitage in 1980. One is good- deep in color, spice and rich in fruit though somewhat short finish. The other lot is more austere, tart, and surprising lean. There is no way of telling the difference between them before pulling the cork”.  Parker’s rating for this wine is a” ?”.
I guess we were lucky because the bottle we drank had good fruit with a hint of spice, long finish, and nice aftertaste and was not showing its age.IMG_2605
Barsac Chateau Suau 2 Cru 1947 – I believe the grapes are 80% Sêmillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Muscadelle. It was still drinking but really showing its age.IMG_2603

Madeira Sercial 1910 Leacock Made from the Sercial grape. Sercial Maderia is the driest of the four classic varieties of Madeira. It is also the lightest and most acidic and delicate expression of Madeira and takes the longest to mature. Maderia Sercial is a white fortified wine made on the volcanic island of Madeira, which belongs to Portugal. I just sat there and drank this wine into the New Year.

We are back on I-Italy|TV:   This Saturday at 11:00 PM repeated Sunday at 1:00 PM.

Michele’s new book  The Mediterranean Slow Cooker comes out this week

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Filed under Barsac Chateau Suau, Bollinger Blanc de Noirs Recolte, Bollinger Champagne, Champagne, Delamotte NV, Drouhin, Guigal, Hermitage, Krug Champagne, Robert Chevillon, Vintage Madeira