Monthly Archives: May 2014

New Discoveries


Speaking about the wine

Riccardo Gabriele introduced me to a group of Italian wines that he represents and asked me to speak about them to a group of wine writers.   The Trattoria dell’Arte was the perfect spot for the luncheon and tasting. Some highlights were a wine made from pre-phylloxera grapes and another made from Tempranillo grapes – both from Tuscany!

It was an exciting opportunity for me to taste and discuss these wines with other wine writers. IMG_5362

Manicardi “Vigna Ca del Fiore” DOC 2013 Lambrusco Grasparossa Castelvetro 100% Grasparossa. There are 2,600 plants per hectare and the training is cordon spurred. Fermentation and maceration is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Second fermentation is by the Charmat method–cold maceration is in pressurized temperature controlled tanks and grapes must be stored under pressure and at 0ºC. This is a dry Lambrusco fruity and low in tannin, high in acidity which goes very well with the rich food of the Emilia region, such as cotechino, zampone, bolito misto, Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto di Parma.

In a restaurant outside of Parma I discovered a very simple but excellent end to a meal: a perfect ripe pear, walnuts, a wedge a Parmigiano-Reggiano and a glass of dry Lambrusco. I have been a fan of dry Lambrusco ever since.

Lambrusco is a family of kindred grapes. The three best quality sub-varieties include Grasparossa (red stem), the darkest in color and the most robust.   It comes from the village of Castelvetro, south of Modena, and is the one that I prefer. Sorbara, the most delicate, and pricy comes from the village of the same name. Salamino, meaning little salami, is so called because of the sausage-shaped bunches, comes from the area around the village of Santa Croce. The wine is not imported in to U.S.IMG_5363

Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG “Madonna della Grazie” 2008 named for the church close by the winery. This producer only grows Sangiovese grapes. The winery is just northern of the town of Montalcino. The vineyard is at 400 meters with a northern exposure. Soil is sandy and rich in minerals. The training is spurred cordon. They use biodynamic methods but are not certified. The wine rests on the skins completely still in Allier oak vats for the first two days as the temperature slowly rises naturally to 30 degrees after 5 days. Fermentation takes between 20 and 22 days. The wine remains in oak barrels of 26HL for 41 months (Slovenian and Allier) and is released after 5 years, including 10 months in bottle. This is a traditional Brunello and will last for many years. 2008 was an excellent vintage. $55IMG_5364

Pagani de Marchi “Principe Guerriero” 2009 Montesuadaio DOC 100% Sangiovese. Casale Marittimo, Pisa. The vineyard is 3 hectares and it is 200 meters above sea level. Soil is sedimentary clay, calcareous, and rich in potassium. The training is guyot, age of vines is 15 years and there are 2.2 hectares of Sangiovese. Exposure is south, southeast and southwest. Vinification is in 50Hl stainless steel tanks, traditional pumping over andmalolactic fermentation is in oak barrels. Natural yeast. No chemical weed controlAging is for 12 months in oak barrels 30% new, 12 months in bottle before release. A small Etruscan necropolis on the property and an Etruscan warrior’s tomb gives the wine its name. $35IMG_5365

Colle S. Mustiola “Poggio ai Chiari” 2006 IGT Tuscany. Made from 100% Sangiovese from a four hectare vineyard near Lake Chiusi in Tuscany. The exposure is northeast and the vineyard is at 300 meters. Flood soil with pilocene sand. There are 10,000 vines per hectare. The harvest takes place the second week of October.       Maceration lasts for 40 days with submerged cap fermentation. There is spontaneous malolatic fermentation. The wine spends 36 months in barriques and a small part in Slovenian oak barrels of 20hl, followed by 24 months refinement in bottle before release.

The winery made a selection of 28 different clones of Sagiovese of which five were pre-phylloxera – not grafted on to American rootstock. There is now one vineyard with 10,000 per phylloxera vines. $40  IMG_5366

Podere Boscarelli Vino Noble di Montpulciano Riserva 2009 DOCG. Usually 86% Prugnolo Gentile, 10% Merlot and 4% Colorino. Rolling hills at 300 meters going down to the river Chiana. Soil is silt and clay. The vines are 6 to 35 years old and are selected from clones from their own vineyards. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, selection at harvest by hand into small crates 2/3 of capacity and another selection in the cellar. Fermentation is with the stalks and after a soft pressing the grapes ferment in little vats of steel and oak–only to 3/4 of capacity. Fermentation lasts for one week at 28/30º C. Maceration for 5 to 8 days. Only natural yeasts are used. Aging is in 350/2,000 liter barrels of Slovenian oak or French Allier. A little filtration is carried out before bottling if necessary. $45IMG_5367

Podere La Chiesa “Sabiniano di Casanova” 2008 IGT Tuscany 60% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot.

The vineyards are located in Podere la Chiesa in Cassanova.       The vineyards face southeast and southwest growing on a clay soil rich in fossil shells, typical of the area.

Each grape variety is vinified separately. There are 2 to 3 pumpovers a day which protects the cap from oxidation. The training is cordon spur and there are 4,500 per hectare, which are hand harvested. Natural yeast is used and temperature controlled fermentation takes place in stainless steel. Maceration is for 12/15 days, 12 months in French barriques and 18 months in the bottle before release. Not imported.IMG_5368

Beconcini “IXE” is the Tuscan pronunciation for the letter X. The letter X stands for unknown vines which turned out to be Tempranillo. The IGT is Tuscany Tempranillo. This wine is made from 99.9% of Tempranillo and a touch of Sangiovese. The winery is located in the town of San Miniato. The vineyard is 3.5 hectares and the grapes are all from the new vineyards planted in 1997 using a massal selection from buds taken from the century old vines of Tempranillo from the Vigna alle Nicchie. The training is spurred cordon. Soil is sandstone with marine fossil formation, well integrated with abundant clay. 100/150 meters above sea level and there are 7,000 vines per hectare. Harvest the first 10 days of September. The grapes are dried for 4 weeks and they obtain a total yield of 70%. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled glass lined cement vats, maceration is for 3 weeks. Aging lasts for 14 months in 70% French barriques and 30% American oak barriques of second passage. 6 months in bottle before release. First passage in barriques is for the wine from the grapes of the historical vineyard Vigna alle Nicchie that goes into the wine of the same name.

In the early 1950’s, 213 vines of unknown species were found in the vineyard which were called X vines. With help from the Ministry of Agriculture these vines were declared to be Tempranillo a few years ago. In June of 2009, Tempranillo N nero was enrolled in the Tuscan register. As far as I know Tempranillo was never cultivated before in Italy.

The Via Franchigena was an old Roman road which was used by pilgrims in the 17th century to make the pilgrimage to and from Santiago de Compostela (Rioja) in Spain to Rome. This road passed close to the town of San Miniato near where the winery is now located. Spanish pilgrims may have carried the Tempranillo seeds and actually sewed them in the vicinity of San Miniato as was the custom of the time. Scientists have determined that the vines were from seeds, not cuttings. Legend has it that a local priest tended the vines not knowing their origin. Not imported.




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Filed under Brunello, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, IXE, Uncategorized, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

Chianti Cool

There are many great grape varieties in Italy but it if I was forced to choose a favorite, it would be Sangiovese. Wines made from the Sangiovese grape are the perfect wines to go with food. The have bright fruit flavors, a hint of violets, and good acidity.  The best wine made from the Sangiovese grape is Chianti from Tuscany.IMG_5253

“It’s time for wine—Chianti wine,” was the theme of the Consorzio Vino Chianti tasting held on April 28 in New York City for the trade and media. It has become an annual tradition and this year 46 different wineries were present. I could not wait to go.

The daylong event began with a guided tasting and presentation of the Chianti Riserva 2010, which I attended. Six wines were tasted blind.

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Giovanni Busi, President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti

Giovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti and owner of Villa Travignoli, introduced the three panelists for the guided tasting: Joe Campanale, Beverage Director and owner of  dell’Anima, L’Artusi, Anfora and L’Apicio restaurants; moderator Anthony Giglio, wine authority, journalist and author of the Wine Guides for Food & Wine Magazine, and Costas Mouzouras, wine director of Gotham Wines & Liquor, a retail store. The discussion during the seminar covered various topics such as: Chianti: Tradition and Innovation, Chianti: Identity of Terroir, and  Chianti “Cool.” This was explained by Mr. Gilgio as an innovative process the Consortium has undertaken in the last few years. The idea is that Chianti is a very versatile wine and can appeal to younger and newer generations of wine drinkers, not only the traditional ones.

The panel also discussed the grapes that are used to make Chianti and how the wine is aged. Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese but the law has limited the amount of international grapes such as Merlot to 10%. Traditional Tuscan grapes like Canaiolo can also be used up to 30% as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia, which are white grapes.



Chianti may be released on March 1st of the year following the harvest. The sub-regions of Montalbano, Arentini, Pisane and Senesi may also be released on March 1st after the harvest. The sub-regions of Montespertoli may be released on June 1st. The sub-region of Fiorentini and Rufina may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest. Chianti Superiore may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest.

For the Riserva the wine must be aged a minimum of two years from January 1st following the harvest.

For Chianti Fiorentini and Rufina the Riserva has to spend at lest 6 months in wood. For the Chianti Senesi Riserva the wine must spend at least 8 months in wood and 4 months in bottle.IMG_5412

The panel also discussed the Chianti Consortium and the production zones for Chianti. The Consorzio Vino Chianti was established in 1927 by a group of wine producers in the provinces of Pistoia, Siena, Arezzo and Florence. Later the Consorzio expanded to cover the whole production area covered by the DOCG. Now the Chianti production area is located in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Chianti wines are designated as: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, MontalbanoRufina, and the last, added in 1997, Montespertoli.  In addition is the return of the Chianti “Superiore” which can come from anywhere in the Chianti wine area with the exception of the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena. Superiore cannot have a name of an area on the label. There is also the Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale. The DOC permits in the Chianti DOCG area the production of wines of a different quality from Chianti, which include reds, whites, roses, novello and Vin Santo.IMG_5411

The Wines

The tasting was blind in that we were not given the names of the producers. All other information about the wine was given to us. I believe the purpose of the tasting was to show the versatility of styles that Chianti can produce, from traditional to international.

Vino Sorelli made from 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and 10% Trebbiano. Fermentation with maceration on the skins for about ten days in temperature controlled tanks. The wine spends at least 6 months in large barrels and two months is barriques. This is a nice fruity wine with hints of red berries and violets. It is very traditional Chianti.

Chianti Montespertoli “Il Quarto” Tenuta di Morzano made from 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah. The grapes come from a 2-hectare vineyard, the soil is clay and schist and the vines are at 300 meters. Harvest takes place in September. Traditional 20 days maceration on the skins and subsequent fermentation in glass lined cement tanks. The wine is aged in third passage French barriques. This was the most international in style.

Chianti Rufina “Bellini” Cantine Fratelli Bellini made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Colorino. The vines are cordon spur trained and the harvest is in September. There is a classic vinification with 15 days maceration of the skins at controlled temperatures. The wine spends 24 months in oak barrels of 20 to 40 hl and 6 months in bottle before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting, typical classic Chianti from one of my favorite zones.

Castello di Oliveto made from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Merlot. The winery is in the heart of the Florentine hills. Maceration is in steel vats for about 15 days with frequent pumping over and aeration to foster ceding of the color at a controlled temperature. This wine is leaning toward the more international style.

Chianti Montalbano Tenuta Cantagallo made from 100% Sangiovese. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in 60% French barriques and 40% new tonneaux for 12 months in bottle before release. This was very international in style with more then a hint of vanilla 

Colli Florentini “Vigna La Quercia” Castelvecchio made from 90% Sangiovese,and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes come from a single vineyard with a southeast exposure. The wine spends 12 months in barriques and 12 months in bottle before release. This wine was somewhere in between the traditional and the international.

From this blind tasting it seems that there is a style of Chianti for everyone.


Filed under Chianti

Great Wine Value from the Alto Adige

Every time Peter Zemmer is in town showing the Estate Wines of Peter Zemmer, I look forward to experience them at a tasting and lunch. I look forward to lunch because these are excellent food wines, and what better way to judge the qualities of a wine than with food. The tasting and lunch this year was held at Gotham  Bar and Grill in NYC. The Zemmer wines are a great value. The wines that I tasted ranged in price from $17 to $21 and all of them were well worth the money.IMG_5371

Pete began by saying that the winery was established in 1928, and is located in the Alto Adige-South Tyrol in Northeastern Italy. He spoke about Cortina D’Ampezzo, a beautiful skiing and hiking resort in the Alps, as “his town.” Cortina, he said, is among the smallest communities in the region and is also the last village with a German-speaking majority before the southern border with Trentino.  It is also the only village in the Southern Tyrolean Lowlands/Unterland that is situated on the valley floor.  He described the vineyards and fruit trees that surround the town and told us that the daytime temperature can be 40 degrees higher than the night temperature which enhances the aromas and flavors in the grapes. Bolzano, the largest town in the area, can have summer daytime temperatures as high as Palermo, far to the South in Sicily.

The WinesIMG_5152

Lagrine Rosé 2013 Alto Adige DOC made from 100% Lagrein  After the stems are removed the grapes are left to macerate for one day and then pressed. Peter said that in this way, they succeed in only partially imparting the coloring, which is obtained from the skins, to the must and the wine is able to obtain its fine rosé tone. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. This is the first vintage to been imported into the U.S. This is a wine with nice fruit aromas and flavors, hints of wild berries and violets, with good acidity and a soft spicy finish. $18IMG_5156

Pinot Grigio 2013 Alto Adige DOC There is a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. Peter said that the low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment.  Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur in any of the white wines. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, a hint of spice, good mineral character, and fresh acidity. $17IMG_5160

Pinot Bianco 2012 “Pünggle Vineyard” Alto Adige DOC This Pinot Bianco is a selection of the best vineyards of the valley floor and steep slopes near the vineyard estate. It flourishes under outstanding climatic conditions on a stony, sandy and extremely chalky soil. Peter said that the poor yield per hectare and the particular terroir are responsible for the outstanding quality of the wine. After the grapes arrive, they are gently pressed and clarified through the natural settling of sediments. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. Peter said that after several months of ripening on the yeast the wine in ready to bottle. This is a wine with rich fruity aromas and flavors with hints of green apple, fresh acidity and a mineral character. $20IMG_5158

Rhine Riesling “Rohracker Vineyard” 2013 Alto Adige DOC. Peter said that this grape is very well suited to the micro-climatic conditions and the loose, well-aerated soils in the area. Even though Riesling is a rare variety here it loves cooler climates so that this vineyard where the grapes are grown is at a higher elevation. The grapes are pressed and the stems are removed in a pneumatic tank press. Before being pressed, a 6 – 8 hour cold maceration takes place in order to enhance the fruitiness of the wine. Afterwards, the grapes are gently pressed and clarified through the natural settling of sediments. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a nice crisp dry wine with good body and hints of green apple and a touch of peach.  It has a nice finish and aftertaste. $20IMG_5165

Pinot Nero “Rollhütt Vineyard’ 2012 Alto Adige DOC 100% Pinot Noir. The stems are immediately removed and the grapes are fermented at a constant temperature of 26 – 28° C (79 – 82° F) for about 7 days. The must is kept in contact with the skins through circulation pumping and gentle pressure from below. Peter said that they achieve ideal results with the coloring of the skins and this emphasizes the fruitiness of the wine. After two gentle rackings, 70% of this Pinot Noir is aged over 12 months in large barrels of French oak, and the remainder is aged in small casks of French oak (barriques), which are 2 – 3 years old. After blending, 750 ml Bordeaux-style bottles are filled and the wine is aged an additional 6 months in the bottle before it goes on sale. $22IMG_5167

Lagrein 2012 Raut Vineyard Alto Adige DOC 100% Lagrein Peter said that this varietal, unique to Alto Adige, finds excellent growing conditions on the loamy soils of the community of Ora. Tender care of the vineyard offers the best conditions for the production of varietal and extraordinary quality.  The stems are immediately removed and the grapes are fermented at a constant temperature of 28° C (82° F) for about 10 days. The must is kept in regular contact with the skins through circulation pumping and gentle pressure from below. Peter said by this they achieve ideal results with the coloring from the skins and emphasize the fruitiness of the wine. After two gentle rackings, 60% of this Lagrein is aged over 12 months in large oak barrels, and the remainder is aged in small casks of French oak (barriques), which are 2 – 3 years old. After blending, 750 ml. Bordeaux-style bottles are filled and the wine is aged an additional 6 months in the bottle before it goes on sale. This is a big, intense complex wine with hints of wild berries, violets and spice. $21



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Filed under Lagrein, Lagrein Rose, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero, Riesling

Pizza Week

Two weeks ago, everyone I knew seemed to want to go with me for pizza. I was ready to go, but instead of the Neapolitan style I normally prefer, I decided to vary the style a little and try some different types of pizza.

The first pizza that week was with a wine group that I belong to called the G6. It really should be called the P6, P for pizza, because we always wind up having pizza. As usual we went to La Pizza Fresca, 31 East 20th Street in NYC for pizza and, of course, wine.IMG_5151

I like champagne with pizza and we had Champagne William Deutz Brut 1995. Made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay from grapes of Grand Cru vineyards.


Monte Bianco

The Monte Bianco pizza at La Pizza Fresca has become one of my favorites. It is topped with Robiola, Parmigiano Reggiano, Fontina, porcini mushrooms and Prosciutto di Parma. It was an excellent combination with the Champagne.



A wine writer friend, Tom Hyland, was in from Chicago and he wanted to go to Kesté Pizza and Vino, 271 Bleecker St. Another wine writer, Tom Maresca, joined us and he brought a bottle of a white wine from Campania that I had never had before. For a starter, we had the battilocchio (meaning blink, because of the shape) del giorno. Two of my favorite pies at Kesté are the Margarita made with tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella, pecorino romano, basil, and extra virgin olive, and the Sorrentina, topped with imported smoked buffalo mozzarella, sliced lemon and basil. IMG_5239

The wine was the Grecomuso Campania 2012 IGT Ag Az Contrade dei Taurasi Made from 100%  Rovello Bianco. The soil is patchy with a prevalence of loose soil, rich in volcanic cinerite ( mostly volcanic ash ) and/or limestone. The vines are mostly grafted and the vineyard is at 300 to 500 meters. Training is guyot and pergola Avellinese. There is a manual harvest and the grapes are destemmed. Fermentation with maceration takes place at room temperature. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks for 6 to 8 months. After several decanting to clarify the wine it is bottled after a coarse filtration through porous inert cartridges of 3 microns. This is a tangy wine with good fruit aromas and flavors, nice minerality and a hint of peaches.


Pizza Pala

Friends wanted to try one of my favorite pizzerias, Ribalta, at 48 East 12thSt. They make several styles of pizza. One of their specialties is the “Pizza Pala.” Pala is a baking method in which the dough is baked twice creating a unique crisp outside and soft inside. It is served in a square pan and though the menu says it is for two, it is really enough for four. We had the Pala Norma, topped with fried eggplant, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.IMG_5241

With it we drank Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2009 “Likos” Vigna Mastrodomenico (Basilicata) 100%, Aglianico del Vulture. The wine is aged in regenerated French oak barrels with a custom toasting, and in stainless steel tanks for 8 to 10 months and 6 months in barrel before release. This is a big wine with berry aromas and flavors, hints of cherry and plum and a long finish and nice aftertaste. It is a wine that can age.

Another friend, wine writer, blogger (www.Do and Renaissance man Jeremy Parzen from Houston was in town with a wine producer, Paolo Cantele from the Cantele winery in Puglia and they wanted Pizza, so we went to Pizzetteria Brunetti, 226 Hudson St.



We had pizza with vongole, fresh shucked and chopped Long Island clams in a garlic and herb butter sauce and a touch of basil and a Margarita made with San Marzano DOC tomatoes, house made fior de latte mozzarella, basil, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.IMG_5259

The wine was Champagne Pol Roger Rose 1995.Pol Roger Rosè vintage is based on their brut vintage which is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay to which they add before the bottling and second fermentation about 15% still Pinot Noir from the best crus of “montagne de Reims”. The wine is aged in the cellar before release. Champagne Ed Mc Carthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW provided the Champagne.


Filed under Champagne, Italian Red Wine, Pol Roger