Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wine Dinner at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center


Louis Coluccio at Work

One of the things I enjoy most about the Italian wine dinners I host at The Westchester Italian Cultural Center in Tuckahoe, NY is the opportunity to work with my friend Louis Coluccio, the proprietor of A.L.C. Italian Grocery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Louis prepares the delicious food and I match it with the right wine. For our most recent event, we discussed the food and I selected some of my favorite wines from Campania.

The WinesIMG_5834

Monte di Grazia Bianco IGT 2012, made from the following local grapes: Pepella has only a few large grapes on the bunch, the rest being the size of peppercorns, though they all ripen at the same time. Ginestra, the name comes from the yellow-green color, which is similar in color to the gorse flower. Bianca Tenera (Biancolella) a local white grape. The wine has hints of citrus with undertones of pear and almond, a very nice mineral character and good acidity. It is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. $20  This was served with a Raw Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables.IMG_5835

DonnaChiara Greco di Tufo 2012 DOCG, 100% Greco di Tufo. The soil is tuffaceious and the training system is espallier. There are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place during the second week of October. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing and there is cold fermentation with extended maceration. No oak is used. This is a wine that needs at least 5 or 6 years of bottle age before it is ready to drink. It has nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of smoke and a touch of almonds in the finish and aftertaste. $18  With this we had Crostini with Eggplant Caponata.IMG_5838

 Cantina Federiciane Montelone di Napoli Gragnano DOC Sorrento Peninsula 2013, made from Piedirosso 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. 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. $16IMG_5839

This was served with Assorted Imported Salami & Fresh Figs.IMG_5837

Az. Agr. Apicella Colli di Salerno Piedirosso IGT 2012, 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 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 aftertaste. The wine should be drunk young. It goes extremely well with dishes made with tomato sauce. It is a steal at $16.IMG_5840

This was served with the Pasta with Pesto Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes.IMG_5836

Az. Agr. Monte de Grazie Biological Winery Rosso 2008 The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti grown 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 Teinturier family. Teinturier 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 aging potential. $30. We ended with an Assorted Cheese Board which included ricotta salata, aged provolone, and other Italian cheeses.



Filed under A.L.C. Italian Grocery, Gragnano, Greco di Tufo, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Louis Coluccio, Monte de Grazia Winery, Monte de Grazie Winery, Piedirosso, Tintore di Tramonti, Westchester Italian Cultural Center

Ronco Del Gelso “Old Style Wines”


Giorgio Badin

After the winners of the 2014 International Pinot Grigio Challenger were announced, I visited several winemakers near Cormons. Giorgio Badin, owner of Ronco Del Gelso, picked me up. Fortunately, a translator joined us — a good thing because Giorgio spoke rapid Italian. While driving Giorgio said that his wines are to be drunk with food, they are mealtime wines and therefore he seeks to enhance the finest character of the grape. He ferments the juice using non-invasive vineyard techniques that do not detract from the characteristics of the grape.

Giorgio continued to answer questions. He said that his estate is in the Isonza Del Friuli DOC zone and this, along with the sub-zone Rive Alte, where permitted, appears on the label. The vineyards are all guyot pruned and vertical- trellis trained, with a high vine density to promote root competition and canopy restriction. Care is taken in the selection of clones and rootstock, which must be suited to the soils of Isonzo. He uses cultured yeast, and malolactic fermentation does not take place in any of the white wines.

One of the other producers remarked that Giorgio makes “old style” wines and added to what Giorgio had said about his wines, I could not wait to taste them. After tasting them, I could have not been more pleased with them.

Ronco Del Gelso Wines IMG_5815

Friulano “Toc Bas” 2012 DOC Riva Alte Isonzo Del Friulano 100% Friulano. The grapes come from vineyards in the lower area of Cormons. Giorgio said that this wine has flavor far removed from the so-called international tastes. There are 4,500 vines per hectare. Soft pressing of the grapes takes place and fermentation is at controlled temperature. The wine is stored on the fine lees until it is bottled. This is a wine with hints of apples, peaches apricots and a touch of hazelnuts and bitter almonds. The wine has hints of liquorice and ripe fruit with a very nice bitter almond aftertaste. There was also a 2006 Tocai Friulano that was drinking very well and showing no sing of age. It was still called Tocai because the law was not changed until 2007 because of the dispute with Hungary over the name Tocai.IMG_5820

Sauvignon “Sottomonta” 2012 DOC Riva Alte Isonzo Del Friulano 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are located in Cormons at the foot of a hill where the soil is deeper, siltier and retains good moisture. There are 5,700 vines per hectare. The grapes are cold crushed and maceration lasts for 12/18 hours. The wine is aged on the lees in oval oak barrels of 2,500 liters for 12 months. Giorgio said that Sauvignon Blanc is a difficult grape variety to grow and to make into wine but worth the effort. This is a soft, full and balanced wine with good acidity and the aromatic notes typical of the variety.IMG_5811

Malvasia “Vigna della Permuta” Isonzo Del Friuli DOC 2006 & 2008 100% Malvasia. Giorgio said that the climate and gravelly soil of the Isonzo plain are ideal for this grape variety, which prefers warm dry soil not too far from the sea. There are 5,700 p/h and the training system is guyot. Grapes are destemmed and cold crushed and maceration lasts for 12-18 hours. It is fermented in steel. Both wines have hints of ripe fruit, anis and a touch of spice. A Malvasia that can age!IMG_5819

Chardonnay “Siet Vigni” Isonzo Del Friuli Rive Alte 2012 The wine is made from grapes from seven vineyards, covering a total area of less than three hectares. Giorgio pointed out that Chardonnay has been present in the area for over 150 years and has adjusted to the climate and soil. Chardonnay is an international grape that has allowed itself to be shaped by the local terroir taking on its personality. There are 6,000 vines per hectare. Temperature controlled fermentation with cold crushing and maceration for 12-18 hours.

It was more than interesting to taste Chardonnay produced in this way. The wine has hints of golden apple and a touch of tropical fruit. This is a chardonnay to drink with food.

Aur Traminer Passito  In answer to one of my questions about his dessert wine this was Giorgio’s response: “On an estate like mine, it is certainly not the product of market research, but more likely the fruit of an intuition or belief. To be honest, I must admit that I didn’t ever think that I would make a dessert wine, but that is what’s happening.IMG_5822

This is the story of Aur: a few years ago a plot of land adjoining our estate came up for sale. It was a tempting opportunity, so I took out a mortgage and bought it.
So far so good, but I still had to tackle the main problem, namely that the 18,000-square-metre plot was planted to Traminer, and if there’s one wine that I don’t like it’s precisely dry Traminer. The conflict between its sweet, aromatic nose and dry, salty palate is the exact opposite of the character that I try to give my wines. At the time I tasted a great many Traminers from all over the world, but none of them served to change my mind. Only those with a sweet aftertaste convinced me, and the dried-grape wines most of all.

My tastings resulted in a project for a dessert wine that I called Aur, which means “gold” in Friulian. I built a drying room and tried to understand how to make a high-quality sweet wine using first-rate grapes. There are 4,000 vines per hectare, the grapes are dried, and the wine is aged in small oak barrels for one year. This is a very subtle dessert wine which goes very well with soft cheese and foie gras”.



Filed under Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Ronco De Gelso, Ronco Del Gelso

International Grapes but not International Style

Franco Bengazi from The Wine Emporium, wine importers and distributors, introduced me to Tiziano Vistalli when I was in Florence for an event called “Buy Tuscany.” We had dinner together at Restaurant Cibreo and drank a white wine that I enjoyed made by Tiziano. As we talked I learned that Tiziano is an enologist and makes and consults on wine for a number of different producers.

Tiziano Vistalli

Tiziano Vistalli

when I was in Verona in May, I met Tiziano for lunch and tasted the wines that he makes for Fattoria le Corgne near Valfabbrica in the province of Perugia in Umbria. The owner of the winery is Andrea Formilli Fendi.IMG_5649

SVGB 2012 100% Sauvignon Blanc – the vineyards are at 650/700 meters, exposure is North-South. There are 4,500 vines/ha and the training system is spurred cordon. Harvest is manual and takes place in the beginning of September. Fermentation is at a controlled temperature and lasts for about 20 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and remains on the lees until April, and then it is racked. The wine is bottled in September and rests in bottle for six months before release. This is a wine with hints of citrus and grapefruit, a touch of herbs and grass, nice minerailty and good acidity.IMG_5652

PNTN 2011 100% Pinot Noir – Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature for about 15 days and maceration continues for another 10 days. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months and during this time the wine is racked twice. In April the final assembly was made and the best barrels selected. The wine was bottled in September and released six months later. This is a wine with hints of wild strawberries and a touch of spice.

MRLT 2011 100% Merlot-– Harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation is at a controlled temperature and maceration continues for another 10 days. The wine is aged in French oak for barrels for 18 months and is racked twice. The wine was bottled in September and released six months later. It was once said be a famous Italian wine consultant that Umbria might be the best place in Italy to grow Merlot grapes and in this case he might be right.IMG_5650

Fralù IGT Umbria 2010 made from 70 Merlot, 20 Sangiovese and 10% Pinot Noir. The soil is clay and calcareous. The wine is unfiltered.





Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Classic Chianti Rufina from Frescobaldi

At a recent tasting of Frescobaldi wines, Galen Crippin, the export manager, introduced a new wine, the Nipozzano Vecchie Viti 2011. As he spoke I tasted the wine and sat up in my chair. I no longer heard him speaking, my mind and my palate were telling me that this was a great traditional, classic Chianti Rufina, the type that very few producers make any more. I could not believe it! I finished the wine in my glass, asked to see the bottle and asked for some more just to make sure. It has been a very long time since I have been so impressed by Chianti. Though I often taste wines, I do not always drink them.IMG_5846

Nipozzano Vecchie Viti (old vines) Chianti Rufina Riserva 2011 90% Sangiovese and 10% complementary Tuscan grapes: Malvasia Nera, Colorino and Canaiolo. The vineyard is 20 hectares, located at 300 meters above sea level and the exposure is southwest. The soil is limestone, well drained and poor in organic matter. There are 2,500 vines per hectare and the vines are 40 years old.

The wine is historically dedicated to a new birth in the Frescobaldi family and originates from the oldest vines of Castello Nipozzano.

Harvest takes place in the beginning of October and is by hand. The wine is vinified in cement vats and fermentation lasts for 13 days. Maceration is for 20 days with pumping over. Malolactic fermentation takes place immediately after alcoholic fermentation. The wine is aged in 30HL French oak casks for 24 months and 2 years in bottle before release. This traditional classic Chianti Rufina is a rare find and a bargain at $30.IMG_5843

Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2010 made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Manual harvest takes place at the end of September/beginning of October. Each variety is fermented separately in stainless steel vats for 13 days. Maceration is for 25 days and malolactic takes place right after the alcoholic fermentation. The wine is aged in barriques of second and third passage for 24 months and 3 months in bottle before release IMG_5848

Montesodi 2011. As of this year it is no longer Chianti Rufina but Toscana IGT. it is produced from a cru selection of Sangiovese grown in the 20 hectare Montesodi vineyard, which is at 400 meter and has a southwest exposure The training system guyot. The harvest is manual and takes place in the beginning of October. Fermentation occurs in stainless steel vats for 10 days. Maceration is for 30 days. The wine is then aged in Austrian and French oak casks of 30HL. The first vintage was 1974.IMG_5847

Montesodi 1974 Chianti Rufina Mostly Sangiovese. In answer to my question Mr. Crippen said that it did contain a small amount of white grapes and in answer to another of my questions Eleonora Marconi, the oenologist, said that the governo method was used (10% of the grapes are dried). For a 40 year old wine it was drinking very well with all the characteristics of a great older Chianti. This is another example of a wine made using the governo method,and adding some white grapes to the blend that can age. As we all know, Chianti producers tell us today that wines made in this method cannot age because they no longer use white grapes or the governo method. In my opinion this wine had more in common with the Nipozzano Vecchie VITI than it does with the 2011 Montesodi.




Filed under Uncategorized

Tasting Soave

Soave has always been one of my favorite white wines. It is undervalued and always a great bargain on restaurant wine lists.

I have visited Soave a number of times and the last time there I was inducted into the Imperial Castellania Di Suavia as “Captain Spadarino, Protector of the Women of the Castello Scaligero” in Soave. This is a worldwide women’s organization that praises Il Vino Bianco Saove. received this honor for my contributions to Soave wine

A few weeks ago I was invited to a Soave Master Class. The speakers were Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier and Giovanni Ponchia the enologist for the Consorzio Tutela Soave. I first met Giovanni a few years ago when I was invited on a press trip to the Soave region and was honored as Capitano Spadarino.  All the journalists on the trip were so impressed with Giovanni’s knowledge and his easy manner of presenting it that we nicknamed him “Mr. Soave.” Evan spoke about the individual wineries and Giovanni spoke about the Soave region.

Giovanni Ponchio "Mr. Soave"

Giovanni Ponchio “Mr. Soave”

The Soave production zone lies in the eastern part of the Province of Verona in the region of the Veneto. The production zone is of volcanic origin and the hills where the vineyards are planted have rocky strata that are a result of lava flows that turned into sediment over time. The soil is dark, stony and rich in minerals and there is a difference between the soil of the hills and the soil of the flat lands. Soave is one of Italy’s great terroir-based wines.

Soave is a relatively small concentrated area and it has a history of selling grapes outside of the region. There are some 3,000 growers and the DOC is the largest in the Province of Verona accounting for 40% of the production. There are 52 crus in the zone and, like Barolo, different producers can work one cru. The vineyards are so close together that they all spray at the same time.

The grapes are the same for Soave DOC, Soave Classico DOC, and Soave Superiore DOCG. Soave DOC, Colli Scaliger, and Recioto di Soave.  Garganega is the primary grape and Soave must contain at least 70% of it. The other 30% is made up of Trebbiano di Soave, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Trebbiano Toscano has been excluded). The better producers use 100% Garganega, or very close to it. There does not seem to be much Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco used.  Trebbiano di Soave seems to be the new favorite, but Giovanni said that this was is a matter of controversy.

Garganega is the fifth most planted white grape in Italy and may be related to the Grecanico grape of Sicily. Giovanni said it is not markedly aromatic in nature, but displays a range of perfumes of which almonds and white flowers are the most clearly identifiable. It does not actually complete its ripening until October. Its skin is very tough and is a particularly deep yellow (verging on red) when ripe. It does not display especially high acidity but rather a balance of extract and fruit sugars.

Trebbiano di Soave has traditionally always been present in the vineyards. It has a tangy liveliness that some wine makers feel blends well with the typical structure and density of the Garganega grape.

The training system for the vines is very interesting. It can be single or double Espalier (Guyot and Cordon Spur) or a Pergola (known as tendone in the South). The vines grow on trellises and the leaves cover and protect the grapes from the sun. It can be a unilateral Pergola, or uni- or bi-lateral pergoletta Veronese- Veronese Pergola. This Pergola does not close all the way in the middle allowing some sunlight to come through. This is the method used on flat land even at high elevation. The Veronese Pergola is again becoming popular among the producers. Giovanni said many producers were very proud of this system. No matter what the training system, there can be no less than 3,300 vines per hectare.IMG_5669

There were 12 wines altogether, some were tasted blind. I liked all the wines but the ones listed below were the ones I enjoyed the most.

Cantina del Castello Soave Classico DOC “Castello” 2012 The vines are on the hills of the Soave Classico region, facing Soave and the Alpone Valley, between Monteforte d’Alpone and Brognoligo. The Vineyards are situated at 200 to 250 meters. Generally basaltic soil of volcanic origin but some vineyards are situated in areas with soils having a markedly calcareous skeleton of coastal sedimentary origin. The training system is Pergola Veronese and short espalier. Harvesting is by hand and takes place the middle of October. There is pre-destemming and soft pressing with a 60% must yield. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled water-cooled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in bottle for two months before release.

Bolla Soave Classico DOCG Superiore “Tufale” 2011  85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave. The vines are 25-30 years old and are located on the marly-tuffaceous soils in the once volcanic Classico zone in the commune of Monteforte d’Alpone. Southern and southeastern exposure at 200 to 300 meters and there is a significant temperature between night and day. The training system is the traditional Soave Pergolas. Harvest is in October. Mature grapes are macerated cold in a protected atmosphere for several hours. After removal of the stalks they are subjected to soft pressing then cold static sedimentation. Fermentation is slow and takes place at low temperatures. The wine remains for a time on the fine fermented lees with regular batonnage, while a small part matures in French oak barriques. The wine is bottled in March and aged in the bottle for two months before release.

Gini Soave Classico “La Frosca” DOC 2001 100% Garganega. The wine takes its name from the hillside La Frosca close to the town of d’Alpone. The vineyards are at 180 meters with a southeast exposure. The training system is Pergola Veronese and the harvest is in October. The grapes are hand picked. Soft pressing and immediate cooling of the must takes place. Fermentation at controlled temperatures takes place in steel and wooden vats. The wine is left for at least eight months with its own natural yeasts in steel vats and in 228 liter wooden barrels. This wine is 13 years old and is in perfect condition. When I visited the Gini winery on my trip a few years ago, we tasted a 1990 that also was in perfect condition. In the hands of the right producer Soave can age.IMG_5862

Cantina di Soave Classico DOC “Rocca Sveva” 2013 100% Garganega. The vineyards are located in the hills of the communes in Soave and Monteforte. The vines are planted in loose, medium gravelly clay soil of volcanic origin at 100 to 300 meters. The vines are trained for the Verona Pergola System the high, flat roofed system traditional for this area, in cover-cropped rows: cluster loke with cluster thinning. Harvesting is by hand and takes place the last week of September. The clusters are gently pressed and the must settles by gravity. Fermentation takes place with select yeasts at controlled temperatures. The wine is then drawn off and left to mature.

Monte Tondo Soave Classico Foscarino DOC “Casettte Foscarin” 2005 90% Garganega and 10%Trebbiano di Soave. The vineyards are on the western slope of Monte Foscarino and the soil is volcanic in origin, tufaceous and basaltic. The training system is Pergola Veronese and Guyot and the harvest is in October. A selection of the most sun-exposed grapes are harvested at different times according to their ripeness. Soft pressing takes place with low temperature maceration. The wine is aged in barriques and 5hl tonneau for about six months. Here is another example of how Soave can age and when I visited the winery there were a number of examples of excellent older wines.

Azenda Agricola Suavia Classico Monte Carbonare DOC 2011 100% Garganega. The vineyards are in Fittà, in the heart of Soave Classico at 250 meters. The soil is basaltic of volcanic origin and the training system is Pergola Veronese. Harvest is in the second half of October. There is a soft pressing of whole grapes and fermentation is in steel vats for 16 days. Malolactic fermentation is not carried out. The skins are in contact with the fine sediments for 15 months in steel vats. There is only one membrane filtration before bottling.

 Vincentini Agostino Soave Superiore Il Casale DOCG 2012. 100% Garganega The vines are at Colognola ai Colli, Il Casale and the soil is a mix of basaltic rocks and limestone. The training system is Pergola Veronese and guyot and the harvest is in October. There is a light pressing of the grapes and a long fermentation in temperature controlled steel vats.

El Vergo Recioto di Soave DOCG 2009 100% Garganega The vineyards are in Monteforte d’Alpone on the southern slope of Monte Foscarino. Harvest is by hand the last week of September and the First week of October. The grapes are dried for six months and the clusters are softly pressed. A very slow fermentation takes place at controlled temperature in steel vats. The wine is aged for three years in barriques.

Riccolo Grassi Soave La Broia DOC 2011 100% Garganega. The vineyards are in Mezzane di Sotto, which is the western area of Soave. They are at 100 meters and the soil is alluvial and rich in limestone. There are 7,000 plants per hectare and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place the third week of September. 80% is fermented in barriques and 22HL Slavonian oak barrels the remaining 20% is fermented in stainless steel. The wine remains sur lie for 12 months. Malolactic fermentation is carried out mostly in barriques five and six years old. The wine is aged in 22HL oak barrels of Slavonian oak and 6 months in bottle before release.






Filed under Giovanni Ponchio, Italian White Wine, Soave