Monthly Archives: December 2014

How Italians Celebrate New Year

How Italians Celebrate New Year

How Italians celebrate New Year

A rise in the sale of lentils and grapes, traditional symbols of good luck to be eaten on New Year’s Eve, has been reported as Italians prepare to see in the New Year, farm group Coldiretti said Tuesday.
It released the results of a survey showing that two out of every three Italians intend to eat New Year’s Eve dinner at home, planning to spend an average of 76 euros. Of the 64% of Italians celebrating at home, rather than in an restaurant, the numbers are evenly split between those staying at their own home, and those celebrating at the homes of friends or relatives. The survey, conducted by Ixe for Coldiretti, also found that of those Italians celebrating the end of the old year and welcoming 2015, about 9% intend to go to a restaurant and about 5% plan to visit a rural inn or agriturismo.
While sparkling wine and panettone are traditional New Year’s fare, some 78% say they will also eat lentils for luck and almost three-quarters will also eat sausage.
Coldiretti said that consumption of local products, particularly those drawn from within one kilometer of the diner, has increased by 9% while 43% said they will favour products from close to home.
Some 50 million bottles of spumante will be consumed, favored by 89% of those surveyed while only a little of 10% said they would prefer champagne.

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Rose Champagne with Champagne Ed

Champagne Ed Mc Carthy was at it again talking about his favorite topic, Champagne. This time it was Rosè Champagne for the New York Wine Press at The Brasserie, NYC.IMG_6771

Ed said that Rosè Champagne has a long history. Clicquot was already making a Rosè Champagne in 1777.

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Ed Mc Carthy

Less than 6% of the Champagne made today is Rosè but 15% of the Champagne sold in the U.S. is Rosè. Most Champagne firms today produce at least one Rosè. Many produce two, a non-vintage or vintage and a prestige cuvee, usually vintage


Ed explained there are two ways to make Rosè Champagne.  For the traditional method, a small amount, about 10 to 15%, of still or regular Pinot Noir is added to the cuvée before the second fermentation.  The other method involves skin contact (maceration). The skins of black grapes are pressed slightly and left in contact with the juice to soak or steep until the desired color is achieved.  This method is more difficult because the same color must be achieved year after year. Even though the second method seems to be the “purer” one, Ed said in blind tastings no one is ever able to tell the difference in quality between the two methods. Ed added that Rose Champagne is more expensive than traditional Champagne because of the process.

Tasting Rose Champagne

Tasting Rose Champagne

Rosé is a little more full bodied than other Champagnes because of the addition of Pinot Noir and therefore it goes well with food.  Ed added that rose champagnes are usually the best Champagnes to have with dinner, even with meat. These are dry wines and should not be drunk with dessert.

The Executive Chef of The Brasserie, Bradley Stelling prepared different dishes to go with each of the four flights of wine. He was on the mark every time!

Hors d’ Oeuvres: Hamachi Crudo, Grapefruit Vinaigrette and Pomegrante, Black Truffle Arancini.IMG_6757

Marion-Bosser Rosé Brut 1st Cru NV made from 55% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Noir still wine. This is one of the few biodynamic houses in Champagne. The winery is on the right bank of the Great Valley of the Marne, against the peaks of the Montagne de Remis. The vineyards are all Premier Cru. The soil is chalk beleminter from the Mesozic era. The wine spends three years on the lees. Ed said this was a delicate and elegant Champagne $55IMG_6754

Ruinart Brut Rosé NV in Magnum made from 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards. About 18% of the Pinot Noir added is still wine. Ed said that the House was founded in 1729 and began shipping Rose Champagne in 1764. It is a light, delicate and elegant Champagne. $100 IMG_6756

Lanson Rosé Label Brut Rosé NV in Magnum Composed of 53 percent Pinor Noir, 32 percent Chardonnay and 15 percent Pinot Meunier from more than 50 different vineyards. The Brut Rosé’s rose-colored label highlights the contents of this non-vintage bottling. It has rose petal aromas and flavors of tart strawberry and red currant. The wine is full-bodied and well structured. Ed said they use the best Pinot Noir for their Rosé $110



Seared Foie, Braised Pear and Blood Orange GastriqueIMG_6759

G.H. Mumm “Le Rosé” Brut NV  A selection 12% to 14% of red wines from the villages famed for their Pinot Noir such as Bouzy, Verzenay or Riceys on the Cote des Bar.  Once the balance is achieved by the addition of reserve wines, the final blend is determined by the addition of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with the addition of Pinot Meunier. Ed said he was very impressed by this wine. $50 IMG_6760

Henriot Brut Rosé NV The majority of the wine is Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blancs and some Pinot Meunier. 15 crus are blended together and 25% is reserve wine. Vinified Pinot Noir as a red wine is added to the assemblage. Every time Ed speaks about Henriot he says the same thing — that it is a Champagne house that is underrated. Ed said it is light and elegant with good red fruit aromas and flavors but needed more time. $55IMG_6761

Laurent-Perrier “Cuvèe Rosé” Brut NV 100% Pinot Noir. It is a blend of ten different Grand Cru villages situated mainly in the south and north areas of the Montagne de Reims, including Cote Bouze, from the finest crus of Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvis and Tours Sur-Maine. The grapes are sorted and destemmed before going in the vats. It is made by the skin contact method, which is rare in Champagne. Controlled maceration lasts from 48 to 72 hours depending on the vintage. It is aged in the cellars for at least 4 years before release. The first vintage was 1968. Ed liked this wine and said it went very well with the food. $ 65

Almond Butter Poached Lobster and Chanterelles

Pascal Doquet Rosé Brut 1st Cru NV made from 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir. The domain is located in Vertus near Avis and the 8.66 hectares include parcels in some of the best Grand and Premire Crus in the Côte de Blancs. The yields are 30% lower than the maximum allowed by Champagne. Harvest is by hand. Only indigenous yeast is used. Organic farming is practiced. This is one of my favorites and Ed said he liked the style because it is based on Chardonnay. $55IMG_6758

Charles Heidsieck “Rosé Reserve” Brut NV made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  They purchase grapes from about 120 of the 323 crus, which make up the Champagne appellation each year to blend their Champagne. The wine is aged for a minimum of three years. They have only been making Rosé for a few years. Ed called this a great champagne and thinks they should get more recognition.  $65IMG_6762

Gosset “Grand Rosé” Brut NV Made from 58% Chardonnay 35% Pinot Noir and 7% red wine from Ambonnay and Bouzy. The grapes come from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards.  It is a blend of 3 different harvests, including 10% reserve wine. The wine spends an average of four years resting on the lees before release. It has delicate and elegant with hints of raspberry and strawberry. $75

Ed said that they are making excellent Rosè Champagne for the last 30 years and deserve to be better known.

Beef Wellington, Roasted Root Vegetables, Cream of MorelsIMG_6763

Pol Roger “ Extra Cuvèe De Reserve” Brut 2006 is based on their Brut Vintage, 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Before bottling and second fermentation about 15% still red wine (Pinot Noir) from the best crus of the Montagne de Remis is added. Dosage 9g/L. The wine is aged 7 years in the cellar before release. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with hints of blood oranges and red fruit berries. $110IMG_6764

Louis Roederer Rosé Brut 2008 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. 20% of the wine is matured in oak barrels with weekly batonnage. There is no malolactic fermentation. The sangée method is used following skin contact, which lasts 5 to 8 days in the liquid phase. The wine ages for an average of 4 years in the cellar and another 6 months resting after disgorging to complete its maturity. Dosage varies between 8 to 10 g/l depending on the vintage. There are citrus aromas and hints of strawberry and peach in the wine. There was also a toasty spice aroma, which reminded me of gingerbread, and Ed said it was that it was typical of the Roederer Rose. Ed said this might be the best buy of the tasting.  $75

Perrier-Jouet “ Belle Epoque” Rosé Brut 2008. After vinification the wine is preserved separately, cru by cru, until blending. Chardonnay from the Grand Crus Cramant and Avize dominate the blend. The Pinot Noir comes from the Grand Crus Marlly and Verze. Still red wine makes up 9% of the blend. The wine is aged for 6 years before release.  This is the most expensive wine and in Ed’s opinion may be worth the money. It is an elegant full-bodied wine with great fruit and hints of strawberries and raspberries and a lot more going on. $275IMG_6768

Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Rosé Brut 2005  The Comtes Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir from Grand Cru grapes and produced only in exceptional years. The Chardonnay grapes come from the most renowned vineyards of the prestigious Côte des Blancs, and the Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims. Only juice from the first pressing is used in order to ensure the structure and long aging potential that is so essential to this exceptional Champagne. 12% of the Pinot Noir is blended in as still red wine. This is elegant and complex Champagne with hints of strawberry, cherry, currants and a touch of roasted almonds. $200

Note – Picture of Ed Mc Carthy and the Taster courtsey of Cynthia sin- yi cheng


Filed under Champagne, Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve Brut, G.H. Mumm Le Rose Brut, Gosset, Grosset Grand Rose Brut, Henriot, Henriot Brut Rose, Lanson Brut Rose, Laurent- Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut, Louis Roederer Rose Brut 2008, Marion-Bosser Rose Brut, Pascal Doquet Rose Brut, Perrier- Jouet Belle Epoque Rose Brut, Pol Roger Rose Brut, Rose Champagne, Ruinart Brut Rose, Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Rose Brut

How Old is Your Non-Vintage Champagne? Look at the Back Label

The following article appeared in The Washington Post. It is very interesting and gives an excellant account of the  process of  disgorgment.

How old is your nonvintage champagne? Look to the back label.
By Dave McIntyre Columnist December 28 at 8:00 AM
You can’t tell the age of your favorite bubbly just by pouring it. (Miguel Medina/AFP Getty Images)
Most sparkling wines, like discreet ladies of our mothers’ generation, don’t tell us how old they are. Those are “non-vintage” wines, with no year of harvest listed on the label because they are a blend of wines from several vintages. (Some people prefer to call them “multi-vintage” wines.) In a fickle northern climate such as Champagne, France, where the technique was perfected over centuries, vintners cannot count on producing a high-quality vintage-dated wine every year. Blending different years together helps create a house style that can be consistent despite the vagaries of annual weather patterns.

So when we go into a store to buy our New Year’s bubbly, we usually have no idea how old it is. We don’t know whether it’s a fresh batch from the producer or whether it has languished for years in a warehouse or a storefront window display. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a bottle of your favorite champagne because it didn’t taste as bright and fresh as you remembered, you might have purchased an old bottle.

To give consumers more information about the wine they’re buying, some producers have started listing disgorgement dates on the back label. Disgorgement, or “dégorgement” in French, is the last step in the traditional champagne process of sparkling-wine production. After the secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles and the aging on the lees that gives character, the spent yeast and lees are removed, the wine is topped off to balance its sugar level (“dosage” in French) and the familiar champagne cork is inserted. By knowing when the wine was disgorged, we know how recently it was in the producer’s hands and can gauge — or at least guess — how fresh it is.

Listing disgorgement dates is by no means a widespread practice, and it is controversial. Some champagne houses imprint a code on the bottle or the back label, and the Alan Turings among us might be able to decipher the enigma of the disgorgement date. The Krug champagne house began putting “Krug ID” codes on its back labels a few years ago; you can enter the code on the Krug Web site to learn your champers’ story. Some houses will tell you the disgorgement date if you ask, or it might be disclosed in a QR code or looked up on their Web sites.

Some producers give disgorgement dates for their vintage wines but not their non-vintage cuvées.

“For champagnes that are stored for collectors, it’s relevant,” Frédéric Panaiotis, the chef de cave for Ruinart Champagne, told earlier this year. “But there’s very, very little point in having disgorgement dates on non-vintage. Most people don’t know what disgorgement is.”

He’s probably right. Most people don’t care how their wine is made, as long as it tastes good. So does it matter when it was disgorged?

I conducted an enjoyable experiment recently, tasting two bottles of Pascal Doquet’s Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut champagne. The wine is not vintage-dated but does include the disgorgement date. I had a new bottle (which I recommended two weeks ago in this space) that was disgorged on July 3, 2013; the label explained that it was a blend of 2003, 2002 and 2001 vintages. (Champagne fiends will note that the wine was therefore aged on its lees for about nine years, much longer than the required 15 months for a non-vintage blend.) The older bottle that I plucked from my cellar had no information about the vintages but gave the disgorgement date of 080722, or July 22, 2008.

Both were delicious. The 2013 was fresh and vibrant, while the 2008 was more golden in color, richer in flavor and calmer in its fizz. It had aged nicely in the imperfect storage conditions of my basement.

I would not have rejected the older wine if it had been served to me at a restaurant or if I had bought it in a store. But I appreciated the clear information on the back label of the younger wine. It made the wine more accessible by offering a glimpse of how it was crafted. More producers should do so, rather than keep their wines cloaked in secrecy.


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Made in Italy ?

MILAN — It’s the day before Christmas. Renzo and Lucia are in their shiny new Alfa Romeo, on the way to their grandparents’ apartment in central Milan for the traditional Christmas Eve family dinner.

Everybody is smartly dressed. Grandma’s vintage red Valentino dress smells faintly of Acqua di Parma. Grandpa, resplendent in his Loro Piana cashmere sweater, is relaxing in a Poltrona Frau armchair. Aunt Stefania looks radiant in a black Gucci gown. And what a spread they’ve put on! Classic Buitoni rigatoni — what would Italians do without their pasta? — followed by salad dressed with Carapelli olive oil. To drink, a bottle of Chianti Gallo Nero. And of course some San Pellegrino mineral water.

After a taste of the traditional Italian Santa Lucia mozzarella, there’s the greatest of all Milanese classics: Motta panettone cake with Gancia spumante wine! Coffee, as usual, is served with Baci Perugina chocolates for everyone. And there’s a special surprise gift for Lucia — those Bulgari earrings she always wanted.

Christmas Eve doesn’t come more Italian than that! Does it matter that none of these products are Italian-owned anymore?

Alfa Romeo, founded in Milan in 1910, is now part of the Netherlands-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA. The Valentino fashion house has been sold to Qatar’s Mayhoola for Investments. Acqua di Parma, in business since 1916, now belongs to the French luxury group LVMH, as does Loro Piana. Poltrona Frau, established in Turin in 1912 by Renzo Frau, was sold last February to Haworth, an American furniture company. Guccio Gucci set up shop in Florence back in 1921, but today his company is part of the French Kering group. Pasta Buitoni, which has been going since 1827 and is named after its founder, Giovanni Battista Buitoni, is the property of the Swiss conglomerate Nestlé, which also owns San Pellegrino. And so on down the list.

Many more iconic Italian brands have been sold to foreign companies recently. Ducati, which has been making motorcycles since 1926, is now owned by Germany’s Audi. Peroni (beer, 1846), was bought by the South African beverage giant SABMiller in 2003. Pernigotti (chocolate, 1868) currently belongs to the Turkish Toksoz group. Fendi (fashion, 1925) went to the French luxury group LVMH in 1999.

Even many brands that don’t get much recognition outside the country are Italian no more — Plasmon, which has been providing Italian mothers with baby food since 1902, is now owned by Heinz; Algida ice cream is part of the Anglo-Dutch Unilever group; and Star, a pasta sauce found in almost every Italian kitchen for decades, is now owned by Spanish food group Gallina Blanca.

Globalization is hardly unique to Italy. And yet the gobbling up of so many of our beloved and time-tested consumer brands is noteworthy, and a bit unsettling. Part of it is, of course, Brand Italy itself: Foreigners have been quick to spot the potential of anything associated with Italy and market it around the world. Italy reminds people of life’s pleasant things — art, music, good food, great wine, chic design and an enviable lifestyle.

And if you want to set a soothing mood at the restaurant, skip the Gewürztraminer and order Brunello di Montalcino (remembering to pronounce it “Mon-tal-CHI-no”).

Many so-called Italian products are not even designed or made in Italy. America imports just $2 billion in Italian food goods a year, but “Italian-sounding” goods in the United States are worth $20 billion. And that’s just the food sector. Around the world, the figures are $54 billion, against $23 billion in exports.

Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are the most imitated food types: Americans have Parmesan, Brazilians nibble Parmesão and Argentines chow down on Reggianito. The endlessly negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which aspires to create a free-trade zone between Europe and North America, is going to have to deal with this, one way or another.

Of course, plenty of Italian companies realize the potential of the Italy brand and have become household names abroad without selling out to larger groups: Think Prada, Armani, Campari, Barilla, Ferrero Nutella, Pirelli and Jacuzzi.

One newcomer is the Verona-based company Giovanni Rana, whose fresh pasta business is growing at 20 percent a year, with most of its sales abroad, and 18 percent of its sales in the United States, where it just clinched a deal with Walmart. Last year in New York, the company opened a store called Pastificio and Cucina, where customers can buy fresh pasta to go or eat on the spot.

There’s a telling detail about Rana’s American expansion that might explain a lot about the migration of Italian brands, and their manufacturing, overseas. Rana’s new plant in Illinois was fully operational in seven months. Thanks to dense regulations and slow contractors, expanding the original factory in Verona took seven years. Could that be the reason so many Italian brands seem to prefer living abroad?

Beppe Severgnini, a contributing opinion writer, is a columnist at Corriere della Sera and the author of “La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind.”


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In Naples, Gift of Coffee to Strangers Never Seen


The Storico Gran Caffè Gambrinus, which honors the Neapolitan tradition of the “suspended coffee.” The practice, which boomed during World War II, has found a revival in recent years.CreditGianni Cipriano for The New York Times

NAPLES, Italy — One azure morning in December, Laura Cozzolino arrived at her corner cafe in central Naples and ordered her usual: a dense espresso, which arrived steaming hot on the dark marble counter.

She lingered over the aroma, then knocked it back in two quick sips. But instead of paying for one coffee, she paid for two, leaving the receipt for the other — a caffè sospeso, or suspended coffee — with the bartender for a stranger to enjoy.

“It’s a simple, anonymous act of generosity,” said Ms. Cozzolino, 37, an employee of a medical device company. “As a Neapolitan who tries to restrict herself to four coffees a day, I understand that coffee is important. It’s a small treat that no one should miss.”

The suspended coffee is a Neapolitan tradition that boomed during World War II and has found a revival in recent years during hard economic times.

From Naples, by word of mouth and via the Internet, the gesture has spread throughout Italy and around the world, to coffee bars as far-flung as Sweden and Brazil. In some places in Italy, the generosity now extends to the suspended pizza or sandwich, or even books.


Receipts are left to be claimed by those who are unable to afford a cup of coffee.CreditGianni Cipriano for The New York Times

Naples is a city well known for its grit, beauty, chaos and crime. Despite those things, or perhaps because of them, its people are also famous for their solidarity in the face of hardship.

No one here seems to know precisely when or how the suspended coffee began. But that it started here speaks to the small kindnesses that Italians are known for — and also of the special place that coffee occupies in the culture.

In a time of hardship, Italians can lack many things, but their coffee is not one of them. So it may be the most common item left at many cafes, as a gift, for people too poor to pay.

More than 90 percent of Italian families drink coffee at home, and there is one coffee bar for every 490 Italians, according to Illy, one of Italy’s leading coffee producers, and a local organization that studies food and drinks. Espresso comes in seemingly infinite forms: ristretto (strong), lungo (more water), macchiato or schiumato (with a bit of milk or milk foam), or corretto (a kick of liquor added).

Drinking one is an act rigorously performed standing at the counter for a few quick minutes. It naturally sets the passing hours of the day. It is both an intimate and a public ritual.

Many bartenders attribute a soul to the coffee-making process and take pride in knowing their customers’ preferences, even before they lay an elbow on the counter and start talking about the sun — or lack thereof — or complaining about the government.

“Coffee consumption predated the unification of Italy by more than 200 years, so the rituals and traditions around it are very ancient,” Andrea Illy, chairman of Illy, said in a phone interview. “In Naples, coffee is a world in itself, both culturally and socially. Coffee is a ritual carried out in solidarity.”

That solidarity is spreading. In 2010, an ensemble of small Italian cultural festivals gave form to the tradition of generosity by creating the Suspended Coffee Network.

The purpose was to weather the severe cuts to the state cultural budgets by organizing and promoting their own activities together. But it also started solidarity initiatives for those in need. Encouraging a donated coffee was one of them.

Now, across Italy, the bars that have joined the network display the suspended coffee label — a black and brown sticker with a white espresso cup — in their windows.

In participating coffee bars, customers might toss receipts in an unused coffee pot on the counter, where the needy can pull them out and use them. In others, customers pay in advance for an extra coffee, and the cafe keeps a list or hangs the receipts in the shop window.

As the most vulnerable increasingly feel the pinch of Italy’s long economic crisis, bars in some southern towns have started inviting customers to pay for a sandwich — or more — for those in need.


Coffee at Storico Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples, Italy. CreditGianni Cipriano for The New York Times

This year, Feltrinelli, a large bookstore, encouraged clients to buy a book and leave it for destitute readers who could then go and collect it.

Likewise, in 2012, a pizzeria in Naples, Da Concettina ai Tre Santi, created the suspended pizza logo and printed it on its paper tablecloths. Each week, it manages to deliver around 15 free pizzas for the poor.

But in Naples, with its rich diversity of neighborhoods, coffee bars hold a special place as gathering points for all: senators, families with grandchildren, street artists, businessmen and beggars.

“Coffee in Naples is an excuse to dialogue, to tell stories, not like in other more hectic Italian cities,” said Bruno La Mura, one of the owners of theSpazio Nea art gallery, exhibition room and coffee shop, which has offered suspended coffees since it opened in 2012.

“Here we don’t drink coffee, we ‘take’ it, as a medicine,” echoed his business partner, Luigi Solito. “To me, the philosophy of the suspended coffee is that you are happy today, and you give a coffee to the world, as a present.”

Even before joining the Suspended Coffee Network, some Neapolitan cafes embellished the tradition on their own.

At Gran Caffè Gambrinus, a 154-year-old cafe in Naples, in 2009 the managers began displaying an old, oversize Neapolitan coffee pot, a local version of the kind in almost all Italian homes.

They leave the lid open, with explanations in six languages — and in Neapolitan — of what a suspended coffee is and how clients can contribute one by dropping a receipt inside.

Of more than 1,500 espressos it serves on average every day, about 10 are left suspended by customers, said Sergio Arturo, one of the owners. About five people come every day and stick their hands in the coffee pot and take a receipt, a number that has increased in the past year or two, he said.

Almost everybody in Naples seems to know what a suspended coffee is, though not all bartenders have served one.

In Naples’s old quarter, an area heavily visited by tourists, Caffè 7Bello serves about 1,000 suspended coffees a year, mostly to older people, migrants and the Roma, the owner, Pino De Stasio, said.

It is in the building where the 20th-century thinker Benedetto Croce once lived, on a street that is today lined with souvenir shops and pitchmen selling lucky horns made in China for a euro. That is where Ms. Cozzolino left her suspended coffee.

“I didn’t know about the suspended coffee,” said another customer that day, a mother of four from Bucharest, Romania, in flip-flops, socks and a light winter jacket, who panhandles nearby. “I just came by once, and they gave it to me, so I come back. We like coffee, too.”

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“Fines Bulles” from the Loire Valley at Restaurant Bouley

Fines Bulles of the Loire Valley

An invitation for lunch and a tasting of 12 sparkling wines from the Loire Valley at Bouley in New York City seemed like a perfect opportunity to experience these very interesting wines. Bouley Restaurant is one of my favorites and though I had visited the Loire Valley only once, I enjoyed my stay there and liked the sparkling wines.IMG_6669

The speaker was Christy Canterbury M.W. She began by speaking about the Loire Valley and gave some background on the wines.

In 2002 the Fines Bulles (fine bubbles) was established for sparkling wine from Anjour-Samur-Touraine. The sparking wines here are made according to the Methode Traditionnelle. Like Champagne, the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Christy said that this gives the finished wine a fine creamy mousse (foam) and texture that other sparkling wines cannot match


Christy Canterbury, M.W.

The Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the third largest AOC vineyard in France. It is also the leading region for “fine bubbles.” The area extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of Touraine along the Loire River, the longest river in France. It is one of the most northern wine regions in Europe. The terroir is the “tuffeau,” a soft porous, chalky (limestone) sub-soil. Christy pointed out that the limestone was used to build the region’s castles.

The main grape used in these sparkling wines is Chenin, but 11 others can be used, among them: Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’ Aunis and Gamay.

The Loire Valley appellations that produce Fines Bulles include:

Vouvray: The appellation starts on the eastern edge of the city of Tours and includes 8 communes on the right bank of the Loire River and its tributary, La Brenne, covering 2,100 hectares. The vineyards cover stony slopes over a sub soil of tuffeau, punctuated by converging valleys made up of perruche (flinty clay) and aubius (clayey-limestone). Only Chenin Blanc can be used in the production of Vouvray Fines Bulles. Here Chenin Blanc is known as Pineau de Loire.

Christy said that the unique character of the wines comes from the limestone caves in which they are aged. They date from 60 to 90 million years ago. IMG_6674

Cuvée Excellence, Vouvray Brut NV Caves des Producteurs de Vouvray C. Greffe. 100% Chenin Blanc. Method Traditionnelle. This is the largest co-op in the region. The wine has hints of white flowers, citrus and a touch of baked apple. $20IMG_6684

Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2011 Domaine Sylvain Gaudron 100% Chenin Blanc. This is a third generation family run winery. Citrus aromas and flavors with hints of honey and a touch of candied fruits. $18IMG_6690

La Dilettante, Vouvray Pètillant, NV Catherine and Pierre Breton. 100% Chenin Blanc Méthod Traditionelle. This is an organic and bio-dynamic winery. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts present on the grape skins. Additional sulfur is kept to a bare minimum. They believe that the wine should be a true expression of the terroir. It has hints of citrus and pears with a touch of brioche. $20

Saumur Brut: Christy said that there is a gentle climate here, and the appellation covers 1,400 hectares, which lie south of the Loire on verdant slopes reaching right up to the town of Saumur. The characteristic element of the sub-soil is the tuffeau, the porous limestone that leaves its mark on the wines. Christy added that here the wine is bottled with the addition of a mix of sugar, wine and select yeasts. After the wine is disgorged a little sugar solution is added and the bottle is recorked and labeled. Christy said that the sugar is added to balance the natural acidity in the wines.IMG_6671

Saumur Brut, NV Domaine du Vieux Pressoir made from 70% Chenin Blanc and 30% Chardonnay. Method Traditionelle and each varietal is vinified separately at very cool temperatures. The wine is left in bottles for 15 months on the lees before disgorging. This is a complex wine with good acidity and hints of white fruit and mint. $2o IMG_6688

Bulles de Roches, Saumur, Mousseux, NV Thierry Germain & Michele Chèvre Made from 90% Chenin Blanc, 5% Chardonnay and 5% Cabernet Franc and they are hand harvested. Methode Traditionelle with dosage zero. This is a dry sparkling wine, with good citrus aromas and flavors, nice minerality and a touch of baked bread. It goes very well with food. $19IMG_6695

Chevalier de Grenele, Saumur Mousseux, NV in magnum. Caves Louis de Grenelle. Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc with 9 months aging on the lees.

Christy said that under the streets of the Loire Valley town of Saumur, miles and miles of chalk caves meander. Carved centuries ago, many were dug with prison labor under the direction of the king of France. There are so many streets underground that they actually outnumber the streets above ground. Two and a half kilometers of underground caves belong to the Cave of Louis de Grenelle, the last remaining family-owned property of the major Saumur sparkling producers. All of the bottles produced by the cave are stocked here, under the city, and left to age for several years.

Louis de Grenelle has been producing wines in this location since 1859. It has hints of hazelnuts, mint and a touch of licorice. At $38 for the magnum, it is a great buy and one of my favorites at the tasting.

Touraine: This is a large appellation with almost 4,500 hectares from the gates of the Sologne region to the edges of Anjou. It is spread over two administration regions along the Cher and Loire Rivers. 85% of the appellation’s surface area is southeast of the city of Tours on the slopes high above the Cher.

The sub-soil is tuffeau from the Paris Basin with clay limestone soils. The terraces along the banks of the Loire are composed of sand and gravel. The banks of the Cher are made up of flinty clay and flinty sand.IMG_6670

Intense Brut, Touraine Brut, NV Chäteau de L’Aulée 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Chardonnay. The Chenin vines are 10 to 40 years old. Guyot pruning is used in the vineyards, with natural or controlled grass growing in the dividing rows according to the need. Some of the grapes come from the so-called Joan of Arc vineyard, where she is said to have rested on her was to meet the future king Charles VII. This is a wine with hints of lime, pear and baked apple. $17IMG_6702

Touraine Rosé, Brut, NV Jean-Michele Gautier made from the Grolleau grape. Methode Traditionnelle. Family owned and managed since 1669. The farming is traditional organic without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Traditional wine making with very little interference in the winery. The owner/winemaker, Jean Michael, prefers the wines to display the terroir. Fermentation is at low temperature in stainless steel tanks for 6 months before bottling. This was another one of my favorites and a great food wine.$20IMG_6691

Cuveé JM Brut, Touraine Brut, NV Monmousseau Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, Method Traditionnelle. The wine spends 24 to 36 months on the lees. The same family has owned the property since 1886. It has hints of apple, honey, and hazelnut and good acidity. $18

Crémant De Loire: The vineyards stretch out for over 250 kilometers from east to west. In the east there is the terres blanches (white soil) and in the west the terres noires (black soil).IMG_6672

Crémant de Loire NV Chäteau de Brézé made from 60% Chenin and 40% Chardonnay. The vineyards are being converted to organic and then to biodynamic farming. Traditionelle brut method is used. It has citrus aromas and flavors with a hint of molasses. $20IMG_6694

Cuvée Flamme, Crémant de Loire Brut NV Gratien & Meyer, 60% Chardonnay, 25% Cabenet Franc and 15% Chenin Blanc. Wine is aged in their cellars for more than 2 years. It has nice fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of almonds and a touch of licorice. $18IMG_6701

Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé, NV Deligeroy made mostly from Cabernet Franc. The vines are 20 to 30 years old. It has nice strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors and a hint of peach. $16

I found the wines went very well with the food and most are priced at $20 or less which makes them a very good buy.





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Filed under Fines Bulles -fine bubbles, French Sparkling Wine, French Wine, Rose, Sparkling wine, Sparkling Wines of the Loire Valley

Pasta and Red Wine

Michele was in a taxi, on her way home from Denver where she was at  ‪#‎Craftsy‬ filming ‪#‎slowcooker‬ cooking classes.
The video, featuring 7 lessons and 12 recipes from ‪#‎TheItalianSlowCooker‬,‪ #‎TheFrenchSlowCooker‬ and ‪#‎TheMediterraneanSlowCooker‬ will be available in February or March. Stay tuned!

She told me to put up the water for pasta and and to reheat the sauce that she left.  She said that she wanted red wine.

The Pasta

The Pasta

I picked one of our favorite wines from Campania.

Az. Agr. Monte de Grazia Biological Winery Rosso 2007


The Wine

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, leather 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! $30.


Filed under Monte de Grazia Winery, Monte de Grazie Winery



I have have been going to Rome since 1970. It is my favorite city -even with all its problems. This article by Roger Cohen  expresses my feeling for Rome and why I am returning there again in February.IMG_3158

The New York Times

The Opinion Page, Roger Cohen, Op- Ed Columinst, Dec 4th 2014


ROME — It is always a pleasure to return to Rome and find that some things never change. I dissipated part of my youth here in a trance of happiness and, even at this distance, I find that happiness accessible. As we grow older memory gains in importance, a labyrinth of infinite possibility.

So much of life today is jolting that a measure of dilatory inefficiency becomes comforting. The transactional relationships of London or New York or Singapore give way to the human relationship of Rome. People actually take a few seconds to look at each other. They chat without purpose.

The heavy hotel room key (rather than anonymous key card); the perfect carciofi alla Romana (little artichokes Roman style) dissolving in the mouth; the unchanging answer to any man-in-the-street question about the state of the Italian Republic (“fa schifo” – it stinks); the “manifestazione,” or demonstration, that closes a wide area of central Rome; the style of the “barista” making three espressos, two lattes and two cappuccinos at once (eat your heart out, plodding Starbucks); the focus of the maître grating truffles with the clinical majesty of a matador; the grumbling and the small courtesies; the sound of voices rather than engines; the high-ceilinged apartments in their cool half-light; the whining scooters on the banks of the muddy Tiber; the shutters clattering down on stores at lunch time, only to reopen in the late afternoon. All of this consoles in its familiarity.

Rush on world, the voice of Rome seems to murmur: ambition will founder, conquest will unravel, riches will be lost, power will be dissipated, palaces will crumble, great loves will end, borders will be redrawn; and you, shed at last of your illusions, will be left to find comfort in beauty, family, your corner of the city, and a steaming plate of bucatini all’amatriciana.

It was Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa who observed that everything must change so that everything stays the same. Here it sometimes seems that everything must stay the same so that one or two things may change (the city clocks, unlike when I lived here 30 years ago, now tend to function).

Then, of course, there is politics. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, aged 39, is a revolutionary politician in that his youth, direct language, dynamism and relative transparency have shaken up old habits. There is something of the young Tony Blair about him. He is a showman pushing change through force of character. His ambition for Italy, he has said, “is not to do better than Greece but to do better than Germany.”

Fighting words: After the Berlusconi years, Italy needed this shake-up desperately. Renzi’s “Jobs Act,” the cause of the current demonstrations, is an attempt to make it a little easier for corporations to fire employees.

That, by Italian standards, would be big. Renzi’s slogan, in effect, is change or die. Unemployment is over 13 percent, public debt continues to climb, and Italy has known three recessions in six years. The country is problematic. Still, caution with official numbers is advisable. Family solidarity, private wealth and the black economy cushion the crisis the statistics declare. Italy is poor; Italians are richer than it.

Like almost all Europeans, they are being outpaced by the hunger for wealth, long working days and unregulated economies of the emergent world, where most people scarcely know what social security means. Still, Italians contrive to live better than seems possible in a declining economy.

There is nothing that unusual for a Roman about going home for lunch (or even having “la Mamma” prepare it). Resistance to change can also be healthy. It is a buffer against dislocation and loneliness, preserving the ties of family and sociability. Cultural skepticism about change runs deep. Unlike Americans, Italians have no desire to reinvent themselves. Rome restrains the itch to believe all can be changed utterly. Style is its refuge.

Italy needs change; Renzi is right to push for it. New investment will only come when the bureaucratic rigidities that curtail the economy are overcome. But change will always have its limits here. Behind Italian frivolity lies a deep-seated prudence.

The past year has been sobering. A quarter-century on from the fall of the Berlin Wall we see how deluded we were to imagine, even for a moment, that the old battles of nation-states and rival ideologies would give way to a world driven by enlightened self-interest and the shared embrace of Western liberal democracy and the rule of law.

Al Qaeda, Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Communist Party thought otherwise. Powers still do what they do: seek to further their interests, accumulate resources and advance their ideologies, at the expense of others if necessary. Beheadings and plague have not been banished from the world.

Italians tend to shrug. They knew this all along. There are compelling reasons to prefer beauty to the squalid affairs of the world.


Filed under Uncategorized

More Blanc de Blancs with Champagne Ed

At the Wine Media Guild Blanc de Blancs tasting at Felidia Restaurant, Champagne Ed McCarthy divided the Blanc de Blancs in two groups, the lighter drier ones (see Part I) Blanc de Blancs with Champagne Ed , and those with more body and more dosage. He said that the fuller bodied Blanc de Blancs have more complex flavor and are more suited to go with a main course like lobster, game birds, or a full flavored poultry dish than with an aperitif.

The Champagnes IMG_6625

Pascal Doquet Mesnil-sur-Oger Grand Cru 2002 $85 The vines range from 3 to 77 years old, averaging about 36 years at present. The 1.67-hectare vineyard is located in the Le Mesnil sur Oger, the exposure is east and the training and pruning is Taille Chablis ( slanting bush vine system, without the support of a central  post ). The yields are 30% lower than the maximum allowed by Champagne. Harvest is by hand. Only indigenous yeast is used. The wine usually goes through malolactic fermentation, with an average of 50% of the blend is vinified in small old oak barrels to oxygenate the wines. A minimum of 3 vintages makes up the cuvee. The dosage is 7g/liter. It has hints of apple, lemon and a touch of yeast. IMG_6627

Larson Extra Age Blanc de Blancs $115 The grapes come from the Avize, Cramant, Oger and Le Mesnit-sur-Oger Crus. The wine is aged for at least five years and the dosage is 8g/liter. There is no malolactic fermentation. This champagne has hints of white flowers, pear, white peaches and a touch of brioche. Ed said this was one of the best Champagnes at the tasting.IMG_6626

Paul Roger Blanc de Blancs 2004 $115  The grapes come from the Grand Cru vineyards of the Cötes des Blancs, Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize and Oger. Harvesting takes place from September 12-28.  The wine undergoes two debourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediately after pressing and the second a debourbages a froid in stainless steel tanks at 6°C for 24 hours. A slow cool fermentation at 18°C takes place in stainless steel with each village kept separate. The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation prior to the final blending.  Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C. They are one of the few Champagne houses that does the remuage (riddling) by hand.  The wine is aged in the cellars for 9 years before release. This is rich full-bodied wine. There are aromas and flavors of citrus fruit and lime peel with a hint of white flowers and toasty notes.IMG_6630

Taittinger Comtes des Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2004 $130 The grapes come from the Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant, Les Mesnil, Oger, Avize and Oire in the Cotes des Blancs. The unblended wines are aged entirely in stainless steel to retain their pure character. This is followed by 7 years of bottle aging in the cellars before release. Ed said that this is a rather full-bodied champagne for a Blanc de Blancs. This is an elegant Champagne with hints of citrus fruit and a touch of raisins and bread. He added that the champagne is drinking very nicely now.IMG_6613

Perrier- Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2002 $325 This was by far the most expensive Champagne at the tasting. The grapes come from the best vineyards and Ed had mixed emotions as to whether it was worth the money. He added it may be one of the best Blanc de Blancs made but it needed more time espicially in an exceptional vintage like 2002.IMG_6631

Gosset Célébris Blanc de Blancs NV $175 Ed said this was the oldest continually operating Champagne house but it is not as well known as it should be. The grapes come from 15 different Premier and Grand Cru vineyards of the Cotes des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. The wine is on the lees for a minimum of four years before disgorgement.  The wine has floral aromas, with hints of white fruit, apricots, and a touch of lemon on the palate.IMG_6632

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995 $180   Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blanc, 4 Grand Cru and 1 Premier Cru. The wine remains in the cellar for 15 years before release. Ed said that they were one of the few houses in Rheims that have a magnificent, 2,000 year old Gallo-Roman cellar to age their wines. This is complex Champagne with aromas and flavors of dried and candied fruits, dates, and notes of hazelnuts and almonds.  IMG_6633

Henriot “Le Cuveè Des Enchasteleurs 1999 in magnum $550 This champagne was offered by Danna Shapiro who represents Henriot. It is not a Blanc di Blancs but it was an offer Ed could not refuse! 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir from six Grand Crus: Mailly, Champagne, Verzy, Verzenay on Montagne de Reims, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, and Chouilly on the Côte des Blancs. The Name “Enchanteleurs” refers to the cellar workers in the days when vinification was carried out only in barrels. Their work consisted in particular of piling up the casks on wooden beams. It was said they put the casks on chantiers (gantries), that they enchantelaient. They traditionally enjoyed the privilege of making for themselves a little Champagne cuveé produced from the finest wines. It has hints of candied citrus, peach with a touch of honey, peach and hazelnut.




Filed under Blanc de Blancs Champagne, Champagne, Deutz Blanc de Blances, Gosset, Henriot, Lanson, Pascal Doquet, Perrier-Jouet, Tattinger Comtes de Champane

Holiday Gifts

Other than a great bottle of wine, here are some books that I would highly recommend for your favorite wine and food lover this holiday season.

The Italian Vegetable Cookbook, $22IMG_6656

Michele Scicolone is the author of 20 cookbooks. Among them is the best selling “The Italian Slow Cooker.” There are 200 recipes in the book, which come from home cooks, chefs, produce vendors and vineyard owners throughout Italy, as well as family specialties handed down from her grandparents.   Beautiful full color photographs throughout. Amazon reviewers all give this book 5 Star reviews. I personally taste tested these recipes and can highly recommend them!

Italian Wine NotesIMG_6648

Gary Grunner and Bob Lipinski, $12.50 Paperback

Gary Grunner has worked in the wine and spirits industry for over 25 years. He has a passion for Italian wines and is the recipient of the Italian Trade Commission’s Distinguished Service Award for the work he has done promoting Italian wines in this country. Bob Lipinsky is a Certified Sommelier. He has worked in the wine and sprits industry for many years and is the author of eight books and more then 500 articles.

This is an excellent book for the Italian wine novice and anyone who wants to have a better understanding of Italian wine. The book covers Wine Terminology, Italian Wine Laws, Italy’s Regions, Italian Grape Varieties and many more topics in an interesting and easily understood manner. It is a great book for anyone traveling to Italy.

 How to Love Wine- A Memoir and a Manifesto, $16.99 PaperbackIMG_6649

Eric Asimov is the chief wine critic of the NY Times.

Reading this book gives you the feeling that Mr. Asimov really loves wine and wants you to love it too. He believes that wine should be something that we enjoy and not fear. Wine should be drunk with food and with friends. He states, “… I came to the realization that the simple experience of consuming wine and food together, as people have for millennia, can offer a profound sense of emotional satisfaction…this old fashioned conception of connoisseurship is not required in order to love wine. An open mind and an open heart are far more important.”

 Barolo and Barbaresco–The King and Queen of Italian Wine. $36IMG_6650

Kerin O’Keefe is the author of Brunello di Montalcino and the wine editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine

This is the best book I have read on Barolo and Barbaresco since the chapters on these two wines in The Noble Red Wines of Italy by Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman many years ago. Kerin’s book now will be my “go to” source when I want information on anything related to Barolo and Barbaresco. Eric Asimov picked this book as one of the top wine books of 2014.

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2015, $16.99IMG_6653

Hugh Johnson is one of the world’s best know wine writers.

Mr. Johnson first published his book in 1977 and it has been the best selling annual wine book. The book has the latest information on more than 6,000 wines and growers with regional reviews. There is a quick reference wine chart and Mr. Johnson’s favorite wines are listed as well as what wines to drink in 2015, as well as vintages to keep and vintages to cherish.

Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy

100 Years of Wisdom and Stories from Behind the Counter $28IMG_6651

The first time I met Lou Di Palo he was behind the counter of his family’s store with his brother Sal and sister Marie.

Di Palo takes his role seriously as the steward of his family’s legacy. He is committed to sharing his love for the products of Italy with his customers. The book includes recipes, family stories and anecdotes but also connects Italian products with their place of origin, explaining why each is special in its own unique way. After reading the book go to Di Palo’s, and experience a great store for all Italian food products.

200 Grand Street, NY, NY (212) 226-1033

Breakfast in Burgundy $18

A Hungry Irishman in the Belly of France

Raymond Blake

Raymond Blake is Wine Editor of Food & Wine Magazine in Ireland, a position he has held since its launch in 1997. He also writes for numerous other publications and is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers. In 2006 he was inducted as a Chevalier du Tastevin in Burgundy.

The book is based on the adventures of Mr. Blake when he decides to buy a house in Burgundy. Raymond describes the moments of despair—such as the water leak that cost a fortune—and the fantastic times too. He is fascinated by French food and its many flavors and writes about it in a compelling way. Included in the book are tips on how best to prepare, cook, and serve the various foods which he prepares, as well as the story behind the wines (some of the most sought after in the world) that complement the foods, telling of people and places, who made the wine and where it is from—without recourse to tedious technical detail or dry-as-tinder tasting notes. It is a delightful and charming book.

For more holiday gift ideas go to


Filed under The Italian Vegetable Cookbook