Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tom Maresca’s Campania Stories

This is a three part article by Tom Maresca on his adventures in Campania in March. I have printed the first article and have links to the other two.  I highly recommend them.

Campania Stories: Naples

Campania Stories is the name of an increasingly important twice-a-year event held at a variety of sites in Campania. In the fall, it features the white wines of the region, with a focus on the newest releases and – usually – a retrospective of a five- or ten-year-old vintage. In the early spring, it showcases Taurasi and other red wines, with the same emphasis on the newest vintages and some significant anniversary vintages. For me, Campania Stories has acquired crucial importance as the most convenient and thorough way for me to track the rapidly accruing changes in what I believe to be not only the most dynamic wine area of Italy but also potentially the richest of the whole peninsula.

campania stories

I attended Campania Stories’ mid-March red wine sessions, held this year in Naples and Avellino, and my only complaint is that the wine seminars and tastings took so much time and attention that I didn’t have a chance to worship at any of Naples’s shrines of pizza (though I did manage to wolf down some excellent pizza at Pozzuoli’s Dea Bandata – but that’s another story). At the portion of the sessions held in Naples, the main focus was on the Piedirosso variety, and they afforded me a great opportunity to learn just how important this formerly secondary variety is becoming.

Piedirosso is a grape as ancient as any grown in Campania, and that probably translates to about two and a half millennia of history. The name means “red foot,” and its more poetic dialect name, per ‘e palummo, means “dove’s foot,” for the same reason: its vivid red stems look like the feet of doves. Some growers – notably Salvatore Avellone of Villa Matilde – believe that Piedirosso is the grape that made the ancient Cecubum, a wine prized in the Roman Empire; accordingly, Villa Matilde produces a wine that the Avellones call Cecubo, a blend of Piedirosso and Aglianico.

Whatever role Piedirosso may have played in ancient times, in recent history the variety has been upstaged by Aglianico, to which it has for a long time played second string. It has traditionally been used largely in blends to soften the asperities of Aglianico, whose tannins can in youth be very harsh indeed. Piedirosso on the other hand has very soft tannins and a kind of easy, giving fruitiness that makes it an ideal complement to Aglianico. So, if, as many winos do, you think in terms of the Médoc, Piedirosso acts to Aglianico as Merlot does to Cabernet. And like Merlot, Piedirosso has been discovered to have numerous virtues of its own. In recent years, better field work and careful clonal selection have uncovered in Piedirosso an intriguing complexity and a healthy ability to age, so more and more growers are now producing monovarietal Piedirosso of genuine quality and interest.


Tom tasting


Here are some of those that impressed me:

Agnanum Campo Flegrei Piedirosso Vigna delle Volpi 2007

Federiciane Campi Flegrei Piedirosso 2013

Grotta del Sole Campo Flegrei Piedirosso Montegauro Riserva 2009

Sorrentino Pompeiano Piedirosso Frupa 2011

Tommasone Ischia Per ‘e Palummo 2012

While the stand-out wine for me was the Grotta del Sole Montegauro – for the intensity and concentration of its varietal character – all these wines showed real Piedirosso softness and accessibility, and were revelatory of the great potential of the variety.

Interesting as it is, Piedirosso is not the only not-Aglianico-red vine drawing attention in Campania. The region holds a wealth of ancient red varieties, many of which are in danger of disappearing because of various manmade and natural disasters. Of these blights, phylloxera, devastating as it was, may not be the greatest. The impoverishment of the countryside caused first by Italian unification – which, for the then Kingdom of Naples, meant occupation and exploitation by a foreign power – led to massive emigration and to consequent depopulation. Then throw in two world wars and a major depression between them, and the end result is abandoned farms and vineyards and a severely threatened, if not outright broken, agricultural tradition, from which Campania is still in the process of recovering.

But recovering it is, and many ancient, threatened varieties are being rediscovered and propagated. Chief among these are Casavecchia and Pallagrello nero (also Pallagrello bianco, but that too is another story). Saved and propagated by Peppe Mancini and Manuela Piancastelli (Terre del Principe is their estate) and championed by, among others, Giovanni Ascione (his estate is Nanni Copè), these vines – most if not all on their own rootstocks – are yielding extraordinary wines that are already winning Tre Bicchieri in Italy. (I’ve posted about these before.) Other producers to know about include Alois, Il Verro, La Masserie, Selvanova, and Vigne Chigi.

Palagrello wines

Other varieties, like Tintore, are still further back on the rebirth curve but are nevertheless already making wines of more than passing interest – for instance, Monte di Grazia rosso, made from ungrafted Tintore vines that survived phylloxera and hence are well more than a hundred years old – as were the surviving scions of Palagrello and Casavecchia, from which all the new vines have been propagated.

Still other vines are even less known and have yet to make their way into growers’ and drinkers’ consciousness. Nicola Venditti, for instance, a traditional producer in Benevento province, cultivates 20 different varieties on his property, several of which, as he says, aren’t even in the books yet. Campania still has a lot of stories to tell, and will have for years to come.

Also see Tom Maresca on:


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Alfonso Cevola: A Dear John Letter to Veronafiere

Alfonso Cevola  has been attending Vinitaly for many years.  He gives his opinion on this years event and why it may be his last Vinitaly. I attended Vinitaly for the first time in eight years and  have to agree with most of what Alfonso writes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why this might be our last Vinitaly in Verona: A Dear Giovanni letter to Veronafiere

Dear Veronafiere,

We have been coming to Verona and Vinitaly since 1967. We have watched it expand over the years and have endured the labor pains of growth along with many other long persevering Italians, as well as people from around the world. But we are seriously considering not coming back to Vinitaly in Verona.

1) The first day of the fair, Sunday, has become a drunken party for people who have nothing to do with the wine industry. Booths in the Veneto, Trentino/Alto-Adige and Lombardia halls are impossible to navigate with the throngs of people looking to fill their glasses. No spitting, along with with sloppy drunks in abundance. It is impossible to get any business done in those areas on a Sunday.2) The parking scene is still a joke. Tonight we collectively sat in our cars in the parking lot across the street from Veronafiere, with hundreds of vehicles trying to leave and with only one exit. Two hours later we finally got out. Late for our evening appointments, again. Really, how hard is it to get some light rail to go from Veronafiere to other areas around Verona to ease the congestion? Or open two more exits? We’ve only been talking about this for 20 years!

3) What is with all the people hanging around the outside of the halls, blocking the doors, and smoking? This is supposed to be a trade show, not a place to light up while waiting for a hooker. And the people who hang on the doors, and then get irritated because one wants to open them to go to another hall? Who is policing the area? No one, that’s who.

4) The bathrooms are still, in large part, a disaster. They stink, the floors are urine soaked, and women still don’t have enough stalls that they have to invade the men’s room. How degrading is that to women (and men) who just need to take a pee? This is disgusting.

5) You have still not managed to keep some of the halls properly ventilated. How hard is it to put in LED lighting that won’t heat the place up, along with opening windows and preventing the rooms from getting stifling hot?

6) Once again, communications within the halls via cell phone, text, messaging and internet, all the different ways we use to communicate in this connected era, these are not possible at Vinitaly. Texts arrive hours later; many of us miss critical communication in order to meet up or change meeting places. Phone calls endlessly are dropped. And trying to access the internet to check on information about a winery or access an app, this is still a huge challenge within the halls of Veronafiere. How can we move our business forward if we cannot use the tools that are essential in today’s world? This is an ongoing scandal and one in which the leadership at Veronafiere have failed, once again, to address.

7) Three wineries, friends of ours, had their booths vandalized and wine stolen? How many more that we don’t know about? Was that a coincidence? Or lack of security. #ThisMustStop.

Do you want more? We spend our hard-earned money trying to promote the wines of Italy. And Verona and Veronafiere has let us down. We are tired of fighting the selfie-obsessed drunken crowds, the foul toilets, the dank halls and what appears to be incompetence of the highest degree of the management of Veronafiere. We would welcome a change; whether to Milan or even to not come at all. At this point we’d rather spend my time (and money) and personally visit the wine suppliers in their well-lit, fresh air, clean water and crowd-free, smoke-free environments. The infrastructure of Veronafiere and Vinitaly appears to have finally crumbled. Really Veronafiere, someone needs to clean the house out of all the inept leadership or risk losing the attention of hundreds of thousands of folks who just want to make the world safer for Italian wine. Where is Luca Zaia when we need him?

We love Italy and we love the wine community of Italy. We have many friends of Italian wine business and for many years. We all want a solution more than we want to complain about it, we really do. But Veronafiere, and Vinitaly by association, you have not proven to be capable of finding sustainable solutions. We’re considering to #BoycottVinitaly2016, the 50th anniversary of a show that had good original intentions. But, it appears it doesn’t have the will, the vision, and the leadership necessary, to take it to another 50 years.


The Italian wine industry

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Alfonso Cevola on Barolo’s Best Vineyards

Barolo’s Greatest Vineyards Ranked

Barolo experts are in agreement over the superlative quality of Rocche di Castiglione

© Mick Rock/Cephas | Barolo experts are in agreement over the superlative quality of Rocche di Castiglione

Alfonso Cevola charts Barolo experts’ vineyard classifications to find the region’s best sites.

Barolo is one of the hottest wine collectibles today. But Italian laws and classifications can make navigating the landscape a tar pit for the collector who simply wants to get in, find the best of these great Italian wines, and get out. Unlike Burgundy, which has official categorizations for vineyards and the Médoc, which ranks its estates, Italy’s Piedmont region has no official hierarchy of the great Barolo vineyards.

It was Renato Ratti who first put his imprimatur on a map ranking the top “prima” categories in the 1970s. Ratti’s map was inspired by an unofficial Barolo classification written by Francesco Arrigoni and Elio Ghisalberti for Luigi Veronelli’s book “The Wines of Italy”. His became the map everyone hung in their winery or office. And while Ratti was a visionary, winemaking practices, vineyard management and global climate have changed since his day.The local visionary

The passionate mapster

In the 1990s, cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti began demarcating Piedmontvineyards. With the advent of more sophisticated computer-aided mapping techniques at the beginning of the 21st century, Masnaghetti presented his considerable knowledge of the vineyards of Barolo at a visceral as well as intellectual level. He used sophisticated computer models and mapping to drill down and devise a personal hierarchy of greatness for the region. Masnaghetti’s maps dive deep into the specific zones and are fully compliant with iPad, iPhone and computers.

The tech-savvy Americano

In the new millennium along came Antonio Galloni, who first made a splash with his Piedmont Report and then as a reviewer for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. Galloni left Parker to start his own project, Vinous, which harnessed his tech-savvy team and tasked them with elaborating his theory of prominence in the Piedmont empire. The result is an interactive map with vineyard classifications. Galloni recently announced that he will soon by releasing a new interactive Barolo map, “breaking down the Barolo vineyard designations ‘menzioni geografiche’ into Grandi Cru del Barolo, Primi Cru del Barolo and Menzioni del Barolo, an equivalent to Burgundy’s grand crus, premier crus and villages vineyards”. In conjunction with Galloni, the Barolo Consorzio has also released maps, which are based on the geographical definitions they have developed. While the Consorzio doesn’t get into the business of delineating the greatest ones, their maps have given Galloni and his team a jumping-off point.

1+1+1 ≠ 3

It comes as no surprise that these wise men’s visions don’t line up exactly. They offer three personal interpretations of what constitutes the great vineyards of Barolo. They don’t necessarily take critical acclaim for winemaking into account in these great vineyards (or elsewhere). But there’s no question that they agree about Barolo’s best vineyards.

© A. Cevola/Wine-Searcher

Charting the expert opinions

To make this visually clearer, the above chart shows the lay of the land.

Ratti lists 10 “prima” vineyards. Masnaghetti has nine locations that qualify for a five-star rating, four of them additionally qualifying as five-star superiore. And Galloni lists 10 vineyard locations for his top (Exceptional) category. What these three listings have in common are three vineyard sites, Brunate, Cerequio and Rocche di Castiglione. These three hit the prima/Exceptional/five-star superiore trifecta.

They’re followed by two sites – Monprivato and Rocche dell’Annunziata – that have two experts giving their top rating (Ratti and Galloni) and Masnaghetti weighing in with five stars. Vigna Rionda drifts slightly down with two experts giving top ratings (Masnaghetti and Galloni) but doesn’t make it onto Ratti’s top 10 list. Inching down the list is Francia, where Masnaghetti assigns five stars and Galloni bestows his top rating. And finally Villero, cited as one of Ratti’s top 10, with Masnaghetti giving five stars and Galloni abstaining.

These vineyard areas – Brunate, Cerequio, Rocche di Castiglione, Monprivato, Rocche dell’Annunziata, Vigna Rionda, Francia and Villero – are THE places where great picks can be found with the minimum of effort. For collectors who don’t have time to stalk the chat rooms and who want to maximize the knowledge of three top experts, this is the sweet spot for collectable Barolo wines.

Time is money

Undoubtedly, there’s a hardcore Italian wine geek out there reading this, asking questions like: “But what about Barolo from a great vineyard like Ravera? Or Monvigliero?” To that I say: Barolo is a rabbit hole. If that’s where you get your groove on, by all means jump in. But for the collector who wants to find the dependable jewels quickly and easily (and with minimum investment risk), the trifecta is a good solid place to start. Gems from the three top consensus rated vineyards – Brunate, Cerequio and Rocche di Castiglione – can be found readily and, in most cases, for a lot less than the 100-point cult wines. Brunate offers superb wines from Elio Altare, Marcarini and Vietti. Cerequio has solid producers in Batasiolo, Michele Chiarlo and Roberto Voerzio. Worth finding from Rocche di Castiglione are wines by Giovanni Sordo, Oddero and Rocche Viberti.

Drill down into the next levels – Monprivato, Rocche dell’Annunziata and Vigna Rionda – to unearth more jewels from Giuseppe Mascarello, Luigi Pira and Renato Ratti (the guy who started this whole discussion). The point is, finding great wines from a complex landscape of vineyards and hierarchies, official or not, doesn’t have to be an exercise in bewilderment. One can find great, satisfying collector values without succumbing to the 95-100-point wines every trophy hunter is after.

Barolo's Greatest Vineyards Ranked

© Oddero; Marcarini; Robert VerzioTake it to the bank

Here’s the key insider hint – these three experts, independently and in consensus, have made finding the great growths easier, while the Barolo Consorzio members are still endlessly debating the great growths. Ratti, Masnaghetti and Galloni have pinpointed the sites where great wine has been made for generations. Information like this, say in Burgundy, would have one looking at bottles costing multiple hundreds of dollars. Many of these Italian wines, from collectable vintages, can be had for less than $100. But not for long; savvy collectors, who have turned away from Bordeaux and Burgundy, are aiming their sights towards Barolo.

Frankly, this is my strategy going forward when looking for great wines to cellar from Barolo, and those that will produce a better-than-average return on my investment in value and in pleasure. And that’s just Barolo; we haven’t even talked about Barbaresco. That’s a rabbit hole for another day.

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One Wine Bar, One Restaurant and Tartufo in Rome

There are so many wonderful restaurants in Rome and Michele and I try to eat in as many as possible. We rented and apartment for two weeks in the Monti which is close to the colosseum and the forum and were able to walk to many of them.  IMG_7430

Enoteca Cavour 313, located at 313 Via Cavour, is a wine bar in Rome that I always wanted to try but never got to. Last month we rented an apartment in the Monti section of Rome and I realized that it was right around the corner so we went. It is a cross between a pub and a bistro with dark wooden beams running across the ceiling.

There are two wine lists. One is for the restaurant and it contains close to 1,000 labels in all price ranges. The other is a list of wines for sale that you can take home with you.IMG_7422

The menu is limited but appealing. I had an insalata mista and roast pork with house made pear mostarda. The pork was perfectly cooked and delicious.IMG_7420

We drank a Bramaterra 2005 from Tenuta Sella made from 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina and 10% Vespolina. The production area is in Northern Piedmont. The vines are 48 years old, the exposure is Southwest, the vineyard is at 300 to 350 meters the training system is guyot and the soil is volcanic in origin and reddish brown in color. Harvest takes place between September 22 and October 12. After the grapes are crushed, fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with pumping over and delestage. There is 30 days maceration for the Nebbiolo and 16 for the Croatina. The wine is aged in 10 hl Slavonian oak casks for 28 months. The wine was showing no signs of age. There were hints of faded roses, leather, blackberries and a hint of spice. The wine could age for another 10 years. It is an excellent buy.

Roscioli Salumeria Vineria con Cucina – Via dei Giubbonari 21-22. Roscioli is very difficult to describe because it is not only a restaurant but also a salumeria, a shop specializing in salumi and cheese, and a wine bar all at the same time,IMG_3237

It was opened in 2002 when Alessandro and Pierluigi Roscioli decided to make the change from the family grocery. They also have a bakery named Roscioli around the corner, with the best fig bread I have ever eaten. They also sell Roman style pizza by the slice. Michele likes the restaurant because it has one of the best spaghetti carbonaras in Rome.IMG_3270

We started with hand made Mortadella from Bologna garnished with crisp bread and 36 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano from red cows.IMG_7342

Then I had the water buffalo DOP mozzarella from Paestum served with Cantabrian anchovies and Taggiasche olives.IMG_7343

We both ordered La Carbonara: Spaghettone Pasta tossed with bits of crispy guanciale (pork cheeks), black pepper, Paolo Parisi eggs and Roman Pecorino DOP.IMG_7396

The wine was the 2012 Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo (Rosè) made from100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Eduardo Valentini. Aged in large botti of Slavonian oak for 12 months. There was just a touch of strawberry in the wine but that may be the only thing it has in common with other rose wines. I believe it is Italy’s best Rosè and it was less than 40 Euro in the restaurant. Eduardo passed away a few years ago but his son Francesco continues the tradition. IMG_7400

Taurasi Radici 1998 Riserva 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino The soil is poor in organic substances but with a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and microelements. The vineyards are on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard is much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. This is the way I believe the 1998 was produced. The wine was showing no signs of age. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice, smoke and a touch of leather.

Roscioli has a very good wine list and the wines are displayed on the walls of the restaurant.


We were walking in the Piazza Navona and passed Tre Scalini, a café and restaurant famous for its Tartufo, chocolate covered chocolate gelato. The tartufo was created in 1946 by the head of the Ciampini family.IMG_7467

It has 13 varieties of Swiss chocolate and the exact recipe is still a secret. It has been a number of years since we had one so we decided to try it once again. The shape is different than I remember it, but it was just as good.

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Filed under Bramaterra, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, Enoteca Cavour 313, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Mastroberardino, Roman Restaurants, Rome, Roscioli, Taurasi, Tenuta Sella, Tre Scalini Tartufo, Valentini

Classic Roman Restaurants

Michele and I rented a apartment in Rome for two weeks. It is in the Monti area which is very close to the Colosseum and the  Forum.

IMG_7354 The apartment we rented was  very comfortable, functional and a  good value for the money. Here is the link

As I have said many times before I love the food in Rome. This time we went back to some of our old favorite restaurants all of which are family run.

 Checchino dal 1887 (, Via di Monte 31 Testaccio).


Francesco and Elio

The Mariani Family has owned the restaurant since it opened in 1887. Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen.IMG_7460

Considering the wine and the food, it is the best restaurant in Rome with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world. The wine cellar is dug into Monte Testaccio, a hill made from broken amphorae which date back to Ancient Rome. The slaughter houses of Rome used to be located here and the restaurant still specializes in the so called quinto quarto, the fifth quarter, or innards and other spare parts.

I always have long conversations with Francesco about Italian wine and which one I should order with what I am eating. Francesco recommended a bottle of white to start.IMG_7450

Est, Est, Est di Montefiascone, Poggio Dei Gelsi 2013 Falesco Made from 50% Trebbiano, 30% Malvasia and 20% Roscetto. Riccardo Cotarella and his brother Renzo, the winemaker for Antinori, own the winery.

There is soft pressing of the grape-clusters. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with selected indigenous yeasts. There is no skin contact and malolactic fermentation does not take place. Ciromaceration is used for the Roscello grapes. The wine is bottled early to keep its characteristic freshness and taste and it is aged in the bottle. This is an easy to drink wine with floral hints, fruity notes and good acidity.

Three great Bordeaux blends are produced within a short distance from Rome: Torre Ercolano, Colle Picchione and Fiorano. Older vintages of Torre Ercolano and Fiorano Rosso (made by the old Principe who stopped making wine in 1995) are no longer available. Two versions of Fiorano are now made by the old prince’s descendants, his cousin Principe Alessandro Jacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi, and another by his granddaughter, Alessia Antinori.IMG_7452

I asked Francesco if they had any older vintages of Colle Picchione. He said he would look and came back with a 1983. This was the last vintage before they singled out “Vigna dal Vassallo” as a cru.

Colle Picchione 1983, Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine consultant today is Riccardo Cotarella. The wines were aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1983 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_7453

With the wines, we ate artichokes alla Romana, Coda alla Vaccinara, oxtail in tomato celery sauce with pine nuts, raisins and bitter chocolate, Bucatini all’Amatriciana and grilled baby lamb chops.IMG_7457

Torta stracciatella, a chocolate chip cake, was served with a glass of di Roscetto Passiro Felesco 2012 IGP Lazio Made from 100% Roscetto. This is a native variety from Lazio. The grapes are air dried in a special room to facilitate the development of Botrytis (noble rot).IMG_7456

The wine has nice fruit sensations on the nose, its taste is creamy, full bodied and harmonious with a long lingering finish with honey notes. It was a perfect combination with the torta.

Checchino is still a member of L’ Unione di Ristoranti del Buon Ricordo, a group of restaurants that give you a hand painted plate if you order their signature dish or tasting menu.

The first time I went to Il Matriciano (39-06-32500364) Via dei Gracchi, 55. The Calasanti family has owned and operated the restaurant since 1912. The present owners, a brother and sister, are always there. Alberto Calasanti is on the floor. He greets the guests and plates the food while his sister sits behind a counter and takes care of the checks. There is a nice outdoor space but of late we like to sit inside, which seems to be favored by the Romans. On Sunday afternoon and at night it is best to make a reservation.IMG_7469

As usual, I ordered zucchini flowers (I cannot get enough of them) and artichokes alla giudia to start. The flowers were perfectly deep fried with a small amount of mozzarella and more than a hint of anchovy stuffing.

IMG_7471 I ordered the bucatini alla matriciana.IMG_7475

Then I had abbacchio al forno, baby lamb roasted with potatoes and rosemary. It was cooked to perfection, moist with crisp skin.IMG_7477

For desert I had tiny fragoline, wild strawberries, and gelato.IMG_7473

We had a Pecorino 2014 IGP Terre di Chieti Cantina Tollo Abruzzo 100% Pecorino Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Malolatic fermentation does not take place. The wine has hints of white peach, a touch of spice, with good minerality and acidity.

Armando al Pantheon can be difficult to get into, so always book ahead. The restaurant was established in 1961 by Armando Gargioli. This time we went there twice, once on our own and another time with friends Ernie and Louise.IMG_7315

On the first visit I ordered the bruschetta, one with truffle and quail egg and the other with lardo and walnuts. Then I had bucatini alla matriciana and grilled lamb. The dessert was a strawberry crostata with a lattice top.IMG_7359

The next time we went, both Michele and I ordered the pasta with black truffles because we remembered how the aroma of the truffles filled the whole room on our previous visit. It was wonderful.

The Torta

The Torta

Michele also had Roman style chicken with peppers and we ended with their famous dessert, Torta Antica, made with ricotta.IMG_7316

By the way, she says that the artichoke alla Romana here is the best in Rome.IMG_7314

Both times we ordered 2011 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, from Emidio Pepe.   It was less than 40 Euro–a real bargain in a restaurant. The wine was big but with a lot of fruit and not as tannic as I would have expected. Most of my experiences with Pepe’s wines are ones that are 25 years and older.

Trimming Artichokes at Da Giggetto

Trimming Artichokes at Da Giggetto

Da Giggetto (39- 066861 105) at Portico D’Ottavia 12 A, in the Jewish ghetto. The Ceccarelli family has owned the restaurant since 1923. We went here twice, once by ourselves and the second time with friends. IMG_7335

I do not need to look at the menu because I always order the same things: fiori di zucca ripieni con mozzarella e alici (small and crunchy but very good), carciofi alla giudia  (fried artichokes) and spaghetti con vongole veraci.IMG_7437

The clams were small and tender with just the right amount of parsley, garlic, olive oil and a hint of hot pepper. But since we went twice I also had the aliciotti fritti, fried anchovies, and the fava beans stewed with guanciale.

Fava Beans with Guanciale

Fava Beans with Guanciale

Michele also had fava beans with guanciale. We have been going here for many years and have never been disappointed.IMG_7434

We had the Bellone 2013 IGT Lazio “Castore,” I00% Bellone, Cincinnato. The Bellone grape may go back to ancient Roman times and is now grown mostly in vineyards around Rome. This is a fresh, fruity, easy to drink white wine that worked very well with the starters.IMG_7438

We also drank a Passerina Del Frusinate 2013 from Feudi Del Sole 100% Passerina. The winery is located a few kilometers from Rome in the Castelli Romani. It is a wine with hints of apples and white preachers, good acidity and a long finish and nice aftertaste.







Filed under Armando al Pantheon, Checchino dal 1887, Cincinnato winery, Colle Picchioni, Da Giggetto, Falesco Winery, Feudi Del Sole winery, Il Matriciano, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Pecorino, Roman Restaurants, Rome

The Truth About Sulfites

Excellent article on Sulfites and what gives someone a “Wine Headache”

The Wall Street Journal

Wine Headache? Chances Are It’s Not the Sulfites
Since the government insisted that wine labels include a “Contains Sulfites” warning, folks have been blaming the compound for their wine headaches. Very likely, finds Lettie Teague, the cause is something else

March 13, 2015 8:48 a.m. ET

THE LATE SENATOR Strom Thurmond was famous—some might say infamous—for a good many things, including a marathon filibuster against the Civil Rights Act, but the South Carolina congressman’s most lasting contribution may be the two words found on every bottle of wine sold in this country: Contains Sulfites.

The fiercely anti-alcohol senator successfully lobbied for this particular warning to be part of the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, a continuation of the so-called War on Drugs. Never mind that the average bottle of Cabernet contains far fewer sulfites than, say, a can of tuna or a bag of dried fruit, products that carry no warning at all. (A glass of wine contains roughly 10 mg of sulfites; two ounces of dried apricots, 112 mg.)

This back-label notification has led to a great many misunderstandings among those who attribute health problems, primarily headaches, to sulfites in wine, specifically red wine. Over the years, I’ve received many letters from readers lamenting the headaches they’ve suffered due to their alleged allergy to sulfites.

Often as not these readers wrote in the hope that I could recommend a “sulfite-free wine.” Alas, I could not, since there is no such thing as wine completely free of sulfites, which are inorganic salts produced as a byproduct of the fermentation process.

It is important to note that sulfites are also commonly added post-fermentation to combat oxidation and stabilize the wine. Many winemakers use sulfur dioxide, potassium metabisulfite or some combination of both. The latter is also used in a broad range of foods, from potato chips to shrimp (fresh and frozen) to lemon juice, like that in the small plastic lemon I have in my refrigerator—and perhaps you do too.

My plastic lemon doesn’t carry a sulfite warning, and until approximately 10 years ago, neither did wines sold in Europe. This may be why some American wine drinkers who’ve traveled abroad believe European wines contain no sulfites (another issue I am asked about quite often). They do, but European governments only recently required that wine labels acknowledge the fact.

A reader named Diana emailed me a few months ago about a sulfite-related encounter she’d had with a snobbish (and misinformed) sommelier in Salzburg. The sommelier told her that regulations required European winemakers to add sulfites to bottles for export, which is why Americans got hangovers from European wines stateside. This is, of course, false and hopefully not a reflection on the knowledge and trustworthiness of Salzburg sommeliers.

More important, only a tiny percentage of the U.S. population—less than 1%—actually suffers from true sensitivity to sulfites, and these people are invariably chronic asthmatics, according to David Lang, M.D., chairman of the Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Lang told me that in his 28 years of practice, he’s seen only one person who had “true allergic reactions” to sulfites. Such reactions, he added, typically involve shortness of breath and wheezing, not headaches. “Sulfites have been around for centuries and have been very well-tolerated,” Dr. Lang pointed out.

Non-asthmatics who come to Dr. Lang with sulfite-related fears might actually be allergic to something else in the wines, such as proteins or histamines. What’s more, white wine contains more sulfites than does red, so those who suffer from “red-wine sulfite allergy” may be reacting to tannins, which tend to be more significant in red wine than white.

I asked Dr. Lang how he tests whether a patient is actually sulfite-sensitive. He performs what he calls provocative dose testing, administering capsules of small amounts of sulfites in successively higher doses every thirty minutes, and closely monitoring the patient’s reaction.

‘‘Sulfites have been around for centuries and have been very well-tolerated.’’
—allergist David Lang, M.D.
This is the only viable test because blood or skin tests cannot detect a sulfite sensitivity, said Beth Corn, M.D., associate professor of medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine and part of the faculty of the Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Dr. Corn sees quite a few patients who believe they have wine-related allergies; the real problem, in some cases, probably has more to do with excess alcohol intake than sulfites. “Sometimes patients tell me they don’t have a reaction to wine if they stop at one glass,” said Dr. Corn, who replies, “Then, why don’t you stop at one glass?”

Oregon-based winemaker Rollin Soles of Roco Winery in Willamette Valley has fielded his share of allergy-related questions from wine drinkers. Before founding Roco, Mr. Soles was head winemaker at Argyle winery for many years, where he made high-quality sparkling wine as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Some tasters told Mr. Soles that, while most sparkling wines gave them headaches, his never did. Mr. Soles asked where they drank sparkling wine. Often as not, the answer was gallery openings or weddings, where the cheapest sort of wines are often served. Inexpensive wines often have sugars added to boost the alcohol content, and this added alcohol is often what causes the pain.

These headache sufferers were also likely drinking sparkling wine without eating. Drinking even a modest amount of alcohol without food is a sure way to a headache.

The anti-sparkling mind-set is similar to the prejudice against red wines that presumes they are the cause of sulfite-related headaches. Mr. Soles cited a study conducted in the early 1980s by Cornelius Ough, then a professor at University of California at Davis. Professor Ough was interested in tracing the source of red-wine headaches and devised a study in which people with a history of red-wine sensitivity were served both red and white wines as well as white wines colored red. He found that tasters had no more adverse reaction to red wine than to white.

For drinkers who do have a reaction to sulfites or an unshakable fear of one, there are wines with no added sulfites, known as NSAs, which I decided to try. I found about half a dozen bottles in my local wine shops, sometimes in a “no sulfites” section, despite the fact that no-sulfite wines don’t actually exist.

The NSA wines were so hard to find at the ShopRite store in Little Falls, N.J., I asked the salesman to lead me to them. What did he think of the NSA wines? He wasn’t impressed, although he said that the 2013 Badger Mountain Chardonnay, from Washington state, was better than the rest. So I bought a bottle of the Badger Mountain and a few others, both white and red, including the 2013 Mother’s Choice Organic California Red, which has the words “Contains No Detectable Sulfites” emblazoned on the front label just under an ersatz portrait of Whistler’s mother holding a wine glass.

The faux “Whistler’s Mother” was the best part of the wine, which was devoid of any character or flavor and possessed a flat, tinny finish. The same was true of the next two reds, but none were as terrible as the whites: the 2013 Pacific Redwood Organic Chardonnay, Frey Vineyards Organic “Natural White” Table Wine and the recommended 2013 Badger Mountain Chardonnay. They were among the worst wines I’ve ever had. All three looked and tasted like old apple cider and smelled oxidized. Upon tasting the wines, a friend of mine said, “Bring on the sulfites!” There wasn’t a single NSA wine from my selection that I could recommend.

I called a winemaker friend, Kareem Massoud, at Paumanok Vineyards in the North Fork of Long Island, for some professional insight. Mr. Massoud wasn’t surprised to hear my report of the undrinkable wines. “Those wines are completely naked, from an oxidation point of view. They have no protection at all,” he said. “Any winemaker worth his salt knows that wine is susceptible to oxidation.”

I mentioned to Mr. Massoud that several bottles carried advice to refrigerate or store them in a cool, dark place, and that the shop in which I purchased them was actually quite warm, no doubt hastening oxidation. Mr. Massoud wasn’t surprised by this either. “Once a wine is out in the market, there is no guarantee of the storage conditions. Even when you buy from the producer, there’s no guarantee,” he said.

Mr. Massoud has heard complaints about sulfite allergies over the years but thought wine drinkers should probably focus on something else, such as alcohol. Wine has alcohol. And too much alcohol can cause headaches. Perhaps that’s the warning that Senator Thurmond should have lobbied for instead.


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Tom Maresca and the 2010 Brunello

I was unable to report on the Brunello tasting held in NYC recently because I had already committed to attending the Caputo Pizza Challenge which was held at the same time. Tom Maresca did attend the tasting and he has given us this excellent report:

Brunello 2010

February 6, 2015

By now, I’m sure that anyone with the smallest interest in wine has heard at least some of the hoopla about the 2010 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino. The ’10 Brunellos are just now being released, because of the strict aging requirements that the Brunello DOCG demands. I didn’t make it to the Benvenuto Brunello event in Montalcino this year, where almost all the Brunello producers showed their wares, especially their 2010s, so I only caught up with any of the wines recently.


Brunello seal


Last month at Gotham Hall in New York, 44 Brunello producers showed their new releases. Forty-four may sound like a lot of Brunello makers, but it is only a fraction – about one-fifth – of the ones who pour their wines at the Montalcino event, so the New York version hardly gives a comprehensive view of the vintage. As you might expect, most of the participants here were larger estates, and all were wines that have already established at least a toehold on the American market. Consequently, I can’t make any judgments about what the vintage was like throughout Montalcino: My comments can reflect only the group of wines I was able to taste.

Enough qualifications: Let’s cut to the chase. What do I think of Brunello 2010?  Well, it’s unquestionably a good vintage, potentially a very good one indeed, but it’s not of the same caliber as the 2010 vintage was in Barolo and Barbaresco, which are superlative wines. Brunello producers love their 2010s, especially because they follow a few less-than-exciting harvests. The winemakers themselves who were actually in attendance in New York – very few, unfortunately – all raved about how equable the growing season had been, how problem-free the harvest went, what perfect ripeness the grapes achieved.

And I could taste that: All the wines, across the board, had fine structures, with good acidity, already softening tannins, and an abundance of dark-cherry fruit. Some displayed remarkable accessibility, being already pleasantly drinkable, though most still need time to fully come together. Almost all of them displayed the kind of equilibrium of fleshy fruit and acid/tannin/alcohol structure that promises not only long life but really interesting development. I think many of these 2010s will get better and better as they age. Certainly, were I a few decades younger than I am, I’d put some cases away and forget about them for as many years as I could.

This is not to say there weren’t the usual evidences of the human ability to screw anything up. A few wines were perceptibly over-oaked and/or over-manipulated, so that good Sangiovese fruit was submerged in a sweet stew of oak and vanilla and coffee. But there were in fact very few of those, and most of the wines I tasted reflected admirable restraint in the cellar, letting the pure pleasure of Montalcino’s grapes and soils shine through.

So why am I hesitating to be as super-enthusiastic about these wines as I have been about the 2010 Barolos and Barbarescos?  Good question, and one I’ve been trying answer for myself ever since I tasted them. Partially, of course, one cause is the difference in the grapes themselves. For my palate, Sangiovese, much as I love it, never achieves the amazing complexity and layered-ness that the best vintages of Nebbiolo reach. Granted, that shows best with older wines, and younger Sangiovese almost always makes pleasanter drinking than young Nebbiolo. But I think the main reason I’m hesitating is the growing season itself and its results in the two zones.

Good as the 2010 harvest was in Montalcino – especially in comparison with the two preceding ones (both generously overvalued by the consortium) – it just doesn’t seem to me that it was as off-the-charts good as 2010 in Alba. As much as I enjoyed the vast majority of 2010 Brunellos I tasted, very few of them made me tingle with anticipation from the very first smell and smack my lips with relish at the very first taste as so many of 2010 Barolos and Barbarescos did. Granted, that may be purely a subjective response – but it’s the only one I’ve got to work with. I’m just not getting from Montalcino’s wines the intensity, the perfect pitch, that I got from Alba’s.

Still: For all that, these 2010 Brunellos offer extremely high quality and the probability of very long life. Just because I’ve got an almost impossible standard of comparison for them is no reason to ignore them. As I implied before, if I had the slightest chance of living long enough to drink them at their maturity, I’d be stocking up on them. And these, in alphabetical order, are the wines I’d buy first:


Very good; still lots of tannin, but plenty of acidity and fruit – a meaty wine in the very best sense.



A very small estate. Soft tannins, lively fruit, a bit of astringency in the finish, but developing nicely.



This one’s going to go long – a big, structured wine, with excellent fruit. Totally worthy of the vintage.



The basic Brunello has a lovely nose, good fruit, terrific acid, soft tannins, all developing very nicely. The cru Vigna del Fiore is huge and will need years to show its no-doubt spectacular best.



Deep, dark nose, slightly tobacco-y. Big dark fruit on the palate, beautiful long finish, almost licoricey. Well structured, like all the best wines of this vintage.



Canalicchio di Sopra
Lighter-bodied than most, but well balanced and juicy. Structure is sound, on a slightly smaller scale than the very best wines of the vintage.



Col d’Orcia
Good tannic, grape-skin nose. On palate, soft tannins, fine fruit, lots of acidity, quite long finish. Should develop and improve for many years.

col d'orcia


A classically structured, classic tasting example of this very fine vintage.

ferrero label


Another slightly light-bodied wine, but beautifully put together and already juicy and flavorful.



Sassetti Livio Pertimali
Simply a gorgeous wine, one of the best of the vintage I’ve so far tasted.

Pertimali label


A huge wine, beautifully balanced, with deep black cherry fruit supported by excellent acid and tannin, for me the outstanding wine of the vintage. My hands-down favorite. I think this is a great wine.

talenti label


So there you have it, 2010 Brunello as I’ve so far experienced it. I may report on the vintage again in future posts as I taste more of it, especially if I come across anything I like better than these.

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Pizza Tour of Naples


New York City winters can be brutal, and this one was no exception.  Michele and I wanted to get away, but where to go?  Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean? We have tried them all and found them lacking. Not because of the weather, which was great, but lacking because of the food and wine! So we decided to go where the weather would be better than in NYC and still find great food and wine:  Naples and Rome.IMG_7299

Naples is the most unique of the Italian cities.  It is like one big street fair, there is so much going on all the time. Naples also has a natural beauty.   Mt.Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples are breathtaking.  The Neapolitans are theatrical and dramatic, and of course there is the food. The best pizza is Neapolitan pizza and the best place to have it is, of course, Naples.IMG_7241

It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived and we decided to go for pizza by the waterfront.  One cannot think of Naples without thinking of pizza.

Gino Sorbillo Pizzeria

Gino Sorbillo Pizzeria


We went to Gino Sorbillo-AKA Lievito Madre al Mare, they have 3 locations in Naples.  This one is on Via Partenope overlooking the Bay of Naples. They have a large outside dining area and it was very crowded, everyone wanted to sit outside.  Here is a sample of the menu:


A big trend in Naples is for the pizzerias to list the source for their ingredients, many of which are organic and artisanally made.  On the menu, a green leaf  showed that the product was Biologica and a snail if it was recognized by “Slow Food”.IMG_7242

Michele had the MargheriTTa Gialla Massimo Bottura, made with tiny yellow tomatoes and bufala milk cheese. These deep yellow tomatoes had a honey-like flavor and were among the sweetest I have ever tasted.

The next day on the way back from our tour of Naples Underground we stopped at Palazzo Petrucci Pizzeria- San Domenico Maggiore Piazza. They also give the source of the products they use and even the name of their pizzaiolo, Maestro Michele Leo, is listed on the menu.  Next door, they also have an elegant Michelin-starred restaurant, which we did not visit.


This place was recommended by Maurizio de Rosa, who was born in Naples and is a partner in Prova Pizzeria in NYC.IMG_7264

Michele had a pizza Margherita and I had a fried pizza stuffed with ricotta and cicoli, which are the little crispy bits left after rendering out the lard from pork fat.  IMG_7287

Before we left NYC we went to Don Antonia by Starita and spoke with Roberto Caporuscio, the owner and pizzaiolo. We have known Roberto for a number of years ever since he opened Keste. Roberto said we must go to Pizzeria Starita a Materdei dal 1901.  The owner, Antonio Starita is his mentor and partner in the New York restaurant.  IMG_7282

Our friend food writer Arthur Schwartz, who spends part of each year in Salerno, decided to come to Naples to join us. It turned out there were five of us, Arthur, his partner Bob Harned, and their friend Contessa Cecilia, who drove.IMG_7284

We ordered fried zucchini flowers, arancini and potato croquettes to start. Then we had Pizza Maradona, a fried rolled stuffed pizza, Pizza Mastanicola topped with lard, basil and pecorino, and a Sorrentina pizza made with sliced lemons and provola cheese.IMG_7283

We arrived at 12:30 and when we left there was a long line waiting for a table even though this is a large place.IMG_7290

50 Kalò di Ciro Salvo , Piazza Sannazzaro 201/B. This is the hottest pizza place in Naples right now, the one everyone is talking about.  The pizzaiolo, Ciro Salvo has researched pizza making techniques and insists on a very long slow rise for his dough which results in a tender and more digestible crust.  He uses only the finest ingredients for his toppings.  In Greek, the name Kalo means beautiful and good.IMG_7292

We started with a few fried foods, potato croquettes and frittatine, cheesy pasta shaped into disks and fried, which were excellent.  Then we had a Pizza Margherita and Pizza Porcini with sausages.IMG_7293

If you go here for dinner, it is best to get there early. It is a big place but if you arrive after 8:00 PM you will wait on a long line to get in.


For the most part the Neapolitans  drink, beer, soda and acqua minerale with their pizza.The wine lists at the pizza places are  for the most part short and the price for a  bottle of wine produced in Campania  is about 18 to 20 euros, about what you would pay retail in the US for the same wine. Among the wines we drank which went very well with where a Coda di Volpe “Amineo” 2013 Cantina del Taburno, Lettere della Penisola Sorrentina 2013  Grotta del Sole, a red sparkling wine and Falanghina Sant’ Agata Dei Gotti 2013 Mustilli.








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Firmly Rooted in the Piedmont- Eric Asimov

Very informative article on Nebbiolo by Eric Asimov in The New York Times. Once again I find myself in complete agreement with Mr. Asimov. He understands wine made from the Nebbiolo grape and  to be at their best they must be paired with food.

New York Times March 5th 2015

For wine drinkers reared on the myriad red grapes that are common all over the world, a wine made of nebbiolo is a departure.

It may flash a ready comparison to others: the combination of delicacy and intensity found in the best pinot noirs, the tannic potency of cabernet sauvignon, the taut acidity of barbera. Yet when you add in the specific aromas and flavors of nebbiolo (proverbially described as tar and roses), which are so unlike most red wines, you have a selection that seems entirely singular.

The blend of these remarkable characteristics results in wines that can haunt enthusiasts for the rest of their lives. Only fine red Burgundy rivals great Barolo and Barbaresco, the most prominent of the nebbiolo wines, for their ability to stir both the soul and the intellect, to dazzle aromatically, to delight the palate and to demand contemplatio Wine School: Your Next Lesson: Langhe NebbioloJAN. 29, 2015

Yet while pinot noir, the red grape of Burgundy, is grown successfully in many places around the world, nebbiolo seems to prosper only in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy and in Lombardy, the neighboring region to the east.


CreditSerge Bloch

That’s not literally true. I’ve had nebbiolos from the Sonoma Coast, from Santa Barbara and Monterey, even from Baja California. But so far, at least, these wines have been few, noteworthy more as expressions of love for Piemontese nebbiolo than for their success in capturing the scope and potential of the northern Italian versions.

Welcome back to Wine School, where together each month we subject a type of wine to the most pleasurable sort of examination. It works like this: I’ll pick a genre and suggest some good examples. Then we all drink the wine in relaxed surroundings conducive to enjoyment and attention, with food, family or friends. Finally, we share thoughts and insights

The idea is that we learn most about wine, and our own tastes, when drinking rather than tasting, experiencing how the wine changes over time and in context. Good wine never resembles that static snapshot conveyed by the usual tasting notes. Indeed, from the time you pour the first glass until the last drop is drained from the bottle, the wine will evolve as it is exposed to air, as its temperature changes, as you add food to the equation. Your company, your surroundings, even your mood will all make a difference.

At Wine School, we try to capture the totality of this experience with the understanding that much of wine remains subjective and even mysterious. The questions posed by good wine are integral to its beauty. We don’t understand, for example, exactly why nebbiolo refuses to humor the ambitious few who would grow it outside of northern Italy. Is it wed only to the composition of the soils there? To the angles of the hillsides on which nebbiolo vineyards typically flourish? The microclimates? Like the white truffles of the Piedmont, nebbiolo refuses to be reproduced on demand or explain why.

The firm tannins and rippling acidity of young nebbiolo make it a particularly demanding wine. It’s hard (at least for me) to drink Barolo and Barbaresco young. Nebbiolo is grown in many other appellations in the region, but for our purposes, the best examples to share were those labeled Langhe nebbiolo.

The grapes for these wines may come from areas outside the boundaries for Barolo and Barbaresco. Or they may come from young vines that the producers do not think are ready to contribute to the more exalted wines. But they do give a taste of what makes nebbiolo such an unusual grape, and at moderate prices. Luckily, most people were able to find at least one of the three Langhe nebbiolos I recommended — Produttori del Barbaresco 2012, G. D. Vajra 2012 and Vietti Perbacco 2011 — or a good alternative.

Each of the wines was excellent, typical and yet distinct from the others. Many people used the term “floral” to characterize the aromas, and a few were even more specific, citing roses. Did anybody reach for “tar,” the evocative but clichéd description? Does nebbiolo really smell like tar? Not exactly, yet the term rises continually in wine literature, illustrating the power of repetition in the effort to express what is really a more complex and elusive aroma.

“It is not anise, not black earth, not Mr. Lincoln rose, not hot road tar, not burnt beef-fat, not pipe tobacco, but a delightful combination favoring none,” Giuseppe of Boston wrote, arguing, perhaps unintentionally, that overspecificity never captures the whole of a wine. To his list I would add: It’s not red or black cherry, even though bitter fruit flavors lie buried under the more savory initial aromas, emerging only after long exposure to air.

For me, the Vajra was compact, very dry and almost austere, more savory than sweet. In lieu of a few more years of aging, this wine demanded to be decanted in an effort to open it up. Even so, I could taste the combination of richness, purity and delicacy that is often at the heart of the nebbiolo mystery.

Right now, I preferred the high-toned minerality and earthiness of the Produttori del Barbaresco, which made it more complex and enjoyable than the Vajra. The Vietti, a year older than both, was even richer and more tannic. None of these wines were inviting enough to want to drink without food.

CreditSerge Bloch

Yet, with food, they were transformed. The Vietti became more generous, the Vajra more affable, and the Produttori exhibited more fruit. This, of course, would surprise no Italian, for whom wine is practically always part of a meal rather than a stand-alone beverage. The resistant tannins and the lively acidity demand food. When presented with dishes sufficiently rich, they seem to break out into warm, welcoming smiles.

This quality was not lost on readers. Martin Schappeit of Richmond, Va., drank the Vajra with a dish of tagliatelle and wild mushrooms. “My wife was amazed how the dish transformed the wine from simple to complex in such a short time,” he wrote. Ferguson of Princeton, N.J., wrote: “My husband said that the wine improved the food; that it sparked up the tomato sauce. I can’t imagine sipping this alone.”

I have to emphasize that these wines offer just a hint of the pleasures you may find in a 15-year-old Barbaresco from Produttori, or a well-aged Barolo from Vajra, Vietti or many other great producers.

If you were intrigued by these wines, I would urge you to explore further. Visit a restaurant like Maialino in Manhattan or Oliveto in Oakland, Calif., which offer brilliant lists of aged nebbiolo wines. Or invest the time to age these wines yourself, keeping in mind that storing them well is crucial and that the most fun comes with multiple bottles, so you can examine the same wine at different points in its arc of evolution.

Ultimately, the most important thing to know about these wines, and Italian wines especially, is that they, like nature, abhor a vacuum. They are not laboratory specimens to be clinically dissected and preserved but expressions of culture meant to accompany food and people. Our friend Giuseppe, who said his adult children share his taste for nebbiolo, articulated this beautifully.

“Mortadella, prosciutto, aged provolone, roast beef, braised lamb, even a chunk of Pecorino Romano alone are tasty,” he wrote. “But when melded with the denseness of the wine, oh my. A final thought. All the above is elevated and enhanced when sharing with family, especially a grown family of adult peers. Forty-five years ago, it was enjoyable. Today, it is gladdening and fulfilling.”

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Barolo’s Stunning 2010 Vintage

The following article was written by Ed Mc Carthy and it is a must read to understand the 2o10 vintage in Barolo, a vintage that is going to become very expensive.

Wine Review Online – Barolo’s Stunning 2010 Vintage 3/4/15 10:39 PM

Barolo’s Stunning 2010 Vintage

By Ed McCarthy

By now, the word is out. Barolo wines are extraordinary in 2010. I confirmed this with a recent tasting in the Festa del Barolo event featuring 15 outstanding Barolos, and with other 2010 Barolos I have tasted. Wine writer Antonio Galloni, sponsor of the event–which took place at The Four Seasons Restaurant in New York–stated that this tasting was probably the greatest collection of Barolo producers and their top Barolos ever on one stage, and he was probably right.

The 2010 vintage in the Barolo region was cool and late-ripening–always good, as the best vintages in Barolo are usually the cooler ones. For example, I much prefer the fresh, cool-vintage 2008 Barolos to the warmer 2007s and 2009s. The harvest in 2010 took place in mid to-late October, late compared to recent warmer vintages with early September harvests. Nebbiolo, a very-late maturing variety, seems to perform at its best in late-ripening vintages for Barolo and Barbaresco, both 100 percent Nebbiolo wines.

The 2010 Barolos I have tasted are pure and fresh, with lots of tannin (but not hard tannins). The wines are very aromatic, with great depth, concentration, and richness. Like many great Barolo vintages, the wines were made from small berries–which explains their concentration. Galloni, a wine writer specializing in Piedmontese wines, states “2010 is the greatest young Barolo vintage I have tasted in the 18 years of visiting the region.” It is clearly the finest vintage of its decade–although 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2008 were all very good vintages.

I rank 2010 with 1999, 1996, and 1989 as the best four Barolo vintages I have tasted in the past 26 years–bearing in mind that the 2010s are only four years old now. If pressed, I would say that only the 1996 Barolos, still not at their peak–with the best ones still needing a few more years of aging–can compare in greatness to the more approachable 2010s. Because of changes in vinification, such as shorter fermentation times, modern Barolos don’t need decades to mature. For example, you can enjoy 2008 Barolos now; I don’t hesitate to order them when I see 2008s on restaurant wine lists. Both the 1999s and especially the austere 1996s needed 15 years or more to become enjoyable. The 1989s finally are ready to drink now, but still have a long future.

The 15 2010 Barolos I tasted at the recent Festa del Barolo event are the following (with the Barolo vineyard location in parentheses):

Ceretto Barolo Bricco Roche (Castiglione Falletto)
Cordero di Montezemolo Enrico VI (Castiglione Falletto)
E. Pira-Chiara Boschis Barolo Via Nuova (Barolo village)
Elio Altare Barolo Arborina (La Morra)
Elvio Cogno Barolo Bricco Pernice (Ravera, Novello)
Burlotto Barolo Vigneti Monvigliero (Verduno)
G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole (Barolo village)
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Ceretta, magnum (Serralunga d’Alba) Giusppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate (Barolo village)
La Spinetta-Rivetti Barolo Campé (Grinzane Cavour)
Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne (Barolo village)
Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda (Serralunga d’Alba) Paolo Scavino Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata (La Morra) Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala (Monforte d’Alba)
Vietti Barolo Ravera (Ravera, Novello)

Although these 15 Barolo producers are clearly among the best, I must note that a few great producers were not included, such as Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa, Cappellano, and Gaja (his two mainly Nebbiolo wines from Serralunga and La Morra are not technically “Barolo” because they contain about 6 percent Barbera). In some cases, these producers were not ready to present their 2010 Barolos. The superb producer, Cappellano, never takes part in tastings.

I will comment here on some of my favorite 2010 producers’ Barolos from the Festa del Barolo tasting, plus a few producers’ Barolos not present at the tasting.

The two-most renowned traditional Barolos in the 2010 Festa del Barolo line-up were Giacomo Conterno and Giuseppe Rinaldi. Both of these producers showed outstanding 2010s, as expected, but I would give the edge to Giuseppe Rinaldi at this tasting. Rinaldi’s was the Barolo everyone clamored for at the luncheon that followed, and it quickly disappeared. Beppe Rinaldi’s 2010 Brunate (with 15 percent of his Le Coste vineyard included) just jumps out of the glass. It is extremely aromatic, with high acidity, and exhibits delicious Nebbiolo fruit. It was the wine of the tasting for me. Beppe Rinaldi’s daughter, Marta, who represented the winery, is playing a greater role in the winemaking, and is the heir apparent here, with Beppe still chief winemaker.

Giacomo Conterno introduced its first Barolo from its newly acquired vineyard in Serralunga, Ceretta, with a magnum of the 2010. It is beautiful, quite approachable, but at this point does not reach the heights of G. Conterno’s well-established vineyard, Cascina Francia, also in Serralunga, that Giovanni Conterno purchased in 1974. The late Giovanni Conterno, who passed away in 2004, is the man who established the winery as arguably Barolo’s finest. Giacomo Conterno’s Riserva, Monfortino (made from selected grapes of Cascina Francia but aged longer), is one of the greatest red wines in the world, and is priced accordingly (the latest release, 2006 Monfortino, has an average U.S. retail price of $627, the most expensive new-release Barolo in the region, by far). Giovanni’s son, Roberto, who worked the vineyards with his father since 1988, has continued nobly, as all recent vintages of Giocomo Conterno’s wines can attest.

Vietti’s 2010 Ravera (from the village of Novello), was a star in the tasting as well. Luca Currado succeeded his ailing father, Alfredo Currado, one of the giants in Barolo, as winemaker in 1998 (Alfredo passed away in 2010). Luca, a humble man, made a very moving speech at the Festa tasting, admitting that he tried too hard to establish himself when he first took over, and made mistakes–a reference to his use of French barriques in aging his wines. Luca made the 2010 Vietti Ravera with no barriques, aging the wine in large, old oak barrels (called botte). The 2010 Vietti Ravera has dynamite aromatics and great structure. It’s a 40-year old keeper for sure, but can be enjoyed even now. Antonio Galloni believes that the Vietti 2010 Ravera is Luca Currado’s finest Barolo, and I agree that it is outstanding, although I might give an edge to the Vietti 2007 old-vine Villero Riserva (from Castiglione Falletto), named 2015 Red Wine of the Year by Gambero Rosso, a prestigious Italian Wine Guide. At any rate, Vietti is “hot,” and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy than Luca Currado.

Other standouts: the Cordero di Montezemolo Enrico VI. I have always enjoyed the elegant style of this producer, but the 2010 Enrico VI from the Villero vineyard is for me the finest wine I have ever tasted from Montezemolo, combining finesse with power.

Chiara Boschis, one of the most renowned women winemakers in Barolo, has made one of her finest wines with the 2010 Via Nova, a blend of several parcels made by this skilled winemaker. Chiara ages her wines half in large casks, and half in barriques (but just 30 percent new).

Elvio Cogno, a top traditional winemaker, now has his son-in-law Valter Fissore making his wines. Valter has been doing an excellent job, and his 2010 Barolo Bricco Pernice from the little-known Ravera vineyard in Novello might be his finest yet. Along with Vietti’s 2010 Ravera, this Barolo vineyard will now be receiving the attention it deserves.

Another great surprise for me was Burlotto’s 2010 Barolo, Vigneto Monvigliero, from another little- known Barolo village, Verduno. I knew Burlotto was a solid, traditional winemaker, and yet his Vigneto Monvigliero–from a well-respected but not well-known vineyard, stopped me in my tracks. If you love the Nebbiolo grape, you will love this Barolo, redolent of all the wondrous perfumes of Nebbiolo.

More highlights for me: Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta, perhaps better-known for his Barbarescos, has made a lovely, delicately perfumed Barolo from the hamlet of Grinzane Cavour; Luciano Sandrone, always a solid perfomer, made one of his greatest Barolos ever with his 2010 Barolo Le Vigne; and

Franco Massolino, becoming better and better with each vintage, has produced an explosive Barolo from the great Vigna Rionda vineyard in Serralunga, a vineyard made famous by the master, Bruno Giacosa.

Younger brother Aldo Conterno parted with Giovanni Conterno in 1969 and started his own winery. His three sons took over the winemaking in the ‘90s, and for a while the winery lost its way. It always has had great vineyards surrounding its magnificent winery in Monforte d’Alba. Aldo passed away in 2012, but his sons are now making great Barolos, in a firmly traditional style. Aldo Conterno’s 2010 Barolo Cicala is one of its best Barolos ever, not quite ready to drink yet, but will be very long-lived.

I have not had the opportunity to try Bartolo Mascarello’s 2010 Barolo yet; it will be difficult to find and expensive. I hear that it is sensational, one of its best yet. The late Bartolo’s daughter, Maria-Theresa Mascarello, has definitely established herself as one of Barolo’s great traditional winemakers.

Random notes: It’s so good to see Beppe and Tino Colla’s winery, Poderi Colla, doing so well. Beppe Colla, now 84 and one of the true living legends of Barolo and Barbaresco along with Bruno Giacosa, is still consulting at Poderi Colla, officially owned by his much younger brother Tino and Beppe’s daughter, Federica. Beppe purchased Prunotto Winery in 1956 and put that great winery on the map. Poderi Colla’a traditionally-made 2010 Dardi Le Rose Bussia from Monforte d’Alba is solid and well- structured. It just needs time to open up. I’ve been sitting with it all day, writing this column. A keeper, for sure.

Five other recommended 2010 Barolos: Cappellano (not available yet, but Cappellano Barolos are good in average vintages; his Barolo should be off-the-charts in 2010); Paolo Scavino; Ceretto; Marcarini; and Ghisolfi.

As you can see, I’m excited about the 2010 Barolos. If you are a Barolo lover as well, I recommend that you buy some of the wines I have mentioned fairly soon. The smaller wineries (which most of them are) will not be around too long, with the current increased interest in Barolo. Many are still surprisingly affordable ($45 to $60 retail); the big names, of course, are over $100. But they will last for a lifetime.

copyright 2010,


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