Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bibbiano: Chianti Classico at its Best!

Tommaso Marrocchesi Marsi and his brother Federico are the owners of Bibbiano. I have tasted their wines before and really liked them but recently I had the chance to sit down with Tommaso and discuss the wines over lunch.

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Tommaso Marsi

Tommaso is very passionate about the Sanviovese grape, Tuscany and Chianti Classico.

The winery was founded in 1865 and he and his brother are the fifth generation of the family at the winery. The winery is located in Castellina in Chianti overlooking the Elsa Valley. Tommaso said that there is organic farming and C02 zero emissions. He believes that there should be as little interference by the wine-maker as possible.

There are 25 hectares of vineyards and they are between 270 and 300 meters. The vineyards are on two slopes, which have different characteristics. The winery has the same boundaries that it had in 1865.

He also said that the wines go very well with food because of the good acidity and the aromas and flavors of the Sangiovese grape.

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The Black Label

They only make 4 wines, the three Chianti Classico listed below and a Vin Santo.

Chianti Classico Bibbiano DOCG 2013 made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino. The production area is Bibbiano and Castellina in Chianti from all the vineyards of the estate (25 hectares) from both the southwest and northeast slopes. The soil is calcareous-clay mixed with (limestone based) alberese rock. Tommaso said that this wine represents the territorial characteristics of the estate since it is produced from Sangiovese grapes grown on both sides of the estate with the addition of a small amount of Colorino. Havesting of the Sangiovese began on September 20th and Colorino a few days later. The vinification takes place in cement vats and fermentation on the skins lasts for 18 days.

There is a further stage of maturation while the wine is still in the cement vats, followed by a 3 months refining period in the bottle. This is a very well balanced wine with fruity hints of cherry and prune and a touch of violets. $22 IMG_7885

Chianti Classico “Montornello” Riserva DOCG 2012 100% Sangiovese. Tommaso said that the grapes are grown in the old vineyards of the northeast side of the estate called Montornello. The soil here is calcareous-clay, loose with basin stone-pills and  stones. Harvesting is in late September to the middle of October. Alcoholic fermentation was followed by maceration on the skins for about three weeks. The wine was aged in French oak barriques for 12 months and about 4 months in bottle before release. Tommaso said that about half of the barriques were new and the other half were of different ages. The wine has hints of red fruit, especially cherry, with a touch of spice and tobacco. $24IMG_7882

Then he opened the 1995 and it was wonderful. It  is an example of a great twenty year old  Chianti Classico that I could not stop drinking. IMG_7884 

Chianti Classico “Vigna del Capannino “ Gran Selezione  2011 (this is a recent classification(2010)-it is a wine made exclusively from a winery’s own grapes grown in its finest vineyards according to strict regulation- it is on the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid) 2011 100% Sangiovese Grosso from the Vigna del Capannino vineyard. Tommaso said that the vineyard is located on the southwest slope of the estate overlooking Monteteriggioni. He feels that this vineyard represents the best expression of what he calls the “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. Harvesting is by hand in the middle of October. After the alcoholic fermentation there is long maceration on the skins for 25 days. The wine was aged in barriques, tonneaux and large Sloavonian oak barrels for 24 months. The wine remains in the bottle for about another six months before its release. This is an elegant, balanced wine with hints of cherry, spice, and violet and a touch of sunshine on the Tuscan pines $35.

I was very impressed by this wine and it is one of the best “Gran Selezione” wines that I have had to pleasure to drink. It retails for $35 and this is a great bargain!!IMG_7886

Tommaso then opened the 1999.  At first he said it was not showing well but after about five minutes in the glass it began to open up and it was wonderful.   He said that Giulio Gambelli who was the winemaker for more than 60 vintages made the 1999 and 1995.  In 2000 Stefano Porcinai became the wine maker. This is a great example of how Chianti Classic can age and still retain all of the aromas and flavors of the Sangiovese grape, sunshine on the Tuscan pines- Siamo in Toscana.

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“All Italian Wines Taste Alike”

Below is an article by Alfonso Cevola from his blog On the Wine Trail in Italy

I agree with the points Alfonso is making however for me Italian white wines never tasted the same. It might be true that in the 1970’s there were Italian white wines  coming into this country that were not the best example Italy had to offer but many of these wines were made for ‘the American market.”  This problem did not exist in Italy.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“All Italian White Wines Taste Alike

I’m sitting at a table, in a restaurant, with a seminal figure in white wine. The beverage director comes up to us to say hello. A few pleasantries are exchanged. After all, we are guests, even if we are part of the “trade.” Our money spends as well.

We’re talking to the beverage director about which wines do and do not work in his place, which is seafood centric. We come to find out that in this place of his, he says his best-selling category is Cabernet Sauvignon. We are close to a huge body of water; the city is cosmopolitan and diverse. The clientele is well-healed. The menu is seafood. And Cabernet is the big hit here.

We then approach the subject of Italian wine. I’m beginning to think this fellow isn’t a white wine drinker. But he confirms it when he declares “all Italian white wines taste alike.” He then went on to remark that he had never had a memorable one.

Well, alright then. We order some Champagne and slog on through the night.

Later that evening, in the hotel, tossing and turning, I thought about what he said about Italian white wines tasting alike. It was a common complaint years ago, one which many wine list makers believed. Maybe 20-30 years ago the nuance of the flavors didn’t jump out so much like a buttery Chardonnay or a grassy Sauvignon Blanc. But that was a claim I never believed and for sure one I never bought into.

How could I? Does a Cortese di Gavi in any way resemble a Grillo? Does Verdicchio stand in at the altar for Vermentino? Is Friulano virtually identical to Fiano? Not to this one they aren’t, any of them. Those six wines couldn’t be more different.

Yes, Gavi and Grillo can be high in acid. Yes, Verdicchio and Vermentino can share a roundness of flavor. And yes, Friulano and Fiano (especially one from Apulia) can have a fullness that to the untrained palate might seem that they are in the same family. But just like an Italian from Friuli and one from Apulia are unique and different in their own ways, so too are their wines.But what was it, back then 20-30 years ago and even now, that some folks still think these wines are simple, interchangeable cookie-cutter wines that have no difference among them? Is it the person who is making the statement? Or is it the wine?

It might be that some people have expectations of bigger, bolder flavors. And there are those who make up wine lists who fall into that category. Perhaps their clientele do as well; although, I see no compelling evidence that diners in New Orleans, San Francisco, Houston or Chicago have a regional palate, a preference for one type of wine or another. Maybe years ago, when the supply lines were more restricted. But now when people travel as much as they do, and wines from everywhere can be found in the most remote towns in America, I think that old paradigm is probably ready for retirement.

It might be useful to take these six wines and taste them together, in a blind and controlled setting, to see if they really are all alike.

That brings me to a story I have wanted to tell for years on this blog. It must have been in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. I was invited to a palace for a dinner and a tasting with the producers of the Tuscan white wine then known as Galestro. I believe there were 17 producers at the dinner, and we had all 17 of their wines. Galestro, at the time, was thought to be the “White Chianti,” a wine that could do what Vernaccia do San Gimignano couldn’t. Whatever that was. There were high hopes for Galestro, with wineries like Antinori leading the charge for this wine.

We had Galestro with appetizers. We had Galestro with pasta. With fish. With pork. And with dessert. And at the end, it was quite funny. At my table, of which there were two or three producers, we all looked at each other and said “Well, I guess we don’t have to do that ever again.” It was more like the wake for Galestro than its coming out party. And eventually, not long after, Galestro disappeared into history. A wine that there were high hopes for, but one that never quite cleared the bar.

So, yes, there are Italian white wines that might not rise to the level of a Chardonnay from Burgundy. But there are meals I have had in Burgundy that will never rise to the level of meals I have had in Italy. Italian wine, red or white, is infinitely interwoven with the local culture from which it springs. A Frascati in Rome seems like such a better idea than to have a Frascati in Alba. And in Liguria, where you find those squiggly little sea snail things they serve in a rich warm coral red soup, it’s just better to have a Pigato than perhaps a Muller-Thurgau. So perhaps the uniqueness of the food and the wine that has grown up with it might give the untrained palate the idea that these wines are interchangeable. But sit down with a table full of Italians, who have had their palates honed for centuries more than our new American palate, and you might get a passionate argument. Mind you it will be a delicious one, but there will be no deference towards exchanging their wine for an over extracted Carneros Chardonnay.

Are most Italian white wines “ponderable?” No, of course not. They are serviceable, though and they are accessible. Does that make them simple, anemic monolithic creatures? I guess one could consider the eye of the beholder in responding to this question. But from my perch, they offer pleasure, first and foremost, and satisfaction. Does a young Pinot Bianco from Alto-Adige cause me to soul search? Of course not. But it also doesn’t cause me to get up and get another bottle because the oak is too heavy for the oysters or the fried okra.

So, to the chap who thinks all Italian white wines taste alike, I submit this is one of those subjects when we will have to agree to disagree. And while I lament that your clients will lose this opportunity to try a Catarratto with the sword fish, inside I am a bit giddy that there will be more for me and my kind to enjoy in our life. There are so many things that have become unaffordable or no longer attainable or just too darn important for those who grew up drinking them. Italian white wines will never price themselves out of my income level. And with few exceptions ( like our dear long gone friend Galestro) there are so many different types of Italian white wine out there to try that I will never tire of them or get bored with their alleged “sameness.”

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White Wines of the Alto Adige that can Age

A few years ago Michele and I were in Italy and drove north from Lake Garda to the Alto Adige. As we left the city of Trentino and headed toward Bolzano (Bolzen), the countryside started to look more German than Italian.  Even the road signs changed:  they were written in both German and Italian.  This is a fascinating region with characteristics of two cultures.

I accepted an invitation to a seminar and panel discussion of wines of the Alto Adige that can age.IMG_7734

The moderator of the panel was Tim Gaiser, MS.  Tobias Zingerle of Kaltern Caldaro, Martin Foradori Hofstâtter of Tenuta J. Hofstâtter, and Ines Giovanett of Castelfeder made up the panel.

Alto Adige, also know as Südtirol due to its deep-rooted bicultural heritage, is Italy’s northernmost wine region. Located at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites, the region borders on Austria and Switzerland. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east.  Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. The vineyards range from 600 to 3,300 feet and the soil is mainly porphyry, limestone and slate rock with glacial deposits of gravel, sand and clay. It is interesting to note that in the summer, the temperature in Bolzano is higher than in Palermo in Sicily. The people that live here call their region the Sud Tyrol and themselves Tyroleans.   The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy.  Ham is called Speck and they have a cheese called Weinkase Lagrein and bread called Schuttelbrot.

Mr.Gaiser said that in the Alto Adige 70% of the production is from 13 cooperatives,  25% from 40 larger wine estates  and 5% from over 100 private producing winegrowers.

Südtirol Wein/Vini Alto Adige: Wines of the Italian Alps

The first two wines are made from the Pinot Bianco grape. This is a grape variety that I feel is not appreciated and under valued. I have had wines made from the Pinot Bianco grape from the Alto Adige that have been 20 years old and have stood the test of time. Therefore I was not surprised to see the older examples showing so well.

Mr. Zingerle said the Pinot Bianco was the local wine of the area, the everyday wine. He said that the training system was pergola and guyot trellises and hand harvesting was the rule.IMG_7736

Kaltern Caldaro Pinot Bianco Vial 2014 & 2008 DOC   100% Pinot Bianco. Kaltern Caldaro is a co-op with 440 members. The 300 hectares of vines are located around Lake Kaltern, the warmest lake in the Alps. The Vial vineyard is  between 500 and 550 meters and is located at the foot of the Mendel Mountain range.  Whole cluster pressing takes place, then a natural must clarification and slow fermentation at 16% of which 10% is in large casks. The wine remains on the lees for 5 months and is then filtered and bottled in March. The residual sugar is 3g/l for the 2014 and 3.5 for the 2008. It is a full bodied wine with hints of apple, pear and a touch of almonds. The 2008 was showing very well with  pear flavor becoming more pronounced. Mr. Zingerle said that all the production must go to the cooperative.IMG_7739

Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg 2012 & 1999 DOC  100% Pinot Bianco Cantina Terlano is a cooperative founded in 1893. Today there are 143 growers with 165 hectares of vines. The Vorberg vineyard is in the Southern Tyrol facing the slopes of the Monzoccolo in the Terlano DOC area. The vineyards are between 450 and 950 meters. Harvesting is manual, followed by a gentle pressing of whole grape clusters and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation. A slow fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature in 30HL barrels. Malolactic fermentation and aging on the lees in traditional wooden barrels for 12 months. The residual sugar is 3.2 for the 2012 and 2.5 for the 1999. Mr. Zingerle said that the winery was known for making white wines that can age and after tasting the 1999 I have to agree with him. The 2012 had aromas and flavors of citrus fruit, with hints of apple and a touch of grass and herbs. The 1999 was more subtle with a creamy finish and aftertaste. He added that 2012 and 1999 were very good vintages.

The panel members agreed that Gewürztraminer probably originated in Germany.

Mr. Hofstâtter said that the grapes for Gewürztraminer are picked when they are over ripe and the harvest usually takes place at the end of September and the beginning of October.  The training system is pergola and guyot. He also said that a touch of smoke is typical of the wine.IMG_7740

He said that  wines made from this grape are very aromatic with hints of  lychees, mango, peach and apricot and they can age.

Tramin Gewürztraminer Nussbaumer 2013 & 2009 DOC 100% Gewürztraminer  This cooperative was founded in 1889. 100% Gewürztraminer. The  14 hectares of vineyards are at 300 to 400 meters and the soil is calcareous and gravel in the area of Tramin and Montagna. There is a gentle pressing of the grapes immediately after harvest. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and malolactic  fermentation does not take place. Residual sugar is 8g/l for the 2013 and 8.6 for the 2009.

Tenuta J. Hofstâtter Gewürztraminer Vigna Kolbenof 2013 & 2006 DOC 100% Gewürztraminer. This is a family run winery. There are 50 hectares of vines  between 250 and 750 meters on the slopes on both sides of the River Adige. The grapes for this wine are grown in the hamlet of Söll overlooking Tramin. The grapes are lightly crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skin for a few hours. The juice is clarified using natural sediment and fermentation takes place in temperature controlled tanks. The wine is on the lees for eight months and the lees are stirred up once a week (battonage). It is a full bodied wine with hints of apricot, peach and passion fruit. The residual sugar is 8.4g/l for the 2013 and 8.2 for the 2006. Only the Vigna on the label guarantees the origin of the single vineyard in the Alto-Adige.

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19 Italian Wineries Working Together!

 Italian Association of Sommeliers  – from a translation

IGM-Antinori-and-MastroberardinoPiero Mastroberardino is the new president of the Italian wine quality Great Brands, the association of 19 signatures icon of Italian wine tour to date, and for over 10 years, byPiero Antinori . Change Summit was decided today during the meeting of the shareholders, by unanimous vote, elected the board of directors, expressed the new leadership of the Institute and appointed Honorary President Piero Antinori.

The institute Grandi Marchi was one of the first associations to show that in the field of Italian wine you can team up to act jointly in international markets ‘So Piero Antinori, the outgoing president of IGM, he spoke at the conclusion of the assembly membership. ” In these 11 years – we continued Antinori – we worked in the sign unit virtuous for the benefit of the entire system wine, still too fragmented in its global promotion. The Great Brands are not only the bearer but, in many cases, the precursors of the positioning of Made in Italy wine market more strategic i “.

For the new president Piero Mastroberardino ” The Istituto Grandi Marchi is a case history of excellence: 19 top brands competing with each other, and yet able to develop a unique synergy of family stories of success. He has paved the way and set the pattern for other initiatives that have been set up recently. The Institute will continue to work with specific programs and with the use of internal resources, as well as European, to promote Italian wine in the world . ”

Piero Mastroberardino.

Born in 1966, Piero Mastroberardino is divided between the academic (he is professor in managerial disciplines at the University of Foggia) and the business in which he is engaged in the homonymous winery, the oldest in the Campania with a history spanning ten generations, which it produces fine wines in the land of Irpinia. Eclectic, the new president of the Grandi Marchi is also accredited in the art world, as a painter and draftsman, and in that of literature (this year is the publication of his latest novel “Crackdown”).

Istituto Grandi Marchi Wine

The 19 wineries Istituto Grandi Marchi ( Alois Lageder, Argiolas, Greppo Biondi Santi, Ca ‘del Bosco, Michele Chiarlo, Carpenè Malvolti, Donnafugata, Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari Tenute, Gaja, Jermann, Lungarotti, Masi, Marchesi Antinori, Mastroberardino, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca D’Almerita, Tenuta San Guido, Umani Ronchi ) contribute 7% of the total value of exports of bottled wine. Since 2004 – the year of birth – 2014, the Institute has invested approximately 60 million euro in the promotion of quality Italian wine (of which about one third with the support of the EU promotion). The Istituto Grandi Marchi is present at Expo in

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Tom Maresca on Campania’s Golden Triangle

Campania’s Golden Triangle

I’ve been celebrating the wines of Campania quite a bit lately, and I’m not yet tiring of doing so. Every time I think I’ve said all I have to say on the subject, a new wine or a new slant appears, and off I go. That’s what stirred up this post. A conversation with a puzzled wine lover, confused by the many wine and place names of Campania, prodded me to conceptualize a simpler way to understand some key wine geography. Ergo: Campania’s Golden Triangle, the points of which are Avellino (to the south), Taurasi (to the northeast), and Tufo (to the northwest) – each of which towns is the epicenter for one of Campania’s three greatest wines, Fiano di Avellino, Taurasi, and Greco di Tufo.

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Taurasi, top right; Tufo, high middle left; Avellino, lower left

.Let me start, at the risk of boring everyone who knows this already, with some basic geopolitical information. Campania is the region – that’s Italy’s largest geopolitical designation, the equivalent of the regions of Piedmont or the Veneto or Tuscany, for instance – and Naples is its capital. Campania fronts on the Mediterranean, which is the only part of it most tourists know, and backs on the Apennine mountains, with borders on Lazio in the north, Basilicata and Calabria in the south, and Molise and Puglia in the east. A very short way back from its seacoast, Campania rises – often quite high – into beautiful and in some places still quite wild hills, where winters feature snow and cold that belie the travel-poster fictions of palm trees and sunshine.

Here, some 30 kilometers east of Naples, starts the province – that’s the second largest geopolitical designation – of Avellino, at whose heart lies an ancient zone known as Irpinia. In pre-classical times, this area was the home of the tribe or nation the Romans called Sabines, against whom they warred for years and whose territory they eventually absorbed. Winemaking traditions here date from at least that time, if not earlier, and nowadays Irpinia counts as one of Campania’s premier wine-producing zones – if not the premier zone.

What I’m calling Campania’s Golden Triangle sits in the heart of Irpinia, and it contains some of the most distinctive terroirs in all Italy. These are volcanic soils, old and decayed, and they are laced with alluvial deposits and sea sands, in some places stratified, in others mixed together, so that terroirs can vary tremendously within a short distance. The altitude of the land makes for colder winters than Naples and the coast ever see, but the same hills that create that altitude also make many different exposures for vineyards, which here are cultivated quite high. In some parts of the Taurasi zone, vines grow above 600 meters, and – since Aglianico requires a long growing season – harvests in the snow are not unheard of. Those same altitudes and soils, with their attendant day/night temperature differentials, give the white grapes Greco and Fiano their wonderful aromatics.

Irpinia holds the greatest concentration of top-flight wineries to be found in Campania. They range in size from almost boutique to very large indeed: Some make only one wine, and some make the whole gamut of regional wines. To begin with (in many senses), Irpinia is home to the Mastroberardino firm. The Mastroberardinos are widely and justly regarded not only as the pioneer of quality winemaking in the region – the family was already exporting around the world in the 19th century – but, even more important, as the savior of serious Campanian viticulture. In Italy’s deep economic and psychological depression after World War II, when many winemakers throughout the country had decided that the only way to survive was to plant French varieties, Mastroberardino made the crucial and highly influential decision to trust Campania’s indigenous varieties – a choice for which anyone who relishes difference and distinctiveness in wines reveres the whole family. They fought for the recognition of Irpinia’s now famous three, first as DOC and later as DOCG wines, and they still make some of the best bottles of them all.

They have been joined since those days by many more producers who now make the Golden Triangle the most lively locale in the Campania wine universe. Notable among the more large firms are Terredora, owned by a split-off branch of the Mastroberardinos, and Feudi di San Gregorio, an ambitious and steadily improving – from a very good base level – maker of all of the Campanian specialties. But the greatest growth and, for the wine aficionado, the greatest opportunity for discovery come from smaller producers, who have multiplied in the past 20 years.

I want to call special attention here to three that I happened upon only recently, though all three are already well known and highly regarded in Irpinia. Each stands as a fair representative of the exciting wines to be found in their appellations: Rocca del Principe for Fiano di Avellino, Benito Ferrara for Greco di Tufo, and Guastaferro for Taurasi.R del P Fiano

Rocca del Principe, owned and worked by Aurelia Fabrizio and her husband Ercole Zarella, comprises about five hectares divided among three separate hillside vineyards in the township of Lapio, about 15 kilometers northeast of Avellino. All are over 500 meters high, some parts almost 600. The land was worked by two generations of their family and the grapes were sold off before Aurelia and Ercole in 2004 began vinifying on their own. They are clearly quick learners: Their Fiano di Avellino has already been awarded Tre Bicchieri four times. I tasted with them barrel samples of the separate vineyards, which are only blended at the final assemblage of the wine. Each was strikingly distinctive, with its own gout de terroir – so much so that I thought any of them could have been bottled as a first-rate cru. Clearly, Rocca del Principe’s vineyards yield fine basic material. The eight-year vertical to which I was next treated emphatically verified that.

2013: Lovely, intense Fiano nose: volcanic soil, apples, and almonds. The same elements on the palate, with an ever-so-slightly buttery finish. Excellent.

2012: A warmer vintage, consequently richer and riper on the nose, with hints of peach. Again, the palate shows exactly the same elements, with a long, lovely peach-and-mineral finish.

2011: A big, pungent, lees-y nose. On the palate, round and soft, yet still acidic, with excellent fruit, and a long, sapid finish. This wine is maturing beautifully.

2010: All superlatives here: a step more mature than the ’11, the nose and palate pervaded by dried peaches. Very fine.

2009:  Aroma similar to 2011, plus dried peaches and orange skins. The palate follows suit. A superb wine, intense and elegant, round and acid, and very long-finishing. The stylistic consistency from year to year, despite harvest differences, is totally impressive.

2008:  On the nose and the palate, the dried peach elements are now going mushroomy – another stage of the wine’s maturation. The mineral elements are beginning to deepen, and the finish has a taste of forest underbrush. Intriguing and lovely.

2007:  This wine tastes less advanced, still peachy on the nose and fruity and acid on the palate. This was a hot vintage, with lots of fruit and glycerin. Could live years yet.

2006:  Deep, earthy, dried peach and orange peel aroma. In the mouth, round, slightly smoky, slightly sweet, a little less complex than the preceding wines – perhaps beginning to be a bit tired. This post is already running longer than I had planned, so I’ll break it here and in a future post talk about my similarly exciting tastings of Benito Ferrara Greco di Tufo and Guastaferro Taurasi.

Tom’s Wine Line

 

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Chianti: The Best Known Wine and the Least Known Wine

There are many great grape varieties in Italy but it if I was forced to choose a favorite, it would be Sangiovese. Wines made from the Sangiovese grape are the perfect wines to go with food. They have bright fruit flavors,  hints of violets, and good acidity.  The best wine made from the Sangiovese grape is Chianti from Tuscany.IMG_7713

For the last four  years I have been attending the annual seminar and tasting presented by the Consorzio Vino Chianti. I enjoy these seminars, the guided tasting, listening to the speakers and catching up on the latest news from one of my favorite wine regions. This year was was no exception.

Ray Isle of Food & Wine Magazine introduced the three panelists for the guided tasting: Sarah Bray of Town and Country Magazine, Luize Alberto of WineHub, and Giovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti and owner of Villa Travignoli.IMG_7716

Mr. Busi seemed to set the tone of the seminar when he said that “Chianti is one of the best know wines and one of the least known wines.” This led  to the panelists discussing Chianti in the market place, the beauty of the Tuscan landscape, the confusion with Chianti Classico and what could the Consortium do  to help consumers better understand Chianti and improve its market share.

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The Chianti Lands

The panelists agreed that by having these seminars and tastings the Consortium was doing it best to promote Chianti. The confusion with Chianti Classico may be hard to overcome. Near the end of the seminar the woman next to me whispered, “I have been drinking Chianti all my life and I thought that all Chianti had a  black rooster on the neck of the bottle.”

Mr. Busi discussed the grapes that are used to make Chianti and how the wine is aged. Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese but the law has limited the amount of international grapes such as Merlot to 10%. Traditional Tuscan grapes like Canaiolo can also be used up to 30% as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia, which are white grapes. Mr. Busi wanted to change the law so that Chianti to allow that the wine can be made from 100% Sangiovese and this was recently approved.

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

For the Riserva the wine must be aged a minimum of two years from January 1st following the harvest.  For Chianti Fiorentini and Rufina, the Riserva has to spend at lest 6 months in wood. For the Chianti Senesi Riserva the wine must spend at least 8 months in wood and 4 months in bottle.

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

The Wines

The tasting was blind in that we were not given the names of the producers. All other information about the wine was given to us.IMG_7717

Chianti DOCG 2013 San Vito 100 % Sangiovese. The soil is sandy clay and the exposure is southwest/northwest. The training system is spurred cordon, the vines are 20 years old and are at 150 meters.  Organic farming is practiced. Fermentation with 8 to 10 days of maceration on the skins with regular pumping over. The wine matures in steel and g;ass-lined vats and is aged for another 3 months in bottle.  This is an easy drinking wine with hints of cherry, blackberries and a touch of violet. It is a perfect food wine.IMG_7718

Chianti DOCG 2012 Priore 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil is rich in organic material. The vineyards are at 300 meters and face south. The vines are 15 years old and are spurred cordon trained. Aging takes place in stainless steel vats for at least 12 months and in second passage  oak barrels for at least 5 months. The wine remains in the bottle for another 6 months before it is released. It has hints of violets, cherries and a touch of prune.IMG_7719

Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2001 Il Castelvecchio 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. The soil is made up of clay, sandstone, gravel and stone. The vineyard is at 250-300 meters, with the Sangiovese  facing west and the Merlot northwest. The vines are 18 years old and the training is guyot. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for 14 days with a slow maceration. There is a pressing of the grapes and a daily pumping over. The wine spends 12 months in different size oak barrels and second passage barriques. The wines remains in bottle for 3 months before release. It has hints of red berries, with a nice finish and aftertaste.IMG_7720

Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva  “San Camillo”2010 Il  Corno 100% Sangiovese. The vines are 15 to 20 years old, south facing at 350 meters and the training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation in stainless steel vats and the malolactic fermentation is in concrete tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in large barrels and 3 months in bottle before release. It has hints of spice, pepper and nice mineralityIMG_7721

Chianti DOCG Riserva 2009 Casalbosco 100% Sangiovese. The soil is made up of rocks and clay, the exposure is south/southwest, the age of the vines is 15 years and the training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine is aged in second passage medium toasted barriques for 12 months and spens 6 months in bottle before release. The wine had hints of cherry and plum.IMG_7722

Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva 2008 DOCG 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino Coppiole. The hillside vineyards have mixed soils with a prevalence of sand. The vines are 25 to 30 years old and are at 300 meters. The exposure is south/southwest and the training system guyot. The wine spends 12 to 15 months in tonneaux (500 liters) and 12 months in cement vats. It remains in the bottle for another 4 to 8 months before it is released. It is a fruity wine with hints of cherry and spice and a nice finish and aftertaste.

I was very pleased with the wines chosen for the seminar because they were a true expression of the Sangiovese grape and of the Tuscan terroir which makes Chianti so unique and a wonderful  food wine.

 

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Doctor Wine on the Return of Pajata at Checchino 1887

 

 

 

Checchino 1887 is my favorite restaurant in Rome for food and wine. I missed the return of Pajata by a week when I was at the restaurant this winter.

Checchino 1887 and the return of Pajata by Daniele Cernilli, Doctor Wine  28-04- 20015

Testaccio is one of Rome’s most traditional neighborhoods and even has its own cuisine that derives from it once being home to the city’s main slaughterhouse. Although today the area has become a trendy nighttime scene, filled with pubs and discos, the Checchino dal 1887 restaurant remains a stalwart of an almost forgotten past. The Mariani family has owned and operated the restaurant for seven generations and Checchino is considered the birthplace of one of the important dishes in Roman cuisine: Rigatoni con la Pajata. The sauce for this pasta is mad by stewing the entrails of calves that have not been weaned and are filled with chyle, which has a consistency between ricotta and yogurt. A misunderstanding of its recipe led it to be banned by the European Union in 2001 in the wake of the ‘Mad Cow’ scare, a ban that was only lifted a few weeks ago. Now that it is legal again I obviously went straight to Elio and Francescoi Mariani to taste it after almost 15 years. Being the direct heirs of those who invented the dish, they have not changed an iota of the original recipe, an act of gastronomic archeology and the restoration of a cultural and traditional asset with deeply social roots. Rigatoni con la Pajata dish is now once again the signature plate of this extraordinary restaurant which offers and maintains the best of Testaccio cuisine with wonderful versions of Coda alla Vaccinara (Ox-tail stew), Trippa alla Romana (Roman-style tripe with tomato sauce) and Coratella con Carciofi (Entrails with artichokes), along with standard Roman classic pastas like Carbonara, Amatriciano, Gricia and Cacio e Pepe. Their wine list is also very good with the bottles conserved in a cellar carved out of ‘Monte dei Cocci’, a huge mound built out of ancient stacked clay fragments from amphora dating back to Roman times. The restaurant is a magical, unique place where a meal runs around 60 euros a head, if you don’t get carried away with the wine. Walking out you cannot help but think: ‘’Screw fusion cuisine…’’.  I could not agree more-traditional Roman cuisine at its best!

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