Monthly Archives: March 2019

Gala Italia Showcases Italian Wine

The Italian Wine and Food institute held its 34 annual Gala Italian Wine and Food Tasting at Il Gattopardo restaurant in NYC. Lucio Caputo, head of the Institute and former head of Italian Trade Commission in NYC said that the event was a great success attended by many members of the trade and the media. The event was divided into to parts, the afternoon secession was for the trade and the evening session was for the media.

I went to the afternoon secession early because I knew it would be less crowded and would be able to taste the wines at my own pace.

Lucio Caputo and Augusto Marchini the former Assistant Trade Commissioner

There were a number of excellent wines and here are a few I really liked.

The Wine

Valdo Brut Prosecco DOC NV Made from 100% Glera.(Veneto) The vineyards are the traditional “Metodo Spalliera”, where the stems can be as long as one meter and are tied to a horizontal wire. Grapes are hand picked during the last week of September. Soft pressing and fermentation occurs at 64F in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. To obtain small and fine bubbles (perlage) a selection of natural yeasts is made. There is 3 months of Charmat aging, followed by 3 mo nths in bottle before release. This is a sparkling wine with hints of peach, melon, pear and golden apple.

Ferrari Brut Trento DOC NV Methodo Classico 100% Chardonnay. (Trentino) The grapes are picked by hand at the beginning of September. They come from various communes in the Val d’Adige, .Val di Cembra and Valle dei Laghi. The vineyards are between 300 and 700 meters above sea level, with southeast or southwest exposure. The wine is aged for at least 24 months on the lees. It is selected yeast from Ferrari’s own cultures

Muzic, Collio Ribolla Gialla DOC 2017 100% Ribolla Gialla(F V J) grown on hilly terrain of stratified Eocene marl and sandstone. The training system is Guyot. Grapes are hand harvested the third week of September. The grapes are destemmed and crushed, followed by maceration on the skins for12 hours at 15C. There is a soft pressing of the grapes. Alcoholic fermentation is for 8 to 10 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged on the lees in steel vats with periodical batonnage for at least four months. This is a light bodied, balanced white wine with hints of citrus fruit, white flowers and good acidity.

Planeta Etna Rosso DOC 2016 made from 100% Nerello Mascalese (Sicily) The soil is black lave sand, rich in minerals. The vineyards are at 510 meters, there are 5,000 plants per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. Harvest takes place from October 15th to 20th. The grapes are picked and placed into crates and, if necessary, are at once refrigerated at 10C. A selection takes place by hand. After destemming, fermentation is at 23C in wooden vats and in stainless steel vats and the skins mains in contact with the must for 14 days. There is a mixing and manual stirring every day. Decanting takes place with the help of the vertical press. The wine is aged in wooden 50hl and stainless steel vats for 6 to 8 months. The wine is bottled in July. This is a fruity wine with hints of cherry, strawberry and a touch of spice and black pepper.

Villa Antinori, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013 (Tuscany) Made mostly from Sangiovese with some Cabernet Sauvignon. Harvest began on September 25th with the Sangiovese and ended in mid-October with the Cabernet. The grapes were given a soft destemming and pressing, and the must went into stainless steel tanks, where it fermented for a week at a controlled temperature. Skin contact lasted for 8 or 9 days. Malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel for the Sangiovese and in oak barrels for the Cabernet. A master blend was made and went into big barrels and partially in small barrels of Hungarian oak until the spring. The wine was bottled in June 2015. The wine has hints of red fruit, spice and balsamic notes.

Bertani, Secco Original Vintage Edition Verona IGT 2015(Veneto) in) Made from 80% different varieties of Corvina, 10% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in the hills around the historic winery outside Verona. After a long cold maceration on the skins, a slow fermentation is started using native yeasts. The wine is still slightly sweet and goes into the final slow fermentation in wood. Aging is is traditional medium-sizes wooden barrels 750 to 5,000 liters made from chestnut and cherry wood. The wine has hints of cherries and blackberries with notes of spice and black pepper. This wine goes back to an old recipe from 1889.

Faraone, Le Vigne del Faraone” Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2014 (Abruzzo) made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation the wine is aged in wooden casks for 24 months and then bottled. This is a rustic wine with flavors and aromas of red and black fruit, and a touch of spice. This wine will age and is a very good food wine.

Travaglini, “Tre Vigne” Gattinara 2012 made from 100% Nebbiolo (Northern Piedmont) The soil is rocky, iron deposits, rich in minerals which give the soil a reddish color. The vineyards are at 320 to 420 meters and there are 3,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare. The exposure is southwest and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place in the beginning of October. The grapes are crushed and macerated for about 15 days in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged for 40 months, 30 months in Slovenian oak casks, and 20% aged separately for 10 moths in French barriques and the rest in bottle for 8 months. This wine is only produced in the best vintage. This is a very impressive wine, full bodied with hints of pomegranates, plum, jam and a touch of spice. It will age for many years.

I attended the first Gala 34 years ago and have found memories of the ones I have attended over the years

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Filed under Bertani, Faraone winery, Ferrari, Gala, Gattinara, Planeta, Prosecco, Travaglini, Villa Antinori

Terresacre: Wine from Molise

Over the years, I have met Chef Marcello Russodivito at different wine and food events. He owns a restaurant called Marcello’s of Suffern, in Suffern NY We would talk about wine and food and told me about a winery in Molise that he really liked. In fact, he liked it so much that he considered himself the American ambassador for the wine.

I asked him who the importer was and he told me that it is Wine Emporium. I called Franco Bengazi, owner of the company, and asked him if I could have some samples to try. In return, Franco sent me 7 bottles of very interesting wine.

Terresacre winery was established in 2006 in the small South Central Italian region of Molise. There are 35 hectares of vineyards and they are at 270 meters located in the countryside of Monterero di Bisaccia. This is in the hills of the lower Molise where the grapes are influenced by the maritime climate.

The Wines

Falanghina 2018 DOC 100% Falanghina. Harvest is by hand the first week of September and the grapes are destemmed, immediately crushed, and softly pressed. The must is immediately cooled at 8 to 10 degrees C. After 18 hours the must begins the fermentation process. Alcoholic fermentation lasts for 10 days at a constant temperature 15C. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a fresh dry wine with hints of citrus fruit, apple, a touch of acacia flowers and good acidity. This is the first time I have tasted a Falanghina from Molise and I really enjoyed it. $21

Falanghina Oravera 2015 DOC 100% Falanghina. After pressing, the grapes are subjected to a pre-saturation and the juice is cooled at 8C and left to settle. After 24 hours the clear must is fermented. The juice is fermented in French oak barriques. To obtain aromatic complexity the wine remains in the barrels on the lees for 8 months. The wine then is aged in bottle until it is ready for release. This is a complex wine with hints of candied fruits, acacia flowers and vanilla. Even with the barrique aging the aromas and the flavors of the Falanghina come through. This is the first time I have had a Falanghina fermented and aged in barriques. $30

Rosato 2017 “Rosavite” Terre Degli Osci IGT 100% Montepulciano. The grapes are hand picked at the end of September. After the separation of the stalks there is a mild crushing of the grapes. Maceration is for 10 hours. Fermentation at a controlled temperature takes place at 16 to18 C for 10 days. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints a cherry, raspberry and strawberry. $17.50

Rosso Neravite Molise 2014 DOC made from 100% Montepulciano. The grapes are hand harvested on the last 10 days of October. The grapes are softly crushed and destemmed. Maceration is in small steel fermentation tanks for 15 to 20 days with continuous daily stirring. Temperature controlled fermentation at 28C. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of black fruit with hints of black cherry and blackberries. $17.50

Tintilia 2016 DOC made from 100% Tintilia. This wine is treated the same way as the Tintilia Riserva(see below) the only difference is the it is aged in neutral stainless steel containers only. This is an intense full bodied wine with hints of blueberries, dark cherry, spice and a touch of balsamic. $27

The Tintilia Grape Is a black-skinned grape grown in small quantities in Molise. The vines produce medium-sized, egg-shaped berries in lose winged bunches. During maturation, some berries will even detach themselves, thinning bunches even more and further lowinerg the yields. The history of the grape in Molise is open to interpretation. Because the name Tinta means red in Spanish some believe that the grape was introduced into Molise sometime during the 17th century from Spain. Others believe the grape goes all the way back to the Samnites who inhabited the region prior to Roman rule. All agree however it is the most interesting “indigenous” grape in Molise.

Because Tintilia is a very low yielding grape it was not very profitable to grow. The grape managed to survive in a few places here and there until it was “re-discovered” in the late 1990’s by producers such as Terresacre. This was helped in part by the creation of the DOC in 1998 which allowed wines made by at least 85% Tintilia to have the DOC.

I do not believe I have had a wine made from this grape before!

Tintilia Riserva Molise 2013 made from 100% Tintilia. The grapes are hand harvested at the end of September and the beginning of October. After the separation of the stalks there is a soft pressing of the grapes. Maceration takes place in steel vats for 20 to 30 days with pumping over of the must. Alcoholic fermentation is for 10 to 12 days in temperature controlled tanks and at a temperature that does not rise above 28C. The wine is aged in French barriques carefully selected by the enologist Goffredo Agostini to respect the character of the Tintilia grape. This is a complex full bodied wine with hints of plum, red fruits, a touch of black pepper and balsamic notes. $41.50

Rispetto Montepulciano “Experientia Manet” 2013 100% Montepulciano. The grapes are hand harvested in late October. Maceration takes place in small steel fermentation tanks for 20 to 25 days and strring takes place. Fermentation is from 10 to 12 days at 28C. The wine is aged in French oak barriques made from two different types of wood. The wine has hints of blueberries, jam, vanilla coconut and coffee. $ 33.50

Thanks to Chef Marcello Russodivito for introducing me to these wines and to Franco Bengazi of Wine Emporium for sending me the samples.

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Filed under Falanghina, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Terresacre, Tintilla Molise, Uncategorized

Drinking Fiorano Rosso with Alessia Antinori

A few years ago Michele and I were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. There were 12 people and everyone was asked to bring a bottle of wine. One of the guests brought two bottles of wine, one of which was the 1974 Fiorano Rosso from Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa, a winery located 30 minutes outside Rome. Followers of my blog know that this may be my favorite wine.

I took this guest aside and explained that since he had two bottles there was no reason to open the Fiorano for so many people. It may have been the tone of my voice or the look on my face and he said to me, “Here, take the bottle home.” I promised I wouldn’t open the bottle until one of our Fiorano dinners when he could join us.  Unfortunately, it did not workout and he told me I could drink the wine without him.

Alessia Antinori

Alessia Antinori, granddaughter of the prince is the owner of Tenuta Fiorano, which is just a short distance from Rome.  I have visited the winery a number of times.  Alessia also  has an apartment in NYC.  Recently we met in Chinatown for lunch and she brought the 1993 Fiorano. After drinking the wine we decided it was time for  another Fiorano dinner. Alessia invited us to do it at her apartment. I also invited the person that gave me the 1974 Fiorano. Not only could he make it this time but he said he would bring a bottle of the 1971!

There were 7 of us for lunch.  We opened a magnum of Champagne to start but it was oxidized–too bad.  So we moved on to the wines.

The wines

Alberico Bianco 2015 100% Sémillon Tenuta Fiorano After a careful manual selection, the best grapes were destemmed and soft pressed. Fermentation in casks and the wine completed its six months of aging in puncheons. The wine was aged in bottle for a minimum of 24 months. This is an exceptional balanced wine with complex aromas of subtle tropical fruit, hints of citrus fruit and a slight touch of vanilla with a very pleasing finish and a long aftertaste. This is Alessia’s wine and it is  very special. Alessia said it is a white wine that will age and I agreed. In fact I told her it was a white wine as good as the Sémillon or the Malvasia di Candia that her grandfather made!

Le Montrachet 1986 Jaffelin 100% Chardonnay The grapes are harvested by hand and then directly pressed in a pneumatic press. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in French oak barrels of which 40% are new. The lees are stirred (batonnage) occasionally during aging which lasts for about 13 months. This is how they do the white wine now but it may have been different back in 1986. The wine was showing signs of age but was very drinkable and was a lovely combination with the   stracchino, a mild and creamy Italian cheese.

We started with homemade potato gnocchi in a rich creamy cheese sauce.

Next we had Brasato al Porcini, beef braised with porcini, red wine and tomato sauce.  With it we had a puree of cauliflower and potato, brussels sprouts and roasted asparagus.

Fiorano Rosso is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa. Burton Anderson, in his landmark Italian wine book  Vino, called Fiorano Rosso “the noblest Roman of them all”.  The Prince’s few acres of vines are planted along the Appian Way about 20 kilometers southwest of the center of Rome and almost right next to Rome’s second airport, Ciampino. It is the best cabernet/merlot blend made it Italy and one of the best in the world!  In my opinion–and I am in the minority here–one of the best places in the world to grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is in Lazio close to Rome.  The Fiorano Rosso is all leather and cherry with a great finish and aftertaste.  The last vintage made by the prince was 1995.

Fiorano 1956 This wine was still drinking but showing its age. The leather was there but the fruit had become more muted.

Fiorano 1971 This was classic Fiorano, leather and cherry in excellent condition with a wonderful finish and aftertaste.

Fiorano 1985 This wine had to be decanted because it was too young but the leather and the cherry was all there. All it needs is time to develop.


Fiorano 1988 This wine seemed to be out of balance perhaps  because it needed more time to develop.

Villa Antinori Villa del Chianti 1949 This wine was showing its age, still drinkable but not for much longer. A few weeks ago in Rome I had the 1975 in magnum and it was drinking very well.  One  of  the  guests  brought  this  wine for Alessia.

Chateau Margaux 1986 Made from 75% Cabernet Sauvignon , 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  This was a classic Bordeaux.  1986 was a classic year, however the wine needed more time to develop.

It was a wonderful lunch and a chance to taste different vintages of Fiorano Rosso along with other older wines, not to compare but to enjoy.



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Feasting in Frascati

On our recent trip to Rome, Michele and I were fortunate to be invited to the home of Josephine Wennerholm, a food blogger and cooking teacher in Frascati. We follow her blog Frascati Cooking That’s Amore  and have always found it full of good information, not just on Frascati, but on Rome and the surrounding area.

Josephine’s husband Pino picked us up in Rome and drove us to Frascati, which is about 30 minutes from Rome, unless there is traffic. There we met a group of their friends, great food and wine lovers all. Josephine had prepared a real feast, and several of her guests contributed their specialties.

We started with an amazing assortment of antipasti. Josephine had made delicious suppli, Roman style rice balls, that were flavored with mushrooms and tomato and fried in a crispy breadcrumb coating.

Next we had little fried turnovers filled with greens and cheese.

There was focaccia filled with mortadella, or as the Romans say, mortazza.

A slab of porchetta from Bernabei, one of the best porchetta makers in the area, was next.

It was sliced and served in pizzette, in this case little rolls.

Alessandro Ferracci, a chef and the son of Anna Dente, who owns a famous restaurant in the area, prepared several dishes. This was a salad of boiled tongue, only the back part, which the chef said is the most tender.

He tossed the chunks of meat with a classic green sauce, made with parsley, garlic, and olive oil, and served it in more of those pizzette.

Chef Ferracci

We had two pastas. The first was a specialty of Chef  Alessandro, and a Roman classic, Rigatoni with Pajata. Pajata is the intestine of suckling lamb, which contains a delicate cheese since the lambs eat only milk.

It is a great delicacy in Rome and was actually illegal until 2011.  It takes an expert to prepare it properly and Chef  Ferracci’s version was excellent.

Josephine prepared the second pasta, one of our favorites. It was rigatoni with oxtail ragu, another Roman specialty.

Michelle Smith prepared the Roman style artichokes, which were simmered until meltingly tender with garlic, herbs and olive oil. Michelle is a sommelier and blogger at



I had a long conversation with her about wine.

Next there was sliced  tongue, served with mostarda

and lamb alla cacciatore, cooked with vinegar and garlic.  Sorry,  no  photo.

Josephine also prepared another of my favorites, borlotti beans with tomato sauce and cotiche, pork skin.

Dessert included a salame del Papa, chocolate, nuts and crushed cookies formed into a log.

Josephine also prepared a Cassola, a ricotta cheesecake with raisins.

One of the guests also brought an assortment of  tempting pastries.

It was a great feast and one of the best parts was meeting so many people interested in food and wine and enjoying Josephine and Pino’s warmth and hospitality.



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Cantine Ciani: A Winery High Above Naples

Visiting Cantine Ciani

The weather in Naples was sunny with just a slight chill in the air as Michele and I with 3 friends waited for Armando Ciani to pick us up and drive us to his family winery high above Naples. I first met Armando at a tasting and dinner of his wines in NYC with Eugenio Cannata and Jef Quinn (Quintiliani) who are partners with Armando and the Ciani Family. They are helping to revamp the winery and export the wines all over the world.

Armando in NYC

I liked Armando’s wines and told him I would be in Naples in a few months. He said I must visit the winery, and so the visit was arranged. As we drove Armando told us about the winery, mentioning how different the weather was from Naples. As we got closer to the winery it became cloudy and it began to rain and it became much colder. He said this is because we were at 500 meters above sea level.

The family house dates back to 1700, and it has a wine cellar from 1300. Grapes were planted by the Ciani family in 1948 on vertical trellises in Irpinia.

Armando in the cellar of the winery. We tasted a number of barrel samples

In 2006 Armando completed the new wine cellar with temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There are about 180 oak barrels of different sizes in the cellar including French barriques and Italian tonneaux and botti grandi (large barrels). 

In the cellar were three large “windows” where you could see the layers of soil.

The wine corks depict the three windows.

After the visiting the cellar we tasted the wines in Armando’s home


Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2016 100% Fiano di Avellino from vineyards at 600 meters in Lapio Town (Arianello District). The grapes are harvested when fully ripe and are soft pressed and thermo-vinified at 15 C. The wine is aged 12 months in steel and two months in barrel before release. This is an elegant wine with hint of citrus fruit, almonds and floral notes. We also tasted the Fiano di Avellino “Elisir” 2010 which was showing no signs of age.

Greco di Tufo 100% Greco di Tufo 2018 The production area is Montefusco, Chianche and Petruro Irpinia. The grapes are grown at 500/600 meters and the training system is espalier. The wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel and two months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with hints of citrus, apricot and a touch of honey. In NYC I tasted the 2012 – this is a white wine that can age.

At the dinner in NYC we also tasted the Greco di Tufo “Elisir” 2008 that was showing no signs of age. Armando said the Elisir is a special bottling of Fiano and the Greco.

Irpinia Rosato 2010 I tasted in NYC and it was showing no signs of age. I tasted the 2018 at the winery. Made from 100%  Aglianco. There  is a very light  pressing of  the  grapes to get a pale pink Lacrima Rosè. Harvest  is  between  the end of October and  the beginning of November. The wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel and 2 months in bottle before release.

This is a rosè with  a lot  of character with hints of cherry,  currents, and  a touch  of strawberry.

Armando wanted the Rosato to have the color of a special onion that grows in the area

Taurasi DOCG 2008 100% Aglianico from the Mirabella Eclano area. The vineyard is on a steep slope and the exposure is west. Armando said this gives good drainage and good exposure to sunlight. Harvest takes place by hand at the beginning of November. The wine is aged for 14 to 16 months in Allier and Slavonia oak barrels) barriques, tonneaux and barrels of 25HL. The wine is then aged in stainless steel for 12 months and 12 months in bottle before release. This is a full and balanced wine with hints of blackberry, blackcurrants and spice with a long finish.

We also tasted the Taurasi Vinanda “Dicatus” 2006 which was showing very well and it is a wine that will age.

Everyone enjoyed the visit and the wines. Armando said the wines are not in the U. S. at this time but his American partners are busy looking for an importer/distributor and hope they find one soon.

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