Monthly Archives: July 2022

The greatness of simple wines by Daniele Cernilli

Below is an article by Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine in which he cites my favorite Prosecco producer Nino Franco as his example.

The greatness of simple wines

by Daniele Cernilli 07/25/22 | 

La grandezza dei vini semplici

Those who consider themselves to be wine experts often snub simple wines and the grounds that they are commonplace and indistinct. However, there are simple wines that are delicious and anything but commonplace. One just needs to get to know them and seek them out.

I got the idea for this piece while tasting a Prosecco in our editorial staff room. This was not just any Prosecco but a Valdobbiadene Superiore Rustico Nino Franco and produced by Primo Franco, in my opinion one of the great interpreters of this type of wine. Those at Wine Spectator must agree since they invited him, the first “proseccer”, to take part in their Wine Experience in New York.

He also makes Grave di Stecca, an absolute gem, as well as Nodi, Rive di San Floriano and this Rustico, the fourth in his line of wines and for the first time a Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, because up until last year this wine did not have a DOCG classification. Maybe it was the heat, maybe because it retails at ten euros, since I am not rich enough to but the great Champagnes, but this wine was delicious and those working with me at the office thought it was really good, too.

This is a simple wine yet has precise aromas, with the fruit dominating over the notes from fermentation, as should always be the case with wines made using the Charmat Method, and our bottle was empty in no time. This not just because it has a delicious drinkability, almost irresistible, but because while working we did not have time to think too much about complexity or the aftertaste of the wine we were drinking.

The wine is a triumph of simplicity, never commonplace, not excessively “enological”, an expression of distinct scents and light and pleasing flavors. The opposite of a neutral “prosecchino” without any evident qualities, which means not distinct nor recognizable. With the wine we drank, on the other hand, everything was immediately comprehensible even for those who are not condescending experts.

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Tasting Abruzzo’s Talamonti Wines

In June I was invited on press trip to Abruzzo, a region of Italy I have visited several times. The Consorzio Vini D’Abruzzo sponsored the trip which was organized by Marina Nedic, executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). The trip lasted 4 days. 

On the third day there was a Grand Wine Tasting of Abruzzo wines at Palazzo D’Avalos in Vasto. The first part was a sit down tasting followed by lunch al fresco. As I was having lunch and enjoying a glass of Pecorino, one of my favorite white wines from Abruzzo perfect on a hot day, someone stopped by to say hello. It was Rodrigo Redmont.IMG_7642 I met Rodrigo when he was a wine salesperson in NYC.  We talked about different people we knew and the wine business in NYC.  After lunch there was a walkaround tasting and Rodrigo asked me to come by and taste the wines of the Talamonti Winery. Later I found out Rodrigo is the president of Talamonti Winery!

Talamonti was founded in 2001 by the Redmont-Di Tonno family in an unspoiled part of Abruzzo. The winery has expanded to 45 hectares in the municipality of Loreto Aprutino (Pescara). The vineyards circumnavigate the winery and are at 300 meters with a southeast exposure in the Tavo Valley region.

The wines I tasted

IMG_7638Pecorino Superiore Abruzzo “Trabocchetto”  Made from 100% Pecorino. The area of production is Loreto Aprutino. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The vineyard planting took place between 2004-2011. There is a hand harvest in mid-September. The grape stalks are removed and the grapes undergo a cold maceration in stainless steel. A soft pressing follows. The clarified must is fermented with select yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 12 days at 12C to preserve the 100% natural Pecorino fruitiness and inimitable freshness of the wine. The wine has hints of pear and apple with a note of ginestra flowers, a touch of jasmine and a gentle acidity. 

IMG_7536Rodrigo said the link to the Abruzzo region, to its history, and our roots represents the basis for the selection of all the names of Talamonti wines. The term Trabocchetto was selected for its historical importance to the Abruzzo’s fishing tradition. According to local historians, the trabocco (or trabucco) was a fishing innovation imported from the Middle East with literature references dating back to the 18th Century. These ancient fishing machines were quickly adopted throughout the Adriatic Coast. Built exclusively out of wood, the construction permitted fisherman to fish in the worst of weather conditions. The trabocco is a wooden platform that stretches out to the sea and is anchored to large rocks. Long arms or antennas soar above and sustain an enormous net called “trabocchetto”. Today a few have been turned into restaurants.

IMG_7639 2Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Riserva “Aternvm” made from 100% Trebbiano D’Abruzzo from Loreto Aprutino. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The training system is overhead trellis and the vines were planted in 1975-1980. Vinification is the same as the wine above. The wine is aged for several months in 300 liter French oak barrels (30%) and in stainless steel(70%) with repeated batonnages before the wine is bottled. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime and a touch of spice with a pleasant acidity. It is a wine that can age for a few years.

Rodrigo said the choice to link the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, prince of white grapes of the Abruzzo, to one of the most important landmarks of the area was clear. The first inhabitants of the area founded only 20 km away a village on the banks of the Aternum River, naming it “Vicus Aterni”. The village remains are still visible today in modern-day Pescara. A few centuries later the name was changed to “Aternum”, in honor of the river itself, which gives its name to the wine.

IMG_7640Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva “Tre Saggi” Selected vineyards located near the village of Loreto Aprutino in the Monrpulciano d’Abruzzo DOC zone. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The soil is stony calcareous and drained and the vineyard is at 300 meters. Harvest is by hand in mid-October. The grape stalks are removed. Alcoholic fermentation with skin contact takes place with selected yeasts during 14 days with periodic pumping over. Malolactic fermentation is in 300 liter French oak barrels (Allier and Troncais). Then the wine is aged for 12 months in 300 liter French oak barrels. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine has hints of violets, wild berries, blackberries, cherry, spice, a hint of hazelnut and a touch of coffee. This wine should age for at least 10 years.

Their link to the Abruzzo region, to its history, and their roots represent the basis for all the names selected for Talamonti wines. Therefore, the choice to link the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape, the region’s principal red grape to one of the region’s most important landmarks, was obvious. The name “Tre Saggi” (The Three Wise Men) stems from three figures present in a fresco found in the Church of Santa Maria in Piano, located only 4km from the Talamonti vineyard-estate.

IMG_7641Rosso IGP Colin Pescaresi “Kudos” made from 80%  Montepulciano and 20% Merlot. The soil  is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The training system is guyot/overhead trellis and the vines were planted in 1995-2000. The two varieties are hand harvested separately in early October  for best ripening. They are vinified separately with 15-22 days of maceration. They are aged separately in 300 liter French oak barriques (Troncais and Allier) for 12 months. The wines are then blended and aged for another 12 months in 300 liter French oak barriques. The wine remains in the bottle until it is ready for release. The wine has hints of cherries, blueberries, currents, oak, spices and vanilla. 

Rodgrigo said the name “Kudos” was selected in order to transmit the message that their best parcel of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Merlot are blended together to produce their pinnacle wine. They wanted a non-Italian name to clearly communicate that there was a non-traditional varietal in the blend.

It was a pleasure to see Rodrigo in Abruzzo and I was very happy to be introduced to his wines.

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A Special Dinner at Nice Matin

In May the League of Gentle Men, an invitation-only wine group of which I am a member, held their latest dinner at Restaurant Nice Matin where Chef Eric Starkman prepared an impressive tasting menu for us.  The restaurant, located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at the base of the Lucerne Hotel, is a 25-year-old French bistro.

 When I returned home, I told my wife, Michele, all about the meal and she said that she would like to try the restaurant and we made a date to go.  At the restaurant, we spoke with Chef Starkman and asked him to choose a menu for us along with wines.

IMG_7817We started with a light and refreshing Tomato and Peach Salad in a light balsamic dressing with fresh mint.

IMG_7819 2Next we had a Socca Crepe, made with chickpea flour, filled with ratatouille and goat cheese.

IMG_7822 2Sancerre “les Pierris” 2020 Roger Champault made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The estate is over 50 acres which are farmed to the HVE process and the wines are HVE certified. The wine is a blend of grapes planted on two different soils. The Terres Blanches which gives complexity represents 70% of the blend. The expression and the minerality are from the Caillottes based vineyards. Fermentation is in thermoregulated vats to keep its freshness. After racking the wine stays on the fine lees until bottling in April which adds to the complexity of the wine. The wine has hints of white fruit, herbs, grass and a  hint of melon.


Next up was Nicoise-style Ravioli, fresh pasta stuffed with a rich beef short rib filling in a Provencale tomato sauce with a drizzle of basil oil.

IMG_7823Rosso di Montalcino 2020 Col D’Orcia (the hill overlooking the Orcia river) made from 100% Sangiovese. The soil is limestone and marl and the vineyards are at 1,500 ft. The grapes are hand harvested from estate vineyards. Fermentation takes place for 10/12 days at a controlled temperature in shallow wide steel tanks (150 HL) which help to preserve the freshness, the primary fruit flavors and aromas of the grapes. The wine is aged for 12 months in Slavonian casks (75 and 150 HL). Then it remains in bottle for one year before release. The wine has red fruit aromas and flavors with hints a wild berries, cherries and  balsamic notes.  This is a Rosso that will age. The vineyards of the estate are certified organic.

IMG_7827 2Duck Breast with Green Olives was our main dish.  It was a perfect choice because when we were in Paris recently we were sorry to have missed a version of this dish at a restaurant we visited.  We hadn’t realized until it was too late that it was the restaurant’s specialty, but I can’t imagine that it could have been any better than Chef Starkman’s version.  It was tender and perfectly cooked.

IMG_7826With it we drank Monopole Santenay 2016 Clos Des Gatsulards Louis Jadot made from 100% Pinot Noir. The Santenay appellation is located in the South Côte de Beaune. The Gatsulards part is in front of Santenay Clos de Master, slightly higher, a single vineyard/monopole. The soil is rich in limestone and marl. The wine has aromas of rose petal, violet, red and black fruits, cherry, blueberry and a touch of licorice. It was a delight to drink and will age for a number of years,

IMG_7829We were sure that we were too full for dessert, but then the chef brought us each a small chocolate souffle which was served with Grand Marnier creme anglaise.  We couldn’t resist such a delicious dessert.

Michele and I enjoyed every bite of the excellent meal as well as the wine tasting chosen by the sommelier from Nice Matin’s excellent wine list.

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Puglia Wine World at IL Gattopardo Restaurant

Puglia Wine World hosted a number of events in NYC last month.

IMG_7800 These included events at the Italian Consulate, The Fancy Food Show, an event on a boat, and the last a wine tasting and lunch at IL Gattopado restaurant in NYC. I was invited to the final event by Regione Puglia and Gruppo-Italiano

We started with a stand up tasting of five wines: 

IMG_7689Sissy Pop” Extra Brut Classic Method Masseria del Sole (Foggia) made from 100% Nero di Troia. The soil is clay/calcareous. There is a manual harvest and fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine has hints of dried almonds, hazelnut, blood orange, plum and fig.

Mela Rosa Extra Dry Sparkling Wine NV Due Palme (Brindisi) made from 100% Negroamaro. There are mineral deposits in the soil.  A careful  selection of grapes is harvested at the end of August to preserve the freshness and acidity. There is a brief period of skin contact to get the desired light pink color of  Rose. Then the Charmat method is used to create the sparkling wine. The wine has hints of red fruit, strawberry and raspberry with floral notes.

IMG_7691Puglia IGT Rosato BIO “Tre Tomoli Rosa” Vigna Flora (Bari) made from 100% Susumaniello. The soil is loamy and clayey. There is a manual harvest of the grapes followed by destemming and a soft crushing. Maceration in contact with the skin for 3 to 5 hours to get a peachy-pink color. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation is not carried out. The wine remains in steel and bottle for 15 days before release. The wine has hints of white peach, pink grapefruit and citrus tones.

IMG_7688Primitivo di Manduria DOC “Lirica” 2017 Produttori di Manduria Manduria. Made from 100% Primitivo. The soil is of a medium texture with calcareous tufa. Red wine vinification with thermo-conditioning of the fermentation process. The wine is in contact with the skins for 1 week and is aged for a minimum of 6 months in large barrels. This is an intense and elegant wine with hints of dark fruit, cherry, plum a hint of spice and a touch of ginger. This was a very impressive Primitivo.

IMG_7690Primitivo di Manduria DOC “Raccontami” Vespa Vignaioli (Manduria) made from 100% Primitivo. The soil is limestone-clayey. The skins fermentation is for 15 days, malolactic fermentation is in barriques and and the wine is aged for 12 months in barrel. The wine has hints of black and red fruits, with a touch of tobacco and a hint of vanilla.

For lunch there were 5 winesIMG_7720

The place mat had the name of the wines and information about each of the wines.

IMG_7692For lunch we began with a refreshing salad Acquasale Di Frisella, Cipolle, Cetriolini E Peperoni.  Toasted bread with onions, cucumbers and bell peppers.

IMG_7693Tiella Pugliese Tradizionale Di Riso, Patate E Cozze is a typical Pugliese casserole with rice, potatoes and mussels.

IMG_7799Rose — Botromagno is one of my favorite producers in Puglia


Red Wine #1

IMG_7694Agnello Al Sugo Alla Salentina Con Patate was a savory lamb stew with potatoes to go with the red wines.


Red Wine #2

IMG_7721Red Wine #3  SoliAir is an importer and distributor that carries an excellent line of wines.

IMG_7696Dolce Torta Di Albicocche Con Salsa Al Cioccolato E Mandorle Tostate is a delicate almond cake with apricots and chocolate sauce.

It is always a pleasure to have the wines of Puglia with the southern Italian food of IL Gattopardo.

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Discovering the Wines of NIZZA DOCG

Twelve years ago I was invited to the “Barbera Meeting 2010” held in Asti.  This event was open to journalists and bloggers and included visits to producers as well as a number of tastings.

On the final day, we went to Nizza Monferrato, then a sub zone of Barbera d Asti, and tasted 25 wines. A journalist questioned the prevalence of barriques and the resulting oak toasted flavors found in most of the wines. Two of the producers at the tasting verbally attacked him for his criticism of the wines.  Yet the vast majority of journalists, if not all of them, agreed that most of the wines they had tasted were too oaky and did not like the direction most of the producers were taking.

Today the wine is called Nizza DOCG.IMG_7782

Last month, the Consorizio Barbera D’Asti del Monferrato organized a seminar and luncheon to “Discover Nizza DOCG” at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in New York City.  I looked forward to tasting the wines side by side and seeing which direction the producers were taking.

There were ten wine to taste and representatives from the wineries were present.

IMG_7686The moderator was Gregory Dal Piaz. I have known Gregory for a number of years and was very pleased that he was the moderator.

This is a summary what was said at the Seminar.

La Barbera is the second most planted grape in Italy. It is grown in other parts of Italy but the Piedmontese think of it as their grape.  It produces a wine with good acidity that goes well with food.

Nizza DOCG was originally a sub zone of Barbera d’Asti DOCG and became a separate DOCG in 2014 when it was given the appellation Nizza DOCG. The use of the geographical name Nizza instead of the grape variety brings together the tradition, culture and unique terroir.  Beginning with the 2016 vintage, the DOCG appears on the label.  I believe that this is a unique area for Barbera and I am happy they have their own DOCG.

Nizza DOCG.

All the wines must be made from 100% Barbera. The zone in located in the southeast part of Piedmont. There are 18 communes in the Nizza Area (Asti) where the wines can be produced.

Minimum alcohol is 13% and 13.5% for the Riserva.

 Minimum of 18 months aging with at least 12 months in barrel and for the Riserva 30 months including at least 12 months in barrel.

The production zone is centered around the town of Nizza Monferrato. The Barbera grapes here occupy the best exposed slopes that face from southeast to west. The soils are calcareous, of medium depth with sandy clay marls and stratified sandstone.

The Nizza DOCG Wines

IMG_7685Titon, Nizza, 2019 l’armangia (Canelli) The soil is calcareous clay and the training system is simple guyot. Fermentation is for 8 /10 days at 25.5 degrees C. Délestage fermentation takes place 3 times a day.  50% of the wine is aged in large French oak barrels, and 50% in 300 liter barrels.  The wine remains 6 months in the bottle before release. The wine has hints of strawberries, violets, red stone fruit, a touch of smoke and a note of almonds.

IMG_7684Cremosina, Nizza 2019 Bersano (Nizza Monferrato) the soil is calcareous and clay and the training system is guyot. Vinification is in stainless steel barrels. The wine is aged in for 12 months in 56 hl oak casks then 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry, a touch of spice and note of chocolate and an intense fruity finish.

IMG_7683Tre Roveri, Nizza 2019 Pico Maccario (Mombaruzzo) The soil is clay and the training system is guyot. The grapes are harvested at the best maturation level. There is a soft crushing of the grapes, destalking and  maceration is for 15 to 20 days. The wine is aged for 16 months in French tonneau barrels and then in bottle for one year. The wine has hints of red fruit, balsamic notes and a long lasting finish.

IMG_7682La Giulia, Nizza 2019 Cascina Lana (Nizza Monferrato). The soil is sandy with clay and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place at the end of September. The grapes are destemmed and then pressed. Fermentation with selected yeasts and skin contact at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French oak tonneaux for 16 months and in bottle for one year.  This is a full-bodied rounded wine with hints of red fruit, cherry jam, a touch of licorice and a note of tobacco.

IMG_7681Favà, Nizza 2019 Tenuta Garetto (Agliano Terme) The soil is clay. Maceration is in stainless steel and concrete tanks for about 10 days. The wine is aged for about 10 months in 25 & 50 hl wood casks. The wine has hints of fresh ripe red fruit, floral notes and a touch of wood.


Pontiselli, Nizza 2018 Coppo (Agliano Terme). The soil is lime marl with a silty-clay texture. The healthiest and ripest grapes are selected in the vineyard and hand picked into 40 pound picking baskets. The wine is aged in barriques for 14/18 months and one year in bottle before release. The wine has hints of blackberry and blackcurrants and vanilla in the finish and aftertaste.  From a single vineyard.

IMG_7677 2Vigna Dacapo, Nizza Riserva 2018 Dacapo-Cà ed Balos (Agliano Terme). The soil is marlstone, calcareous and clay and the training system is simple guyot with the Simon & Sirch pruning method for the well being of the vine. Fermentation is in a big non-toasted vats of French Allier. The wine remains in big barrels for 24 months and then in bottle for 10 months. The wine has hints of cherries, plum and licorice and a touch of cinnamon. Organic certification in 2019.

IMG_7679La Court, Nizza Riserva 2018 Michele Chiarlo (Nizza Canelli) The soil is calcareous clay marl of sedimentary marine. Malolactic fermentation takes place for 15 days in 55hl oak vats with the skins. There is a soft shower system of wetting the cap at an initial temperature of 30 degrees C, then decreed to 27C. The wine is aged for 30 months with 50% in cask and 50% in large barrels and then 18 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry, plum, violets with a note of chocolate and a touch of spice.  I have been drinking the wines of Michele Chiarlo for a number of years and have always been impressed by them. 

IMG_7676Costamiòle Nizza Riserva 2018 Prunotto (Alba-vineyard location Agliano Terme) The soil is marl, known as Toét in local dialect. When the grapes arrive in the cellar they are destemmed and crushed. Maceration lasts for 12 days at a maximum temperature of 30 degrees C. After fermentation the wine is transferred into stainless steel tanks where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 12 months and then in bottle for another 12 months before release. The wine has hints of cherries, plums and vanilla.

IMG_7675Nizza Riserva 2018 Tenuta Olim Bauda (Incisa Scapaccino) The grapes are harvested by hand between the first and second week of October and crushed in the evening of the same day they are harvested. Then they are placed in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. After alcoholic fermentation the wine is put into 25hl French oak barrels where it remains for 30 months, followed by aging in bottle. This is a full and balanced wine with hints of red fruit and cherry.

I have followed the progress of these wines over the years and am very happy that the direction they are now taking has changed from some of the measures they wanted to introduce at the “Barbera Meeting 2010”.  Of the ten wines tasted only two  were what I would call made in a more modern style but still drinkable.

As usual IL Gattopardo prepared an excellent buffet lunch to follow the tasting

The event was organized by Mariana Nedic, Executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). I have been to a number of events and a press trip organized by this organization and they always do an excellent job.


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