Monthly Archives: December 2022

Christmas Dinner with Tom and Diane

Michele and I always look forward to Christmas dinner with Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. For a number of years it has been our tradition to invite Tom and Diane to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, and they have us to their home for Christmas. They are excellent and adventurous cooks and Diane often chooses recipes from books she has written about in her blog

Tom has a great wine collection and will try to find the perfect wine match for each course.  Though all of our previous holiday celebrations have been wonderful, it seemed to be extra-special this year.

The meal began with a series of appetizers, several of them made with truffle products from Tartuflanghe.  This company specializes in white truffles and related products from Piedmont.

IMG_8841Prosciutto wrapped truffled grissini


Toast topped with beef tartare seasoned with truffled salt


Savory salame and cheese puffs

IMG_8835Cashews coated with salted truffle juice

These treats were served with two Champagnes:

IMG_8844Gosset Champagne Brut made from 45% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier. Malolactic fermentation is avoided. It has hints of apple, citrus fruit, lime, almonds and a touch of lemon.  8g/l dosage. Gosset is the oldest Champagne House in Aÿ.

IMG_8845Guy Larmandier Champagne Cramant Grand Cru Blanc des Blancs Brut Zero  The wine has hints of citrus fruit, white peach, apple, and a touch of almonds. This is a full bodied champagne.

IMG_8847Cotechino sausages wrapped in pastry.  These large pork sausages are a specialty of the Emilia-Romagna region and are typically served as part of a bollito misto with fruit mostarda.  We always have cotechino on New Year’s Day with lentils, a tradition in many parts of Italy.


The sliced Cotechino with Mostarda di  Cermona- -it was so delicious I had two slices.

IMG_8849Elvio Cogno  PREPhylloxera Barbera d’Alba 2010 made from barbera vitis vinifera from a 0.25 hectare plot at 520 meters. There are 4,500 vines per hectare vertically  trellised  with guyot pruning. Harvest is at the beginning of October. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with controlled automatic pumping over. The wine is aged in large Slavonia oak barrels for 12 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a well-structured wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry, ripe cherry, a note of blackberries and a touch of prune and spice. The aroma is aromatic and deep with a perfectly balanced acidity. Only 2,000 bottles are produced. The wine was showing no signs of age and will last for many more years.

This was for me the wine of the evening and the best Barbera I have had in a long time — and I have had many great ones.

This is the story behind the wine according to the producer:  “Produced from one of the last archaic vineyard of Langhe region, an open air museum from a time gone by, with vines older than a hundred years. The vines are on 100% Vitis Vinifera roots and replicate by layering. They have therefore maintained, over the decades, the original Barbera characteristics. The small plot, situated in Berri near La Morra, has an excellent exposure and sandy-chalky terrain which guarantees a natural protection from Philloxera. This mixes with the intriguing vine resiliency and its most typical charms imparted from the microclimate and a particularly favorable altitude. The low production per hectare guarantees an intensely rare and rich organoleptic concentration. The wine is refined in oak casks which slowly develop all primary aromas. Pleasant and refined, complex even as a young wine, it is not afraid to be aged in bottle, expressing its solid uniqueness even over the years.”


Perfectly roasted 8 pound Capon with  stuffing of apples, pears, prunes, chestnuts, walnuts, ground veal, pancetta and cognac.  What a beauty!

IMG_8855Perfectly carved by Tom and on the plate with butter browned boiled potatoes and sautéed green beens.

Tenute Cisa Asinari die Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga 2004 made from 100% Nebbiolo from a 11.93 single vineyard with a south/south east exposure at 220/290 meters. Soil is limestone and blue marl and the training system is guyot. The vines are 30 to 40 years old or more. Fermentation is with selected yeasts with a submerged cap for 10 to 14 days. Malolactic fermentation is completed. Farina fossile and micro filtration during bottling. The wine is aged in French oak allier barriques, 30 percent new and 70 used and then 12 to 18 months in Slavonian oak casks. The wine then remains in the bottle for 12 to 18 months before release. The wine has hints dried cherries, tea, licorice a touch of tobacco. It is starting to drink now but will last for a few more years at least. This is a practicing organic winery.

IMG_8856The cheese

IMG_8857Bodegas y Viñedos Vega Sicilia 2001 made from younger vines of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo). Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is added to a greater or lesser extent depending on the vintage. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature with native yeasts in stainless steel tanks as does the malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for five years in wood and in the bottle which is why it is called Valbuena 5. The oak is French and American, new and used 225 liter barrels and 20,000 liter vats. The wine has hints of red fruit, black cherries, raspberries, mocha and vanilla. It will last for at least 10 more years.  The winery is located in the Ribera del Duero region, an appellation under the Spanish DOP.  Lars Leicht, another guest, brought this wine.

IMG_8859 Michele made this delicious lemon tart in an almond crust.

Tom has a large grappa collection and all meals end with a selection of grappa and other after-dinner spirits.


I had one of my favorites. A traditional grappa Capo di Stato from Loredan Gasparini in the Veneto, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.


Filed under Barbera, Champagne, Cogno, Tom & Diane, Tom and Diane, Vega Sicilia

Tasting the White Wines of Sannio

The Sannio Consorzio Tutela Vini and Brian Freedman invited me to attend a tasting and lunch to explore the wines of the Sannio region of Campania. The whites we tasted were Falanghina Coda di Volpe and Greco. The reds were Aglianico and Barbera (aka Camaiola).  In this post I will discuss the white wines.


The Sannio Wine Consortium was established in February 1999 and today has nearly 400 members: vine growers, winemakers and bottlers.

Dr. Libero Rillo, President of the Sannio Consorzio Tutela Vini and owner of fontanAvecchia winery, and Domizio Pigna representing the region of Sannio discussed the Sannio wine region.

IMG_8701The moderator was Brian Freedman, wine, travel, spirts and food writer and Author of CRUSHED: How a changing climate is altering the wine we drink. Brian spoke about the wines. He kept the session moving right along with his sense of humor and his ability to get the audience to participate and share their thoughts on the wines which made it more interesting. He made appropriate and knowledgeable comments.

Sannio is a hilly region 50 kilometers north of Naples in the provinces of Benevento,  the heart of the Campania region. It borders to the south with the area of Irpinia, to the north the region of Molise, to the east with the region of Puglia and to the west with the province of Caserta. Domizio said there are several sub-zones with the Sannio name on their wine labels: Sannio Guardia Sanframondi, Sannio Sant’Agata del Goti, Sannio Solopace and Sannio Taburno.

The White Wines of Sannio

IMG_8706Falanghina Del Sannio DOP “Euforia” Sparkling Extra Dry Cantina Iannella made from 100% Falanghia in the hills of Taburno. The vineyards are at 450 meters and the exposure is southwest and the soil is clay. There are 5,000 plants per hectare, the training system is guyot and the average age of the vines is 20 years. Harvest takes place the first ten days of September. The wine is made according to the Charmat method. This is a fruity fresh wine with hints if citrus fruit, a touch of lime and a note of almonds. Libero said there are over 100 wineries in Sannio and almost every one makes Falanghina. Over 90% of Falanghina is produced in Sannio and Falanghina has been grown in Sannio for more that 2,000 years.

Coda Di Volpe Taburno DOC  made from 100% Coda di Volpe Elena Catalano. Vineyards for the production of Coda di Volpe DOC are subject to green harvest when the ripeness ranges from 20% 30% depending on the vintage. The grapes are green harvested in the second part of September and are soft pressed with gas protection to avoid uncontrolled oxidation. Then  debourbage is done in stainless steel tanks. Alcoholic fermentation takes place at a low temperature and lasts about two to three weeks. Batonnage takes place in stainless steel throughout  the process so the lees do not settle to the bottom of the tank. The wine ages for three to four weeks in the bottle at the end of winter following the harvest. The wine has hints of peach and pear, citrus notes and medium to low acidity.

IMG_8708 2Coda Di Volpe Sannio DOP IL Poggio made from 100% Coda di Volpe. The vineyards are at 300 to 400 meters and there are 2,500 plants per hectare. Harvest tales place the second half of September. Fermentation and aging are in stainless steel. The wine is bottled 6 months after the harvest. The wine has hints of yellow flowers, pear and nice acidity.

Coda di Volpe (Fox Tail) may be the Alopecis that Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD) wrote about in his Natural History because the curve of the bunches resembles the tail of a fox. It is also the principal grape in Lacryma Christi Bianco del Vesuvio. It does very well in volcanic soil.

IMG_8705Falanghina Del Sannio DOP “Vigne Sannite” Cantina in Castelvenere made from 100% Falanghina from the mount Pugliano slopes ay 300 meters. The soil is medium textured clayey. calcareous not droughty. There is a soft pressing of the gapes. The grapes undergo a filmic cryomaceration in an anaerobic environment for 24 hours. Fermentation lasts for 20 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel and then in the bottle. It has hints of citrus fruit, lemon zest, pear and a note of almond.

IMG_8825Falanghina del Sannio DOP  made from 100% Falanghina fontanAvecchia.  The vineyard is at 350 meters and the soil is argillaceous with lime rich marlstone outcrops. The training system is guyot and harvest is the third week of September. Vinification with direct pressing of the grapes at a controlled temperature. Fermentation lasts for 7 days. The wine is aged in steel before it is bottled. It has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime, melon with a touch of green apple. I visited this winery a few years ago on a press trip with Campania Stories and I am a big fan of Falanghina. This was my favorite wine at the tasting.


 In his book, Brunello to Zibibbo (1999) Nicholas Belfrage states, “This grape (Falanghina), which some have suggested may be of Greek origin, and which some have tentatively identified as the grape from which Roman Falernian was made, has been known as Falanghina only since the 19th century.  (A falanga… is a type of wooden stake used for supporting a vine; the suffix –ina makes it a small wooden stake.) The grape Falanghina is a late-ripener, which requires well exposed, sunny slopes and not-too-excessive production to shine, but when it does so it shines brightly, making a wine of good extract and flavor, with a firm acidic backbone enabling it to resist the passage of time in the bottle. It is a grape of real interest deserving wider national and international attention.”  Falanghina still has not gotten the recondition it deserves.



IMG_8711 2Sannio Greco DOP “Albosco” Biovegan Fontana Reale made from 100% Greco grown on espalier farm land.  The pruning is guyot with a double shoot. Harvest tales place from the third week of September to the first week of October. The harvest is  exclusively by hand. Whole grapes are pressed in a pneumatic press without destemming and then put into thermorefreshable steel fermenters. White wine fermentation until the sugar is exhausted. There is a bentonite clarification of the wine. Aging is in steel for a minimum of 6 months then the wine is filtered and bottled. Fruity and floral aromas with hints of white peach, nice mnerality and a note of almond.

IMG_8707 3Ambrato Di Montelmalo Benevento Falanghina IGT Rossovermiglio Manual harvesting with a selection of the grapes. Vinification takes place with maceration of the must and the skins for  seven days. Then draining and decanting in French oak barrels of second passage for two months. Aging on the lees in steel for 6 months.  This is how the producer describes the wine: “At sight Ambrato di Montemalo has an intense yellow color tending to amber, with evident golden reflections. The contact of the must with the skins accentuates the aromaticity, which expresses intense scents of white flowers, chamomile, ripe fruit with evident shades of apricot and peach, orange zest and green almond, hints of white pepper, tobacco and vanilla. Its consistency, freshness and complexity make it a wine of excellent balance and extraordinary gustatory persistence. It is an advantage to uncork the bottle half an hour before tasting to promote oxygenation.”  This same “orange” process is  done with Greco grapes. There was some controversy over this wine some saying they liked it while others said it did not taste like Falanghina at all.

Here is a reply from the producer of the wine:

Mariateresa De Gennaro

I am the producer of Ambrato di Montemalo, I confirm that our orange always offers interesting arguments for tastings, it is precisely for this reason that perhaps it was chosen in the panel.

Our Falanghina is produced with 100% falanghina grapes, the maceration with the skins accentuates the characteristic notes of the Falanghina grape, and what you find in the glass is 100% Falanghina with all its specific characteristics.
I’m sure it will never be the same as Falanghina made with 85% Falanghina and 15% other blends, but these aren’t original.
Ambrato di Montemalo is a 100% Falanghina macerated with the skins, the others are blends created to satisfy all tastes.
Thank you very much for your article, the next time you come to Sannio I’ll wait for you in my cellar.

I have been drinking and enjoying the wines from Campania since I first visited there over 50 years ago and hope to be there again in February.









Filed under Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Greco, Sannnio

Valdo “Numero 10” Metodo Classico


I was invited to attend a lunch and Valdo Prosecco tasting by Morgana Germanetto, Account Coordinator for Colangelo & Partners at Corkbuzz wine bar in NYC.  This was of interest to me because I am familiar with Valdo Prosecco and I would be able to do a vertical tasting of Valdo Numero 10, Valdobbiadene Metodo Classico, going back to 2011.

IMG_8178The speaker was Matteo Bolla, Development Manager for Valdo USA, Inc. and the third generation of the renowned Bolla winemaking family involved in the winery.IMG_8161

The Valdo Winery is located in the town of Valdobbiadene in the heart of the sub-region Conegliano Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG, in Veneto, Italy.  Matteo  said the winery was founded in 1926 by the Society Anonima Vini Superiori and purchased by the Bolla Family in 1938.

IMG_8159The name Valdo is short for the name of the region, Valdobbiadene. Sergio Bolla, Matteo’s grandfather, wanted to make his Prosecco more accessible and easy to understand.  He shortened the name so that people could recognize it easily and remember it. Thanks to his grandfather the Bolla name was known in the US starting in the 1950”s

    The Prosecco

IMG_8176Valdo “Cuvée 1926” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry DOC made from 90% Glera and 10% Chardonnay from vineyards at 250 meters. There is a brief maceration on the skins in a closed press, followed by a soft pressing with the first of the free run juice. After the first fermentation the wine remains for two months on the lees at a control temperature of 10C in steel. After the bottle fermentation the wine spends 3 months in pressurized tanks (Martinotti-Charmat method). The wine has hints of ripe fruit, apple, pear, pineapple and a touch of banana.

Matteo Bolla  said this wine celebrates Valdo’s history. It is an unusual blend of Glera and Chardonnay with a brief maceration of the skins before fermentation to give this sparkling wine a more unique character. In 1926 the first bottle of the wine was opened in the winery that was to become known as Valdo.  This bottle celebrates that event.

  • Valdo Numero 10

IMG_8172Valdo “Numero 10” Metodo Classico Valdobbiadene DOCG 2019, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2011 made from 100% Glera. This is a metodo classico vintage sparkling wine. The grapes are grown on the hills surrounding the historic Valdobbiadene winery and are designated with the appellation “Superiore.”  The vineyards are at 250 meters with a southeastern exposure. Soils are clayey and calcareous. Harvest is in September when the grapes reach the right amount of ripeness. Tirage (drawing off the blended wines into bottles ready for a second fermentation) is with selected yeasts in the spring following the harvest. There is a soft pressing of the grapes at a controlled temperature of 64F.

IMG_8177This classic method vintage Brut is produced by bottle fermentation remaining on the lees for at least 10 months. After disgorgement it is aged for another 6 months in the cellar. Matteo said this maximizes the fruity aroma typical of the grape variety. The wine has hints of mature fruit, apple, pear brioche, a note of honey and a touch of orange zest with bright acidity.

The Numero 10 went especially well with the Fluke Crudo  and the Seared Bass at Corkbuzz.

This is their top of their line and the first vintage was in 2004. The wines have the same aroma and flavor profile but as they become older they have a more yeasty brioche quality about them. Some, like the 2014  have a bit more acidity. The Valdo Numero 10 Brut Metodo Classico sells for about $35. Valdo produces a number of other Prosecco’s in all price ranges.

Matteo said all this would not be possible without the unceasing collaboration of 70 grape growers who grow the grapes and supply them to the winery. The relationship between Valdo and its grape growers is a long-standing one, an alliance based on trust, respect and reciprocal exchange. The winery offers them an agronomic and wine-making consultancy, providing them with support from the pruning stages of the grapevines to choosing the ideal period for harvesting.


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Filed under Prosecco, Valdo

Pizza and Wine with Alberto Longo

 One night recently I received a call from Alberto Longo, a wine producer, inviting me to taste two of his wines at Ribalta, one on my favorite pizza restaurants.

I first met Alberto and tasted his wines at Keste Pizza and Vino, another favorite pizza place, in 2010 and was very impressed with his wines.   I have kept in contact with him over the years and we have become friends.

IMG_8717Alberto was in NYC  on the last stop of a tour to of different US cities to promote the wines of Puglia.

Alberto not only  has  a great passion for the wines of Puglia, but also for the food and the land itself. His family has been farming in the region for over three generations. Alberto worked the land with his father as a young boy, then left the area to pursue his studies and a professional career. But he returned because of this love of the land and his passion for the wine.

IMG_8729The Agricole Alberto Longo winery is located in Lucera, in northern Puglia, and there are 35 hectares of vineyards around and near the winery.  Alberto saw the potential of his native land and was able to convince the legendary wine consultant, Giacomo Tachis, to help him with his project to improve the wines.  Tachis recommended his star protege, Dott.ssa Graziana Graziana as the winemaker.

Alberto said she was able to capture the rustic yet balanced nature of the region’s indigenous grapes as well as the uniqueness of the terroir of his estate. He does not like to use new wood for aging his wine because it hides the true character by adding aromas and flavors that do not enhance the wine but distract from it. I agree with him and this can be seen in the two wines we tasted which express the true characteristics of the grapes. They were a perfect combination with the food.

IMG_8718With the wines we had the Pizza Pala Margarita with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, a Roman style pizza served on a wooden board or pala.

The wines

IMG_8722Puglia IGT Rosso “le Cruste” 2020 made from 100% Nero di Troia from 20 year old vines. Type of soil is calcareous clayey in texture. Harvest is manual. Fermentation is in stainless steel with prolonged skin contact. After malolactic fermentation the wine is aged in French barriques (second and third passage) and in tonneaux for at least 12 months, then at least 18 months in bottle before release. This wine had flavors and aromas of blackberry and plum and a touch of spice.

IMG_8721Pizza Pala Norma with Eggplants, Cherry Tomatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano, and imported Fior di Latte

IMG_8723Primitivo IGT Rosso 2020 made from 100% Primitivo. The soil is calcareous with a sandy loam texture. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature with selected yeasts. There is prolonged contact of the must with the skins. Malolactic fermentation takes place in the month of November. Aging in steel and cement vats for at least 6 to 8 months and at least 6 months in bottle before release. Alberto said because his winery is in the northern part of Puglia his primitivo differs from those produced in the south. They both have the same characteristics like plum, blackberry, blueberry etc., but his primitivo is lower in alcohol and does not have the jammy character of those from the south.  

IMG_4527Alberto sent me this picture of him and his wife, Andrea, enjoying the good life and having lunch in a restaurant on the coast of Puglia.


Filed under Alberto Longo

Vallevo: Pecorino, Rosato and Moltepulciano d’Abruzzo

Vito Polosa from distributor Wine Emporium NY invited me to a tasting and dinner with the wines of Vallevo, a producer in Abruzzo. I had tasted the Vallevo wines a number of years ago on a Wine Emporium sponsored press trip to Abruzzo. I really liked the wines and wanted to taste the current vintages. 

Vito spoke about Abruzzo and the Vallevo wines.

Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. The traditional vine training method is the tendone system also known as pergola Abruzzese.  Because of its climate and historical considerations, Abruzzo is considered part of Southern Italy.

. abruzzo-2011-0261Cantina Fer

Vallevo is part of the highly acclaimed Cantina Sociale Frentana cooperative located in the town of Rocco San Giovanni in the Chieti area. It was founded in 1958 and is one of the first social agricultural cooperatives in Abruzzo. Today there are more than 500 wine makers and 1,000 acres of vineyards associated with the cooperative. Only 15% of the production is bottled, the rest is sold as bulk wine to other producers. The bottled wine comes from the best 100 producers and they are paid more for their grapes. All the wines are made from certified organic grapes.

0taboccoThe picture on the label is of a trabocco, a characteristic site in this part of Abruzzo.  Fishermen traditionally built these wooden piers topped with a shed that jut far out from the shore from which to catch fish. Today some have been turned into restaurants. I had an excellent fish dinner at Trabocco Punta Cavalluccio and it was like eating on a boat, but without the waves.

IMG_8473Costa Dei Trabocchi Abruzzo Pecorino made from 100% Pecorino from vineyards in the municipality of Rocco San Giovanni at 150 meters with a northern exposure.  Soil is of medium texture sand and loam.  Harvest is the first week of September.  The grapes are soft pressed and  fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Malolactic fermentation does not take place.  The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and in bottle until it is ready for release.  The wine is bottled in the spring following the harvest. This is a well balanced wine with good structure and the right amount of acidity. It has hints of peaches, lime, lemon, grapefruit and a touch of almond.

Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines.

IMG_8472Costa Dei Trabocchi Rosato Terre Di Chieti IGT Made from 70% Montepulciano and 30% Merlot. The soil is of medium texture, with some clay and limestone. The vineyard is situated on hills overlooking the Trabocchi Coast with a northeast exposure at 150 to 200 meters. Vinification is with a Provencal technique without pressing in temperature controled stainless steel tanks. Skin contact is only for 3 hours but the wine remains on the lees for 2 weeks in steel tanks to capture the flavor of the grapes. The must is stirred for about one week at 5C. Fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Aging is in steel followed by a few months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of strawberries and raspberries a touch of grapefruit and a note of watermelon.

IMG_8474Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The soil is muddy clay. After pressing and destemming, fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature for 7 to 10 days. Malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged in stainless steel until it is ready to be bottled. This is a fruity, medium bodied wine with hints of plum, black cherry, and violets with a touch of black olives and herbal notes. 

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid-17th Century.

IMG_8475Costa Dei Trabocchi Montepulciano Dei Abruzzo DOC Riserva made from 100% Montepulciano from Rocco San Giovanni on the best-situated hills overlooking the Costa dei Trabocchi. The soil is medium texture, mostly clay and the vines are 10-15 years old.  The exposure is south, southeast. The grapes are soft pressed and fermentation takes place in stainless steel with skin contact for 10 to 15 days depending on the vintage. The wine is aged in 500 liter barrels of Allier oak for about 14 months, then in steel, and finally in bottle until it is ready for release. This is a full bodied wine that has aromas and flavors of violets, plums and black cherry with a hint of vanilla.

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Filed under Cantina Ferntana, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo

Tenute Rubino: The Home of Susumaniello

The Gambero Rosso Guide to Italian Wines  2023 was on tour in the USA promoting the wines that they awarded “Tre Biccheire” their highest rating. I was invited by Stephanie Goodwin, account director, Mc Cue PR West1, to a tasting of the wines of Tenute Rubino and their Tre Biccherie wine at Piccola Cucina restaurant in NYC.

IMG_8595Tenute Rubino is known as La Casa Del Susumaniello

The speakers were Luigi Rubino and his wife Romina Leopardi, Diettore Marketing e Communizatione the owners and Marco Sabellico, Senior Editor Gambero Rosso. I have known Marco for a number of years.

IMG_8610I first met Romina when I was on a press trip to Puglia with Nicola Campanile organize of Radici del Sud 2016.  She was part of the Association National Le Donna Del Vino Delegation Puglia and they invited us for a wine tasting.

IMG_8611At the dinner I was sitting across from Romina and next to Marco, which made the evening more interesting as we spoke about Tenute Rubino, the Susumaniello grape variety and the wines of Puglia.  Luigi and Romina told me about the estate and their wines while Marco spoke about Gambero Rosso, the Tre Bicchiere award and why the Oltremé Rosso was selected to receive the award.

Susumaniello is a traditional Apulian grape, particular to the Brindisi area, which may have come from Dalmatia in ancient times. The name means “small donkey” because the vines at harvest time appear to almost struggle under the weight of so many grape clusters. However, over the years the exceptional productivity of this vine declined significantly and by the end of the last century many local growers had abandoned it.

IMG_8614Luigi Rubino noticed that as Susumaniello’s abundant yields began to decrease, the grapes revealed outstanding qualities, making wines with great structure, elegance and aromas. He found a perfect location on the 13 hectare Jaddico estate on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, 8 kilometres north of Brindisi.  With its closeness to the sea, sea breezes, and sandy, well-drained soil it was the ideal terroir for Susumaniello. In 2001 Torre Testa, the first monovarietal Susumaniello, was produced from 50 year old alberello and cordon spur trained vines of the Jaddico estate.  Ssumaniello is now grown on a 20 hectare single vineyard.  Luigi said Susmaniello is a very versatile grape and can be used to make red and rosé wines as well as a traditional method sparking rosé.

The Wines of Tenute Rubino

IMG_8594IGT Salento Brindisi Vino Spumante Rosé Brut Sumaré 30 months Metodo Classico. Made from 100% Susumaniello from the Jaddico-Giancòla vineyards at sea level The soil is sandy and the training system is spurred cordon. There are 6,000 plants per hectare and a manual harvest takes place the first days of September. The primary fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The second fermentation is in the bottle. The wine ages for at least 30 months before release. The wine has hints of ginger, hazelnuts, a touch of raspberry and a hint of strawberry.

IMG_8602IGT Salento-Brindisi “Oltremé” Rosato made from 100% Susmaniello. Harvest is by hand the first 10 days of September. Fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Aging is for 4 months in steel tanks and 1 to 2 months in bottle before release.The wine has hints of strawberry, raspberry, red currants and a touch of rose pedals.

IMG_8598Rosso DOC Brindisi “Oltremé” made from 100% Susumaniello. Manual harvest the first days of October. Fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and malolactic fermentation is carried out. Aging is in steel tanks for ten months and a minimum of 2 months in bottle before release. This wine was awarded Tre Bicchieri, the highest rating by Gambero Rosso. This is a true Tre Bicchieri wine. It is an elegant wine hints of morello cherry, pomegranate, blueberry, a touch of bay leaf and a note of spice. It is the kind of wine that when the bottle is empty, one looks around for more.

IMG_8601Brindisi DOC Rosso Riserva “Jaddico” made from 20% Susumaniello and 80% Negroamaro. The vineyards are at sea level and the soil is sandy. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. Manual harvest takes place at the end of September. Fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature and malolactic fermentation is carried out. Aging is in steel tanks for 14 months and then 8 to 9 months in French barriques. The wine remains in bottle for a minimum of 3 months before release. The wine has hints of leather, tobacco, and plum with a hint aromatic herbs. This is the wine I tasted when I first met Romina in Puglia. I liked it then and still like it now.

IMG_8603Rosso DOC Brindisi Rosso Torre Testa 2017 made from 100% Susumaniello. The training system is head training and spurred cordon. Harvest is by hand the first days of October. The partially raisined grapes are left to dry for 2/3 weeks. Malolactic is totally carried out. Aging is for 5 to 6 months in steel tanks for a minimum of 12 months in French barriques and 12 months in bottle before release. This is a full bodied complex wine with hints of blackberry, plum jam, black cherry and a touch of chocolate. The first vintage was in 2001. Romina said Torre Testa is the estate’s flagship wine.

IMG_8605We also tasted the Torre Testa 2014 made from 100% Susumaniello. This wine has the same aroma and flavor profile as the 2017 except it is more developed and approachable. Both will age very well. I was very impressed with both wines.

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The Wines of Castello del Terriccio

In October 2016 I was invited to a tasting and dinner of the ines of Castello del Terriccio. I had tasted the wines before but this time the owner, Gian Annibale Rossi Medelana would be present. At dinner, I made sure to sit next to him and found him to be very charming, knowledgeable, easy to speak with and passionate about his wines–he referred to Lupicaia as “my Super Tuscan.”

img_1690 Castello

Even though the history of the winery goes back many years, it was not until Signor Medelana inherited  the winery in 1975  and took it in a new direction concentrating on making top quality wines that it became one of the leaders in the Super Tuscan movement.  Sadly he passed away in 2019. Today the ownership of the winery has passed to Vittorio di Rosignano Rossi di Medelana, his nephew.

Recently I received an invitation, from Daniela Porro of Coangelo & Partners, for a lunch and tasting of the wines of Castello del Terriccio at The Leopard at des Artistes in NYC. The wines to be tasted were the Lupicaia and the Castello del Terriccio.



The speakers were Giacinta Pocci Muti, Sales Manger, and Jeff Porter, Sommelier, Consultant, Educator and Media Host. I have been to a number of tastings where Jeff was the speaker and was always impressed with his wine knowledge. 

The winery is located in the Maremma, near Bolgheri, south of Livorno in the region of Tuscany. There are 65 hectares of vineyards. Giacinta said the property allowed the vines to be planted in a leopard spot pattern on the most favorable plots, on the basis of the quality of the soil, dew point, exposure to the sea breezes and the light. The vineyards are facing the sea and therefore receive reflected light with more exposure compared to areas lighted directly by the sun.

Jeff spoke about the wines and how they evolved over the years.  All of the wine are IGT( Indicazione Geografica Tipica Toscana).

We tasted the Lupicaia and the Castello del Terriccio side by side from the 2007, 2010 2016 and 2017 vintages and it was a very interesting comparison. The alcohol of the wines was 14 to 15 degrees depending on the vintage.

Lupicaia was first produced in 1993 and is the estate’s flagship wine. The name of the wine comes from the area where the grapes are planted which was a favorite hunting grounds for the wolves that once roamed in the area.  Giacinta said the two characteristic red-brown segments on the label symbolize the typical red color of the soil.

During the break up of the soil in the 1980”s to plant the first vineyards of Lupicaia, a relic depicting the Etruscan sun was found in the ground and from that moment it has been used a  company logo.

IMG_8577Lupicaia 2007  made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. The vineyards are at 120 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. There are between 3,600 and 4,200 plants per hectare. The soil is calcareous-sandy with a rocky structure. Harvest begins on September 5th for the Merlot and on October 5th for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature for 16 days and for the Cabernet Sauvignon for 20 days. Malolactic fermentation lasts for about a month. The wine was aged separately in French oak Allier/Troncais for 18 months. The wine was bottled in March 2010.  This is an elegant complex wine with hints of black cherry, blackberry, black currant and a touch of spice. It was my favorite wine of the tasting.

Starting with the  2010 vintage, the blend for Lupicaia is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot without the Merlot. 

IMG_8587Castello Del Terriccio 2007 made from 50% Syrah, 25% Petit Verdot and 25% other red grapes. The vineyard is at 150 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. The soil is sand with a strong presence of organic substance. There are 5,600 plants per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. Harvest is by hand from the 12th to the 29th of September. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature for 18 days. Malolactic fermentation is for 4 weeks. Aging is in barriques and tonneaux for 18 months. The wine is bottled in June. The wine has hints of violets, blackberries, black currants, chocolate, a touch of spice and a hint of mint.  The three roses on the label represent the rose bushes once found in abundance around the ancient castle. They are now planted in front of each row of vineyards being used as am early indicator of potential diseases.

IMG_8570Insalatina di Farro Organico con Verdure Grigliate

Lupicaia 2010 made from 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. Harvest is by hand between September and October, 16 days of maceration for the Petit Verdot and 20 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged in barriques and tonneaux d’Allier for 22 months.

Castello Del Terriccio 2010 made from Syrah and Petit Verdot. The soil is rich in ferrous minerals with the presence of stones and fossils. There are 3,600 plants per hectare for the old vines and 5,600 for the new. Harvest is manual beginning in mid September. There is a second selection of grapes in the cellar. Grapes are gently destemmed and carefully pressed in order not to break the skin of the berries. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in open cap stainless vats at a controlled temperature with maceration of the grapes for about 20 days. There is daily délestages. The wine is aged in new French tonneaux for about 22 months, then assembled and bottled. The 2010 vintage developed perfectly with a slow and gradual growth of the grapes.

IMG_8572Pappardella Al Sugo di  Lepre

Lupicaia 2016 made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Aging takes place in French oak barrels for about 22 months and another month in bottle before release.

2016 was a excellent vintage and both wines will need at least another 8 years before they are ready to be enjoyed

 Castello Del Terriccio 2016 made from Syrah and Petit Verdot.

IMG_8574Tagliata di Manzo con Patate al forno

Lupicaia 2017 made from Cabernet  Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. 2017 was one of the hottest and  driest years ever. Rain finally came toward the end of summer creating very good conditions for late ripening grapes.

The 2017 needs another 5/6 years before it can be enjoyed.

Castello Del Terriccio 2017 made from Syrah and Petit Verdot

IMG_8575Zuccottto al Panforto

Both of these wines are true ‘Super Tuscans’ in the best sense of the term. They are complex, elegant and full bodied wines that will age very well for many years. These wines need food and matched very well with all the courses, especially the steak  prepared by executive chef/partner, of IL Gattopardo, Jordon Frosolone.

In both wines there was a certain consistency so that you could tell you were drinking the same wine from the early to the later vintages. The two wines are very different and you could tell them apart. In the end, I preferred the Lupicaia and with lunch  I drank the 2007 Lupicaia which was my favorite.

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