Category Archives: Clavesana

Notes on Vinitaly 2015

IMG_7546Vinitaly, the annual wine fair in Verona, Italy, is much bigger now than the last time I was there eight years ago. There are 12 very large pavilions and a number of smaller ones. The fair used to last 5 days, but now it is 4.IMG_7547

At least one wine writer, Alfonso Cevola, was disappointed at the state of affairs at Vinitaly and wrote what he called a “Dear John Letter.” He made some very good points on why he may not return to the fair–here is the link to the blog. While I agree with Alfonso on many points, there is another side of the fair, that of visiting and tasting wine with old friends and making new ones, that I think is the best part.IMG_7540

Sunday was the first day and the most crowded. Our first visit was with Barbara De Rahm, a negotiant I have known for many years. There was a time when I was the Wine Director at I Trulli that I would sit all day at Barbara’s stand tasting wine.IMG_7542

The next stop was a visit and tasting with Valter Fissore and his wife Nadia Cogno of the Elvio Cogno winery. I have known Valter and Nadia for a number of years and like his style of wine. Travis and Nicole, the owners of Turtledove Wines and my travelling companions, like these wines and have a large selection in their store.IMG_7159

Next we stopped by to see Luca Currado of the Vietti winery who I have know for over 30 years. His 2007 Barolo Villero was the 2015 Gambero Rosso red wine of the year.IMG_7568

Next was a visit to my favorite maker of Chianti Rufina Grato Grati. We tasted the Chianti and then tasted a wine I have never had before, a Canaiolo Bianco di Toscana. It was very good.IMG_7566

Riccardo Gabriele does PR for Italian wines and one of his clients is Il Marroneto, producers of a traditional Brunello di Montalcino, Madonna della Grazie, which I believe is one of the best Brunellos made.IMG_7558

A Facebook friend, Steven Giles, suggested I visit Donatella Giannotti of the Cascina Montagnola winery. We tasted the Colli Tortonese Cortese and two wines made from the Timorasso grape, Dethma and the Morasso. They are looking for an importer in NYC and I highly recommend the wines.IMG_7641

Then we visited Dr. Alfonso and Anna Arpino of the Ag Az Monte Grazia Biological winery in Tremonti high above the Amalfi Coast. They make three wines–a white, a rose and a red, and are among my favorite wines.

Next we visited the Machesi Bartolini Baldelli of Fattoria di Bangolo in Tuscany. I have know the Marchese for a number of years and when Michele and I were at the fair or in Florence we would go out to dinner with him and his wife. His wife is from Scarsdale, NY.IMG_7541

We also stopped by to visit marketing specialist Marina Thompson and her husband, wine authority Daniele Cernilli, known as Doctor Wine.IMG_7572

Our last visit was to Clavesana, makers of Dolcetto in Dogliani. We talked with Anna Bracco and Mario Felice Schwenn from the winery. Siamo Dolcetto meaning “We are Dolcetto” is the slogan of this large co-op. They said that Dolcetto is no loner required on the label, all it has to say is Dogliani, where the wine comes from, to know it is Dolcetto.

We only spent two days at the fair, because as with so much in Italy, lunch comes before anything else!


Filed under Barbara De Rham, Canaiolo Bianco, Cascina Montagnola, Clavesana, Daniele Cernilli, Elvio Cogno, Fattoria di Bangolo, Grato Grati, IL Marroneto, Monte de Grazia Winery, Vietti, Vinitaly 2015

A Great Dolcetto Producer Gets Even Better

Clavesana- Siamo Dolcetto – We are Dolcetto

I had lunch with Tony di Dio, the Brand Ambassador  of the Clavesana winery, my favorite producer of Dolcetto, for an update on the wines and the winery.  Tony said that they have a new wine maker, Damian Sicca, and a new agronomist, Marco Bealessio, but Anna Bracco is still Clavesana’s director and Giovanni  Bracco (no relation to Anna) is still  the Clavesana Coop’s president and has been so since 1987. The consulting enologist since 2011 is Gianfranco Cordero.  Tony said that the winery now sets standards for the production of their wine that are stricter than those imposed by the EU. With over 350 family vintners, it would be very difficult for them to be certified organic but all the growers pay attention to the impact they have on the environment and on the ecosystem. They feel that by maintaining the authenticity of the territory they are able to guarantee the authenticity of the wines.

When they say Siamo Dolcetto – We Are Dolcetto — they really mean it.  Last year the coop sold over 300,000 cases of Dolcetto, over 90% in Italy. The Coop was founded in 1959 by 32 growers and today there are about 350 members. They are committed to grow Dolcetto.

  Tony put me in contact with the winery and Anna Bracco  and she told me that their logo features the ten landmark “campanili’ (bell towers) of the towns where the growers (shareholders) live. These are the towns of Dolcetto’s homeland. The keys on the logo are the symbol of the town of Clavesana, which has been named the gateway to the Langhe. Some of the growers have other jobs and can only look after the vineyards part time and their agronomist Marco Bealessio gives extra help to these growers so they will not feel alone and abandon the land. She went on to say that they are trying to keep young people from leaving the area and the land and are doing everything possible to help them to stay.

 Anna made a point of saying that they pay the growers according to the quality of the grapes and will pay them as much as 20% higher than the market price. This she says is another incentive for the growers to produce superior grapes.IMG_5211

 Giovanni Bracco explained some of the Italian terms that they use including the idea of “singular-plurality”.   Clavesana’s microvinification is called Vinification alla Giornata, and Allagiornata are the single vineyard Doglianis—Dolcetto DOCG.

 Allagiornata – A day’s work from the single vineyards of Clavesana’s stakeholders. The term refers to the amount of work accomplished by two Piemontese bulls in one day.  When they have finished for the day, they have worked one “giornata”, nearly one acre (3,310 meters). This is the root of Clavesana’s singular plurality. He went on to say that even though they are a co-op, some growers bottle wine from a single vineyard. Day in and day out they live“Allagiornata”. They are identified on the label of each bottle by the stakeholder’s number and name. On Google Earth, it is possible to zoom in on the exact location of the vineyard by entering its single vineyards’ coordinates from the label. For example:  Giovanni explained that his vineyards are at 571 meters above sea level and his single vineyard wine is 110 Dogliani DOCG delle 3 Giornate di Socio 110 a Calvesana 44º 27’ 59.76” N 7 56’ 54.26’’ E. . We also had the  474 Dogliani DOCG  2008 from the 5.5 Giornate of Socio 474 in Clavesana-Marco Beccarai 44º 27’ 42.55’’N 7 55’07.34’’E.


Sig. Bracco further explained the difference between the Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC and the Dogliani DOCG.  The old winery, the heart of Clavesana, was originally built only with cement tanks. Later, stainless steel tanks were added but mostly on the outside of the winery.  Dolcetto di Dogliani 2009 and Piemonte D’OH 2010 were vinified in stainless steel tanks and are left here or transferred to cement tanks for a few months. For these last two wines, there is no minimum aging.

 Dogliani DOCG/ Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore– The DOCG has the lowest yields in liters (wine)/ hectares 4.760 of all the different zones of Dolcetto production in Piemonte. The minimum aging is 12 months from Oct 15 of the year of the grape harvest. The minimum alcohol is 12.5%. It is interesting to note that if vineyard and geographical names are on the label, the yield is reduced to 4284 liters/hectare (wine) and the minimum alcohol content is increased by 0.5%. Il Clou Dogliani DOCG is vinified in stainless steel but is aged in botte grande (large oak barrels of oak 50hl).IMG_5210

Allagiornata Dogliani DOCG (Socio 110 for example) are the only ones vinified in cement. The length of time depends on the vintage, 4/6months. 2010 is $21

 Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC –  With geographical and vineyard names on the label the yields are reduced to 5040 liters/hectare (wine) and natural alcohol content is increased by 0.5%.  All of the wine is made from 100% Dolcetto grapes. 2011 is $ 15

 The name Dolcetto means sweet little one but the wine is dry. It has medium alcohol, tannin and a deep ruby red color. They can be light wines fresh and fruity like the “D’HO” Piemonte Dolcetto DOC 2011 that is meant to be drunk young and has written on the label “You D’OH Something TO ME.” Tony said that because the D’ OH is made to be drunk young it now has a twist off cap. They can be full bodied and well structured like the “Il Clou” Dogliani DOCG 2010 aged for a short time in botte and the Allagiornata vinified in cement and aged in botte grande that can age for several years. All of this depends on the area of cultivation and how the grapes are vinified in the winery. The Il Clou 2010 is $18

  Dolcetto is 90% of their total production, though Clavesana also makes other wines. IMG_5212

 I have heard it said that the best Dolcetto comes from the Dogliani zone and after tasting and drinking the Dolcetto from Clavesana I agree. Even their “D’HO”which is a Piemonte DOC (meaning the grapes can come from any Dolcetto area) is a bargain at $12 as is the Dolcetto di Dogliani. The Dogliani DOCG, both the regular and single vineyard, are a great buy at $15 as are the other two Dolcetto’s.


Filed under Clavesana, D'OH, Dolcetto

Italian Red Wine Under $20 for All Seasons

Over the past few months I have tasted a number of Italian red wines for under $20. The first two, on the list which I tasted last week at an event called Piemonte Land of Perfection’s I have had many times before and have always enjoyed. The last two on the list were a new discovery.

Dolcetto “D’OH”  2011 Piedmont Dolcetto  DOC 100% Dolcetto Clavesana  Fermented is temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of cherry that is to be drunk young. It is traditional Dolcetto.  $11

Barbera d’Asti DOCG “Vespa” 2011 100% Barbara Cascina Castlet  The vineyards are at 300 meters and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. The soil composition is clay and limestone. Pruning and harvesting (the middle of October) are done manually. The must is left in contact with the skin at controlled temperatures for 6 to 8 days. There is frequent remortgages and racking is followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is bottled and released after a few months. It is a fresh fruity Barbera with aromas and flavors of cherry and blueberry and good acidity. $14

Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2010 100% Sangiovese Poggio Stella. There are 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare. The training system is guyot and spurred cord, and the grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then refined in Slovenian oak barrels for at least three months. The wine has red berry aromas and flavor with good acidity. $13.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2008 Poggio Stella made from 90% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo.  The vines are grown on hillsides and the soil is mostly crumbled rock with good skeletal content. The plant density is 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot and spurred cord. The grapes are hand harvested; fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel. The wine is aged in Slovenian oak barrels for 24 months. $19.

Marche Rosso “Picens” IGT  2006 Domodimonti The wine is made from 25% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil in mainly clay. The vineyards are south facing, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is condon with spur pruning. The harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in second passage French barriques for 5 to 6 months. There were flavors and aromas of dark fruit with hints of blackberries and a touch of leather. $16

Ciró Rosso Classic Superiore “Liber Pater” DOC 2009 Ippolito 1845 (Calabria) The wine is made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel. This is a rustic wine with deep red and black fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of leather. It has a long finish and a distinctive aftertaste. $16

Rosso Piceno Superiore 2007 DOC ”Vigna Montetinello” Montepulciano 70 % Sangiovese 30% Saladini Pilastri
The vineyard is at 200 meters and the exposure is west- east. The cultivation system is vertical shoot positioned trellis and there are 2,000 plants/ha; the average age of the vines is 30 years. Harvest takes place at the end of October. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 18 months in French tonneaux. This is a wine with nice red and black fruit, with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $17.99

Aglianico IGT 100% Aglianico. Donna Chiara. The soil is clay, training system is guyot and there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the second week of November. This wine does not see any wood. The wine is aged in bottle for 6 months. This is a very aromatic wine with wild berry aromas and flavors and hints of blueberries and cherries. $18

I could not believe the price of the next two wines after I tasted them. They are true bargains. I believe that both of them were awarded three glasses by Gambero Rosso, their highest award.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Vignafranca DOC 2007 Fratelli Barba100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The vineyard is at 70 meters and the soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous. There are 6,000 vines/ha, the training is double guyot and the exposure is southwest. The harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation is in wooden conical base vats for 18-20 days.  The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of cherry and spice with a hint of pepper. 14.99

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “I Vasari” Old Vines DOC 2008 Fratelli Barba 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Colle della Corte vineyard is at 70 meters and has a southwest exposure. The soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous and the vines are 30 years old. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, the training system is double guyot and the harvest takes place in the middle of October, fermentation takes place in wooden conical base vats for 18 to 20 days. The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months.
This is an intense wine with flavors and aromas of black cherry blueberry and plum with a hint of spice. $18


Filed under Aglianico, Barbera, Chianti, Ciró, Clavesana, Dolcetto, Domodimonti winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano, wines under $20