Category Archives: Daniele Cernilli Doctor Wine

Message in a Bottle by Daniele Cernilli

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Message in a Bottle.  by Daniele Cernilli 03/23/20
Vigneti Pio Cesare Langhe

During these days of forced seclusion, I’m sure many of us we have all opened a bottle from our personal cellar. Each bottle for me has brought back special memories.

I have now been at home for a dozen or so days now and like all of you have gone out the minimum as possible. I have also, like all of you, been looking at the collection of wines in my cellar. They are not as many as you may think, however, because I tend to drink my wine rather than save it for long.

Many bottles are from producers I have known well for years, who make their wine in places I have often visited, many of which are very beautiful. Each bottle, each wine brings back a memory of a vineyard, of the face of an old friend, as if these were messages in a bottle that in a way comfort me and in a way make we want to revisit these people and places more than ever before.

The bottles make me remember discussions and tastings, many of which took place a long time ago. I remember the dreams of the then-young Silvio Jermann and Josko Gravner, in 1981, and my first visit to Brolio, in 1993, with Carlo Ferrini and Francesco Ricasoli, who had just taken charge of his family’s estate. Then there were the incredible landscapes, like the vineyards in the Langhe, those of the Sorrento Peninsula and Etna. And I remember the flavors of wines and the sound of voices as well as the stories told by a young Riccardo Cotarella, who with his salesman in Rome would try to “hawk” his Est to wine shops in the capital. He was totally unknown back then and at times would receive gruff responses.

In the end I open a bottle, which yesterday was a Barolo Ornato 2007 Pio Cesare, a magnificent wine that is perfect to drink right now. I had misplaced it behind some other bottles and this was actually a good thing because otherwise I would have opened it earlier and that would have been a shame.

I hope these memories will once again and as soon as possible be just those of concrete life experiences and encounters. And it would be nice if this took place in a somewhat different yet always wonderful world, like the one of wine and those who make it.

A media hug to all of you.  Daniele Cernilli. aka Doctor Wine, Rome, Italy

— The above was written by Daniele Cernilli from Rome.  From time to time, I will share with you messages I receive from other wine journalists about how are coping with the recent events.  — Charles


 

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Wine in Times of Coronavirus by Daniele Cernilli

The wine world is beginning to feel the effects of the coronavirus scare, especially in regard to markets in East Asia. Even the ProWein fair has been postponed.

by Daniele Cernilli 03/02/2020

The news that ProWein was postponed came out this Saturday, and left us all stunned. True, we were wondering if it would make sense for us Italians to take part in a fair that would most likely see our pavilions go deserted, but we did not expect that the Düsseldorf Trade Fair Authority would have taken such a strong decision. Yet it is only confirmation that no one is taking the coronavirus lightly. There is no denying that everyone is worried about this virus, for the health of others as well as our own. There are also concerns over the economy, which is beginning to feel the effects in a serious way, and for the precautions Italy has been forced to take and that have placed limits on everyone’s lives. The situation is serious and should not be underestimated but nor should it be the cause of panic. I can say all this because I have been travelling a lot and have personally intensified my own precautions, which is the logical thing to do in such cases.

It is understandable that even our world of wine will in some way feel further consequences. After breathing a sigh of relief over being “spared” additional tariffs in the United States, now we are faced with this new problem almost that is equally as threatening. However, there are certain aspects that are worth looking at.

From Hong Kong, which was already seeing a bad year due to the prolonged pro-democracy demonstrations, there is some news that is both quite curious and interesting. Wine consumption is shifting from bars and restaurants to private homes. In other words, there has been a change in habits, imposed by the situation, which is changing the lifestyle of wine drinkers, those in the so-called upper class. This is, of course, a problem for restaurants but less so for wine sales and consumption. The risks will certainly be long term but there is hope that within the year there will be a vaccine for the Covid 19 virus which will bring the situation back to normal, or at least we hope so.

Even our small world of wine, which nevertheless and historically represents a kind of marker for the international economy, is beginning to feel the effects of the virus scare. In Italy, we have just finished a series of preview tastings in Piedmont, Tuscany, Veneto and Umbria which took place without the presence of Chinese journalists and buyers. We are still processing the news of the postponement (to when?) of Prowein in Düsseldorf while the confirmation for Vinitaly in Verona has arrived (the dates, we remind you, are April 19-22), and the presence of Chinese experts and buyers remains an unknown. In East Asia, the trade fairs that have taken place did not do well, as was to be expected, and we sincerely hope that those in Europe will not only take place but also be a success, within the limits possible. Meanwhile, those at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London, where I am set to take part in the jury in May, have informed me that there will be no fellow jurors from China and we will receive further instructions and information on how things will proceed. That’s what we know so far and, frankly, it seems enough for me.

Daniele Carnilli   www.doctorwine.it

Since this was written Vinitaly has been postponed and will now take place from  June 14 to June 17

We are leaving for NYC tomorrow and not on March 12 because we are concerned about entering the U.S

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Tom Maresca on “The Essential Guide to Italian Wine”

Tom Maresca is a wine writer for whom I have the utmost respect.  In his blog, Tom’s Wine Line, he wrote this excellent review of Daniele Cernilli’s Book, The Essential Guide to Italian Wine, that expresses my thoughts exactly.

The Essential Guide to Italian Wine? Very Possibly

With its recently released 2019 edition, its fifth, Daniele Cernilli’s Essential Guide to Italian Wine has come of age. Published now in Italian, English, and German editions, well over 600 pages long (and well indexed), and reviewing 1,134 estates and 2,809 wines, the Essential Guide certainly covers the Italian wines that a North American consumer needs to know about – in fact, many more than are currently available in this hemisphere. But one can always hope.

Cernilli’s Guide is organized in the classic way, region by region, the producers listed alphabetically and awarded zero, one, two, or three stars based on their total production and track record; and selected individual wines scored on the now standard, to me infamous 100-point scale and their price range indicated – all useful information, handily presented.

For those who may not recognize his name, Daniele Cernilli is a central figure in the Italian wine world, a critic of major importance and great knowledge. He was one of the founders of Gambero Rosso and was deeply involved not only in its editing but also in the whole process of its evaluations, which by way of their one-, two-, and three-bicchieriawards became the most prestigious of all of Italy’s ranking systems.

When he and Gambero Rosso parted ways several years back, Cernilli reinvented himself as Doctor Wine and began creating his Essential Guide.

I shudder to think of the amount of work it took to bring it to its present condition, especially since Cernilli and his co-workers do not solicit samples or accept advertising from individual wineries. Instead they visit wineries, participate in regional and consorzio tastings, and even buy wines from the same sort of shops Italian consumers patronize. That last practice will send chills up the spines of wine magazine publishers on several continents.

Full disclosure: I’ve known Daniele Cernilli for at least two decades. Even fuller disclosure: We don’t always agree – in fact, we have sometimes been on opposite sides of a wine, a winery, or a wine style. But I don’t know anyone who knows the wines of Italy – all of Italy – in greater depth than he does, so I always take his evaluations seriously.

Here’s a representative example of both his knowledge and our occasional disagreements: The 2019 Guide’s White Wine of the Year award is shared by two wines:

  • Fiano di Avellino Stilèma 2015, Mastroberardino, Campania
  • Solo MM 15 2015, Vodopivec, Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Now, Fiano di Avellino is a justly esteemed grape variety, and Mastroberardino has long been one of its finest producers. Additionally, I happen to have tasted the Stilèma, and I agree totally with Cernilli’s judgment of its greatness. Here’s what he says of it in his entry:

Typical notes of flint, then fresh almond, wild herbs, elegant and extremely clear aromas. Agile and savory taste dominated by a magical freshness that gives elegance and drinkability to the wine. Smooth and long persistence. Great wine.

Stilèma is the first fruit of an experiment initiated by the late Antonio Mastroberardino to use materials derived from old and especially from pre-phylloxera vineyards (of which there are several in the Fiano zone) to back-engineer Fiano di Avellino to the sort of prime vines and field and cellar techniques that yielded the greatest wines of what we can call the “pre-industrial years” of Italian winemaking. As Antonio’s son Piero puts it:

We intend to evoke the style of vinification of the native vines of Irpinia (Greco, Fiano and Aglianico) as it took place between the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 70s of the twentieth century for Taurasi, and between the years 70 and 80 for the two noblest whites of Irpinia. It is, then, the style (or the Stilèma) of a family that interprets, over generations, the natural heritage of its territory, which makes it specific, as predestined to play a role in that land.

Noble purposes, and already producing noble results.

But what of Cernilli’s other choice for White Wine of the Year? Solo MM 15 2015 is a wine and Vodopivec a maker unknown to me. Cernilli describes winemaker Paolo Vodopivec as a meticulous and devoted craftsman, committed to the very localized traditions of the Friulian Carso and to experimentation with vinifying wines in amphorae. Of this wine, he says:

100% Vitovska grapes. Fermented in amphora for 6 months then aged in large casks. Unfiltered. Bright straw yellow color. Austere nose offering notes of sea breeze and aromatic herbs. The palate is expressive, briny and citrusy; powerful and fresh, vibrant, and with a unique personality. Wonderful wine.

That’s certainly detailed enough to prompt me to look for a bottle next time I’m in Italy, since I infer that it comes to this hemisphere only occasionally, in small quantities and at fairly high prices. A little research told me that Vitovska grapes are very localized within Friuli, had almost disappeared until rescued a decade or so ago by some devoted winemakers, and are now enjoying a small vogue in Italy. Worth a try? For sure. One of the year’s great white wines? Given my very uneven experiences with amphora-aged wines, I’d say that’s far less certain.

But the surprising (to me at least) award pairing gives evidence, if any is needed, of just how unconventional and eclectic Cernilli’s palate is, how plugged in to the Italian wine scene he is, and how informative and useful – indeed, what a simply interesting read – his Essential Guide is. You can count on one finger the number of annual wine guides I enjoy picking up and just browsing in: This is it.

HAPPY AND A HEALTH NEW YEAR!

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Drinking and Eating with Daniele Cernilli (Doctor Wine)

Michele and I spent a few days in Rome before going on a grappa press tour with “Hello Grappa” along with our friend, wine writer and grappa lover, Tom Maresca.

I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant in Rome — Checchino dal 1887 — and Tom agreed. We invited Daniele Cernilli (Checchino is his favorite restaurant) and his wife Marina Thompson.

Daniele Cernilli

Daniele Cernilli, aka Doctor Wine, and Marina have been friends for many years. We have tasted a lot of wine together both here and in Rome. Daniele is true Roman, a Romano de Roma as the expression goes. He is one of the most important men in Italian wine and has been a wine critic for many years. He was one of the founders of Gambero Rosso and for 24 years was the editor of Gambero Rosso-Slow Food Wine Guide. Daniele was the inventor of the now famous “Three Glasses” classification for Italian wines. Currently, he has is own web-magazine called “Doctor Wine” www.doctorwine.it. There are two versions, one English and the other Italian, and it covers both Italian and European wines. I read it regularly.

Checchino is a family run restaurant with Francesco Mariani on the floor and his brother Elio in the kitchen.  When we arrived at the restaurant, Francesco welcomed us as always.

Checchino has one of the best wine lists in Rome and Francesco is always ready to talk about his wines.  After we selected the wines Daniele presented Tom and I with copies of his Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019.

THE WINES

Le Vignole–Bianco del Lazio 2012 IGT Colle Picchioni made from Malvasia, Sauvignon and Trebbiano. Maceration is on the skins and the wine is aged in French barriques. The winery is located in Marino a short distance from Rome.  The wine remains  on the lees for some time and has  a slightly golden color. Tom said it reminded him of a Rhone white wine and I agreed.

Stilema 2015 Mastroberadino made from 100% Fiano di Avellino. 10% of the wine is fermented in barriques. This is Daniele’s description of the wine in his book: “Typical notes of flint, then fresh almonds, wild herbs, elegant and extremely clear aromas. Agile and savory taste dominated by a magical freshness that gives elegance and drinkability to the wine. Smooth and long persistence. Great Wine.”

Colle Piccioni Rosso 1982Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine consultant today is Riccardo Cotarella. The wine wAS aged in large oak barrels. I have visited the winery twice and both times drank the 1985 vintage. The 1982 had hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste. It was as good as the 1983 I had the last time we were here.

Barolo 2010 DOCG Pio Cesare made from 100% Nebbiolo.  The grapes are from family owned vineyards in Serralunga, Grinzane Cavour, La Mora and Barolo. Vinification is in stainless steel and skin contact and maceration is between 25 to 30 days. The wine spends 3 years in large oak barrels. Daniele said I would like the wine because it was very traditional in style and he was right.

After lunch, Daniele invited Tom and I to meet him at his favorite wine bar Il Goccetto that night to taste some wine.  Here is what we drank:

Franciacorta Brut NV Mosnel Metodo Classico made from 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Bianco and 10% Pinot Noir.  From the following vintages:  70% 2012, 20% 2011 and 10% 2010.   30% was fermented in wood and the wine was on the lees for 40 months. Dosage, Brut 3.5 g/l and disgorged in Jul 2016. The wine had nice fruit with hints of white flower and peach.

Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva Alto Adige DOC Terlan made from 100% Pinot Bianco from vineyards at 500 to 900 meters, with a south, southwest exposure. The soil is sandy porphyric gravel. The grapes are hand harvested and a gentle pressing of the whole cluster and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation takes place. Slow fermentation at a controlled temperature is in big oak barrels of 30HL. Malolactic fermentation follows and the wine ages on the lees in traditional wooden barrels for 12 months. The wine has hints of wild flowers, pear and honey with a touch of almonds and hazelnuts.

It is always interesting to taste and drink wine with Daniele because he comes up with wines and producers which I have not had before. The 3 whites and the Brut were all new for me.

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Daniele Cernilli on Genetic Editing

| Published on DoctorWine N°224
Trend Topic: Genetic editing
by Daniele Cernilli 28-08-2017
Parola d’ordine: cisgenetica editoriale doctowine daniele cernilli
Studies on genetic editing made by professor Attilio Scienza and by the Edmund Mach institute in San MIchele all’Adige oper the path to the creation of vines resistent to diseases. Will this be the future?

Recently, I have been often citing Attilio Scienza and his observations but I do so because I believe they are illuminating for the future of winemaking. For those who do not know who he is, he held the chair for viticulture at the University of Milan for years, was the head of the Istituto Mach di San Michele all’Adige and is the author of many books on both scientific and other subjects. His latest research, carried out at San Michele, dealt with gene or genetic editing, scientifically known also known as cisgenesis, and removing certain genes from a vine DNA in order to create grapes that are resistant to botrytis, above all. If we consider that anti-botrytis treatments represent the majority of those carried out in the vineyard, using these grapes would eliminate a significant percentage of polluting substances. But would this make organic and biodynamic methods useless?

Scienza doesn’t think to. “The birth of agriculture was an act of genetics. Already in the Neolithic Age, man was selecting plants and animals to raise to serve as food. The common trait in innovation is fear. Biodynamic and organic farming seek to preserve natural resources and thus are a response to a fear of losing them but we need to go beyond this. Organic farming is not convincing because it is a dead-end street. We cannot return to the past because this would mean denying the future. It would be like trying to preserve the Ship of Theseus”. Is genetic editing a back door to creating genetically modified organisms (GMO)? Not at all because GMOs are created by inserting foreign genes into the DNA to be modified whereas as genetic editing removes genes from the host. If it were possible to eliminate the gene that causes cancer from a person’s DNA, wouldn’t everyone be in favor of this?

While this may be an extreme and, at present, a hypothetical example it serves to prove a point. In regard to wine, if genetic editing can be used in a way that does affect quality, then it would be possible to eliminate enormous amounts of harmful substances in the vineyard. I am convinced that genetic editing in winegrowing will be the topic of the day in the very near future and it will be interesting to see what positions will be taken by groups like Slow Food or the farmers’ unions Coldiretti and Confagricoltura, not to mention the ministry of agriculture and the European Union. In the wine sector, there will be a confrontation between science and ideology, between believers and deniers, between the future and a nostalgia for a past that, between climate change and limitations on the use of polluting substances, can only remain a distant memory.

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Daniele Cernilli on “The Price of Wine”

Signed DW

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°216

The price of wine

by Daniele Cernilli 26-06-2017

Il prezzo del vino

There has recently been quite a stir in the wine-web community over the news that the Swedish state alcohol monopoly had launched a tender for Barbera d’Asti wine age in small barrels at a maximum price of 2.30 euros per bottle. When you consider that the average price per bottle for exported Italian wine is three euros and that exported bulk wine sells for 0.68 euros, the offer does not seem to be too bad. However, what is disturbing is that the wine in question has a top DOCG classification, which stands for controlled origin and guaranteed quality, which makes the offer is very degrading. Undoubtedly, there will producer cooperatives and industrial bottlers who will jump at the offer given that they, as opposed to small producers, have the quantity to sell at a lower per-bottle profit margin. The fact that this is a problem is not easy to understand for those not sufficiently acquainted with the wine business. It is not easy because while the DOC (controlled origin) and DOCG classifications undoubtedly have their merits, they are not enough to distinguish the diverse origins of wines and different production costs. Thus there is a real risk that Gresham’s Law, “bad money drive out good”, may come into play and mediocre wine at a low price will win over better wine, the craft wines and those made with particular care. The reality is that if the consumer has three euros to spend on wine they will buy a wine at that price. There are some fairly discreet Italian wines that cost relatively little, including the much vilified Tavernello and Ronco which are not flawed and cost around a euro. But these wines are neither DOC nor DOCG classified and in the end you get what you pay for. The basic problem lies with the system of classification itself, the way they are determined and the way the public perceives them. The DOC classification, for example, is important in the collective imagination of those with a superficial knowledge of the wine but it only guarantees origin and not quality, something which the DOCG classification does. By law, in order to receive a DOCG classification a wine must have a “particular merit”. And common sense tells us that this “particular merit” must have to do with high organoleptic qualities which cannot be consistent with low prices. Although there are surly those who cheat this system, as evidenced by the investigations by health inspectors, they are the exception and not the rule and they are not the real problem. What needs to be clarified is exactly what the classifications are supposed to represent. Whether they are there just for show or as a guarantee of quality for the consumer and for the livelihood of many winemakers. This is the crux of the problem but, unfortunately, Italian politicians and many speculators avoid tackling it and prefer to create a smoke screen and spew terms like “excellence”. This means that consumers are left to fend for themselves either by word of mouth or consulting the few sector publications left in Italy.

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From Your Agent at Vinitaly- Daniele Cernilli

I did not attend Vinitaly this year so here is the next best thing a report by Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°206

From your agent at Vinitaly

by Daniele Cernilli 17-04-2017

Daniele Cernilli seminari DoctorWine a Vinitaly 2017

Vinitaly has come and gone and it was the best is years. Despite all the problems afflicting the Italian wine sector, the atmosphere at the trade fair was really good, public attendance was hight and all the producers I spoke to were satisfied. Good thing. At our Doctor Wine stand we organized 11 seminars all which were packed full of interested and competent people. We received a lot of compliments and the only criticisms came from those who were on the waiting list and failed to get a place. I apologize for this but the space available was limited, only 28 seats while the demand was at times for as many as 50. We’ll see what we can do to improve this next year, I promise. As for the wines we tasted I must say there were some really good ones. I can start by saying that vintage 2013 for Barolo is not that far behind the legendary 2010. The more simple 2015 and 2015 reds were also formidable as were most of the whites. From Tuscany there were a lot of 2014 vintages and some of them, especially the Sassicaia, went far beyond expectations. Aside from these let me make a few suggestions. I’ll start with the Aglianico del Vulture Titolo 2015 from Elena Fucci which is delicious, perhaps the best ever. Then there is the remarkable Colli di Luni Vermentino Etichetta Nera 2016 of Lunae Bosoni which is fragrant and distinct more than ever. The fruit in Elio Altare’s Dolcetto d’Alba 2016 is as a defined and clear as only a great winemaker like himself can achieve. Surprising. The Barbera d’Asti Superiore L’Alfiera 2015, from Marchesi Alfieri, is very young yet more promising than usual. Tasting the Taurasi 2012 from the Fiorentino family, on the other hand, was a true eureka moment and a high-class debut. Alberto Longo’s Falanghina Le Fossette 2016 is from northern Puglia and unites fragrance and a precise bouquet with a saline and most pleasing flavor. Vermentino di Sardegna Camminera 2016 Audarya is a wine for those seeking a delicious white without maxing out their credit card. In the same category is the Soave Superiore Monte di Fice 2016 from the I Stefanini winery and I intend to acquire some for my own cellar and can already image drinking it this summer with a nice fish fry. These wines are neither rare nor too expensive and they impressed me for being well-made, representative of where they are from and, again, not excessively expensive. Last but not least I add a great red that is often overlooked because it is the estate’s second wine after its showcase Sassicaia. Guidalberto 2015 is a great vintage and perhaps the best since the legendary 2004 which was fantastic. While this may cost more than the others, it is truly well worth it.

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