Category Archives: Fontana Candida

Tasting Older Frascati at Fontana Candida

When Michele and I told Lars Leicht of Cru Artisan Wines that we would be spending 3 weeks in Rome, he suggested that we visit Fontana Candida in Frascati, less than 30 minutes away by train.

Two of the white Fontana Candida wines, Vigneto Santa Teresa Fascati Superiore and Luna Mater can age. I had tasted these wines a few years ago and wanted to see how they were holding up.IMG_9725

Mauro Merz, the oenologist and director, whom I had met in NYC, met us at the station and after a short ride we were at the winery.

The production zone of the DOC Frascati wine includes the entire territories of the communes of Frascati, Grottaferrata and Monte Porzio Catone and parts of the communes of Rome and Montecompatri.

Mauro and Michele

Mauro and Michele

Mauro began by giving us a tour of the vineyards. He said Fontana Candida has 25 hectares of its own vineyards but they also buy grapes from 210 different growers.  Mauro made it a point to say they buy grapes and not juice. In 2005 they started a vineyard-based project to help their growers. They hired a top agronomist and he acted as a consultant to the growers free of charge. Fontana Candida also paid the growers above market price if they produced healthier and more mature grapes.

He said they have two cellars: the vinification cellar at Frascati and the bottling cellar at Monteporzio Catone.IMG_9715

He pointed out a small section of the vineyard where the vines were tied to long stakes in the ground. He said this was the way the vines were trained in the past. It was a good system because you could have 10,000 plants per hectare but because the plants were so close it was easy for disease to spread.IMG_9728

We were takes on a tour of the cellar by Luca Gariboldi. The cellar is carved from tufa, volcanic rock and is perfect for storing the wine. Luca showed us a number of older vintages. He took from the cellar the 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007 Luna Mater for us to taste.

Luca Gariboldi

Luca Gariboldi

He said that 2013 was such a difficult vintage that they did make the Luna Mater that year. 2014 was also a difficult vintage but the wine came out better than expected.IMG_9732

We started with the Vigneto Santa Teresa Fascati Superiore 2014 DOC It is 30% Malvasia Puntinata del Lazio, 30% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano and 10% Greco. The grapes come from a 13-acre vineyard of which seven and a half are planted in Malvasia del Puntinata del Lazio and four acres in Greco. It is in the locality of Santa Teresa, in the commune of Rome. The 30-year-old vines are trained using the cordone speronato system at 985 feet above sea level on soil of volcanic origin with a southern exposure. Mauro called it a “light soil that looked like talcum powder”. They are not allowed to irrigate so the roots of the vines have to go deep to find water.  Mauro said that 2014 was a difficult vintage because there was a lot of rain and humidity. There is a selective picking of the different grape varieties according to the rate of ripening. Malvasia was picked first, followed by the Greco and then the Trebbiano. The Trebbiano and Greco were gently pressed followed by a classic white wine vinification. The Malvasia was cold fermented on the skins for 12 hours. After a natural clarification the must was fermented with selected yeasts and left to rest in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks until bottling in early spring. Mauro called this an elegant wine. The wine had white peach aromas and flavors and a hint of apple and smoke. It has good mineralogy, acidity and a finish and aftertaste of almonds.  At the moment this wine is no longer imported into the U.S because of a dispute over the name. IMG_9735

Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2014, Fontana Candida Made from 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, 10% Greco and 10% Bombino. The grapes are grown in selected hillside vineyards ranging between 650 and 1,300 feet in the communes of Frascati and Monteporzio Catone.  The volcanic soil is loose, porous and dry but not arid. Spalliera, Guyot and Cordone Speronato training systems are used.

First, selected bunches of mature grapes are picked by hand. Then the best grapes from each bunch are chosen. The grapes are transported in small baskets directly to the cellar so that they will be in perfect condition when they arrive.

The vinification of the grapes for the Luna Mater is a process that they invented and takes place in three different stages. In the cellar the grapes are separated into two batches. This is called the “modern” stage. The first batch is cooled immediately prior to a gentle pressing to ensure maximum aromatic qualities. The second batch is destemmed, cooled and fermented in contact with the skins to produce a marked varietal character. This is done without oxygen to keep the grapes fresh. After 6-7 days the skins were removed, any longer than this and there would be too much extract.IMG_9730

Three days later a small quantity of the best grapes are destemmed by hand and added whole to the fermenting must with their own natural yeast for bouquet and flavor. The berries remain in the must until the end of February.  The alcohol helps extract tannin from the skins and pits. The wine is aged in 10HL acacia wood barrels, which may be the best wood for the Malvasia grapes. The barrels are not toasted and were steam folded.

Mauro  feels  barriques do not give him the type of wine he wants to produce and they are not traditional.  The wine is left to age in bottles laid horizontally in the ancient tufa tunnels under the Frascati hillsides.

Luna Mater means Mother Moon; it reflects the wine’s close ties to nature and the 50 old vines that are used to make this wine. It has floral aromas with hints of white peach and honey with bitter almond in the finish and a very pleasing aftertaste.IMG_9743

The first vintage was 2007 and it was vinified and aged in stainless steel and some toasted barriques.

The 2010, 2009, and 2008 tasted better than I remember from the tasting in NY in 2011.They were showing no signs of age. The 2011 and 2012 could use some more time. This is a wine that can age and gets much better with time.IMG_9756

Luca took us to Locanda Dello Spuntino in Grottafretto for lunch. We drank the wines with an assortment of antipasti and typical pasta dishes.

 

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Filed under Fontana Candida, Frascati, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Luna Mater, Uncategorized

Celebrating “La Befana”

From beginning to end, it was a wonderful holiday season with good food, good wine and most of all good friends. January 6 marked the end of the season. Though it is not celebrated much here, in Italy it is the feast of the Epiphany, when good Italian boys and girls receive gifts delivered by the Befana, a good witch.IMG_6850

This year, we celebrated at the home of wine and food writers Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. It was our third annual Befana celebration, a tradition begun by Lars Leicht, National Director of Cru Artisan Wines for Banfi. When Lars was young, he spent the summer and many holidays with his family in Anagni, a small town not far from Rome and became familiar with the Italian customs and traditions.

The evening began, as always, with Champagne.IMG_6844

Champagne Brut Andrè Clouet Rose No 3 Bouzy 100% Pinot Noir fermented as blanc Champagne blended with 8% still Bouzy Rouge.

The Clout family owns 8 hectares of vines in preferred mid-slope vineyards in Grand Crus Bouzy and Ambonnay where they have excelled as Pinot Noir specialists. The wines are cellared under the family’s 17th century village house – built by an ancestor who acted as printer to Louis XV’s royal court at Versailles! Respect for terroir is evident in these traditionally crafted wines. The labels are attractively old-fashioned in design appropriate for the descendants of a notable printer. This is a fragrant, round rosé with fine bubbles and ripe, full fruit flavors of Pinot Noir interwoven with drier, toasty complexity; excellent deep color; with hints of strawberry, raspberry and almonds.

With the Champagne we ate baked Italian sausages with sweet and sour figs, a delicious recipe adapted from a cookbook by Penelope Casas. It was an interesting combination and went very well with the Champagne.IMG_6845

Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2011, Fontana Candida Made from 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, 10% Greco and 10% Bombino. Harvesting began in the final 10 days of September and continued until the end of October, producing perfectly ripe, healthy grapes with a golden color and high sugar content. The grapes are grown in selected hillside vineyards ranging between 650 and 1,300 feet in the communes of Frascati and Monteporzio Catone.  The volcanic soil is loose, porous and dry but not arid. Spalliera, Guyot and Cordone Speronato training systems are used. First selected bunches of mature grapes are picked by hand. Then the best grapes from each bunch are chosen.  The grapes are transported in small baskets directly to the cellar so that they will be in perfect condition when they arrive.

The vinification of the grapes for the Luna Mater is a process that they invented and takes place in three different stages. In the cellar the grapes are separated into two batches. This is called the “modern” stage. The first batch is cooled immediately prior to a gentle pressing to ensure maximum aromatic qualities. The second batch is destemmed, cooled and fermented in contact with the skins to produce a marked varietal character. This is done without oxygen to keep the grapes fresh. After 6-7 days the skins were removed, any longer than this and there would be too much extract.

Three days later a small quantity of the best grapes are destemmed by hand and added whole to the fermenting must with their own natural yeast for bouquet and flavor. The berries remain in the must until the end of February.  The alcohol helps extract tannin from the skins and pits. The wine is aged in 10HL acacia wood barrels, which may be the best wood for the Malvasia grapes. The barrels are not toasted and were steam folded. Mauro Merz, the wine maker, feels that barriques do not give him the type of wine he wants to produce and they are not traditional.  The wine is left to age in bottles laid horizontally in the ancient tufa tunnels under the Frascati hillsides.

Luna Mater means Mother Moon; it reflects the wine’s close ties to nature and the 50 old vines that are used to make this wine. It has floral aromas with hints of white peach and honey with bitter almond in the finish and a very pleasing aftertaste.

Seafood Salade

Seafood Salad

This was served with a mixed seafood salad perfectly prepared by Tom Maresca. It was a great match.

Torre Ercolana 2000 Cantina Colacicchi – (Anagni) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cesanese di Piglio.IMG_6846

The wine is made by a natural fermentation, no filtration, sterilization or pasteurization. The wine is aged in barrel with four rackings a year. I have been drinking the older vintage of this wine for a number of years and buy them in Rome at Trimani, a wine store (and wine bar) with an excellent selection. They have exclusive rights to the wine. It is not available in the U.S. and it difficult to find outside Rome. The wine does not always taste the same because the blend changes according to the vintage. In hot vintages the Cesanese does better so there is more of it in the blend. In cooler vintages the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot does better so their percentage is increased. The best however is when all three varieties ripen perfectly.

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Timballo

Burton Anderson, in his book VINO, describes the wine in musical terms. “My first mouthful of Torre Ercolana was like my first earful of Beethoven’s Fifth: so overpowering it left me gasping for adjectives to describe it.”  It has hints leather, spice, red fruit, a nice long smooth finish and great aftertaste.

Lars Leicht’s family is from Anagni where this wine comes from. He told us a story about visiting the winery when he was young. Lars made his famous timballo that he remembers his family making on the holidays. It is made with fresh pasta layered with tomato sauce, ham, hard cooked eggs and cheese, similar to lasagna, though much more delicate. I brought the Torre Ercolana thinking it would go perfectly with the timballo and it did.IMG_6847

 Flaccianello Della Pieve 1999 Tuscan Colli Centrale IGT 100% Sangiovese Fontodi. In magnum The oenologist is Franco Bernabei. There are 6,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with the addition of indigenous yeast for at least 3 weeks. The 1999 was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Today maceration is in new Troncais and Allier French oak barrels for at least 18 months. It has hints of blackberries, spice, tobacco and blueberries. There was not even a hint of oak or vanilla. Flaccianello is one of the few Super Tuscans that I can drink and enjoy.

The Ham

The Ham

This was served with roasted fresh ham (porchetta), potatoes, pears and peas.

 Recioto Soave Classico 2007 “Le Colombare” 100% Garganega ( Veneto) PieropanIMG_6848

Certified Organic. Volcanic soil, rich in basalt and tuffo Eocene. The vineyards are at 300m and the exposure is west. The training system is Pergola Veronese and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. There is a manual harvest with careful selection of ripe grapes. All the grapes are collected in small boxes and brought to the winery for the drying process. The grapes are manually placed in a loft on mats made of bamboo reeds. The drying is natural and the grapes remain until they wither which is around the end of February. The natural climate conditions allow for berry dehydration, loss of water and the development of noble rot (Botrytis). The yield of juice is very low and the grapes lose 1/4 of their original weight. The wine is only produced in good vintages. Destemming and pressing of the grapes takes place. There is a selection of the must and fermentation at a controlled temperature 14 to 16 degrees C in barrels of 2,500 liters. The residual sugar is 110 to 120 g/L. The wine is aged in oak barrels of 200 liters for about two years and in glass for 6 months before release. This is a dessert wine with ripe fruit, hints of apricot and quince with a very long finish taste and nice aftertaste.IMG_6863

Michele made an Upside Down Meyer Lemon Cake which she adapted from the clementine cake her new book The Italian Vegetable Cookbook”. The citrus flavor of the cake enhanced the flavors of the dessert wine.

For more information about the dinner, see Diane’s blog

https://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/a-feast-for-la-befana/

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Filed under Andre Clouet champagne, Champagne, Flaccianello, Fontana Candida, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Luna Mater, Pieropan-La Colombare, Recioto, Recioto di Soave, Torre Ercolana