Category Archives: Frascati

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.

 

5 Comments

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

ITALIAN SUMMER WHITE WINES FOR UNDER $ 20

My motto has always been that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on wine to drink well. Over the last year I have tasted  many excellant Italian white wines that are under $20.  Here is a list of some of my favorites.


Frascati Superiore Secco 2009 DOC Lazio Fontana Candida Made from 60% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. The grapes come from hillside vineyards in the DOC zone located in the province of Lazio, in the communes of Frascati, Monteporzio Cantone, Grottaferrata, Montecompatri and Rome. The grapes are harvested between September and October and immediately transported to the cellar where they are gently pressed. Vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel and then bottled under nitrogen to protect its freshness and fruit. The wine has aromas and flavors of white peaches and apples. It has good acidity and minerality with a long finish and a nice aftertaste. $10.

Bianco Veronese “Ferdi” 2009 IGT Sartori di Verona (Veneto) made from 100% Gaganega.  There is a careful selection of handpicked grapes from different vineyards that are partially dried in small boxes for 30- 40 days (appassimento) in order to reduce water and concentrate sugar content and color.  3 grams of sugar per liter in the wine is balanced by the acidity. There is a light cold soaking. The pressing of the grapes is followed by short skin maceration at a low temperature.
Part of the must is fermented in 500-liter oak tonneaux but the oak is not new. The remainder is aged in stainless steel. The wine is then left to mature on its lees for 6/7 months. This adds mouth feel and intensity. The wine is aged in bottle for at least 3 months before release. The wine has subtle floral notes with hints of pears and apricots and good acidity.  $14

Gavi del Comune di Gavi DOCG 2010 Beni di Batasiolo 100% Cortese (Piedmont) the vineyards are at 100/200 meters and there are 3,500 vines per hectare. They use the Guyot system modified into small arches. There is soft pressing with static decanting, and the alcoholic fermentation is under strict temperature control. The wine is bottled after malolactic fermentation. The wine has aromas of white flowers with hints of white peaches, citrus and good acidity. $18.99

Cuppa Ramato 2009Venezia Giulia Pinot Grigio IGT 2009 Attems.
The harvest took place near the end of September and the grapes were harvested by hand. Vinification takes place in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature. Fermentation lasted for seven days. For this wine the skins remained in contact with the juice for 12 hours and the wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for four months in barriques and two months in stainless steel and one month in bottle before release. It has the color of a blush wine. The aroma is very aromatic with hints of strawberry and cherry. It is quite firm on the pallet with a nice fruit in the finish and aftertaste. It is a most interesting wine! $19

 The history of the Orange Wine
This wine goes back to the way Pinot Grigio was made during the time of the Republic of Venice. Ramato, meaning copper, was the term used to describe the color of the wine. Some clones of Pinot Grigio can also be copper in color. The traditional vinification process led to the use of this name. The must remains in contact with the skins for 36 hours and this gives the wine a very distinctive coppery hue. The term “orange wine” is used to describe white wine where the juice has had skin contact.

Grechetto Dell’Umbria IGT 2010, made from 100% Grechetto. Scacciadiavoli The harvest takes place the first ten days of September. Vinification takes place in steel tanks on the lees and malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged in bottle for 3 months before release. Grechetto is a native Umbrian varietal and this a wine to be enjoyed when it is young. It is fresh and fruity with floral hints and good acidity. $18
Vermentino Maremma Toscana IGT 2011 Cecchi 85% Vermentino and 15% other approved grapes. The vines are at 150 meters and the training system is guyot. There are 5,500 grapes per hectare. Harvesting takes place the beginning of September. After the grapes are picked they are left for 12 hours at a temperature of 8°C in contact with the skins in order to keep the primary aromas.
Fermentation takes place in small stainless steel tanks for 18 days and the wine remains in bottle for two months before release. $16
Pecorino 2009 Offida DOC 100% Pecorino Saladini Pilastri.  The vineyard is 4 hectares at 150 meters with gravelly soil and east/northeast exposure. Training system is vertical shoot-positioned trellis, and there are 4,200 plants/ha. The harvest takes place in the middle of September and the grapes are organically farmed. Temperature controlled fermentation for 20 days. This is a wine with floral and herbal undertones and nice citrus aromas and flavors.  $14.99

Scavigna Bianco DOC 2010 Azienda Agricola Odoardi (Calabria) made from Greco Bianco, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Pinot Bianco and Riesling. The winery is at 600 meters. The soil is calcareous clay and the training system is Guyot. The harvest takes place in late August and fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine has flavors and aromas of white peach and herbs. They are one of the few producers that make this wine.  Owners are Giorgio and Giovanbattista Odoardi. $17

Falanghina Beneventana IGT 100% Falanghina  Donna Chiara.(Campania)  The soil is chalky clay, there are 2,500 vines per hectare, the training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place the first week of October. Fermentation in stainless steel at controlled temperature for 40 days. The wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation and does not see any wood.
The wine was fresh with hints of citrus and floral aromas and flavors, good acidity and is a very pleasant wine to drink. $18

12 Comments

Filed under Calabria, Ciró, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Frascati, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Odoardi winery, Sartori di Verona, Scacciadiavoli, Scavigna Bianco, Vermentino, wines under $20

The Wine of Rome: Frascati and Fontana Candida

The Porchetta trucks were the things I remember most about my first trip to Frascati.  Burly men in grease-stained aprons would cut slices from the whole roasted pigs flavored with herbs, salt and black pepper.  We would order it to go on hard rolls known as rosette.  The sandwiches were delicious!  Long tables were set up where you could sit to eat your sandwich and you were given a free glass of very young Frascati wine to drink.   “Drink Frascati young, it does not age”, I was told by all the Romans I met.

 So you can imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to a wine tasting at Eataly stating, “Fontana Candida invites you to challenge the common perception that Frascati is a wine to be only drunk young”.  They were not joking: among the wines to be tasted were a 2001 and 1997 Frascati–I had to go

Mauro Merz

 The speaker was Mauro Merz head winemaker at Fontana Candida. He said that he comes from a family of wine producers in northern Italy’s Trentino, a region famous for its white wines. He spoke in Italian and Lars Leight, a vice-president at Banfi translated.

 Mauro said that the blend for Frascati includes only native grapes: Malvasia Puntinata del Lazio, Malvasia di Candia, Trebbiano Toscano, Greco, Bombino Bianco and Bellone.

 He made it clear that he is loyal to tradition and his goal is to make wine that expresses the territory and the tradition from the area in which it comes. There is a movement on the part of some of the Frascati producers to add 10% international grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc to the blend. He said that this addition would not help the wine. The producers that want to do this are taking the easy way out by adding international aromatic grapes to the blend, as it would be much easier to make wine using these grapes. If this is done, he said, the wine would lose all sense of place and its “personality”.

 He also feels that Trebbiano Toscano should be removed from the blend because it was added in the past when producers were more interested in quantity then quality. He feels that the percentage of Malvasia in the blend should be increased as it is a better and more typical grape of the area.

 Fontana Candida has its own vineyards but they 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. 

 The grape growing area of Frascati is shrinking. It is very close to Rome; in fact some of it falls within the boundaries of the Eternal City. If a grower can make more money selling his land than he can growing grapes then the grapes will be replaced by apartment houses. In order to keep the growers on the land, Fontana Candida will pay as much as 40% higher than the market price. Mauro said that the company feels that they are not just dealing with individuals but with families that have to make a living. Because of this, more and more producers are bringing their grapes to them. Quality comes above all else when it comes to the grapes, he said.

 There were eight wines in the tasting:

 Frascati Superiore Secco 2009 DOC Lazio – Made from 60% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. The grapes come from hillside vineyards in the DOC zone located in the province of Lazio, in the communes of Frascati, Monteporzio Cantone, Grottaferrata, Montecompatri and Rome. The grapes are harvested between September and October and immediately transported to the cellar. Vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and are gently pressed. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel and then bottled under nitrogen to protect its freshness and fruit. The wine has aromas and flavors of white peaches and apples. It has good acidity and minerality with a long finish and a nice aftertaste. $10.This wine would be perfect with a porchetta sandwich.

 Vigneto Santa Teresa Fascati Superiore 2004 DOC It is 30% Malvasia Puntinata del Lazio, 30% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano and 10% Greco. The grapes come from a 32-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 2004 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 minerality, acidity and a finish and aftertaste of almonds. Mauro made an excellent wine in a difficult year.

Vigneto Santa Tresa Frascati

 Vigneto Santa Teresa Frascati Superiore 2001 DOC

Grapes, Vineyard and Vinification same as the above. Mauro said that 2001 was an excellent vintage. In the area they have an Indian summer which helps the grapes to ripen later. This a 10 year old Frascati and it was not showing its age. Round, balanced and elegant, white peach aromas and flavors with grapefruit on the palate and a long finish and lingering aftertaste.

 Vigneto Santa Teresa Frascati Superiore 1997 DOC

Grapes, Vineyard and Vinification same as the above. 1997 was an excellent vintage in all of Tuscany.The 1997 was much like the 2001 but with aromas of white peach and fuller bodied and a touch of smoke.

Mauro said something very interesting about the older wines. He said that he did not know if they improve with age but they stay in “character” as they mature. He gave Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren as examples, both were great when they were young and remained the same as they matured.

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2010 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. It is rich in potassium, phosphorous and microelements. 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. Mauro made it very clear that the grapes are transported in small baskets directly to the cellar so that they will be in perfect condition when they arrive. The wine has floral aromas with hints of white peach and honey with bitter almond in the finish and a very pleasing aftertaste.

The vinification of the grapes for the Luna Mater is a process that he invented and takes place in three different stages. In the cellar the grapes are separated into two batches. This he 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 then this and there would be too much extract.

 Three days later a small quantity of the best grapes were 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. Mauro said that the alcohol helps extract tannin from the skins and pits.

 The wine is aged in 10HL acacia wood barrels.   According to Mauro, this is the best wood for the Malvasia grapes. He made the point that the barrels were not toasted and were steam folded. He did admit that in the 2007 vintage, the wine did see some toasted barriques. He felt that barriques did not give him the type of wine he wanted to produce and they are not traditional.  He now uses 10HL barrels. He is thinking of using 20HL untoasted acacia barrels in the future.

 The bottled wine is then left to age in bottles laid horizontally in the ancient tufa tunnels under the Frascati hillsides.

  Mauro said that 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. He also said that the moon was very important in farming but did not go into detail.

 All of the Luna Mater wines are vinified in the same way.

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2009.  Harvest began in the second half of September and continued until the end of October. The fruit was healthy, mature, and rich in sugar and gold in color. The amount of fruit gathered was somewhat lower than average. This is a full bodied wine, well balanced with white peach aromas and flavors, bitter almond in the finish and a lingering aftertaste. $23

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2008.  The harvest period was sunny and dry and the quality of fruit was excellent. The quantity of grapes picked was even lower than in 2007. Mauro said that 2008, like 2007 will be remembered in Frascati as one of the best vintages of the past decade. This is an elegant wine, well balanced, with aromas and flavors of white peach with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

 Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2007.  The quantity of grapes harvested was lower than the preceding year. It was an outstanding vintage. This is the wine were Mauro used some toasted barriques but I did not notice it. It seemed lighter in style with good minerality and acidity.  It was showing no signs of age and was drinking very well.

11 Comments

Filed under Frascati, Italian White Wine