Category Archives: French sweet wines

The Charming Taste of Europe

“The Charming Tastes of Europe is a special project that links the flavors of wines from Italy and France and of fresh fruit from Greece, and further introduces the United States and Canada to these exquisite items that recall all of European beauty and grace,” according the brochure we were given at a tasting and dinner at Lincoln Restaurant in NYC.  The Charming Taste of Europe campaign is partially funded by the European Union.

charmongI was invited by the organizer of the event and the speaker, Susannah Gold. I have been to a number of events hosted by her and they are all well organized and informative.

Susanna spoke about the region of Abruzzo.  The Abruzzo region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, the rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. 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.  Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it is considered part of the South.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti.


The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese.

The three most important wine designations in Abruzzo are: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy.

The wines of Abruzzo

IMG_8782Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC 2021 Nic Tartaglia made from 100% made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from 41 year old vines at 303 meters. The training system is the pergola and there are 1,600 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place at the end of September. The grapes are soft pressed, followed by static clarification. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 30 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Aging is in stainless steel vats. The wine is bottled in the spring following the harvest. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime and almonds in the finish.

The Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds its best expression in Abruzzo.

IMG_8790Pecorino Superiore Abruzzo DOC 2021 “la Canaglia” (Nic Tartaglia is the owner) Azienda Agricola Fontefico made from 100% Pecorino from a vineyard at 120 meters. The training system is guyot and there are 4,000 plants per hectare with an eastern exposure. The soil is iron, sand and clay. It is a single vineyard wine and is estate bottled and the farm is organic. This is a full bodied, crisp white wine with high minerality and hints of grapefruit, sage, and white flowers with a touch of almonds. It is called La Canaglia, the rascal, of Fontefico because the yields are very low. There is a different label on the bottle very year because every wine has its own personality.

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

IMG_8794Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo  2021 “Prope” Velenosi made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from estate owned vineyards in the Controguerra at 250 to 300 meters. The soil is of medium texture with abundant grassland.  The training system is cordon and spur pruned. There are 5,000 plants per hectare. Specifically selected grapes for Rosé vinification are picked during the first 10 days of September. In the cellar the grapes are destemmed and pressed. The entire environment in inactivated with carbon dioxide ice so as not to lose the primary aromas. A brief cold maceration takes place for about 6 hours, which allows the maximum extraction of the aromas. Fermentation is in temperature-controlled steel vats. The wine is kept for some months on the lees to increase the structure. It has hints of red current, raspberry, violet with floral scents.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a Rose’ made from the Montepulciano grape. It is made from the free run juice and/or juice with little skin contact and it can be light pink to dark red.

IMG_8796Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2017 Riserva “Villa Gemma” Masciarelli made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on steep, sloped Colle Cave vineyards in Chieti. The soil is limestone, clay and gravel. The training system is French guyot and the farming is sustainable. Harvest is by hand. The harvest ended in October. Fermentation is in stainless steel 15 to 20 days, followed by a maceration of 23 to 30 days.  Aging is for 36 months in 100% new French oak barriques, followed by 3 years in bottle before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, blueberry, pumice and vanilla.  The winery was founded in 1981 by Gianni Masciarelli.

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.

The French Dessert Wines

IMG_8802Château De Gardes “Cuvée Fût de Chêne” AOC Cadillac 2019 made from 100% Sémillon from 60 year old vines on 64 hectares. The training system is guyot. Harvest is by hand and there are several sortings of the grapes. Traditional winemaking using pneumatic press and gentle filtration before bottling. The wine is aged for 12 months in oak barrels. There is a good balance between sugar and alcohol, with hints of candied fruit and vanilla. The wine can age for 20 years.

Cadillac is a small appellation of Bordeaux in the southwest of France, known for its sweet botrytized white wines. It is situated on the east bank of the Garonne, north of Loupiac.

IMG_8803Château Loupiac-Gaudiet AOC Loupiac 2017 made from 90 % Sémillion and 10% Sauvignon from 45 year old vines on 26 hectares. The soil is clay and limestone and the pruning system is simple guyot. Harvest is by hand as soon as the botrytis appears.Traditional winemaking using modern methods–pneumatic press and temperature controlled fermentation. Drink it 2 to 5 years if you want it fresh and fruity, or 5 to ten years if you prefer more richness, or 10 to 30 if you prefer more smoothness. The wine has a good balance between fruit sugar and acidity. There are hints of honey, beeswax, dried stone fruit, lemon, marmalade and a touch of spice in the finish.  I was very impressed with this wine.

Loupiac belongs to a cluster of lesser know appellations in Bordeaux that specialize in the production of sweet wine from a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It is on the opposite bank from Sauternes but the soil and weather conditions are perfect for producing wine with botrytis cinerea.

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