Category Archives: Italian White Wine

First Look Series: The Barollo Brothers

Gary Grunner of Grapes on the Go invited me to the first event of his First Look Series. Held at the Manhattan Club, a private club in NYC, the First Look Series features wineries that Gary will be importing over the next year.

Barollo Brothers, Nicola and Marco

Barollo Brothers, Nicola and Marco

The wines for this first event were from the Società Agricola Barollo Marco e Nicola. Marco Barollo represented the winery. The winery is located in Preganziol, near Treviso in the Veneto. It is near the Adriatic Sea and the Dolomites are visible in the background.

Marco Barollo speaking at the tasting

Marco Barollo speaking at the tasting

Marco said that 45 hectares are planted with vines.The grapes are harvested by hand and it takes about 20 workers to pick the grapes from one hectare of vines in a day. The wine presses are located near the vineyards so that the grapes remain intact right up to the time they are pressed.

Marco said that his wines reflect the terroir and the grapes that they are made from and therefore go very well with food. All the wines are fermented in 300HL stainless steel tanks. There was only one wine that was in barriques which were made of Allier oak by a barrel maker in Burgundy.

The goal of the winery is to reduce their ecological footprint and CO2 emissions.IMG_6389

Sauvignon Blanc 2013 100% Sauvignon Blanc. There are 5,080 vines per hectare, the grapes are hand harvested. Soft pressing, settling, traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Three months in bottle before release. This is a subtle Sauvignon Blanc, with nuances of grapefruit, lime, current, citrus and herbal notes of grass and minerals. A slight trace of tomato leaf can be found in the finish. The wine was served with cold poached shrimp, yellow squash, baby kale, tomato confit and champagne vinaigrette. The wine and food matched very well, especially since kale can be very hard to match.IMG_6395

Pinot Bianco 2012 100% Pinot Bianco. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place in early September. Soft pressing takes place, settling and traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with daily batonnage. The wine remains in contact with the lees for an extended period of time. The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in bottle before release. This wine is fresh and elegant with a pale yellow color. The bouquet is fruity, with a dominant note of apple and tropical fruit. It has good acidity, a mineral character and a long-lasting finish. This was served with pumpkin risotto drizzled with pumpkinseed oil. $18 IMG_6394

Manzoni Bianco 2012 100% Manzoni Bianco. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the middle of September. There is a soft pressing of the grapes, part is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and part is barrel fermented with daily batonnage. The wine is in bottle for 6 months before release. Marco said that this white wine is the exact replica of one of the most famous wines created and developed by Professor Luigi Manzoni, Dean of the Winemaking School in Conegliano. Manzoni conducted a series of experiments in the 1930s on genetic improvements to the grape through crossbreeding and hybridization. Manzoni Bianco, an indigenous grape from the province of Treviso, was created by the genetic crossbreeding of Riesling Renano and Pinot Bianco.

The wine has a golden yellow colour; it is fruity with floral notes and hints of apple with good acidity and a pleasant minerality. This was also served with the risotto and it worked very well with it but I gave a slight nod to the Pinot Bianco. $19

Frater Red 2013 100% Merlot (Frater means brother in Latin) The training system is spurred cordon, there are 3,700 vines per hectare and the grapes are hand harvested the last week of September. Maceration and fermentation lasts for 12 days in temperature controlled steel vats with daily pumping over, devatting and malolactic fermentation taking place. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before release. This is a balanced well-structured wine, with hints of ripe red cherries, a touch of spice and a nice fruity finish and aftertaste. This was served with grilled hanger steak caramelizes onion and oxtail marmalade. $17 IMG_6384

Frank 2010 100% Cabernet Franc There are 5,100 plants per hectare and the grapes are hand harvested the last week of September. Maceration and fermentation lasts for 15 days with daily pumping over, devatting and malolactic fermentation taking place. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques, of Allier oak, 1/2 new and 1/2 second passage and in bottle for 6 months before release.
This wine is made with grapes from some of the world’s oldest vineyards. This is an elegant well-balanced wine with hints of ripe berries, coffee and a touch of tobacco. It has a very long finish. This was also served with the hanger steak. $30IMG_6393

Prosecco DOC Treviso NV made from100% Gela from manually selected grapes. The soil is medium grained with limestone and clay. Training system is the syloz, this is a trellising system where the canes bend downward a few weeks before the harvest. There are about 2,700 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place the first week of September. The Charmat method consisting of a natural fermentation in bulb tanks takes place and lasts for 90 days. Aging is for another 3 to 4 months. The wine has a light golden yellow color with hints of acacia flowers and fresh aromatic notes of yellow apple and peach. It has a nice fruity aftertaste. The Prosecco was served with a mini pastry platter consisting mostly of little bites of chocolate. It was unusual to serve the prosecco last but it made a very refreshing end to the meal and went very well with the chocolate.

This was an enjoyable tasting with wine and food pairings that were well thought out. I am looking forward to the next event.

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Filed under Cabernet Frank, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Manzoni, Marco and Nicola Barollo winery, Merlot, Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc

White Wines of Campania: Part 1


When Tom Maresca, member sponsor of the event,  sent me the list of Campania wines for the Wine Media Guild tasting and lunch at Felidia Restaurant, I could not believe the variety of wines that he had managed to put together. There were 14 white wines on the list and 14 reds ranging in price from $17 to $60.

Tom Maresca

Tom Maresca

Michele and I travel in Campania often and this was a chance to taste wines that I could only find there and taste them side-by-side

The speakers for the event were Ferrante Di Somma from Cantina Di Marzo, Katel Pleven from Cantina Astroni, Livio Panebianco, importer of Marisa Cuomo wines and Elena Gargani representing Donnachiara

Since there are so many wines to report on, I will write about the white wines made from Falanghina, Code di Volpe, Greco di Tufo and Pallagrello grapes first.

Falanghina: In his book, Brunello to Zibibbo (1999) Nicholas Belfrage states, “This grape (Falanghina), which some have suggested may be of Greek origin, and which some have tentatively indentified as the grape from which Roman Falernian was made, has been known as Falanghina only since the 19th century. (A falanga… is a type of wooden stake used for supporting a vine; the suffix –ina makes it a small wooden stake.) The grape Falanghina is a late-ripener, which requires well exposed, sunny slopes and not-too-excessive production to shine, but when it does so it shines brightly, making a wine of good extract and flavor, with a firm acidic backbone enabling it to resist the passage of time in the bottle. It is a grape of real interest deserving wider national and international attention.”

The grape is well suited for the porous volcanic soil around Vesuvius. Falanghina wine is currently very popular in Rome. IMG_6198

Falanghina del Sannio Taburno 2013 La Rivolta 100% Falanghina. This is a third generation family run winery. The winery and vineyards are located in the province of Beneveneto on hills that range in altitude between 300/600 meters. The soil is alluvial with sand deposits. Harvest is by hand in early October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 15 days with natural yeasts. The wine is not fined of filtered. This is a wine with nice fruit and hints of apple and pear. $18IMG_6200

Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei “Cruna Delago” 2012 La Sibilla 100% Falanghina. The Campi Flegrei is a small grape growing area north of Naples right on the Campania coast. The soil here is so sandy that the area never experienced phylloxera. The wines are not grafted but planted directly into the soil, which gives full ripeness to the grapes without high alcohol. The wine is fermented in stainless steel. This is a wine with nice citrus flavors and aromas, a hint of peach, a touch of smoke and a nice almond aftertaste. $17

Coda di Volpe (Fox Tail) may be the Alopecis that Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD) wrote about in his Natural History because the curve of the bunches resembles the tail of a fox. It is also the principal grape in Lacryma Christi Bianco del Vesuvio. It does very well in volcanic soil. IMG_6227

Irpinia Coda di Volpe 2013 Donnachiara made from 100% Coda di Volpe. The winery is located in Montefalcone in the province of Avellino. I was sitting with Elena Gargani from the winery and she said that this is a different variety of Coda di Volpe than is used in other areas and it has more body. The soil is mostly clay and the training system is Guyot. There are 2,500 plants per hectare. The juice is free run and fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Malolatic fermentation does not take place. This is a wine with good structure, hints of citrus and herbs. There is good acidity, nice minerality, a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $18IMG_6201

Coda di Volpe Pomeiano Nati 2011 Sorrentino 100% Coda di Volpe from the ancient town of Boscotrecase 400 meters above sea level. The vineyards are in the rich fertile soil of Vesuvio-volcanic and sandy. The training system is Guyot and the vines are not grafted on American rootstock. Harvest takes place the first week of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel and the wine is in bottle for less then a month before release. The wine has nice fruit with hints of apricot, almond and a touch of smoke. $28


Mr.Ferrante Di Somma of Cantina Di Marzo

Greco di Tufo: The ancient Greeks brought Greco di Tufo grapes into the area around Naples about 2,500 years ago. The much-prized Greco is a late ripening varietal and the phenolic compounds in the grape contribute to the wine’s characteristically deep color. Greco is best when it is found in the volcanic hills in the Avellino province in central Campania. Only 8 villages can legally claim to make Greco di Tufo. One of these villages is Tufo from which the wine gets it name. Tufo is also the name of the rock on which the village is built. Greco thrives here because there is tufaceous, volcanic soil rich in sulphur and a relatively dry microclimate. The vineyards in this zone are between 400 and 450 meters

Greco di Tufo “Franciscus” 2013 Cantina Di Marzo 100% Greco di Tufo. Mr. Ferrante Di Somma, owner of the winery, was one of the speakers. He said that his was the oldest cantina in Campania and that his ancestor introduced the Greco grape into the zone. The vineyard has a southwest exposure and is at 250 to 500 meters. The age of the vines is 5 to 20 years and the training is guyot. Harvesting is by hand in the middle of October. Lightly pressed must and must run are blended together. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Fining is on the lees. Clarification is by cold and light filtering.  The wine has nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of orange blossom, minerality, good acidity and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste. $18IMG_6225

Pallagrello Bianco: the grape may have originated in the province of Caserta between the communes of Piedimonte, Matese and Alife. In the past it was known as Piedimonte Bianco. It is not a color mutation of the Pallagrello Nero and it is not related to Coda di Volpe as was once believed. The grape almost disappeared after the phylloxera infestation but made a comeback in the 1990’s.

Pallagrello Bianco “Fontanavigna” 2013 Terre del Principe 100% Pallagrello Bianco. The soil is clay with many small stones, there are 5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. The harvest takes place the first three weeks of September and the wine in fermented in stainless. This is a white wine with nice citrus, flavors and aromas hints of apricots, peaches and good acidity.  $21IMG_6182

One of the dishes we had was fusillone pasta (big fusilli) with clams, different kinds of broccoli, and sliced almonds. It was excellent. The pasta producer is De Matteis and it is made from 100% Italian wheat in the Campania region of Italy.

Next time- Fiano di Avelliano, Ginestra, Pepella, Ripolo and Fenile grapes.


Filed under campania, Coda di Volpe, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Pallagrello

The Wines of Tenuta Villanova

This is the last article about my visit to Friuli as judge for the 2014 Pinot Grigio Challenge and subsequent visit to some of the winemakers. After the Challenge ended, I went to the Lis Neris Winery and tasted wines from Lis Neris and Ronco del Gelso, which I have already written about, and Tenuta Villanova.

Alberto Grossi

Alberto Grossi

Representing Tenuta Villanova the day that I visited was Alberto Grossi, the managing director of the winery and nephew of the owner, Giuseppina Grossi-Bennati. Translating for him was Nadia La Milia who did a wonderful job because she understood the wine terms and made everything very clear. Alberto said that they had 100 hectares registered to DOC Isonzo wines and 27 hectares to DOC Collio. The hilltops where the Collio vineyards are located are marked by clay and limestone marl rich in minerals and organic substances. The Isonzo vineyards are located on the alluvial plain of the Isonzo River and are composed of sandstone (calcified sand) and gravel. With these two different DOC zones he feels that they can produce the best typical wines from the area

The winesIMG_5805

Friulano “Ronco Cucco” Collio DOC 2012 100% Friulano The soil is sandstone – marl and the exposure is northeast southwest. Training system is guyot and the vineyard is at 80 meters. After a gentle pressing of the grapes, the must is cryo-settled, then fermented at controlled temperature. The wine rests on the lees with frequent bàttonage. If you ask for white wine in Friuli, this is what you will get. As a recent article in the New York Times stated, this is “the house wine of Friuli.” It is a dry complex wine, with a hint of wildflowers, citrus fruit and a nice touch of bitter almond on the finish. This wine had hints of ripe apple, a touch of banana and a touch of vanilla.IMG_5807

Chardonnay Ronco Cucco DOC Collio 2008 100% Chardonnay. The soil is sandstone marl and the exposure is north south. The vineyard is at 90 meters and the training system is guyot 2.40 X 1.00m. After gentle pressing of the grapes, the must is cryo-settled, then fermented in 225 liter oak barrels. The wine rests on the lees until the following May, with frequent bàttonage to keep the lees in suspension. This wine has hints of ripe apple, a touch of banana and vanilla.IMG_5803

Malvasia Friuli Isonzo DOC 2012 100% Malvasia Istriana. The soil is medium textured alluvial, the exposure is northwest southeast, the elevation is 51 meters and the training system is guyot 2.40 X1.00 m. The grapes are hand picked; cold maceration takes place in the press before the grapes are gently pressed. The must is cryo –settled, then fermentation at a controlled temperature. The wine rests several months on the lees.IMG_5802

Malvasia “Uva Nostra” 2011 100% made from Malvasia from the Saccolina vineyard. The harvest is by hand and takes place at the end of September. There is a soft pressing of the grapes followed by a cold settling of the must and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. Malvasia from the right producer can age and I was very impressed by the aromas and flavors of this wine. It has hints of lime and ripe fruit with a long almond like finish.


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Filed under Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Tenuta Villanova


We spent my birthday weekend in the Hamptons at the home of our friends, Ernie and Louise De Salvo. Louise is an excellent cook and Ernie and I have the same taste in wine. IMG_5970

We started with lunch on Saturday with zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies in a batter and deep-fried. This is one of my favorite foods and I have it whenever I am in Rome. With this we had a wine from a producer I did not know but it was a perfect combination with the flowers because it is a wine with a depth of flavor,hints of citrus fruit and good acidity.IMG_5956

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Fonte Canale” 2011 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from old vines from Tiberio. The vineyard is at 300 meters, there are 2,500 vines /hectare and the training system is the tendone (vines form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun). Harvest takes place the last week of September. Cold maceration on the skins lasts for 6 hours. Vinification takes place in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains in the bottle for a short period before release.IMG_5985

Champagne Premier Brut NV Louis Roederer is made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier from 50 different crus. It is aged for 3 years in the cellar and 6 more months after dègorgement.IMG_5988

One of the dishes that Louise makes, which I love, is a cold melon soup with ginger. This was an interesting combination that worked well because the wine had nice fruity aromas and flavors and a hint of creaminess.IMG_5964

Barbera d’Alba 2001 Giacomo Conterno made from 100% Barbera d’Alba. The vineyard is in Serralunga d’Alba, the soil is calcareous limestone and the exposure is west/southwest. Vinification lasts for 2/3 weeks in wooden vats with regular breaking of the cap. The wine is then aged in large oak barrels for two years. Note–With the 2012 vintage, the Barbera with have Francia on the label as opposed to Cascina Francia, but the wine will remain the same.IMG_5963

When there are many different flavors in the foods Barbera is always a good choice because it is a red wine with good acidity. This one worked very well with the 3 cheeses, salumi, prosciutto, mortadella and best of all the flavorful roasted peppers made by Louise. The better Barberas can age for 20 years and this one was showing no signs of age.IMG_5969

Taurasi Riserva 1995 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino The soil is poor in organic substances but with a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and microelements. The vineyards are on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard is much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. This is the way I believe the 1995 was produced. The wine was showing no signs of age. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice, smoke and a touch of leather. IMG_5974

I was in the mood for Taurasi for my birthday. My favorite pasta is Pasta Matriciana and I had to have for my birthday along with the Taurasi.IMG_5978

Hermitage 1999 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave. It is made from 100% Syrah from 50 year old vines from some of the best plots in Hermitage with different soils. The wine is aged in 228 oak barrels for 18 months, 10 to 20% new and the rest 1 to 5 years old.IMG_5989

Ernie makes the best lamb on the grill. He takes pieces of lamb and thick slices of bacon and skewers them. A big wine like the Hermitage was perfect with its depth of flavor and hints of black and red fruit.IMG_5995

For dessert Louise made fig ice cream. I like it so much that the next morning for breakfast before we went home I had the fig ice cream Sicilian style — sandwiched on a warm brioche.




Filed under Barbera, Champagne, Chave, Hermitage, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Louis Roederer Brut, Mastroberardino, Taurasi, Tiberio Winery

The Wines of Lis Neris

After judging the Pinot Grigio Challenge in Cormons, in Friuli, I visited the Lis Neris winery in San Lorenzo about 20 minutes away. The winery is in the Isonzo sub zone close to the Slovenian border.



The owner Alvaro Pecorari who began by speaking about the winery greeted me. Alvaro said that it is a family winery and the family controls all of the production process. There are 70 hectares of vineyards planted between the Slovenian border to the north and the right bank of the Isonzo River to the south. Wines are produced exclusively with grapes from their own vineyards. They have introduced biological treatments against vine pests and avoid the use of chemical weed killers. The winery is energy autonomous, with solar panels, which collect and transforms solar power.

He feels that his wines are the best expression of the terrior

The Wines of Lis Neris– They have different lines of wine Traditional, Selezioni and Riserva.IMG_5798

Pinot Grigio 2013 100 % Pinot Grigio this is from the Traditional line where the grapes are from the younger vineyards. The training system is guyot and there are 5,200 to 5,600 vines per hectare. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel takes at a controlled temperature. Maturation is on the fine less in the same tanks for 8 months with frequent stirring of the lees. The wine remains in the bottle a short time before release. This is a fresh fruity wine with aromas and flavors of critics’ fruit, hints of apple and good acidity. I also had this wine with food at one of the best restaurants in the area La Subida and it is an excellent food wine. IMG_5801

Gris 2010 100% Pinot Grigio This is from the” Selezioni line where the wines take the name of the vineyard. The soil is calcareous, alluvial on a broad shelf at 60 meters above sea level. The vines are 25 years old. The training system is guyot and there are 5,200 vines per hectare and the harvest is in October. Fermentation takes place in 500 liter French oak barrels (tonneaux), at a controlled temperature. Alvero said that tonneaux gives the wine aromatic breath without modifying the intrinsic character of the wine. Maceration is on the lees in the same barrels for 10 to11 months with frequent lees souring? The wine is aged in bottle for 12 months before release. Alvero said the wine would last for 5 to 10 years. This was a more intense Pinot Grigio and he said that it was an international style wine reflection the more modern wines of today. That is why I believe he calls it “Gris”IMG_5800

Confini 2010 Venezia- Gulia IGT made from 40% Gewürztraminer, 40 %Pinot Grigio and 20% Riesling from 25 year old vines. This is from the Riserva line, the grapes come from the older vineyards. Fermentation takes place in 500 liter French oak barrels and maceration is on the fine lees in the same barrels for 11 months with frequent bàtonnage. The wine is aged another 12 months in bottle before release. He said that the Pinot Grigio constitutes the skeleton of the wine, giving it structure a full bodied frame, softness and warmness. Traminer is important for aromas and perfumes and Riesling for the right acidity and complexity of taste. Only Pinot Grigio and Traminer are late harvested and matured in wood.IMG_5821

Tal Luc 2010 made from 95% Verduzzo and 5% Riesling. The vines are 10 years old, the training system is guyot and there are 5,200 vines per hectare. After the harvest the grapes are dried for 120 days in an air-conditioned environment. Long fermentation takes place in new 225 liter French oak barrels. The wine remains in the bottle for 12 months before release. Alvero said that the wine could age for 15 years. It is in the Riserva line” This is an excellent dessert wine and I really enjoyed tasting it. I also had the pleasure of drinking the=is wine at restaurant La Subida the night before.



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Filed under Confini, Gris, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lis Neris Winery, Pinot Grigio, Tal Luc dessert wine

Ronco Del Gelso “Old Style Wines”


Giorgio Badin

After the winners of the 2014 International Pinot Grigio Challenger were announced, I visited several winemakers near Cormons. Giorgio Badin, owner of Ronco Del Gelso, picked me up. Fortunately, a translator joined us — a good thing because Giorgio spoke rapid Italian. While driving Giorgio said that his wines are to be drunk with food, they are mealtime wines and therefore he seeks to enhance the finest character of the grape. He ferments the juice using non-invasive vineyard techniques that do not detract from the characteristics of the grape.

Giorgio continued to answer questions. He said that his estate is in the Isonza Del Friuli DOC zone and this, along with the sub-zone Rive Alte, where permitted, appears on the label. The vineyards are all guyot pruned and vertical- trellis trained, with a high vine density to promote root competition and canopy restriction. Care is taken in the selection of clones and rootstock, which must be suited to the soils of Isonzo. He uses cultured yeast, and malolactic fermentation does not take place in any of the white wines.

One of the other producers remarked that Giorgio makes “old style” wines and added to what Giorgio had said about his wines, I could not wait to taste them. After tasting them, I could have not been more pleased with them.

Ronco Del Gelso Wines IMG_5815

Friulano “Toc Bas” 2012 DOC Riva Alte Isonzo Del Friulano 100% Friulano. The grapes come from vineyards in the lower area of Cormons. Giorgio said that this wine has flavor far removed from the so-called international tastes. There are 4,500 vines per hectare. Soft pressing of the grapes takes place and fermentation is at controlled temperature. The wine is stored on the fine lees until it is bottled. This is a wine with hints of apples, peaches apricots and a touch of hazelnuts and bitter almonds. The wine has hints of liquorice and ripe fruit with a very nice bitter almond aftertaste. There was also a 2006 Tocai Friulano that was drinking very well and showing no sing of age. It was still called Tocai because the law was not changed until 2007 because of the dispute with Hungary over the name Tocai.IMG_5820

Sauvignon “Sottomonta” 2012 DOC Riva Alte Isonzo Del Friulano 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are located in Cormons at the foot of a hill where the soil is deeper, siltier and retains good moisture. There are 5,700 vines per hectare. The grapes are cold crushed and maceration lasts for 12/18 hours. The wine is aged on the lees in oval oak barrels of 2,500 liters for 12 months. Giorgio said that Sauvignon Blanc is a difficult grape variety to grow and to make into wine but worth the effort. This is a soft, full and balanced wine with good acidity and the aromatic notes typical of the variety.IMG_5811

Malvasia “Vigna della Permuta” Isonzo Del Friuli DOC 2006 & 2008 100% Malvasia. Giorgio said that the climate and gravelly soil of the Isonzo plain are ideal for this grape variety, which prefers warm dry soil not too far from the sea. There are 5,700 p/h and the training system is guyot. Grapes are destemmed and cold crushed and maceration lasts for 12-18 hours. It is fermented in steel. Both wines have hints of ripe fruit, anis and a touch of spice. A Malvasia that can age!IMG_5819

Chardonnay “Siet Vigni” Isonzo Del Friuli Rive Alte 2012 The wine is made from grapes from seven vineyards, covering a total area of less than three hectares. Giorgio pointed out that Chardonnay has been present in the area for over 150 years and has adjusted to the climate and soil. Chardonnay is an international grape that has allowed itself to be shaped by the local terroir taking on its personality. There are 6,000 vines per hectare. Temperature controlled fermentation with cold crushing and maceration for 12-18 hours.

It was more than interesting to taste Chardonnay produced in this way. The wine has hints of golden apple and a touch of tropical fruit. This is a chardonnay to drink with food.

Aur Traminer Passito  In answer to one of my questions about his dessert wine this was Giorgio’s response: “On an estate like mine, it is certainly not the product of market research, but more likely the fruit of an intuition or belief. To be honest, I must admit that I didn’t ever think that I would make a dessert wine, but that is what’s happening.IMG_5822

This is the story of Aur: a few years ago a plot of land adjoining our estate came up for sale. It was a tempting opportunity, so I took out a mortgage and bought it.
So far so good, but I still had to tackle the main problem, namely that the 18,000-square-metre plot was planted to Traminer, and if there’s one wine that I don’t like it’s precisely dry Traminer. The conflict between its sweet, aromatic nose and dry, salty palate is the exact opposite of the character that I try to give my wines. At the time I tasted a great many Traminers from all over the world, but none of them served to change my mind. Only those with a sweet aftertaste convinced me, and the dried-grape wines most of all.

My tastings resulted in a project for a dessert wine that I called Aur, which means “gold” in Friulian. I built a drying room and tried to understand how to make a high-quality sweet wine using first-rate grapes. There are 4,000 vines per hectare, the grapes are dried, and the wine is aged in small oak barrels for one year. This is a very subtle dessert wine which goes very well with soft cheese and foie gras”.



Filed under Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Ronco De Gelso, Ronco Del Gelso

Tasting Soave

Soave has always been one of my favorite white wines. It is undervalued and always a great bargain on restaurant wine lists.

I have visited Soave a number of times and the last time there I was inducted into the Imperial Castellania Di Suavia as “Captain Spadarino, Protector of the Women of the Castello Scaligero” in Soave. This is a worldwide women’s organization that praises Il Vino Bianco Saove. received this honor for my contributions to Soave wine

A few weeks ago I was invited to a Soave Master Class. The speakers were Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier and Giovanni Ponchia the enologist for the Consorzio Tutela Soave. I first met Giovanni a few years ago when I was invited on a press trip to the Soave region and was honored as Capitano Spadarino.  All the journalists on the trip were so impressed with Giovanni’s knowledge and his easy manner of presenting it that we nicknamed him “Mr. Soave.” Evan spoke about the individual wineries and Giovanni spoke about the Soave region.

Giovanni Ponchio "Mr. Soave"

Giovanni Ponchio “Mr. Soave”

The Soave production zone lies in the eastern part of the Province of Verona in the region of the Veneto. The production zone is of volcanic origin and the hills where the vineyards are planted have rocky strata that are a result of lava flows that turned into sediment over time. The soil is dark, stony and rich in minerals and there is a difference between the soil of the hills and the soil of the flat lands. Soave is one of Italy’s great terroir-based wines.

Soave is a relatively small concentrated area and it has a history of selling grapes outside of the region. There are some 3,000 growers and the DOC is the largest in the Province of Verona accounting for 40% of the production. There are 52 crus in the zone and, like Barolo, different producers can work one cru. The vineyards are so close together that they all spray at the same time.

The grapes are the same for Soave DOC, Soave Classico DOC, and Soave Superiore DOCG. Soave DOC, Colli Scaliger, and Recioto di Soave.  Garganega is the primary grape and Soave must contain at least 70% of it. The other 30% is made up of Trebbiano di Soave, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Trebbiano Toscano has been excluded). The better producers use 100% Garganega, or very close to it. There does not seem to be much Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco used.  Trebbiano di Soave seems to be the new favorite, but Giovanni said that this was is a matter of controversy.

Garganega is the fifth most planted white grape in Italy and may be related to the Grecanico grape of Sicily. Giovanni said it is not markedly aromatic in nature, but displays a range of perfumes of which almonds and white flowers are the most clearly identifiable. It does not actually complete its ripening until October. Its skin is very tough and is a particularly deep yellow (verging on red) when ripe. It does not display especially high acidity but rather a balance of extract and fruit sugars.

Trebbiano di Soave has traditionally always been present in the vineyards. It has a tangy liveliness that some wine makers feel blends well with the typical structure and density of the Garganega grape.

The training system for the vines is very interesting. It can be single or double Espalier (Guyot and Cordon Spur) or a Pergola (known as tendone in the South). The vines grow on trellises and the leaves cover and protect the grapes from the sun. It can be a unilateral Pergola, or uni- or bi-lateral pergoletta Veronese- Veronese Pergola. This Pergola does not close all the way in the middle allowing some sunlight to come through. This is the method used on flat land even at high elevation. The Veronese Pergola is again becoming popular among the producers. Giovanni said many producers were very proud of this system. No matter what the training system, there can be no less than 3,300 vines per hectare.IMG_5669

There were 12 wines altogether, some were tasted blind. I liked all the wines but the ones listed below were the ones I enjoyed the most.

Cantina del Castello Soave Classico DOC “Castello” 2012 The vines are on the hills of the Soave Classico region, facing Soave and the Alpone Valley, between Monteforte d’Alpone and Brognoligo. The Vineyards are situated at 200 to 250 meters. Generally basaltic soil of volcanic origin but some vineyards are situated in areas with soils having a markedly calcareous skeleton of coastal sedimentary origin. The training system is Pergola Veronese and short espalier. Harvesting is by hand and takes place the middle of October. There is pre-destemming and soft pressing with a 60% must yield. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled water-cooled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in bottle for two months before release.

Bolla Soave Classico DOCG Superiore “Tufale” 2011  85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave. The vines are 25-30 years old and are located on the marly-tuffaceous soils in the once volcanic Classico zone in the commune of Monteforte d’Alpone. Southern and southeastern exposure at 200 to 300 meters and there is a significant temperature between night and day. The training system is the traditional Soave Pergolas. Harvest is in October. Mature grapes are macerated cold in a protected atmosphere for several hours. After removal of the stalks they are subjected to soft pressing then cold static sedimentation. Fermentation is slow and takes place at low temperatures. The wine remains for a time on the fine fermented lees with regular batonnage, while a small part matures in French oak barriques. The wine is bottled in March and aged in the bottle for two months before release.

Gini Soave Classico “La Frosca” DOC 2001 100% Garganega. The wine takes its name from the hillside La Frosca close to the town of d’Alpone. The vineyards are at 180 meters with a southeast exposure. The training system is Pergola Veronese and the harvest is in October. The grapes are hand picked. Soft pressing and immediate cooling of the must takes place. Fermentation at controlled temperatures takes place in steel and wooden vats. The wine is left for at least eight months with its own natural yeasts in steel vats and in 228 liter wooden barrels. This wine is 13 years old and is in perfect condition. When I visited the Gini winery on my trip a few years ago, we tasted a 1990 that also was in perfect condition. In the hands of the right producer Soave can age.IMG_5862

Cantina di Soave Classico DOC “Rocca Sveva” 2013 100% Garganega. The vineyards are located in the hills of the communes in Soave and Monteforte. The vines are planted in loose, medium gravelly clay soil of volcanic origin at 100 to 300 meters. The vines are trained for the Verona Pergola System the high, flat roofed system traditional for this area, in cover-cropped rows: cluster loke with cluster thinning. Harvesting is by hand and takes place the last week of September. The clusters are gently pressed and the must settles by gravity. Fermentation takes place with select yeasts at controlled temperatures. The wine is then drawn off and left to mature.

Monte Tondo Soave Classico Foscarino DOC “Casettte Foscarin” 2005 90% Garganega and 10%Trebbiano di Soave. The vineyards are on the western slope of Monte Foscarino and the soil is volcanic in origin, tufaceous and basaltic. The training system is Pergola Veronese and Guyot and the harvest is in October. A selection of the most sun-exposed grapes are harvested at different times according to their ripeness. Soft pressing takes place with low temperature maceration. The wine is aged in barriques and 5hl tonneau for about six months. Here is another example of how Soave can age and when I visited the winery there were a number of examples of excellent older wines.

Azenda Agricola Suavia Classico Monte Carbonare DOC 2011 100% Garganega. The vineyards are in Fittà, in the heart of Soave Classico at 250 meters. The soil is basaltic of volcanic origin and the training system is Pergola Veronese. Harvest is in the second half of October. There is a soft pressing of whole grapes and fermentation is in steel vats for 16 days. Malolactic fermentation is not carried out. The skins are in contact with the fine sediments for 15 months in steel vats. There is only one membrane filtration before bottling.

 Vincentini Agostino Soave Superiore Il Casale DOCG 2012. 100% Garganega The vines are at Colognola ai Colli, Il Casale and the soil is a mix of basaltic rocks and limestone. The training system is Pergola Veronese and guyot and the harvest is in October. There is a light pressing of the grapes and a long fermentation in temperature controlled steel vats.

El Vergo Recioto di Soave DOCG 2009 100% Garganega The vineyards are in Monteforte d’Alpone on the southern slope of Monte Foscarino. Harvest is by hand the last week of September and the First week of October. The grapes are dried for six months and the clusters are softly pressed. A very slow fermentation takes place at controlled temperature in steel vats. The wine is aged for three years in barriques.

Riccolo Grassi Soave La Broia DOC 2011 100% Garganega. The vineyards are in Mezzane di Sotto, which is the western area of Soave. They are at 100 meters and the soil is alluvial and rich in limestone. There are 7,000 plants per hectare and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place the third week of September. 80% is fermented in barriques and 22HL Slavonian oak barrels the remaining 20% is fermented in stainless steel. The wine remains sur lie for 12 months. Malolactic fermentation is carried out mostly in barriques five and six years old. The wine is aged in 22HL oak barrels of Slavonian oak and 6 months in bottle before release.






Filed under Giovanni Ponchio, Italian White Wine, Soave