Category Archives: Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo

Tasting Abruzzo’s Talamonti Wines

In June I was invited on press trip to Abruzzo, a region of Italy I have visited several times. The Consorzio Vini D’Abruzzo sponsored the trip which was organized by Marina Nedic, executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). The trip lasted 4 days. 

On the third day there was a Grand Wine Tasting of Abruzzo wines at Palazzo D’Avalos in Vasto. The first part was a sit down tasting followed by lunch al fresco. As I was having lunch and enjoying a glass of Pecorino, one of my favorite white wines from Abruzzo perfect on a hot day, someone stopped by to say hello. It was Rodrigo Redmont.IMG_7642 I met Rodrigo when he was a wine salesperson in NYC.  We talked about different people we knew and the wine business in NYC.  After lunch there was a walkaround tasting and Rodrigo asked me to come by and taste the wines of the Talamonti Winery. Later I found out Rodrigo is the president of Talamonti Winery!

Talamonti was founded in 2001 by the Redmont-Di Tonno family in an unspoiled part of Abruzzo. The winery has expanded to 45 hectares in the municipality of Loreto Aprutino (Pescara). The vineyards circumnavigate the winery and are at 300 meters with a southeast exposure in the Tavo Valley region.

The wines I tasted

IMG_7638Pecorino Superiore Abruzzo “Trabocchetto”  Made from 100% Pecorino. The area of production is Loreto Aprutino. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The vineyard planting took place between 2004-2011. There is a hand harvest in mid-September. The grape stalks are removed and the grapes undergo a cold maceration in stainless steel. A soft pressing follows. The clarified must is fermented with select yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 12 days at 12C to preserve the 100% natural Pecorino fruitiness and inimitable freshness of the wine. The wine has hints of pear and apple with a note of ginestra flowers, a touch of jasmine and a gentle acidity. 

IMG_7536Rodrigo said the link to the Abruzzo region, to its history, and our roots represents the basis for the selection of all the names of Talamonti wines. The term Trabocchetto was selected for its historical importance to the Abruzzo’s fishing tradition. According to local historians, the trabocco (or trabucco) was a fishing innovation imported from the Middle East with literature references dating back to the 18th Century. These ancient fishing machines were quickly adopted throughout the Adriatic Coast. Built exclusively out of wood, the construction permitted fisherman to fish in the worst of weather conditions. The trabocco is a wooden platform that stretches out to the sea and is anchored to large rocks. Long arms or antennas soar above and sustain an enormous net called “trabocchetto”. Today a few have been turned into restaurants.

IMG_7639 2Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Riserva “Aternvm” made from 100% Trebbiano D’Abruzzo from Loreto Aprutino. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The training system is overhead trellis and the vines were planted in 1975-1980. Vinification is the same as the wine above. The wine is aged for several months in 300 liter French oak barrels (30%) and in stainless steel(70%) with repeated batonnages before the wine is bottled. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime and a touch of spice with a pleasant acidity. It is a wine that can age for a few years.

Rodrigo said the choice to link the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, prince of white grapes of the Abruzzo, to one of the most important landmarks of the area was clear. The first inhabitants of the area founded only 20 km away a village on the banks of the Aternum River, naming it “Vicus Aterni”. The village remains are still visible today in modern-day Pescara. A few centuries later the name was changed to “Aternum”, in honor of the river itself, which gives its name to the wine.

IMG_7640Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva “Tre Saggi” Selected vineyards located near the village of Loreto Aprutino in the Monrpulciano d’Abruzzo DOC zone. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The soil is stony calcareous and drained and the vineyard is at 300 meters. Harvest is by hand in mid-October. The grape stalks are removed. Alcoholic fermentation with skin contact takes place with selected yeasts during 14 days with periodic pumping over. Malolactic fermentation is in 300 liter French oak barrels (Allier and Troncais). Then the wine is aged for 12 months in 300 liter French oak barrels. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine has hints of violets, wild berries, blackberries, cherry, spice, a hint of hazelnut and a touch of coffee. This wine should age for at least 10 years.

Their link to the Abruzzo region, to its history, and their roots represent the basis for all the names selected for Talamonti wines. Therefore, the choice to link the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape, the region’s principal red grape to one of the region’s most important landmarks, was obvious. The name “Tre Saggi” (The Three Wise Men) stems from three figures present in a fresco found in the Church of Santa Maria in Piano, located only 4km from the Talamonti vineyard-estate.

IMG_7641Rosso IGP Colin Pescaresi “Kudos” made from 80%  Montepulciano and 20% Merlot. The soil  is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The training system is guyot/overhead trellis and the vines were planted in 1995-2000. The two varieties are hand harvested separately in early October  for best ripening. They are vinified separately with 15-22 days of maceration. They are aged separately in 300 liter French oak barriques (Troncais and Allier) for 12 months. The wines are then blended and aged for another 12 months in 300 liter French oak barriques. The wine remains in the bottle until it is ready for release. The wine has hints of cherries, blueberries, currents, oak, spices and vanilla. 

Rodgrigo said the name “Kudos” was selected in order to transmit the message that their best parcel of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Merlot are blended together to produce their pinnacle wine. They wanted a non-Italian name to clearly communicate that there was a non-traditional varietal in the blend.

It was a pleasure to see Rodrigo in Abruzzo and I was very happy to be introduced to his wines.

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Tasting the wines 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.

I have visited Abruzzo a number of times and have always enjoyed the wine and food from that region. In fact some of my favorite wines are produced there.

It was with pleasure that I accepted an invitation to attend a tasting of the wines of Abruzzo from

IMG_6503The Charming Estates of Europe, a special project that links the flavors of wine from Italy and France and of fresh fruit from Greece and introduce them to the United States and Canada. The event was called The Charming Taste of Europe.

IMG_4649The organizer and speaker of the event was Susannah Gold and it was held at IL Gattopardo one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  Susannah is a true wine professional and it is always a pleasure to attend one of her events.  She went into great detail on the region of Abruzzo and the wines.

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 are: Montepulciano di Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy

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.

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

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 Is best expression in Abruzzo.

Of the local varieties, Pecorino, a white grape, is the most popular. Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

The Wines

IMG_6481Pecorino Superiore 2020 Abruzzo DOC Poderi  Antonio Costantini made from 100% Pecorino. The exposure is south/south east and the soil is clay. The training system is spalliera (vertical trellis trained with replacement cane pruning) and there is a manual selection of the grape bunches at full maturity. Grapes are soft pressed and then the juice is left to rest for a number of hours at a cold temperature. When the temperature is raised to 16/18C alcoholic fermentation takes place. The wine remains in stainless steel for a time and then is stabilized before bottling. This is a very pleasant wine with floral notes, hints of citrus fruit, apple, anise and field grasses.

IMG_6485Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragu di Maiale — We had homemade square spaghetti in a rich pork ragu, a local specialty.

IMG_6482Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2019 Riserva “Marina Cretic”   made from 100% Trebbiano  Tenuta Agricole Masciarelli The training system is the Abruzzo Pergola.  Harvest takes place the second week of October. Fermentation is in wood for 15/30 days. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. The wine has hints of ripe tropical fruit, caramel, honey and vanilla.

IMG_6489Cerasuolo  Abruzzo  DOC 2020 Valori (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The vineyards are at 300 meters and the training system is simple guyot, spurred cordon. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest takes place between October 10th and 15th. The juice  is in contact with the skins for 24  hours. Racking and soft pressing takes place. Cold fermentation and aging is in stainless steel. This is a rose’ light pink in color with hints of cherries, strawberries and a touch of almonds.

IMG_6493Patate Maritate — Potatoes with cheese, sausage and herbs.

IMG_6484Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2019 Francesco Cirelli (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The soil is clay and limestone and the training system is guyot. Harvest is at the end of September and the beginning of October. Harvest is manual. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed and there is a 12 day maceration, spontaneous fermentation in amphora with indigenous yeasts. The wine is aged for 12 months in amphora.  The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry and a touch of strawberry.

IMG_6494Brodetto alla Vastese — Our next course was a variety of seafood in a flavorful sauce.

IMG_6490Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva DOC 2017 “Ruberò”  Cantina Frentana made from 100% Montepulciano. The vineyards are in the municipality of Rocca San Giovanni, situated on hills overlooking the Costa del Trabocchi with a south/southeastern exposure. The soil is medium textured and calcareous. Harvest is manual the second week in October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes with maceration and fermentation with the skins for 10/15 days in small stainless steel fermenters at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French tonneau oak barrels for  for about 14 months, then more aging in stainless steel and then in the bottle for a few months. The wine has hints of black cherry, blackberry, violets with a note of spice and leather.

IMG_6491Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2015 “Casauria”  Podere Castorani made from 100% Montepulciano. The training system is the traditional overhead “pergola” trellis system of the Abruzzo region. The soil is deep clay with many underground rocks. Harvest is by hand the beginning of November with grape selection. Fermentation is in concrete tanks with manual pump over and delestages and extended maceration. Malolactic fermentation is completed during skin maceration. The wines ages on the lees in oak barrels and then for 6 months in concrete tanks. Finally the wine remains in bottle for 15 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, cranberries, licorice, a touch of spice and a note of tobacco.

In a future blog, I will report on the sweet wines of Bordeaux which were served at the end of the meal with dessert.

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Enological License by Daniele Cernilli

When I drink the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo of Edoardo Valentini, I can never find the words to fully describe it.  I can say it has hints of this, notes of that, and undertones of something else, but I never feel as if I am doing the wine justice.  The article below, written by Daniele Cernilli, expresses my opinion of the wine perfectly.  Thank you Daniele, for giving me the words that I could not find.
by Daniele Cernilli  aka Doctor Wine  05/17/21
Montepulciano Valentini

Just as there exists poetic license, there exists “enological license” which can transform what may be technically considered an error into a trait of quality in a wine.

Everyone knows what poetic license is. William Shakespeare was a master of it, disregarding historical facts in the name of plot, inventing words or contractions to obtain an iambic pentameter rhythm to his verse and even ignoring the laws of nature to create the desired effect. In Sonnet 29, for example, he wrote:       “…and then my state, like a Lark at break of day arising from sullen Earth, sings hymns at Heaven’s gate“. The license he took here was that the lark is a bird that only flies short distances and flying to Heaven would be quite a hike for it.

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I began thinking about enological license a few days ago when, with a group of friends, we opened some excellent bottles at the Goccetto wine bar in Rome. We had a Pinto Noir 2019 La Pinta, a Morey Saint Denis Premier Cru 2016 Domaine Dujac, a Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda 2012 Massolino and a Brunello di Montalcino 2011 Capanna. These were all splendid wines, technically well-made, very precise and representative of their respective origins. We then opened the last bottle the shop had of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016 Valentini and there was a sea change. Croce Taravella, the famous Sicilian artist, wine lover and historic Goccetto customer, declared that “this wine does not have the delicate perfection of a Raffaello and reminds me more of Tintoretto’s impetuous style”.

On a previous occasion, my dear friend and great connoisseur Silvano Prompicai defined this wine as “the greatest peasant wine in the world”. Let me explain why.

The wine we had the other day had a very intense, almost impenetrable, garnet color and showed all its 14 years. The aromas were the typical ones of black cherry with some hints of combustion, like those that develop when you make homemade jam and some of it sticks to the bottom of the pot, creating a subtle burnt note.

But it was through tasting the wine that we understood how it was on a different level than the other excellent wines we had sampled. The tannins were lively, distinct yet not aggressive. The right definition would be that they were “authentic”, grapey and with very little wood. Then there was that tad of carbonation, perhaps the product of the “remnants” of the initial malolactic fermentation in the bottle, which was so fine and composed it was hardly noticeable. This aspect may cause some rather orthodox tasters to turn up their noses but it had the same justification as Shakespearean poetic license had in obtaining the desired effect.

When I pointed this out to Edoardo Valentini, he replied: “Of course there’s a bit of carbonation. My wines are alive and so they have to breathe”.

In the end, we were all very impressed by this wine, which once again demonstrated how it was in a league of its own. This was underscored by Luciano Lombardi, AKA Vignadelmar, when he wrote about our tasting on his Facebook page. And what he said was that this wonderful wine demonstrated all the “enological license” needed, without taking anything away from science and technique, to become the stuff of poetry.

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Celebrating Easter

We invited two friends over for Easter lunch. All of us had received both vaccines weeks ago, so we felt we were within the guidelines.

IMG_4726Meursault-Perrieres 2010 Premier Cru Jean Latour Labille &Fils made from 100% Chardonnay from a .175-hectare parcel planted in 1964. Fermentation and aging are in barrels, 50% new for 12 months then 4 months of additional aging in tank. This is a complex wine with hints of citrus fruit, melon, pear, a touch of honey and a note of brioche. I visited the winery in 2019 and  really enjoyed all their wines.

IMG_4714We had a few little Appetizers to go with the wine.  Some Castelvetrano olives, a mushroom pate from Michele’s book, 1,000 Italian Recipes, and a salame.

IMG_4007Irpinia Aglianico 2016 “Memini” Az. Ag. Guastaferro made from 100% Aglianico. This wine bursts with sweet ripe fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate. It has a wonderful fruit filled finish and a very long aftertaste. It was a very interesting Aglianico and I have never tasted one like this before. Daniele Cernilli (aka Doctor Wine) in his book The Essential Guide to Italian Wine 2020 states:  “In 2002 Raffaele Guastaferro inherited 10 hectares from his grandfather with over 100 year old vines trained using the old starseto (pergola Avellinese) method…creating a very interesting style for the wines that were also based on tradition.”

IMG_4722Pasta Amatrciana, my favorite with bucatini.

IMG_4476On the plate, messy but so good.

IMG_4728Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo 1985 Emidio Pepe100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists. Both the tendone method and the cordon spur method are used for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendone method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes. One hectare of tendone has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes. The grapes are crushed by hand and the juice placed in glass-lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters. Only natural yeasts are used, there is no filtration or fining. The wine is transferred to the bottle by hand and the corks are placed in the bottles by hand. This is a very impressive wine with deep red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, spice and leather.

mbFried lamb chops, also from Michele’s book.  The chops are coated with eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano and plain dry breadcrumbs.  Here she used panko, which fries up nice and crunchy.  Sorry for the photo, but we all grabbed some chops and started to eat before I could get a better shot!

IMG-1850DessertDante’s Cheesecake is Michele’s version of a ricotta cheesecake that we used to enjoy at a favorite Greenwich Village Cafe.

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A Neapolitan Classic

Michele and I went to IL Gattopardo for lunch recently.  One of my favorites there, the meatloaf, was not on the menu. I asked the waiter and he said he believed it would be back on soon. This is something that is not served in most restaurants in Naples but in people’s homes. So I asked Michele to make it for me.

IMG_4305First, we had a little antipasto of marinated roasted red peppers.  Here are the peppers ready to be cut

IMG_4316After roasting and peeling, Michele marinated them with thick slices of garlic, olive oil and oregano.  She leaves the garlic in large pieces so that it is easy to remove them.  We ate the peppers with anchovies.

IMG_4311To go with the meatloaf, Michele made sauteed zucchini and onions with cherry tomatoes.  She used canned cherry tomatoes.  The secret of this recipe is to cook it just to the point where the zucchini are still firm and not mushy.

IMG_4319The saucy vegetables were a nice complement to the meatloaf.

IMG_4308The meatloaf, called polpettone, is made mostly with beef, and some veal and pork ready mixed with chopped prosciutto, salami and cheese.  Here it is ready for the oven

IMG_4324The meatloaf out of the oven

IMG_4326On the plate, the meatloaf was moist and full of flavor, complemented by the sauteed zucchini.

The Wine

IMG_4315Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo 2003 Emidio Pepe100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists. Both the tendone method and the cordon spur method are used for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendone method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes. One hectare of tendone has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes. The grapes are crushed by hand and the juice placed in glass-lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters. Only natural yeasts are used, there is no filtration or fining. The wine is transferred to the bottle by hand and the corks are placed in the bottles by hand. This is a very impressive wine  with deep red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, spice and leather.  It is still young and will last for many years.

unnamed PIE and fruitFor Dessert, we had a Roman style cheesecake.  The recipe is from Michele’s dessert book, La Dolce Vita.  

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Celebrating a Special Friends Birthday

To celebrate a friend’s birthday, and aware that he had been as diligent in social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing as we have been, Michele and I decided to prepare a special lunch for him.  The wine was provided by our friend

We started  with  a glass  of  Champagne  on  our  terrace,  which  is  currently under  construction  but  accessible.  

Champagne 2013 Pinot Meunier Grand Cru La Grande Vigne Vielles Vignes Extra Brut Suenen made from 100% Pinot Meunier from 50 year old ungrafted vines in Montigny-sur-Vesle The exposure is north west and the soil is sand and limestone. Oak barrels and turns are used for the wine making process. Also the use of an ovoid (egg shaped) concrete tun. There is spontaneous fermentation and natural malolactic fermentation and no filtration. The wine remains on the lees from 6 to 8 months. This is a very impressive bold Champagne, with hints of red fruit, brioche and honey.

Then we had pasta with lamb ragu. Michele  made  the  ragu  with  trimmings  from  a leg  of  lamb,  red  wine,  rosemary  and  the  usual  seasoning  vegetables.  The  pasta  was  mezze  maniche  by  Campofilone.

To follow we had butterflied leg of lamb seasoned with garlic and rosemary.  It was perfectly cooked, rare and juicy.

Leg of lamb with fresh  spinach  from  the  Greenmarket  and  alubia  blanca  beans from  Rancho  Gordo.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1982 Emidio Pepe 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists. Both the tendonne method and the cordon spur method are used for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendone method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes. 1 hectare of tendone has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes. The grapes are crushed by hand and the juice placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters. Only natural yeasts are used, there is no filtration or fining. The wine is transferred to the bottle by hand and the corks are placed in the bottles by hand. The wine has deep red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, spice and leather. It is one of my favorite red wines and was just wonderful. It was the perfect wine  to go with the pasta and the lamb.

Dessert was a Ricotta Raspberry Cake with fresh berries and creme fraiche whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving with Friends

For the past few years we have had Thanksgiving and we invite the same two couples. We start at 4:00 and it lasts well into the evening because of the amount of food and the number of wines.

We began with a simple appetizer of potato chips topped with sour cream, smoked salmon and chives. With it we had:

Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuveè Passation Brut NV in magnum, made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. This is great Champagne and it could not have been drinking better.

Then we moved to the table where we enjoyed a warm Leek and Mascarpone Tart prepared by our friend, Diane. With it we drank:

Cerasuolo made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzza 1996 Valentini Aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. There was just a touch of strawberry but the wine was showing its age.

With the red wines we enjoyed the main course, a classic turkey dinner. Michele doesn’t make turkey every year but this year she felt like doing the traditional menu with a hint of an Italian accent. Roasted turkey seasoned with prosciutto and rosemary, turkey gravy, sausage and cornbread stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup, and broccoli with Parmigiano Reggiano.

and my  favorite  Mostarda standing  in  for  the  cranberry  sauce

Dolcetto d’Alba 1971 Bruno Giacosa – made from 100% Dolcettto. This was amazing — a Dolcetto almost 50 years old. It was in very good condition with subtle hints of red and black fruit.

Beaujolais Morgan 2005 made from 100% Gamay from 60 year old vines. Marcel Lapierre. The vineyard is 10 ha and the soil is granitic gravel. The winery is certified organic. There is a manual harvest and then a rigorous sorting of the grapes. Only indigenous yeasts are used. Whole cluster fermentation takes place a l’ancienne ( old style), and maintained at a low temperatures for 10 to 20 days. The wine is aged on the fine lees in old Burgundy barrels-from 3rd to thirteenth passage and the wines are bottled unfiltered.

Beaujolais Morgan Cuvee Marcel Lapierre MMIX 2009 made from 100-year-old vines. The vineyard is 1.5 hectares and the soil is granitic gravel.

Both these wines are not ordinary Beaujolais and will last for a number of years. They have hints of blackberry, cassis, strawberry and touch of spice.

Brunello di Montalcino 2001 Fattoria Poggio di Sotto made from 100% Sangiovese. This is an elegant complex wine with hints of black cherry, violets and herbs with a very long finish and very pleasing after taste. It will last for many years. I had the wine for the first time a few weeks ago at San Domenico Restaurant in Imola not far from Bologna.

A bite of cheese – 30 month old Mountain Parmigiano-Reggiano that we brought home from Parma was next.

Recioto Valpolicella Valpantena Riserva Spumonte Naturale 1978 Bertani made from 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella The wine was still in good condition but most of the bubbles were gone. It is a fragrant wine with hints of plum, cherry and raspberry and went very well with the cheese course. This is only the second time that I have had this wine and I do not know if Bertani makes it any more.

An apple cream tart, also supplied by Diane (Diane Darrow-Another Year in Recipes), finished the meal.

 

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Pecorino, Cerasuolo & Montepulciano at Tenuta I Fauri

On our recent press trip to the Abruzzo Region of Italy, we visited a number of wineries that produced excellent wines.

At Tenuta I Fauri, we were greeted by Valentina Di Camillo, a member of the family that owns the winery, and the Managing Director.

Valentina at the Grand Tasting Dei Vini D’Abruzzo

The winery is located in the small town of Ari in the center of the province of Chieri, among the hills that drop down from the Maiella Mountains to the Adriatic Sea.

The vineyards are at 250 meters and the vine training system  is tendone

Valentina said she and her brother Luigi, the winemaker, inherited their passion for making wine from their father Domenico. Tenuta I Fauri is not just a brand name but represents a family dedicated to wine production for many years.

Valentina said the cellar in not very photogenic because of the old cement tanks, used by her grandfather Luigi, which have been carefully restored and preserved so they can be used once again.  There are also new stainless steel fermenters and a few wooden barrels.

Valentina had prepared a selection of foods to taste with the wine,

among them fresh fruits and vegetables.

Abruzzo Pecorino DOC 2017 made from 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay calcareous and the training and pruning methods are tendone, single curtain/rows (spur training). There are 1,600/3,000 vines per hectare. Static decanting of the must takes place, followed by a soft pressing. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature and the wine is aged in stainless steel. The wine is bottled at the end of February. The wine has hints of apple and honey and a touch of mint.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC “Baldovino (Rosato) 2018 made from 100% Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. The soil is clay calcareous and the training system is tendone, single curtain. There are 1,600 vines per hectare. Maceration takes place inside the press and static decanting of the must and a soft pressing. Fermentation at a controlled temperature is in stainless steel vats. The wine is bottled at the end of February. This is a fruity wine with hints of cherries, strawberries and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Ottobre Rosso” 2017 DOC. The training system is single curtain tendone and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Fermentation and maceration is in concrete vats for 10/12 days followed by 9 months aging in concrete vats. The wine is bottled in June. This is a red wine with intense red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of wild cherry and a touch of raspberry.

Spumante Brut NV made from Chardonnay and Pecorino. The soil is sandy and the training system is tendone, single curtain. There are 1,600 plants per hectare. Static decanting of the must followed by a soft pressing and fermentation at a controlled temperature. There is a second fermentation in an autoclave for 3 months and it is bottled in January. The wine has hints of peach and apricot with a touch of pineapple.

Both Michele and I were very impressed by the wines. We tasted the wines again at the Grand Tasting at the end of the trip and I enjoyed them again at an event in NYC.

 

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Stefania Pepe Wines: Natural Wines at their Best

I first met Stefania Pepe many years ago at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona at the wine stand of her father Emidio Pepe. At the time I was the wine director and sommelier for i-Trulli restaurant in NYC.  The owner of I-Trulli and I liked the Pepe wines and we carried them in the restaurant.  Over the years, I would occasionally see Stefania in NYC. When I saw her 3 years ago at Vinitaly, Stefania had her own wine stand with the wines she produced. I was very impressed with her wines.

Last month Michele and I were invited on a press trip to Abruzzo.  We did not visit Stefania’s winery but I was delighted to see her at the Grand Tasting on the last day.

Stefania greeted us like old friends, and reminded us that we know each other for over 20 years.

Michele, Stefania and me

Last week Stefania was in NYC for the Wines of Abruzzo tasting.  I tasted her wines again and they were just as good as they were in Abruzzo.

The Wines of Stefania Pepe

L’Azienda Agricola Biologica Stefania Pepe is located in the commune of Torano Nuovo, Abruzzo.  There are 8 hectares of which 5.5 are covered with vines. The white grapes are crushed and pressed by feet and the red grapes are crushed and pressed by hand. The transfer of the wine is all done by gravity.

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC Biologica “Cuore di Vino” 2006 made from Trebbiano, Pecorino and Passerina. The vineyard is in Torano Nuovo at 240 meters, the exposure is west and the soil is clay calcareous. The training system is pergola abruzzese. The grapes are hand picked, crushed and pressed by feet and put into small concrete vats for 8 to 13 days without adding any yeast or sulphites. The wine remains in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats for 5 years.  The wine is unfiltered and placed in bottles until it is ready to be released. This is an intense wine with hints of grapefruit, yellow apple, floral notes and a touch of honey.

Stefania said she follows the phases of the moon in her wine making. Her method changes according to the seasons.  For example the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation on its own during the hot weather and during the cold weather she decants the wine.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Biodiamico “Pepe Bianco” 2013 made from Trebbiano vines which are more then 30 years old. The exposure is south/east and the vineyards are at 240 meters and the training system is spalliera. The grapes are crushed by feet and fermentation takes place in cement vats for 10/18 days. The wine is decanted two times into another botte of cement and remains here until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has hints of apple, pineapple and a touch of banana.

Stefania said using cement botti was a Pepe tradition going back four generations. Many producers in Abruzzo said they were now going back to using cement tanks for their wines.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC Biologico 2007. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast. The training system is the pergola abruzzese. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, without the skins, only the juice. This is a fresh fruity rose with red fruit aromas and flavors and hint of cherry

Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo DOC Controguerra 2009 made from 70% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Organic cultivated grapes selected and destemmed by hand. The wine ferments in stainless steel vats for 5 to 6 days without the addition of yeast or sulfites. There is one delastage and 2 pump overs of the juice a day. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of cherry, prunes, toasted nuts and a touch of black pepper.

Montepulciano D,Abruzzo” Colline Teramane” DOCG “Pepe Nero” Biodinamico 2006 made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast, the vines are at 240 meters and the vineyards are 15km from the sea. The training system is pergola abuzzese. The grapes are biodynamically grown, selected and destemmed by hand. Fermentation is in botti (large wooden barrels) only with the skins without any additives including sulfites. The wine remains in the bottle for six months before release. This is a complex wine with hints of blackberry, prune, cherry and a touch of almond and black pepper. I was very impressed by this wine.

This is how Stefania Pepe sums up her winemaking:  “I’m the woman in love with natural wines, I create wine only with biodynamic and organic certified grapes without using any chemicals or additives! I love to communicate and to give benefit…joy…healthier life to my customers.”

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Return to the Cataldi Madonna Winery

 

Michele and I first visited the Cataldi Madonna Winery in Abruzzo about 15 years ago. I recall that it was the first time I had tasted wine made from the Pecorino grape. There was some confusion and a lot of discussion over how the Cerasuolo D’ Abruzzo, a Rosato that looked like a red wine, was produced. We looked forward to our return visit and seeing Luigi Cataldi Madonna again.

Luigi Cataldi Mondanna

Luigi Cataldi Madonna

The winery, which is about 65 acres, is located in the town of Ofena. There are 30.5 hectares of vines planted exclusively with local and traditional vines like Montepulcino, Pecprino and Trebbiano at 320 to 440 meters. The plain of Ofena is at the foothills of the only Appenine glacier on Calderone in the Gran Sasso Mountain range. This makes for a great difference between night and day temperatures. The area has been called the oven of Abruzzo.

Our host then and now was the owner of the winery Luigi Cataldi Madonna. This time his daughter Giulia assisted him. Giulia said the picture on the labels is of the statue of the Warrior of Capestrano, a symbol of ancient Abruzzo.

The Wines

Trebbiano d”Abruzzo made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from vineyards located in Mandrella and Frontone, Ofena. Mandrella is at 1,300 feet. The vines were planted in 2003 and the training system is espalier. Frontone is at 1,215 ft, the vines were planted in 1990 and the training system is pergola. The soil is clay loam rich in calcareous skeleton. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and spends 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of lemon, apple, pear and almond. They called this their every day wine.

Pecorino “Giulia” Terre Aquilane IGT 100% Pecorino from vineyards in Cona, Fontone and Macerone at 380 meters. The vines were planted in 2001 and the training system is spallier. Vinifiction takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. At the end of fermentation the juice is in contact with lees and is aged in stainless steel tanks for 3 months. The wine has hints of grapefruit, lime and a touch of fresh herbs.

Luigi was one of the first to “rediscover“ the Pecorino grape and began replanting in 1990 and produced the first vintage in 1996. Pecorino means little sheep in Italian because the sheep liked to eat these grapes off the vine.

Pecorino “Super Giulia” 100% Pecorino. The difference between the two is Super Giulia is made from the best selection of the grapes. This is a more flavorful version than the regular Giulia with a note of passion fruit.Giulia

Both wines are named for Luigi Cataldi Madonna’s daughter, Giulia.

 Cerasuolo d’ Abuzzo Rosato made from 100% Monepulciano D’Abruzzo from vines planted in 1970 and the vineyard is at 1,250ft. The training system is pergola. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature and is aged for 3 months in stainless steel. The wine has a bright rose color. This is a fruity wine with hints cherry, strawberry and a touch of almond.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo “Pie delle Vigna” Rosato this is the wine that caused all the confusion because it is a Rose but looks like a red wine. We did not get to taste this wine on this visit because it was all sold out. I saw it in a store on one of our stops. This wine is made by white wine vinification 85%. The problem is that the juice from the Montepulciano grape is pink. The other 15% from red vinification, the juice is in contact with the skins for about 8 hours, so the wine looks like a red wine!

They also now make another Rosato from Montepulciano grapes called “Cataldino” which is an IGT wine and is a very fruity easy drinking wine.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Malandrino” made from 100% Montepulciano d”Abruzzo the vineyards are at 1,375 ft and the vines were planted 1970-2004. The soil is clay and limestone with medium texture and rich in skeleton. Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in stainless tanks and concrete vats for 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of blueberry and plum with a touch of violets.

We enjoyed visiting the winery once again and meeting the third generation of wine producers at Cataldi Madonna.

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Filed under Abruzzo, Cataldi Mandanna winery, Cerasuolo, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Pecorino, Trebbiano d' Abruzzo, Uncategorized