Category Archives: Olive oli

Tasting Wine and Olive Oil at Villa Raiano

After enjoying some of the wines of Villa Raiano at dinner in their restaurant I was looking forward to tasting more of them the  next  morning at the winery.

Once again Federico Basso and his cousin Brunella Basso were there to welcome us. Federico showed us around the winery and then he conducted a very interesting and informative tasting of the wines.

There was one white from the 2018 vintage, 4 whites from the 2017 vintage, and a red aged in concrete and amphora.

Fiano di Avellino 2018 made from 100% Fiano DOCG-DOP from vineyards located at I Candida (450 meters), Lapio (500 meters), San Michele di Serino (500 meters) and Montefredane (450 meters). The training system is guyot and there are 4,500 vines per hectare. The soil is calcareous- clay, marly clay and sandy silty. Harvest is by hand the first week of October. After a gentle crushing of whole bunches to get free run juice, fermentation takes place with inoculated selected yeasts in stainless steel tanks and aging is in stainless steel tanks. The wine is bottled the second week of February following the harvest.

Federico explained that this was one of the wines in the Classics Line. They are a tribute to the land and the term “Classic” is used because according to the production tradition here in Irpinia, it was common to produce wines with grapes coming from vines located in different municipalities of the different production areas. They look for the most suitable balance, combining grapes from vineyard positions in different areas. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, apple, white flowers and a nice finish and long aftertaste.

Michele Kwan, a member of the Wine Media was on the trip with me and asked if the Classsic line was their “entry level wines”. While Federico was thinking I said these wines were too good to be called “entry level wines” and Federico agreed.

The following white wines Federico called “the vines” made from single vineyards or plots.

Federico showed us the different soils that the white wines come from and spoke about the importance of terroir.

Fiano di Avellino 2017 “Alimata” made from 100% Fiano–the night before with dinner we tasted the 2013 and it was excellent.

Fiano di Avellino 2017 “Ventidue” made from 100% Fiano. Federico said this wine is called Ventidue because 22 Km is the distance between the vineyard in Lapio and the winery. The vineyard is at 540 meters, the soil is calcareous-clay, rich in tallow sandstone. The training system is guyot and there are 4,500 vines per hectare. There is a gentle crushing of whole bunches and fermentation with selected yeasts in stainless steel tanks. The wine remains on the lees for 12 months in stainless steel and in bottle for 12 months before release in October of the year following the harvest.

Federico said in 2017 the weather was very hot though not as hot as 2003 but drier, and there was very little rain. Production was down 38%.

Fiano di Avellino 2017 “Bosco Satrano” made from 100% Fiano from vineyards that over look the winery in the municipality of San Michele di Serino in the province of Avellino in Contrada Bosco Satrano. The 4,400 vines were planted in 2009 and cultivated with the principles of organic farming, guyot trained, with calcareous soils at 510 meters. The vineyard faces northwest, facing Monte Partenio. Fermentation and aging same as above.

When we had the Fiano with dinner the night before, Federico said his Fiano has the aroma of an apple the grows on Mount Tubenna. I was able to smell the apple in a restaurant and all of the Fiano I tasted here really does have that  aroma.

Greco di Tufo 2017 “Ponte Dei Santi” 100% Greco. Federico said Greco di Tufo is a small appellation but has numerous shades in terms of terroir. In the upper section of the district of Ponte dei Santi of Altavilla Irpina (Avellino) is their small 1.3 hectare vineyard. The vineyard is at 550 meters. There are 4,500 vines per hectare, the soil is sandy-silty with dark clay incursions. Harvest is the first week of October. Fermentation and aging same as above.

Both Fiano and Greco can age for 15 years or more. I gave the slight edge to Greco but Federico said it was Fiano that he believed could age longer.

The main difference between Fiano and Greco is the Fiano has an apple aroma and hints of hazelnuts. Greco has more body, takes on a slightly honey quality with age and has hints of hazelnuts.

Costa Biano Irpinia Campi Taurasi DOC 2016 100% Taurasi from a single plot shaped like an amphitheater in the central part of a 9 hectare vineyard located in the municipality of Castelfranci (Avellino) at 500 meters. There are 4,500 plants per hectare, the soil is calcareous clay on yellow sandstone with organic elements and the training system is guyot. Harvest is the first 10 days of November. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with daily punching down and pumping over. Maceration on the skins is for 10 days.

The wine matures 50% in cement tanks and 50% in terracotta amphorae. The wine is bottled in October following the harvest. This was the first time I have tasted Taurasi aged in cement and amphorae. It has all the characteristics of Taurasi but seemed to be a much lighter style and more approachable. I liked it.

Olive Oil Tasting tasting with Federico.

  Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva “Sabino Basso” Monocultivar Ravece made mostly from Ravece olives grown almost exclusively in the province of Avellino.  It has a green color and a more or less intense olive aroma with hints of herbs, bitter spice, green tomato leaves and artichokes.

Olio Extra Vergine Di Oliva “Sabino Basso” DOP Penisola Sorrentino” mostly made from Minucciola olives. The oil is a straw yellow color with a delicate fruit flavor, hints of rosemary, mint, and aromatic herbs, with a touch of bitter spice, and a note of lemons typical of the Sorrentino Peninsula.

Federico at the Temple of Neptune

On the last day we went to the ancient Greek Temples at Paestum.

There are three temples on the site: Temple of Hera, Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Athena. The guide at the site said that the temples are also known by different names.  We also visited the National Museum at the site. I really enjoyed the visit to the site and to the museum as it helps you the understand the culture and history of the region.

After visiting the temples we went to Caseificio Vannulo, a farm that has 600 water buffaloes that produce milk for mozzarella, yogurt, ice cream ricotta, etc., which are all for sale.  There is a restaurant, museum and leather shop. I first visited Vannulo 12 years ago and it was not so “modern.”  Even through it was only a two and a half day trip I had a wonderful time thanks to the people at Villa Raiano





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Filed under Avellino, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Olive oli, Taurasi, Uncategorized, Villa Raiano

Umbria Comes to NYC

Mayor Bloomberg issues an Official Proclamation declaring November “ I Love Umbria Month” in New York City. There were events taking place in Eataly and Di Palo Fine foods among others. As I walked toward Eataly to attend a tasting of Umbrian wines, I could not help but think of the two major storms that we had endured in just one week:  the first was Hurricane Sandy and on this day it was a nor’easter bringing high winds, rain and snow.  Madison Square Park was closed as it had been during the hurricane and as I made my way across Fifth Avenue, I could only hope that the storm would not be as bad.

Porchetta for lunch

Only 4 of the 7 wines had made it to Eataly because of the hurricane but that was the least of the problems that Sandy had caused.Dan Amatuzzi, Beverage Director of Eataly, and Marco Caprai from the Arnaldo Caprai winery were the day’s speakers.  Mr. Amatuzzi spoke about Umbria and its wines in general and Mr. Caprai spoke mostly about Sagrantino.

The Wines

Bianco di Torgiano “Costelllato” DOC 2011 Terre Margaritelli made from Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Grechetto and Fiano. The winery is located on a hill called Miralduolo between Perugia and Assisi, the vineyards are 200-250 meters above see level, with clay soil and there are 4,000 to 5,000 vines per hectare. The wine is aged for a short time in French oak barrels from the Bertrange Forest in the Nevers region.  With Chablis to the northeast and Sancerre to the southwest, this is one of the most highly regarded forests in France since the variety of oak (Quercus Petraea) has a very dense grain.

The wine is well-structured with aromas of apple, dried fruit, herbs, and a touch of hazelnut. There is a nice aftertaste with a hint of almond.  Bianco di Torgiano is not seen very often in this country. Todi Sangiovese  “Belforte” DOC 2010 Cantina Tudernum made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot. The Cantina is located on the slope of Todi’s hills along the ancient Strada Tiberina. There are 3,300 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week in October. It is aged for 6 months in barrels of durmast oak (Quercus Petraea) and then additional aging in bottle prior to release. This is a recent DOC. It is a fruity, easy-drinking wine with fresh  aromas and flavors with hints of raspberry and cassis.Sagrantino di Montefalco “Collepiano” 2005 DOCG Arnaldo Caprai. Made from 100% Sagrantino from the Collepiano vineyard at 200-300 meters above sea level. The soil is clay-calcareous and there are 6,000 vines per hectare. The training system is Cordone Speronato and the harvest takes place from the third week in September to the beginning of October. The wine spends 24-26 months in French oak barriques; Marco said that some of the barriques were second passage. It is kept in bottle for a minimum of 6 months before release. This is a big modern style Sagrantino with concentrated red fruit aromas and flavors and undertones of vanilla.

Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito DOCG 2005 Tenuta Rocca di Fabbri made from 100% Sagrantino. The estate is on the rolling hill to the east of the Montefalco appellation. All the grapes are grown on the estate and the exposure is south-southeast. The harvest takes place at the end of October when the grapes are very ripe. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine is aged in oak barrels and then in bottle before release. The wine is bottled 32 months after the harvest. This is a full-bodied dessert wine with aromas and flavors of red berries and dried fruit. This wine for a passito also goes well with food and in Umbria they drink it with lamb on Easter Sunday.

The wines that did not make it to the tasting because of Sandy were:
Trebbiano Spoletino IGT 2011, Perticaia. This is a producer I know and have visited and like his wines but I have not tasted this particular wine.

Rosso di Torgiano “Rubesco” 2007 Giorgio Lungarotti. I have been drinking this wine since I visited the winery many years ago and consider it one of the best Italian red wines for the money.

Sargantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 Tabarrini Giampaolo. I do not know this producer.

Monini olive oil from Umbria was also served. It is a mild olive oil with a nutty, buttery flavor and low in acidity.


Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Olive oli, sagrantino

Touring Sicily: Your Business Island in the Sun

It is always a pleasure for me to visit Sicily. All of my grandparents were born there and Michele and I first went there on our honeymoon. It is such a beautiful and enchanting Island that I will use any excuse to go there. My excuse came in the form of an invitation to spend five days in Sicily tasting wine and food and visiting the sites. I had to accept!


The trip was sponsored by the regions of Trapani, Ragusa and Catania.  It was unusual because my fellow travelers included an international group of journalists, wine and food buyers, and travel agents from India, Russia, and Tunisia as well as the USA. I was travelling with my friend, Louis Coluccio owner of Coluccio and Son’s in Brooklyn, wholesalers and retailers of Italian food products.

The Opening Conference at the Hotel

 We arrived very late in Palermo and did not get to the Hotel Baglio Oneto, which is between Marsala and Trapani, until after midnight. There was a very nice light supper waiting for us when we arrived.

 The next morning after breakfast there was a short conference followed by a meeting with different producers of olive oil, wine, grappa, coffee, pasta, balsamic vinegar, and food products.  We went around to the different tables to sample the wine and the food products.

 I stopped at a table that had only one wine and one grappa. The producer was Natale Peraino and the wine is called Don Girolamo,  classified as a Vino da Tavola. It is a white wine made from, I believe, the Grillo grape and it is aged for 10 years in large barrels called botti made of chestnut and oak. It had a very deep orange color and itasted like Marsala, but much more rustic. It was one of the most unusual wines I have ever tasted.  It is the only wine that they make and it is not imported into the USA.

Mr. Galluffo


 In the afternoon we visited Frantoio Torredi Mezzo an olive oil mill located in Trapani where the very personable and knowledgeable Alberto Galluffo, an olive oil panel member, is a consultant.  Mr Galluffo also makes his own very good olive oil. This was a state-of-the-art factory and the production was all controlled by a computer. The olive oil I liked the best was made from three different types of olives–Cerasuola 50%, Nocellara 25% and Biancolilla 25%. It had grassy quality and tasted of tomatoes and artichokes. I believe the olive oil from both producers is available in the USA.

 That night we visited the Giuseppe Bianchi Distillery located in Marsala.  It not only produces grappa but also Amaro and Limoncello as well as well as sweet wine and Marsala.  We tasted a Marsala Superiore Riserva 1989 and a 20 year old Marsala Virgine Riserva which were excellent and went very well with the biscotti that they gave us. Their products are not imported into the USA.  I often wonder why it is so difficult to find Marsala of this quality here.  

Near Ragusa we visited another olive oil producer, Frantoi Cutrera, and had a long discussion about virgin olive oil with the son of the owner Sebastiano. The producer said that it must pass a government test to be labeled virgin olive oil and this is partly based on the acidity. He said that there was no such thing as light olive oil or extra light olive oil. When asked about his oil he said that they only press the grapes once and his oil always passes the government’s tests. Their oil is available in the USA.

On the way to Catania we stopped for a tasting at the Planeta winery  near the town of Vittoria. The one wine that I wanted to taste was the Cometa 2010 IGT Sicily. This wine is made from 100% Fiano, a grape that was brought to Campania by the Greeks and gained fame there as Fiano di Avellino.  The wine is vinified at the winery in Menfi at Ulmo and the grapes come from the Gurra and Dispensa vineyards.  Destemming is followed by gentle crushing and static settling at a low temperature. It is inoculated with select yeast when clear. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 20 days and the wine is aged in stainless steel. This is an elegant, full-bodied and aromatic wine. It has hints of citrus and tangerine with a nice mineral character and good acidity. When I tasted this wine in February 2010 at the winery I could not believe how good it was. They told me then that wine is no longer aged in barriques!  This is a great white wine.

At another tasting of wine and food products in Catania I met Rosario Greco, export manager of the Cantina Vivera winery and we had a very interesting conversation about Sicilian wine. I tasted the “Salisire” Etna Bianco DOC 2009 made from 100% Carricante, one of the best white grapes from the Etna region. The vineyards are at 600 meters and the soil is volcanic with many rounded stones. There are 5,500 vines per hectare and the training is spur pruned cordon. The harvest takes place the second week of October. The grapes are soft pressed without oxygen and are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine rests on its lees for 10 months and in bottle for six months before release. This is a very fruity up front wine with good citrus aromas and flavors, a mineral character and good acidity.

 A’ Mami Sicily IGT Bianco 2009 Made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Carricante. The Carricante comes from Linguaglossa where the Mittinella vineyard is located at 600 meters on the northeastern side of Etna. The Chardonnay comes from Corleone where the Solicchiata vineyard is located at 450 meters. There are 4,500 plants per hectare and the grapes are picked in the middle of August. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with hints of tropical fruits and mineral notes.

  They also make a wine called “Altrove” Sicilia IGT Bianco made from Catarratto, Insolia and Chardonnay from the vineyards of Muranna and Dagata in the hills around Corleone.  Rosario said the vineyards were organic and the winery “biological”.  These wines are available in the USA.


I asked Rosario if he know a good restaurant in the Catania fish market and he suggested a restaurant called M M. This was the best meal we had in Sicily. We ate crudo, followed by pasta with sardines, and a mixed grill including triglia (red mullet), swordfish, calamari, and octopus.  With the lunch we drank Pietranera 2009 made from 100% Zibibbo grapes from Marco de Bartoli. The grapes come from the island of Pantellleria, the closest part of Italy to Africa.  Zibibbo grapes are used to make desert wines for which De Bartoli is famous. The vines are on terraced hills at 350 meters, the soil is volcanic and the training system for the vines is alberello pantesco, very, very short vine.  This wine however was vinified dry. There was very nice fruit in the mouth but the finish was dry and it was a great combination with the fish we had for lunch.


Filed under Italian White Wine, Marsala, Olive oli, Sicily