Category Archives: Recioto

Celebrating La Befana with Friends

Italians end the holiday season by celebrating the Epiphany, also known as 3 Kings Day.  The story goes that the 3 Kings, on their way to visit the Baby Jesus, stopped at the home of an old woman and invited her to join them on their journey.  She said no, because she had too much housework to do.  She soon regretted her decision and took off on her broom to search for the Christ Child.

La Befana

The old woman is called La Befana, and according to tradition, she arrives on the Epiphany on her broomstick to bring gifts to the good Italian boys and girls and coal to the bad ones. It is a national holiday in Italy also the opportunity for one last holiday feast.  This year, our friends Lars and Karen invited us to their home to share a meal that would have made the Befana very proud.  

We started with grilled purple asparagus seasoned with sea salt from Marsala,

followed by thin, crispy fried root vegetables with more of that sea salt,

and fried calamari.

We had two wines with the appetizers 

Vermentino “La Pettegola” Toscana 2017 IGT made from 100% Vermentino. Following a very soft pressing, fermentation takes place for about 13 to 16 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine has hints of citrus fruit and peach and a touch of sage with good acidity. It is a very easy drinking wine and it worked very well with the appetizers. 

Cuvee Aurora Rose Metodo Classico Alta Lange 2014 DOCG 100% Pinot Noir Banfi Piemonte. The grapes are grown in the hilltop vineyards of the Alta Langa, south of Alba in Piemonte, in a mix of clay and calcareous soil. There is one hour of skin contact and cold maceration, which prepares the grapes for soft crushing. The must is clarified and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The final cuvee consists of 90% clear wine and 10% of the previous vintage wine. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. Fermentation takes place in the bottle (Classic Method). Yeast contact is extended for at least 24 months followed by a traditional hand riddling (remuage)  and degorgement a la glace. A period of brief aging follows. The wine is pink in color, with small bubbles and hints of strawberry and apple.

Then we tasted the

2002 Merlot Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard from Caparone. The wine is unfined and unfiltered and the style of wine is more European that California. The wine was showing no signs of age.

This was followed by

Chianti Classico “Fonte Alla Selva” 2015 DOCG made from mostly Sangiovese with Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon from over 40 hectares of estate vineyards in Castellina the heart of the Chianti Classical zone with alluvial soils, limestone and clay. Fermentation with traditional maceration on the skins for 8 to 10 days, followed by short aging in French oak barrels. Bottling takes place the summer after the harvest. The wine has hints of cherry, plum and blackberry with a touch of spice.

Lars preparing  main course  Osso Buco with polenta, which he served in the traditional wooden trenchers used in the Lazio region for serving polenta 

The main course

Brunello Di Montalcino 1998 DOCG 100% Sangiovese grown on hillside vineyards at 220 meters in stony, calcareous and well structured soli. There is a meticulous grape selection (yield not exceeding 6 metric tons/ha) is followed by vinification in temperature–controlled Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks, with skin contact for 10 to 20 days. The wine ages for two years in various sizes oak barrels, 305-liter barriques, 60 and 120 hl barrels; the wine is then aged in bottle for an additional 8 to 12 months.The wine is released 5 years after the harvest. This is the information for the current release. I believe that the 1998 was not aged in this way.

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva “Poggio All’Oro 1988 Made from 100% Sangiovese, estate selection. The Poggio all’Ora vineyard is on the southern slopes of the Montalcino hillside at 250 mt. The wine is produced only in excellent vintages based on a meticulous selection of the harvested grapes. Temperature controlled vinification is in Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. Aged in barriques for 30 months, and at least 12 to 18 months in bottle. The wine is kept for a total of 6 years before release. This is a wine with notes of violet and hints of plum, jam and a touch of coffee. This is the information from the current vintage.

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 1979 Villa Banfi 100% Sangiovese, select clones from estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino. This is an elegant and complex wine with hints of red fruit, violets, and a touch of licorice and spice. This delightful and wonderful Brunello one of the best I have ever tasted and still has a lot of life left. Lars said this was the first Brunello produced by Banfi and I am sure it was made in a very traditional style. Banfi did not begin their clonal research project on Sangiovese until 1982.

We finished the wine with cheese

There were 3 desserts, including Panettone and two traditional homemade cakes made with dried fruits.

The final wine of the feast was

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico IGT “Regolo” 2015 Sartori made from 100% Corvina. The vineyards are in the hilly area of Valpolicella with clay and calcareous soil. Only the best grapes are selected. A gentle pressing is followed by skin maceration at low temperature for 8 to 10 days. In February the wine rests on Amarone pomace, which enhances the wine’s aromatic and aging potential. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged for about 18 to 24 months in medium to large-sized oak casks followed by a minimum of 4 months bottle refinement before release. This is a complex dessert wine with hints of red and black berries and cherry with nice ripe fruit on the finish.

To finish a great meal, we had grappa and cafè

Grappa di Brunello “Torre” made from the pomace of Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese). This is an intense grappa with a hint of wild berries and sour cherries on the finish.

 

 

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Filed under Banfi, Banfi Brunello, Chianti Classico, Cuvee Aurora Rose, Recioto, Spumante

Anteprima Amarone Tour: Visiting Villa Crine

Another stop on the Anteprima Amarone tour was the Crine winery, which is located in Pedemonte di San Pietro in Cariano, Verona.img_2415

Villa Crine is an entirely family run winery and visiting the winery is like visiting their home. Giovanni Battista Venturini the owner/wine maker, his wife Maria, their children Giuseppe, who recently graduated with a degree in enology and Diletta, a university student, all take part in the running of the winery.

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Giuseppe

Giuseppe, a very personable young man, speaks English well and gave a tour of the winery. He said that he is the fifth generation and they want to preserve the values and techniques from the past but also keep up with any new innovations that would improve the quality of their wines.

He said that all their vineyards were in the Classico zone and showed us the grapes drying on wood mats in a barn that was open on both sides.

Giuseppe then took us through a tasting of the wines.img_2416

Valpolicella Classico “Il Pigaro” made from 60% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella and 10% Molinara. The Pigaro vineyard has alluvial gravel soil. There is a hand selection of grapes at the end of September/beginning of October. The wine is aged for one year in very old barriques and in bottle before release. This is an intense wine with red fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of black cherries.img_2417

Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore grapes same as above. The grapes are picked at the best stage of ripeness and then they are left to dry for 20 to 30 days in late September and October. Destemming and soft pressing in stainless steel tanks occurs during November. In February re-fermentation occurs on the Amarone pomace and the wine gains fragrances and intensity. The wine is aged in oak barrels for two years. Their wine is bottled and remains in the cellars for one year until release. The wine has hints of cherry, spice with a touch of hazelnuts and cacao.img_2413

Giuseppe said even though the Molinara grape does not have to be included in Amarone any more they use it because it adds acidity to the wine. He said they always used this grape, and as the 5th generation involved in the winery he will keep the traditions.

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Drying the grapes

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2011 Made from 60% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. Giuseppe said his grandparents and great-grand parents use to place the grapes for drying in the barns at Villa Crine using the “large table mats” which were traditionally used for the cultivation of silk worms. Today the grapes are placed on the mats or in wooden cases in the special drying room, which is controlled on a daily basis in order to check the temperature, humidity and the well being of the grapes.

Destemming and soft pressing takes place during the months of January and February, depending on the vintage, using rubber rollers. Traditional fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks using techniques which go back to 1893.

The wine is aged in large oak barrels of 10 to 30 HL depending upon the vintage for about one year. It then is bottled and remains in the ancient tuffa cellars, which were excavated at the foot of the mountain, until it is released.

Giuseppe said Amarone can be sold 3 years after the harvest.img_2419

Recioto della Valpolicella same as above for grapes. Giuseppe said the grapes used for Recioto are dried longer because they want sweeter grapes. They press the grapes in February when the sugar lever is high. The juice is removed and the fermentation is controlled by keeping a cold temperature. They need a cold temperature so the yeast remains dormant. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks for one year and 6 months in bottle before release.

This is a one of the best examples of Recioto I have ever tasted. It is very intense and complex with hints of violets, prunes, figs, black cherries and notes of hazelnut. The finish goes on and on and the aftertaste is fantastic.img_2418

They also make a wine from 100% Molinara called “Il Pellerossa.” It looks like a rose wine because the grape has low color extracts. It is produced in a very limited quanity.

In the past there were horses on the property.

We also tasted their olive oil which was very good

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Filed under Amarone, Anteprima Amarone, Recioto, Ripasso, Uncategorized, Villa Crine

Celebrating “La Befana”

From beginning to end, it was a wonderful holiday season with good food, good wine and most of all good friends. January 6 marked the end of the season. Though it is not celebrated much here, in Italy it is the feast of the Epiphany, when good Italian boys and girls receive gifts delivered by the Befana, a good witch.IMG_6850

This year, we celebrated at the home of wine and food writers Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. It was our third annual Befana celebration, a tradition begun by Lars Leicht, National Director of Cru Artisan Wines for Banfi. When Lars was young, he spent the summer and many holidays with his family in Anagni, a small town not far from Rome and became familiar with the Italian customs and traditions.

The evening began, as always, with Champagne.IMG_6844

Champagne Brut Andrè Clouet Rose No 3 Bouzy 100% Pinot Noir fermented as blanc Champagne blended with 8% still Bouzy Rouge.

The Clout family owns 8 hectares of vines in preferred mid-slope vineyards in Grand Crus Bouzy and Ambonnay where they have excelled as Pinot Noir specialists. The wines are cellared under the family’s 17th century village house – built by an ancestor who acted as printer to Louis XV’s royal court at Versailles! Respect for terroir is evident in these traditionally crafted wines. The labels are attractively old-fashioned in design appropriate for the descendants of a notable printer. This is a fragrant, round rosé with fine bubbles and ripe, full fruit flavors of Pinot Noir interwoven with drier, toasty complexity; excellent deep color; with hints of strawberry, raspberry and almonds.

With the Champagne we ate baked Italian sausages with sweet and sour figs, a delicious recipe adapted from a cookbook by Penelope Casas. It was an interesting combination and went very well with the Champagne.IMG_6845

Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2011, Fontana Candida Made from 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, 10% Greco and 10% Bombino. Harvesting began in the final 10 days of September and continued until the end of October, producing perfectly ripe, healthy grapes with a golden color and high sugar content. The grapes are grown in selected hillside vineyards ranging between 650 and 1,300 feet in the communes of Frascati and Monteporzio Catone.  The volcanic soil is loose, porous and dry but not arid. Spalliera, Guyot and Cordone Speronato training systems are used. First selected bunches of mature grapes are picked by hand. Then the best grapes from each bunch are chosen.  The grapes are transported in small baskets directly to the cellar so that they will be in perfect condition when they arrive.

The vinification of the grapes for the Luna Mater is a process that they invented and takes place in three different stages. In the cellar the grapes are separated into two batches. This is called the “modern” stage. The first batch is cooled immediately prior to a gentle pressing to ensure maximum aromatic qualities. The second batch is destemmed, cooled and fermented in contact with the skins to produce a marked varietal character. This is done without oxygen to keep the grapes fresh. After 6-7 days the skins were removed, any longer than this and there would be too much extract.

Three days later a small quantity of the best grapes are destemmed by hand and added whole to the fermenting must with their own natural yeast for bouquet and flavor. The berries remain in the must until the end of February.  The alcohol helps extract tannin from the skins and pits. The wine is aged in 10HL acacia wood barrels, which may be the best wood for the Malvasia grapes. The barrels are not toasted and were steam folded. Mauro Merz, the wine maker, feels that barriques do not give him the type of wine he wants to produce and they are not traditional.  The wine is left to age in bottles laid horizontally in the ancient tufa tunnels under the Frascati hillsides.

Luna Mater means Mother Moon; it reflects the wine’s close ties to nature and the 50 old vines that are used to make this wine. It has floral aromas with hints of white peach and honey with bitter almond in the finish and a very pleasing aftertaste.

Seafood Salade

Seafood Salad

This was served with a mixed seafood salad perfectly prepared by Tom Maresca. It was a great match.

Torre Ercolana 2000 Cantina Colacicchi – (Anagni) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cesanese di Piglio.IMG_6846

The wine is made by a natural fermentation, no filtration, sterilization or pasteurization. The wine is aged in barrel with four rackings a year. I have been drinking the older vintage of this wine for a number of years and buy them in Rome at Trimani, a wine store (and wine bar) with an excellent selection. They have exclusive rights to the wine. It is not available in the U.S. and it difficult to find outside Rome. The wine does not always taste the same because the blend changes according to the vintage. In hot vintages the Cesanese does better so there is more of it in the blend. In cooler vintages the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot does better so their percentage is increased. The best however is when all three varieties ripen perfectly.

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Timballo

Burton Anderson, in his book VINO, describes the wine in musical terms. “My first mouthful of Torre Ercolana was like my first earful of Beethoven’s Fifth: so overpowering it left me gasping for adjectives to describe it.”  It has hints leather, spice, red fruit, a nice long smooth finish and great aftertaste.

Lars Leicht’s family is from Anagni where this wine comes from. He told us a story about visiting the winery when he was young. Lars made his famous timballo that he remembers his family making on the holidays. It is made with fresh pasta layered with tomato sauce, ham, hard cooked eggs and cheese, similar to lasagna, though much more delicate. I brought the Torre Ercolana thinking it would go perfectly with the timballo and it did.IMG_6847

 Flaccianello Della Pieve 1999 Tuscan Colli Centrale IGT 100% Sangiovese Fontodi. In magnum The oenologist is Franco Bernabei. There are 6,000 vines per hectare and the training system is guyot. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with the addition of indigenous yeast for at least 3 weeks. The 1999 was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Today maceration is in new Troncais and Allier French oak barrels for at least 18 months. It has hints of blackberries, spice, tobacco and blueberries. There was not even a hint of oak or vanilla. Flaccianello is one of the few Super Tuscans that I can drink and enjoy.

The Ham

The Ham

This was served with roasted fresh ham (porchetta), potatoes, pears and peas.

 Recioto Soave Classico 2007 “Le Colombare” 100% Garganega ( Veneto) PieropanIMG_6848

Certified Organic. Volcanic soil, rich in basalt and tuffo Eocene. The vineyards are at 300m and the exposure is west. The training system is Pergola Veronese and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. There is a manual harvest with careful selection of ripe grapes. All the grapes are collected in small boxes and brought to the winery for the drying process. The grapes are manually placed in a loft on mats made of bamboo reeds. The drying is natural and the grapes remain until they wither which is around the end of February. The natural climate conditions allow for berry dehydration, loss of water and the development of noble rot (Botrytis). The yield of juice is very low and the grapes lose 1/4 of their original weight. The wine is only produced in good vintages. Destemming and pressing of the grapes takes place. There is a selection of the must and fermentation at a controlled temperature 14 to 16 degrees C in barrels of 2,500 liters. The residual sugar is 110 to 120 g/L. The wine is aged in oak barrels of 200 liters for about two years and in glass for 6 months before release. This is a dessert wine with ripe fruit, hints of apricot and quince with a very long finish taste and nice aftertaste.IMG_6863

Michele made an Upside Down Meyer Lemon Cake which she adapted from the clementine cake her new book The Italian Vegetable Cookbook”. The citrus flavor of the cake enhanced the flavors of the dessert wine.

For more information about the dinner, see Diane’s blog

https://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/a-feast-for-la-befana/

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Filed under Andre Clouet champagne, Champagne, Flaccianello, Fontana Candida, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Luna Mater, Pieropan-La Colombare, Recioto, Recioto di Soave, Torre Ercolana

Acinatico 1928-Bertani Family Special Reserve

When I was talking to Giovanni Bertani of the Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve winery last year about Amarone he mentioned that they had a number of bottles of Recioto from the 1928 vintage and the wine had a very unusual history, He said that next time he came to NYC he would bring some of the bottles to taste and explain their unique story.

Giovanni was a good as his word and  next time I saw him I was able to taste a wine that was 85 years old.

Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve was established in 1991 by Gaetano Bertani.  They are the former owners of “Bertani” The property had been owned by the Bertani family since the 1860’s and managed by Gaetano since 1971. Today Giovanni and Gugliemo, his two sons, assist him. Gaetano is the wine maker and the consulting enologist is Franco Bernabei

Acinatico 1928IMG_2843

Giovanni said that the name Acinatico derives from the Latin, acinaticum, signifying grape or grape stone, and is the ancient name for Veronese Recioto wines. The 1928 vintage was a blend of grapes, Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Sangiovese, and was exposed to an unusually extended drying period at the Bertani family cellars in the Valpolicella-Valpantena DOC.

He said that Piero Venturi, a long-time cellar master, vividly recalled the singular conditions of the 1928 vintage: hot, above-average temperatures and little precipitation, followed by an exceptionally cold, dry winter – in short, ideal conditions from which to produce a Recioto of truly outstanding quality. According to Venturi, the grape skins were exposed to a particularly long maturation, favoring especially high sugar content.

The 1928 Acinatico was aged in a 60-hectoliter oak barrel, which exists to this day. In 1938, after about 10 years of barrel aging, the wine was bottled in specially purchased handmade bottles bought from a supplier in Verona. Such bottles were reserved exclusively for use with the finest wines of the period, such as Recioto, Marsala and Port.

In 1940, soon after the outbreak of WWII, German soldiers were staying in a villa adjacent to the Bertani family’s cellar. Faced with loss of their entire stocks to thirsty German troops, the family determined to preserve at least their very best wines. Giovanni said he was told that the German troops were drinking and breaking everything in sight. The Acinatico was discreetly moved to the family’s Saccole farmstead. They borrowed bottles from all their neighbors to bottle the wine that was still in the barrel and carefully walled them in, to remain lost from sight and from mind, destined not to see the light of day for the next 40 years.

That was until 1984 when laborers carrying out construction work uncovered this extraordinary and forgotten cache of wine. Wood cases containing 7,500 bottles of the precious wine were carefully removed and returned to their original resting place in the Bertani family cellars as an important part of the family’s heritage.

Giovanni said that tastings showed that the wine was perfectly conserved and its enological condition was spectacular, due to the excellent storage conditions, a 17.8% alcohol content and an acidity level of 0.33%. He reports that a bottle recently opened was re-corked and then subsequently re-opened the next day – its freshness was astonishing.

Soon after the bottles were discovered, a decision was made that they would not be sold but preserved instead for special occasions. Four bottles were, however, put up for auction by Christie’s New York on January 12, 2001 and sold to a single buyer for $9,200.  Giovanni said that about 2,500 bottles remain in their cellars today.

I could not believe that this wine was so old. It is complex, elegant and well balanced. It had all the classic aromas and flavors of a classic mature Recioto, cooked prunes, raisins, figs, chocolate and a touch of spice.

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Filed under Acinatico 1928, Bertani, Franco Bernabei, Recioto, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve