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Daniele Cernilli (aka) Doctor Wine) on Super whites

Daniele Cernilli Villa Bucci e Trebbiano Valentini

With the presentations of the 2023 Essential Guide to Italian Wine behind us (the past weekend in Milan), I turn my attention back to the great Italian white wines. In particular, I want to draw your attention to two undisputed very Italian greats, a Trebbiano and a Verdicchio.

I return here to a subject I am very passionate about: the great Italian white wines that, in my view, are generally undervalued, especially if they are made from native grapes rather than the “French” varietals. During the tastings for our Essential Guide to Italian Wine we tasted many this year that were of formidable quality while two were truly exceptional. In sports terminology you could say they were in “top form” because they were from years that were particularly favorable.

The first is an authentic icon among Italian white wines: a Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2018 from Francesco Paolo Valentini. The harvest was difficult that year due to some excessive rain and a fairly widespread presence of powdery mildew and peronospora, which forced growers to make some harsh selections during picking. Francesco Paolo, however, is a great, serious and consistent winegrower and he was able to produce a true masterpiece, in my humble opinion.

The second is a Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva Villa Bucci 2019. The harvest in this case took place in almost opposite conditions with a hot and rather dry growing season that allowed for a very select production, with a lower number of bottles produced. Nevertheless, this is perhaps the best version I can remember.

We gave both wines a rating of 99/100 and three DoctorWine “seals” and chose Villa Bucci for our Best White Wine of the Year award because its price was slightly lower. It will save time if I just give you our tasting reviews and once you have tasted them for yourselves tell us which one you liked better.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2018

99/100 – € 105

100% Trebbiano. Matures 4 years in big barrels. Bright straw yellow color. Bright straw yellow color. Complex and very clear aromas of renette apple, yellow citrus, wildflowers and hints of olive paste and flint. Tense and agile taste, savory and very elegant, dynamic body perfectly sustained by its acidity that makes it irresistibly easy to drink. Persistent finish. A great wine.

Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva Villa Bucci 2019

99/100 – € 45

100% Verdicchio. Matures 18 months in big barrels. Intense straw yellow color with greenish hues. Wide, enveloping and very typical aromas of anise, yellow plums, alfalfa, wildflowers and flint. Enveloping and neat taste, savory, warm but agile and very elegant. Very balanced. Exceptionally long finish. Great version.

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Jeremy Parzen on the Coming Italian Grape Harvest.

Much needed rainfall raises hopes for a solid vintage in Italy. “The health of the grapes is excellent.”

Posted on  by Do Bianchi Jeremy Parzen Phd.

Above: winemaker Gianluca Cabrini of Tenuta Belvedere in Oltrepò Pavese shared this photo on his Facebook last week as he prepared to pick his Pinot Noir for the production of classic method sparkling wine. This harvest is “the most difficult, the most impossible,” he wrote.

“#sky #light #night #hope” wrote Chianti Classico winemaker and grape grower Francesco Ricasoli yesterday in a haiku-esque expression of relief after rains brought much needed water and lower temperatures to vineyards across central and northern Italy this week.

Check out this amazing shot he captured, just one of “thousands” of lightning bolts, he wrote.

As severe weather — “Europe’s Scorching Summer” — continues to affect Europeans across the continent and peninsula, drought and extreme heat have tempered growers’ optimism for the 2022 harvest in Italy.
In early August, Riccardo Cotarella, president of the Italian enological association Assoenologi, warned that the situation could be catastrophic if rain did not arrive this month.

“Climate change,” he wrote in a widely circulated statement, “is putting the entire farming industry to the test. As far as viticulture is concerned, we are witnessing a truly anomalous and extraordinary season. It resembles 2003 [one of the hottest on record at the time]. But the current drought is even more challenging and deeper. And it’s coming together with a dangerous element: the high temperatures. When combined with the drought, they create an environment that is highly unsuitable in terms of the vines bearing fruit as best as they can.”

Official estimates for the Italian grape have yet to be published, noted Maurizio Gily in his popular industry newsletter MilleVigne today. But this week’s rainfall and lower temperatures have raised hopes for a solid vintage.

“The rains,” he writes, “which came mostly in the form of storms, did not reach the deepest layers of the soil. But the vines benefitted nonetheless and ripening was suddenly accelerated in the end after a veraison that came early for most. The health of the grapes is excellent at this moment. Harvest of early-ripening grapes has begun in the south while they have started picking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wines in the north.”


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Sunday Lunch at Ribalta NYC

Where to go for a NYC Sunday lunch that everyone will enjoy?  I suggest Ribalta. Not only did we enjoy the food there recently, but the service was terrific.  Our young waiter, who told us he was from Padua in Italy, was not only knowledgeable but also helpful.

IMG_7902We started with zucchini scapece–thin sliced fried zucchini marinated with homemade vinegar, mint and garlic.

IMG_7903We also shared an order of Fried Calamari and Shrimp served Neapolitan style in a brown paper cone with lemon and aioli sauce on the side.

IMG_7905Spaghetti al Pomodoro.  A light and fresh tasting tomato and basil sauce dressed the pasta.  Its a Ribalta specialty, and was recommended by our waiter.  We were not disappointed.

IMG_7900Chinon “Les Picasses” 2005 (Loire) Olga Raffault” Made from 100% Cabernet Franc. The soil is limestone and clay. The mid slope vines are at least 50 years old and are worked organically and harvested by hand. The fruit is destemmed and whole uncrushed berries are fermented with indigenous yeast in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation and maceration lasts for 25 to 30 days depending on the vintage. The wine is aged for 2 to 3 years in oak and chestnut foudres of 30 to 50 HL. There is more aging for about four years in tank and bottle before release. This is a full bodied, structured and complex wine with hints of cherry, red and dark berries, a hint of smoke and a touch of meatiness.

IMG_7907Pizza marinara with porcini.  The restaurant serves both Neapolitan and Roman style pizzas. 


Pizza alla Pala — Roman-style pizza served on a board with tomato, mozzarella and basil

IMG_7901Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2016 made from100% Sangiovese Mastrojanni. It is aged 3 years in Allier oak barrels of various sizes – 15, 33 and 54 hectoliters and then for 6/8 months in bottle. The wine has aromas and flavors of ripe black and red berries with a hint of spice and tobacco. The Illy Group now owns the winery.

IMG_7912Dessert was fresh Frutti di Bosco served in a delicate cookie shell with vanilla gelato.

Ribalta is located at 48 East 12th Street, NYC

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Drinking Legendary Italian Wines

Frank, a friend and fellow winelover, mentioned he had a bottle of the 1968 Taurasi from Mastroberardino. He had had it for a long time and it moved with him from place to place so he did not think it was drinkable. I said the only way to find out was to open it. He invited me to his home to try the wine and also a number of other older wines.

When we arrived we went down to the wine cellar and selected 7 wines. Three were very old Bordeaux dating back to 1966 and an Italian wine from 1978. All four were undrinkable.

However, with wonderful meals prepared by his Frank’s wife over two days, Carole, we had 3 Italian wines including the 1968 Taurasi and they were all very drinkable. 


DOC Montello Venegazzu (Veneto) Venegazzu Della Casa 1981 Loredan Gasparin made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Malbec from the area north of Venice in the Treviso hills planted from the 1950’s. The wine is aged for 18 months in large neutral barrels. The wine has hints of cassis, black cherry and plum with a hint of licorice and a touch of mushrooms. This wine can last like a Bordeaux. They also produce my favorite grappa from the grapes used for their Capo di Stato wine.

IMG_7803We had an assortment of sliced meats and cheeses for a starter.

IMG_7812 2

Taurasi Riserva 1968 Mastroberardino (Campania) made from 100% Aglianico This was such a great vintage that they produced three cuvées based on terroir differences as well as the riserva which is a blend of all three. Most of the grapes come from the 12 hectare Montemarano vineyard and other grapes from the Pian d’Angelo and Castlefranci vineyards. The Motemarano vineyard is at 500/ 600 meters and the exposure is southeast. The soil is clay and crushed limestone and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. The harvest was most likely in early November. The hand picked grapes were destemmed at the winery. Skin contact was for 10 days. The wine was aged in large chestnut and then Slovenian casks (30 to 50 hectoliters) for up to 4 years and remained in the cellar for up to eight years before release. The wine has hints of cherry raspberry, tobacco, leather, mint, licorice, prune a touch of herbs and a hint of spice. 

In 2014 I had the 1958 and 1968, both legendary wines, at a lunch organized by the late Philip di Belardino and myself in honor of Antonio Mastroberardino, who had recently passed away. Piero Mastroberardino, his son, attended and brought the wines.

IMG_7809With the wines we had grilled leg of lamb and grilled romaine lettuce.


Carmignano  Riserva 1985 Villa  Capezzana  Conte Contini Bonacossi I believe the wine was made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Canaiolo and 5% complimentary grapes. The wine was aged in for 24 months in botti of 23 hectoliters made from Slovenian oak and 12 months in bottle before release. This is an elegant wine with hints of violets, blueberries, cherries, tobacco and a hint of spice.

 I have been drinking Carmignano from Tenuta di Capezzana for over 40 years and it has always been one of my favorite wines.  The first time I understood the wine and how well it aged was when the late Count Ugo Bonacossi and his wife Contessa Lisa, the owners of the winery, came to dinner at my home. The year was 1985 and the Count brought a bottle of 1925 “Carmignano” which was labeled Chianti Montalbano.  The reason for the label was that Carmignano D.O.C. was not recognized until 1975, thanks to the efforts of Count Ugo, retroactive to 1969.

I was so caught up in enjoying these wonderful wines that I forgot to take a picture of the delicious roast chicken we enjoyed with it!

IMG_7806Blueberry Tart for dessert

I can’t thank Frank and Carole enough for this opportunity to drink these legendary wines perfectly matched with delicious meals.

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The greatness of simple wines by Daniele Cernilli

Below is an article by Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine in which he cites my favorite Prosecco producer Nino Franco as his example.

The greatness of simple wines

by Daniele Cernilli 07/25/22 | 

La grandezza dei vini semplici

Those who consider themselves to be wine experts often snub simple wines and the grounds that they are commonplace and indistinct. However, there are simple wines that are delicious and anything but commonplace. One just needs to get to know them and seek them out.

I got the idea for this piece while tasting a Prosecco in our editorial staff room. This was not just any Prosecco but a Valdobbiadene Superiore Rustico Nino Franco and produced by Primo Franco, in my opinion one of the great interpreters of this type of wine. Those at Wine Spectator must agree since they invited him, the first “proseccer”, to take part in their Wine Experience in New York.

He also makes Grave di Stecca, an absolute gem, as well as Nodi, Rive di San Floriano and this Rustico, the fourth in his line of wines and for the first time a Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, because up until last year this wine did not have a DOCG classification. Maybe it was the heat, maybe because it retails at ten euros, since I am not rich enough to but the great Champagnes, but this wine was delicious and those working with me at the office thought it was really good, too.

This is a simple wine yet has precise aromas, with the fruit dominating over the notes from fermentation, as should always be the case with wines made using the Charmat Method, and our bottle was empty in no time. This not just because it has a delicious drinkability, almost irresistible, but because while working we did not have time to think too much about complexity or the aftertaste of the wine we were drinking.

The wine is a triumph of simplicity, never commonplace, not excessively “enological”, an expression of distinct scents and light and pleasing flavors. The opposite of a neutral “prosecchino” without any evident qualities, which means not distinct nor recognizable. With the wine we drank, on the other hand, everything was immediately comprehensible even for those who are not condescending experts.

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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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Puglia Wine World at IL Gattopardo Restaurant

Puglia Wine World hosted a number of events in NYC last month.

IMG_7800 These included events at the Italian Consulate, The Fancy Food Show, an event on a boat, and the last a wine tasting and lunch at IL Gattopado restaurant in NYC. I was invited to the final event by Regione Puglia and Gruppo-Italiano

We started with a stand up tasting of five wines: 

IMG_7689Sissy Pop” Extra Brut Classic Method Masseria del Sole (Foggia) made from 100% Nero di Troia. The soil is clay/calcareous. There is a manual harvest and fermentation is in steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine has hints of dried almonds, hazelnut, blood orange, plum and fig.

Mela Rosa Extra Dry Sparkling Wine NV Due Palme (Brindisi) made from 100% Negroamaro. There are mineral deposits in the soil.  A careful  selection of grapes is harvested at the end of August to preserve the freshness and acidity. There is a brief period of skin contact to get the desired light pink color of  Rose. Then the Charmat method is used to create the sparkling wine. The wine has hints of red fruit, strawberry and raspberry with floral notes.

IMG_7691Puglia IGT Rosato BIO “Tre Tomoli Rosa” Vigna Flora (Bari) made from 100% Susumaniello. The soil is loamy and clayey. There is a manual harvest of the grapes followed by destemming and a soft crushing. Maceration in contact with the skin for 3 to 5 hours to get a peachy-pink color. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation is not carried out. The wine remains in steel and bottle for 15 days before release. The wine has hints of white peach, pink grapefruit and citrus tones.

IMG_7688Primitivo di Manduria DOC “Lirica” 2017 Produttori di Manduria Manduria. Made from 100% Primitivo. The soil is of a medium texture with calcareous tufa. Red wine vinification with thermo-conditioning of the fermentation process. The wine is in contact with the skins for 1 week and is aged for a minimum of 6 months in large barrels. This is an intense and elegant wine with hints of dark fruit, cherry, plum a hint of spice and a touch of ginger. This was a very impressive Primitivo.

IMG_7690Primitivo di Manduria DOC “Raccontami” Vespa Vignaioli (Manduria) made from 100% Primitivo. The soil is limestone-clayey. The skins fermentation is for 15 days, malolactic fermentation is in barriques and and the wine is aged for 12 months in barrel. The wine has hints of black and red fruits, with a touch of tobacco and a hint of vanilla.

For lunch there were 5 winesIMG_7720

The place mat had the name of the wines and information about each of the wines.

IMG_7692For lunch we began with a refreshing salad Acquasale Di Frisella, Cipolle, Cetriolini E Peperoni.  Toasted bread with onions, cucumbers and bell peppers.

IMG_7693Tiella Pugliese Tradizionale Di Riso, Patate E Cozze is a typical Pugliese casserole with rice, potatoes and mussels.

IMG_7799Rose — Botromagno is one of my favorite producers in Puglia


Red Wine #1

IMG_7694Agnello Al Sugo Alla Salentina Con Patate was a savory lamb stew with potatoes to go with the red wines.


Red Wine #2

IMG_7721Red Wine #3  SoliAir is an importer and distributor that carries an excellent line of wines.

IMG_7696Dolce Torta Di Albicocche Con Salsa Al Cioccolato E Mandorle Tostate is a delicate almond cake with apricots and chocolate sauce.

It is always a pleasure to have the wines of Puglia with the southern Italian food of IL Gattopardo.

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Discovering the Wines of NIZZA DOCG

Twelve years ago I was invited to the “Barbera Meeting 2010” held in Asti.  This event was open to journalists and bloggers and included visits to producers as well as a number of tastings.

On the final day, we went to Nizza Monferrato, then a sub zone of Barbera d Asti, and tasted 25 wines. A journalist questioned the prevalence of barriques and the resulting oak toasted flavors found in most of the wines. Two of the producers at the tasting verbally attacked him for his criticism of the wines.  Yet the vast majority of journalists, if not all of them, agreed that most of the wines they had tasted were too oaky and did not like the direction most of the producers were taking.

Today the wine is called Nizza DOCG.IMG_7782

Last month, the Consorizio Barbera D’Asti del Monferrato organized a seminar and luncheon to “Discover Nizza DOCG” at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in New York City.  I looked forward to tasting the wines side by side and seeing which direction the producers were taking.

There were ten wine to taste and representatives from the wineries were present.

IMG_7686The moderator was Gregory Dal Piaz. I have known Gregory for a number of years and was very pleased that he was the moderator.

This is a summary what was said at the Seminar.

La Barbera is the second most planted grape in Italy. It is grown in other parts of Italy but the Piedmontese think of it as their grape.  It produces a wine with good acidity that goes well with food.

Nizza DOCG was originally a sub zone of Barbera d’Asti DOCG and became a separate DOCG in 2014 when it was given the appellation Nizza DOCG. The use of the geographical name Nizza instead of the grape variety brings together the tradition, culture and unique terroir.  Beginning with the 2016 vintage, the DOCG appears on the label.  I believe that this is a unique area for Barbera and I am happy they have their own DOCG.

Nizza DOCG.

All the wines must be made from 100% Barbera. The zone in located in the southeast part of Piedmont. There are 18 communes in the Nizza Area (Asti) where the wines can be produced.

Minimum alcohol is 13% and 13.5% for the Riserva.

 Minimum of 18 months aging with at least 12 months in barrel and for the Riserva 30 months including at least 12 months in barrel.

The production zone is centered around the town of Nizza Monferrato. The Barbera grapes here occupy the best exposed slopes that face from southeast to west. The soils are calcareous, of medium depth with sandy clay marls and stratified sandstone.

The Nizza DOCG Wines

IMG_7685Titon, Nizza, 2019 l’armangia (Canelli) The soil is calcareous clay and the training system is simple guyot. Fermentation is for 8 /10 days at 25.5 degrees C. Délestage fermentation takes place 3 times a day.  50% of the wine is aged in large French oak barrels, and 50% in 300 liter barrels.  The wine remains 6 months in the bottle before release. The wine has hints of strawberries, violets, red stone fruit, a touch of smoke and a note of almonds.

IMG_7684Cremosina, Nizza 2019 Bersano (Nizza Monferrato) the soil is calcareous and clay and the training system is guyot. Vinification is in stainless steel barrels. The wine is aged in for 12 months in 56 hl oak casks then 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry, a touch of spice and note of chocolate and an intense fruity finish.

IMG_7683Tre Roveri, Nizza 2019 Pico Maccario (Mombaruzzo) The soil is clay and the training system is guyot. The grapes are harvested at the best maturation level. There is a soft crushing of the grapes, destalking and  maceration is for 15 to 20 days. The wine is aged for 16 months in French tonneau barrels and then in bottle for one year. The wine has hints of red fruit, balsamic notes and a long lasting finish.

IMG_7682La Giulia, Nizza 2019 Cascina Lana (Nizza Monferrato). The soil is sandy with clay and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place at the end of September. The grapes are destemmed and then pressed. Fermentation with selected yeasts and skin contact at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French oak tonneaux for 16 months and in bottle for one year.  This is a full-bodied rounded wine with hints of red fruit, cherry jam, a touch of licorice and a note of tobacco.

IMG_7681Favà, Nizza 2019 Tenuta Garetto (Agliano Terme) The soil is clay. Maceration is in stainless steel and concrete tanks for about 10 days. The wine is aged for about 10 months in 25 & 50 hl wood casks. The wine has hints of fresh ripe red fruit, floral notes and a touch of wood.


Pontiselli, Nizza 2018 Coppo (Agliano Terme). The soil is lime marl with a silty-clay texture. The healthiest and ripest grapes are selected in the vineyard and hand picked into 40 pound picking baskets. The wine is aged in barriques for 14/18 months and one year in bottle before release. The wine has hints of blackberry and blackcurrants and vanilla in the finish and aftertaste.  From a single vineyard.

IMG_7677 2Vigna Dacapo, Nizza Riserva 2018 Dacapo-Cà ed Balos (Agliano Terme). The soil is marlstone, calcareous and clay and the training system is simple guyot with the Simon & Sirch pruning method for the well being of the vine. Fermentation is in a big non-toasted vats of French Allier. The wine remains in big barrels for 24 months and then in bottle for 10 months. The wine has hints of cherries, plum and licorice and a touch of cinnamon. Organic certification in 2019.

IMG_7679La Court, Nizza Riserva 2018 Michele Chiarlo (Nizza Canelli) The soil is calcareous clay marl of sedimentary marine. Malolactic fermentation takes place for 15 days in 55hl oak vats with the skins. There is a soft shower system of wetting the cap at an initial temperature of 30 degrees C, then decreed to 27C. The wine is aged for 30 months with 50% in cask and 50% in large barrels and then 18 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry, plum, violets with a note of chocolate and a touch of spice.  I have been drinking the wines of Michele Chiarlo for a number of years and have always been impressed by them. 

IMG_7676Costamiòle Nizza Riserva 2018 Prunotto (Alba-vineyard location Agliano Terme) The soil is marl, known as Toét in local dialect. When the grapes arrive in the cellar they are destemmed and crushed. Maceration lasts for 12 days at a maximum temperature of 30 degrees C. After fermentation the wine is transferred into stainless steel tanks where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 12 months and then in bottle for another 12 months before release. The wine has hints of cherries, plums and vanilla.

IMG_7675Nizza Riserva 2018 Tenuta Olim Bauda (Incisa Scapaccino) The grapes are harvested by hand between the first and second week of October and crushed in the evening of the same day they are harvested. Then they are placed in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. After alcoholic fermentation the wine is put into 25hl French oak barrels where it remains for 30 months, followed by aging in bottle. This is a full and balanced wine with hints of red fruit and cherry.

I have followed the progress of these wines over the years and am very happy that the direction they are now taking has changed from some of the measures they wanted to introduce at the “Barbera Meeting 2010”.  Of the ten wines tasted only two  were what I would call made in a more modern style but still drinkable.

As usual IL Gattopardo prepared an excellent buffet lunch to follow the tasting

The event was organized by Mariana Nedic, Executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). I have been to a number of events and a press trip organized by this organization and they always do an excellent job.


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The Great Wines of Emidio Pepe

I met Emidio Pepe, one of my favorite wine producers, a few times both in NYC and at Vinitaly, the wine fair in Verona, but I never had the chance to visit his winery in Abruzzo, even though I have been to the region many times. I started drinking Montepulciano d’Abruzzo many years ago with vintages from the 1970’s and they quickly became one of my favorite wines.

In early June I was invited on a press trip by the Consorzio Vini d’Abruzzo called the Abruzzo Wine Experience. It included visits to a number of wineries and one of them was the Emidio Pepe Winery.  At last I would have my chance.

IMG_7596When we arrived at the winery we were met by Emidio and his granddaughter Chiara De Julis. I had known Chiara as the public relations person for the winery in NYC.

IMG_7599Chiara took the group to view the vineyards and spoke about the land. The soil is clay and limestone with the top 40 centimeters in clay on a solid layer of limestone. She said they use both the tendonne or pergola method for the Montepulciano and Trebbiano varieties and the cordon spur method for the Pecorino for training the vines. Chiara explained that “the pergola is like a solar panel to my grandfather: the greater sun exposure guarantees more photosynthesis so a ratio in favor of energy production and accumulation of reserves, keeping the evolution of the berries slow and gradual. The ripening of the Montepulciano under the shade of its leaves is the key to the elegance of its tannins; the pergola is the promise today, as an ancient visionary resolution facing today’s challenging climate.”

Chiara continued, “Our wines’ sense of place is strongly tied to the genetic complexity of the vegetal material which populates our vineyards. Emidio planted his first vineyards with the old method of field grafting. This practice – long lost – is to plant the rootstock, leaving its root system to dig deep in search of nourishments without worrying about the fruit. When ready, the plant is then grafted in the field, an operation that Emidio did himself after having selected and prepared every bud.”

“The buds came from an old plot that Emidio liked back then. The original bud heritage allowed it to multiply genetic richness, preserving ancestral clones of Trebbiano and Montepulciano unique and different between them. This method guarantees a unique population in our vineyards, rarely replicable and a distinctive characteristic to our wines. Those parcels are today more than 50 years old and for us they are the source of our massal selection every time we replant. In the vineyard only sulphur and copper water are used along with biodynamic farming methods.”

According to Chiara, 1 hectare of tendonne 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.

After our tour, Chiara invited us to dinner.

67631915860__774D6023-026C-48A6-AFD0-912AC6FEBF40 2The dinner menu

IMG_7603Over dinner Chiara spoke about the wines.  She began by telling us that her grandfather’s first bottled vintage was in 1964 and at that time he had only one hectare of vines. Today there are 17 hectares of vines near the Adriatic Sea that stretch out over the Teramo hills at the foot of the Gran Sasso Mountain.  

The Emidio Pepe winery is Organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A”– Agriculturists Artisans Artists, an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in Organic and Bio-Dynamic production, terroir, and as little interference as possible by the winemaker in the winemaking process. Only natural yeasts are used.  This gives the wine more complexity because there are so many different strains of yeast on the grapes and in the air.


The white grapes are pressed by feet in the wooden tub in the front  and the red grapes by hand in the one in the back.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo — the picking is exclusively by hand selecting only the perfect grapes. The white grapes are crushed by feet in a big wooden tub, 350kg at a time get crushed for 40-45 minutes, allowing a constant stimulation of skin with the juice, letting the skin release matter, flavors and aromas. 

This method allows them to press the grapes in a delicate and soft way, not letting the stems break and producing a rich must ready to ferment. Only the juice goes to ferment in small concrete tanks, where spontaneous fermentation will start and go on for 30-35 days. From the concrete tanks, the second spring following the harvest, the wine will go straight into bottle to start its long improvement.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo — the grapes are hand destemmed on a net on top of a wooden vat, two people push the grapes back and forth until the berries fall down and the stems remain on the net unbroken. This way only the elegant and juicy tannins of the skin will go into the must but not the bitter ones from the stems. The berries remain almost intact, important to keep the yeasts which are on the skins and really precious to the spontaneous fermentations.. No sulfites are added to the wine. The juice is placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25hl. The white remains here for one year and the red for two years. The wine is then transferred to bottles by hand.

The winery also produces a Cerasuolo (Rosé) which does not have any skin contact. It is made from the juice of the Montepulciano grapes which are pushed back and forth by hand.

IMG_7602 2The wines made from the younger vines are released early for the Italian market. The wines made from the older vines are left in the winery to age and and then released on the international market. Chiara said the young vines do not have the the body or complexity to make to overseas journey.

IMG_7723 Starting in 2018 with the 2010 vintage, the aged wines will have Selizione Vecchie Vigne on the label.  

Chiara’s grandmother Rosa Pepe is in charge of the decanting process. Since this is a natural wine malolatic fermentation may take place in the tank or the bottle.  There is no filtration or fining. The corks are placed in the bottles by hand and only the best cork is used. Chiara said that they guarantee all of the bottles have been decanted at the cellar after 20 years, no matter if the vintage is 2003 or 1983. The wine has to be well balanced and decanted to manage the trip and only their best wines are sent to the USA and put on the market.

About 60,000 bottles a year are produced.  In an exceptional vintage they will hold back 70% of the production.

Chiara said that they have 600,000 bottles of wine from 1964 to the present vintage.

IMG_7608We tasted Trebbiano 2019, 2009, 2013, 2004 – While I like the older vintages I prefer the younger ones.

We tasted Montepulciano 1983, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007- Recently in Rome I had the 2016 vintage and it was wonderful. However these are wines that can really age and their true greatness is expressed in the older vintages. 

IMG_7622The last wine we tasted was the 1983 Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo.  Chiara said  at first her grandfather did not like the 1983 vintage so he kept it in his cellar and did not sell it.  A journalist came for a visit and asked why there was no 1983 on the market.  When Emidio explained, the journalist asked if he could try it.  Emidio agreed and they tasted it together.  The wine had developed in the bottle and the two decided that it was a great wine in a great vintage.  Emidio put 30% of the 1983 on the market.  I was very happy Chiara let us taste this wine. I have had the 1963 a few times over the years and all I can say is that it is in a league of its own.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to taste so many vintages of the great wines of Emidio Pepe all at one time. 


Filed under Abruzzo, Emidio Pepe, Uncategorized

Wine, much more than just a word

by Daniele Cernilli 05/30/22 | 

This excellent article by Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine on how we speak and think about wine.

Vigneti italiani zone diverse

The word “wine” encompasses thousands of different nuances, with many different wines produced from extremely different grape varieties and often from vastly different places. An immense geography of organoleptic sensations.

After more than 40 years of being involved with wine, I have heard much more than my fair share of proclamations, declarations and arguments regarding irrefutable truths about wine. So allow me to shed some light on the subject. A Passito from Pantelleria, golden and sweet with aromas of dried apricots; Barolo, red, bold, sometimes a tad edgy and dry; and Franciacorta, effervescent, pale yellow, very dry: all three are “wines”. I do not believe there are any other products we can put into our mouths that have the same name but are so different from each other. And although cheese comes close, a mozzarella is nothing like Parmigiano, gorgonzola is different from Pecorino Romano, the variations are not as vast as they are for wine, which comes in thousands of different versions, something like Plato’s World of Being.

In Italy alone there are more than 500 wines with a DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) quality classification and an equal if not greater number of different grape varieties, with almost every town producing its own wine which the locals consider to be the best wine in the world. And if you dare to question this then you are just a glutton for punishment and insults.

“Barolo is nothing, my uncle’s Aglianico, now that is a great wine”; “Forget French wine (as if there is only one type), in Veneto we have much more and Prosecco is just as good as Champagne and it costs less”.

The press media is not immune to taking similar stands and every year we hear and read triumphant reports about how Italy produces the most wine in the world and thus beats France. Unfortunately, the French, with a more or less similar level of production, have a turnover from wine almost double that of Italy. But then again, everyone knows the French are good at marketing themselves. As for quality… Italians think they are better than everyone else, even if this is not true. But the French, too, are not exactly kind when it comes to Italian wine, considering them to be inferior or second class at best. This not to mention the expression “cheap and cheerful” which many British and American wine lovers use to define most Italian wines and this says something in itself.

These are all, obviously, commonplace generalizations as is the term “Italian wine”. This is simply because “Italian wine” does not exist. There exists, on the other hand, thousands of wines that are much different from each other and thus cannot be defined by such a generic term. And they are certainly not “just for experts” or only “something to drink”. Italian wines represent the country’s traditions, its different climates and even landscapes.

After so many years of tasting, evaluating and describing thousands of wines, when I taste one now the first thing I ask myself is where could it have come from. From a vineyard near the sea, surrounded by Mediterranean bushes, perhaps with even some sand in the soil? Or is it from a high altitude, where the climate is cooler, the soil has more gravel and the pitch is steeper?

The aromas, flavors and even the colors help me determine the origin. It is a fun game as well as the only way that I know to tackle such a diversified subject, not to mention complex. The truth is we are not dealing with physics or theoretical philosophy, just different wines, of which there are an amazing number and they often come from very different areas and are produced with extremely different grapes. All this in an immense geography of organoleptic sensations.

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