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Dining with Bacchus

An invitation to dine with Bacchus doesn’t come every day, so I was happy to accept the intriguing invitation from the Italian Trade Agency to a dinner and wine tasting at the Hotel Renaissance in NYC.

IMG_8741We were greeted with a glass of Rotari Brut when we entered.

The Italian Trade Commissioner, Antonio Laspina, welcomed guests and spoke about Italian wine and the evening’s event. He explained that the Italian Trade Agency, along with Colangelo & Partners, had organized a series of “Dining with Bacchus” dinners and tastings around the country and this was the final one.Their goal was to promote both traditional Italian food and wine combinations and at the same time educate US wine industry professionals on Italian wine pairing opportunities with diverse cuisines. The idea, Mr. Laspina explained, was to both embrace yet debunk the concept that “what grows together, goes together.”

IMG_8736Chef Fabrizio Facchini prepared dishes to go with each wine and spoke about them.  It was set up like a dinner with Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, and Dolci. Anthony Giglio was the master of ceremonies and spoke about the wine and added comments on the food and wine combinations. It was a very large group and Mr. Giglio did an job excellent with his sense of humor and knowledge of Italian wine

IMG_8738Trento DOC Brut 2015 Rotari (Trent) made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The lots are married together with 5-7% of Chardonnay fermented in oak with partial malolactic fermentation.  Once the cuvée is made, the wine is cold stabilized, filtered and ready for the second fermentation. Secondary fermentation is maintained at a critically controlled temperature of approximately 53-56°F. First the filtered wine is chilled to 53°F and then chilled yeast is added to make sure a slow fermentation is maintained from the outset. This approach guarantees that the fermentation lasts for at least 40 days so that it develops the fine perlage found in Rotari. The wine rests on the lees for more than 24 months at a temperature of between 56–58°F. During the aging process there is a routine remuage utilizing giro-palettes. Following the aging in the bottle, there is disgorgement and addition of the proprietary dosage. The dosage is comprised of Chardonnay from the same vintage matured in neutral oak barrels which provides the wine with greater aromas without oak impact. The wine has hints of peach, citrus fruit, white stone fruit and a touch of brioche.

Antipasti

IMG_8746Prosecco Rosé DOC 2020  Riondo vintage dated sparkling wine (Veneto). Made from 90% Glera and 10% Pinot Noir. The residual sugar is 16 g/l. There is a cold fermentation of the grapes and the primary fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature followed by a secondary fermentation in stainless steel pressurized tanks for two months. The wine has hints of roses, violets, and raspberry with a note of apple and a touch of peach. Served with chicken wings roasted and glazed with a mild sauce.

IIMG_8742Isonzo Del Friuli DOC 2018 made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc Sant’Elena (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia). The wine has notes of kiwi, melon, lemon and a note of almonds with a long finish. Caesar salad topped with croutons and anchovies

Umbria IGT White Grechetto 2021 (Umbria) made from 100% Grechetto Barberani from a 5 hectare vineyard at 200/300 meters. The soil is sedimentary with the presence of marine fossils, pebbles and calcareous agglomerations. There are 4,500 plants per hectare, the training system is double guyot and the vines are 30 years old. The manual  harvest is  August/ September. Light lemon finish with hints of citrus fruit, apples a touch of spice and a note of almonds. Insalata Di Mare with squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, celery & mesclun

IMG_8750Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2020 “Margie” Damilano (Piedmont) made from 100% Nebbiolo from an 18 hectare vineyard at 1,500 ft with a southeastern /southern exposure.  Calcareous and tufa based soil, the training system is guyot and the vines are about 40 years old. Harvest is in October and fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 12 days. The wine is aged  in 20hl to 100hl oak barrels for 12 months and for 2 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, violets, cherry with a touch of licorice and a note of violets. Affettati — 24 month prosciutto di Parma DOP, speck Alto Adige IGP

IMG_8751Chianti Classico DOCG 2021 Castellare di Castellina (Tuscany) made from 95% Sangiovese and  5% Canaiolo from vineyards at 350/400 meters. Limestone soil and the training system is guyot single arched cane. There are 3,500 plants per hectare. Harvest is in October. Vinification is in steel and malolactic fermentation is completed. The wine is aged in French oak barrels of 225 liters and 5hl for 7 months and in bottle for another 7 months before bottling. The wine has hints of red fruit, licorice, black currant and a note of vanilla. Cheese plate — Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and Taleggio DOP

IMG_8752Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva DOC 2017 “Ruberò” (Abruzzo) 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 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.

Pasta di Gragnano IGP with a ragu of pork and beef ribs cooked slowly with San Marzano DOP tomatoes.

Lambrusco di Modena DOC Organic (Emilia-Romagna) Tenuta Agricola Cleto Chiarli made from 100% Grasparossa from a vineyard at 100 meters with 9 year old vines. The soil is brown to red in color with a superficial layer of loamy texture, alluvial sediment, coarse gravel and slightly alkaline. The training system is Geneva double Curtin. Vinification is with selected yeasts. Wine is in contact with the lees durning cold stabilization for 2 months. No second fermentation, only a single fermentation under pressure. A cross flow filter is used, Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged for one month in the bottle. Residual sugar 15 g/lt has hints of red fruit, strawberry, raspberry and cherry.

Tortellini alla Bolognese, Veal stuffed tortellini cooked in chicken broth

Secondi

Greco di Tufo 2020 DOCG Feudi Di San Gregorio made from 100% Greco (Campania) The soil is chalky. Alcoholic fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Maturation is for about 4 months in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. .The wine has floral notes with hints of citrus fruit, pear and apricot with good acidity.

Chicken Curry — Chicken thigh cooked in Indian curry style with Basmati rice.

IMG_8758Est! Est! Est!!! Di Montefiascone DOP  Lazio 2021 “Le Pòggere”2021 Falesco (Umbria). Made from 60% Trebbiano, 15% Rossetto and 25% Malvasia from a 150 hectare vineyard at 300 meters. The average age of the vines is 18 years and the training system is spun cordon.There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the soil is crumbly with many pebbles. There is a soft pressing of the whole cluster grapes with an automatic press. The must settles for 24/48 hours and is racked to stainless steel vats where fermentation starts and is carried out at a controlled temperature with the addition of selected indigenous yeasts. The wine is left in contact with the yeasts for some days before being racked and when the wine is ready it is bottled very early to keep its freshness and taste. This is an aromatic wine that has floral and fruity notes with good acidity.

Porchetta, Roasted pork belly stuffed with garlic and wild bronze fennel

IMG_8759Carignano del Sulcis DOC 2013 “Grotta Rossa” Santadi (Sardegna) made from 100% Carignano from bush grown and counter espalier vineyards in the lower Sulcis. Soil is of medium mixture, lose with clay, sand and limestone. Harvest starts in the middle of September and ends the first week of October. The must is fermented with the skins at controlled temperature. There is  pumping over. Malolactic fermentation takes place and then the wine ages in cement vats for several months before bottling. This is an intense fruity wine with a licorice finish.

Braised beef with maple syrup. Slow cooked, low temperature ribs with maple syrup

Dolci

Mondoro Asti DOCG (Piemonte) made from 100% Moscato from grapes in vineyards situated in the territory of Canelli, Santo Stefano, Belbo and Calosso. The Asti Method: Grapes are crushed and the juice is stored at a low temperature until needed. When the wine is ready to be made the grape juice is warmed and fermentation takes place in pressurized tanks. Carbon dioxide is allowed to escape until the alcohol level reaches 6% and the Carbon dioxide is retained creating bubbles. Fermentation continues until it reaches 7%/7.5 alcohol by volume and the pressure is close to 5 atmospheres. The fermentation is stopped by chill filtration and the wine is bottled for immediate release. The wine has hints of honey, peach, pears and a note of orange blossom. Alcohol is 7%

Panettone, Fiasconaro, Sicily

Terre Siciliane IGP “Kio” 2017 Nocera Passito Tenuta di Mastronicola (Sicily) made from 100% Nocera from a vineyard at 110 meters. The soil is medium mixed tending to calcareous. The training system is spurred cordon and the green harvest reduces about 40% of the grapes. Harvest is in mid November. Vinification is in small stainless steel tanks for about 10 months during which manual punching down of the raisin grapes is carried out. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 24 months and in bottle for six months before release. The wine has hints of liquor infused cherries, blackberries, jam, prune, chocolate and notes of vanilla.

Bis Di Cioccolato — Modicao Cioccolato di Modica IGP (Vanilla), Sicily and Venchi Cioccolato Fondente 80% (South American blend), Piemonte.

Not surprisingly, all of the traditional wine and food pairings worked beautifully as did many of the non-traditional combinations, though I might have chosen different Italian wines to pair with some of the dishes.

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The Charming Taste of Europe

“The Charming Tastes of Europe is a special project that links the flavors of wines from Italy and France and of fresh fruit from Greece, and further introduces the United States and Canada to these exquisite items that recall all of European beauty and grace,” according the brochure we were given at a tasting and dinner at Lincoln Restaurant in NYC.  The Charming Taste of Europe campaign is partially funded by the European Union.

charmongI was invited by the organizer of the event and the speaker, Susannah Gold. I have been to a number of events hosted by her and they are all well organized and informative.

Susanna spoke about the region 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.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti.

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The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese.

The three most important wine designations in Abruzzo are: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy.

The wines of Abruzzo

IMG_8782Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC 2021 Nic Tartaglia made from 100% made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from 41 year old vines at 303 meters. The training system is the pergola and there are 1,600 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place at the end of September. The grapes are soft pressed, followed by static clarification. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 30 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Aging is in stainless steel vats. The wine is bottled in the spring following the harvest. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime and almonds in the finish.

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 its best expression in Abruzzo.

IMG_8790Pecorino Superiore Abruzzo DOC 2021 “la Canaglia” (Nic Tartaglia is the owner) Azienda Agricola Fontefico made from 100% Pecorino from a vineyard at 120 meters. The training system is guyot and there are 4,000 plants per hectare with an eastern exposure. The soil is iron, sand and clay. It is a single vineyard wine and is estate bottled and the farm is organic. This is a full bodied, crisp white wine with high minerality and hints of grapefruit, sage, and white flowers with a touch of almonds. It is called La Canaglia, the rascal, of Fontefico because the yields are very low. There is a different label on the bottle very year because every wine has its own personality.

Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian means “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines.

IMG_8794Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo  2021 “Prope” Velenosi made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from estate owned vineyards in the Controguerra at 250 to 300 meters. The soil is of medium texture with abundant grassland.  The training system is cordon and spur pruned. There are 5,000 plants per hectare. Specifically selected grapes for Rosé vinification are picked during the first 10 days of September. In the cellar the grapes are destemmed and pressed. The entire environment in inactivated with carbon dioxide ice so as not to lose the primary aromas. A brief cold maceration takes place for about 6 hours, which allows the maximum extraction of the aromas. Fermentation is in temperature-controlled steel vats. The wine is kept for some months on the lees to increase the structure. It has hints of red current, raspberry, violet with floral scents.

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

IMG_8796Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2017 Riserva “Villa Gemma” Masciarelli made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on steep, sloped Colle Cave vineyards in Chieti. The soil is limestone, clay and gravel. The training system is French guyot and the farming is sustainable. Harvest is by hand. The harvest ended in October. Fermentation is in stainless steel 15 to 20 days, followed by a maceration of 23 to 30 days.  Aging is for 36 months in 100% new French oak barriques, followed by 3 years in bottle before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, blueberry, pumice and vanilla.  The winery was founded in 1981 by Gianni Masciarelli.

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.

The French Dessert Wines

IMG_8802Château De Gardes “Cuvée Fût de Chêne” AOC Cadillac 2019 made from 100% Sémillon from 60 year old vines on 64 hectares. The training system is guyot. Harvest is by hand and there are several sortings of the grapes. Traditional winemaking using pneumatic press and gentle filtration before bottling. The wine is aged for 12 months in oak barrels. There is a good balance between sugar and alcohol, with hints of candied fruit and vanilla. The wine can age for 20 years.

Cadillac is a small appellation of Bordeaux in the southwest of France, known for its sweet botrytized white wines. It is situated on the east bank of the Garonne, north of Loupiac.

IMG_8803Château Loupiac-Gaudiet AOC Loupiac 2017 made from 90 % Sémillion and 10% Sauvignon from 45 year old vines on 26 hectares. The soil is clay and limestone and the pruning system is simple guyot. Harvest is by hand as soon as the botrytis appears.Traditional winemaking using modern methods–pneumatic press and temperature controlled fermentation. Drink it 2 to 5 years if you want it fresh and fruity, or 5 to ten years if you prefer more richness, or 10 to 30 if you prefer more smoothness. The wine has a good balance between fruit sugar and acidity. There are hints of honey, beeswax, dried stone fruit, lemon, marmalade and a touch of spice in the finish.  I was very impressed with this wine.

Loupiac belongs to a cluster of lesser know appellations in Bordeaux that specialize in the production of sweet wine from a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It is on the opposite bank from Sauternes but the soil and weather conditions are perfect for producing wine with botrytis cinerea.

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Daniele Cernilli (aka) Doctor Wine) on Super whites

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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.

Valentini
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.

Bucci
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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

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Red Wine #1

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

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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.

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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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