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Articles by: Charles Scicolone

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Barolo The King Of Wines and the Wine of Kings

    Barolo is made from Nebbiolo, one of the world’s greatest grape varieties. The Nebbiolo production zone is the Langhe hills in the province of Cuneo, southeast of the city of Alba. The soil in this area is a combination of clay and limestone.

    Barolo is named after a village in the zone and the name Nebbiolo may come from nebbia, the Italian word for fog. During the fall the fog at times is so thick at night that it is best not to drive.

    In the past blending grapes from different vineyards was the traditional way to make Barolo. Grapes from different locations give different characteristics to the wine- color from one, complexity from another, concentration and longevity from other sites.

    Today producers also make single vineyard Cru Barolo and some of the vineyards have become very famous, for example, Cannubi, Bussia and Brunate.
     

    Barolo must be aged for at least 38 months after the harvest, before it is released. Of this, the wine must spend 18 months in wood barrels. In order to be labeled Riserva, Barolo must be aged for at least 5 years.

    Barolo is a very complex wine that can age for many years. Because it can have a lot of tannin when it is young, it should not be drunk until it is at least 10 years old. Barolo has aromas and flavors of tar, leather, tea, red fruit, licorice, chocolate, and sometimes white truffles.

    It has good acidity so it goes well with food; in fact it is a wine that should only be drunk with food. It goes particularly well with beef, game birds, and risotto or pasta with porcini mushrooms.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    A Great Sicilian Wine Nero d’Avola



    Thename means “black of Avola.”Nero d’Avola is sometimesreferred to by the name Calabrese (or ‘from Calabria’)but this probably derives fromthe corruption of a Greek-based Siracusan dialect name.


    This is not the only explanation ofhow this confusion of namescame about, but one thing is clear and that is that this grapehas never been important inCalabria.Nero d’Avola is the most important and most plantedred grape variety grown inSicily. Because it is so popular, Nero d’Avola is cultivated inother parts of the island andthrives in the hot, dry climate.


    The training system for thevines is usually the espalier(trellis) method though someproducers are moving awayfrom this system. To make wine, Nero d’Avola frequently is blended withother native grape varietiessuch as Nerello Mascalese, Frappato and Perricone or withinternational grapes such asCabernet Sauvignon, Merlotand Syrah.


    It may be possiblethat Syrah and Nero d’Avolacome from a common ancestorbut this has yet to be proven.Wines made from Nero d’Avolacan be drunk young whenvinified and aged in stainlesssteel. These wines will havefresh red fruit aromas andflavors with a hint of spice. In the hands of some producerswhen the wine is aged inwood, it can be made into awine with a lot of body andaging potential and have hintsof raspberries, prunes and atouch of leather. Because ofthis range of styles, the pricesrange from $10 to $40 a bottle. Depending on the way it ismade, Nero d’Avola goes wellwith salumi, red meats, and cheeses.

    Heights Chateau: Wine Shop123 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn(718) 330-0963 n In Vino Veritas1375 First Ave., Manhattan(212) 288-0100

  • Facts & Stories

    Campania's great wines: Fiano di Avelllino


    Some of Southern Italy’s most interesting white wines come from the Campania region. One of my favorite whites is Fiano di Avellino, a DOCG wine made from the Fiano grape.



    In Naples it is a top choice to go with many local dishes, especially seafood. One classic combination to try is Fiano di Avellino and Mussels with Black Pepper. Though the Fiano variety is grown in other parts of Southern Italy, the best wine is produced in the province of Avellino thanks to the mild microclimate and mineral rich volcanic and calcareous soil. 


    Fiano di Avellino DOCG must be made from at least 85% Fiano with up to 15% of Greco, Coda di Volpe and Trebbiano grapes. The wine has floral notes and hints of honey, pear and toasted hazelnuts with a touch of smoke. It can age for 20 years or more. The Fiano grape was first cultivated in Southern Italy and Sicily during the era when it was colonized by the Ancient Greeks and known in Latin as Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). 
    The Greeks called it Enotria, the land of wine. Later, many ancient Romans, who built resort homes along the Campanian coast, cultivated Fiano. With it they produced Apianum, a wine that was highly prized, and may have been the ancestor of today’s Fiano.


    The name was derived from the Latin word for bees because the sweet aroma of the grapes attracted bees. Pliny the Elder (d.79AD) in his Naturalis Historia stated, “the bees give Fiano its name because of their desire (for it).” More recently Fiano had almost become extinct until producers such as Mastroberardino, began to take in interest in the variety. 

    This created a renaissance of planting around Avellino and the wine was finally given DOCG status in 2003. Serve Fiano lightly chilled.


    Find it in NYC Baccus Wines 1375 First Avenue, (212) 288-0100 Astor Wines and Spirits 399 Lafayette Street, (212) 674-7500.

     

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Tuscany's Hidden Gem Morellino di Scansano



    The production zone for this wine is the predominantly hilly area around the village of Scansano in the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany between the Ombrone and Albegna Rivers.


    Altitude ranges from just a few meters above sea level near Grosetto, to 550 meters in the Collecchio zone. The Morellino di Scansano zone covers approximately 65,000 hectares of land in the southwest of the province of Grosseto, the southernmost area of Tuscany.


    There are about 1,500 hectares of vineyards. Morellino di Scansano DOCG, including the regular and the Riserva, must be at least 85% Sangiovese and the natural minimum alcohol must be 12% for both.


    Vinification, aging and bottling must take place within the production zone. Because of the terroir and the location of the vineyards, the wine is softer and rounder than wine from other parts of Tuscany. The characteristics of the wine’s basic type are a ruby red color with fruity notes and light tannins.


    The regular is a “fresh” wine that can be released on the market in the spring following its harvest. The Riserva must be aged for at least two years, one of which must be in wooden barrels.


    The Morellino di Scansano Riserva has a deep red color tending towards garnet as the wine ages, a fruity aroma with hints of cherry, red fruit and plums and a touch of spice and vanilla. The taste is dry and full-bodied.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    An Ancient Grape Variety Aglianico

    In Italy, Aglianico was first planted near modern day Pozzuoli and from there it spread to other parts of Campania and to Basilicata. Pliny the Elder wrote about it in his Natural History. Wine made from Aglianico was called Falernian and was highly regarded by the Romans.

    The Aglianico grape was known as Elenico (Italian for Greek) until the 15 Century when it began
    to be called Aglianico.

    The name might also come from vita hellenica, Latin for Greek wine.
     

    Today, Aglianico is grown mostly in Campania and Basilicata with plantings also in Puglia, Molise and Calabria. The Aglianico grape does very well in volcanic soil and at altitudes of 300 to 500 meters. Aglianico is also used as a blending grape in Campania.
     

    Algianico reaches its highest expression in the form of Taurasi from Campania, one of Italy’s great red wines, which can age for many years. In fact there are many who believe that the three great grape varieties in Italy are Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico. In Basilicata, Aglianico is used to make Aglianico del Vulture, a wine also with long aging potential.
     

    Wines made from Aglianico are full-bodied with good fruit, tannins, hints of blackberries, leather and smoke. They go very well with braised dishes, such as brasato di maiale, tender pork shoulder simmered in wine with vegetables.
     

    When purchasing the wine, note that if the word Aglianico appears on the label, the wine will sell for around $20. If the label indicates Aglianico del Vulture or Taurasi, the wine can sell for $50 or more.

    For more information about cooking, go to charlesscicolone.wordpress.com

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Pinot Grigio International Challenge 2014

    The 2014 International Pinot Grigio Challenge was held in Corno Di Rosazzo, near Udine in the Northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy.  I like the food and the wines of the region and have always enjoyed ITS Pinot Grigio, so I was delighted to be invited to be one of the judges.

     The event Took place over three days.  The first day there was a round table discussion on Pinot Grigio: "Commercial Challenge on the World Market."  There were a number of speakers, including myself, and I found the conversation to be most interesting

    Some of the topics discussed included The Reasons for the popularity of Pinot Grigio, how to Improve ITS image, Pinot Grigo in different countries and the other names for Pinot Grigio

    Pinot Grigio came to Italy after the phylloxera plague in Europe in the late 19 th Century. Most Likely It originated in Burgundy and is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. It is grown mostly in northeastern Italy. The best examples in my opinion come from Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige     

    Pinot Grigio is not a white grape as can be seen by looking at the bunches.  The must of the grape is basically copper in color, origin of anthocyanin, That does not always persist through bottling.  This Has to do with the presence or lack of During fermentation oxygen.

    In the 1960's Santa Margherita, thanks to the latest vinification techniques, was Able to produce a white wine changing the history of the grape forever.  By the 1980's Pinot Grigio from Italy Became so popular it is That Looked upon as an Italian grape in the eyes of the world.  Today Pinot grigio wine world enjoys popularity and is the number one grape varietal imported into the USA with over 40% market share.

    Some producers have gone back to the old style and Produces a wine, Which is copper / orange in color.  An example of this was the # 2 wine in the Challenge, "Gossip" by Di Lenardo

    The judging Took place on the second day.  The idea for the International Pinot Grigo Challenge came from Daniele Cernilli, known as "Doctor Wine."

    With Cernilli as the head, 24 judges from many different countries were to taste the wines blind and select the winners.  There were 128 wines from all over the world.  The judges were divided into groups of three. In the first round to score was Given to each wine tasted.  3 Next the judges were presented with two wines, each judge Their Stated preference and one wine was Eliminated.  3 With judges there could not be a tie.When this was completed there was a break for lunch.  After lunch it was the same except there were 5 judges, again two wines were presented and one was eliminated.

    Cernilli called the judging to " winebledon " with direct challenges in couples, like a tennis match, mixed and uneven Evaluated by juries.   

    After this segment was over the votes were tallied and there were 8 finalists.

    The third day was the official announcement of the winners and the award ceremony.  Listed below are the eight finalists in order.  The first three wines were Stephen Schwartz wins medals.

    Pinot Grigio Alto Adige "Punggl" DOC 2013   Nals Margreid   Trentino Alto Adige # 1

     Pinot Grigio Copper (copper) "Gossip" 2013 IGT   Venezia Gulia Di Lenardo Friuli Venezia Giulia Harvest is by hand. The grapes are Placed in a tank for 18 hours of skin maceration. Then the skins are separated and the must is Transferred to temperature- controlled steel fermentation vats. The wine is on the lees before bottling. For the whole process oxygen does not come in contact with the wine in order to preserve the color. The wine Has a light copper color with luminescent clarity. The aromas include wild strawberry , elderberry, hay and dried roses with hints of dried fruits and almond. robust There is a balance of fruit and crisp acidity. It is closed with a composite cork DIAM. 20,000 bottles were produced. I described how this wine Because Has the 'copper 'color. # 2              

    Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC 2013   I Magredi   Friuli Venezia Giulia.  This wine of the final eight was Given the award for best value for the money.  # 3

    Eastern Hills Pinot Grigio Friuli DOC 2013   Torre Rosazza   Friuli Venezia Giulia.

    Pinot Grigio Collio "Jesera" DOC 2013   Venica Venica &   Friuli Venezia Giulia.


    Alto Adige Pinot Grigio Castel Ringberg "DOC 2013   Trentinio Alto Adige Elena Walch  

    Pinot Grigio Friuli DOC 2013 Eastern Hills   of Friuli Venezia Giulia The dropped restricted  

    Pinot Grigio Friuli DOC Colli Orientali   Company Perusini Perusini Teresa of   Friuli Venezia Giulia

    Three of my favorite producers were in this group: Di Leonardo, Venica & Venica and Elena Walch

    There was a special category for wines with residual sugar exceeding 9g / l.  winner was The 2013 Cuvee Pinot Gris AAC Saine Chatherine Weinbach Faller France.     

    Looking back over the wines That I chose all of them were from the Friuli Venezia Giulia and Alto Adige.Daniele Cernilli confirmed That I voted for the number one rated wine. 

     

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    CHARLES'S WINES. Sardinia’s Favorite Red: Cannonau

    20% of all the wine produced on Sardinia is Cannonau di Sardegna. It is believed that the Spanish introduced the Cannonau grape variety to the island and today it is the most planted red grape variety. 
     

    It is interesting to note that in France, this same variety is known as Grenache and it was also
    introduced there by the Spanish, who call the variety Alicante. This is the general accepted theory, though some experts argue that it is native to Sardinia. 
     

    Cannonau di Sardegna Rosso wine can be produced all over Sardinia as a DOC but the grapes grow best on the warm sandy soils of the coastline and on the harsh rocky terrain of the mountainous interior.  Cannonau is the principal grape variety in the wine but other recommended varieties can be added. It can be produced as a Rosso, which must be aged for at least 7 months and have an alcoholic content of at least 12,5%.  To be labelled a Riserva, the Rosso must be aged for at least two years and have an alcohol content of at least 13%. A Rosato, which has a bright rose color, can also be produced, as well as two dessert wines, Licoroso Secco and Licoroso Dolce.
     

    Cannonau Rosso is a robust, full bodied wine with deep color and aromas and flavors of berries, hints of spice and high alcohol content. Sardinians enjoy it with a wide variety of foods including hearty soups, meats and cheese. It is a perfect match with a bowl of Chick Pea Minestrone Soup.  

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Venice, La Serenissima



     

    As we approached Venice by water taxi I was struck once again by how magical and dream-like this ancient city is with its picturesque canals, graceful bridges and beautiful architecture.

    The taxi docked right beside a café and restaurant that looked as if it would be an ideal spot to have breakfast called the l’Ombra del Leone. When we returned the next morning, the place was empty although the outdoor seating was the perfect place to watch the gondolas participating in the celebration of the Festa e Regata della Sensa, an annual event. Among the boats was an ornate one called theBucintoro used by the Doge, the leader of Venice. The mayor, replacing the Doge of old, throws a gold ring overboard to symbolize Venice’s marriage to the sea. Yes, Michele and I agreed as we sipped cappuccino and ate our cornetti, Venice is a magical city and full of surprises around every corner.

    The Restaurants We Enjoyed



    Zucchini Flowers

    Ai Gondolieri is a meat lover’s restaurant in a city surrounded by water and known for its seafood. The restaurant began as an old inn where locals could go to eat simple meats, drink a glass of wine and play cards. Today it has become a refined, quiet restaurant with excellent service and food. I had perfectly fried zucchini flowers to begin and then slices of calf’s liver on Venetian polenta, which was wonderful.



    Calf’s Liver

    With dinner we had a wine that I have been drinking for many years, the VillaCapezzana Carmignano 2008 DOCG made from 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Canaiolo.

    IMG_5575The hillside vineyards are at 150 to 200 meters and the exposure is south, southeast and southwest. The soil composition is shale and the harvest is in mid September. Vinification is in steel tanks and the wine is aged in 25HL Allier barrels for 10 months. It remains in bottle another 3 months before release.

    Pensione, Restaurant Wildner  I posted pictures of Venice on Facebook while we were there and a friend, Faith Willinger, who lives in Florence and is a noted cookbook and travel writer saw them. She wrote that I should go to this “fantastic restaurant” and that “the wine list will blow you away.” She added that we should ask for Luca Fullin, the son of the owner who is responsible for the wine list. With a recommendation like this we just had to go. The restaurant is right on the Grand Canal and there is out door dining.

    Pasta with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers

    Pasta with Zucchini and Zucchini Flwers

    We introduced ourselves to Luca and told him that Faith highly recommended the restaurant to us.

    We discussed the extensive wine list and I found a wine I had never had before from one of my favorite producers, the Cerasuolo di Abruzzo Rosato which is a Rose from Emidio Pepe 2012 vintage made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo . The grapes are vinified as if it was a “white wine” and are pressed by “foot” and the must is fermented without the skins. It was one of the best Rose wines that it has ever been my pleasure to drink.

    IMG_5597

    The wine was an excellent combination with pasta with zucchini and zucchini flowers to start followed by seppie (cuttlefish) in a black ink sauce and peas with grilled polenta.

    Fiaschetteria Toscana This restaurant began as a Tuscan wine shop where products from Tuscany were sold. It later became a trattoria and in 1983 a restaurant. Michele and I have been coming here for a number of years.

     

    It has a very nice dining room and two upstairs rooms for larger parties and outdoor dining in a small piazza just across the street. I ordered the moleche, which are baby soft shell crabs. They were crisp and full of flavor and I order them whenever I can. We ended with Michele’s favorite, wild strawberries with crema gelato.

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  • Return to Fiorano


     About a year ago, I visited Alessia Antinori at the Fiorano estate just outside of Rome. The estate has been in disrepair since the death of her grandfather, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, prince of Venosa.  For the fascinating background to this story and how Alessia and her two sisters came into possession of half of the estate see      “Fiorano Wine Estate in Italy Making a Comeback” by Eric Asimov in the New York Times 

    IMG_3192

    When I visited Alessia had just began to restore the property and it looked like she had a long way to go

    IMG_3178

    Alessia Antinori

    This year, Michele and I were in Rome once again and Alessia invited us to visit the winery and have lunch with her. The winery is across the road from Rome’s Ciampino airport just 20 minutes from the center of Rome by taxi (just 30 Euros — they now have fixed fares to the airports in Rome).  Alessia picked us at the airport and in a few minutes we were at the winery

    Alessia had done a lot of work since my previous visit. All of the buildings had been restored and the winery was up and running. The vineyards were all planted in orderly rows and there was a very large organic vegetable garden which we toured.  Alessia’s grandfather had taken very good care of the land and believed in organic farming. Alessia said she was following in her grandfathers’ footsteps.

    We sat down to lunch under the warm May sun; it was difficult to believe that we were so close to Rome.  We discussed her plans for the winery and of course the wine.

    The Garden

    The Garden

    She said that she has turned part of the property into a country retreat for Romans who want to leave Rome during the warmer months. They can come for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She calls it Cucina Aperta. The guests can go to the vegetable garden and pick the vegetables that they want to eat and it will be prepared by the kitchen. So far it was all working out very well.

    The soil at the estate is very special, Alessia said, volcanic with mineral salts and excellent for growing anything and grazing sheep.  She said that the shepherds liked to bring their sheep there to graze and the sheep would become fatter and darker in color because of what they ate, and the dust from the soil would stick and make them almost black in color.  Her grandfather grew wheat and was very fanatical about it.  He cultivated a “mother” from the natural yeasts in the area in order to make his own bread.

    The conversation turned to the wine and Alessia said that she wanted to make wine the way her grandfather did.

    The Vines

    The Vines

    This was very good news to me since, as many of you know, Fiorano Rosso made by her grandfather may well be my favorite red wine.  Alessia said that there were 14 hectares planted with vines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Semillon and Malvasia del Lazio. They are divided by hectares and the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Semillon are vines which come from a “massal’ selection (propagation) from the old vines. There are four rows of Cabernet Sauvignon and four rows of Merlot of the “old vines” (Vigna Storica vines more that 40 years old).  As for the historic Semillon, she said that they were supplied to her by “the brother of my grandfather’s assistant who lives on the estate and still has a few rows.”

    Among these old vines were some plantings of Cabernet Franc, which Alessia thinks her grandfather used for the Fiorano, but is not 100% sure. The 2010, 2011 and 2012 Fiorano Rosso vintages were vinified at her father (Piero Antinori’s) estate in Umbria.  The 2013 is the first vintage to be vinified here. The 2010 (800 bottles produced) will not be released until 2014 or 2015.

    Pasta for Lunch

    Pasta for Lunch

    With the excellent lunch we drank Fioranello a lively, fresh red wine made from young vines that went very well with the food. Alessia referred to this as her second label.

    Up until now they are using different barrels including tonneaux to vinify and age the wine because they do not have enough wine to fill a large cask or a concrete tank.IMG_3181

    This year the Fioranello was vinified in two concrete tanks and aged in two medium sized casks. The Fiorano made from the Vigna Storica was aged this year in tonneaux for reasons of space.  All of this may change in the future.  Alessia, by her passion for her grandfather’s estate  and the wine that he produced made it clear that this was her project and she would be the one involved in all aspects of it. I look forward  to tasting and drinking  Alessia’s first  vintage of Fiorano rosso.

     

     

     

  • The Wines of Zuani


     It is very unusual to discover a winery that produces only two wines--both from the same white grapes.  The name of this unique winery is Zuani. Patrizia Felluga, the daughter of the legendary producer, Marco Felluga, is the owner.  I met Patrizia a few years ago when I was working as a sommelier and though I liked her wines, I did not know much about the winery.



    A few months ago Patrizia’s children Antonio and Caterina invited me to lunch to taste their new vintages and to tell me about the winery.  They said that they and their mother had looked for many years to find the perfect vineyard site.  Finally in 2001 they found a 30-acre vineyard whose soil and climate along with the grape varieties would produce a wine, as Antonio put it, “similar to a cru.”

    Caterina said that it is named Zuani because of a geographic name found on an ancient map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The estate is set in the hills of Giasbana in the municipality of San Fioriano del Collio – also known as Collio Goriziano.

    Antonio told me that the vineyards, all sustainably maintained, are situated on a medium to steep slope with marl and mineral soil.  This mineral rich but poor soil produces well structured age-worthy wines.  Collio’s mild climate and proximity to both the Adriatic Sea and the Alps create a vast difference in the nighttime and day temperatures allowing for a long ripening season.

     

    Friuli is a region that is known for its single variety wines, but at Zuani they created a blend from indigenous Friulano grapes plus international ones, which they feel thrive in this region.  Antonio made it clear that their winery was the first in the region to follow the “cru” concept.  All of the grapes come from a single vineyard, where Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon thrive.

     

    The Wines

    Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco  DOC 2011

    2009 and 2007 made from Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc. The percentage of each variety depends on the vintage. Each variety is vinified separately. Cold maceration takes place and fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine matures in stainless steel vats until it is ready to be bottled. This is a soft but complex wine with nice fruit, mineral notes and good acidity. It has a long finish and a pleasing aftertaste.  I liked all three vintages. The 2011 needed more but the 2009 and 2007 were drinking very well. $22


    Zuani Zuani Collio Bianco Riserva 2010

    2009 and 2008 Grapes- same as above. Cold maceration is followed by maturing in small new French oak barrels with the daily stirring of the lees in the beginning and then weekly. The main difference in the two wines is the grapes for the Zuani Zuani are picked later and it is aged in wood. This gives the wine more concentrated flavors, with hints of citrus fruit, a touch of vanilla and a roundness and fullness that results in a very long finish and lingering aftertaste. This is a white wine that can age. At the lunch, the 2009 was showing the best. $30

    It is also very rare these days when one can taste a wine and say it must be from a certain region.  Tasting and drinking these wines I knew that they were from Friuli!

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