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Articles by: Charles Scicolone

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    All About Chianti At Maialino Restaurant

    I have not been to Tuscany in a few years and every so often I get a longing for Sangiovese, which is at its best in Chianti. I had the chance to satisfy that longing, albeit in New York, when I was invited by the Consorzio Vino Chianti to taste and drink the wine of six Chianti producers at Maialino Restaurant.  Chianti and Porchetta, I thought, how could I resist?

    The Consorzio Vino Chianti was established in 1927 by a group of wine producers in the provinces of Pistoia , Siena, Arezzo and Florence. Later the Consorzio expanded to cover the whole production area covered by the DOCG. Now the Chianti production area is located in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence. Pisa, Pistoia,Prato and Siena. Chianti wines are designated as: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montalbano, Rufina, and the last added in 1997 Montespertoli.  In addition is the return of the Chianti “Superiore” which can come from anywhere in the Chianti wine area with the exception of the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena. Superiore cannot have a name of an area on the label. There is also the Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale which is a DOC and permits in the Chianti DOCG area the production of wines of a different quality from Chianti which include reds, whites, roses, novello and Vin Santo . I believe this is all very confusing to the average consumer.

    Grape varieties for Chianti:

    A minimum of 70% Sangiovese – 30% of other grapes, with a maximum of 10% of white grapes varieties and 15% for Cabernets.

    The wines

    Chianti DOCG 2009 “I Sodi del Paretaio” Badia di Morrona Made from 85% Sangiovese/15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The grapes were mainly machine-picked in late September and early October. Eight days of maceration and aged for ten months in stainless-steel or concrete vats.

    Chianti DOCG 2009 “Gabbiano” Castello di Gabbiano Made from 90% Sangiovese/10% other red grapes in the area. Location of vineyards- San Casciano Val di Pesa. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks, maceration on the skins for ten days with pumping over three times a day. Aged for three months in stainless steel tanks before it is released.

     

    Chianti DOCG 2009 “Borghi D’ Elsa” Fattorie Melini Made from 85% Sangiovese Grosso ,15% Canaiolo, Merlot and two white grapes, Malvasia and Trebbiano. Location: In the heart of the Chianti region alongside the Elsa River Valley. With controlled fermentation for about 10 days with frequent remontages. This is the interesting part: A small percentage of the grapes, which have over-ripened on the vines, are placed in vinificators containing a previously fermented product, starting up again the fermentation of fresh grapes on wine already made. This very slow and steady refermentation renders (according to the producer) a “rich” result, well structured and of exceptional complexity, which is put into what will be the finished wine.

     This sounds a little like the “governo method” which was very common in Chianti a number of years ago.

    10 % of the grapes were taken out and dried and then added to the “fresh” wine. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 3 months and a short time in bottle before it is released.

    Chianti DOCG 2008 “San Lorenzo” Fattorie Melini Made from 85% Sangiovese Grosso and 15% Canaiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Location- San Lorenzo a vineyard area that is pare of Melini’s Gaggiano di Poggibonsi farm. The vines are planted on slops rising 300m with a combination albarese and albarese soil. The “well ripened “ grapes “ are picked in October, there is a 3 to 4 day cold pre-fermentation maceration at a controlled temperature with frequent remontages and a short aging period

    partly in steel tanks and a small part in medium wooden barrels.

     

    Chianti DOCG 2009 Piccini Made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Ciliegiolo Location Chianti, Tuscany. Soil-clay and rocks. There is a long fermentation and afterward there is a second fermentation induced by adding a selection of withered Sangiovese grapes that is known as the “governo method” – Governo All’Uso Tuscano.  10 to 15% of must from the grapes gathered before the harvest are partially dried on reed trays known as cannici, or wicker frames called castelli and added to the wine before the end of December.  This is a traditional Tuscan method that is not used today by many producers.

     

    Chianti DOCG 2009 Ruffino A minimum of 75% Sangiovese plus other varieties like Canaiolo and Colorino. Alcoholic fermentation takes place for two weeks aided by racking and punching down in stainless steel and concrete vats. The wine is aged for 4 four months in stainless steel vats and 1/2 months in bottle before it is released. This wine is a great buy at $10

     

    Chianti Superiore DOCG 2008 Ruffino Made from a minimum of 75% Sangiovese and other varieties such as Canaiolo and Colorino. Location- Best location within the Chianti area. Chianti Superiore’s code of production limits the maximum yield at 7.5 tons per hectare, the same as Chianti Classico but the grapes can come from any place in Chianti (except the Classico area). Superiore is created by a careful selection of the best grapes during harvest. The harvest began in the end of September and lasted to the middle of October. Alcoholic fermentation took place in stainless steel vats for about two weeks, post fermentative maceration continued on the skins for seven days. The wine was aged in stainless steel vats for 7 months and in bottle for three months before it was released.

    Vin Santo

     

    Vin Santo Del Chianti DOC 2006 Badia Di Morrona Location of Vineyards Terricciola (Pisa) Made from 70% Trebbiano, 15 % Malvasia Bianca and 15% Colombana. The selected grapes hang from the ceiling to wither in a dry and ventilated loft until January.  The wine spends 3 years in caratelli- -Tuscan 112 liter oak barrels.

    Vin Santo Del Chianti 2003 “Chiacchierata Notturna” Castelvecchio Location of Vineyards San Casciano Val di Pese Made from 70 Trebbiano and 30% Sangiovese The best bunches of grapes are selected in September and hang to dry until December in order to get a high sugar content. The wine is aged for 5 years in caratelli made of oak and a minimum of 3 months in bottle before it is released. This wine was drinking very well.

    I was happy to see that the producers were using traditional grapes for the most part.  I liked all the wines with their bright fruit hints of violet, good acidity and the aroma of sunshine on the Tuscan pines. The ones that went best with the food were: the Piccini, both of the wines from Ruffino and the Melini “San Lorenzo”. They went well with the Bombolotti all’Amatriciana and the Porchetta. We finished the meal with Vin Santo and cantucci -- a perfect Tuscan ending to a wonderful evening.

    Anthony Giglio, wine writer and educator, was the speaker for the event.

    All of the wines sell for under $20

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Ruffino Riserva Ducale 80th Anniversary Vintage

    With the release of the 2007 vintage this year, The Ruffino Winery is celebrating 80 years of Riserva Ducale dating back to 1927. The history of the winery goes back to 1877 when it was founded by the cousins Ilario and Leopold Ruffino. The winery was sold to the Folonari family in 1913 and it became the first Chianti Classico imported to the United States in the same year.

    Riserva Ducale is named in honor of the Italian Duke of Aosta who selected Ruffino’s Chianti Stravecchio as his official court wine in the late19th century. Ruffino dedicated the first vintage of Riserva Ducale (the Duke’s Reserve) to honor his patronage. It is interesting to note that it is the only Chianti permitted to bear “riserva” in its proper name.

    I was invited by Adolfo Folinari to Locanda Verde in NYC to celebrate “Ruffino Riserva Ducale 80th Anniversary Vintage”. Chef Andrew Carmellini, inspired by the occasion produced, an authentic contemporary Tuscan menu . The first dish was Quail in Porchetta with Fig Agrodolce. It was paired with the 2007 and 2006 Ruffino Riserva A Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG.  Adolfo said that 2006 was a better vintage than 2007. The 2007 was young and fruity with hints of cherry and spice. The 2006 was more complex and well balanced with good acidity. It had aromas and flavors of red berries and hints of spice and tobacco with a nice finish and aftertaste.

    Both wines are made from 80% Sanviovese/20% combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These grapes come from the vineyards of Ruffino’s Santedame, Montemasso and Gretole Estates. The soil is typical of the Chianti area, primarily clay with an abundance of galestro rock. The grapes are handpicked in late September – middle of October. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks aided by racking and punching down, for about 10 days. The maceration on the skins continues for another 10 days. After completing malolatic fermentation the wine is aged for 24 months, part in 40/80 hl oak barrels and part in stainless steel/concrete vats. It is aged another 3 months in bottle.

    The next course was Strozzapreti with Cinghiale, Juniper and Brussel Sprouts. This was paired with the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classical Riserva 2000 and the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro 90. The grapes for the 2000 are 90% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Alcoholic fermentation took place for 2 weeks and maceration on the skins continued for another 2 weeks. After completing malolatic fermentation the wine was aged in stainless steel vats for a brief period and then in 40/80 hl oak casks for about 24 months. It then was kept for a period in the bottle before release.  

    The Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro 1990 . 90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo and 3% Malvasia. The grapes are from the Montemasso Estate located near San Polo in Chianti, and the Santedam Estate near Castellina in Chianti and also other selected vineyards. This is hilly land with poor soil of a mixture of clay and sand, rich in limestone and galestro (rocks). The alcoholic fermentation took place in glass painted cemented tanks for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentative maceration on the skins for another six days. After completing malolatic fermentation the wine was aged for a minimum of 24 months in 80hl Slovenian oak casks and then in stainless steel tanks. The 2000 had mature red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of violets and spice.  The 1990 was made without any international grapes and with one white grape. It had the typical hint of violets with mellow red fruit and a touch of spice. It had a very long finish and a great after taste. 20 years old and it was not showing its age!

    The last course was cheese: Pecorino Ora Antico and the wine : Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro 1985 made from 90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo and 3%Malvasia (White grape) These grapes came from the Montemasso Estate and other selected vineyards. Aging as above.  The 1985 was the wine of the afternoon for me. It reminded me of Tuscany – sunshine on the Tuscan pines was my first impression and it just was everything I wanted in older Chianti.

    The Riserva Ducale was first produced in 1927.  The first release of the Riserva Ducale Oro was in 1947.

    A few years ago a friend came over for dinner and brought with him a bottle of Riserva Ducale Oro He wanted us to taste it and guess the vintage. Everyone there was involved with wine and had experience with older Chianti. Someone guessed 1990, another 1982, another 1958 – not because it looked or tasted old but because 1958 was a great year. We were all wrong -- the wine was the 1947. Sheldon Wasserman in his classic book “Italy’s Noble Red Wines” 1985  states that the 1947 was made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo,10 % Malvasia and Trebbiano (white grapes),5% Colorino, Ciliegiolo and Cabernet (a first?) and it was made with the governo method. The use of the governo, a secondary fermentation created by the addition of dried grapes 10/15 % or the must of dried or concentrated grapes was traditional in Tuscany. Colorino was usually the grape of choice to be dried. He gave the wine four stars, his highest rating. 57 years old when we drank it!  Ruffino makes the longest lasting Chianti Classicos and the 1990 and 1985 were more proof that Chianti can age.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    A Conversation with Riccardo Illy on Wine

    My coffee of choice is Illy. I toured the Illycaffe factory in Trieste with Dr Ernesto Illy in 1996 and last spring went to the Università Del Caffè, a two day course given by Illy at the International Culinary Center in NYC.  So I was happy to have an opportunity to have dinner with Riccardo Illy and to taste the wines of brunello producer Mastrojanni which the company had acquired.  Robert Restaurant on the 9th floor of the Museum of Art and Design was the setting for the tasting and dinner.

    Riccardo gave me some background on the family business.  Francesco Illy, his grandfather, founded Illycaffe in 1933 and they produced coffee and chocolate.  Back then,  they even owned a farm near Trieste in Istria, but after WWII they lost it when Istria became part of Yugoslavia.  Riccardo said that after WWII his grandfather stopped producing chocolate and concentrated only on coffee. His father Ernesto Illy introduced Illy tea but discontinued it in the 1980’s.

    Riccardo is now the chairman of Gruppo Illy. He explained that Gruppo Illy has taken on a number of different quality brands: Domori- chocolate, Dammanna Freres- tea, and Agrimontana-fruit preserves, jams and confections, and the Montalcino estate of Mastrojanni.  He went on to say that with the addition of the Mastrojanni estate, he and the Illy family realized one of their dreams, to own a top-quality wine producer in their native Italy

    It was Riccardo‘s brother Francesco who began drinking Mastrojanni wines and going to Montalcino.  After many visits to the Montalcino area Francesco liked it so much that he wanted to buy land there. A Tuscan friend introduced him to a shepherd who wanted to sell his land and an old house. The property was next to the Mastrojanni Estate in the province of Siena, at the farthest southeastern edge of Montalcino, in the hillside town of Castelinuovo. Francesco brought the property and restored the house which became known as Le Ripi. Over time Francesco became friendly with the general manager of Mastrojanni, Andrea Machetti and he introduced him to the Mastrojanni family. In 2008 the Mastrojanni winery came up for sale and Francesco convinced the Illy family to buy it.

    Riccardo made it clear that they have only made small changes at Mastrojanni. They brought new barrels- but only large ones- which Riccardo pointed out are traditional for the area. They expanded the cellar, replanted where necessary, and redesigned the labels. Everything else remained the same including keeping Andrea Machetti on as general manager. In fact it was Mr. Machetti who insisted that the winery continue using the large traditional barrels associated with the great wines of Montalcino. He believes these grandi botti are the best way to emphasize the typical characteristics of Sangiovese Grosso and the specific local terroir. Riccardo made a special point of saying that barriques are never used. The wines are aged in large barrels ranging in size from 15-54 hectoliters. The size of the barrels fluctuates according to the characteristics of each lot.

    He went on to say that they depend on Mr.Machetti’s knowledge, experience and intuition when it comes to the wine.  Riccardo gave examples of Mr. Machetti’s intuition when it comes to the harvest. In 2005 Mr. Machetti decided to harvest in early September instead of October. This was the right choice and made it a great vintage for them.  2006 and 2007 was excellent weather and Riccardo thinks that they are both five star vintages. In 2008 it was cold in September and the ripeness of the grapes was not right. Then there was rain and many other producers harvested their grapes in early October. Mr Machetti felt that the grapes were still not ripe enough but believed warmer weather was on its way. It was and they were one of the last wineries in Montalcino to harvest the grapes. For them 2008 was another five-star vintage. In 2009 there was rain, sun, rain for most of September and October. Mr Machetti harvested 4-5 times in order to get the right ripeness.  Mr Machetti is aided in his work by the famous oenologist Maurizio Castelli.

    In 1975 when Mastrojanni was established there were fewer than 25 Brunello producers.  Today there are over 250. Riccardo said that the first vintage was in 1980 and that the winery became known for their classic Brunellos. I first encountered Mastrojanni wines at Vinitaly many years ago and have been enjoying their wine ever since.

    The first wine we tasted was the Rosso di Montalchino DOC 2008 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The wine is aged in 54 hectoliter Allier oak barrels for 6/7 months and another 3 months in bottle. The grapes are hand harvested for all their wines. The wine has aromas of fresh black and red berries with a hint of spice -- $25

    Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2004 100% Sangiovese Grosso. 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 -- $65

    Brunello di Montalcino “Vigna Schiena d’Asino” DOCG 2004 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Riccardo said that this is his favorite Brunello.  He said this is the oldest vineyard, 1 hectare, facing southeast. The average age of the vines is 35 years and it is less densely planted with low yields. The vineyard gets its name from its shape- reminding one of a donkey’s backside. This Brunello is only made in the best years. It is aged in Allier oak barrels of 15 hectoliters and aged in bottle for 9/12 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of spice, ripe red and black berries and a hint of tobacco with a long finish and great aftertaste. It will age for many years and was a perfect combination with the duck I had for dinner. $90

    Riccardo also said that he likes Brunello that has aged a number of years. He has found in the cellars wines going back 20 years and he has been drinking them.
     

    Mastrojanni in 1997 introduced a Super Tuscan “San Pio” IGT and it is still produced.  Made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon / 20% Sangiovese Grosso, it spends 18 months in French oak and small barrels. Riccardo was quick to point out that this is their only super Tuscan.

    In Tuscany there are regional regulations that say you must not cut down the forests. .Riccardo believes that trees help to absolve changes in the climate, provide fresh air and encourage the difference in temperature between night and day. While they are not certified organic, they follow organic principles and biological production standard when possible. This is why the new part of the cellar designed by  Riccardo’s brother Enesto Illy follows bio-architectural principles.

    I found Riccardo very interesting and knowledgeable about wine in general and the Mastrojanni winery in particular. In most cases when a traditional producer is bought by a “large company”,  the first thing that they do is to put the wine in barriques and make wine for the “international market”.  This was not the case with Illy, and in my opinion  they should be applauded for preserving the winery’s traditional way of making wine.

  • Sabrina Tedeschi and the Wines of Agricola F.lli Tedeschi

     It seemed as if the Veneto had come to NYC. There were Soave tastings, Amarone tastings, and Veneto product promotions at all the major Italian food stores.

    I was invited to SD26 Restaurant to meet Sabrina Tedeschi of the Tedeschi winery, one of the leading wineries in the Veneto.  It is a family run winery with a long history in the Veneto.  Renzo Tedeschi runs the winery with the help of his three children, Sabrina, Antonietta and Riccardo.  I have been a big fan of these wines for a number of years and was very happy to accept the invitation.

    Sabrina was informative and knowledgeable and we had a very relaxed and enjoyable evening discussing her wines, the winery and the Veneto in general.  Sabrina made the point that they were very traditional wine makers and used botti, large barrels made from Slovenia oak to age their wine.  They did not use barriques.  This was music to my ears and to my palate. We tasted and drank with dinner six wines. 

    The first wine that Sabrina Tedeschi presented was the Tenda Soave Classico Capitel 2009 100% Garganega.  Sabrina said that the grapes for this wine are 20 years and come from the oldest area of origin, that of the comune of Monteforte d’ Alpone. The vines are trained on the Pergola Veronese which is traditional in the Soave area. The grapes are harvested by hand at the beginning of October. The must has a brief contact with the skins and fermentation takes place for about six days in stainless steel tanks. The wine undergoes malolatic fermentation and is stored in these same tanks until bottled.  This is a well balanced wine with good fruit and acidity. It had more flavor and body then I expected with a nice finish and aftertaste. Sabrina believed that it should be drunk young within the first four years while it still has its fresh fruity flavors.

    Valpolicella Classical Lucchine DOC 2009 It is made from 25% Corvina, 25% Corvnione 30% Rondinella 10% Mollinara and 10% Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara and Dindarella.

     Lucchine is the name of the vineyard where the grapes are grown. The vineyard is located in the plains at the foot of the Pedemonte hills in the historic heart of the Valpolicella area. The vines are over 25 years old. The grapes are hand harvested at the beginning of October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Sabrina said that grapes were in contact with the skins briefly--only eight days. This was to insure that the wine would be fresh and fruity. After malolatic fermentation the wine spends the winter in stainless steel and is bottled in March and released one month later. This wine has fresh red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of cherries, and very good acidity. It is the type of Valpolicella that many producers do not make any more.

    I could see myself drinking it with fish on Lake Garda. In fact I could not stop drinking it. Sabrina said it was their every day wine
     

    Valpolicella Classico Superiore Capitel Nicalo Leggero Appassimento DOC 2006 Made from 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, and 10% Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara and Dindarella.

     The grapes are dried indoors in plastic creates for one month. Sabrina referred to this as “light drying.” The grapes lose between 8-10 % of their weight. She went on to say that this “light dehydration” enriches the sugar content of the grapes. Fermentation takes place in special small fermentation vats for 14 days. The must is pumped over during steeping to extract the maximum color, body and structure. The wine is then aged in 5000 liter Slavonia oak barrels for 14-16 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. Sabrina said the wine could age for 5- 8 years.

    Sabrina explained that their most important grape was the Corvina. It was the principal grape in Amarone because it dries so well. She also said that it must be blended with other grapes to be at its best.  This was part of a discussion on which grapes “dry” the best. As an aside she said that Cabernet Sauvignon could dry but made a wine that did not last. Merlot on the other hand did not take to drying at all.

    Valpolicella Capital San Rocco DOC 2006 – Vino di Rapasso. 
    The grapes are harvested by hand at the beginning of October. They are then pressed and the stems are removed and the must is placed into small fermentation vats. Fermentation takes place with steeping that lasts for 14 days. After malolatic fermentation, it goes into stainless steel tanks where spontaneous clarification takes place. The partially clarified wine, in March, is poured over Amarone marc (skins and stems).
     

    Sabrina went on to explain the Ripasso Method: Part of the Valpolicella Classico production from the preceding autumn goes into the same tanks that held the wine to be made into Amarone. The wine is removed but the marc (skins and stems) remain in the tank. The Valpolicella is then put into the same tanks – Ripasso=Passover.
     

     When the wine comes in contact with the amarone must ( skis and stems) it goes through another stage of slight alcoholic fermentation that lasts about 8/15 days. According to Sabrina this increases the alcohol content and structure of the wine, improving longevity. It also develops new aromas that create an interesting and complex bouquet. Then the wine is left to age for approximately 1-1/2 years in oak barrels before it is bottled. During this aging the wine acquires a balanced structure; new aromatic contents and its coloring substances are stabilize. The wine is bottled and released after 6 months.

     

    Amarone del Valpolicella DOC 2006.   Grapes--same as above

     
    Grapes are harvested by hand at the end of September/beginning of October, and are placed in plastic trays for drying. Drying is done inside in what Sabrina referred to as a fruttaio “fruit-drying facility” at controlled humidity and temperature. She went on the say that gray mold and Botrytis could be controlled in this way. This ensures that the bunches of grapes will be in good health at the end of the drying process (after about 4 months), and to make sure that everything is going well the grapes are periodically inspected during the drying period and especially during the first month. Grapes are more humid at the start of the process and consequently more subject to attack by mold. During January the grapes are gently pressed by a roller press. Fermentation takes place in steel vessels at a temperature of 15°C and with slow 40-day steeping. The wine does not undergo malolatic fermentation. At the end of fermentation the wine is put into Slavonia oak barrels where it remains for two/three years. At the end of this period of aging in the barrel the wine is bottled and refined in the bottle for 6 months before it is sold.

     

    Amarone della Valpolicella Classico  Capitel Monte Olmi  DOC 2005 Made from 30% Corvina,30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella  and 10% of Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella, Croatina and Forselina
    The grapes are harvested by hand at the end of September and the beginning of October, and are placed in a single layer of plastic trays. These are then placed in fruit-drying facility (at controlled humidity and temperature) and the grapes are left to dry for about 4 months. This partial dehydration of the grapes leads to a natural increase in their sugar content. There is also an enrichment of the wine's dry extract and an increase in the color. Elegant aromas are also formed during drying and blend with fermentation aromas and the tertiary aromas created during low-oxygen aging in oak barrels. These characteristics blend together to create a well-balanced wine with abundant bouquet and excellent body. Pressing takes place without destemming. The presence of stems during fermentation/steeping gives a softer and more permeable cap, preventing oxidation.

     Steeping lasts about 2 months, at the same cold (15°C) temperature as was used with fermentation. The wine is then transferred to Slavonia oak barrels for aging for more than 2 -1/2 years. During this period the wine rests on the skins and stems, and is cleaned of yeasts to give complexity to its structure and maintain its fresh and fruity aroma. Micro-oxygenation through the wooden staves helps create enduring color stability. Because of this process the wine does not go through malolatic fermentation. The wine, after aging in wood, is bottled and left to refine for 5-6 months, achieving a balanced aroma and flavor, before it is marketed. This is one of the best Amarones that I have tasted. It is a big, complex, full bodied wine with acidity. It has deep aromas of cherries, raspberries and hints of red currents. It has a very long finish and a great after taste. The wine will last for 20 years or more.

    Sabrina went on to explain that at the end of alcoholic fermentation they rack the amarone wine in a different stainless steel tank.  The fermented amarone grapes with the skins and stems are dry and not green like the grapes at the harvest time. The amarone stems and skins that remain in the tank are usually used for the ripasso vinification (Valpolicella refermented on the marc of amarone), but not the marc of Monte Olmi which is delivered to the distillery and produces a very specific Grappa.

    The marc of the other amarones after ripasso vinification is delivery to the distillery for the distillation as well as, according to Italian regulation.

    I asked Sabrina about the 2005 and 2006 vintages as it applied to the two amarones  we tasted. She said that they were both good vintages but very different. The 2006 is a fruity, more approachable wine with softer tannins which will be ready to drink much sooner  than the 2005. The 2005 is less fruity, with very rich tannins and has the greater aging potential. She described the 2005 as a full bodied amarone, very complex with hints of spice and mineral notes, but also elegant with a long finish and memorable aftertaste.

    I also asked her what were the current regulations for Amarone and this was her answer.  The present regulation for Amarone is the DOCG regulations (Decreto Legislativo 24 marzo 2010).  The grapes are the following:

    1.       Corvina from 45 to 95% (Corvinone may substitute Corvina for up to 50% of this amount)

    2.       Rondinella  5 - 30 %

    3.       Other authorized and recommended non-aromatic red varieties from Veronese area may be included for up  to 15% of the total. Of this amount, no more than 10% may be used of any single variety.

    4.       Other authorized autochthones Italian varieties permitted in the Verona area may be included up to 10% of the total.

    Molinara is now included in the group 3. Molinara was taken out in the previous regulations in 2007, as the grapes are characterized as having little color, low structure (opposite to the characteristic of Amarone ), but good minerality, good flavor  so it could helps to give some complexity to the wine.

    As this very enjoyable and informative evening was coming to an end, Sabrina mentioned a new estate that the family had recently purchased.. Because of its terrain and location she felt it was the perfect place to produce quality grapes. I thanked her and told her I look forward to drinking the wines from the new Materngo estate.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Wines from the Heel of the Italian Boot Come to NYC

    The beginning of fall marked the beginning of Puglia Wine Week in the US and producers from the heel of the Italian boot came here to present their wines.  Five cities were visited: Chicago, Houston, Los Angles, San Francisco and New York.

    In NYC a seminar and tasting with 20 producers from the different wine regions of Puglia--Daunia, Murge, Valle D’Itria, Messapia and Salento – was the first event. In order to make sure that consumers were able to taste these wines, many wine stores held tastings of the wines from these producers during the week.

    A welcome dinner at Mia Dona, a restaurant specializing in the food and wine of Puglia, was hosted by the owner, Donatella Arpaia. In addition, during the week 13 restaurants held wine and food dinners for the press each one hosted by a representative from a winery. Each producer presented four wines to be paired with Apulian dishes.

    In another program open to the public, Italian restaurants citywide created special Puglia-inspired menus for the week of September 27 to October 2. The menus were individually price-fixed and accompanied by an optional selection of Puglian wines from one of eight participating wineries which included Albea, Barsento, Cefalicchio, D’Alfonso del Sordo, Due Palme, Tormaresca, Vallone and Vigne E Vini.

    These were some of the wines which I especially liked with some comments.

    Agricole ValloneSalento - This producer presented their wines at restaurant l’Artusi

    and I was able to taste the wines here with dinner. The representative from the winery at the dinner was Giuseppe Malazzini.

    Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Rosato DOC 2009 – 70% Negroamaro, 30% Montepulciano, $16

    Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Riserva Rosso DOC 2006. Grapes: 70% Negoamaro, 20% Montepulciano and 10% Malvasia Nera di Brindisi. $16

    Graticciaia Salento Rosso IGT 2005. 100% Negroamaro . This is one of the most expensive wines from Puglia, $75, and worth the money. When I was working for an Apulian restaurant, I introduced this wine in NY. This is a very particular wine because the grapes are dried on straw mats (a play on the wine’s name) between 15-20 days in the sun and wind of Puglia. Mr. Malazzini made sure we understood that the grapes were not late harvest. He felt that drying the grapes in this way produced a very special wine and preserved the wines acidity. The wine was then aged for one year in new barriques and another in steel before it was released.

    Alberto Longo - Daunia - I met Alberto Longo in NYC in January at Vino 2010 and I tasted his wines with him at Keste Pizza and Vino in NYC.

    La Fossette Puglia Bianco IGT 2009. 100% Falanghina.  Alberto said that production area was in San Severo’ in Northern Puglia and the soil here was calcareous with loam texture. The wine is cold fermented in stainless steel tanks and the wine is kept on the lees for three months.

    Donnadele Puglia Rosato IGT 2009. 100% Negroamaro. The production area was in Lucera also in Northern Puglia and the soil type was the same. It is vinified in steel in steel vats skin contact between 4-8 hours.

     

    Cacc’eMmitte di Lucera DOC 2008. 55% Nero di Troia, 30% Montepulciano and 15% Bombino Bianco. The wine is aged in cement vats for 6 to 8 months and then in bottle before release.

    Vini Coppa d’Oro - Daunia

    Donna lliana Anima Puglia Bianco IGT 2009 - 100% Bombino Bianco

    Donna IIiana Ammalia Puglia Rosso IGT 2009 – 100% Nero di Troia

    TorreventoMurge

    Torre del Falcone Murgia Rosso IGT 2007- 100% Nero di Troia

     Ghenos Primitivo di Manduria DOC 2007- 100% Primitivo

     

    Apollonio- Salento This winery wine uses oak from America, France and Russia and ages one of its wines in acacia.

     Terragnolo Salento Rosso IGT 2004 – 100% Primitivo this wine was aged in large barrels (botti) made of American oak.

    Divoto Copertino Riserva Rosso DOC 2001- 70% Negroamaro and 30% Montepulciano

    This wine was aged 24 months in large barrels (botti) made of French oak. The wine was not showing its age and I believe it could last for a number of years.

    Albea – Valle D’Itria

    Il Selva Locorotondo Bianco DOC 2009 – 60% Verdeca, 35% Bianco di Alessano and 5% Fiano Minutolo. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and does not undergo maloactic fermentation.

    LUI Puglia Rosso IGT 2006 – 100% Nero di Troia. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks ans maceration on the skins for 16 to 18 days with regular pumping over. It is aged 10 months in Never, Allier and Troncais barriques.

     

    Conti Spagnoletti Zeuli Murge

    Castel del Monte Rosso DOC 2009 – Nero di Troia and Montepulciano

    Tormaresca – Murge – This winery is owned by Piero Antinori of Tuscan fame. The representative at the tasting from the winery was Peppino Palumbo, managing director and supervisor for cultivation.  He made it clear that “Our daily commitment is to the territory identity of Puglian wines.’’

    Bocca di Lupo Castle del Monte Rosso DOC 2006 – 100% Aglianico.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. The malolactic fermentation takes place in barriques made of French and Hungarian oak and the wine is aged in these same barrels for 15 months. It is aged another 12 months in bottle before it is released.

    Over all I was very pleased with the wines at the tasting and those I had with dinner at Mia Donna and L’Artusi. I have always liked the wines from Puglia and have been drinking them ever since I visited Puglia for the first time in 1983.

    There will be a full report on the wines, food and olive oil of Puglia when I return from my trip there in late November. I have not been there in three years and am looking forward to the trip after tasting these wines and seeing what else I can discover.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Taurasi: The Noble Red Wine Of Italy

     When I want to know anything about the wine and food of Naples and Campania, I ask Maurizio de Rosa.  I am not the only one to take advantage of his knowledge. Mr. de Rosa was born in Naples and his mother still lives there.  Marurizio is now the export manager for Feudi di San Gregorio, one of the leading producers in the region.

    I asked Maurizio, who is writing a book on Taurasi wines which will be out at the end of the year, to be the guest speaker at a tasting and lunch featuring Taurasi for the Wine Media Guild at Felidia Restaurant.  He agreed and said he would supply the wines and group the producers according to the vineyards where they sourced their grapes because, just like the crus in Barolo, different vineyards give a different character to the wine. There were 19 wines from 19 different producers.

    There are many great red grape varieties in Italy but three seem to stand out above the rest. They are Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico.  Aglianico finds its greatest expression in Taurasi in Campania and Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata. In fact Taurasi is produced less than 40 miles from Aglianico del Vulture.

     Aglianico was brought to Southern Italy by the Greeks and many believe that its name comes from “Hellenico”. Jeremy Parzen has an excellent article “Aglianico does not equal Ellenico” at dobianchi.com and Mr. de Rosa seemed to agree with his interpretation. Jeremy also has another article on the origin of the name “Taurasi”.

    Mr. De Rosa said the Aglianico grape thrives in vineyards of very high altitudes of 400 to 500 meters above sea level. The vineyards for Taurasi are located in the Province of Avellino. Total area is about 750 hectares of volcanic soil. He went on to say that the volcanic soil of the Taurasi region demonstrates the potential of the Aglianico grape as one of the best in Italy.

    Taurasi was awarded the DOC in 1970 and the DOCG in 1993. Taurasi must be aged for at least three years before it is released, with at least one year in wood. The Riserva must be aged at least four years. It must be at least 85% Aglianico and 15% of Piedirosso, Barbera and Sangiovese can be blended in. In my opinion the best is made from 100% Taurasi but I do not mind a little piedirosso being added.

    The five-star vintages of Taurasi that can still be found are: 1968,1977,1985,1987,1988,1990, 1993,1997,1999, 2001 and 2004.

    My favorite wines overall at the tasting came from producers that obtained grapes from vineyards in Castelvetere Sul Calore, Paternopoli, Castelfranco and Monteramarano.

    Maurizio said that most of the vineyards in this area were over 500 meters and it was the most homogeneous so that the terroir was very important.  Except for the Montemarano area which had a less southern exposure. There is clay soil here rich in piroplastiti. The grapes ripen later here and the harvest usually takes place in mid-November. The higher the altitude the more complex the wine and he pointed out that the grapes here are more vibrant with higher tannic expressions. I liked all five of the wines from this zone but the Perillo and Molettieri were really outstanding.

    Urciolo “Monte Faliesi” 2005 (Castevetere) $45

    Perillo 2003 (Castelfranci) $60

    Boccella 2005 (Castelfranci) $56

    Molettieri  “Cinque Querce” 2005 (Monteramarano) $55

    Castello dei Monaci “Monaco Rosso” 2003 ( Monteramarano) $?

    These grapes from the vineyard from Pietradefusi,Torre Le Nocelle, Venticano, Montemietto and Montefalcione were at elevations of 300-500 meters. The soil has a clay component and co-exists with marly limestone layers in lose layers. More extreme hydrostress.  The harvest here is early and is normally completed by the middle of October. I liked four wines from this zone.

    D’Antiche Terre 2004 (Pietradefusi) $95

    Villa Raiano 2005 (Venticano) $50

    Cantina Crogliano “Santo Stefano” 2002 (Montefalcione) $?

    Romano Clelia “Vigna Andrea” 2005( Lapio) $43

    Producers harvesting from vineyards in Mirabella Eclano, Fontanarosa, Sant’Angelo All’Esca and Taurasi. The vineyards are 350-500 meters from Mirabella Eclano to Fontanarosa respectively.  It is a more diversified zone. The soil here is clay with layers of limestone and sand but there is a difference in the various terroir and therefore the style of the producer is more important in this zone.

    From this zone I liked two wines

    Lonardo “Contrade di Taurasi” 2001 (Taurasi) $70, this is a big wine and my favorite of the tasting.

    Di Prisco (Fontanarosa) $?

     Mixed Areas -The grapes for these wines came from two different zones for example the Di Meo Riserva 2001 has grapes from the Taurasi and Montemarano zones. $38

    When we sat down to lunch besides drinking what was left of the Taurasi, we had the Feudi San Gregorio “Campanaro” 2007. It is mostly Fiano di Avellino with a small amount of Greco di Tufo $ 45. It went very well with the first course.

    Mr. de Rosa, with the use of slides and his vast knowledge of the Aglianico grape and of Taurasi in particular, gave a truly interesting and informative presentation.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    22 Italian Wines for Under $20

    Best Buys – 22 wines under $20

    At one of the seminars at Vino 2010, the person next to me said, “It is impossible to get a good Italian wine for under $20.00.”  This got me thinking.  Often, maybe too often, I write about very expensive and very old wines, but I do not drink these wines every day. I like expensive older wines, but the price of a wine does not impress me. I would rather drink a $12 traditionally made wine than one that costs 20 times as much and tastes like every other wine. It is the style of the wine that is important to me -- not the price.
     

    Here is a list of 22 wines all under $20 that I would drink instead of a number of more expensive wines. Remember you do not have to pay a lot of money for wine to drink well.

    Nino Franco Prosecco Valdobbiadene “Rustico”  NV  D.O.C. 100% Prosecco (After April 2010 the area is Prosecco and the grape is Glera) Fresh citrus aromas and  flavors  with good bubbles. In the Veneto, Prosecco is always served in a white wine glass.  Veneto $19.  

    Cantina di Soave- Rocca Sveva Soave Classico DOC Made from 100% Garganega . This is a wine has citrus notes a hint of lemon and good acidity.  Veneto $15

    di Lenardo Vineyards  Grave Del Friuli

    1. TOH! Da Uva Friulano- Friulano Friuli D.O.C. Grave, 100% Friuliano (Tocai).  It is a soft well balanced wine. Friuli, under $15

    2. Sauvignon I.G.T. Venezia Giulia, a vine blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre clones, aromatic  with aromas and flavors of sage and melon. Well balanced with good acidity. Friuli ,under $15

    3. Pass the Cookies I.G.T. (Great name for a dessert wine) Venezia Giulia 100% Verduzzo. Harvested late and dried three months on the racks. Dried fruit aromas and flavors with undertones of caramel. It is a 500ml but still a great deal for under. Friuli, under $15


    Feudi San San Gregorio Falanghiana  DOC  Made from 100% Falanghiana  The wine has  aromas of apple and a hint of pineapple with  citrus and minerals in  the aftertaste. Campania $19

    Albino Armani  Foja Tonda-Casetta DOC Terradeiforti  100% Foja Tonda(aka Casetta) It has aromas of cherries, spices, dry plums and an undertone of leather. Well balanced with good acidity, along finish and pleasing aftertaste. ( Veneto) $19.99

    Renato Ratti Barbera d’Alba “Torriglione” DOC Made 100% Barbera, Good fruit with aromas of plum with a nice spiciness in the mouth and good acidity. This is a wine that will age for at least 10 years.  Piedmont $19

    Cantina Lungarotti Rubesco  Rosso di Torgiano D.O.C. Made from 70% Savgiovese and 30% Canaiolo.   Red fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of violets, long finish and a red fruit aftertaste. I had the 2005 a few nights ago and it was showing no signs of age. Umbria $14

    Azienda Agricola Travignoli Villa Travignoli Chianti Rufina D.O.C.G.   100% Sangiovese.  It has aromas and flavors of red fruit, and real sangiovese character. Tuscany $15

    Ruffino Chianti DOCG made from 75% Sangiovese and the rest from traditional grapes such as Canaiolo and Colorino.  The wine has fresh red berry aromas and flavors, good acidity and a touch of tannin. Tuscany $10

    San Fabiano   Chianti DOCG Made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% of other grapes. It had aromas and flavors of cherries, some tannin and good acidity.  Tuscany $15

    Masciarelli

    1. Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo D.O.C. Citrus aromas and flavors with undertones of apple.  Abruzzo, $13

    2. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo D.O.C. Red berry aromas and flavors, a hint of cherry and a touch of tobacco,.Abruzz0 $13

    Cusumano  Benuara  70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Syrah, Sicily I.G.T. Aromatic with red and black fruit . Usually I do not like Nero d’Avola blended with Syrah, but the wine is in stainless steel and 20hl barrels and it works very well. Sicily $15-18

    Sella and Mosca Cannonau Riserva  di Sardegna D.O.C. 100% Cannonau.  Good red fruit with hints of spices and herbs and very earthly. Sardinia   $15 

    Agricole Vallone Vigna Flamino  Riserva Brindisi Rosso D.O.C. Mostly Negroamaro with Malvasis Nrea and Moltipulicano.  Red fruit aromas and flavors with a under tones of prune. Puglia $15

    Cantina Sociale Cooperativa Copertino  Copertino Riserva D.O.C. 95% Negroammaro and 5% Malvasia Nera  Black and red fruit aromas and flavors with hint  a of  tobacco. Puglia $15

    Conti Zecca Nergroamaro Salento D.O.C. 100% Negroamaro, aromas and flavors of red fruit with a hint of prune, Puglia $15

    Cantina Vincenzo Ippolito Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Colli del Mancuso DOC Made from 100% Gaglioppo. Very traditional, Southern Italian wine, with hints of dry fruit and a very nice finish and aftertaste.  Calabria $17.

    Lini  Lambrusco “LaBrusca” IGT Made from Lambrusco  Salamino and Ancllotta grapes. Vinified in the Charmat Metohod and aged in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for at least 3 months. It I low in alcohol with good acidity. Fresh red berry fruit aromas and flavors and one of the best Lambruco’s to have with food

    Vietti Cascinetta Moscato d’ Asti 100% Moscato Bianco.DOC  It is fresh and light slightly sparkling(fizzante) with aromas and flavors of peaches and apricots. This wine is low in alcohol which makes it perfect  wine to end a meal. Try it over fruit salad or Italian style ices. $16 Piedmont

    There are many more I could list, but these were the first 22 that came to mind and I will add to the list in the future.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Fancy Food Show. So Much Food and Very Little Wine

    I look forward to going to the Fancy Food Show every year especially in recent years since Italy has a much greater presence at the event. Walking down the aisles sampling so many different Italian food products is “almost” like being in Italy. But what is Italian food without Italian wine? This year there were a number of wine producers from the different regions of Italy and I wanted to visit as many as possible.

    Thought there were producers from Piedmont and the Veneto, most of them seemed to be from Southern Italy. Most of these wines are not imported to the U.S. and they were at the Fancy Food Show to find importers. What made it interesting to me was that I was able to taste wines I have never tasted before and to meet producers I did not know existed.

    These are some of the producers I visited:

    Roberto Sarotto (Piedmont) - they produce a wide range of wines including: Langhe Arneis, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, Barbaresco and Barolo. Their most traditional Barolo is the “Sarotto”. It is interesting to note that for the Barbaresco and Barolo they dry 5% of the grapes.

    Azienda Vitivinicola Vicenzo Polito (Campania) produces a number of wines made from the Fiano and Aglianico grapes

    Cantine Manimurci (Campania) They make a range of wines including Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino and Taurasi.

    Pevin (Sicily) The make a large range of wines including Insolia, Nero d’Avola, Cerasuolo di Victoria and Frappato.

    Palazzo della Vittoria  (Veneto) They make a number of wines including Pinot Grigio, Valpolicella Ripasso, and Amarone della Valpolicella.

    I do not think that many people at the show knew that there was wine. It seemed to me that it was the Italian section that had most of the wine.  However I did see a few wine importers at the show.  But most people seemed more interested in the food than the wine. I guess that is why they call it the Fancy Food Show.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Savoring Soave II. The Wineries and the Wines

    Bruno Trentini, general manager of Cantina di Soave, handed me an envelope and said, as a joke, that it did not contain soldi (money).   “But take it anyway because it is something you will enjoy.”

     I assumed (which is always a mistake) that the other journalists in our group had received the same letter and when I went up to my room I put it away and forgot about it.

    On Sunday we were going to the Castello Scaligero in Soave to attend a ceremony and induction into the Imperial Castellania Di Suavia, a worldwide women’s organization that praises “il Vino Bianco Soave”. The members are persons who love good wine and good food.  When we arrived, we found a band of costumed musicians playing medieval music and a coordinated flag throwing demonstration.  Many attendees also wore  Medieval attire.
     

     Three Italian women were being inducted into the organization when Jonathan, the organizer of the trip, whispered in my ear to ask, “Can you make a short thank you speech in Italian?”  Before I could ask him what for, I heard my name being announced  

    and very nice things being said about me. As I made my way toward the stage I realized that the Society was inducting me as “Capitano Spadarino”, protector of the Women and of the Castle for my contributions to Italian wine and food and Soave in particular.  They presented me with a spadarino, or short sword on an embroidered sash. That was what the letter in the envelope would have explained if I had taken the time to read it.  Yes, I did thank them in Italian and it is all on tape!

    One of the highlights of my visit to Soave was a tasting in a vineyard arranged by Giovanni Ponchia, the enologist from the Soave consortium and our guide. We tasted 20 wines while looking at the vines growing on the Pergola Veronese. The wines were Soave Classico and Soave Classico Superiore and all single vineyards. The first 14 were Soave between tuff (a type of rock made from volcanic ash or dust) and basalt (volcanic rock, fine-grained that is usually black in color) and the last 6 Soave in black soil and white soil. We had detailed maps which showed where the vineyards for each wine were located and aerial photos of each site.  They really are into terroir and how it affects the wine. I was very impressed by the high quality of the wines.  These are the ones I liked the most:

    Soave Superiore Classico “Foscarin Slavinus” 2007 Monte Tondo- 100% Garganega. Soft pressing and maceration on the skins for 24 hours- fermentation with the skins for 36 hours-fermentation in 50hl casks- aged in stainless steel tanks for one year and in bottle for 6 months months. $30

    Soave Classico DOC “Casette Foscarin” 2007 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano Soave. The vineyards are in the North of the Soave Classico zone in calcareous soil of volcanic origin. The grapes most exposed to the sun are chosen and harvested at different times according to ripeness. The wine is soft pressed and aged in barriques and 5hl tonnellerie for about 6 months. $22

    Soave Superiore Classico “Capitel Al Pigno” 2006 Bixio Produttori – 100% Garganega- The wine is aged 3 months in large casks and 4 months in bottle.

    Soave Classico “Corte Menini” 2009 Le Mandolare  – 100% Garganega- traditional vinification without the skins, on the lees for 4 months in stainless steel tanks.

    Soave Classico “Vigneto Senglialta” 2008 Balestri Valda Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave. The wine is aged in 20hl Slavonian oak.

    Soave Classico “Frosca” 2008  100% Garganega. Gini Hillside vineyard with soil that is part calcareous and part tufaceous.  The grapes are soft pressed and fermented in both stainless steel and wood. It remains on the lees in stainless steel and wood and is then ages in small oak barrels.

    Soave Classico “Salvarenza” 2007- 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano Soave. Grapes are from 90 year old vines from a part of the Frosca vineyard called Salvarenza. The grapes are harvested at the end of October which makes them almost late harvest. Fermented entirely on the lees in barriques of which 20% are new.  The wine remains in wood for 9 months.

    What made visiting the wineries so interesting was that each one had something unique to show, tell or to taste. I also noticed that some of the wineries had olive or cherry trees planted near the vines depending where the winery was located. Almost all of them had spontaneous cover crops and grass cover between the rows of vines.

    Cantina di Monteforte is a large cooperative that produces a wide range of wines including “wine in the box”. They gave us three wines to taste blind and then wanted us to rank them. I tasted the wines and said they could be the same, but no one answered me. After we voted we were told it was the same wine only the closure was different, cork, glass and synthetic cork. I could not tell much difference between the three wines. The wine closed with cork did come in #I. I like the glass closure but some producers were reluctant to use it because they were afraid it might crack and the glass would go in the bottle.

    The wine I liked the best was the Clivus Soave Classico made from Garganica and Trebbiano di Soave from volcanic soil in the hilly area of the Monteforte d’Alpone district. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented in stainless steel.
     

    Ca’Rugate This is a family owned and operated winery. The Tessari family has owned vineyards in this area for four generations and opened this winery in1986. We were given a tour of the winey and the “Enomuseum” by Federica Bon. The museum is very interesting and worth a visit. The setting is a farm house of the late 1940’s and there are over 150 instruments and tools used by the Tessari family over the last 100 years for winemaking from the time the grapes enter the barnyard to the aging and bottling.

    Federica then led us in a tasting of the wines and I was impressed with all of them:

    Soave Classico “San Michele” 2009- 100% Garganega $20 Next year they will add Trebbiano di Soave so that it will be different from their Soave Classico “Monte Fiorentine” which is also 100% Garganega. $30. Both vinified and aged in stainless steel.

    Soave Classico “Monte Alto” 100% Garganega $39 The wine is vinified in stainless steel and the fermentation takes place in barriques (225 liter oak barrels) where it remains on the lees between 6-8 months.

    Recioto di Soave DOCG 100% Garganega. The grapes are dried in plastic boxes in special “drying rooms” were the grapes become very concentrated. The spring following the harvest the grapes are crushed and fermented in oak barrels and aged in these barrels for 10-12 months.

    Once again in order to demonstrate the importance of terroir, at Azienda Agricola i Stefanini, we tasted three wines.  Next to each was a container of the soil in which the vines were planted.  Francesco Tessari, the owner of the winery, and Giovanni Ponchia explained the soil and its relationship to the wine.

    IL Selese Soave DOC the wine is usually 90% Garganega and 10% Chardonay but the 2009 is 100% Garganega. The soil is alluvial clay, the vines are trained in the Espalier system and the vineyard is in the flat lowlands. This was from the part of the valley with  red soil, “Terra Rosa”. Fermentation takes place on the lees until March in stainless steel, and under goes partial malolatic.  It is kept in stainless steel until bottling.

    Soave Classico DOC Monte di Toni  2008 100% Garganega, the vineyards are in the volcanic hills behind the winery. The soil is volcanic tufa, the average age of the vines is 25 years and they are trained in the Pergola Veronese system. It is fermented and aged on the lees until March in stainless steel and under goes complete malolatic fermentation.

    Soave Superiore Classico DOCG “Monte di Fice” 2006 100% Garganega the vineyards are in the volcanic hills behind the winery. The soil is volcanic tufa. The wines are an average of 25 years old and are trained on the Pergola Veronese. It is fermented on the lees until March and under goes partial malolatic fermentation. Even though the two vineyards are a few meters apart, the Toni had more calcareous uplift stratum and the Fice is more ferrous volcanic soil.

     

     Az. Ag Monte Tondo. This is a family owned winery.  The proprietor is Gino Magnabosco along with his wife and daughter Marta, who conducted the tasting, run the winery.

    Soave Classico Superiore DOCG “Foscarin Slavinus" We did a vertical of this wine from 2003-2009.  Monte Foscarino is basaltic origin and the slopes are very steep. The wines were all very good but the one that caught my attention was the 2004.  I asked if I could buy some to take back with me but was told it was not for sale. 

    Recioto di Soave DOCG 100% Garganega This is a selection of the best grapes with the highest sugar content. The grapes are handpicked and left to semi-dry in small crates and in well ventilated rooms called fruttai.  At the end of January the grapes are pressed and left to age for 18 months in small oak barrels.

    Recioto Soave Spumante DOCG “Round Mountain” 2008 100% Garganega from the Soave Classical area. I do not think I have ever tasted this type of wine before. It is only made in small quantities. The grapes used are those most exposed to the sun with the highest sugar content. They are handpicked into small crates and dried in rooms called fruttai.  The wine is stored in stainless steel for 90 days after undergoing the Charmat Method to obtain a sparkling wine. This was a very interesting wine.
     

    Of all the wineries that we visited perhaps the most interesting was Cantina di Soave in the town of Soave in a very lovely setting where there Borgo Rocca Sveva facility is located. This large cooperative makes Borgo Rocca Sveva, their top of the line brand right, down to Duca their wine in a box, and everything in between. The Company was founded in 1898 and today has over 2,200 members which make it one of Europe’s major wine producing companies. They give excellent winery tours open to the public and have a large retail store where you can buy wine and other products.

    We went to visit the vineyards with the agronomist from Cantina di Soave and he explained how the coop works with the growers, the control they have over how the grapes are grown and, of course, all about the terroir and the different training systems for the vines.  They use all the latest modern methods in the vineyards, “Sistema Alta Selezione”, and are able to register the origin, health, quality level and variety for every batch of grapes delivered to the winery.  We were given aerial photos of the section of the vineyards we visited.  There were many olive trees planted near the vineyard and we were told that it was customary in this area.  Everyone connected with the winery was very helpful and gave us information not only about the winery but about Soave and the Veneto in general

    Soave Classico DOC 2008 Borgo Rocca Sveva – 100% Garganega. The vines are planted in loose, medium-gravelly clay soil of volcanic origin. The wines are trained for the Pergola Veronese system. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented and aged in stainless steel.  $14.99

    Their wine in the box, Duca del Frassino, was the best one I tasted.

    Cantina del Castello – It is in heart of Soave just below the Scaligero Castle. While they have been making wines since the 1960’s it was not until Arturo Stocchetti took over 20 years ago that the winery reached its true potential. Arturo is very charming and has a passion for wine that you can feel when he speaks.  He always wants to produce typical wines that express the terroir in which the vines are planted. Arturo is also the president of the Consorzio Tutela di Soave.  He is very well known for his sweet wines and is a Recioto specialist. He makes two Recioto di Soave- Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG “Cortepittora” – 100% Garganega from the Pressoni vineyard of clayey basaltic soil of volcanic origin in the Monteforte d’Alpone zone. The grapes are hand harvested and dried in well ventilated rooms until Jan/Feb then undergo soft pressing and fermentation in Allier oak barrels, medium toast, 4 to 5 years old. It is aged in the same barrels for one year then aged in bottle for 1 to 2 years before it is released.

    Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG “Ardens” 100% Garganega. Training system is the pergola Veronese semplice and short espalier.  Manual harvesting into small crates in a single layer. Dried in well ventilated rooms until Jan/Feb, very soft pressing with a 35% must yield. Fermentation is stainless steel for 30 to 40 days. The wine is “cleaned” by decanting which is the traditional method. The wine is bottled in May/June after a mild filtration that allows a natural refermentation “sur lie” in the bottle-the wine is on the lees until it is consumed. The wine spends 7to 8 months in the bottle before it is released. I understand why Arturo is a Recioto specialist now that I have tasted his wines.

    Fattori winery Soave Classico “Danieli” the owner Antonio Fattori said that this was a family nickname. 100% Garganega from hillside vineyards of volcanic soil. Maceration for 36 hours, gently pressed with a pneumatic press. The wine is left for 24 hours and after static decantation the wine is fermented in stainless steel.

    Soave Classico “Runcaris” 100% Garganega. The average age of the vineyard is 25 years, in volcanic soil and the vines are trained in the Pergola Veronese system. Vinification and fermentation in stainless steel. Signore Fattori said that it was traditional to use 10% of late harvested grapes. He also said that they use nitrogen to control the fermentation process but do add a small amount of sulfites during the static decantation and bottling.

    Soave DOC “Motto Piane” 100% Garganega. This wine borders on desert with a residual sugar content of 6.5 gl. The average age of the vines is 30 years. Guyot trained. Harvesting begins the second week of September and the grapes are handpicked. They are dried on straw mats for about a month. Maceration is for 24 hours. The must is fermented in stainless steel until alcohol reaches 2%. It is then put in large casks, tonneaux, and stainless steel to age. The wine remains on its lees until February and is bottled the following spring.

    Reciotto di Soave DOCG “Motto Piane”(Flat Hill) 2008 100% Garganega. Vines planted on hill of volcanic origin and cordon speronato trained. The grapes are dried until the following March. They lose 50% of their weight and the sugar content is 33%, then the grapes are macerated for 72 hours. The must is decanted naturally and yeast is added. Stainless steel tanks are only used when the fermentation process is under way. It then goes into barriques until the alcohol level reaches 14 to 14.5. The wine contains 9 grams of sugar per liter which Signor Fattori believes is perfect. The wine is reracked stopping the fermentation process. Then it goes back into the same barriques for 14 to 15 months.

    Az. Ag. PRA Graziano We had a tour of the winery and a tasting conducted by Laura Meile followed by a lovely lunch overlooking the vineyards. Giovanni Ponchia once again went into the vineyard, this time we could watch from our seats at the table, as he   talked about the soil, the Pergola Veronese, and the other training systems. All he had to do was point to what he was explaining.

    Soave Classico 2008 100% Garganega Monteforte d’Alpone area and the vineyards are 25-30 years old. Vines are trained in the Pergola Veronese system and the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. $18.

     

    Az.Ag Agostino Vicentini This winery was in an area called the valley of the cherries because there were so many cherry trees planted here. Agostino is very passionate about his vines and his wines. He took us out into the vineyard and spoke about the vines. He liked the Pergola Veronese because it protected the grapes from getting to much sun and “burning”. However wind can be a problem because it can break some of the canes and he showed us some examples of broken ones which he removed. Agostino believed that grapes trained by Pergola Veronese were best for Recioto di Soave but felt that Guyot was best for his other wines. All of his white wines are in stainless steel.  Since he wants to let the wines reflect the terroir, there is as little interference by the winemaker as possible.

    Soave Superiore DOCG “IL Casale” 100% Zone of production Colognola ai Colli. Guyot vineyard system and the grapes are picked when they are very ripe.

    Recioto di Soave DOCG Zone of production Colognola ai Colli, località S. Zeno

    Grapes are selected and picked by hand at 32-35 brix and put in boxes and left to dry until March. The wine contains about 110 grams of sugar.

    Az. AG.Gini  Sandro Gini gave us a tour of the winery and a tasting of a wines from a number of different vintages going back to a good 1993 and a sensational 1990. As I said before I was very impressed with these wines especially the La Frosca 1990,  2001,2004,2007 and 2008 and the “Salvarenza” 2001 and 2007.  Sandro said that these wines need at least 3/4 years before they begin to be ready to drink.

    This was one of the most informative and interesting wine trips that I have been on and I look forward to returning next year.  There is a real desire in this area to make wines that reflect the terroir without relying on oak.  Very few producers used new barriques, and if they did it is a small percentage. Some producers are using barriques that are 7 years old. Others only use stainless steel but the majority seems to use a mix a stainless steel, barriques, tonneaux and botti. I did not find more than one or two wines that I could say were over-oaked.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Savoring Soave

    Recently I was invited to a PR event that included an invitation to a NY Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. After the event I was told that they had run out of tickets but to make up for it they would send me on a press trip to Soave!

     I have been drinking Soave for over 30 years and it is a lovely area and town. I always wanted to spend more time there, so I said yes. Before leaving, I was told that a surprise would await me in Soave, but no one would tell me what it was.

    I was picked up at the airport in Venice by Giovanni Ponchia who was to be our guide through the vineyards and wineries of Soave. Giovanni is an enologist who works for the Consorzio Tutela Soave, who hosted this trip.  The Consorzio was established in 1970 to protect and promote Soave.  Giovanni is interesting, knowledgeable and passionate when he speaks about Soave and our group of journalists agreed that having him with us was a great help. He took us to his favorite restaurant Riondo in Monteforte d’Alpone. We had culatello topped with radicchio, parmigiano reggiano and olive oil and perfectly cooked risotto with white asparagus. The wine was Soave and it was the perfect combination to these dishes.

    Giovanni by use of slides and maps gave us an excellent introduction to the Soave area and its wines.

    The Soave production zone lies in the eastern part of the Province of Verona in the region of the Veneto. The production zone is of volcanic origin and the hills where the vineyards are planted have rocky strata that are a result of lava flows that turned into sediment over time. The soil is dark, stony and rich in minerals. There is a difference between the soil of the hills and the soil of the flat lands. Soave is one of Italy’s great terroir- based wines.

     Soave is a relatively small concentrated area and it has a history of selling grapes outside of the region. There are some 3,000 growers and the DOC is the largest in the province of Verona accounting for 40% of the production. There are 52 crus in the zone and like Barolo one cru can be worked by different producers. The vineyards are so close together that they all “spray” at the same time.  

    The grapes are the same for Soave DOC, Soave Classico DOC, and Soave Superiore DOCG., Soave DOC,Colli Scaliger, and Reciotto di Soave.

    Garganega is the primary grape and Soave must contain at least 70% of it. The other 30% is made up of Trebbiano di Soave, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Trebbiano Toscano has been excluded).The better producers use 100% Garganega, or very close to it. There does not seem to be much Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco used.  Trebbianio di Soave seems to be the new favorite, but this is a matter of controversy. One producer, Ca’ Rugate, next year will add Trebbiano di Soave because they felt it would make one of their wines a little different.

    Garganega is the fifth most planted white grape in Italy and may be related to the Grecanico grape of Sicily. Many of the wine makers said it is not markedly aromatic in nature, but displays a range of perfumes of which almonds and white flowers are the most clearly identifiable. It does not actually complete its ripening until October. Its skin is very tough and is a particularly deep yellow (verging on red) when ripe. It does not display especially high acidity but rather a balance of extract and fruit sugars.

     

    Trebbiano di Soave has traditionally always been present in the vineyards. It has a tangy liveliness that some wine makers feel blends well with the typical structure and density of the Garganega grape.

    We spent a lot of time in the vineyards looking at the vines and the way in which they are trained. The training system for the vines is very interesting. It can be single or double Espalier Guyot and Cordon Spur or a Pergola (known as Tendonne in the South). The vines grow on trellises and the leaves cover and protect the grapes from the sun. It can be a unilateral Pergola, or uni- or bi-later pergoletta Veronese- Veronese Pergola. This Pergola does not close all the way in the middle allowing some sun light to come through. This is the method used on flat land even at high elevation. The Veronese Pergola is again becoming popular among the producers. Many were very proud of this system and talked about it everywhere we went. No matter what the training system, there can be no less than 3,300 vines per hectare.

    The agronomist of Cantina di Soave said that in very hot years they would use the grapes grown under the Pergola for their best wines. In cool years, lacking sun they would use the grapes from the Espalier vineyards.

     Soave wine is split up according to the production regulations between Soave DOC, grapes grown outside the Classical zone, Soave Classico DOC, Soave Superiore DOCG, Recioto di Soave DOCG and Soave Colli Scaligeri DOC, grapes grown in the hills outside the Classical zone.

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    Soave DOC grapes grown outside the Classical zone make a very refreshing wine that should be drunk within a year or two. It is usually vinified in stainless steel which gives it the floral and fruity notes.

    Soave Classico DOC is a wine that comes from restricted zone between the hills of the   communes of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone. This is the oldest original classical zone and the wines must be harvested and vinified there. It is a complex wine with mineral notes and floral and fruity character depending upon the soil in which the grapes are grown. When it is aged in barrels (Barriques or Botti) it can last for a number of years. This was demonstrated by the number of older vintages that we tasted and how well they have stood the test of time. There were two that were particularly impressive. The Soave Superiore Classico “Foscarin Slavinis 2004 from Monte Tondo and the incredible 1990 Soave Classico “La Frosca” from Gini

    Soave Spumante DOC.  This is a very interesting sparkling wine but we did not taste any examples of it.  The few that we did try were very good. Vinification can be by Method Classico or the Charmat method.

     

    Soave DOC Colli Scaligeri derived from grapes grown in the hilly area outside the Classical Zone.

    Soave Superiore DOCG The production zone is limited to the hillsides in the Classical zone and in the Colli Scaligeri. New vines must be trained using the Espallier system (Guyot and Cordon Spur) with at least 4,000 wines per hectare. For those vines planted before 2002 the Espallier, Pergola Inclinate and Pergoletta Veronese (mono or bilateral) are allowed.  It must have an alcohol level of 12% and 12.5 % for the riserva. Soave DOCG may be released on to the market only after 1st September of the year following the harvest and after bottle ageing of at least three months so as to emphasize characteristics of maturity and complexity. Wines aged a minimum of two years may be labelled as “Riserva”.

    Lucia  Sabatini from Cantina di Soave explained the quality difference by use of a pyramid.

     There is a natural and logical pyramid of quality that the rules for Soave are very much intended to reiterate. So at the top of the pyrmaid, we have Soave Superiore D.O.C.G., a true synthesis of selection and strict production methods, designed to be the upmost expression of quality. Then just below, there is Soave from the hillside sites, both in the Classico version (if obtained from grapes grown in the historic production area) and that from the Colli Scaligeri. At the base of the pyramid we have Soave D.O.C., which stands for its excellent price–quality ratio.

     
    Recioto di Soave DOCG In 1998 this was the first Veneto wine to receive the DOCG.

    In the Veronese, dialect the word Recioto derives from “recia”, the upper part of the bunch of Garganega grapes which is exposed to the most sunlight and therefore richest in sugar. Just before the harvest, a selection is made of the best bunches which are laid out on racks to dry. They are dried indoors in open plastic containers for from four to six months and lose over 50% of their moisture. In the past straw mats were used. A long, slow fermentation often takes place in small barrels in which the opening on top is closed with cement. At the Ca’Rugate winery the year the wine is put in the barrel is written in the cement.

    Arturo Stocchetti, a Recioto specialist of Cantina di Soave, makes three different Reciotos. One of them I have waited many years to taste and when I did I was not dissapointed . More on this wine in Part II and my adventures in Soave, visits to the vinyards, the crus, wineries, tastings and how I became “CAPITANO SPADARINO” delle terre di Suavia( my surprise).

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