Articles by: Charles Scicolone

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    La Scuola Presenta Pio Cesare's Piemonte with Pio Boffa

    On my first visit to Piemonte in 1982, I stayed at Il Giardino di Felicin in Monforte d’Alba.  The owner, Giorgio Rocca, a very charming host and great chef, offered to help us make arrangements to visit some of the local producers.  I mentioned Pio Cesare and he quickly made an appointment for the next morning.  At the winery in Alba, we were met by Pio Boffa, the owner of Pio Cesare.  His English is excellent, and we had a wonderful visit and tasting.  Ever since then, whenever I am in that area, I try to visit the winery and always receive a warm welcome.  

    Recently Pio was in New York to teach a class at Eataly and I went to see him.

    During the class Pio talked about the history of his winery and how he was the only one in the family who followed his father into the wine business which he joined in 1973. Tradition is very important to Pio and he said that he tries to make wine in the same way as they did in the past. The winery is in the same location as it has always been, right in the center of Alba.  Pio said that he was very proud of the fact that his father, Giuseppe Boffa, told Pio his wine was the same as he himself had made 50 years ago. Pio hopes that in the next few years his daughter will follow in his footsteps.  Ten years ago, Pio’s nephew joined the winery.  

    The Pio Cesare winery produces 40,000 cases of wine a year, which according to Pio makes them a middle size producer. In the 1960’s and 1970’s there were only a few producers in the area but now there are many more. Since then, the more traditional and conservative producers have had to fight to keep their share of the market. The “new” producers used different wine making techniques and started to make single vineyard (cru) wines.  Concessions have to be made but not at the cost of tradition. That is why Pio Cesare maintains the same bottle, same label, and same style of wine as in the past.


    The Wines

    Cortese di Gavi 2009 100% Cortese- the vines are on hillside vineyards in very select locations in the Gavi area. Theses vineyards belong to growers that have been producing grapes for Pio Cesare for generations and who have worked their vineyards according to Pio’s strict quality controls. Slow fermentation takes place at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks on the lees for four months. The wine is kept in stainless steel tanks until March after the harvest when it is bottled. Pio Boffa said that malolatic fermentation depended on the vintage and for this wine 1/3 underwent malolatic. He went on to say that 2/3 of all Gavi were produced in the flat valley area. His grapes are grown on the hillside where the soil is drier and there is a southern exposure. Here the yields are lower and the grapes ripen later. Because of this the wine is more complex, will age better, have more fruit and a mineral character with good acidity. He added as an aside that the Cortese grape was difficult to grow because it is very acidic. However by growing the grapes on the hillside and leaving it on the lees one can produce a very good wine. This is a fresh, fruity, aromatic white wine with some complexity. $27

    Chardonnay “Piodilei” 2008 100% Chardonnay.  This is a single vineyard, barrel fermented Chardonnay, from the very first Chardonnay vineyard they planted in 1980, at the “Il Bricco Estate” in Treiso, in the Barbera area.   Pio pointed out that this is not a “traditional” wine. The yields are kept low and the grapes are picked when they are fully ripened, late harvest. Fermentation occurs on the lees in new French oak barrels. The wine in aged on the lees in French oak barrels for 10 months, and for six months in the bottle before release. 1/3 of the wine underwent malolatic. The wine has ripe fruit flavors a touch of spice, and a long finish. $32

     Pio said that white grapes grown in the right terroir and that are allowed to remain on the less produce a wine that is more like a red wine.

    Barbera D’Alba “Fides” 2007 100% Barbera.    Pio has a strong feeling for Barbera and called it the wine of the people of Piemonte The grapes for this wine come from a single vineyard in their “Colombaro” vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba. This is a prime area for growing Nebbiolo. The wine is called Fides, Latin for trust and faith.  Pio said that this was a true act of trust and faith on the part of him and his father. In fact they both came up with the idea at the same time. He pointed out that if it was planted with Nebbiolo the land would be worth four times as much. Other producers give Nebbiolo the highest position and the most southern exposure while leaving Barbera at a less elevated position. Pio said the all his Barbera grapes have the same position as his Nebbiolo. They used a very old clone of Barbera that is not used any more.

    Fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks and skin contact lasts for ten days. Right after being drawn off, the wine rests for 20 months in medium toasted French oak casks: 80% in barriques and 20% in 20hl casks.  This is a wine with fresh ripe fruit aromas and flavors, with a hint of spice and good acidity. The wine can age and it was a great combination with the agnolotti del plin, “pinched” ravioli that are typical of Piemonte, that we tasted.  $44

    It was unfortunate that one important producer, that Pio would not name, decided not to produce any Barolo or Barbaresco in 2006. This led many to assume that it was not a very good vintage. Pio said that in his opinion the 2006 vintage was very good for both Barolo and Barbaresco and it was a very traditional vintage for Nebbiolo.  Now that the wines have been released it is evident that it was a very good traditional vintage.

    Pio said that he has tasted Nebbiolo grown in other parts of the world and it did not taste like Nebbiolo.  In other parts of Italy they make wine from Nebbiolo but the style is different. None of these can compare with Nebbiolo when it is made into Barbaresco and Barolo- -there is just something about the terroir. Pio added that for him Barolo was the King of wine and Barbaresco was the Queen.

    Barbaresco 2006 The grapes come from Pio’s family owned vineyards, Il Bricco Estate, and the great hill of San Stefanetto, both located in the village of Treiso.  Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks and skin contact lasts for about 20 days. 35% of the wine is aged in French oak barrels,1/3 new, for 30 months and the remaining 65% spends three years in French oak casks, 20 to 50 hl each. This is a traditional classic Barbaresco and has long aging potential. $62

    Barolo 2006 100% Nebbiolo The grapes for this wine come from his family owned vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba (Ornato), Grinzane Cavour (Gustava), La Mora (Roncaglie) and Barolo-Novello (Ravara). The balance of the grapes comes from other exclusive vineyards owned by growers who have provided grapes to his family for generations. This he said was his traditional Barolo-his “regular old classic style.”  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, but all are the essence of the terroir. This is a traditional classic Barolo and will age very well for a number of years  $67

    Barolo 2006 “Oronato” 100%.   Nebbiolo this is a single vineyard Barolo from very ripe grapes of three different plots of the family owned Ornato Estate in Serralunga d’Alba.

    Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with skin contact for 15 days. The wine is aged in medium toasted French oak barrels, for 36 months, 70% in new barriques and 30% in 25 hectoliter casks. This is a big, concentrated Barolo that is produced in small quantities (7,000 bottles) and only in the best vintages. Pio said that this was a wine that was meant to age and only after a number of years will it show its true characteristics. $110

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    The Wines of Edoardo Valentini

    For 20 years, I wanted to meet Edoardo Valentini at his winery, but he did not welcome visitors.  Finally, the opportunity presented itself and a group of wine writers and I were standing before him in his home. We found the great winemaker seated in a throne-like chair with his son and grandson standing behind him and his wife and daughter-in-law off to the side. It reminded me of a scene from a Fellini movie about Italy in the 1930’s. We were not invited to sit down.

    The wine writers had many questions but Valentini offered few answers. He said that he sold 90% of his grapes to a local co-op (Rosciano, which we also visited) and kept only the best for himself. He would not show us the cellar or explain how he made wine. All he would talk about was the terroir and the grapes.

    Valentini joined us in our tour bus for a look at his vineyards.  On board, he told us that the average age of his vines was over 50 years and he uses the tendone method. The leaves cover the grapes like a canopy (pergola in Italian), so they were all in the shade. He explained that this protected the grapes from the hot Abruzzo sun. It was also important to protect the grapes from the heat coming from the ground so the bunches had to be a certain distance from the ground in order to avoid reflected heat. There were 2,000 vines per hectare. He emphasized that he was the only one growing the true Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grape. Valentini said that he wanted to have a conference on the Trebbiano grape, but no one would listen to him. At one point he suggested that we ask him a certain question.  When one of our group took him up on the idea and repeated the question, he replied, “That is the dumbest question I have ever heard.”

    We returned to his house and were all standing around not knowing what to do. Michele turned to me and said, tell him we are friends of the late Sheldon Wasserman and his wife Pauline. I told him in my best Italian and suddenly he became silent. He looked up at us with tears in his eyes and began to praise Wasserman.  Sheldon and Pauline were the authors of The Noble Red Wines of Italy and were the first to praise Valentini’s red wine and pronounce his white and rose the best in Italy. They all became close friends. He asked if I knew where Pauline was and I said I had seen her the year before but had lost contact with her. All of a sudden we were invited to sit down and his wife brought out two pies she had made along with other foods. We ate, drank his wine, talked about Wasserman and wine and he was a like a different person.

    When we were about to leave someone asked if we could buy some wine. He said no but he would give us wine. He gave us the white and the Cerasuolo, his rose, but would not give us any of the red. He said that he had very little red wine as he used most of his red grapes for his Cerasuolo. He said that he liked his white and rose better than his red.

    After talking to him and drinking his wines I understood what the term “terroir driven” wine really means.

    This was one of the last stops on this press trip and I had been given a lot of wine. I told the other people on the trip that I would trade bottles of other producers’ wines for bottles of Valentine’s wine.  Three for one, six for one it did not matter, I wanted the wine. I came back from the trip with eight bottles -- all Valentini.

    Edorado Valentini passed away at age 72 in 2006. I was glad that I had the opportunity to meet him and to talk to him and learn more about his wine. It was Sheldon Wasserman that had first told me about Valentini and his wines and was the one that urged me to go and visit him. For those that knew both of them they were two of a kind!

    Edoardo’s son, Francesco Paolo has taken over the wine making and I was very curious to see if there were any changes in the wine. I was able to try them at a tasting arranged by the importer, Domenico Valentino Imports, at I Trulli Restaurant. 

    The wines of Valentini - organic and biodynamic production.

    Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo 100% Bombino Bianco ?? DOC 2008. This is a very complex full wine with a lot of fruit, mineral undertones, good acidity and a great finish and aftertaste.

    The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.

    Wine writer Jancis Robinson in one of her books says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. In the technical sheets given out by Domenico Valentino, it says Bombino Bianco. They said that the information was given to them by the Italian distributor and the blanks on the technical sheets were filled in by Francesco Valentini. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. I guess I will just have to go back again and talk to the son.  However, no matter what the grape, it is a great white wine.

    Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2005 this was a little more developed, very complex and full with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste with that extra something that is difficult to describe.

    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC 2008 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. There was just a touch of strawberry in the wine but that may be the only thing it has in common with other rose wines.

    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC 2007 aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. More developed with very nice fruit aromas and flavors, mineral character and for a rose a great finish and aftertaste.

    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2006. This wine was big, rich and tannic with wonderful red and black fruit flavors and aromas. It needs many years to develop.

    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo  DOC 2001. At 10 years old it was not ready to drink. It still has a lot of tannin but with plenty of red and black fruit aromas and flavors. I have a few bottles of the 2001 and I will not open them for a few more years. I also have one bottle of the 1993 and I am thinking of drinking it soon.

    I Trulli’s chef prepared an entire roast suckling pig for the occasion.  Not only the red but also the white and the rose went very well with it. One of the things that impressed me about these wines was their great finish and aftertaste.  Edoardo Valentini’s tradition continues with his son Francesco and the winery is the Gambero Rosso winery of the year for 2011.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    A Pizza Demonstration by Two Great Pizzaioli

    A Mano, a pizzeria/restaurant in Ridgewood, New Jersey announced that they would be hosting a pizza making demonstration with two of Naples’ greatest pizzaioli, Antonio Starita of Starita a Materdei in Naples, and Roberto Caporuscio of Keste in NYC. Roberto is from the Naples area and trained with Antonio in Naples.  This was a demo I did not want to miss, so along with several friends, we reserved right away. On the day of the demo, over 150 people gathered at the restaurant.  We found our friends, took our seats, and had just enough time for a glass of wine before the demo began. Both Roberto and Antonio were assisted by Adolfo Marletta of La Spaghettata in Naples

    Roberto began by explaining how he makes his dough.  He said that the flour he prefers is a high quality one manufactured by Caputo in Naples.  He uses only their “double zero” flour, which has less gluten in it so that it is easier to stretch.  He uses a special type of mixer that kneads the dough gently.  He demonstrated how to knead the dough by hand.  Then he shaped it into little balls weighing about nine ounces for each pizza. He did this by holding it with one hand and with the other shaping it the same way one would when making mozzarella.

    Antonio and Roberto mentioned that they had just returned from the Pizza Fair in Las Vegas. Someone in the audience asked who had won the pizza tossing event.  Both men looked puzzled.  Roberto said that they don’t toss the pizza in the air in Naples, while Antonio shook his head and with his hand made a slight back and forth movement saying very softly, mai (never).  They explained that rough handling ruins the dough. 

    Antonio then demonstrated how to shape the dough into a flat disk. He took a ball of dough and gently stretched it in four easy motions, rotating it and folding the edge toward the middle. Next he added pureed Italian canned tomatoes, mozzarella, and a touch of olive oil.  After it was placed on the peel, he stretched the disk out so that it almost doubled in size. He quickly slid the pizza into the wood burning oven and about a minute or so later it was done. The result was perfect Neapolitan style Margarita pizza. Margarita is the queen of pizza, there is no king.

    I asked Antonio if he would make us his famous “lemon pizza”. This pizza is topped with smoked provola (smoked bufala mozzarella) and thin slices of lemon. I had tasted this pizza once before, when Antonio had been at Keste. It was so good that I had to have it again. He was only too happy to do it. It was as good as I remembered it and went very well with the wine we were drinking.

    I then asked him to make another pizza of his choice. He made one of the best marinara pizzas that I have ever had. Roberto told us later that Antonio’s secret is to add a touch of pecorino cheese and a little oregano. We also enjoyed the little fried calzone filled with ricotta.

    The wines

    Most townships in NJ do not allow wine, beer or liquor to be sold in restaurants so we took advantage and brought the following wines.

    Barolo Riserva 1999 100% Nebbiolo Monchiero. This wine was ready to drink. I believe the 1999 was a vintage that can be drunk after 10 years. It had all the Nebbiolo characteristics and went very well with the food as did all the wine.

    Vino Spanna Cantina Castello di Montalbano 1964 Vallana. 1964 was a great vintage in Piemonte. On many of the older bottles of Vallana they have Castello this or that, but the Castellos never existed and with the DOC are no longer on the label. Spanna is the local name for Nebbiolo in this area of Novara in Piemonte. This wine is Nebbiolo with the possible addition of Aglianico! In Italy’s Noble Red Wines, Sheldon Wasserman states that  “Vallana is a master blender…Rumor has it that he used to blend Aglianico from Basilicata into his wines to give them the body and strength that they needed to age and develop.” Wasserman felt that when they stopped doing this, the wines were not as good. Today the wine must be at least 85% Spanna with the possible addition of Vespolina and Bonarda. I am happy to report that I have tasted more recent vintages of the Vallana wines and they have almost come all the way back even without the Aglianico. Tom Maresca gives a full report on the Vallana wines: 

    Barbaresco 1967 Produttori del Barbaresco 100% Nebbiolo. This is one of the oldest co-ops in Italy and possible the best. This is also the oldest bottle I have tasted which was not a single vineyard. The label was not the same as the one they use today. This was everything that an old Barbaresco should be and more.

    Barolo Riserva 1967 Borgogno.  This is a great wine. I have had many older bottles of Borgogno Barolo and they age very well. All those aromas that I love in old Barolo were there-faded roses, tar, tea, leather and mushroom.

    Burgundy 2001 Hospices de Nuits Laboure-Roi 100% Pinot Noir. This was the last wine and it did not disappoint as we sat sipping it and talking about the great pizza, great pizza makers (i pizzaioli) and Naples.

    It was a great evening at A Mano and I wanted to start making plans to go back to Naples and visit Starita a Materdei. In the meantime, since I live in NYC I will go to Keste when I want great pizza.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    A Visit to to Cavallotto and Giovanni Manzone Wineries in Piedmont

    Cavallotto and Giovanni Manzone--Traditional Producers

    The owner of La Pizza Fresca, one of my favorite pizzerias in NYC, called me at 10:00 PM and said, “Come over. We have a white truffle and old Barolo.” I was there before he hung up the phone. Mark Fornatale, who works for wine importer Michael Skurnik, provided the truffle and we had it shaved on pasta, pizza and risotto. This was a preview for me because two weeks later, I was leaving for Piemonte.  Mark represents two traditional producers that I wanted to visit, Cavallotto and Giovanni Manzone, and he said he would make all the arrangements.

    F.lli Cavallotto


    It was the only sunny day in our stay in Piemonte as we drove up to the Cavallotto winery in the late afternoon. The estate is in Castiglione Falletto on Bricco Boschis in the heart of the Barolo area. I was introduced to their wines in the early 1980’s by the wine writer Sheldon Wasserman and had visited them in 1983, 2007 and in November of 2010.

    The Cavalotto’s have been producing wine for five generations.  In 1948, they were the first winemakers in the area to dedicate themselves to the vinification of their own grapes and the marketing their wines in bottles.

     Alfio Cavallotto, who is an enologist, gave us a tour of the vineyards. The property consists of 65 hectares of which 60 are planted with vines.  Alfio said that they have a high number of vines per acre with a corresponding low number of buds per plant, sacrificing quantity for quality. Since 1970 they control the grass covering between the rows of vines to help maintain the natural organic substances in the soil. They have re-introduced natural insect predators allowing for the elimination of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. He also spoke about the soil, the difference between clay and sand in the area and the annual rainfall, as well as the different exposures of the vineyards to the sun. Alfio was a wealth of information and you can find out more at the website. 

    Bricco Boschis, their cru, is 25 hectares of which 23 hectares are covered with vines. Half of it is planted with Nebbiolo for Barolo and the other half has Barbera, Freisa, Grignolino, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They use Slavonic oak barrels of 10, 30, 50, 80 and 100 hl. He also said, with a smile on his face, that they have two barriques. They have both stainless steel and cement tanks and Alfio said that cement tanks ferment the wine at a higher temperature.

    Alfio led us in a tasting of his wines.

    Langhe Bianco 2009 DOC 100% Chardonnay. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and remains on the lees for 11 months. This is a big ripe wine with a lot of fruit and it proves that a Chardonnay that tastes like Chardonnay can be made.

    Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot Bricco Boschis DOC 2009. 100% Dolcetto. Vinification on the skins for 7 days in steel vats and aged in stainless steel for 6 months. Alfio said that for Dolcetto, 2009 was better than 2008 and that 2010 was a very light vintage. This was a Dolcetto with body. It was well balanced, with red fruit aromas, hints of cherries and a touch of bitter almond.

    Langhe Freisa 2008 Bricco Boschis DOC 100% Freisa. Maceration on the skins for 5 days with frequent pumping over the must and a few months in stainless steel before release.  It has soft tannins with nice fruit and hints of pepper and cloves. This is one of the best examples of this type of wine that I have tasted.

    Barbera d’ Alba 2006 “Vigno Del Cuculo” Bricco Boschis  DOC 100% Barbera

    This is a Barbera that is grown in the Barolo area.  It has very good aromas

    and flavors, a little like Nebbiolo because the soil here is more complex. Alfio believes that the Barberas from Asti are too simple and light or way over the top because of the use of barriques. He also said the land is less expensive in Asti. This Barbera is four years old and showing no sign of age. I believe that it will age for 10 years or more.

    The Nebbiolo vines can be found in the two historical zones of Castiglione Falletto, Bricco Boschis, where the cellars are located, and the Vignolo zone.

    Langhe Nebbiolo Bricco Boschis 2007 DOC 100% Nebbiolo (declassified). This is the same vineyard that they get the grapes for Barolo. It is big for a Nebbiolo, tannic with great fruit flavors and aromas and a hint of spice.

    Alfio said that Bricco Boschis was divided by the family into three vineyards: San Giuseppe, which may be the finest vineyard, Colle Sudovest and Punta Marcello.

    Barolo Bricco Boschis 2005 and 2006 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. Maceration on the skins for 20 days and aged in Slavonia oak casks of various sizes for three and a half years.

    Barolo Riserva 2004 Vignolo DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. Maceration on the skins for 26 days in stainless steel vats and four years in Slovenian oak casks of different sizes. The

    Vignolo vineyard is slightly lower than San Giuseppe. I think Bricco Boschis might be the highest vineyard in the zone.

    Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe 2004 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. Maceration on the skins for 26 days and aged for four years in Slavonia oak cask of various sizes for four years.

    Alifo said that the Barolo area has been fortunate over the last 20 years and that between 1988 and 2010 the only vintages not to buy are 1991, 1992, 2002 and 2003. I agree with him.

    The first vintage of Cavalotto Barolo I tasted was the 1971 which I had in the early 1980’s. In 2007 at the winery, I tasted the 1971 again and it was still going strong. Not much has changed over the years as they continue to produce traditional wine and classic Barolo with aromas and flavors of faded roses, tar, tobacco and mushrooms.

     Agricola Azienda Giovanni Manzone

    The Manzone winery was established in 1925 by Giovanni Manzone and it is located in Monforte d’Alba. It is a small, family run winery consisting of 8 hectares all planted with vines. The average production is 4,100 cases a year. The wines are not clarified or filtered. In 2005, Mauro a trained oenologist joined his father, the present Giovanni at the winery.

    It was a cold rainy morning as we made our way along a dirt road that kept on going up and up.  Finally, we reached the top of the hill known as “Gramolere” and the winery. I rang the bell and we were greeted by Mauro.  He took us into the winery where we met his father Giovanni. When he greeted us I knew that this was a farmer and as Gambero Rosso stated, he “… is an authentic wine man…His wines are so typical they are almost textbook in style, perfectly embodying the true Langhe spirit.” I could not agree more. Giovanni was shy and soft spoken and looked like he had just come in from working in the fields.

    In the winery they have 500 liter barrels which looked like they had seen many vintages. Next to them were barrels that were a little larger. When I asked about them I was told they were 700 liter barrels and were traditional in the area. This was very interesting to me because I had never noticed these size barrels before.

    Mauro and Giovanni led us in a tasting of their wines.

    We started with a Langhe Bianco Rosserto 2009 DOC made from 100% Rossese Bianco. This is an autochthonous variety of the Lange region. Mauro told us that the wine was saved from extinction by his family over 100 years ago. It was in an old family vineyard close to the house.  About 30 years ago, Giovanni decided to make wine from this variety which he calls “this special white wine”.  It took him 20 years to get official permission for the government to recognize the grape. The wine is fermented for 10 days in 500 liter oak barrels and aged on the lees in the same type of barrels for 12 months with batonnage taking place twice a week. The wine was fruity and mellow with flavors and aromas of peach, orange, acacia and flowers.

    Batonnage was not used in the 2000 vintage of this wine.  It was fresh with undertones of citrus, and a nice finish and aftertaste.  Mauro said that the wine could age between five and ten years but the 2000 was still going strong. Only 2,500 bottles are produced.

    Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 DOC from the “le Ciliegie” vineyard. The grapes are harvested the first week of September and maceration takes place for seven days. It is aged in stainless steel tanks for 11 months. The wine is fruity with blackberry overtones and hints of violets.

    Barbera d’Alba  2007 DOC “La Serra” Riserva  the grapes are picked in the La Serra vineyard in the middle of September. Maceration is on the skins for ten days. The wine is aged in 700 liter barrels for 16 months. This was an interesting wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit, sour cherries and hints of tobacco.

    Nebbiolo d’Alba 2008 DOC the grapes come from the “Le Gramolere” vineyard and are picked in the middle of October. Maceration is on the skins for seven days. The wine is aged in 700 liter casks for six months. Good red fruit and a hint of spice.

    Barolo “Le Gramolere” 2006 DOCG the grapes are harvested in the middle of October and there is skin contact for 30/40 days. It is aged in 25 HL casks for 30 months. This is a very complex wine with a lot of tannin. It has aromas and flavors cherries, raspberries, spice and balsamic.

    2004 Mauro said was a great vintage and they made a Riserva which they only make in the best years. He said the wine was aged in 500-700 liter barrels for 48 months. This is a big wine but elegant at the same time. We also tasted the 1998 Riserva, a year that was overshadowed by the 1997. However Giovanni felt that 1998 was a great vintage similar to the 2004. I had to agree. This wine will age for a long time.

    We tasted the Barolo 2008 DOCG Bricat  from barrel. It had the aromas and flavors of Pinot Noir. These were the same Pinot Noir aromas and flavors we tasted at Elvio Congo when Valter gave us a barrel sample of his 2008. There must be something about that vintage. I cannot wait to taste them from the bottle to see how they have developed. 

    Barolo Bricat  2006 DOCG  the grapes were picked in the middle of October. Maceration is on the skins for 15 days. 50% of the wine is aged in 500 liter barrels and 50% in 700 liter barrels for a minimum of 24 months. It has flavors and aromas of blueberries, blackberries with a hint of chocolate and walnuts. It is not as big a wine as the “Le Gramolere”.

    Giovanni Manzone has a very good website  

    Every time that I travel to Piemonte I see changes. For many years I feared that the entire Langhe wine production would veer toward the “international style” of wine making. This method trades off the wonderful authenticity and purity-of-character of the Nebbiolo grape for faster maturation and more immediate gratification. The use of small, new, French oak barriques accomplishes this but adds flavors of oak and vanilla to the wines; flavors that the original Barolo producers never envisioned or desired.

    Although it is true that “degustibus non disputandum” (personal taste can’t be disputed), if the reader wants to experience Barolo in the form in which it was originally conceived and made, producers like Cavallotto and Manzone, and last issue’s Elvio Cogno, are the guarantors of that tradition. As long as these families continue their fine work, those of us who want authentic Barolo wines will be able to get them.

    Finally, I am happy to mention that many of the Barolo houses that veered toward the use of new oak and international style are turning back somewhat; and trying to get closer to the more authentic methods that Cogno, Cavalotto, and Manzone never forgot. With Roberto of Keste, Michele and me, Naples, Rome and everything in between.

    Listen to Charles Scicolone on Wine every Wednesday at 6:05 PM on Valerie’s New York  internet radio and on demand.


  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Chiara Lungoratti on the Wines of Umbria at the Wine Media Guild

    With only one free day when I attended last year’s Sagrantino event, I decided to ask Chiara Lungarotti to show me Cantina Lungarotti’s new winery in Montefalco. What better way to learn more about Umbria and its wines. Even though it was a Saturday she said yes.  Chiara and I talked about wine in general, Umbrian wine in particular, and her wines as we tasted them. I am always impressed with her wine knowledge so I invited her to come to NYC to do a presentation for the Wine Media Guild on the wines of Umbria. Chiara is very passionate about all things Umbrian and works very hard to promote her region and its wines. I was very happy when she accepted my invitation.

    Chiara planned the tasting to include at least one wine from each of the wine producing regions of Umbria. She said the two most important red grapes in Umbria are Sangiovese and Sagrantino and the most important white grape is Grechetto. All but three of the 20 wines we tasted were made with at least one of these grapes. Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot are also grown here.


    The Wines

    Grechetto di Todi Colli Martani “Montorsolo” DOC 2009 100% Grechetto di Todi Cantina Peppucci the vines are on the hills of Montorsolo which are rich in limestone and clay. The harvest takes place in the middle of September. The wine is clarified by the “debourbage” and fermented in stainless steel tanks with periodic “batonnages”

    then bottled and released. At $12 it is a very good buy.

    Chiara explained that traditionally Orvieto was amabile, slightly sweet, and it was only in the last 50 years that it has become a dry wine. Today she said very few producers make an amabile. There are many tunnels and caves under Orvieto built into the volcanic rock. Many of the wine merchants in Orvieto have their cellars in these caves right in the town. When the Duomo was being built, construction began in November 1290; the workers’ contract stated that they would be given this wine every day.

     Orvieto Classico Superiore “Terre Vineate” DOC 2009 50% Procanico, 30% Grechetto and 20% Verdello Durpeggio and Malvasia Azienda Agricola Palazzon. The wine is fermented in stainless steel for 20 days. It had more body then I expected and nice fruit with hints of white peaches $17

    Torre di Giano, Bianco di Torgiano DOC 2009 Lungarotti.  Made from 70% Trebbiano and 30% Grechetto. The soil is clay with good water retention and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. The Grechetto is harvested in the beginning of September and the Trebbiano in the middle of September. The wine is made from the free run juice, after a brief cryomaceration, and is vinified in stainless steel at low temperatures. It is kept on the lees at low temperatures until bottling. $15

    Sangiovese dell’Umbria “Vigna La Pieve” IGT 2006 Cantina Fanini 100% Sangiovese There are 5,500 vines per hectare. Fermentation and maceration takes place in stainless steel. This wine is aged in second and third passage barriques for not less than 12 months and in bottle for not less than six months before release. This a very pleasant fruity wine easy to drink. $23

    Assisi Rosso DOC 2008. Sportoletti Made from 50% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet. The vineyard is 400 meters above sea level and the harvest takes place in mid-September. Fermentation is stainless steel for 10/15 days with steeping and regular mixing. The wine is then aged in wood for some months and in bottle before it is released. I have not had many wines from this DOC and this one had nice red fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry. $18

    Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 2007 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone sub soil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks; lightly filtered before bottling. This is an easy drinking wine with red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of black cherry with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, a bargain at $15.

    Rubesco Riserva “Vigna Monticchio”, Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2005

     Lungarotti Sangiovese 70% and Canaiolo 30% Fermented in stainless steel and maceration on the skins for about 25 days. It is aged in barriques for one year and then for several years in bottle before release. In the past it was aged almost 10 years before release, now it is closer to 5 years. The 2005 is the current vintage. I have been drinking this wine since 1981 when I first visited the winery in Torgiano and drank the 1973 vintage. The wine was granted its own DOCG in 1990. The Rubesco Riserva is a wine that can age for 30 years. $55

    Rubino 2006 Umbria Rosso IGT La Palazzola 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot the vineyard is 250/300 meters above sea level and the soil is clay, rich in skeletal deposits. Merlot is harvested the second week in September and the Cabernet Sauvignon the first week of October. Maceration is on the skins for 25 days in stainless steel. It is aged for 12 months in barriques. This is a big wine a with a lot of fruit, and a good finish and aftertaste. $50

    San Giorgio, Umbria Rosso IGT 2004 Lungarotti 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. The vineyard for the Cabernet Sauvignon is pebbles and tangentially limestone. The Sangiovese and Canaiolo vineyard is clay and sand with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000/5,000 vines per hectare. The harvest takes place the second week of September. It is fermented in stainless and maceration on the skins for 18 days followed by 12 months in barriques. It is aged in the bottle for 36 months before release. This is a big wine with red berry aromas and flavors and hints of leather and rhubarb. $62

    Recently Italian producers from outside Umbria have been coming to Montefalco and building wineries. Chiara also wanted to expand but wanted to stay within Umbria where she feels at home. A few years ago they brought land in Torrota di Montefalco and opened up a winery there. It is only 45 minutes away from the main winery in Torgiano.

    A few producers also make a Montefalco Rosso Riserva. Chiara felt that this was a mistake. She felt that there was not much difference between the regular and the riserva (the riserva is aged longer) and that it would confuse the consumer.

    Montefalco Rosso DOC 2008 Lungarotti Blends of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 10% Sagrantino. Soil is a combination of clay and sand, with 4500 vines per hectare.

    The harvest takes place in September/October. It is fermented in stainless steel with 25 days skin maceration, aged in French oak barriques for 12 months, and six months in bottle before release. It has aromas and flavors of red berries, violets and a hint of coffee. $48

    Chiara said that in 1970 there were only 5 hectares of Sagrantino in Montefalco!

    The name Sagrantino comes from the Latin sacer, a holy wine used doing Christian festivals. The Passito is a sweet dessert wine and is the traditional version of Sagrantino di Montefalco.

    Alter Ego Umbria Rosso IGT 2006100% Sagrantino Cantina Peppucci Even though this wine is 100% Sagrantino the vineyards are outside the classified zone and therefore it is IGT and not DOCG. This is the reason for its name. $23. This is a good buy.

    Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 Lungarotti 100% Sagrantino. The soil is a medium mix with small pebbles and clay and the vineyard has full southern exposure. The harvest takes place in mid-October. Fermented in stainless steel with maceration on the skins for 28 days and aged for 12 months in French oak barriques. There is a light filtration before the wine is bottled and it spends 20 months in the bottle before release. This is a complex, tannic wine with red fruit, cherries and blueberries and a touch of spice. $48

    Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG  2005 Tenuta Alzatura 100% Sagrantino. The wine is fermented for 26 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with frequent pumping over. It is aged for 16 month in French oak barriques and eight months in bottle before release. It has concentrated black fruit aromas and flavors with hints of leather and coffee. The estate is owned by the Cecchi family of Tuscan fame.

    Sagrantino di Montefalco “Chiusa di Pannone” DOCG  2005 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino. The soil is of pleistocene origin, calcareous clay, rich in gravel and fluvio-lacustrine conglomerates(professor Attilio Scienza at Vino 2011).  Chiusa di PannonE is the name of the vineyard and it is 400 meters above sea level. Vines are grafted on rootstock 420A. The grapes are handpicked into boxes the second and third week of October. Fermentation in contact with the skins for 20 days and malolatic fermentation takes place in wood. The wine is aged in lightly toasted 500liter barrels for six months and 25HL barrels for 15 months. This is followed by assembling and clarifying in cement vats for three months and 2 years in bottle before release. The wine has not been stabilized or filtered. As I have mentioned before, I like the style of wine that they produce.  $40

    Passito 2005 La Palazzola Made from Trebbiano and Malvasia. The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level. 60% of the grapes are dried before pressing at the end of November.  Not too long ago they would have been able to call this wine Vin Santo but now to be labeled Vin Santo it must be produced in Tuscany.  This is a light sweet dessert wine with hints of apricot. $50

    Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito DOCG 2006 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino form the Balocco vineyard 340 meters above sea level with a southern exposure. The grapes are handpicked the second week of October and placed in single layers in crates. The bunches selected are the ones most suited for drying. The grapes are dried naturally on cane trellises for 75/90 days with the elimination of imperfect bunches. Vinification takes place using the force of gravity because there are to levels in the cellar. Fermentation in contact with the skins for eight day and malolatic fermentation takes place. The wine clarifies spontaneously with no need for filtration. Aging takes place in 10HL Slovenian oak barrels for 15 months. The wine settles in fiberglass cement vats for 3 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. This is a big dessert wine with rich dried fruit and tannin with blackberry, black jammy fruit flavors and a hint of spice. It is well balanced with a very long finish and a great aftertaste. When I visited the winery they opened a 1985 passito that was just lovely and I really enjoyed it. $50

    Charles Scicolone on Wine- every Wednesday at 6:05 on Valeries NY
    The pizza tour to Italy- Roberto of Keste Pizza e Vino, Michele and I. 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Montefalco... Not Just Sagrantino DOCG. My Adventures at Vino 2011

    During the three days of Vino 2011, I had some interesting experiences, among them the honor of interviewing Ambassador Umberto Vattani, President of the Italian Trade Commission (ICE).  The next day, I attended the press conference on “The Future of Italian Wines: as Seen from the point of View of Leading American Wine Professionals.  I also attended seminars on Soave, the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Montefalco and attended the Grand Tasting. I also interviewed Aniello Musella, Italian Trade Commissioner in NY and the Executive Director for the US, on the state of Italian wines in NYC.

    The moderator for the panel: “Montefalco… Not just Sagrantino” was Lisa Granik MW.

    The panel was made up of representatives from the 5 wineries presenting their wines.

    Wine writers and wine buyers made up the audience.

    Professor Attilio Scienza Head of Enology Studies at the University of Milan was the main speaker and he talked about the terroir in terms of geography and soil composition.  The principal grape in Montefalco Rosso is Sangiovese and Professor Scienza said that Sangiovese comes from a combination of grapes some of them from Southern Italy: Calabrese di Montenuvo, Mantunico Bianco and Gaglioppo from Calabria and Nerello Macalese from Sicily. Ciliegliolo was the only one from Tuscany.

    Sangiovese has been a traditional grape variety in Central Italy and Umbria. It is the basic grape in Montefalco Rosso and Montefalco Rosso Riserva. Both of these wines are a blend of several grapes: 60/70% Sangiovese, 10/15% Sagrantino and the rest Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with some other varieties like Colorino.

    The five producers that presented their wines used stainless steel, barriques, tonneaux and botti (large oak barrels of 25hl) in different combinations to age their wines. Only one producer, Antonelli, does not use barriques. All the producers agreed that the two vintages that we tasted, 2006 and 2007 they were very good vintages. The harvest for the Rosso takes place during the second and third week of September.

    Montefalco Rosso Riserva

     Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva 2006 Antonelli Made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Zone: Montefalco. Soil composition is clay, calcareous. Vineyard is 1250 ft above sea level. The vine density is between 3300 and 5000 per hectare and the training system is cordon spur. Vinification takes place in stainless steel for 6 months and the wine is aged for 6 months in 500 liter-tonneaux and then for 12 months in 25 liter carati. It is aged another 12 months in the bottle before it is released. The wine has flavors and aromas of red fruit with hints of cherries and strawberries,good acidity and a nice finish and aftertaste. Fillippo Antonelli said that one of the problems they have in the zone is sugar. The alcohol level of the wine is 14.5%.  All of the wines were between 14/14.5% alcohol.  Antonelli is one of the oldest producers in the zone and I like their style of wine.

    Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva 2006 Signae Cesarini Sartori 65% Sanviovese, 15% Sagrantino,15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Zone: Gualdo Cattaneo and Montefalco. Soil composition is clay limestone and sea deposits from a natural lake. The vine density 5,208 per hectare and the training system is cordon spur. Vinification is in botti, tonneaux, and barriques and the wine is unfiltered. It is aged in the cellar for 36 months and aged in bottle for another 12 months before release.

    This was a bigger more tannic wine with aromas and flavors of cherry, vanilla and a hint of black pepper.

    Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva “Campo Della Maesta” 2006 Podere Casale Di Montefalco   I found it to be even more tannic with hints of red fruit.

    Same grapes and vinification as the wine above but it was said that they have only a “few” barriques. Same Zone also.

    Montefalco  Rosso Doc Riserva 2007 Perticaia 60% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino,15% Colorino and 10% Merlot. Zone: Montefalco Soil composition Clay, with lake and sea deposits of pebbles.

    Vine density 5,000 per hectare. Training system bilateral cordon spur. Vinification- cold soak for 24 hours, spontaneous fermentation at controlled temperatures and prolonged maceration on the skins.  It is aged 12 months in French barriques and eight months in stainless steel. I had visited the winery a few years ago and do not remember seeing any new oak for the red wine. The wine had dried fruit aromas and flavors with undertones of dried prunes. If I understood correctly when Guido Guardigli the owner of the winery was explaining his vine training system Filippo Antonelli said that with the bilateral cordon spur the grapes ripen two weeks earlier.

    Some of the members of the audience did not see the need for a Montefalco Rosso Riserva. They felt that there was not much difference between the regular and the riserva.  They are both made from the same grapes and aged in the same way, the only difference is that the regular is aged for 18 months and the riserva is aged for 30 months of which 12 has to be in wood. The wine buyers in the audience felt that the consumer would be confused by having two types of this wine.

    Montefalco Sagrantino  

    For more information on Montefalco Sagrantino and what is going on in Montefalco see

    my two articles

    Montefalco Sagrantino is a very big wine. It has a very deep color and a lot of tannin. All of the wines are between 14/14.5% alcohol. The harvest takes place the second and third week of October.

    Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Novelli Zone is Montefalco and it is 100% Sagrantino. Soil composition is clay with a good amount of pebbles. Vine density 5,000 per ha and the training system is Cordon spur. The wine is fermented in stainless steel for three weeks and aged for 18 months in selected new oak barriques. It is aged for another six months in bottle before it is released. This is a big rich wine with good fruit flavors and aromas of blackberries, black currants and a touch of vanilla from the oak.

    Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Perticaia 100% Sagrantino  Zone Montefalco, vineyards 1080 ft above sea level, soil composition clay, 5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Bilateral cordon spur. Cold soaking takes place for 24 hours, spontaneous fermentation at controlled temperature with prolonged maceration on the skins. The wine is aged first in barriques for 12 months, then in stainless steel for 13 months and finally in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine had aromas and flavors of cherry with hints of spice and cinnamon.

    Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino. Vinification and aging, same as the Rosso.  This wine is rich and powerful but elegant at the same time. It has aromas and flavors of fruit, blackberries with a touch of prune, and a great finish and aftertaste.

    Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Signae Cesarini Sartori 100% Sagrantino. Vinification and aging, same as the Rosso except it is aged for 48 months. This wine was a little different with aromas and flavors of coffee, cacao with some vanilla. There were also hints of spice and pepper.

    Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2006 Podere Casale Di Montefalco Zone Gualdo Cattaneo.100% Sagrantino Vinification and aging, same as the Rosso. This had many of the same flavors and aromas as the wine above except for a hint of balsamic.

    One of the wine buyers in the audience told the producers that they were making wines that were too big and too tannic and that they should make wine that were more consumer friendly and could be drunk sooner. I felt that this was the wrong message.

    They should not be making wine that is going to taste like many other wines on the market. They should not make a wine because they are told it will sell. They should keep their unique quality and make the best wine that they can and it will sell.

    Charles Scicolone On Wine every Wednesday at 6:05 Valerie’s NY

  • Life & People

    The Golden Age for Italian Wine In America

     During Vino 2011 it was my privilege to interview Ambassador Umberto Vattani, President of the Italian Trade Commission.  Ambassador Vattani has had a distinguished career in service to the Italian government for many years. In 2005 he was appointed President of the Council of Ministers’ National Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE). Under his presidency ICE launched “Made in Italy” merging economics and culture. This highly successful marketing campaign celebrated the high quality and sophistication of Italian luxury goods. It also included partnerships with universities and research centers worldwide as well as many restoration projects in Italy and other countries. For his role in support of culture, he has received awards from the heads of state in many countries.

    Ambassador Vattani told me that the role of the Italian Trade Commission or Istituto Nationale per il Commerico Estero (ICE) is to disseminate news and information about important commercial developments in Italy and to tell the world about Italy. ICE, with its worldwide network of offices, informs journalists and buyers about the array of products and services that Italy has to offer and they help Italian producers keep current with the events and needs of distant markets.

    The ambassador also said that through Vino

    2011, journalists and wine buyers from all over the country will come to NYC. They will have the opportunity to attend many seminars on wine and related subjects. Italy is so diverse that no other country could have had so many seminars on these topics. Italy has about 2,000 indigenous grape varieties as well as almost all the world’s major international varieties. The visitors will also have the opportunity to meet the producers from Italy that do not import their wines into the US.  On the last day there is a Grand Tasting with producers from Apulia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Tuscany and the Veneto.

    For the consumer, Vino 2011 has “Shop and Dine”. Consumers are invited to enjoy special tastings, seminars, by the glass promotions, and pairing menus at 28 participating wine shops and restaurants featuring some of Italy’s finest wines and food products. This program was launched to showcase the many ways in which Italian wines can be enjoyed, from casual entertaining at home to dining out. There is an Italian wine style for every cuisine, occasion and taste preference. 

    The Ambassador said that this is a golden age for Italian wine in US.  Italian restaurants are more popular than ever and when you go to an Italian restaurant you drink Italian wine. The U.S. is very important to Italy as a market and for the influence that it has around the world.

    Ambassador Vattani believes that the first introduction to Italian wine for most Americans was Chianti in the straw flask bottle. This wine became very popular and was served in almost every Italian restaurant. It seemed that the only wine Americans knew was Chianti from Tuscany. This began to change as more Italian wine began to come into the country such as Barbera from Piemonte, followed by more expensive wine like Barolo and Barbaresco. Then Pinot Grigio which has became the largest selling imported wine in America, and more recently Prosecco which has reached a new popularity. In fact Italian Wines have a 38% market share of wines imported into the US in terms of quantity and 30.3% in market value, making it number one in both categories.

     The Ambassador went to school in the US and has spent a lot of time here. He made the observation that when men go to a steak restaurant, they order martinis and beer. When they go to an Italian restaurant they order wine.  He also believes that women play a large part in what men drink. If a man goes to a restaurant with a woman he is more likely to order wine.

    According to Vattari, Italian food not only tastes good, but is good for you.  The simplicity of Italian food- -take the best ingredients and do very little to them—is what makes it so appealing and a much more natural way to eat. He has a plan to sent Italian chefs into schools and universities in the United States to teach about Italian food and products.

     He indicated that Italian products are made with care and attention to detail – Italian quality and Italian excellence that no other country can match. These quality products are like ambassadors in foreign countries.  They help to spread the Italian lifestyle. Many people in the US and around the world love Italy because of this lifestyle.  The ambassador said that the Italian life style makes people feel better. Italy, he said, has many piazzas where one can go for a walk, meet friends, have a coffee, have lunch, read a newspaper or just watch the passing scene. This is what life is all about.

    The ambassador wants to get young people, “the lap top generation” as he calls them, here and in other countries to follow the Italian lifestyle.

    I asked him about the Chinese market. Recently a case of French wine sold in China for $70,000 while the same case would sell in NY for $17,000.

    He said the rich in China buy these wines not because they know what they are but because they are expensive. The more expensive the wine or the product the more they will buy.

    In order to gain a better understanding of the Chinese market, ICE sent out a questionnaire to find out the drinking habits of the Chinese.  They learned that

    in China at first it was the women that wanted wine and most of the wine was bought in restaurants.  Later, wine was bought in retail stores to impress a women or the boss or for a special occasion.  The ambassador is trying to make wine more “democratic” in China and interest the Chinese in the Italian lifestyle. He concluded that although there are no piazzas in China, there should be!

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    A Visit to Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno

    The fog had lifted and it was a bright clear day as we arrived at the Elvio Cogno winery at the top of Bricco Rivera, near Novello, one of the eleven communes in which Barolo is produced in the Langhe region of Piemonte. For many years Elvio Cogno had been the winemaker for Poderi Marcarini in La Morra where he produced some of the best Barolo’s that I have ever tasted.  Cogno’s family has been making wine in the Langhe for four generations and in 1990 when his relationship with Marcarini ended, he bought a farm, restored the property, and added vineyards and a winery.  Today, Elvio Cogno is very proud that his family’s winemaking tradition continues with his daughter Nadia and her husband, winemaker Valter Fissore.

    I have known Valter and Nadia for a number of years and this was not the first time I had been to the winery. Every time I come to visit, Valter is always trying to tell me or show me something new. This time he pointed to a fence that was just built and with a big smile on his face said, “I have finally found a good use for my barriques.” It was a beautiful fence made from the staves of the barriques. He knew that this would make me happy.

    We tasted a very interesting white wine, Langhe Bianco Anas- Cetta DOC 2009

    It is made from Nascetta (autochthonous Novello Bianco). Valter said that this grape is of Mediterranean origin and might have originated in Sardinia. He believes that this is a white wine that can age. He opened a bottle of this wine the night before we came and it was ten years old and showing very little sign of age. He said that it has a mineral character but when it ages, it resembles Riesling! It was a very elegant wine with good fruit, a long finish and great aftertaste. He said that they first produced the wine in 1994 and there are records of it going back to the 19th Century, but he is one of the few that make it now.  Interestingly, he said that the wine is aimed at a younger market!

    The Nascetta vineyards are at 350 meters and the 4,000 vines per hectare are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Harvesting is at the end of September. The wine is vinified in 70% stainless steel and 30% in barriques. It is aged 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in barriques and is 180 days on the lees. After 3 months of bottle age it is released. 10,000/12,000 bottles produced. $30

    The next wine we tasted was the Barbera d’Alba “Bricco dei Merli” DOC 2008.  The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level and there are 4,500 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place from the end of September to the beginning of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with controlled automatic pump-over. The wine is aged in large Slovenian oak barrels and barriques. It remains on the lees for 60 days and in bottle for 6 months before it is released. This is a more “modern style” of wine, he said, but thankfully, I could not taste the wood and found the wine very nice. 10,000 bottles produced. $30

    However, when it comes to his Barolo, Valter is very traditional.

     He said that the only problem in the past with using traditional methods was that the large barrels might have been “dirty” and had bacteria. He has two special machines to clean the botte grande. One cleans them with steam - 30 liters of steam per minute. After that it is treated with ultra violet rays. He said he was “traditional but clean”. Once again he showed me something “new”.  Valter uses square stainless steel tanks because they take up less room.

    Valter also worked for Marcarini.  He said that in 1984 they harvested the Nebbiolo grapes on Nov 2nd. Now they harvest the grapes in the middle of October. However the last two harvests have been later than in previous years because it has been colder.

    We tasted two vintages of the same wine from the barrel: the 2009 and the 2008 Barolo “Ravera’ DOCG. Both wines are aged in 42 HL Slovenian oak barrels. The 2009 was very fruity and was just starting to show some Nebbiolo characteristics. I was not prepared for the 2008 because it had the aromas and flavors of Pinot Noir. Often I have heard it said that Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir are similar. This was the first time I tasted Nebbiolo that remained me of Pinot Noir but it would not be the last. A few days later at the Giovanni Manzoni winery I tasted their 2008 Barolo from botte grande and again it reminded me of Pinot Noir. Walter said it was the vintage and aging in botte grande the aromas and flavors of this young wine were not masked. Never before had I tasted Nebbiolo from barrel or bottle that resembled Pinot Noir. Walter said that 2008 and 2009 were two very different vintage. In 2008 the winter was very cold and the wine has a higher ph. He said it would be a more elegant wine than the 2009. The 2005 is $65

    Barolo “Vigna Elena” DOCG 2005. This wine is made from 100% Rose a sub-variety of Nebbiolo. Walter said he was one of the few, if not the only one, to do a Barolo with 100% Rose. The vineyards are 380 feet above sea level and face southward. There are 4,000 vines per hectare. The vineyard is 1 hectare. The harvest is in October and the grapes are fermented in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with automatic pump-over, a post fermentation maceration of 30 days and submerged cap. The wine is aged for 36 months in 40HL Slovenian oak barrels. Valter said the he only uses native yeasts. On the lees for 60 days and 12 months bottle aging before it is released. Walter pointed out that this wine is only made in great vintages. He also said that in his microclimate, 2005 was an excellent year and it made a very traditional style Barolo. The wine had typical Nebbiolo aromas of roses, tobacco and a hint of liquorice. 5, 000 bottles produced. $80

    Barolo “Ravera” DOCG 2007. It is made from the Lampia and Michet, sub varieties of Nebbiolo. The Vineyard is 380 feet meter above sea level, with 4,000 vines per hectare and faces southward. Fermentation in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with automatic pump over, maceration for 30 days with submerges cap and it is on the lees for 90 days. 24 months of aging in 25/30HL Slovenian oak barrels and six months in bottle before it is released. He called Ravera the most important Cru in Novello and went on to say that the mostly calcareous soil ( classic blue clay) of this vineyard adds elegance and structure to the wine, making it ideal for aging. 15,000 bottles produced. $70

    The 2010 of the same wine would only spend 18 months in wood because of the character of the vintage. He said in 2010 he had to prune 40% of the grapes from the vines. It was a long very cold winter, with many cold days and less production. He felt the 2010 would have hard tannins. Then he went on to say something very interesting. It the case of 2010 it was up to the wine maker to produce a better wine. It would take all the skill of the producer to accomplish this.

    He also felt that if there is a long maceration of 40 days it makes the tannins softer. He will only use botte grande for his Barolo. Barriques extract too much from the wood into the wine and he would not use them for Barolo.

    Barolo “Bricco Pernice” DOCG 2006 100%.  It is made from a sub-variety of Nebbiolo called Lampia. The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level with 5000 vines per hectare and faces southward. The grapes are from the finest vineyards in Novello, in the most historic part of the Ravera cru. Harvest is in October. Fermentation in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks with pumping over and 30 days maceration with submerged cap. It is aged for 24 months in large Slovenian oak barrels 25/30 HL. It remains on the lees for 90 days and spends and 12 months in bottle before it is released. This is a well structured and elegant Barolo. 9,000 bottles were produced. $85

    Visiting Cogno was in some ways like going back in time. The dedication and focus on producing Barolo that shows all the characteristics of the terroir, without adding extraneous flavors, reaffirmed for me that great honest Barolo will continue to be made.

    Attention to cleanliness and the newer technologies used are all subservient to this focus on tradition and quality.

  • Clavesana- Siamo Dolcetto

     Clavesana- Siamo Dolcetto – We are Dolcetto

    It was a typical day in Piemonte in early November--fog and rain with a chill in the air as we headed for the town of Clavesana in Dogliani and the Clavesana winery. I was glad that I was not driving; Ernie and Louise DeSalvo joined Michele and I on our trip and did all the driving.

    This was very different from the hot June day when I first tasted four Dolcetto’s from the Clavesana winery in a New York City apartment with Anna Bracco, Clavesana’s Director. I liked the wines so much that I told her that next time I was in Piemonte I would visit the winery. This time I was as good as my word.  At the winery, Anna introduced us to Giovanni Bracco (no relation) who has been the Clavesana Coop’s president since 1987.

    When they say Siamo Dolcetto – We Are Dolcetto -- they really mean it.  Last year the coop sold over 300,000 cases of Dolcetto, over 90% in Italy. The Co-op was founded in 1959 by 32 growers and today there are about 340 members.

    Anna then told us more about Clavesana.  Their logo, she said, features the ten landmark “campanili’ (bell towers) of the towns where the growers (shareholders) live. These are the towns of Dolcetto’s homeland. The keys on the logo are the symbol of the town of Clavesana, which has been named the gateway to the Langhe. Some of the growers have other jobs and can only look after the vineyards part time and their agronomist Carlo Arnufo gives extra help to these growers so they will not feel alone and abandon the land. She went on to say that they are trying to keep young people from leaving the area and the land and are doing everything possible to help them to stay. One such young man was Guiseppe Bracco, the nephew of Giovanni, and we had an excellent lunch with him and his fiancée Fiorella. One of the highlights of the lunch was a quiche topped with shaved white truffles, a first for me; it was a perfect combination with the Dolcetto. In fact the Clavesana Dolcetto went very well with all the local specialties that we had.

    Anna made a point of saying that they pay the growers according to the quality of the grapes and will pay them as much as 20% higher than the market price. This she says is another incentive for the growers to produce superior grapes.

    Giovanni Bracca explained some of the Italian terms they were using including the idea of “singular-plurality”:

    Clavesana’s microvinification is called Vinification alla Giornata, and Allagiornata are the single vineyard Doglianis—Dolcetto DOCG.

    Allagiornata – A day’s work from the single vineyards of Clavesana’s stakeholders. When two Piemontese bulls are finished for the day, they have worked one “giornata”, nearly one acre (3,310 meters). This is the root of Clavesana’s singular plurality. He went on to say that even though they are a co-op, some growers bottle wine from a single vineyard. Day in and day out they live “Allagiornata”. They are identified on the label of each bottle by the stakeholder’s number and name. On Google Earth, it is possible to zoom in on the exact location of the vineyard by entering its single vineyards’ coordinates from the label. For example:  Giovanni explained that his vineyards are at 571 meters above sea level and his single vineyard wine is 110 Dogliani DOCG delle 3 Giornate di Socio 110 a Calvesana 44º 27’ 59.76” N 7 56’ 54.26’’ E. which we drank when we visited his nephew Giuseppe Bracca for lunch in Pra Del Pozzo one of the ten villages in the heartland of Dolcetto. We also had the  474 Dogliani DOCG  2008 from the 5.5 Giornate of Socio 474 in Clavesana-Marco Beccarai  44º 27’ 42.55’’N 7 55’07.34’’E.  I enjoyed this wine at Del Posto in NYC where I was able to discuss it with Clavesana’s oenologist, Roberto Boeri.

    Sig. Bracco further explained the difference between the Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC and the Dogliani DOCG.  The old winery, the heart of Clavesana, was originally built only with cement tanks. Later, stainless steel tanks were added but mostly on the outside of the winery.  Dolcetto di Dogliani 2009 and Piemonte Dolcetto D’H0 2010 were vinified in stainless steel tanks and are left here or transferred to cement tanks for a few months. For these last two wines, there is no minimum aging.

    Dogliani DOCG/ Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore- The DOCG has the lowest yields in liters(wine)/ hectares 4.760 of all the different zones of Dolcetto production in Piemonte. The minimum aging is 12 months from Oct 15 of the year of the grape harvest. The minimum alcohol is 12.5%. It is interesting to note that if vineyard and geographical names are on the label, the yield is reduced to 4284 liters/hectare (wine) and the minimum alcohol content is increased by 0.5%. Il Clou Dogliani DOCG is vinified in stainless steel but is aged in botte grande (large oak barrels of oak 50hl).

    Allagiornata Dogliani DOCG (Socio 110 for example) are the only ones vinified in cement. The length of time depends on the vintage, 4/6months


    Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC –  With geographical and vineyard names on the label the yields are reduced to 5040 liters/hectare (wine) and natural alcohol content is increased by 0.5%.  All of the wine is made from 100% Dolcetto grapes

    The name Dolcetto means sweet little one but the wine is dry. It has medium alcohol, tannin and a deep ruby red color. They can be light wines fresh and fruity like the “D’HO” Piemonte Dolcetto DOC 2010 that are meant to be drunk young and has written on the label “You D’HO Something TO ME” Or they can be full bodied and well structured like the “Il Clou” Dogliani DOCG 2008, aged for a short time in botte and the Allagiornata vinified in cement and aged in botte grande that can age for several years. All of this depends on the area of cultivation and how the grapes are vinified in the winery.

    Dolcetto is 90% of their total production, though Clavesana also makes other wines. When we were taking a tour of the winery Giovanni Bracco said that they were experimenting with different woods for aging wine. He pointed out 500 liter barrels made from local acacia wood that was aging Nebbiolo from the 2009 vintage to be made into Barolo. They also were experimenting with local oak.

    Giovanni Bracco offered us a taste of the “Vino Sfuso”, a wine that the local’s buy. They bring in large plastic bottles and fill them from a barrel that had a hose attached.  The wine is very young and very inexpensive but both Ernie and I liked it. We were told it was the same wine that they bottled, but this way they could sell it for less.

    I have heard it said that the best Dolcetto comes from the Dogliani zone and after tasting and drinking the Dolcetto from Clavesana I agree. Even their “D’HO which is a Piemonte DOC (meaning the grapes can come from any Dolcetto area) is a bargain at $10.99 as is the Dolcetto di Dogliani. The Dogliani DOCG, both the regular and single vineyard, are a great buy at $16.99.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Lunch with Barone Francesco Ricasoli at Restaurant Danile

    The name Ricasoli has been tied to Chianti from the time Bettino, known as “the Iron Baron”, developed the blend for Chianti Classico in the 19th century. Francesco is the great grandson of the Iron Baron. The family traces its involvement in wine back to 1141 and is one of the oldest wine estates in the world.

    250 hectares of vineyards surround the castle of the estate which is the largest in Chianti Classico. The 1,200 hectares between the villages of Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga include valleys, oak and chestnut woods, and 26 hectares of olive groves.

    Francesco took over the running of the family firm in 1993 and with the collaboration of universities and a key scientific research center he began to look more closely at his estate and what he could do to improve it.

    He wanted to know what the best clones of Sangiovese are, what is the best soil for that specific clone to be planted, and what is the best wood for it to be aged in. Beginning in 1995 the ancient Brolio vineyards were gradually being replanted. Francesco started a research project to study and select biotypes of Sangiovese and other typical Chianti varieties. In 2005 12 were identified, considered to be the best with the most potential for the purpose of selection, and good candidates to become new clones together with those already officially recognized. Three years later, the rootings obtained from these clones were planted.  Francesco told me that there was an independent institute working with the clones and trying to have them certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.

    Terroir has a most important role to play. They are making a map containing all the data for each vineyard: physical-chemical composition, elevation, sun exposure and micro-climate to select the most suitable rootstock, the appropriate variety to plant, and the best row orientation. This has become known as the Cru project. Three of the wines involved at the moment are Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG, Casalferro IGT and Colledila Chianti Classico DOCG.  In 2002 they introduced stainless steel for vinification. Francesco led us through a tasting of the three wines in the Cru project. 


    Colledila Chianti Classico 2007- 100% Sangiovese Barone Ricasoli

    Francesco said in 2007 the grapes ripened early and were ripe at the end of September. The harvest took place in the last ten days of September and the first 10 days of October. The vineyard is at an elevation of 380 meters and faces southwest. He felt that this was the most beautiful and representative part of the estate. It is the right combination of Sangiovese clone in the right soil which gives you the best grapes.


    The land is Paleocene-Eocene in origin and forms part of the geological formation “Monte Morello” The soil is brown with a fine clay structure, very chalky, with a fine clay structure, subalkaline pH and little organic material. It is well drained and very stony. The grapes are destemmed and fall by gravity into special fermentation vats with a conical shape that are open at the top. During the alcoholic fermentation and the maceration period, a soft pressing is carried out between 2 and 6 times a day as well as the delestage. The maceration on the skins is between 5-9 days in stainless steel vats. Malolatic fermentation is in stainless steel vats. Francesco went on to say that the wine is aged in new barrels and casks for 18 months.

    Francesco made a point of saying that the choice of wood used is the result of experiments using 20 different types of the best French oak from different geographical areas (Vosges, Troncais, Nevers, Allier, and Limousin) with medium and medium-plus toasting levels and standard to tighter grains.

    Because of all of this, he felt that this wine was the top expression of Sangiovese at Brolio and that the aroma is so specific, intense and typical that it could not be confused with any other wine. $65

    Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2007 Sangiovese with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Vinification in stainless steel tanks with 7-9 days of skin contact and 18 months in barriques and new casks. $65

     Casalferro IGT 2007 100% Merlot The vineyard is at 400 meters and faces south. Each small plot in the vineyard is vinified separately. The grapes are vinified in open fermentation tanks. Thermo-regulated fermentation takes about 9 days during which soft pressing and the delestage are carried out. The wine in aged in new oak barrels 90% French and 10% American for 18 months. $65

    He said that in this particular terroir the Merlot “is “Sangiovized” meaning that in this harsh but generous territory it takes on sangiovese-like qualities.  Because of this for the first time the wine is 100% Merlot.

    Francesco added that he did not consider this wine a Super Tuscan, in fact he felt the time of the Super Tuscans had passed- it was a wine of the 1990’s. I could not have agreed with him more but for me it did not pass soon enough.


     Rocca Giucciarda Chianti Classico Riserva 2005 Sangiovese and other grapes. Vinified in Stainless steel tanks with 16 days skin contact and 16 months in barriques and tonneaux $30.  This was also one of my favorite wines and went very well with the “Abbaye de Tamie Agnolotti” with Fontina and Porcini.

    Brolio Chianti Classico 2007 Vinified in stainless steel with 16 days of skin contact and 9 months in large barrels and barriques $23

    Castello di Brolio 2006, Magnum. $138/ 750 $65  Another of my  favorite wines of the afternoon, it was a perfect combination with the Trio of Veal: Crisp Sweetbreads with Black Trumpets, Braised Cheek with Jerusalem Artichokes and Braised Tenderloin with Wilted Spinach.

     Castello di Brolio Vin Santo 2003 375ml 100% Malvasia di Chianti. The grapes are dried for about three months. 24 months of slow fermentation in wood and followed by at least 24 months of maturation in caratelli (oak casks) of 225 liters $45. The Vin Santo went very well with the dessert Rivesaltes Roasted Black Mission Figs Caramelized Cashew Biscuit, Fromage Blanc Sorbet a perfect way to end an interesting and informative afternoon.