Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Unique Grapes of Italy's Alpine Valle d'Aosta region

I previously wrote about my travels to the stunning Valle d'Aosta when I wrote about the agriturismo, La Viggni de Crest, that I stayed last October.  They also produce their own grapes that they sell off to a local cooperative. The cooperative, Cave des Onze Communes, gathers the grapes they purchase from 11 different municipalities to produce a variety of wines. They produce about 33,500 bottles from 19 different DOC wines under the only DOC of the Aosta Valley, Valle d'Aosta DOC

Cave des Onze Communes in the Valle Centrale
Cave des Onze Communes is located in Aymavilles, just outside the city center of Aosta in the central valley, Valle Centrale, where most of the winemaking of the region takes place. This region is not only the smallest in size, but also produces the least amount of wine throughout all of Italy, but it sure offers plenty of unique varietals. 
Cave des Onze Communes Aymavilles
For Christmas I typically will open some of my better bottles, but with hopes of 2015 bringing about my first child and knowing that if that is the case, my wines will have to sit and not be drunk during this time frame.  I figured I would let my older bottles that I brought back from Italy rest since I know they will continue to age well. (Yes lots of thought went into that.  We are talking wine here so it's important!) So I decided to open a bottle I brought back from my visit to the Aosta Valley, which was the 2011 Cave des Onze Communes L'Ancien Cepage. It's a red blend with grapes typical of this region including petit rouge, fumin and mayolet. 

2011 Cave des Onzes Communes L'Ancien Cepage
The unique grapes of the Valle d'Aosta
Since this isn't a region that is on the top of everyone's list for visiting, unless you are the outdoors type or a big skier, I wanted to talk about some of the unknown grapes of the Aosta Valley. The natural beauty of the steep sloped vineyards and alps hanging over the valley is a memorable experience. What I found interesting were the large variety of grapes that were unfamiliar to me to such as the ones that are blended in this particular wine. 

About 75% of the wine produced from the Valle d'Aosta wine region are red wines with the red grape, Petit Rouge leading the way. This grape can be found in the wines of the subzones of the central valley including Enfer d'Arvier, Nus, Torrette and Chambave. Vino Italiano, by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch, compare the Fumin grape to a Cotes-du-Rhone Syrah.  Mayolet is probably the least common of these three native grapes and is usually used as a blending grape. Over the years of winemaking in the Aosta Valley, this grape has slowly been replaced with other grapes due to the difficulty it takes to grow it.

I hope one day you have the opportunity to try some of these native grapes. Having the opportunity to taste wines that are indigenous of a region is a true way to experience the terroir of that area.

Sources: North American Sommelier Association, Vino Italiano by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Buon Natale a Tutti ~ Merry Christmas to all

Christmas in Florence Italy
My favorite place on earth ~ Firenze, Italy

Merry Christmas to all and Happy Holidays!  
Buon Natale a tutti!

I wanted to thank everyone whom has supported and joined me on my journey so far.  It's almost been two years since I started this blog to share with you my knowledge of Italian wine, occasional Italian food and wine pairings and my travels throughout Italy.  

I'm looking forward to 2015 where in January I'll be traveling to Verona for the release of the 2011 Amarone compliments of the Consorzio della Valpolicella (Thank you!).  I'll have plenty to share with you from winery visits, meeting winemakers, wine dinners and the big event of the 2011 Amarone release. I also have my North American Sommelier Association (NASA) Italian Wine Specialist Certification exam to pass at the beginning of the year.  There are lots more exciting wines and grapes to explore. 

I have also started over the last few months an Italian bloggers group exploring the food, wine and travel of Italy as we cover each region by region.  It's the first Saturday of every month and we have a great group of bloggers that all have different focuses.  I hope you have been enjoying those as well.

I'm very thankful for where my journey has taken me thus far and I hope you remain to stay engaged with me and please continue to share my site with your networks.  Thank you to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Verdicchio of the Marche region with Cantine Fontezoppa

We're finally covering the wines of the Marche wine region located in central Italy. The Marche region borders the Adriatic Sea with Tuscany and Umbria to the west, Abruzzo to the south and Emilia-Romagna to the north. The climate is Mediterranean with hot summers and cool winters. The Marche region is mainly hilly and mountaineous with rivers and gulleys flow through the plains. Because of this climate and the majority of vineyards located on hills with a great sunlight exposure they are ideal conditions for growing great wines.

Cantine Fontezoppa is named after an ancient spring that flowed where the winery stands today. The winery's vineyards lie in both the Serrapatrona and Civitanova areas in the Marche wine region.

Verdicchio grapes from the Marche wine region
Verdicchio grape cluster

The particular wine today is made of the verdicchio grape, which is primarily found in the Marche region. The name verdicchio comes from the word verde, meaning green, which relates to the color of these grapes that have a tinge of green in them. 

Verdicchio di Matelica DOC vs. DOCG
The wine today is a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine designation, but within the Marche wine region there is a DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita) from Verdicchio di Matelica. The biggest difference between these two designations is that the DOCG is a Riserva. This DOCG came about in 2009. For the DOC wines they require at least 85% of the verdicchio grape and are allowed to also blend trebbiano and malvasia grapes.

2013 Cantine Fontezoppa Verdicchio di Matelica

The wine I'm featuring today is the 2013 Fontezoppa Verdicchio di Matelica DOC made from 100% verdicchio. Aged in stainless steel it's straw yellow in color this wine has aromas of white peaches, almonds with strong minerality of wet stone. On the palate again is the presence of lots of minerality and peach. It's a smooth medium bodied with with persistent acidity. It retails at about $12.

Get out there and try a different white wine and experience the Marche wine region for yourself.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The wines flowing from Mt. Etna in Sicily with Cantine Valenti

An exciting wine region in Italy is the largest island, Sicily. There is something special about some of the wines produced from this part of Italy, especially those located in and around Mt. Etna. Today I'm sharing with you a 2011 Etna red wine from Cantine Valenti called Norma.
Mt. Etna Sicily

I recently tasted this wine at one of my local wine shops, Pairings Wine and Food, where Nick Mucci from Mucci Imports shared this and many other unique wines I'll be sharing with you in upcoming articles, mostly from the Emilia Romagna region.

About Cantine Valenti
Cantine Valenti began operations in 2004 by Giovanni Valenti and his son Alessandro. It's incredible that amongst the remnants of the lava flows are vineyards, amongst other elements including flora and fruit. The Valenti vineyards are produced on this volcanic soil at about 2300 feet/700 meters high towards the top of the volcano. Most of the Valenti vines here consist of 40-50 year old vines with a recent acquisition by the Valenti family of 100 year vines where they plan to produce some riserva wines. For those of you that are conscious of wineries that are producing wines organically, well Cantine Valenti is one of them. In addition, the wines, produced in low yields, are harvested by hand due to the steep slopes and difficulty in harvesting.

2011 Cantina Valenti Norma
“Norma” comes from the Etna DOC which is located in the hills around Catania where the Valenti comes from as well as the area around Mt. Etna itself. Due to the unique soils full of sand, many of the vines here are ungrafted and survived the phylloxera disease. In this area the grape nerello comes in two forms that are both used in Norma, nerello cappuccio and nerello mascalese.
2011 Cantine Valenti Norma Nerello Mascalese
The primary grape in the 2011 Norma from Cantine Valenti is nerello mascalese with about 2% nerello cappuccio. This wine was aged about 7 months in oak with a few more months in the bottle. It's a dry, medium bodied wine with floral aromas and ripe red fruits on the palate with minerality and firm tannins.

It's not every day that you get to sample wines produced off of volcanic soil never mind an active volcano that is the tallest in Europe. So let that vino flow like lava!

Sources: Mucci Imports

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Moscato d'Asti with Fresh Fruit Almond Cake and Zabaglione

Welcome to our 7th Wine Pairing Weekend event. We have covered so many wonderful dishes over the year including last month's Creative Thanksgiving where I featured a Piemontese dish from Piedmont Italy: Brachetto d'Acqui with a walnut tart. 

I love the holidays and we're coming into Christmas, which is a perfect time of year to enjoy time with loved ones and of course delicious food and wine. This month we are featuring holiday sparkling wines and my sweet tooth took over again for this dish. I just so happened to feature another wine from the Piedmont region this month, Moscato d'Asti, with an almond cake topped with fresh fruit and zabaglione sauce, an Italian sauce for desserts, but is also made as a custard or sometimes a drink. Make sure you do some situps after this dish!

I'm not a huge lover of sparkling wines and those that I do enjoy are the sparkling wines that have a lighter, frothier effervesence. If it has a sweeter to it as well like Moscato d'Asti then it's a win-win for myself. I chose the 2013 Giorgio Carnevale Moscato d'Asti DOCG for this pairing.
2013 Giorgio Carnevale Moscato d'Asti
I searched online for what I felt would be a delicious pairing to this wine and I chose a recipe from Food & Wine. I put a slight twist on the way that they prepared the dish where they brushed the cake with a whiskey syrup and apricot glaze, but instead I chose to top it with their recipe for zabaglione and fresh fruits.

Preparing the Almond Cake
  • Use a round cake pan lined with a buttered parchment paper, although as long as you butter the pan so that it won't stick that should be sufficient
  • In a food processor combine ¾ cup of sugar, 4 ounces of almond paste, 1 stick of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and blend.
  • Add 3 large eggs, a dash of salt and ¼ cup of milk to the processor.
  • Further add a cup of flour and ½ teaspoon of baking powder.
  • Once the batter is blended and smooth pour into the lined cake pan
  • Bake the cake for about 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees
  • Once cake is finished peel from paper and remove from pan.
Almond cake batterAlmond cake batter

Almond cake

Preparing the Zabaglione
  • Whisk 8 egg whites in a small stainless bowl with adding ¼ cup of sugar and ¾ cup of the Moscato that you may be pairing with this recipe
  • Place the bowl over a pan filled with about an inch of simmering water.
  • Once removing from heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place stainless bowl in a larger bowl full of ice water to chill the bowl full of zabaglione ingredients whisking until frothy.
Making ZabaglioneMaking zabaglione

How to make zabaglione
    Final Preparations

    • Place fresh berries on top of almond cake and pour the zabaglione sauce over the top
    • Cut a slice, pour a glass of Moscato d'Asti and smile!

    Almond cake with fresh berries and zabaglione
    2013 Giorgio Carnevale Moscato d'Asti DOCG 
    On the nose this wine was very florally and aromatic with peaches taking over. On the palate it was light and delicate with notes of peaches, mango and small, frothy bubbles. The Moscato d'Asti was a nice pairing with the almond cake as the sweetness and fruit elements in each complemented one another with the bubbles adding some liveliness to the mouth.

    Sparkling Wine and Appetizer Pairings 
    Here are the ideas available from our group for you. Try something new this year! 
    Bacon and Greens Dip with Bubbly by Cooking Chat 
     Piedmont Sparkling Nebbiolo & Pungent Anchovy Green Sauce by foodwineclick 
    Segura Viudas Aria Cava with Oysters and Spanish Tapas by Confessions of a Culinary Diva 
    Butterflied Spicy Prawns and Treveri Sparkling Wine by Wild 4 Washington Wine 
    A Seasonal Nibbles Duet + Pear Valley Vineyard's Frizzante Muscat by Culinary Adventures with Camilla 
    Appetizers served with a Sparkling Wine by A Day in the Life on the Farm 
    Cranberry Brie Biscuit Bites and Sparkling Muscat by Curious Cuisiniere  
    Domaine Meriwether Sparkling Wine and Make Ahead Spanakopita by Tasting Pour  
    Wine and Dine: Anna de Cordoniu Brut NV and Herbed Parmesan Crisps by Grape Experiences  
    Italian Sparkling Wine: Bubbly & Bacon #winePW by Girls Gotta Drink 
    The Holidays Sparkle on #WinePW by Rockin Red Blog 
     Butternut and Bubbly by It's Okay to Eat the Cupcake 
     Smoked Salmon and Potato Chip Appetizer with Louis Roederer Champagne by ENOFYLZ 

    Don't forget to our Twitter chat today, December 13th at 10 a.m. Central Time. We'll be talking about our tips and tricks for the best holiday wine pairings. We'd love to have you join us! Be sure to mark your calendars for January's Wine Pairing Weekend, hosted by Christy at Confessions of a Culinary Diva

    We'll be sharing "New Wine Resolutions - Wine or Region you want to explore in 2015. Join in the #WinePW 8 conversation on Saturday January 10!

    Saturday, December 6, 2014

    Differences between Barolo and Barbaresco of Piedmont

    Welcome to the 2nd #ItalianFWT (Italian Food, Wine, Travel) bloggers group where we feature our own thoughts and experiences on all the regions throughout Italy as we cover one region at a time. This month we feature the region of Piedmont located in northeastern Italy. 

    Piedmont borders France to the west, the Aosta Valley or Valle d'Aosta to the north, Liguria to the south and Lombardy to the east. The primary red grape of this region, nebbiolo, is one of my favorites and some of the wines produced from this grape in Piedmont are some of the most highly regarded wines in all of Italy. They hold their own in comparison to some of the most famous and well-regarded wines of the world so it makes sense that I share this wonderful grape with you for our first time covering Piedmont in this group.
    Barbaresco wines of Piedmont

    Their are many wineries throughout Piedmont and some other regions like the Valtellina area of Lombardy that produce wines made from nebbiolo, but two of the most notable wines of Piedmont and Italy are the famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines. I've visited a number of wineries from both areas and wrote a previous article on my top 5 producers in Piedmont. Today I want to discuss the difference between these two amazing wines, Barolo and Barbaresco.
    Barolo, La Morra, Novello in Piedmont


    • Both Barolo and Barbaresco are located in northern Italy in the region of Piedmont. Barolo is the name of an actual town/comune located near to Alba in the Langhe, or Langa, wine zone. Barbaresco is also named after the town/comune in the Langhe wine zone.
    • Both wines are produced 100% with nebbiolo grapes. Part of what creates the difference in these wines are the defined territories in which each producer is situated, hence why “crus” where established to decipher the differences in these wines.
    • Both demonstrate profiles on the nose and palate of truffles, tar, roses and licorice
    • Generally both wines are powerful, structured wines with lengthy finishes


    • Barolo is produced in 11 communes including Barolo, Castiglio Falletto, La Morra, Monforte, Serralunga d'Alba, Novello, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour, Cherasco and Roddi. Barbaresco is produced mostly in Barbaresco, Nieve Treiso and parts of Alba territories.
    • Barolo is known as the “king wine of Italy” and Barbaresco as the “queen”.
    • The soils of Barolo are more limestone based where Barbaresco has sandier soils
    • The tannins in Barbaresco are typically softer than those over Barolo. Barbaresco is typically a more approachable and elegant wine where Barolo is meatier, tannic with rich depth.
    • There is a 1 year difference in the aging requirements of Barolo and Barbaresco. Barolo must be aged at least 3 years where Barbaresco must be aged for 2 years. For a riserva style there is a requirement of 5 years for Barolo before release and 4 years for Barbaresco.

    Vineyards in Piedmont

    As you can see there are many similarities and differences between these two and the fun part is experimenting with different styles of Barolo and Barbaresco based on where they are produced. It's a perfect way to experience the differences in terroirs and the results of such. What are some of your favorites of each and have you compared and contrasted the differences in terroirs yourselves?

    Thanks for joining again our 2nd Italian Food, Wine & Travel event on Piedmont, but it doesn't stop here.  Follow along with some other great blogs featuring all elements of life in Piedmont and what it has to offer.  

    Here are our featured articles this month:
    Cooking Chat – Porcini Mushroom Risotto with a Nebbiolo
    Food Wine Click – A Walk from Neive to Barbaresco and Back
    Flavourful Tuscany – Moscato and their appellations
    Girls Gotta Drink - The Ultimate Guide to Piedmont Food and Wine Pairing 
    Curious Appetite - A quick cheese guide to Piedmont

    Make sure to join our bloggers conversations on Twitter throughout the day at #ItalianFWT .  We also post on #ItalianFWT throughout the month so feel free to join us all the time and share your Italian experiences!  

    Make sure to check back on January 3rd for our 3rd Italian Food, Wine & Travel event.  Next month's feature will be Emilia Romagna!   


    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    2nd Italian food, wine and travel bloggers event on Piedmont

    Welcome back to our now 2nd Italian Food, Wine & Travel bloggers group! This month we feature one of my favorite regions in Italy, Piedmont or Piemonte! Last month we featured the Veneto region and had lots of amazing blogs to share. 
    This group consists of bloggers that have a deep appreciation and passion for Italy whether it comes from their travels to Italy or their appreciation of the fine wines and amazing cuisine. Piedmont, translating to “foot of the mountain” is indeed at the foot of some of the tallest mountains in all of Europe. It's a hop skip and a jump from the French and Italian Riviera as well the Valle d'Aosta with it's stunning Alpine landscapes. This region is also highly regarded for it's rich cuisine that pair perfectly with some of the best known wines in all of Italy.
    Map of Italy including Piedmont

    We have a group of bloggers ready to share with you their insights into the region of Piedmont.  This Saturday December 6th will be our second event.  You can join us all day Saturday live on twitter at #ItalianFWT and make sure to check back at Vino Travels Saturday for a list of wonderful blogs to enjoy throughout your weekend.

    Here are our featured articles this month on Piedmont:
    Vino Travels – The difference between Barolo and Barbaresco

    Cooking Chat – Porcini Mushroom Risotto with a Nebbiolo
    Food Wine Click – A Walk from Neive to Barbaresco and Back
    Flavourful Tuscany – Moscato and their appellations
    Girls Gotta Drink - The Ultimate Guide to Piedmont Food and Wine Pairing 

    There is time to join before Saturday.  Please reach out to me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  Otherwise we would love to have you join us for next month's event and region to be announced Saturday!

    Tuesday, December 2, 2014

    City Wine Tours of Boston's Italian North End

    Whether you are a local Bostonian, a New Englander or just someone visiting from another state or country, there is an excellent opportunity to sample some world-class wines while visiting some of the local Boston neighborhoods and local restaurants.
    City Wine Tours is a company that provides guided tours that explore multiple neighborhoods in Boston including the South End, the North End, Back Bay and the latest edition to their tour list: a sparkling wine tour of Harvard Square in Cambridge.

    City Wine Tours of Boston's North End

    The company provides an opportunity to tour each neighborhood, visit a few local restaurants and wine shops, with great wine and a sampling of food to enhance each stop. The tours offered are a fun way of exploring new wines, restaurants and learning about wine in a warm atmosphere.
    Of course, being an Italian wine blogger and lover of all things Italian, I chose to attend the North End Tour, which was led by wine ambassador Joanne Frette.

    For more information on City Wine Tours of Boston and my experience touring the Italian North End of Boston please read my full article on the Bostoniano site.