Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#ItalianFWT takes you to the Basilicata

As we're coming into the end of 2015 and hopefully a great year for many we will be starting off 2016 with our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) featuring some of the lesser explored regions of Italy starting with Basilicata.

Where is the Basilicata region you say? It's bordered by Campania to the north, Puglia to the east and Calabria to the south. It also touches the coastlines of the Ionian Sea, Adriatic Sea and a touch of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It's 2 provinces include Matera (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Potenza. It is one of the more mountainous regions of Italy and the south and equally as hilly. Basilicata is a rather chilly region with the winds of the various seas helping to mitigate the climate.

Matera, Unesco World Heritage Site of Basilicata
Matera by Martin de Lusenet

The food of Basilicata

Although most of the south is more seafood and fish based, this here is a mountainous region so it focuses more on heartier fare including meats like lamb and pork. The citizens of Basilicata also like their food with a little pep so peperoncini here are popular in many dishes along with dried sausages. You'll also find your typically staples of pasta, bread and cheese since the foods of this region are more of a poor man's cuisine.

Peperoncini by Francesco Cirigliano

The wine of Basilicata

There are a few volcanos in the Basilicata, but the one to make note of is Volcano Monte Vulture. This volcano is one of the major influences on the wine produced in the Basilicata in the northern part. The wines produced in this area are the Aglianico del Vulture, which is also known as the Barolo of the south produced from the aglianico grape originally brought over by Greeks. This area also produces the only DOCG of the region, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG.

Monte Vulture in the Basilicata
Monte Vulture by Michael Nielsen

Basilicata actually has no native grapes like many of the other regions of Italy. Although aglianico is the best known grape of the region, you can find other grapes grown here including primitivo, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, merlot, greco bianco and malvasia.

Our ItalianFWT group has so much to share with you this Saturday, January 2nd and you can join our online chat Saturday on Twitter at #ItalianFWT 11am EST to discuss all aspects of the Basilicata. We'd love to hear from you if you have been here and can lend your knowledge so please don't be shy.

Here is a preview of my fellow bloggers for what is to come:

Vino Travels -Aglianico, What Makes Basilicata Pop!

Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Calzone di Verdure and Grano Dolce 

Food Wine Click – Basilicata Aglianico Eruption
Cooking Chat - Pasta with Bacon and Spinach
The Wining Hour - Basilicata Aglianico and Veal Osso Bucco

Rockin Red Blog - In Step in Italy: Exploring Basilicata Wine
Girls Gotta Drink - Basilicata Traditions: A Cooking Class in Matera

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Italian Wines for Christmas from Abruzzo & Piedmont

Still trying to think of some last minute christmas gifts for a coworker, family member or friends? If they are winelovers or even just enjoy a nice bottle of wine I have a couple Italian wine suggestions for you today to consider on both ends of the price spectrum to consider.

I've written about this particular winery, Damilano, in the past from my personal visit to the winery. I shared my wine tasting with you and some background on the winery. I also had them on the list for my Top 5 Wineries to Visit in Piedmont. Today I'm sharing with you an affordable 2013
2013 Damilano Barbera d'Asti
Damilano Barbera d'Asti. Damilano has been producing the barbera grape since 2008 and this comes from leased land in Casorzo, which is located in the province of Asti. This wine is made of 100% barbera and is aged 60% in french barrique and 40% in french tonneaux from 20-30 year old vineyards. What I love about this grape is the drinkability of it and also the complexity depending on the producer and area it's grown. Barbera is the most planted red grape within Piedmont. With hints of purple in the glass this wine was a little on the lighter bodied side than I expected with notes of cherry and hints of vanilla and spice. Not very balanced with the acidity though. Retails about $16.
Cantina Damilano in Piedmont

2006 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepulciano d'Abruzzo RiservaNow to step up the game a few notches we move to my next selection of the 2006 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva. I've written about the Masciarelli family in the past for a local wine column that I write for. The Masciarelli Tenute Agricole winery started by Gianni Masciarelli was taken over by his wife, Marina Cvetic, due to Gianni's passing in 2008. Masciarelli's main focus, along with much of Abruzzo, are on the primary grapes trebbiano (white) and montepulciano (red). This particular wine, Villa Gemma, is Masciarelli's top tiered wine. These wines come from the oldest part of the Masciarelli estate. This is one of the top expressions of a quality montepulciano d'abruzzo produced in this region. Full bodied, backed by firm tannins and great complexity of dark fruits and spice. Retailing about $75-80.

These samples were provided to me, but as I always state I will not just write about a wine and recommend it unless I enjoy it myself and of course there are always wonderful stories to tell. I hope you're enjoying some wonderful wine bottles yourself this holiday season. Merry Christmas to all and enjoy this special time with loved ones! Buon Natale!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The cru wines of Marchesi de' Frescobaldi

I attended a virtual wine tasting this week led by wine journalist and wine critic, Filippo Bartolotta, and Nicolo D’Afflitto, the Director of Winemaking  for Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi.  Set in a warm, cozy and inviting environment with the fireplace blazing in the background they walked us through 4 of the cru wines of the Frescobaldi estate.  Samples were provided by Colangelo for this tasting and I was honored to sample such fantastic wines from Tuscany with such an in depth history of winemaking of high quality wines.      
Nicolo D’Afflitto
Nicolo has been with the Marchesi De’Frescobaldi winery since 1991 when he began working with the Castel Giocondo estate in Montalcino and later in 1995 went on to working in the other wineries estates including Castello di Nipozzano, Corte, Valiano, Pomino, Castiglioni, Poggio a Remole and S. Maria.  Nicolo’s belief is that the quality of the wine lies in the vineyards themselves with the influences of the varied terroir of each and takes a very natural approach to winemaking in the vineyard.  He travels from castle to castle and tries to put into each and every wine glass the terroir of each vineyard site.  Nicolo not only takes pride in the wines produced at the Frescobaldi vineyards, but historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.  They had passed through their vineyards and Nicolo stated that it's also about the people that have passed through this land that are part of the culture as well as the wines and can’t be forgotten.  

Wines of Marchesi De’ Frescobaldi
When it comes to “cru wines” of Italy there are no legal laws or standards that producers in Italy must follow to have their wines labeled as cru.  Italy has enough of its own laws and regulations when it comes to wines.  A cru wine is typically a wine that is considered well above average and is the best of the best, but if a wine does qualify under this qualification the Italian wine producers don’t have the legal right to market their wines with the cru label.  You may see the actual vineyard site listed on the label, which may not mean anything to many, but if you understand certain special terroirs of an area or region it will help you to understand the quality and characteristics of the wine in the bottle. 
Below are the 4 wines that we sampled together during the tasting:

2012 Castello di Pomino Benefizio Pomino Bianco Riserva
Made of 100% chardonnay and fermented in barrique. Wines have been produced in the Benefizio vineyard since the 1800’s.  A balanced wine that is elegant with a beautiful perfume.  It's very creamy and clean with nice minerality and acidity.  Nicolo stated that the acidity is preserved in the Pomino vineyard by the altitude and low temperatures and it's sandy soil.  For Nicolo, Pomino is all about elegance.  He believes this wine can age for 40 years and suggested to pair this wine with caviar, salmon and oysters.  ABV 13%. Retail $45

2011 Castello di Nipozzano Mormoreto Toscana IGT 

Made of 45% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 20% merlot and 5% petit verdot.  The first wine was produced from the Mormoreto vineyard in 1983.  Castello di Nipozzano is located about 30 minutes northeast of Florence very close to the Arno River and 50km from the Pomino vineyard.  It's situated about 700 meters above sea level. The Mormoreto vineyard is made of sandy and clay soil.  Nicolo calls this wine a "French tourist in Tuscany" and is a modern interpretation of the Tuscan soil.  Extracted blackberry flavors with notes of mint and some spice.  An elegant wine of full body with balsamic notes on the finish.   ABV 14.5%  Retail $79.  

2011 Tenuta di Castiglioni Giramonte Merlot/Sangiovese 
Tenuta di Castiglioni was discovered in 1999 after an evaluation of the terroir at the Giramonte vineyard site. Located southwest of Florence in Montespertoli.  Merlot was the choice grape to be planted here because it loves clay soil. Planted merlot there because it loves clay soil and the very warm climate.  Purple notes in the glass and aromas jumping out of the glass this wine was full of dark berries with chocolate notes.  A full-bodied, velvet wine with a beautiful finish.  ABV 14.5%. Retail $150

2009 Ripe al Convento di Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
100% sangiovese.  Castelgiocondo is located about a half hour from Siena in the town of Montalcino and according to Nicolo this is the kingdom of sangiovese.  There used to be 12 wine makers in Montalcino and now there are 250 producers. Nicolo provided the 3 factors that produce great wines in this area.  #1 the exposition (south or southwest facing slopes). #2 the elevation (not too low because its overripe and jammy and the wines don't have a long life and not too high as it produces wines that are light, elegant, but not powerful.  Ideal is 450 feet). #3 soil must be very well drained.  Soil is the key factor for this wine.  The soil there is galestro, which is a schist soil, flat stone.  2010 is well talked about in media today, but Nicolo believes the 2009 vintage is one of the best vintages.  This wine is well structured, with  herbal note, ripe fruit, notes of tobacco and chocolate with juicy acidity. ABV 15%. Retail $138

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pignolo and Schioppettino and Picolit, oh my!

Welcome to our 14th month of our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT). We're getting closer to rounding out covering all 20 regions in Italy and this month we feature the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia found in northeastern Italy bordering Slovania and Austria. I provided an overview of Friuli earlier in the week to give you a snapshot of what this region is all about. Today I'm sharing with you highlights of some of the native grapes produced within Friuli that make it special.

Friuli's wine producers pride themselves on the purest expressions of fruit. Most of the region is dominated by whites and some wine producers are using oak, but not like many of the white wines in the rest of the world. The wines here are all about freshness, acidic, aromatic, crisp wines with plenty of personality. It's a shame that there is so much mass marketed pinot grigio on the market because if you taste the whites of Friuli you'll know the real difference between those pinot grigio and the ones produced in Friuli.
white wines of friuli venezia giulia
By Luca Ciriani
Wine regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The terrain of Friuli begins with the Julian Alps to the north that roll down to the plains until it meets the Adriatic and Gulf of Trieste. Some of the top wine zones from this region include:
  • Collio Goriziano
  • Colli Orientali del Friuli
  • Isonzo
  • Carso
  • Grave del Friuli
  • Aquileia
Collio wine region of Friuli
Collio by Craig Dollett
There are plenty of international grapes grown in this region like chardonnay, sauvignon, pinot grigio, pinot bianco for whites and merlot, pinot nero and cabernet for reds. Personally one of the biggest reasons I love Italian wines is because of the hundreds of indigenous grapes that you can't find in other wine countries of the world.

Whites wines of Friuli
Some of the most full bodied white wines come from the Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli zones and include the grapes of ribolla gialla, Friulano and other whites. Friulano is a wine used to be known as tocai friulano until 2006 when the European Union prohibited the use of this name because of the closeness in name to Tokaji of Hungary. This same region is where you'll find what are known as orange wines. The orange wines are primarily based on the ribolla gialla grape and are oxidized and macerated with the skins for extended periods of time. A lot of times these wines are also agred in clay amphora.

Two of the 3 DOCG wines are dessert wines made in the Colli Orientali del Friuli. One of these wines is primarily made of the picolit grape producing wines of peach and apricot notes, the Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit DOCG. This grape suffers from flower abortion producing small yields so it's produced in limited amounts annually. For a dessert wine made of 100% picolit seek out the subzone of this area, Cialla. The other dessert wine is made of the grape verduzzo from the Ramandolo DOCG. A historical and one of the oldest wine areas of Friuli the grapes grow on steep terrain and is a wine that is a full bodied, elegant wine with high acidity and some tannins resulting in a wine that is overwhelming sweet.
Verduzzo from Ramandolo DOCG
The hills of Ramandolo by Silvia Malatini
Red Wines of Friuli
The red native grapes I mentioned previously including pignolo, tazzelenghe, refosco and schiopppettino are mostly found in the Colli Orientali del Friuli. Pignolo, a grape that produces wines of fruit and aromatics. With the refosco grape the profile of the wine depends on the kind of refosco the wine is made from as there are different refosco grapes. The best to seek out are those of the refosco dal peduncolo rosso. Schioppettino, also known as ribolla nera, was another Italian grape that faced extinction at one point due to phylloxera, but was thankfully saved. Although, a tricky grape to find. Lastly, tazzelenghe definitely won't be for the easy drinking wine drinker as it's a sharply acidic and tannic wine.
Refosco dal peduncolo rosso of Friuli
By Fabio Bruna

Now if we all had easy access to these grapes like the locals of this region we'd all be in heaven. Don't let seeking out these wines stop you. The bloggers of this group are located all over the US and the world and with the internet there are plenty of ways to access these wines easily. Have you had any of these wines and what was your opinion of the wines of Friuli?
Join our live chat Saturday December 5th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  We can't wait to hear from you.  

Here are the rest of my fellow bloggers featuring Friuli:

Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Roasted Lobster with Pesto + Ca'Bolani Sauvignon
Rockin Red Blog – Wine at the Center of Cultural Crossroads
Food Wine Click – Friuli Wines with Nutmeg Braised Goat
Enofylz Wine Blog  A Taste of Friuli, Got Prignolo?
Cooking Chat -  Lightened Chicken and Broccoli Pasta with Wine from Friuli
Italophilia - Castello di Miramare: Pearl of the Adriatic
Orna - A Stroll through Grado: The Sunny Isle
The Wining Hour - Friuli Pinot Grigio and Roasted Branzino

We can't wait to start off the 2016 new year with you exploring some of the lesser known regions of Italy starting in January with the Basilicata region.  So come back on Saturday January 2nd as we explore the rest of Italy's regions. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Preview to the Food, Wine & Travel to Friuli with #ItalianFWT

This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel (#ItalianFWT) group takes you to the region of Friuli, tucked up in the northeastern corner of Italy. Friuli-Venezia Giulia, known in short as Friuli, is part of what's known as the Tre Venezie with the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. This region is bordered by the Veneto within Italy and also Austria and Slovania. Friuli is a small region in size, the 5th smallest within Italy, and in comparison to the US is only about 2/3 the size of Connecticut.
Copyright of Federdoc
Travel to Friuli
There is a little for every traveler in this lesser-traveled region. With the Dolomites and mountains bordering the Austrian line to the shores of the Adriatic for the beach goers it's one of the reasons why traveling to multiple regions within Italy are so unique. You can get a taste for all sorts of living styles and the culinary treats and wines that come along with it through the diverse landscapes. Plus, don't forget about the Austrian and Slovanian influences found throughout. Some of the top visited towns of Friuli include Udine, Trieste and Gorizia. Have you been?

Wine of Friuli
After phylloxera struck the Friuli region, the wine production here was rather silent until pinot grigio became popular on the wine scene. This region is dominated mostly by whites and this region along with the Trentino-Alto Adige is one of my go to regions for white wines within Italy. The wines of this region are known for their high acidity and aromatics, which is influenced by the warm days and cool nights of the mountains, plains and sea.

You'll definitely find some of your international varieties in this region like merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, but the native grapes of this region are pignolo, schioppettino, refosco for reds and friulano, ribolla gialla, picolit and verduzzo for whites. I'll be going into more details personally on the wines of this region Saturday.
Native wines of Friuli
Wines of Friuli by Fabio Bruna
Food of Friuli
Like a lot of alpine northern regions of Italy they are dominated with heartier fare including stews, sausages, veal, gnocchi dishes, speck, prosciutto (especially prosciutto di San Diele) and Alpine cheeses. Don't forget about the coastal part of Friuli that lines the Adriatic that also lend many seafood dishes. There will be lots of food and wine pairings shared this weekend to engage you in what it's like to be a Friulian.
Prosciutto di San Daniele of Friuli
Prosciutto di San Daniele by Desiree Tonus

Here is a preview of what's to come this Saturday:

Vino Travels – Pignolo and Schioppettino and Picolit, oh my!
Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Roasted Lobster with Pesto + Ca'Bolani Sauvignon
Rockin Red Blog – Wine at the Center of Cultural Crossroads
Food Wine Click – Friuli Wines with Nutmeg Braised Goat
Enofylz Wine Blog A Taste of Friuli, Got Prignolo?
Cooking Chat -  Lightened Chicken and Broccoli Pasta with Wine from Friuli
Italophilia - Castello di Miramare: Pearl of the Adriatic
Orna - A Stroll through Grado: The Sunny Isle
The Wining Hour - Friuli Pinot Grigio and Roasted Branzino

Join our group this Saturday and come back for a variety of articles on the region of Friuli with my blogger friends. Come chat with us live also on Saturday December 5th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT. We look forward to hearing from you then!