Friday, August 16, 2019

The Pearls of Sicily at Assuli Baglio

I’ll be continuing over the next month or two sharing some of my personal selections from the Gambero Rosso event I attended earlier this summer.  Thankfully I have been invited to tour the vineyards of Mt. Etna and some other locations this October so I can’t finally wait to truly understand what makes these wines unique.  Sicily has always been a wine region I find intriguing, mostly due to its volcanic soils.  I have a number of favorite grapes that I have enjoyed from this region, including today’s feature of nero d’avola and the unique native, perricone grape.  

I had the opportunity to meet Alessandro, the brand ambassador for the Assuli Baglio winery of Sicily.  Such a kind, enthusiastic man that was so ready to share the wonderful wines of this winery.  I was surprised that they didn’t have an importer yet in Boston and am glad when wineries get this opportunity to share their wines so that we can all experience them. 

The Winery ~ Assuli Baglio 
Assuli Baglio is located in the western part of Sicily near Marsala in the town of Mazara del Vallo in the Trapani province.  They own about 100 hectares dedicated to vineyards that are 50-60 years old.  Their goal is to go all organic next year too!  The winery is owned by Roberto Caruso whose father was known for discovering a new kind of marble known as the perlato di Sicilia back in 1948.  The Caruso family has strong ties to the land and Roberto decided to continue with their pride of the land and bottle the wines from their expanded vineyards.  He even used his father’s perlato di Sicilia in part of the winery’s architecture as you'll see from the video below.   

Assuli’s main focus is on the autochthonous, native, grapes of Sicily.  These grapes include nero d’avola, zibibbo, grillo, perricone, insolia and catarratto.  I personally I have found some great nero d’avola over the years that I have enjoyed and Assuli was just another to add to the list.  Even better at its suggested price of only $15.  I’ve always also enjoyed zibibbo in Sicily and have tried it in both a dry style and dessert style.  Both a pleasure!   
Assuli Baglio winery in Sicily
Copyright of Assuli
The Grapes ~ Perricone & Nero d’Avola 
Nero d’avola is the most well-known and widely planted red grape of Sicily.  This grape was previously known as calabrese due to the dialect in Italian calavrisi.  It hails from the town of Avola in the southeastern corner of Sicily.  It is a thick skinned, late ripening grape that does particularly well in Sicily’s hot climate.  It‘s a grape that lends deep colors to the glass with red and dark fruits.  A grape developing wines with generous body.    

Never heard of perricone?  It’s no surprise.  Perricone is a grape that disappeared over the last century.  It was basically wiped out by phylloxera.  He stated it is only produced in western Sicily.  It can also be known as pignatello.  I don’t know why so many Italian grapes have so many other names.  Like it’s not confusing enough, right?!  Perricone lends texture and tannin to wines, therefore, it’s typically blended with nero d’avola.  I was lucky enough to try this wine from Assuli made from 100% perricone.  I was able to see what this grape is really made of. 
Assuli Baglio winery Sicily
Copyright of Assuli
The Wines 
I tasted multiple wines from Assuli, but my personal favorites were the 2017 Assuli L’orlando Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia and their 2016 Assuli Perricone Furioso DOC Sicilia. 

2017 Assuli L’orlando Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia – Made of 100% nero d’avola this wine was aged partially in stainless steel and in the bottle.  Deep ruby in color with purple tinges.  A very intense nose of ripe red fruits balanced on the palate with soft tannins, nice acidity with a little spice.  SRP $15 

2016 Assuli Perricone Furioso DOC Sicilia – This was my top pick.  Made of 100% perricone the wine macerated with the grapes for about 25-30 days.  This wine spends 1 year in big barrels and 1 year in the bottle.  An intense ruby color with purple tinges.   A very well-balanced wine with nice structure and jammy fruits.  A wine with lots of characterSRP $20 
Assuli Baglio wines of Sicily
What are your discoveries with Sicilian wines and any particular favorites?

I love this video below on Assuli's website.  It show's the family's involvement with the perlato d'Sicilia and tying it into their passion for their land and vineyards.  All copyright of Assuli.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Seeing the Potential of North Canterbury, NZ with Mt. Beautiful Winery

I’ve always enjoyed the wines of New Zealand and their sauvignon blanc has always been some of my favorites including some of their pinot noir as well.  Our Wine Pairing Weekend group is exploring the wines of New Zealand.  My feature is with the Mt. Beautiful winery.  The name alone was enough to peak my interest.....get it! 

The Winery 
Mt. Beautiful is a winery located in the southern island of New Zealand.  It is located right along the coast and at the foothills of Mt. Beautiful to the east.  Owned by David Teece, his family’s roots are engrained in the farming business with an entrepreneurial spirit.  David’s knowledge expands far beyond the wine industry as he is also a professor and author of over 30 books.  He is also rated by Accenture as one of the worlds “Top 50 Business Intellectuals”.  An intriguing man that let his passion for growing great products in New Zealand lead the way to take the risk of starting Mt. Beautiful, also certified sustainable. 
Mt. Beautiful winery New Zealand
Mt. Beautiful winery ~ Copyright of Mt. Beautiful
The winery is located in the North Canterbury appellation amongst a myriad of soils and microclimates.  Wine Spectator named this appellation as “one of the fastest growing wine areas”.  I think this was the first experience I’ve had with this appellation as the Marlborough wine region is probably the one most seen on the market.  If you know me by now you know I love the opportunity to try something different.   

The Wine 
2017 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir2017 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir Mt. Beautiful’s pinot noir is located in their southern vineyards at the highest elevations.  There it is the warmest location with a lesser chance of frost.  Mt. Beautiful seems to give great care during harvest hand selecting, destemming and sorting their own grapes.  This wine spends 10 months aging in 20% new and used French oak.  It’s ruby colored with purplish highlights.  Ripe blackberries and blueberries were very apparent on the nose.  Rather lighter in body its black fruits are very expressive in the glass showing elegance with subtle tannins on the finish.  ABV 13% SRP $28 

The Pairing 
I had a few directions I was going to go with pairing this wine, but have been having a recent craving for salmon, which to me is always a classic pairing with pinot noir.  I wanted to grill it, but with the kids it’s not the easiest feat.  I chose to do a simple baked salmon paired with some of our fresh vegetables we pick up weekly from our local farm.  Simple, but delicious!  
Mt. Beautiful salmon and pinot noir pairing
Join the rest of wine and food pairing bloggers as they share their personal dishes with New Zealand wines.  If you catch us in time this Saturday August 10th at 11am EST on Twitter we will be chatting live about our pairings and wines. Check it out at #ItalianFWT.  

*These wines were provided as samples, but as always opinions are my own.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Friulian Reds with Zorzettig

Nothing gets me more excited when it comes to Italian wine than having the opportunity to taste grapes that I don’t too often have the opportunity to taste.  Going to the Gambero Rosso event in Boston earlier this summer provided me that opportunity.  This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is exploring wines of northeastern Italy including reds, whites, sparkling, dessert wines.  Heck anything goes this month.   

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know that I love the white wines of northern Italy, specifically northeastern Italy.  Not too often do I taste the reds, but I’ll jump at any opportunity to do so.  At the Gambero Rosso even I discovered the wines of Zorzettig located in the Friuli Venezia Giulia wine region.  Today I want to share with you their red wines including schioppettino and refosco. 
The winery ~ Zorzettig 
Zorzettig is located in the hills of Spessa di Cividale of the area of Colli Orientali.  With generations upon generations of winemaking in the family today the winery is managed by Annalisa Zorzettig with the help of her brother’s assistance in the vineyardOther generations including Annalisa’s daughter Veronica and young granddaughter will be following in her footsteps one day.   Their production is quite large with over 900k bottles annually. 
Zorzettig family ~ Copyright of Zorzettig
The land ~ Colli Orientali 
The Colli Orientali is one of the respected wine producing areas of Friuli.  It’s found just north of Collio in the eastern part of Friuli at the foothills of the Pre-Alps.  The vineyards were built there by the legionnaires of Julius Caesar.  Due to the steep hillsides the vineyards are terraced to allow easier cultivation of the grapes and hand harvesting of the grapes. 
Copyright of Zorzettig
The grapes ~ Schioppettino & Refosco 
Schioppettino and refosco aren’t two grapes I have covered a lot in the 6 years since I started my blog so am always happy to share them once I find ones I’ve enjoyed.  Schioppettino, pronounced skee-oh-pet-tino, is one of Friuli’s native red grapes.  It’s also known as ribolla nera.  This grape faced extinction since it was challenging to grow, but was rescued in the 1970’s by the Rapuzzi family and the Mayor of Prepotto.  It’s darkly colored with notes of black fruits and some spice.  It’s a full-bodied wine with intensity, structure, high acid and tannins.  They usually will age well as well. 

Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, another native red grape of Friuli, is found throughout the region with its home in Carso.  The name of the grape means “from the red stem” and is due to the fact that the stalk turns red once the grapes have ripened.  Refosco can produce different styles depending upon the use of oak or not.  Medium to full-bodied it lends red and black fruit notes with herbs and spice.  Another grape high in tannins and acid.  

The wines 
2016 Zorzettig Schioppettino 
I was informed at the tasting that the word schioppettino comes from the verb scoppiare meaning to burst as the skins explode during fermentation.  Made of 100% schioppettino.  With a nose of black pepper and green bell peppers.  Rather lighter than I expected close to medium bodied.  A soft wine with notes of forest berries.  At this price point it’s quite the bargain.  SRP $10-12 

2015 Zorzettig Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Myo 
These grapes hail from the oldest vineyards of the estate and was a project started in 2008 with a new selection of grapes both native and international.  The project is named Myo Vigneti di SpessaVigneti meaning vineyards of SpessaMyo stems from an ancient Friulian ballade based on the simplicity of daily living.  Zorzettig felt Myo was the best name for these wines due to their pride and respect for their land and their labor of love put forth in the vineyards. 

From the Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, this wine was my favorite of the two.  Made of 100% refosco.  Deep ruby red in color.  Moderate tannins with nice, crisp acidity.  Black fruits and ripe raspberries.  Good overall body and structure.  SRP $20 
Join my fellow wine and food loving friends as they share their choices for northeastern wines of Italy.  If you catch this in time we will be live on Twitter Saturday at 11am EST @ #ItalianFWT.  See you there!