Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Preview into the Volcanic Wines of Italy

There is a reason why volcanic wines from not only Italy, but the world, are some of the most unique and sought-after wines to discover.  According to Food & Wine, volcanos make up only 1% of the earth’s total surface.   Vines growing in the variety of volcanic soils produce wines with such unique character from the mineral rich soils in which they are grown.

volcanic soil in Italy

Italy hosts a number of regions from north to south that have either active or dormant volcanos with vineyards planted into this rugged terrain.  In the north the Veneto is one of the most known regions for volcanic wines, specifically Soave as well as Colli Euganei and Monti Lessini.  The region of Piedmont has volcanic soils as well.  In central Italy you’ll find the regions of Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria hosting volcanic wines.  In Southern Italy is where volcanic wines really shine in the regions of Campania, Basilicata and Sicily.  

Mt. Vesuvius volcano outside Pompeii
Mt. Vesuvius outside of Pompeii in Campania

On October 3rd our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group of writers will be covering these volcanic wines from all over Italy along with some food pairing suggestions.  We invite you to chat with us live on Twitter that morning at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.  Lend your knowledge or ask any questions that you’re curious to know in understanding these wines.  If you’d like to join our group in writing a blog in reference to this month’s theme on volcanic wines please email me directly at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  Hope to see you all there! 

Here is a preview of what is to come on October 3rd. 

  • Camilla at the Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be featuring A Single-Varietal Carricante, an Etna Exclusive, & Lapsang Souchong-Braised Duck Legs    
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm will share Grapes grown in Volcanic Soil produce a HOT wine!!!   
  • Gwendolyn of Wine Predator will have you Meet Mt Etna’s Volcanic Wines: 3 reds, 3 whites, 3 producers from Sicily with pairings  
  • Lynn at Savor the Harvest will write about Volcanic Wine in the Veneto   
  • Terri at Our Good Life will be sharing Ashes to Ashes: Volcanic Wine and Sicilian Lentil Soup   
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles will feature Mount Etna – The Awesome Power of Active Volcanos, and Yes, Red Wine with Fish   
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass will talk about the wines of Benanti – Capturing the soul of Mount Etna wine  
  • Susannah at Avvinare will be Exploring the Colli Berici in the Veneto  
  • I’ll be hosting at Vino Travels Fried Eggplant Topped with Fresh Tomatoes and Ricotto Paired with I Custodi Etna Rosso   


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Variety of Barbera at Scagliola Sansi in Monferrato

I had been searching for a bottle of Barbera that I knew was in my cellar and just kept missing it somehow until I located it the other day.  I hadn’t loaded it into my inventory so I was unsure of the vintage, but I knew it was either past its peak or was getting close to it.  Even though this 2012 Barbera d’Asti from Scagliola Sensi had some age to it, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it had held up.  I was overdue for a wine from Piedmont and this was an enjoyable mid-week treat. 

The Grape ~ Barbera 

Barbera is a red grape that is the most widely planted throughout the Piedmont wine region.  Its native home is in the hills of Monferrato, in the northeastern part of Piedmont.  Barbera is a highly productive grape that is known for its deep color with high acidity and low tannin.  It had always been known for its approachable style and fresh red fruit, but producers have been using oak adding layers, structure and complexity to the wine resulting in a richer wine. 

The Appellation ~ Barbera d’Asti DOCG 

The Barbera d’Asti DOCG appellation was granted back in 2008.  It’s the second largest appellation in Piedmont when it comes to production levels.  Maybe a no brainer, but Asti is the core center of the appellation, hence the name.  With such a large territory, it’s important to do your research and understand how each individual winery is producing their wines to better understand the style depending upon what you’re looking for.   

Barbera d'Asti wine region of Piedmont
Copyright of Italian Wine Central
The Winery ~ Scagliola Sansi 

Scagliola Sansi is situated in the village of Calosso on top of the San Siro hill in Monferrato with almost 100 acres reaching about 1,050 to 1,250 feet above sea level.  The winery began back in 1936 by Camilla Scagliola whom unfortunately passed away at a young age leaving behind 5 children.  Thankfully his family followed in his footsteps and today the winery is run by the 4th generation with more to come.  

His son Giovanni at the young age of 14 began to rent land around the family’s home to plant vines, crops and raise livestock.  Cattle sales became a large part of how the family earned a living, but as Giovanni’s sons joined the business, they began selling their wine products on the market.    

The Wine 

2012 Scagliola Sensi “Frem” Barbera d’Asti DOCG – Frem in local dialect translates to firm and robust.  Frem was one of the first Barbera bottles the winery started with.  Although I couldn’t locate the aging process on this wine I can only assume from taste this wine has seen some oak.  This Barbera was deeply colored with purple hues.  It’s full-bodied, rich with bramble fruit and good acidity.  I couldn’t find the SRP on this vintage, but recent vintages were about $25-26.  

2012 Scagliola Sansi Frem Barbera d'Asti DOCG
What are some of your favorite Barbera producers?


*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are all my own. Imported by Vinilandia.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Unique Blend at Masseria Amastuola of Puglia

Puglia’s history is known for producing bulk table wine that was sold to the rest of Europe and even Northern Italy.  Even though this still happens today, Puglia has focused on their quality and really established itself as a major player in today’s wine market.  Today it ranks in the top 3 regions throughout all of Italy for producing the largest amount of wine.  If you’re not familiar with the region, Puglia is located in southeastern Italy forming the heel of the boot.  It’s one of the few regions I have yet to visit, but is top of my list for when I eventually return there.  We can all dream at this point with everything going on in the US. 

The Winery ~ Cantine Amastuola 

Today I’m featuring Cantine Amastuola.  About 690 feet above sea level in Crispiano at the heart of Puglia’s Valle d’Itria, the property occupies about 420 acres planted to vines and olive trees surrounded by stone walls. The masseria, or farmhouse, where Amastuola resides was built in the 15th century.   Throughout history is has fallen under a couple different, but since 2003 it is owned by the Montanaro family of Massafra, also known as the Kikau Group. 

Cantine Masseria Amastuola
Copyright of Masseria Amastuola
The Wine 

Although Puglia is dominated by red wines by about 70%, today I’m sharing a white wine from Amastuola, 2017 Calaprice IGP.   It was interesting to sample a wine made primarily from international grapes as a small percentage is produced in the region and the Fiano grape that makes up a small percentage of the blend is a native grape of the Campania region.  This is an organic wine made of 50% Chardonnay, 45% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Fiano.  Made in stainless steel it’s a medium-bodied wine with notes of apple and tropical fruits backed by good acidity.  Personally, the Chardonnay showed up mostly on the palette for me so if you’re a fan of stainless Chardonnay it’s worth trying out this interesting blend.  ABV 13.5% 

2017 Amastuola Calaprice
If you need an excuse to visit Puglia, from the pictures of Amastuola’s site it looks like quite a beautiful wine resort to stay at.


*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are all my own. Imported by Mariposa Fine Wines.

Friday, September 4, 2020

VIVA Sustainability at the Forefront with Michele Chiarlo

Sustainability in the wine industry is a major focus for many wineries and is continually growing its presence throughout wineries around the world.  When Katarina of Grapevine Adventures broached the topic for this month’s Italian Food, Wine and Travel theme it was the perfect time to dig in and understand what sustainability really is and what it means to individual wineries in Italy.   

This week I attended a virtual tasting hosted by IEEM and the Consorzio per la Tutela dell’Asti DOCG led by Jeff Porter.  Being a lover of wines with a touch of sweetness as well as dessert wines this was right up my alley. 

The Wine Region ~ Moscato d’Asti 

To take a step back before we dig into sustainability at the winery, Michele Chiarlo, that I’m featuring today let’s highlight the Moscato d’Asti wine region of Piedmont in northwestern Italy.  This area was delimited at the end of the 19th century.  It's surrounded by the Tanaro and Bormida Rivers and at the North lies the town of Asti.   Moscato d’Asti was established as a DOCG in 1994 containing 51 villages mostly within the Asti province.  

The Grape ~ Moscato Bianco 

If you’re not familiar with the Moscato Bianco grape it’s a highly aromatic grape with floral and fruity notes.  Moscato d’Asti is a slightly sparkling wine with a mild effervescence requiring a low alcohol level of 4.5-6% at about 2.5 bars of pressure.  In comparison, Asti Spumante requires a higher alcohol at about 6-8% with a  minimum 3.5 bars of pressure. 

The Moscato Bianco grape is an important varietal to the region of Piedmont.  It’s the most widely planted white grape in Piedmont.  Jeff brought up at that tasting that there was a statute back in 1511 that required all wineries to dedicate at least 1/5 of all their vineyards to be planted with Moscato Bianco.  Refusing to do so resulted in fines, demonstrating the importance of this grape in the culture of the region.   

Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti Nivole
Copyright of Michele Chiarlo
The Winery ~ Michele Chiarlo 

Originally established in 1956, Michele Chiarlo has been producing Moscato d’Asti for over 40 years.  Their vineyards lie at a variety of altitudes.  The soil is rich in white sand along with sedimentary marine origin.  The climate mostly consists of warm days followed by cool nights.   

Michele Chiarlo Winery Piedmont
Copyright of Michele Chiarlo

As Alberto Chiarlo quotes on their site “sustainability is tenderness”.  Michele Chiarlo winery is part of the VIVA sustainability project and as of 2016 all their grand crus are VIVA certified.  The VIVA project was piloted in 2011 and Michele Chiarlo was one of the first members.  Its mission is focused on preservation through the entire production chain protecting both the landscape where the vines grow and the heritage of the wine regions.  They look to lessen the environmental impact from beginning to end including lowering carbon footprint and CO2 emissions at wineries, managing waste pollution and water consumption along with soil management to name a few.

Michele Chiarlo practices sustainability through a number of ways mentioned on their site:  

  • Utilizing organic fertilizers  
  • Reducing soil erosion  
  • Eliminating weeding  
  • Enhancing flora and micro-organisms within the soil  
  • Protecting against insects using pheromone dispensers
  • Replacing wood packaging with recyclable cardboard  
  • Reconstructing their fa├žade of the winery with a green cover for cleaner air   

The Wine 

I sampled the 2019 Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti DOCG.  Nivole is grown in Canelli, one of the major subzones for Moscato d'Asti.  A florally fragrance with aromas of peach and apricot.  I tasted a couple different Moscato d’Asti for this virtual tasting and the Nivole was more rich and creamy with notes of orange and stone fruits.  A beautiful finesse with soft bubbles.  At half bottle size (375ml) this wine retails about $11-12.  For me it’s the perfect way to end a meal.  ABV 4.9%  Drink these wines fresh and enjoy!

2019 Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti

There is so much to learn about sustainability and it's affect on climate change and our group of wine writers have much more to share.  If you catch us in time we will be chatting live about sustainability and climate change this Saturday on Twitter at #ItalianFWT @ 11amEST. 

*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are all my own. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Italy's Greatest Grapes Shine in Washington with Wilridge Winery

On my continued search in discovering Italian grapes grown around the world I was introduced to Wilridge Winery.  Wilridge Winery is based in the AVA of Naches Heights near Yakima in the eastern part of Washington state, about 2 hours outside of Seattle.  They are the first and only winery in the Naches Heights AVA (American Viticultural Area).  I have yet to visit Washington other than flying through on my way to Alaska.  Many of the wines from this state that I’ve tried in the past have left a favorable impression and Wilridge was no exception. 

The winery began in 1988 by current owner and winemaker, Paul Beveridge.  The name, Wildrige, developed from both his wife’s maiden name “Wilhemi” and his own name “Beveridge”.  Interesting name for someone in this industry.  Paul’s preference for growing European grapes stem from his upbringing in his family’s church influenced by one of the parishioners whom was studying European grapes growing in Washington at the time.  His deeper love for winemaking developed through his college years attending Whitman College close by to the Walla Walla wine region.  He established relationships with local wineries and later began making his own wine while practicing law.  He was selling his wine at a restaurant he owned until it closed.   

The reason Paul chose Italian grapes is mostly because of his love for Italian wines and Italian food.  “We also like the fact that Italian wines are typically made without the use of new oak, so they have a purity of grape fruit flavors not found in most French and Spanish wines that rely heavily on new oak barrels”, says Paul.  The terroir at Wilridge Winery is very similar to northern Italy.  They are located at the same latitude as Piemonte, Friuli and the Veneto regions of Italy.  The local vines are protected by the Cascade Mountains just as the vines of Northern Italy are protected by the Alps.  A similar climate and a longer growing season. 

Wilridge consists of about 80 acres with 14 acres dedicated to vines home to 22 grape varieties.  Four acres are dedicated to pears and apples used to make brandy at their distillery.  They also make grappa from their Italian grapes as well.  About one-third of their grapes are Italian with another third dedicated to French grapes and one third Portuguese, Spanish, Austrian and German grapes. In 2007 they became organic and biodynamic certified and were the first ones of Washington state per their website.   

Paul shared a unique piece of information about the area in which they grow grapes.  They are located on a one million year old Andesite lava flow, the largest in the world.  The rest of the Eastern Washington wine country is on basalt bedrock and was subject to catastrophic floods.  They were above the floods and therefore have some of the best soil for viticulture in the state.  

The Wines 

I enjoyed a number of Wilridge's wines based on Italian grapes, but here were some of my favorites.  

2018 Wilridge Winery Pinot Grigio Acadia Vineyard– Pale straw colored.  Crisp and bright with good acidity and  lemon citrus with a touch of tropical fruit ending with a lingering finish.  An enjoyable, clean crisp white.  ABV 13.2% SRP $22 

2018 Wilridge Winery Pinot Grigio
2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sangiovese – One of the better sangiovese I have tried outside of Italy.  Medium bodied and rather light in color.  Tart cherry with a hint of tobacco and spice.  Good acid and tannin.  ABV 13.6% SRP $40. 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sangiovese
2016 Wilridge Winery Nebbiolo – Ruby red with brick hues on the rim.  A nose rich in cherries with spice and licorice notes.  Black fruits on the palette with solid acidity and silky tannins on the finish.  ABV 13.4% SRP $35 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Nebbiolo

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sagrantino – Ruby red in color.  Rather lighter on the palette than I expected for a sagrantino, but not lacking in flavor by any means.  Notes of green peppers, white pepper and cherries.  Tannins lingering on the finish with vanilla notes.  ABV 13.6% SRP $40 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sagrantino

The future plans for Wilridge Winery include opening a new tasting room in the Woodinville wine tourism area this year.  There will be an additional 40 more acres to plant on Naches Heights.  The next Italian grape variety they plan to plant is Pignolo from the Friuli wine region in Italy.  They are also going to be the first Washington State winery included in the Italian Slow Wine Guide this year.  You can access more information on wines and wineries of Washington here.  


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.  I have received compensation for a sponsored link in this article.