Friday, January 10, 2020

The Forgotten Grapes of Calabria: Gaglioppo of Ceraudo with Salsiccia

When presented with the theme for our Wine Pairing Weekend group to feature Godforsaken Grapes this month by our host, Camilla, I was overwhelmed.  As we all know Italy has plenty of varietals almost extinct or barely given recognition.  Without having read the book I went out on a limb and chose an Italian wine region rather hidden from the wine scene and a grape not flooding the market.  Just what I love! 

The Region ~ Calabria 
Calabria is at the south western tip of the boot in Italy.  Calabria was where the Greeks first landed when they came to southern Italy, therefore naming it “oenotria”, the land of wine.  The Greeks played a crucial role in establishing the vineyards and wine industry there before the Roman and further invasions.  Although most of the wine has always been sold as bulk wine Calabria is a region that is further experimenting and focusing on quality with a promising future.       

Calabria is a terrain dominated mostly by mountains and hills and is almost completely surrounded by water, a key aspect affecting the wine production.  Providing sea breezes and fluctuations between day and night temperatures, the sea creates the ideal situation for grapes growth.   

The Winery ~ Azienda Agricola Ceraudo 
Located in the Val di Neto appellation in the Strongoli Marina territory, Roberto Ceraudo started his winery from nothing planting vineyards and renovating the farmhouse back in the 70’s.  He originally started out selling his grapes to a cooperative until 1990 when he decided to release his first vintages.  

The Ceraudo winery occupies about 150 acres with almost 50 of those dedicated to vines along with olive groves and citrus.  They became certified organic in 1991 setting an example for the Calabrian wine industry.  I loved this quote on their site regarding their take towards producing wines with chemicals and caring for the land.  “Nature cannot be controlled, it can only be humoured. But to do this you need to know it very well.  And you can come to know it only by loving it”       

Today Roberto still manages the property along with his three children Giuseppe, Susy and Caterina.  They host a Michelin star restaurant, Dattilo, run by his daughter Caterina whom was named in 2017 as “top female chef” by the Michelin Guide of Italy.     

The Grape ~ Gaglioppo 
About 80-90% of the wines from Calabria are red and the gaglioppo grape takes over the majority of the acreage.  Gaglioppo is a native grape with Greek origins.  The name gaglioppo means “beautiful foot” and refers to the shape of the grape clusters.  It produces wines ruby red in color higher in both acidity and tannin. 

The Wine ~ Dattilo 
The 2013 Ceraudo Dattilo Val di Noto IGT  
Made of 100% gaglioppo.  I loved the nose on this wine, intense notes of black licorice with cherries and spice.  Medium to fuller bodied, structured wine backed with great acidity, moderate tannin, rich in cherries.  A persistent, lingering finish.  This wine was aged 24 months in barrel with an additional year in the bottle. SRP $18
2013 Ceraudo Dattilo Rosso Gaglioppo
The Pairing 
Even though I’m a part time wine blogger I’m first and foremost a mom and satisfying the kids and getting them to eat is a priority.   Also quite the challenge lately.  It works perfect that my kids love sausages because in tasting this wine I figured this sausage, salsiccia, dish would be a great pairing.  It’s a locally made broccoli and cheese chicken sausage that I cooked with some broccoli in a simple aglio olio sauce over some brown rice.  Although, when I finished the rest of the wine the next night when I made a classic homemade meatball and pasta dish I have to say that stole the show.  There is nothing like a good Italian red with some homemade sauce to warm the heart.   
food pairing with gaglioppo salsicciapairing with Calabrian gaglioppo

Learn about the rest of the unforgotten grapes with a great group of food and wine writers below.  You can chat with us live this Saturday on Twitter at #WinePW @ 11am. 


*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are all my own.  The importer is Mariposa Fine Wine & Spirits.  

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Beginnings to Understanding Italian Wine #ItalianFWT

Happy New Year to everyone! There is no better way to start off the year than an opportunity to learn and try new things.  This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is starting off 2020 with an introduction to Italian wine and the best way to learn and understand it.  To tackle Italian wine as a whole is a huge undertaking considering Italy has almost 2,000 native varieties according to Ian D’Agata.  This is what I also love about Italian wine since there is always something new to discover.  We’re going to break it down here starting with a few key elements when it comes to selecting a bottle the next time you find yourself out shopping for wine. 

First and foremost, understanding what you’re looking at when you read an Italian wine label is one of the first obstacles.  You’re basically reading another language and lots of wine lingo that you may or may not know.   

First off, below is the standard pyramid representing the Italian appellation system.  Although it has changed since 2009 following many of the EU regulations you’ll still find these appellations used as the core and still widely found on all bottles, except vino da tavola which is no longer allowed. 
Italian wine appellation designations
copyright of Federdoc
  • Vino da Tavola (VDT) - your basic table wine 
  • Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - this classification is as the name indicates that it is related to a particular geographic area/region.  This classification gives producers much room to experiment without strict regulations. 
  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) - This along with the next classification of DOCG are considered quality wines designated to a specific appellation.  They follow strict guidelines including percentages of grapes used, yields, aging requirements, etc. 
  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita (DOCG) - To become a DOCG the wines must pass a blind taste test along with even stricter regulations.   
By no means will I ever say that one produces a better wine over the next as many may be familiar that some of the popular “Super Tuscans” like Sassicaia were VDT wines before they became IGT wines.  It should guide you though in the right direction to give you a sense of quality of a particular appellation and quality of a grape from that place. 
Further more, on wine labels for DOC and DOCG wines you’ll also find further information that will guide you. 
  • Novello  - a wine released 2 months after the harvest  
  • Classico – wines labeled Classico show that the wine came from the historical area within the appellation 
  • Superiore – this indicates that the wine is 1% higher alcohol than the requirement 
  • Riserva – a riserva wine goes through a longer aging process depending upon the requirements of the particular appellation 
There are a number of different terms utilized as well including:  
  • Passito - named after the process of drying out the grapes known as appassimento to fuller concentrate the grapes. 
  • Vendemmia tardiva – a late harvest wine where the grapes are harvested later resulting in a higher residual sugar. 
  • Frizzante & Spumante – found on sparkling wines indicating the bars of pressure with the latter being a fully sparkling opposed to the frizzante being slightly sparkling. 
  • Levels of sweetness including secco (dry), abboccato (semi-dry), amabile (semi-sweet) and dolce (sweet). 
Now that we’ve covered a few of the areas concerning the wine labels let’s understand the wines of northern, central and southern Italy.  I hate to generalize because there are always exceptions, but when you think of the climates throughout Italy the north tends to be cooler, think the alpine mountain ranges, and the south tends to be warmer, think of Sicily, Calabria and Puglia.  Therefore, many of the wines of the north tend to be leaner, more rustic, where those of the south are typically bigger wines, more ripe.  Again, a total generalization as it will vary, but just a guideline. 

Sparkling wines of Italy 
Of course everyone knows the market flooding prosecco that overtakes almost every wine shop, but try to seek out those of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene for better quality.  Lambrusco has come a long way from the Emilia Romagna region and is a perfect aperitivo with some salami and cheeses.  Italy truly makes some top quality sparkling wines that can compete with some of the best around the world.  They may not be the easiest to find, but Franciacorta from the Lombardy region and Trento DOC of the Trentino-Alto Adige region are a must try. 

White wines of Italy 
I’m a big fan of northern white wines, but that’s my personal preference.  I love crisp, clean whites and I’m enjoy those coming from Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli because of that.  Some other respectable whites you may find are Soave of the Veneto, Vernaccia di San Gimigano of Tuscany, Verdicchio of Le Marche and Catarrato of Etna in Sicily.  

Red wines of Italy 
So many great red grapes found all throughout Italy it’s hard to just pick a few.  We have the bold grapes of Piedmont including nebbiolo, famous for Barolo and Barbaresco, but many affordable versions as well from the Langhe and Roero.  The Sagrantino grape of Umbria from the area of Montefalco along with aglianico from Campania and Basilicata should be top of the list if you love big wines.  The wines of Sicily are hot right now in the market and quite unique, especially those Mt. Etna made from nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio grapes.  You’ll also find nero d’avola of Sicily and primitivo of Puglia if you like wines leaning towards to the fuller-bodied side.  Abruzzo makes quality montepulciano d’abruzzo not to be missed.  The Valpolicella wines of the Veneto are the prized possession of this region.  Even though Amarone is one of the most regarded wines of Italy it also comes with a  hefty price tag.  There are plenty of great Valpolicella Superiore wines you can find at reasonable pricing.  Lastly, there is the ever classic sangiovese of Tuscany from the Chianti Classico region always a great choice and a grape I hold close to my heart.   

Dessert wines of Italy 
There are a number of styles of dessert wine found throughout Italy including the red frizzante and spumante Brachetto d’Acqui and the white Moscato d’Asti of Piedmont.  Tuscany is known for its vin santo made from the trebbiano and malvasia grapes that is a more viscous dessert wine.  Sicily produces Passito di Pantelleria found just off the coast on the island of Pantelleria.  A very aromatic wine made of moscato grapes that can vary in texture.  These are some of the more common dessert wines easily accessible here in the states to get you started. 

What are some of your favorites?

Our group of Italian wine lovers have some other great perspectives and there is plenty of learn to get you started on your Italian wine journey.