Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Montefalco and its love for sagrantino

This may be one of those grapes that you haven't heard of or it may be one you really enjoy so I wanted to share some information on it to further educate and maybe peak your interest to try something new. Sagrantino is an indigenous grape to Italy primarily found in the region of Umbria and more specifically in the town of Montefalco. It's one of the most well known grapes of this region.
Sagrantino grape

The DOC of Montefalco was created in 1979. There is the Montefalco DOC rosso, which is actually majority made up of sangiovese with at least 10% sagrantino and then there is the Sagrantino di Montefalco that is 100% sagrantino. It was further granted DOCG status in 1992. To acquire the DOCG status the wine must come 100% purely from sagrantino and must be aged 30 months with some other yield requirements.

This area is surrounded by the Apennines, which provides a cooling effect in the intense summer heat. These wines are produced from a small acreage and the DOCG wines come from the communes of Montefalco, Bevagna, Gualdo Cattaneo, Castel Ritaldi and Giano dell'Umbria.
Montefalco Umbria

Some top producers in this area include Arnaldo Caprai, Colpetrone, Antonelli, Fratelli Adanti and Milziade Antano.

Sagrantino is known for being a full-bodied red with high tannins and spice. It's deep in color leaning more towards a deep purple. In the older days this grape was known for making a passito style where the grapes are dried producing a sweet, thicker dessert style wine with a higher alcohol percentage. If you like wines of the Valpolicella area that I have discussed in my previous blogs here then I would recommend checking out these wines.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

13 generations of winemaking at the Torciano estate in San Gimignano

Last night while relaxing and wrapping up creating my wedding album from my amazing wedding in Tuscany this past October, I felt it was necessary to drink from the region where I celebrated the best day of my life. I received and opened a bottle of Chianti from the Torciano Winery. The Torciano estate was founded in 1720 by Bartolomeo Giacchi, whom was originally from Florence, but moved to San Gimiganano. The winery became a place for passerbys on the way to Rome to rest and drink where the Giacchi family could sell their wines and olive oil. There have been 13 generations of winemakers that manage the estate and vineyards so winemaking runs in the Giachi's blood.

2012 Torciano Crete Rosse Chianti
If you ever have been to Tuscany you have shared in its splendor with its small villages to explore, windy roads, rows and rows of vineyards, wineries and tall cypress trees, which are one of my favorite characteristics of the regions. I love turning the corner on the roads there and seeing cypress trees line the horizon and vineyards everywhere on the hills. It takes your breath away! San Gimignano is located between Florence and Siena and is a medieval looking town known for its towers, which you can see from a distance as you approach it.

San Gimignano, Tuscany
San Gimignano
The grapes at Torciano are harvested by hand. They grow Chardonnay, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Trebbiano for whites along with Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Canaiolo for reds. Depending on the grape they use stainless steel tanks or French and American oak for fermentation and maturation. I opened the 2012 Crete Rosse Chianti D.O.C.G that is 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo Nero. It was ruby in color with medium body and was dry with higher acidity and soft tannins.

The Torciano estate has everything from wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and other handmade products including preserves and sauces. There is a wide breadth of things to do while visiting them. They have appartments and rooms where you can stay and have private tastings or dinners with the winemaker. They even a Fiorentina steak dinner and if you haven't had the famous bistecca alla fiorentina you are missing out. Depending on your location and dates they even have classes in the US where the winemaker comes to do a tasting and meet-and-greet. The amount of activities that you can participate in while visiting and spending your holiday there are limitless and you can see them all on their website, including cooking classes.

There is a lot more that I'd like to share with you about this estate, but I still own a Rosso di Montalcino and a Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which I can't wait to share with you. This is one of my favorite whites in Italy. It amazes me that there are 13 generations of winemaking in this family so experience a bottle for yourself and stay tuned for upcoming blogs on the Torciano estate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Travaglini Gattinara and the difference in nebbiolo from southern Piedmont

Familiar with Gattinara? I'll give you a hint. It has a lot of similarities to some of the blogs I have posted recently. Well Gattinara is primarily made up of the Nebbiolo grape. Gattinara is in the commune in Piedmont where this wine comes from, in the northwest part of Italy.

Fermentation of nebbiolo at Travaglini
Fermentation at Travaglini
So what's the difference between nebbiolo produced in this area and that of Barolo or Barbaresco we have been covering? This area has a continental climate with extremes in temperature, which produces nebbiolo with higher acidity. The Gattinara wines are a little more refined and lighter. The soil in Gattinara is also more volcanic where in Barolo and Barbaresco it's more calcium based. This wine has earned the right to use DOC and DOCG status based on its qualifications and its requirements differ as well than those of Barolo and Barbaresco. Gattinara must consist of at least 90% of Nebbiolo, but it can also include up to 10% of Bonarda di Gattinara and 4% of Vespolina. It's aged 1 year in oak and 2 years in bottle and an additional year in oak for the riserva wines.

2008 Travaglini Gattinara

At a recent tasting at Bin Ends I tasted the 2008 Travaglini Gattinara D.O.C.G. It was served in a funky shaped bottle created and developed within the family that is meant to catch sediment from pouring into the glass instead of having to decant the wine and it's also tinted darker, which benefits the wine for aging purposes. I noticed the difference in comparing this wine against those of Barolo as it was definitely a lighter style, with nice red fruit, dry and with subtle tannins.

The Travaglini family has been producing wines since the 1920's and is now run by the great-grandaughter of Clemente whom started Travaglini, Cinzia Travaglini, and her husband, Massimo Collauto, whom is the winemaker. This is one of the more well known producers in the area. Try one of the Gattinara wines for yourself and relate it to some of the Barolo or Barbaresco wines you have tried. I'd love to hear your opinion.

Travaglini Gattinara in Piedmont

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cheetahs at the Spier Wine Estate in South Africa?

I took a trip of a lifetime in September of 2012 to South Africa for two weeks and of course had to visit some of the wineries along our journey. One of the stops was at the Spier Winery in Stellenbosch surrounded by the beautiful Helderburg Mountains. Spier has been producing wine there since 1692 and it was a beautiful estate with plenty of areas to sit and relax on the patio or near the pond. They used to have a Cheetah Sanctuary there, but it had relocated earlier that summer after serving as a sanctuary since 1997 starting with 2 cheetahs and growing to 10.
Spier wine estate Stellenbosch, South Africa

Upon entering the estate was a gorgeous chandelier made out of 300+ wine bottles and two large rooms for retail and wine tastings. You could chose from a large variety of tastings, but with us not in the area long we wanted to experience at least a few wineries before our next destination, but they have a lot to offer. After our tasting we grabbed some lunch from their cafe' and sat on the patio. It's a tough life, but someone has to do it!
Spier winery Stellenbosch, South AfricaSpier wines Stellenbosch, South africa

While there I tasted from their 21 Gables line of wines, named after the Cape Dutch gables of the historic farms in the Cape, and also their Signature line, which was their single vineyard wines. The other night I decided to relive my time there and open the bottle that I brought back of the 2011 Signature Chenin Blanc. I prepared a scallop dish with my other items brought back from my honeymoon, sundried tomatoes from a market in Nice, France, along with mushrooms and Pici pasta from Montepulciano, Italy. Such a great night cooking and enjoying this Chenin Blanc. The Chenin Blanc had a very aromatic nose of tropical fruits that was also prevalent upon tasting the wine along with a citrus and acidic zing. It finished lovely as well. This would be a perfect wine for some warms days or with any seafood dish.

Spier Wine Farm
When I started learning about wine and had tasted South African wines for the first time I was not impressed. The wine I had tasted (don't recall which one it was) had completely turned me off as it tasted strongly like a burnt rubber tire, which is known to be prevalent in some South African wines, but in this particular wine it didn't do the wine any justice. I decided to attend another tasting at a later point with multiple South African wines and was pleasantly surprised. After visiting this beautiful wine region with stunning, scenic views, it turned my opinion right around of wines from this country. That's why it's so important to taste wines from multiple producers of a country or region so you get a feel for what is typical of a grape, country or region. Never judge by a couple wines, you may be missing out!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Garganega with Soave from Pra

2012 Pra Otto SoaveThis weekend I tasted a 2012 Soave from Pra named “Otto”, which is a DOC. Soave comes from the Veneto region. I have covered some other wines from this region that you can review here, but those were reds and this is a white called Soave produced from the Garganega grapes. To be labeled a Soave DOC the law requires that 70% of the grapes are made from Garganega and is typically blended with Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave. This wine is 100% Garganega and comes from their winery in Monteforte d'Alpone in the Soave Classico zone. It was aged in stainless steel and released 6 months after harvest. 

This wine was pretty easy drinking with low alcohol producing a very crisp, clean finish with minerality and hints of citrus and floral notes.

I wouldn't wait to drink this wine. It's probably best to consume it within the next year. Soave along with other whites like Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Italy are some of my favorite whites from Italy so make sure to check them out. I'll be featuring a Vernaccia soon so make sure to check back in soon to learn about that grape.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mucci Imports showcases Lambrusco, Fiano and Arneis

The other night I attended a tasting at Ball Square Fine Wines and they were featuring wines from Mucci Imports. It was a pleasure meeting Nick as he shares the same vision as I do in promoting Italian wines in the US. What I think is great is that his portfolio of wines that he carries promotes wines from smaller family owned wine estates that are producing quality wines that may not get the recognition in the states compared to the more well known producers in Italy. Some of my best visits throughout the wine regions of Italy were also stopping in at some of the smaller producers and getting to the know the family, the winemakers, the terroir and land. It's beautiful to visit some wineries and meet multiple generations that are involved in the winery and share the traditions and passion together.

Casa di Baal (Campania wine region)
Nick featured wines from Piedmont, Campania and Emilia-Romagna. With my recent blog on Campania and the wines from this region that you can visit here, we'll start with the Casa di Baal Fiano. The Salerno family has been selling their wines since 1978 and are located a couple miles from the Amalfi coastline about 150 meters from sea-level close to Avellino. They follow organic winemaking practices to showcase the fruit as natural as possible. This wine was a light to medium body that was dry and smooth with apples and hints of honey aged 6 months in stainless steel. This wine is perfect for its location due to the proximity near the Tyrrhenian Sea to pair with seafood.
Fiano grapes from Campania
Fiano grape

Negro Lorenzo (Piedmont wine region)
Next was a white, '11 Arneis, and red named “Arbasca” from the producer Negro Lorenzo in the Roero area of Piedmont. This area has a lot of sandier soil so you could pick up the minerality in the Arneis. It was dry and crisp complemented with some citrus and pineapple and finishing with a zing of acidity. Arneis is a grape that you may or may not be familiar with. It is primarily found in the Piedmont region in the Roero or Lange areas, but other countries are producing more of it including the US, Australia and New Zealand. The '09 “Arbesca” was a red blend of 70% Bonarda and the rest Nebbiolo. This wine was dry style of dark fruit finishing with some tannins. This wine was drinking well now.
Piedmont wine region in Italy

Cantina della Volta (Emilia-Romagna wine region)
Lastly we finished with the Cantina della Volta Lambrusco di Modena Spumante D.O.C. in the Emilia Romagna region in north central Italy. Cantina della Volta started in the year 2010 by friends whom invited the winemaker, Christian Bellei, to bring with him his knowledge of growing up in his family's wine estate, Francesco Bellei & C, that had been established in 1920. I have had Lambrusco before, but in a sweeter version where this was a brut style. I'm not a big fan of sparkling wines, but if you enjoy champagnes and such you will want to give this a try. It was produced by the Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes. It displayed a beautiful light raspberry color that was very dry, hence “brut”, upon taste with frothy small bubbles with some strawberry undertones. A great celebration wine or perfect for a summer day with cheese.

We covered some grapes and wines that hadn't been discussed yet on my blog like Lambrusco from the Sorbara grapes, Bonarda and Arneis. As we continue to explore all regions we will revisit grapes and regions over time and continue to explore new ones. I hope you are enjoying the journey and as always I would love to hear from you!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dolcetto and Barbera from San Fereolo in Dogliani

Last night I attended an Italian tasting at the Wine Bottega in the Italian section of Boston known as the North End right before I started up my Italian language lessons for the next few months. They go together so well. Nicoletta Bocca, the winemaker from San Fereolo, was showcasing 5 of her wines. San Fereolo is located in the southern part of the Piedmont region in the Dogliani territory. The winery began in 1992 and Nicoletta began acquiring parts of land that she chose based on the history of the vines there and those that had tended to them along with the qualities that would be instilled to the grapes. The winery has about 29 acres and produces about 45,000 bottles.

Dogliani DOCG wine territory in Piedmont
Compliments of
The grape Dolcetto is typically one that is meant to be consumed young and is an easier drinking wine compared to some of the other wines in the Piedmont region like Barbera and Nebbiolo, but after tasting some of these wines they are approachable now, but with the acidic backbone and fruit present I can see these wines still developing in the bottle. We started off comparing the 2011 and 2012 Dolcetto di Dogliani called Vadiba, which is one of the the subzones in Dogliani. This wine is made from the Dolcetto grape, which stands for “little sweet one”, but is not a sweet wine. The 2012 was a young, easy drinking red with ripe, juicy fruit and bright acidity. The 2011 had a bit more complexity with vanilla hints and has benefited from the extra year in the bottle. Both of these wines are in stainless steel and not oak.

Dolcetto grapes
Dolcetto grapes

Next was the 2007 San Fereolo made from 100% Dogliano Dolcetto, but this wine is aged in big slavonian barrels. For me this was my favorite wine of the night due to its depth, toastiness, subtle tannins and richness from the fruit with a little spice. This was a much more developed wine compared to the previous two dolcettos due to its barrel aging and the vines are 40-70 year old vines.

Lastly we tried the 2001 and 2006 Austri wines, named after the vineyard site. These wines are made up of 90% Barbera and 10% Nebbiolo. These wines had a good acidic backbone with nice red fruit, but lower on the tannin impact than the Dolcetto, but adding the small percentage of nebbiolo helped round out the wine.

I was very impressed by the wines that Nicoletta produces and it goes to show you that trying wines from a variety of producers is key because every winemaker has their own style and you can be pleasantly surprised if you venture out.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Exploring the Campania region with Fiano, Greco and Taurasi

Avellino, Campania Italy

This week I'm going to focus on the wines from Avellino in the Campania region of southwestern Italy.  You may also know this area and coast by way of the Gulf of Napoli or one of my favorites, the stunning Amalfi Coast.  If you haven’t been I strongly recommend adding it to your list next time you visit Italy.  I’m happy to share some of my pictures if you need convincing and you won’t need it much longer after that.  In the Boston area, where I live, there are many Italian immigrants that migrated here from Avellino, including my great grandparents on my father's side.  

I'm very proud of my Italian heritage.  Growing up in an Italian household with a mother that is an amazing cook has made me appreciate the wonderful traditions in the food that is celebrated throughout the regions in the country.  Living in Italy over 10 years ago made me appreciate the wonderful wines that this country can produce and has brought me back there time and time again. 

The Campania region, in particular Avellino, is known for their whites including Greco, Fiano and Falanghina.  You can visit one my earlier blogs here about a Falanghina from one of the top producers from this region, Feudi di San Gregorio.  The top red wine in this region is Taurasi made from the Aglianico grape.  They produce other whites as well such as Coda di Volpe that is typically blended in and reds like Piedirasso and Sciascinoso, but today I’m going to focus on the primary grapes of this region.  . 

Greco grape
Greco is typically the lightest of the whites and is crisp and dry with notes at times of almond and lemon.  You can find it listed as Greco di Tufo DOCG from the Avellino area if it qualifies for that status, but you can also locate Greco in other parts of Italy.  Both Greco and Fiano were granted the ability to use the DOCG status in 2003.  The soils of this area can be minerally since there are remnants of the lava and volcanic ash from Mt. Vesuvius. 

Fiano grape
Fiano has more intensity than Greco and is more aromatic with hints of honey mostly.  In Avellino you can find it also under the DOCG designation known as Fiano di Avellino DOCG if it meets the requirements, which is a minimum of 85% of Fianco.  I’ll speak more in depth about this grape on my next blog after the tasting.

Aglianico grape
Taurasi is your most popular red in the Campania region, which is primarily made up of Aglianico.  Mastroberardino was the original classic producer of Aglianico, but it has become much more widespread now due to its recognition in the wine world and now many other producers are growing this grape.  It’s a rich wine with tannins, hints of smoke and leather.  Aglianico also is known to come from the Basilicata area, known as Aglianico del Vulture.  They were also granted DOCG status further back in 1993 and their wines also must be a minimum of 85% Aglianico with a blend of other grapes like Barbera, Piedirasso or Sangiovese.  To be granted DOCG status they must age the wines 3 years with at least 1 of those years in wood and to be named a Riserva it requires 4 years with 18 months in oak.
Aglianico Taurasi Campania, Italy
Aglianico grapes
Tomorrow I’ll be attending an Italian wine tasting where I’ll be sampling a Fiano from Casa di Baal, along with some other wines from the Piedmont region, which will tie in nicely with what I have been covering lately so make sure to come back over the next couple days.