Thursday, July 31, 2014

The 1st DOC wine of Italy: Vernaccia di San Gimignano with food pairing

San Gimignano, Tuscany
San Gimignano, Tuscany
One of the star white grapes of Tuscany is called Vernaccia and you will find it around the town of San Gimignano located southwest of Siena. San Gimignano is a medieval hilltop town surrounded in the present day by 13 towers. Back in the 14th century there were 72 towers in total that were developed by the upper class families to demonstrate their status in society. San Gimignano is a great place to base yourself for traveling throughout Tuscany. You have the Chianti region at your finger tips, along with Pisa and Lucca to the north and the distinguished wines towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano for their Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano to the south.

2012 Torciano Poggio Aicieli Vernaccia di San GimignanoThroughout all the grapes of Italy, Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first to be granted DOC status in 1966 and later was granted DOCG status in 1993. About 5 months back I wrote a blog on the 2012 Crete Rosse Chianti D.O.C.G. that the Tenuta Torciano winery from San Gimignano had shared with me. Today I'm sharing with you their 2012 Poggio Aicieli Vernaccia di San Gimignano

I looked forward to this sample as I am a fan of Vernaccia. I thought this wine was a great expression of the vernaccia grape. This is a grape that you will be able to locate in many wine shops as it's not as discreet as some of the other grapes. Tenuta Torciano also has some great wine clubs that you can enjoy as well that shares with you 24 of their wines throughout the year including future discounts. The Poggio Aicieli, meaning “hills to the skies”, had a slight tropical bouquet with an almost clear color to it in the glass with a hint of straw coloring. Being a lighter, refreshing wine it was dry with mouthwatering acidity, nice minerality, some citrus and I picked up lots of sea saltiness on the finish.

Spinach salad with cranberries, walnuts & goat cheeseRoasted chicken with potatoes and black olivesFrances Mayes pasta with pear, ricotta, walnuts

I paired this wine with a couple dishes over a couple days, both very different. One was a roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and black olives along with a spinach salad topped with goat cheese, cranberries, walnuts and a homemade vinaigrette. I enjoyed at least half the glass by itself before eating as it was the end of a nice summer day and no better way to unwind than with a glass of wine. It paired nicely with the chicken. My next meal was from Frances Mayes new cookbook TheTuscan Sun Cookbook. It was stuffed pasta, I used shells, with ricotta and pears covered with a gorgonzola cream sauce and topped with toasted walnuts. Delicious! It was nice how the creamy sauce smoothed out the acidity of the wine and the fruit of the wine was more present. Two different meals that both paired nicely in their own way showcasing the wine slightly different. The fun of wine and food pairing.

Pierluigi Giachi and his family are backed by 14 generations of winemaking. They have an estate that offers a wide variety of activities and a food and wine experience to satisfy your desires. Check them out and seek out a Vernaccia this summer!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Drink the calabrese wine of champions!

Crotone, Calabria
Crotone, Calabria ~ Castello di Le Castella by Revol Web
I know we have many Calabrese Italians in and around the Boston area. Since my journey through the Italian wine world includes all 20 regions in Italy today I cover one we haven't discussed yet, Calabria. Calabria is located at the toe of the boot separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. It's surrounded by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. Calabria is quite hot as you can imagine and the vineyards can be cooled by the breezes off the seas. Even though it's along the coastline it is quite mountainous there. 

Agriculture plays a big part of living for the folks of this region including a wide variety of vegetables, cured meats (especially salami) and swordfish and shellfish is very popular here.

Calabrian landscape
Calabrian landscape by Piervicenzocanale 
The Greeks had colonized this area of southern Italy, along with other nationalities, and the Greeks are known to have introduced wine making to this region. According to Wine Country, the Greeks used the local grapes from a Greek colony today known as Ciro Marina and the wine they produced was called, Cremissa. This wine was served to the champions of the Olympics. So just think, if you can seek out a bottle of this wine you can be drinking the wine of champions! Alot of the wine here is sold off to cooperatives and some is shipped north to be blended in with grapes, but if you love Italian wine and have been to Calabria or want to go you should know about their wine region.

Gaglioppo grapes in calabria
Gaglioppo grapes by Fabio Ingrosso
The majority of the wine production in Calabria is red wine with the most common grape being gaglioppo and for whites, greco. The center of wine production in this region resides in the area, Ciro, which is what the wine is named after. This is one of the 12 DOC's of this region. Most of the wines in Calabria are the IGT, indicazione geografic tipica, status along with the DOC, denominazione di origine controllata, designations, but there aren't any DOCG wines of this region, which was the highest classification in Italian wines until the recent Gran Selezione designation in the Chianti region. 

There are reds, whites and roses produced in this region, but most popular is the red wine Ciro, which contains at least 95% gaglioppo, which is tannic and full bodied. In the Ciro red it is also blended with greco bianco and trebbiano. The interesting part about Gaglioppo is that it's light in color in the glass, similar to a nebbiolo, but don't be deceived by that as there is plenty structure, acidity and fruit behind it to awaken your senses. The white Ciro is made up of mostly of greco bianco. One of the most known producers of wine from this region is Librandi.

I look forward to visiting more of southern Italy myself, including Calabria & Puglia in the future. Has anyone tried the wine of ancient champions?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My vacation wines deals under $20 from around the world

I hope you enjoyed my first wine event I went too while aboard my cruise in Alaska. That tasting had higher end fine wines. Don't we all wish that we could drink those every day?! The second one that I tasted was more of your every day affordable wines, which we all love to look for and enjoy. 
Ketchikan Alaska with Princess Cruises
This tasting consisted of 5 wines from Italy, Washington, California and Chile. You may be familiar with some yourself. This tasting consisted of:

  • 2012 Danzante Pinot Grigio
  • 2012 Hogue Riesling
  • 2012 Woodbridge Merlot
  • 2012 Estancia Pinot Noir
  • Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

Personally what I enjoyed the most, besides the dessert wine which who wouldn't, was the Danzante Pinot Grigio. That's not just because I love Italian wines ; ) As you know by now I'm not overly critical about wines. Every one has different tastes and I won't tell you what to drink and what not to drink, but I won't share a wine with you that I don't find enjoyable. It's all about the journey for the grape and the winemaker and I appreciate the different characteristics that shine through the glass.

Danzante Pinot Grigio

This grape was introduced to Italy in the 1800's. This particular wine comes from the Veneto region including Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and the Veneto. Straw in color, this wine was aromatic on the nose along with tropical fruit and citrus. It was crisp, refreshing, with some lemon-lime. On the finish I picked up some apple and pear. It was lighter in body, but for this time of year I enjoy that. Danzante has some recipes with pinot grigio on their site to try it with including risotto with truffles, frutti di mare or lemon and black pepper grilled chicken legs. Yum! Enjoy this wine young while it's fresh. You can probably find it for about $8-10.

This wine comes out of the Columbia Valley in Washington state. There is a lot of value coming out of this state when it comes to wine. At about $10 this is an affordable, enjoyable wine. Especially for those that don't like the dry style. Also straw in color with a tinge of yellow, this cool climate grape had a very aromatic nose of honey, petrol, apricot, peach and some orange. It had light to medium body with flavors of ripe fruit combined with some citrus and acidity. Rieslings are always a nice pairing with chinese food or thai.

I'll start off by saying who doesn't know Robert Mondavi or whom hasn't tried at least one of his wines, so this may already be a well known red by many. None the less, it was on our tasting list so I wanted to share it. It's made of 80% merlot, 15% petit syrah and 5% syrah. It was aged 20 days in stainless steel and 10 months in french oak, which was present through the flavors of vanilla, especially on the finish. The nose was ripe of plums and berries. Lighter ruby in color it had a medium body and was drier in style with ripe berries. I would pair this with a nice Italian dish that includes sauce. You might be able to scoop this wine up for about $7-8.

Personally if I drink red wines in the summer I like to keep them on the lighter side and that is usually something like a pinot noir. This wine is made of 100% pinot noir from the Central Coast of CA. The color of this pinot was a see through ruby color and had nice fragrance of vanilla and raspberry on the nose. There was some spice, vanilla and cherry on the palate. It's aged 10 months in 25% new french oak and this is where the vanilla nuances came through. I would pair this with a pork tenderloin or salmon.  I can say for sure there was no shortage of salmon on my vacation!  Delicious!  You can find this wine for about $15 give or take.

Estancia Pinot Noir from Central Valley

As they always say, save the best for last and I always eat my meal so I get dessert! This wine is primarily sauvignon blanc with some gewurztraminer and viognier from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. Another place on my travel list! Late harvest is when the grapes stay longer on the vines to ripen more and become more concentrated. This dessert wine had a thicker consistency than your typical sauvignon blanc wine. It spends 11 months in barrel. There is lots of honey and apricots on both the nose and palate. It's very smooth and if you have a sweet tooth you must top your meal off with this. You can probably score this wine for about $18-20.

Chilean grapes

Lots of deals here to experiment with and for the prices you won't be disappointed. Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fine wines aboard a cruise ship

I just returned from my 2 week vacation last week and no, it wasn't Italy, but it was a location just as beautiful, the state of Alaska! I seeked out wineries, of course, prior to my visit, but nothing was along the way of where I was going to be. Trust me though, there was plenty of wine drinking. 
Denali National Park Alaska with Mt. Everest
Denali National Park
The best event that I attended while onboard the Princess Cruise line was the Maitre'd Wine Club run by the head waiters of the dining room. We sampled 6 wines in the price ranges of $39-110 featuring wines from France, CA and my beloved Italy. Here was the lineup:
  • Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne
  • 2012 Silverado Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2012 Chamisal Chardonnay
  • 2008 Overture
  • 2010 Zeni Amarone
  • 2010 Meritage Luce Della Vite
I tend not to be a huge fan of champagne, more because I'm not a fan of bubbles. A little background on champagne. It was actually discovered in the 1600's by a monk I'm sure we're all familiar with, Dom Perignon. Only clergy could produce wine at that time. Dom had never tasted his own wine he was making until he made Champagne. It was originally called the “wine of the devil” because during the discovery of the fermentation process the bottles were bursting. Fun fact: How many bubbles are in a bottle of champagne? According to Bollinger, it is about 49-52 million bubbles. I'll trust them as I won't be the one to count them. This champagne was made of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir and pinot meunier. It was straw color with flavors of green apple and smaller, less fizzier bubbles. Look for food that is slightly more acidic to pair it with. We sampled it with some simple appetizers with salmon mousse.
Appetizer pairings with wine
This wine comes out of Napa Valley. It is made 92% of sauvignon blanc with 8% viognier in stainless steel without malolactic fermentation. It's almost clear in color. It's lighter in body including lime, citrus and grapefruit with an apple finish combined with refreshing acidity.

Made of 100% chardonnay this wine was straw color with peach accents on the nose. On the palate it showed citrus, ripe pineapple that was smooth creating a nice medium bodied wine.

This is the second wine of Opus One, a Robert Mondavi and Bordeaux's Baron Philippe de Rothschild partnership. It's a Bordeaux blend made of primarily cabernet sauvignon along with malbec, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. The winery actually limits a 10 bottle maximum for purchase. It's aged 16-18 months in french oak and the barrels are the used barrels of Opus One. It was a dark ruby color and on the nose it displayed rich scents of oak, vanilla and dark fruit. On the palate it contained rich fruit with a nice full body and velvety texture.

I love the wines of the Veneto region and this one is just another to add to the list. It's made of 50% corvina, 30% rondinella and 20% molinara. It went through a 36 day maceration period and was racked 5 times. This was a younger ruby color and had strong scents of prunes and raisins. It was nicely full bodied with rich fruit with a little tannin on the lengthy finish. A good pairing to game and pheasant.

This wine is also a partnership between Vittorio Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi. It consists of 60% sangiovese and 40% merlot. It spends two years in oak and 2 years in the bottle and was just released. Showing a nice dark ruby color I picked up notes of dark chocolate on the nose. It was very complex with notes of cinnamon, cloves with a nice full body and tannin structure. A good pairing to gouda and I can attest to the dark chocolate pairing as well.

I'm not one to sit here and write long, detailed reviews on wine as I don't enjoy reading them myself so I do like to keep them brief. Plus, what I pick up in a wine someone else may not. I enjoyed each in their own way, but it did prove to me that the higher the cost doesn't always mean better quality. It's all about what you enjoy and what you experience. Wine is meant for enjoyment. Cin cin!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The blends of Orvieto Classico and Ruffino's history with this wine

I just came back from an amazing two week vacation to the wonderful state of Alaska. Such untouched beauty and nature. The pictures don't do this land any justice and the emotions you experience while viewing the vast, untouched land is amazing. I attended two of the wine events while I was aboard the Princess Cruise ship for a week that I will write about further, but today I wanted to share with you a bottle that I ordered at dinner, 2012 Ruffino Orvieto Classico.

Duomo of Orvieto
I have written previously about Orvieto and wines of the Umbria, but today I wanted to focus more on the wine that I tried on my vacation. I purchased a bottle of 2012 Orvieto Classico from the well-known producer, Ruffino. This wine is produced in the region of Umbria in the town of Orvieto. Orvieto is located in the southwestern part of the region close to the Lazio region. This was my first visit to Orvieto this past October. It's a medieval town set up on a hill overlooking the highway, the autostrada, which is the road that leads you from Florence to Rome. It's a great city with a beautiful gothic style church, duomo, in the square known as Piazza del Duomo.

Vineyards in Orvieto, Umbria

As in Tuscany you have Chianti and a subzone called Chianti Classico, in Umbria you have Orvieto with it's subzone Orvieto Classico from a smaller parcel of land. The white wine from here is the most popular of the region. Orvieto and Orvieto Classico is primarily made up of the grape, trebbiano, also known here as procanico. The grape, grechetto, is the secondary grape. Added to the blend as well is verdello, canaiolo bianco (known as drupeggio) and malvasia. Due to a larger variety of grapes to be blended there are different variations of this wine depending on the producer. Today more producers are using higher amounts of grechetto than in the past.

2012 Ruffino Orvieto Classico
The Orvieto DOC was created in 1971. In the past this wine was made in a sweeter style where today it's drier. Ruffino has been producing this Orvieto Classico since the late 1950's. This 2012 Ruffino Orvieto Classico is from the Orvieto Classico region, which surrounds the town of Orvieto and extends toward Lake Corbara. It's made of 40% grechetto, 20% trebbiano, and the rest blended with canaiolo bianco and verdello. This crisp wine was medium bodied with a fruit profile of green apple and I picked up a little petrol as well. It had a mouthwatering acidity with nice length on the finish. As the wine sat the fruit became more prevalent. Ruffino recommends pairing this wine with crostini topped with roasted tomatoes and olive oil, grilled fish seasoned with olive oil and rosemary and mild cheese.

Have fun with it this summer and try the different variations of Orvieto Classico that are blended. As always, I'd love to hear of your adventures to this town and wine region.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Overview on the wine region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Many may be familiar with what is known as the Tre Venezie, or 3 Venices, which is located in the northeastern part of Italy bordering Slovania, Germany and Austria. I have also discussed part of the Tre Venezie when I discussed Trentino and Alto Adige, but we have yet to cover Veneto (Venice) and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which we're discussing today.

Map of Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region Italy
Copyright of Federdoc

History of Friuli

Friuli-Venezia Giulia used to be divided into two separate provinces, Friuli named after those that inhabited the area, and Venezia Giulia, which was part of the Venetian Republic. This area back in the day was where the spice route ran through along with travelers from northern Europe and the Middle East. In 1954 after the post-war is when the territories were realigned and became what we know today as Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

A man of this region, Mario Schiopetto, developed the standards for white wine making in Italy with the introduction of using stainless steel temperature controlled tanks. The goal was to display the fruit as purely as possible without use of oak. Later Josko Gravner introduced barrel fermented wines to the region and producers have been experimenting since and have also created wines that have come to be known as “super whites”, imitating Tuscany's “super tuscans”.

White grapes of Friuli

This area had many Austrian and French influences as you will see in the list of white and red grapes grown throughout the region, but with every region they have their own special indigenous varietals. Although most of Italy produces red wines this region is known for producing some of Italy's most vibrant, crisp and racy whites. Here the indigenous grapes are tocai friulano, also known as tocai, and ribolla gialla, but there is also a variety of international grapes grown there including pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot bianco.

Red grapes of Friuli

With more of a reputation for whites it's interesting that about half of the production is red consisting of international grapes including merlot that dominates the land as well as cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. The indigenous grapes here are schioppettino, refosco and tazzelenghe, which I will break down in a later issue. Almost half of the wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia have received the DOC status.

Dessert wine of Friuli

This region also produces two dessert wines including Verduzzo di Ramandolo made from the verduzzo grape named after the village where its produced (Ramandolo). The other dessert wine is Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit made from picolit grapes, but these grapes are very finicky considering only half of the flowers last to produce grapes so its rather an expensive wine and not all producers will make this wine.

Refosco, Tocai Friulano, wines of Friuli
Wines of Friuli by Fabio Bruna

It may seem as though there are a variety of grapes produced here, but prior to this region being hit by phylloxera over 350 grapes were grown here according to the Wine Bible.

With the northern part of the zone being mountaineous due
to the Alps, many of the vineyard sites are located on the plain fields and lower foothills of the mountains. Here you experience warm days and cool nights due to the proximity of the Adriatic Sea allowing the wines to evenly ripen creating a balance between the fruit and acidity of the wines.

Two well-known wine producing regions here are the Collio
Goriziano, known as Collio, and the Colli Orientali del Friuli that are located near the hillsides close to Slovania where the soil differs than the other regions and a they are located on a slightly higher elevation.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia vineyards
Vineyards of Friuli by Discosour

Top producers of Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Some of the top producers of this region are: Abbazia di Rosazzo, Mario Schiopetto, Jermann, Ronco dei Tassi, Josko Gravner, Livio Felluga and others.

Food of the region

This region is well known for their prosciutto di San Daniele that comes from the same pig, called Lambrea, where prosciutto di Parma comes from. Speck, smoked bacon, is another favorite. Try pairing the prosciutto with some figs or melon and one of the local whites if you find it accessible.

A lot of folks will base themselves out of the town of Udine inland or Trieste near the sea as the wineries are located around this vicinity. Let me know if you go or have been to this wonderful region.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer food and wine pairing: Shrimp Orzo Salad and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo

So last month David from Cooking Chat hosted our first Wine Pairing Weekend (#winepw) where a group of us shared our wine and food pairings with BBQ. Such a great way to get our minds flowing with the start of the summer and to keep our bellies and our palates happy. I had shared a Montepulcianod'Abruzzo with seasoned chicken and grilled vegetables.  There were many other great articles from the rest of the group including: Curious Cuisiniere, Meal Diva, Pull That Cork, Grape Experiences, Cooking Chat, Culinary Adventures with Camilla, and Tasting Pour.

This month we are sharing our recommendations on refreshing summer wines with food. I love at the end of the day as the sun is starting to set sitting out on the deck, overlooking the lake and nibbling on a little snack while dinner is grilling or being cooked. I recently did a second wine tasting for my new wine job and knew when I tasted one of the wines that it would be a perfect wine to share with you in this blog. Not only because of the taste, but because it's a grape that not many will typically run to the store and purchase due to the lack of familiarity. Those are the kinds of wines that I love. I love to get people to think outside the box and try something new.

I Lauri Lume Trebbiano d'AbruzzoWine Pairing - I Lauri Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
I recently discussed wines from the Abruzzo  region of Italy. The most popular white of that region is trebbiano and this is the wine that I chose for the tasting today to share with you. I tried the 2012 I Lauri Lume Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. I Lauri is located in Loreto Aprutino in the province of Pescara, which is located in central Italy right on the Adriatic Sea. The name of the winery stems from the laurel trees that once covered the area. Their winery is located on the foothills of the Gran Sasso from the Apennine mountain range. This wine is fermented in temperature controlled tanks and rests in stainless steel a couple months before bottling. On the nose this trebbiano had lots of citrus and minerality to it with a hint of petroleum. It was dry with some grassy notes on the palate. Throughout it had refreshing acidity creating a nice crisp wine.

Food Pairing - Orzo salad
I kept my food pairing simple on this one as sometimes on those hot days you need something like that. I paired it with an orzo salad consisting of some peppers, olives, celery, carrots with an Italian based dressing including one of my favorite cheeses from Pienza Tuscany, pecorino. I also sauteed some shrimp in garlic, butter and sea salt over a small portion of jasmine rice. With this wine you want to keep it simple whether you are pairing it with some chicken or fish and it's great with apertifs. The winery itself also recommends it with a vegetable tempura.

Orzo salad with pecorino
So for your next beautiful summer day grab some company, some simple appetizers and relax with some trebbiano d'abruzzo. Cin cin!

Wine Pairing Weekend #2 Bloggers: Be sure to check out the great pairings my fellow bloggers have come up with for the July Wine Pairing Weekend! 

Culinary Adventures with Camilla posted "Green Fig Ice Cream + Cambiata AlbariƱo"
Vino Travels -- An Italian Wine Blog shared "Orzo salad and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo"
Curious Cuisiniere posted "Grilled Trout paired with a Tropical Fruit Viognier"
ENOFYLZ Wine Blog paired "Ceviche and Tablas Creek Picpoul Blanc"
Take a Bite Out of Boca shared "Grilled Mango-Sriracha Shrimp, Pineapple and Peppers paired with Burg Layer Schlosskapelle Spatlese Kerner"
foodwineclick shared "Steamers and Cava on the Porch"
Confessions of a Culinary Diva blogged about "Aperol Spritz"
Cooking Chat paired "Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa and a White Burgundy"

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you're reading this early enough, you can join us for a live Twitter chat on our theme "Refreshing Summer Wine Pairings" on Saturday, July 12, from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later! Stay tuned for the August Wine Pairing Weekend, which will focus on "Wine for Summer's Bounty" on Saturday, August 9.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The potential of the foglia tonda grape

Giovanni Sordi, part of the League of Chianti and also winemaker at Fattoria Le Bocce, has been sharing with me information on some of the lesser known grapes of Tuscany so that I may share it with you all. If you haven't heard of the grape, foglia tonda, it is being reintroduced into the world of grapes in Italy, specifically Tuscany. This grape fell into oblivion for almost a century. The true origins of foglia tonda were lost. The Rovasenda (1877) mentions it as being present in the historic Brolio vineyards of Baron Bettino Ricasoli, whom I discussed in an earlier article. It was rediscovered at the University of Florence a few years ago and has characteristics rather surprising.
Tuscany landscapes and vineyards
In the conference, “Chianti Classico: History, Wines and Unique Grapes”, held by the League of Chianti, League of Chianti, in Greve in Chianti, Doctor Storchi spoke much about the grape and illustrated the peculiar characteristics that enologically are very interesting.

The wine has an important color due to the phenolic composition of the skins that are characterized from the presence of many anthocyanins, pigments found in the plant. The anthocyanins tie easily with the other phenolic elements that are important to the wine including the tannins that contribute to the phenolic structure and durability of the wine. The aromatics have many similiarities with the sangiovese grape. Doctor Storchi specified the direct relationship of these varieties therefore proclaiming that foglia tonda is “the cousin of sangiovese”. Foglia tonda, meaning round leaf, takes the name from the characteristics of the leaves to which the lobes give a particular roundness to this organ of the plant.

The fact that producers are still not very engaged to produce wines of the foglia tonda vine is very surprising. Giovanni Sordi personally tried some of the foglia tondo vinified as a single vine that had encouraging results. He feels that foglia tonda would be the ideal partner of sangiovese producing a noble and elegant wine with quality. It would complement and provide the best structure as a blend without modifying some of the aromatic aspects.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Award winning wines of Fabrizio Dionisio in Cortona

Cortona is located in the southeastern part of Tuscany. I was excited to taste the wines of Fabrizio Dionisio because Cortona is one of my top favorite towns in Tuscany. I also loved that he features wines made from Syrah since I wasn't aware of this grape being grown here, but after tasting these wines and learning about the success of this grape in this terroir I was very pleased!
Santa Maria del Calcinaio Cortona Tuscany
Santa Maria del Calcinaio of  Cortona Tuscany

The two vineyard sites they own are Il Castagno and Poggio del Sole. The winery is now run by Fabrizio Dionisio, but his father Sergio Dionisio founded the estate in the early 1970's with originally about 17 acres (7 hectacres). Years later in 1992 he purchased another estate that now brings their total acreage to about 37 acres (15 hectacres) with about a 30,000 bottle production. The estate and vineyards are set in the hills of Cortona surrounded by the splendid sunflower fields and olive groves and perched up on the hill is the fabulous town of Cortona. The vineyards were completely replanted in the early 2000's with the syrah grape and small amounts of merlot and cabernet sauvignon after the trebbiano and sangiovese grapes that had been growing there were overgrown.

Fabrizio Dionisio syrah in Cortona
Barrels of Fabrizio Dionisio

The labels of the estate are fun as the daughter of Fabrizio drew them. I tasted the 2011 Castagnino and Il Castagno. The Castagnino is the little brother to their signature wine, Il Castagno. The difference between this wine and that one is that the Castagnino is not aged in oak and is instead aged in stainless steel and cement vats. The nose is very appealing on this wine because the aromas of the fruit are very rich. It's a very fruit driven wine dominated by plums and blackberries. It is full bodied with nice concentration and soft tannins. Probably a great match with a steak in a red wine glaze.

Fabrizio Dionisio Il Castagno Syrah Cortona

The signature wine, Il Castagno D.O.C., was first produced in 2003 and is made of 100% syrah. It is produced in low yields as the Castagnino also is. Fermentation and maceration both take place for 3 weeks a piece and the malolactic fermentation is off of the free-run juice as the winery never presses their grapes. Its on the lees for about 15 months and aged in french oak barrels. On the nose is enjoyable vanilla from the oak. This wine is very structured and well balanced with rich black berries aromas and spice, but also has a velvety and silkiness throughout.

Both of these wines have received multiple awards from Antonio Galloni, Wine Spectator, James Suckling and the Wine Enthusiast.

The goal of Fabrizio and his team is to create wine “with soul” using current technologies and practices, but manually taking part in every step of the process. I wanted to share a great quote that Fabrizio expresses to exemplify the purpose of the estate and their quality of production:

It is our conviction that such a method of operation is the best way to respect, and to please, not only nature and its fruits, but those as well who will be enjoying our wines.
We believe that restricting ourselves to very small quantities and exercising painstaking care both in the vineyard and in the winemaking, and of course, using only our own estate grapes, constitute the only path to absolute quality. Our winery, then, is wholly artisanal, a kind of workshop, or even workbench, a boutique. Where we work in a simple, ethical way. And we firmly intend to remain just this way forever, since we do not live, nor would we ever want to live, for high numbers and quantity, but only for quality.”
- Fabrizio Dionisio
Piazza della Repubblica Cortona
Picking up my wedding sunflower bouquet from Cortona