Saturday, January 30, 2016

Zibibbo sweetens up the island of Pantelleria

This year as I'm working through a little redesign of my site I have so many articles from when I started this blog almost 3 years ago, but I want to focus more this year on some of the even lesser known varietals and regions that I haven't talked to much about. That brings me to my topic today and with Valentine's Day around the corner I thought it was only appropriate to focus on a dessert wine for the holiday, Moscato and Passito di Pantelleria.

Even though I love dry red wines I have a real appreciation for all wines and I definitely have a sweet tooth so when it comes to dessert wines they all call my name. Plus, they're my husbands favorites and I have to keep him happy too. It is Valentine's Day after all.

Annalee Valentine dolls
Love collecting these Annalee dolls
Pantelleria is an island off the coast of Sicily bordering Africa. It suffers from the hot winds blowing over from Africa known as the scirocco winds. These winds as you can imagine can be damaging to the grapes grown here as it can literally bake the grapes. The wineries of the island protect their grapes by wrapping the vines to look like wreaths that cover up and protect the grapes with the leaves. I've also seen this done on the island of Santorini in Greece due to it's intense heat and wind. With these temperatures the residual sugars in the grapes increase and produce very ripe grapes, resulting in the amazing dessert wines known as the Passito di Pantelleria or Moscato di Pantelleria.

Grapes growing on Pantelleria Sicily
An overview of the fields of Pantelleria by Luca Volpi

These wines are made from moscato grapes, which here are also known as zibibbo. What a fun word for a grape! The grapes are actually harvested at night out of the intense day sun to help balance the acidity and sugar. The wines are produced in a multitude of styles as well. You'll find it in a dry style, sweet/dolce style, liquoroso (fortified) and the most popular known as the passito style. What makes this wine special is that the grapes are actually dried out in the sun on volcanic black sun concentrating the sugars further. The Passito di Pantelleria is one of the top dessert wines that you'll find throughout Italy.

zibibbo grapes drying on Pantelleria
Zibibbo grapes drying on the island of Pantelleria by Craig Drollett

Any version that you can find to experience is worth the treat. A popular producer and wine on the US market from Pantelleria is that from the well-known Donnafugata winery known as Ben Rye. This wine retails in about the mid $40's, but is quite delightful. I hope you get to seek one out this Valentine's Day or in the near future. Let me know if you do or have had others as I always love suggestions.

I'd love to hear from my readers as well. Do you enjoy dessert wines in general or do you prefer a dried style of wine?


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Big Announcement for the Future of Vino Travels

Vino Travels has a big announcement for all my readers that I’m thrilled to share with you.  Unfortunately, I’m going to withdraw today from sharing Italian knowledge and bring you into my personal life.  In June of 2016 my husband and I will be welcoming a future winelover into our lives.  To say the least we’re over the moon!
wine blogging while pregnant
My dad's first gift to me. He knows me well!
That doesn’t mean anything for what Vino Travels brings to you week after week and the goals for this site.  I plan to continue to educate the world on Italian wines offering wine suggestions and experiences, introducing you to winemakers, winery visits and wine events.  It’s a passion of mine and we know that with this drive it will never go away.

Of course I’m not drinking wine during this time, but I’m still able to taste and spit and can get all the same characteristics without digesting it.  Of course it’s tempting with all the wine I have lying around the house calling my name, but it will be even more reason to celebrate and pop bottles that I can actually drink after June.
Snowmobiling while pregnant
My other favorite hobby!
I love hearing from my readers and highly encourage comments throughout these months.  Let me know what you love about Vino Travels and I’m always open to hearing what you’d like to learn more about.  I’ll be focusing more on educating over these months than offering up specific wine bottle suggestions.  I appreciate the support and am always honored when I get new subscribers to my newsletters around the world.

So join me on my countdown and share any great Italian bottles you’re drinking along the way.  I'll be mostly living vicariously through you all!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Comparing Aglianico and Nebbiolo

Earlier this month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) featured the region of the Basilicata. In writing about the most popular grape of the region, aglianico, it brought about the question on how does aglianico of the south compare to nebbiolo of the north.

Nebbiolo is a grape most known for producing some of the top wines of Italy, barolo and barbaresco. Nebbiolo is found primarily in the region Piedmont, but is also found in Lombardy in the Valtellina winegrowing area, as well as the Valle d'Aosta. You can read more about nebbiolo and some of the differences between barolo and barbaresco to get a better understanding regarding these two wines and some more traits of the grape itself.
Nebbiolo grapes growing in Barbaresco
Nebbiolo growing in Barbaresco

Aglianico is a grape that is primarily found in the regions of Campania, mostly around Mount Vesuvius and in the Basilicata region, mostly found in the Monte Vulture area. As you'll see it shines when grown in volcanic soil and is what makes the wine special. You'll find further detail about the aglianico grape on my recent article.
Mt. Vesuvius over Pompeii
Mt. Vesuvius over Pompeii

Aglianico has been called the “barolo of the south” and yes, it does have some similarities to nebbiolo in the north, but aglianico is a grape that has enough differences to be recognized on its own as it should be.

Similarities of Aglianico and Nebbiolo
There are many similarities between these two grapes from two different spectrums of Italy. To start off they are both late ripening grapes that produce wines with high tannins and acid. Obviously each cru site, or single vineyard site, where these wines are grown have their own characteristics, but they're typically dense, complex, rich and concentrated wines. These are the types of wine that can be aged for 10-30 years or more depending on the producer. They usually will benefit from some decanting and need time in the bottle to be more approachable and to mature.

Differences of Aglianico and Nebbiolo
I believe that aglianico is a grape that is more approachable in its youth. You can find some wines from La Morra for example that are more approachable in their youth, but we're talking the overall general picture. These grapes also have different aging requirements when comparing the DOCG's of Basilicata and Barolo and Barbaresco. The Aglianico del Vulture Superiore of Basilicata requires 2 years of aging for the regular red and 4 years for the riserva. In comparison, Barbaresco is more closely related with it's aging period of 26 months for it's red and 50 for it's riserva. Barolo is higher requiring 38 months for it's red and 62 months for it's riserva. Lastly, you can find more affordable aglianico wines than you will find in Barolo and Barbaresco, but there are plenty of other nebbiolo wines from the other regions I mentioned as well as others grown within Piedmont outside of Barolo and Barbaresco.

What are your thoughts on these two grapes and do you have a preference? I'd love to hear from you.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Italian Resolutions of 2016

Happy 2016 everyone!  Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group have compiled a list of our Italian resolutions for 2016.  We'd love to hear yours so please share.  Maybe we can offer some insight if we've been there or have shared in the food or wines of particular regions.

Vino Travels

I'd love to say I'll be making it to Italy this year, but that is unlikely unless I receive a personal invitation for a wine event. Trust me, I would if I could. I'd love to explore more of southern Italy. I'll just have to live through Italy through my blog and sharing more stories and connecting with other amazing Italian bloggers. My resolution is to refocus my energy on keep pushing to become somewhat fluent in Italian and keep sharing with you unique Italian grapes of Italy.

After a year of so of taking a virtual tour of Italy by writing about the food and wine of Italy with #ItalianFWT, my wife and I have decided to take a real tour of Italy in 2016!   Our plan is to start in the north in the Lake Como village of Varenna, and wind our way south, ultimately ending up at the Amalfi Coast with stops in the Dolomites, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Siena, Orvieto, and of course Rome! It's time to get real!

Italy. I think I could spend a lifetime exploring her. I've made numerous trips to Italy staying anywhere from ten days to three weeks. My goal for 2016 is to spend at least two months in Italy. I also want to be free to stay longer if the stars line up and it seems like the right thing. To accomplish this I must rent out the condo I own and currently occupy. Viva Italia 2016! Wish me luck.

I love the fact that each city and region has it’s own culture, cuisine and customs. In all the years that I’ve been exploring Italy, however, I’ve never made it to Basilicata. It looks so different to the rest of Italy with almost a Greek feel in places I’m told, so my number one resolution for 2016 is to check it out the trulli houses of Alberobello, the baroque architecture of Lecce and the caves of Matera. Basilicata here I come!

Resolutions can be fun, right?  My 2016 resolution is to try Nebbiolo from every region I can find it. Italy: Barbaresco, Barolo (of course), Roero, Gattinara, Chiavennasca, and farther afield in Sonoma, Paso Robles, and yes, even Oregon!

I would love to spend more time in the Southern Italian regions. I have yet to visit Calabria or Puglia. They're on my list for 2016. I also look forward to becoming even more acquainted with some of Italy's lesser known wine regions. 

I am looking forward to traveling back to Italy in 2016 to visit more wine regions, meet more boutique wine makers and explore more Italian wines while I continue to broaden my appreciate of the "Italian Art of Living”.

This year I want to head south again, this time to Calabria, to explore the area and take a cooking class while we're there.  

My Italian resolution for 2016 is to travel to Bologna to savour the delicacies of Emilia Romagna. I also want to focus on learning Italian well and I hope to do that in 2016.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Aglianico, What Makes the Basilicata Pop!

Welcome to 2016 and our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group where every month we cover a different region in Italy. We're almost ¾ of the way through Italy before we go full circle. The beginning of 2016 we tackle some of the lesser discovered regions of Italy and they're all to the south starting with Basilicata.
Map of Basilicata wine regions
Copyright of Federdoc
I've always appreciated all wines and of course I have some favorite Italian grapes, but the grape I'm sharing with you today, Aglianico, is one I have grown to love the more I try it. Earlier this week I shared a preview on the food, wines and travel to the Basilicata, but today I want to focus more on what Aglianico is and the wines it produces in the Basilicata.

All About Aglianico
Two of the main regions that use the Aglianico grape in their wine production are the Basilicata and also Campania. In Campania the wines to seek out are Taurasi and Aglianico del Taburno. In the Basilicata the 1 DOCG of the region is the Aglianico del Vulture Superiore. The Aglianico grape was believed to be brought to Basilicata by the Greeks. The Aglianico grown on the slopes of Monte Vulture in the volcanic soils that produce wines deep in color resulting in wines that are rich and robust. The temperatures of this area are rather cool so the grapes have a long growing season into the end of October that help the grapes to developer complexities and balance.

2010 Grifalco della Lucania Aglianico del VultureGrifalco della Lucania
Today I'm sharing the 2010 Grifalco della Lucania Aglianico del Vulture DOC. Deep ruby in color and lighter around the rim. This Aglianico is intense on the nose with a lot of tobacco, plum notes, cedar, a little smokiness and earthy as well as some cinnamon. Lots going on in this wine. Dry on the palette, full-bodied with bright acidity and a persistent intense finish. Retail: $16

The difference between the Aglianico del Vulture DOC and Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG 
The biggest difference between the Aglianico DOC and DOCG wines of this region are mainly the aging process and lesser strict regulations including the DOCG wines only being able to be grown in Potenza where the DOC wines grown in either Potenza or Matera. This DOC wine only has to age 1 year in comparison to the DOCG again 2 years and 4 years for a riserva, but they are both are made of 100% Aglianico.

Follow my fellow blogger friends on their feature of the Basilicata and don't forget to join our live chat on Twitter Saturday January 2nd at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT

February 6th we stay in southern Italy with Calabria.  See you then!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Vino Travels Highlights the Top 10 Italian Wine Blogs of 2015

Italian wine for the New Year
Another year has come and gone and boy does time fly.  I appreciate all the support and recognition from my readers since my beginnings of Vino Travels in 2013.  I'd love to hear from more of my readers around the world so drop me an email to say hello or leave a comment.  It's always exciting to me to see subscribers from around the world and I hope you have enjoyed your weekly newsletter.  I'm always looking to improve and will have some changes to my site hopefully this year that I'm working on as well.  Can't wait to share it with you.  Have a great happy and healthy start to New Year!

Below I'm sharing my most popular top 10 Italian wine blogs of 2015.  Enjoy a recap!

#1 - Italian Food, Wine & Travel  (#ItalianFWT) Explores Abruzzo

#2  - Vernaccia di Serrapetrona: A 3 Fermentation Wine

#3 - Comprehensive Guide to Sagrantino & Montefalco

#4 - Donna Laura Ali, The Sangiovese of Angels

#5 - Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Terramane DOCG with Cerelli Spinozzi

#6 - Italian Food, Wine & Travel Features the Le Marche 

#7 - Sicilian Volcanic Wine Pairing: Pasta Alla Norma with Giovi Nerello Mascalese

#8 - Italian Food, Wine & Travel Visits Umbria

#9 - Wine & Food Pairing of Sicily: Inzolia and Arancini

#10 - My Italian Wine Specialist Certification and Podcast with Rick Zullo

Looking forward to another great year in 2016 and sharing the wines of Italy with you.  

Happy New Year ~ Buon Anno!
Buon Anno 2016 for Italian wines