Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Preview into the Food, Wine & Travel to Puglia

Our 3rd to last region before we rounding out our first full tour of all 20 regions of Italy and this month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel (#ItalianFWT) bloggers group features Puglia. I'm amazed more and more how I'm seeing and reading about many folks traveling to Puglia, which must be an amazing boost to the economy there. Per some of our ItalianFWT bloggers here is their perspective on the region:

  • I have been seduced by the spectacular panoramas of olive trees, the mesmerizing Adriatic and Ionian coastlines, the whitewashed and amber stone cities, the art and architecture, the unique cuisine and wines...everything...but most of all, by the warm and welcoming people.” - Victoria of Postcardz from Victoria
  • The people, the proximity to the sea, the climate, the architecture, and of the course the traditional food and wine products are major features of this southern region of Italy.” - Margie of Margie in Italy

The very fertile, flat plains in Puglia measure right up there with those of Emilia Romagna and the Po Valley. Vineyards and olive trees are prevalent as you travel throughout the region as well as the unique trulli white, stone capped homes. Plus, once your done exploring the region, the port town of Brindisi is a great launching point to shoot over to Greece.
Trulli homes in Puglia, Italy
Trulli in Puglia by Margie
Food of Puglia

The southern cuisine of Italy is rich in fresh vegetables and a lot of the dishes of Puglia are influenced by this. Puglia is also a region well known for it's olive oil.  In addition, as you can imagine due to its proximity to the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, that seafood is another popular option. Add a little of the popular pasta, orecchiette, of the region and viola! You have a taste of Puglia in your own home.

Olive oil making in Puglia Italy
Olive trees in Puglia by Victoria

Wines of Puglia

The wine industry has dramatically changed over the years with Puglia in years past being a region for producing quantity with much of it's grapes shipped north, to what it is today where quality wine is now being produced here and at some great values.

Puglia is a region whose reds are making more of an appearance in the wine market than ever before. Grapes including negroamaro and primitivo are helping to get these wines more noticed. The whites here are mostly made of bombino bianco, verdeca and chardonnay.

wine map of Puglia's wine region
Wine map of Puglia Copyright of Federdoc

This Saturday April 2nd you'll get a variety of what our Italian bloggers group has to offer and here is a preview below. Make sure to also join our live Twitter chat at 11am EST on #ItalianFWT. If you'd like to join our group it's not too late. Email me at vinotravels at

Vino Travels - Penne Con I Broccoli & Salice Salento
Paradise of Exiles - Three Wine Bars in Lecce
Orna O'Reilly - A Taste of Puglia
Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Insalata con Polpi in Umido e Patate
Food Wine Click - Primitivo and Pasta from the Heel of the Boot
Rockin Red Blog - Puglia: Take Me Away!
Cooking Chat - Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Kale
The Palladian Traveler - Savoring the Salento
Vigneto Communications - Indigenous Grapes of Puglia
Postcardz from Victoria - A Tuscan Wine Legend Finds Inspiration in Puglia
The Wining Hour - Pleasures of Puglia: Primitivo, Cavatelli and Shrimp & Eggplant Arrabbiata
L'Occasion - A Night In: Celebrate Puglia at Home


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Italian Easter Food & Wine Pairings this Pasqua

Easter, or Pasqua in Italian, a major christian religious holiday throughout Italy, is a celebration of religion and family. The Easter season begins Palm Sunday and is terminated the Monday after Easter known as Pasquetta, or Little Easter, where the family festivities and celebrations continue via picnics or celebrations at one another's homes. It has many symbolic meanings and is a rebirth of not only christ, but the celebration and commencement of the spring season.
Italian Easter Editions

Of course with any holiday, food is a major consideration and with any Italian meal the wine follows. Every region has their own specialties and you may be familiar with some of these dishes depending upon your origins. Kick off your Pasqua meal with prosecco to add some bubbles to your celebrations.

Side dishes, or contorni, will typically consist of asparagus, artichokes, chard and many other fresh vegetables.

First Course
For first courses, or il primo piatto, lasagna is a popular dish as well as other stuffed and baked pastas. Maybe you're heard of or have tried torta pasqualina, a savory puff pastry quiche filled with eggs, cheese, herbs and other additional ingredients from the region of Liguria. 
Torta Pasqualina Easter Wine Pairings
Torta Pasqualina

Wine recommendations: Lots of options for first courses when it comes to a wine selection, but consider a barbera, valpolicella or sangiovese.

Second Course
For the secondo or main course, lamb is the go-to option by many. Lamb represents the sacrifice of the Easter holiday. Each region will have a different style of preparation whether it's grilled or roasted and seasoned with herbs accompanied by beans, roasted potatoes, and some of the contorni mentioned above. Since this is the main course I would selected a wine with structured tannins to go with the lamb as well as a wine that has a balance of fruit and acid, but not too bold to overpower the lamb. 

Wine recommendations: Depending on the producer consider a negroamaro, primitivo, super tuscans from Bolgheri or the Maremma or a cannonau.
Herb Roasted Lamb for Easter
Herb Roasted Lamb by the Culinary Geek
Who doesn't love ending their meal with a little sweetness and the desserts of Easter are some of the highlights. The basic chocolate egg shell filled with treats for the children is always an option, but there is also colomba pasquale bread, a sweet bread typically in the shape of a dove. I always enjoyed struffoli growing up, small balls of pastry drizzled with honey and topped with a sprinkling of confetti. There is also pastiera, a cake made of ricotta and wheat from Naples within Campania. 

Wine recommendations: A recommended wine pairing with some of these dishes would be a moscato bianco from Piedmont.
Pasqua chocolate eggs
Pasqua chocolate eggs by Maurizio
What are you Easter traditions and what will be you be enjoying?


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Primitivo shines in Puglian vineyards along the Adriatic

In April I'll be highlighting some food and wine of Puglia and wanted to start to prep folks on learning more of this region that is getting lots of press from travelers. It's even peaked my interest as I haven't discovered too much of the south outside of Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. Many of the Italian travel bloggers I'm friendly with online have explored this region and had this to say about their journey:

Puglia is one of the top producers of grapes within Italy. It's history in winemaking was previously known for producing high quantities of grapes that were shipped mostly to northern Italy and other parts of the world for wine production.

Today I'm sharing with you one of the popular wines of Puglia, primitivo, and in particular that of the Tormaresca winery owned by the famous Antinori family of Tuscany. The winery was named after the Tormaresca towers that look over the Adriatic Sea. It's prime vineyard sites are in the Bocca di Lupo site of the Castel del Monte DOC and the Masseria Maime site in Salento. It's mission on their websites states "The Tormaresca project began with the dream, now a reality, to discover and enhance the precious native varietals of Puglia, leading the wine renaissance of the region. The values at the foundation of this project are the same transmitted for 26 generations by the Antinori Family: strong connection with the region, respect of apulian history and traditions maintaining always an innovative approach." 
Tormaresca producer of primitivo in Puglia
The primitivo I'm sharing today called Toricoda hails from the Masseria Maime site that is situated along the Adriatic amidst olive groves and forests that flow towards the seaside shore. An interesting fact on their website states that the primitivo grape signified at one point in time wealth and fertility and had been given as a brides' dowry upon marriage.
Wineries in Puglia, Tormaresca

Wines of Puglia with Tormaresca
Winemaking facilities of Tormaresca

2012 Tormaresca Toricoda PrimitivoThe 2012 Tormaresca Toricoda Primitivo Salento IGT was a concentrated ruby color with bright, intense black cherry, clove, vanilla, blackberry and sweet spices on the nose. It's a full-bodied wine that was balanced with nice black fruit on the palate and structured tannin with a lengthy finish. Lots going on in this wine and is what I personally love about wines that are multi-dimensional. Retails about $20.

We're still coming out of the spring and there is plenty of time for these fuller bodied wines. Plus, with Puglia I've always found great values when it comes to purchasing their wines. Check them out and let me know what you think.

*All pictures copyright of Tormaresca.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The secret indigenous grape of Molise, Tintilia

Last week our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) exploerd the region of Molise. I shared one of the major producers of Molise, Masseria Di MajoNorante, and one of their wines Ramitello, a Molise Rosso. This is definitely a region that doesn't get a lot of attention in the world of wines and even so when we talk about Italian wines themselves, but I believe in always exploring the lesser known grapes and helping to educate and open ones eyes to a different grape if you have an opportunity to seek it out.
Mountainous region of Molise by Lucio Musacchio

What is Tintilia?
I mentioned in our online chat last Saturday and also in my article a mention of the native red grape of Molise, tintilia. I don't remember ever having the pleasure to sample this grape and look forward to an opportunity at one point, but it may be a very difficult one to find. Prior to this article you were probably asking yourself, what is tintilia? The sad part is that through all of my Italian wine books that I have none of them mentioned tintilia and even the sections on Molise, if there was one, had very little to say.

The Origins of Tintilia & it's Production in Molise
Tintilia finally got it's own DOC in 1998 that it can qualify for, which is the Tintilia del Molise DOC from the provinces of Isernia and the capital Campobasso. It's another grape, like some of the other Italian grapes we've discussed along the way, that faced extinction, but some wine producers of Molise continue to work with the grape and still produce wines with it. It's unknown where the grape hailed from or whom it was introduced by whether it was the Spanish or the Samnites, but the word tintilia hails from the spanish word tinto, which means red, and a red grape it is. So whether or not that means it came from the Spanish your guess is as good as mine and there was no definite answer online.

Characteristics of Tintilia
Typically with this wine it produces a ruby color and is medium-bodied showcasing red and/or black fruits. Depending on the producer you may also pick up some spice notes and licorice. A well produced tintilia should balance good fruit and acidity with firm tannins.

Producers of Tintilia
There are definitely more, but these wineries produce tintilia wines of Molise that maybe you can find.
I would love to hear from those that have had the opportunity to try this grape and share your experience with us.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Di Majo Norante of Molise Rocks the Mediterranean

Welcome to our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) where this month my blogger friends and myself cover the region of Molise in southern Italy. Like some of the other regions we have covered since the beginning of the New Year, Molise is one of those regions not well sought after or on the list of your must go to regions within Italy. It's surrounded by a number of regions in the south including Puglia, Campania, Abruzzo and Lazio.
visiting molise italy
Molise's mountainous landscapes by
The wines of Molise
Another one of the few regions within Italy without a DOCG, there are 4 DOC's of the region:
  • Biferno DOC
  • Pentro d'Isernia DOC
  • Molise DOC
  • Tintilia del Molise DOC
Today the winery and wine I'm sharing with you hails from the Molise DOC and the luxurious, rustic farmhouse and winery, Di Majo Norante. You can find this winery located close to the coast of the Adriatic, but in the countryside of Campomarino within Molise. 

Winemaking started at Di Majo Norante in the 1800's and the winery has experimented with many grapes on their soil to create the mediterranean style wines that represent Molise's characteristics. These grapes include red grapes such as aglianico, bombino, prugnolo and tintilia and white grapes including falanghina, moscato and greco.

The winery had an overhauling in the 1960's when a new winery was built and vines were replanted. The owner, Alessio Di Majo Norante, also hired the known consulting winemaker, Riccardo Cotarella, to aid and assist in the production of high quality wines. Riccardo is also a consulting winemaker to many other wineries within Italy.

2010 Di Majo Norante Ramitello Rosso Molise 2010 Di Majo Norante Ramitello Molise Rosso DOC
My wine sharing today is the 2010 Di Majo Norante Ramitello Molise Rosso DOC.  Named after the vineyard where the wine is produced, Ramitello, it is a blend of 85% montepulciano and 15% aglianico. Ruby in color it's a dry medium-bodied wine, warming with strong spice, a lot of licorice, cedar and ripe black cherry. Moderate tannins on the palate. Overall crisp acidity and smooth on the finish. Retails about $19.

We hope you can join our live Twitter chat this Saturday March 5th at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT. Keep the journey through Molise going with my fellow bloggers.

Hope to see you next month on April 2nd as we feature Puglia! Ciao ciao for now!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A preview into the food, wine and travel to Molise

Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is ready to share with you another one of Italy's marvelous regions.  This week and month we share with you the region of Molise.  

Molise is an obscure region more towards southern Italy. It is the 2nd smallest region and least populated in Italy next to the Valle d'Aosta tucked in northern western Italy. Dominated by mountains and barely touching the coastline of the Adriatic it's a lesser inhabited region and is dominated by the agricultural industry.

map of wine region of Molise
Map of Molise copyright of Federdoc
Molise had been part of most of it's surrounding regions including Puglia and Campania to the south and Abruzzo to the north until it stood independently in 1963. It's 2 main provinces are Isernia and Campobasso.

The wines of Molise

Most of the wines of Molise have always been locally consumed and it's one of the regions where the wines don't have a strong international presence. With influences of the Adriatic and the Appenine mountains, it creates an overall continental climate for grape growing. You'll find many of the same grapes of the neighboring regions also grown here including red grapes like montepulciano, aglianico, and sangiovese along with white grapes such as trebbiano, greco bianco, falanghina, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. One of the native grapes of this region is the tintilia grape that is used in the production of the Tintilia del Molise DOC. 

The food of Molise

Due to it's proximity and previous association with the surrounding regions, it shares very similar culinary similarities to those regions.  Sheep are a staple in the cuisine in both lamb dishes and sheep's milk cheese. Since the region is more mountainous you'll find more meat based dishes here than seafood.  Along with the lamb you'll also see lots of salami and prosciutto.

Preview of what's to come on Molise

Our bloggers this month will be taking you through an array of Molise has to offer. Here's a preview and please join us for a live twitter chat this Saturday March 5th at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.

Vino Travels - Di Majo Norante of Molise Rocks the Mediterranean
Culinary Adventures of Camilla - Risotto agli Spinaci with a Montepulciano-Aglianico Blend
Rockin Red Blog - Molise: The Land of Gladiators 
Food Wine Click - A Molise Sangiovese with a Sauce to Make as the Pasta Cooks
Cooking Chat - Molise Wine Surprise
The Wining Hour - Sausage and Tomato Herbed Focaccia with Ramitello Biferno di Molise
Enofylz Wine Blog - A Taste of Molise: Authentic Italy

If you'd like to join our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group and write about varying monthly regions of Italy please email me direct at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.