Saturday, August 27, 2016

Honoring the Sagra degli Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

This post today is dedicated to all those whom lost their lives and the towns that were destroyed by the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Italy this past Wednesday August 24th, 2016. Some of the towns affected in central Italy were Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto, Norcia and others. As many of you have probably heard much of the detail I won't reiterate this terrible tragedy. The pictures are heartbreaking. The death toll is close to 300 and growing with hundreds injured.

Chiesa del Sacra Cuore in Capricchia
Chiesa del Sacra Cuore in Capricchia by Bruno

According to CNN the town that got hit the hardest was Amatrice with over 180 deaths. A fellow Italian blogger, Mike Madaio of Undiscovered Italy, came up with a fantastic idea to host a #virtualsagra as this weekend would've marked the 50th anniversary of the Sagra degli Spaghetti all'Amatriciana meaning Festival of the dish, spaghetti all'amatriciana. The festival is held every year on the last weekend of August. This dish hails from the town of Amatrice located in the Lazio region of Italy around 60 miles northeast of Rome.

Town of Amatrice in Lazio Italy
The town of Amatrice by Simone Tagliaferri
Destruction in the town of Amatrice
Amatrice by Simone Tagliaferri
I've actually never prepared spaghetti all'amatriciana before because I'm not one for anything that has a kick to it (in this case chili), but in honor of this tragedy it's a must to prepare this dish to honor Amatrice through food and wine. It's a rather simple dish to prepare with few ingredients including spaghetti (although many use bucatini), pecorino cheese, chili and guanciale. Guanciale, pork butt, is used in this dish, but with short notice of preparing for this and having a newborn I wasn't able to escape to hunt that down, but you can substitute this dish with bacon or pancetta. This is also a dish well enjoyed in Rome where tomatoes are an additional ingredient, which I prefer myself. I topped it with some Tuscan extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil.  I'll discuss more about the wine, Montupoli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, and pairing when I write about the wine in an upcoming blog.

Montepoli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
Unfortunately this festival won't be taking place this year and who knows what the future brings, but we can all pray for the families whom have lost loved ones and the long road ahead for these towns in rebuilding their history, homes and lives. I'm offering some links for you to be able to go to and donate as well. I can't say I've been to this area specifically, but as a fellow Italian American a donation is the least I can do to help and I hope you feel the same way too. It's important we support each other in this world as you never know when the time may come that you would need the support in return.

Croce Rossa Italian (Italian Red Cross)

Buon weekend! 
Sagra degli spaghetti all'amatriciana


Friday, August 19, 2016

Tempranillo in the Land of Sangiovese

Every week a fellow wine blogger, Katarina of Grapevine Adventures, features different wineries, sommeliers, winemakers etc with an opportunity to chat live and ask questions, plus learn a lot about a particular winery and area. I attend whenever possible and a little while back she featured a winery in Tuscany that is growing tempranillo, a spanish grape. I'm always intrigued when wineries experiment with grapes that either faced extinction or aren't typical for an area to see what works and what doesn't based on the terroir of a particular area.

The winery is Pietro Beconcini located in San Miniato, located between Pisa and Florence closer to the coast. It's also located along the Via Francigena, where the pilgrims went from north of Spain to Rome. San Miniato is also the place of the truffles. So they always think of the gastronomic side and what wines can be produced to match the food of the area. 

We met virtually with Eva and Leaonardo the winemaker whom is 4th generation. The winery has been within the family since the 1950's when the grandfather was a sharecropper on the land that was then owned by the Marchesi Ridolfi family. It was an agricultural estate that later became solely focused on winemaking in the 90's when Leonardo's father transitioned the land over. Today the wineries total bottle production is 100,000. which is considered a small to medium sized winery. 
Pietro Beconcini winery in Tuscany
Eva & Leonardo Beconcini
The soil of Pietro Beconcini in San Miniato is made up of seashells and clay. Lots of calcium and minerals are within the soil leading to wines that are fresh and that provide structure and saltiness. 
winemaking soils of Tuscany
Soils of fossil shells and clay
The grapes that are produced at Pietro Beconcini are malvasia nera, cieliegiolo, sangiovese, canaoilo and the unique tempranillo. Leonardo's father first started out producing chianti in the old fashioned straw fiascos. When Leonardo took over as winemaker he selected the best vines and vineyard and started replanting ungrafted vines, meaning they survived the terrible phylloxera disease that hit most of Europe's vines destroying them in the 70's. There were 100 year old vines mixed in with others. He did research and micro-vinifciation on some of the vines and that is when he discovered it was tempranillo growing in 2004, very unusual for Italy. 
Winemaker Leonardo Beconcini
Leonardo Beconcini, winemaker
One of the changes from the 90’s that Leonardo changed was the types of barrels used. Previously they used small wooden barrels and now their wine is stored in big wooden slavonian oak barrels. Their reason for doing so is to go back to tradition. Small barrels change the style of the wine. With slavonian oak the impact of wood isn’t aggressive to the wine. 
Pietro Beconcini Agricola
I haven't had the opportunity to try any of their wines, but the wines they walked us through were:
  • Reciso Rosso Toscano IGT – Comes from the verb, recidere, which means to cut, for the efforts of the amount of grapes they cut from their vineyards. Made of 100% sangiovese. This is their best sangiovese from the old vineyards. This wine can last 20 years or more.
  • Vigna alle Nicchie Tempranillo IGT - Meaning vines in the shells this wine is made fully from the tempranillo grape. Leonardo thinks this wine can be aged for 30 years, but they yet have the experience with it since they started only in 2004. The grapes comes from quite a small vineyard. Before pressing the grapes they dry them for 4 weeks where the grapes lose 30% of the water and produces a more concentrated wine. 15.5% alcohol. Recommended to serve with wild boar or wild white meat or pheasant. Also, duck with pepperoni or orange juice cooked for hours so it's well integrated with the meat. Maybe also just pasta with ragu and vegetables.
    2009 Vigne alle Nicchie tempranillo
  • Pietro Beconcini Chianti Riserva DOCG– Produced in large oak barrels from 65 year old vines.
  • Fresco di Nero Rose – This is a rose, or rosato, made of tempranillo. The juice is only macerated with the skins for 3 days. Recommended pairings include salmon and tuna or egg with white truffle on top. They also use a lot of cold cuts because of the fatiness and acidity pairs well with the rosato.
Their dessert wine that is harvested at the beginning of September. They then hang the grapes to dry for some months. about 5-6 months. The juice is then stored in chestnut or oak casks where they leave 1/3 of the barrel for oxygen to never be opened again until it's time to bottle around 5-6 years later. The grapes make up malvasia bianca, colombano and malvasia nera. Pairings with vin santo include blue cheese or gorgonzola, stilton. Liver pate is a tradition of the area. If you're a cigar lover this will be a pairing for you.

*All pictures used with permission of Pietro Beconcini


Saturday, August 13, 2016

South African Chenin Blanc with Shrimp Scampi

It's been awhile since I've been able to join the Wine Pairing Weekend crew again after the recent birth of my baby that I'll be sharing and writing about soon. When I discovered this month's topic was South African wines I jumped at the chance. Recently I attended a tasting with wines provided by Colangelo PR and Wines of South Africa for the 2nd annual #DrinkChenin Day. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to this amazing country back in 2012 touring it for a 2 week vacation starting in Cape Town on the western coast and finishing in the well known Kruger National Park for a 5 day safari on the east coast. I didn't visit these wineries in particular that I'm sharing below unfortunately since there are so many to choose from, but if I get the opportunity to go back I would look forward to it.
wine tasting in South Africa
Me wine tasting in Stellenbosch
South Africa has many cultural influences in it's winemaking from the Dutch, Germans, Italians and the French. You'll find a blend of Old World and New World styles in the wines produced today. Chenin blanc production is the greatest in South Africa compared to the rest of the world with about 19,000 hectacres planted. Chenin blanc had a decrease in sales for 20 years at the end of apartheid. When it was replanted the plantings went from 82% white to 55% white. Sauvignon blanc actually has about 50% of the plantings that chenin blanc does, but chenin blanc has become more popular today due to it's wide array of expressions.

There are many crisp and acid driven chenin blancs as well as those that are rich with hints of oak, but the trend today for chenin blanc is toward the middle of these 2 spectrums. You'll find two types of soil that exist where chenin blanc is grown. One is decomposed granite from the Stellenbosch mountains that produce chenin blancs with acidity, citrus and minerals and the other is sandstone like that of Table Mountain in Cape Town that produces chenin blancs with riper fruit.
Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa
Table Mountain Cape Town
What I didn't realize about South Africa's wine production is that they produce the most fair trade in the world. In 2014 they produced 75% of the world's fair trade. Being a country that takes sustainability and organic wine production very seriously Wines of South Africa is “not just making better wine, they're making wine better.”

The array of wines I sampled for this tasting were:

2013 Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc 
2015 Bellingham Old Orchard Chenin Blanc
2015 Rivers End Chenin Blanc
2015 Terre Brûlée Le Blanc
2015 Solms-Delta, Chenin Blanc
2014 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc of South Africa
I plan on doing a more in depth article on the variety of wines I tasted giving you some insight into each winery at another time, but today I picked one of the wines in particular for the pairing that I chose below.

Challenge with the South African wine industry in the US market
Like many countries outside of the US, South Africa has it's challenges in making it's presence known in the US wine market. It's all about awareness. The more the average wine consumer can be educated by us wine bloggers, wine magazines, retail, etc, the more these countries' wines sales hopefully will increase and an appreciation for the diversity of the wines will be understood.

In addition, South Africa is becoming more and more of a travel destination, which brings additional attention to it's wine industry to regions like Stellenbosch, Swartzland, Franschoek and Paarl.

Food pairings with Chenin Blanc
When it comes to pairing chenin blanc it can go very well with the seafood of South Africa that is a combination of the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Some of the popular fish including snook (similar to mackeral), and kingclip (a flaky fish with the consistency of swordfish and grouper). Chenin blanc will also pair well with BBQ shrimp, chicken and vinaigrette and acidic sauces.

I chose to pair some of these chenin blancs with shrimp scampi. I spaced on making a South African dish, but there are always more South African wines and pairings for the future.  I used a recipe for this pairing from my amazing cook/mother that I thoroughly enjoy and felt the wine and shrimp scampi were a nice compliment to one another.  The chenin blancs in particular that were crisp with good acidity were a better compliment to this dish.
wine pairing with chenin blanc and shrimp scampi

South African Wine Pairings
Here is a look at the wines and pairings the Wine Pairing Weekend group explored this month!

Coming Up for #WinePW

Our September #winePW theme will be “Grüner Veltliner Pairings,” on September 10th, 2016. The event will be hosted by Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog, so keep an eye out for details! For a list of past and upcoming #winePW event, visit the Wine Pairing Weekend calendar. We’d love to have you online with us!


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Around Italy with a Glass of Rose'

With so much talk of rosé this summer, and every summer for that fact, it totally makes sense that our Italian Food Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) is highlighting rosé wines of Italy from any region while some of our food and travel writers are choosing from a couple regions, Tuscany or Puglia, to share their stories as these are also a couple big regions for rose' production as well. Although, more and more it seems rose' is starting to make its way on the wine scene from many producers.
how is rose wine made
The perfect end to a day.  A toast courtesy of my friend, Sara.
How exactly is a rosé produced?
How often are you in the mindset to pour a glass or rose'? Is it only when the weather is warm and nice out to pick up a refreshing glass to cool you down? It's interesting to me that for many this is the case, but rose' is a very versatile wine and can really be enjoyed any time of year. There are plenty of folks out there that will drink white wine in the winter months so why not a rosé?

There are many shades to rosé depending on a couple of factors including the grape used in the production and the winemaker's choice on the length of time the skins macerate with the juice. They may macerate those skins for a couple hours or a few days. The longer the maceration of the skins with the juice, the deeper the color.

How long should I hold onto a bottle of rosé?
Rosé wines aren't wines you'll want to hold onto. I'd recommend drinking them upon purchase or at least within a year of production. With rosé, the fresher the better. It's not a wine you'll want to store that will get better with age.
the process of making rose wine
By N Wong
So which rosé should I seek out in Italy?
Lucky you, there are wide variations from north to south in Italy to have your pickings of a rose' to enjoy. Depending on the region you choose as well as the grape that is primarily used in the production of that wine, will determine the style of rose'. I'm generalizing a bit here, but you'll find more softer, delicate, crisp rosé from northern Italy vs. fuller bodied, ripe, fruit forward rose of southern Italy due to the more intense heat.

There isn't just one region that stands out when discussing the rosé wines from Italy. Below is a list of just some rosé wines found from a variety of different regions in Italy, but of course you'll also see wine producers making rosé from grapes that they are growing also. This is just to give you an idea of some rose' produced throughout Italy.
Puglia ~ Some of the best rose' produced in Italy comes from Puglia, in particular from the area of Salento. Rosé wines in Puglia may be produced from the negro amaro, primitivo or aglianico grapes.
Abruzzo ~ Rosé in Abruzzo is known as cerasuolo d'abruzzo and is produced from the montepulciano grape.
Emidio Pepe Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo
Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo by Dpotera
Tuscany ~ Your most popular grape here for rosé will most likely be sangiovese. There are even some producers in the US producing rose' from sangiovese that I'm interesting in seeking out myself.
Valle d'Aosta ~ Rosé in the Valle d'Aosta is made from the premetta grapes.
Premetta rose of the Valle d'Aosta with Grosjean winery
Premetta of the Valle d'Aosta by The Saucy Sipper
Sicily ~ Rosé wines in Sicily can be made from the frappato, nerello mascalese or nerello cappuccio or even nero d'avola grapes.
Alto Adige ~ A fuller style rosé produced in Alto Adige you may find from the lagrein grape.
Veneto/Lombardia ~ Rosé from these two regions can be found around Lake Garda, but where exactly determines the grapes. It may be from the marzemino or corvina grapes, but most popular of all is the bardolino chiaretto. 
Bardolino Chiaretto rose of the Veneto
By Magnus Reuterdahl

Want More on Italian Rosé? Join us this Saturday, August 6 at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT to chat about Rosé wines from Italy. Check out what our Italian blogging group has lined up for you: