Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 Italian wine blogs of 2016

As we wrap up 2016 it's the perfect time to reflect on happenings/events of the year as well as one's successes and even areas to focus and improve on moving forward. Vino Travels will be going on the 4th year in 2017 and I am proud to say it's been a long journey with much more to come. 

Vino Travels continues to grow and expand.  I started contributing articles to a couple new magazines including L'Italo Americano and Primo Magazine.  I continue to be a contributor to Snooth with an amazing bunch of wine writers and connoisseurs.  Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group has grown to over 350 facebook members and continues to expand our network of Italian lovers as well as fantastic monthly features region by region.  With great gratitude and honor, my blog was listed as one of the top 100 wine blogsLastly, I've been marketing my first book, Planning Your Dream Wedding in Tuscany, with some sales within the US and the Europe.  

Hopefully you've been following my journey throughout the year, but here is a glimpse into the top 10 blogs of 2016. I'd love to hear your favorites or even what you'd like to see more of in 2017. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Italian Wine and Food Recommendations

The holiday season is upon us and for any last minute Christmas shoppers it's time to hurry up and make those last minute purchases and get those elfs to wrap those presents quickly! Amidst all the madness, it's also time to sit back and relax. I have some holiday wine and/or food recommendations from our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) that are the perfect way to get you started. Enjoy!

Jill from L'Occasion

I've read about Il Paese del Natale (Christmas Market) in the delightful town of Sant’Agata Feltria, in Le Marche. I'm fascinated by the wonder of the village as it turns into a holiday fantasy. Traditional Advent food such as chicken stuffed with chestnuts are served in restaurants and stalls. I'd love to sample the foods with a bottle of Vigneto Contrada Vallone – Rosso Piceno D.O.C. from Rio Maggio, born in Le Marche vineyards. Made of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, this wine brings Italian spirit to Christmas celebrations! Buon Natale from Jill at L'occasion.

Rio Maggio Rosso Piceno

Jeff from FoodWineClick

Sparkling wine always brightens up the holidays, and you don't see sparkling Nebbiolo every day. We pair it with Acciughe al Verde (Anchovies in Green Sauce), a traditional Piemontese apertivo or primo course. The sparkling wine freshens your palate after a bite of all that garlicy, anchovy flavor.

Anchiovies in green sauceacciughe al verde2012 Luigi Giordano Sparkling Nebbiolo

 Susannah of Avvinare

Struffoli is a favorite of mine - sweet and delicious. Here's a photo and a link to a friend's struffoli recipe. Michele is a wonderful chef and the wife of wine writer Charles Scicolone.

how to make struffoli

Ishita of Italophilia
Merry Christmas everyone! Buon Natale a tutti!
As this year draws to an end, let's send each other good vibes and happy thoughts. Thanks to Italy for being our love and passion that makes us connect everyday virtually. Lets make the most of it and hope to see you somewhere in Italy in 2017!  

truffle pasta
Ishita picks a truffle pasta to share this holiday

Jen of Vino Travels

One of my favorite regions in Italy is Piedmont, aka Piemonte, located in northwestern Italy. The barbera grape is widely planted in this region and I loved one I tried recently, 2013 Castello di Neive Santo Stefano Barbera d'Alba. Nice structure, acidity and fruit. Salute!

2013 Castello di Neive Santo Stefano Barbera d'Alba

Merry Christmas and Buon Natale!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Top picks for Italian Wine Books

Ti's the season and we're in the midst of the holidays. If you're still in shopping mode and have a winelover on your list, here are some Italian wine book selections that are the perfect gifts to consider. Of course you can read all these great books, but there is nothing like combining it with wine to fully comprehend it. That's the best way to learn....drink, drink, drink!

Vino Italiano Joseph BastianichMy trusty Italian wine resource has always been Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch's Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy. It's an easy to read book where each chapter features a different wine region within Italy. Each chapter talks about their personal experiences traveling through that region including a recipe of local cuisine, recommended wines from that region found in the US, reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines if they exist, maps and some suggested destination spots. Plenty of fun to explore in each chapter to give you that sense of place.

Grandi Vini Joseph BastianichThe next book, Grandi Vini an opinionated tour of Italy's 89 finest wines is another one I have come to enjoy. This is another book written by Joseph Bastianich and is a lot different than the others I'm sharing today. As the name suggests, it shares 89 wines from Central Italy, The Islands, Northeast Italy, Northwest Italy and Southern Italy and the mezzogiorno. It gives background on some of the top wines and their respective producers from each region with some other added tidbits on those regions, grapes and terroir. When learning about any wine from an area, having a perspective on the top players and their history and traditions in winemaking helps one have a deeper understanding of that particular area and this book does just that.

Lastly, a fellow wine lover I've met virtually over the years, Bob Lipinski, shared with me a couple of the many books he has written with Gary Grunner: ItalianWine Notes and Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple 2ndEdition. One of the things I learned from when I got certified in Italian wine is that there is a BOATLOAD of information on Italian wine and for the average person it can be very overwhelming if you're just trying to understand Italian wine in simpler terms. I got certified in Italian wine to increase my knowledge and specialize in it, but this isn't everyone's goal and heck, I need to find books like the ones that Bob wrote when it comes to understanding wines in the rest of the world in order to make it easy to understand
Italian wine and cheese pairings
Italian Wine Notes is a short book that simplifies Italian wine including the different types of Italian wines, grapes, DOCG's, wine laws, wine terminology and Italy's regions and the wines produced within those regions.

As the name suggests, the Italian Wine & Cheese book Bob wrote is primarily based on wines from all regions within Italy and the cheeses produced within all the regions of Italy from A to Z. There are plenty of suggestions of which Italian cheeses to pair with which Italian wine along with some fruit pairings too. So find your local specialty cheese and wine shop and start playing around with the pairings.

There are others I look forward to seeking out and reading and I'll share those when I get around to reading them. 

What have you discovered for Italian wine books that you've personally enjoyed?

*Bob Lipinski's books were offered as a sample, but are my personal opinions.  It doesn't cost you a dime if you decide to click the links to amazon to purchase the books, but it does support my efforts in writing and sharing all this information with you.  Thank you in advance.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Who says there isn't great pinot grigio?

Pinot grigio has not always been a go-to when it comes to white wines for me, but if I am going to drink one I always turn to northeastern Italy, in particular the Alto Adige wine region. Pinot grigio unfortunately has been tarnished from the days of when high quantity, low quality pinot grigio were being produced. It still happens today, but there are plenty of producers that are doing it right and creating some beautiful wines that one shouldn't be shying away from.

I recently sampled Peter Zemmer's pinot grigio coming from the Alto Adige wine region, also known as the South Tyrol or suditrol. This winery has been producing wines since 1928 and is today operated by Helmuth Zemmer. Based in the small town of Cortina I thought their website put it best by stating “the fascinating interplay between tradition and innovation, man and the surroundings, sense and sensuality finds expression in the passion and sensitivity with which Peter Zemmer brings his wines to life.”

You may say that some of the names I just mentioned don't sound very Italian. This region, along with others regions of northern Italy, border other countries including Austria and Switzerland, so you'll see a lot of germanic influences. In addition to Italian spoke here, many also speak other languages with German being a strong second language choice. You'll also see these influences present in the architecture and design of some of the homes and building along with the food itself.
Vineyards in the Alto Adige
The South Tyrol by SouthTyrolean
In the Alto Adige region it provides a mild, cool climate for grape growing with both the alpine climatic influences as well as those of the Mediterranean. With the fluctuations in temperatures from day to night, this helps create wines with vibrant acidity and aromatic wines.

2014 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio Alto AdigeThe 2014 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio has an aromatic, floral nose while on the palate it's well
balanced with nice crisp, acidity combined with notes of lemon and pears and some salinity. Great overall body and mouthfeel. Definitely holding true that my thoughts on the wines from this region deliver more than just satisfaction. You'll see as well that this bottle is a couple years old and it's always best to sample these wines in their youth, but there was no sign of deterioration in my glass! ABV 13.5%. SRP $16-17.

*This was a sample provided to me by Creative Palate Communications, but opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christmas in Molise

We're quickly approaching the end of another year and our Italian Food, Wine & Travel (#ItalianFWT) bloggers are ready to share with you this month a variety of Italian holiday wines, culinary traditions and holiday and Christmas festivities found throughout Italy. This month I'm focusing on the small region of Molise that never seems to get enough attention.

Christmas Traditions in Molise
I don't know about you, but I personally love this time of year. One of my favorite things to do is partake in the festivities all around me whether it's scoping out the houses with some of the best christmas light displays while sipping some hot chocolate or maybe attending Christmas parades and other local holiday events. Well Italy has many of it's own traditions in each region and many of the towns within those regions have special events that the local citizens hold dear to them.

In Molise Christmas Eve is a big celebration for the locals. In particular, in the town of Agnone, there is a celebration of the ndocciata, torches. A bell is rung at St. Anthonys and bagpipers play and fill the streets with music. A fan shaped variety of torches made of pinewood are carried by those dressed in costume of all ages. The event culminates at Plebiscite Square with a large bonfire, called the bonfire of brotherhood, where the nativity is displayed. In the town of Oratino, another event called La Faglia takes place where they burn hundreds of candles into forming one candle. The candle is carried through the town where it is lit on fire at the end at the Chiesa Madre bell tower.
Ndocciata of Agnone by Gianfranco Vitolo
Holiday Wine Recommendations from Molise
I recently had a couple wines from Molise that I very much enjoyed. The 2014 Di Majo Norante Terre Degli Osci Sangiovese I.G.T and the 2011 Di Majo Norante Ramitello Molise. Di Majo Norante is located in Campomarino in the district of Ramitello and has been producing wine since the 1800's.  Helping craft wines of top quality they have seeked out the help of one of the top Italian wine consultants, Riccardo Cotarella, who consults wineries throughout Italy and the world.

The Di Majo Norante Terre Degli Osci Sangiovese I found to be a great value wine. With aromas of cherry and raspberry, this dry wine is easy and soft with smooth tannins. SRP $9-10. 

The 2011 Di Majo Norante Ramitello Molise was my favorite of the two and had also been rated on the Top 100 in 2014 for Wine Spectator. It's sourced from the top grapes of the Ramitello vineyard with vines aging on average about 50 years old.  It's a blend of mostly montepulciano with some aglianico grapes.  A very powerful, complex wine with spice and dark, black fruits. A wine that benefits from aeration for sure. SRP $15.
Di Majo Norante Ramitello and Sangiovese
Culinary Treats of Molise
Molise is known during Christmas time for calciuni. Calciuni are sweet fritters that are filled mainly with chestnuts and almonds with the addition of chocolate, honey and oranze zest sometimes. Definitely a treat after a Christmas feast!

More Christmas and Italian holiday treasures to be discovered.  Join my fellow bloggers below and if you catch us in time, chat with us live on Twitter this Saturday December 3rd at 11am EST #ItalianFWT.

Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth orTradition?

Next month Susannah from Avvinare will host coastal reds and whites along with foods and travel to coastal regions on January 7th.  

Sourced from