Saturday, January 28, 2017

What it Means to be a True #Winelover

There's nothing like conversing with friends over a glass of wine and meeting other lovers of wine, but how about meeting the founder of the #winelover community that gathers all those passionate about wine from around the world? This interview is with Luiz Alberto, a local winelover to the Boston area, whom is a wine educator and communicator that has created an amazing community of winelovers. 
Luiz Alberto founder of #Winelover

I believe you're Italian by blood. What part of Italy does your family originate from?
My father’s side of the family comes from the Veneto and my mother’s side from Lombardy.

What originally got you into wine?

Well, this question has 2 answers: 1) I got into liking to drink wine as a child. The entire family would get together on Sundays for lunch and wine was a big part of it. The adults would drink wine and we (the kids) would drink what we thought was wine, but that actually was a mixture of water (a lot of it!), sugar, and a tiny little bit of wine. 
2) I got into liking to learn about wine when I moved to the US back in 1996. After going to a couple of wine stores and finding out how many options were available, I decided that I needed to learn about it. And then my life changed! :)

Being founder of the #winelover community, what influenced you to start this group? How large is it now?

Before I answer your question, let me tell you what “#winelover" is. #winelover is a strong, connected, and dynamic community that expresses itself through the use of social media. The community exists to promote cooperation and enjoyment among people who love wine. Periodic hangouts throughout the world are organized for the community to have the opportunity to get together in ‘real life’. It’s been a little over 4 years since I started it and this statement makes it very clear to me  why we needed such a community. We needed to get together to share wine! Anyway, at first I thought it was going to be only me and my 7 friends… but it become a huge thing and today we have over 21,000 members on our group and it’s growing everyday.

Luiz Alberto Italian wine lover
I know you're currently enrolled in the prestigious Masters of Wine program.  Where do you currently stand with the program?

I’ve been in the Masters of Wine program since 2009. I sat the exam for the first time last year in June and I didn’t pass. The examinations are taking place again now but I’m not trying this year. Basically my status is “on hold” at this point, but I have to make a decision in September if I will go back to the program or not. Too many things on my plate at the moment and studying for the MW program may put my life out of balance. Let’s see…

Tell me about the Italian Wine Ambassador program and how that has benefited your career in wine? 

"330 DOCs, 73 DOCGs and over 541 native grape varieties” (Source: D’Agata I. Native Wine Grapes of Italy, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2014). Yes, you read it right… and this (D’Agata’s book) was the syllabus for our course to become Italian Wine Ambassadors. I studied really hard and I was "top 5" of a class of 50 very prepared students. Quite an honor, but hard to measure how it has impacted my wine career. I know it has benefited me (I know I learned a lot!), but people don’t really tell me why I’m invited to be a speaker or to attend an important seminar.

When it comes to the world of wines where do Italian wines rank for you?

This question is very hard to answer as I have many passions in the world of wine. However, if you count the number of visits to a country for wine reasons as the criteria to determine the ranking, then certainly Italy comes as number 1. I have been to Italy dozens of times and I visited all their wine regions with the exception of one: Sardinia. But this, hopefully, will be fixed soon!

It may be hard to do, but what are some of your favorite Italian grapes? 

A question that begs for an impossible answer! It would be easy to go with the usual suspects and say that I love Sangiovese and Nebbiolo (which I do!) but I would be unfair to so many others that I don’t think I should even try… Do you remember how I started this interview? Yes… 541 native grape varieties!!

What regions/areas do you feel produce some of the best values for Italian wines? 

Value? Here’s one of its definitions: "The extent to which a good or service is perceived by its customer to meet his or her needs or wants, measured by customer's willingness to pay for it. It commonly depends more on the customer's perception of the worth of the product than on its intrinsic value.” What does it mean? It means that a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino at $50.00 can be a great value to a consumer that praises that wine, while a bottle of Donnie (a DOC wine from Calabria made from Gaglioppo with some blending of Greco nero and Mantonico nero) that costs $5.00 seems not to be such a good deal because you never heard of it, right? In other words, all Italian wine regions have amazing values. You just need to trust your own palate and be adventurous.

What role and influence do you feel social media and wine bloggers have on the wine industry?

I believe that wine and social media are a great pairing. As much as the traditional wine media (e.g. Wine Spectator) is still influential to consumers, more and more people base their buying decisions on social media and wine bloggers today. The result of this “change of the guard” is that the role of some of the most influential bloggers is forcing brands to become very creative to build interaction with their consumers and, at the end of the day, generate sales. But it’s definitely not only about famous names with big audiences. Social media has enabled people to make their wine choices based on what their friends liked (or didn’t like) and that they shared via Tweeter, Facebook, or Instagram. And this influence will only grow in years to come. The future is bright.

*Pictures were provided by Luiz Alberto.  This article was originally published for my column, Uncorked Italy, in the former Bostoniano magazine.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The first organic Franciacorta winery, Barone Pizzini

I'm honored monthly to be invited by Snooth to share a wine based on each month's theme. I'm joined by a very talented group of wine bloggers, sommeliers, writers and connoisseurs. The theme for December was a Holiday Sparkling Bottle Pick List.

When I think of sparkling wine in Italy I immediately gravitate toward Lombardy or the Veneto with prosecco. I've written about Lombardy in the past including a couple articles on Franciacorta. I've tried some prosecco recently that I'll be sharing in an upcoming article, but my selection for Snooth's list was the Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Brut Animante NV (non vintage). 
sparkling wine of Italy Franciacorta
Franciacorta by Takashi Yamaoku
Franciacorta is located along the shores of Lago Iseo. What makes the sparkling wines of Franciacorta so unique? The sparkling wines here are made in the classic method, or metodo classico. This is the same way in which Champagne is produced. Franciacorta became a DOCG in 1995 and at that point was separated from the still wines labeled under the Terre di Franciacorta DOC. The primary grapes used in producing a Franciacorta are chardonnay, pinot bianco and pinot nero. The difference between this non-vintage and the vintage wines of Franciacorta is that non-vintage must be aged at least 18 months where vintage wines are aged a minimum of 30 months.

Barone Pizzini Animante Brut FranciacortaBarone Pizzini's winery was established in 1870, but released it's first bottle of Franciacorta in 1971. According to Barone Pizzini, the “Animante was created to commemorate a long and pioneering journey that honors Barone Pizzini's leadership in the organic evolution of Franciacorta”. They are the “first organic grower and winemaker in Franciacorta”. Animante stems from the word anima, meaning soul, that represents the winery's respect for winemaking and the land in which these wines are produced. The Barone Pizzini Animante is produced from 25 vineyards all delivering a variety of different characteristics that are blended together to produce a wine that shows the “soul” of the land. It's comprised of 78% chardonnay, 18% pinot nero and 4% pinot bianco.

You can see my full review on the Barrone Pizzini Franciacorta Brut Animante on the Snooth site for Holiday Sparkling Bottle Pick List.

Have you tried the sparkling wines of Franciacorta?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Journey to Trentino with Teroldego and Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This week I'm back to joining the Wine Pairing Weekend group featuring new wines for the new year.  When I had the honor to take my first press trip in February 2015 to the Veneto I was able to tack on a few extra days and explore some areas that I hadn't been to yet, including the Trentino-Alto Adige wine region. The train system in Italy makes it so easy to get around and travel so I jumped on the train from Verona and headed about an hour and a half north to the town of Trento. The excitement of exploration of a new town with sights to see, food to taste and wine to try. I previously wrote about a particular pairing, Canederli and Muller Thurgau, that I experienced while resting from my wanderings. I visited a local wine shop while in Trento and wanted to make sure I brought back something I don't get to experience to often in the states or a grape that I had never tried. I chose a 2012 Vigna Braide Teroldego of the Teroldego Rotaliano DOC.

Concilio was established back in 1860 by Angelo Grigolli, but didn't take on the name Concilio until they partnered with Boschi & Gamberoni. Later in 1990 ownership became shared by local vintners under the brand Concilio. They produce about 600,000 cases annually on about 620 hectacres (1,530 acres).

The Teroldego Rotaliano DOC was established in 1971 and as the name states, teroldego is the primary red grape. It takes its name from the vine training method in which the grape uses, tirelle or wire harnesses. It's also been thought to have derived from the gold of Tyrol known as Tiroler Gold. Regardless of how the name was derived, this is a grape that you must try. It produces wines that are rich in fruit, full bodied and it's high acidity make it a very versatile wine to pair with a variety of dishes.This 2012 Concilio Vigna Braide Teroldego was a deep ruby red with hints of purple.  On the nose was rich dark fruit of blackberry and blackcherry.  It was rather high in acid upon opening, but mellowed out with some time. Dry, medium body with a silky mouthfeel.  Low on tannins with a lengthy finish.  ABV 13%. SRP $19.
2012 Concilio Vigna Braide Teroldego Rotaliano

Food pairing with Teroldego
I chose to pair this teroldego with spaghetti alla carbonara. Who doesn't love pasta?! I figured the acidity of the wine would match well with the creaminess of the dish and I was right. With a baby now I'm always looking for easy meals to prepare and this was very simple to cook up. While you're prepping the sauce for the pasta, start to boil your water for the pasta adding salt, but make sure once your pasta is “al dente” that you reserve about a cup of the pasta water. The sauce consists of sauteing some oil and garlic in a pan with your choice of either pancetta, guanciale or bacon. Cook until crispy, but not overdone. On the side mix a couple eggs with about a cup of grated cheese (I chose pecorino romano). Once the pasta is done, add immediately to the saute pan while hot and mix with the egg and cheese blend along with some of the hot pasta water. Top off with some parsley and viola!
Spaghetti alla Carbonara wine pairing with Teroldego

Wait!  There's more!  Check out my fellow wine and food pairing friends and what's new to them this new years.

Wine Predator will write about New Year, New Wine: New Jersey? 
A Day in the Life on the Farm is trying New Wine for a New Year Grape Experiences is sharing Try Something New: Moroccan Wine with Lamb Tagine 
Culinary Adventures with Camilla will post Young Nation, Ancient Vines in Croatia: Pairing Crni Rižoto + Dingac Vinarija’s Peljesac 
A Palatable Pastime is serving Duck Ragout with Creamy Polenta 
L'occasion will share about The Wines of Red Mountain ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will serve Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa and Mencía 
Foodwineclick will try Something Old, Something New - Flank Steak & Douro Red 
Rockin Red Blog is Journeying into a Glass of the Unknown Pull That Cork will post Loire Valley Red Meets Onion and Bacon Tart: When Old Becomes New 
The Swirling Dervish will pair Lacrima di Morro d'Alba and Broccoli Rabe Lasagna 
Tasting Pour is serving up Lamb Stew and Wine from Lebanon 
Cooking Chat is pairing Pork Tenderloin with Onions and Canary Island Wine 

You can join the conversation about new wine and food pairings to go with it! Our live #winePW Twitter Chat will take place this Saturday, January 14, at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. Just tune into the #winePW hashtag between 11 and noon ET that day. Check out past and upcoming Wine Pairing Weekend events here. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Negroamaro of Salice Salentino with Leone de Castris

This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) explores coastal regions in Italy. Much of Italy's regions are bordering water so it's easy to find a region to talk about today. That's what makes Italy so unique in that you can travel to many a region, north to south, and be able to experience mountains, beaches and seas and the inland plains. According to wikipedia, Italy has over 4,700 miles of coastline touching the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic and Ionian Seas.

Puglia, located on the heel of the boot, is one of these regions with a long coastline touching the Adriatic Sea. It seems to have been the hot spot lately in terms of travel. I've seen many of folks venturing there and it has even peaked my interest as well for my next journey overseas to Italy when it happens. One can only wish, but with a 6 month old there are no promises yet.

About Leone de Castris
I recently tasted a wine from the Leone de Castris winery located in Puglia, specifically a village in Salento known as Salice Salentino. Leone de Castris was founded in 1665 when Duke Oronzo discovered the terroir in Salento and sold his property in Spain to get himself grounded in Puglia. The winery had always sold off it's grapes from the beginning of the 19th century until they began to bottle their own in 1925. The winery is actually best known for their rose' known as Five Roses, but they produce an array of wines including the 2013 Maiana Rosso I'm sharing today. The winery produces about 2.5 million bottles annually.
Piazza Plebiscito in Salice Salentino Puglia
Piazza Plebiscito in Salice Salentino by Andrea Donato Alemanno
Negroamaro is a native grape of Puglia that is deep in color with good weight, rich fruit and can have medium tannins. The name, negroamaro, has origins are tied to both the Latins and Greeks. You'll find this grape primarily produced within the Salice Salentino DOC. There are some great values out there as with many Italian wines, but not all are quality produced wines so ask for assistance when picking out a bottle so you can taste the best.

2013 Leone de Castris Maiana Rosso Salice SalentinoI tasted the 2013 Leone de Castris Maiana Salice Salentino Rosso DOC that is made of 90% negroamaro and 10% malvasia nera. It's fermented in stainless and aged in large oak for 6 months. I loved the ripe dark fruits and found it to be rather well balanced with acidity. Full bodied. A great value. I actually enjoyed it with a slight chill. SRP $12-14. ABV 13.5%.

More with our ItalianFWT group
Here's a preview of what's to come this Saturday January 7th. Join us for a live Twitter chat at #ItalianFWT 11am Est about Coastal White and Red Wines, Foods and Travel around Italy's long coastline. If you'd like to be part of the group there is still time. Email directly at
Enofylz Wine Blog - A Ligurian Red Blend: 2015 Azienda Agricola Terre di Levante Rosso Liguria