Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Women and Wines of Donnachiara

Campania is a region I’ve always enjoyed wines from and unfortunately a region I don’t drink enough of.  These are wines that should be relatively easy to access on the market.  Some of the most popular wines featured from this region include Taurasi made from the aglianico grape as well as Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo.  You’ll probably also come across some falanghina as well.  Do some of these sound foreign to you?  Let’s check out a couple of them today featuring the Donnachiara winery of Montefalcione.   

The Winery 
The Donnachiara winery is located in the small town of Montefalcione, within the province of Avellino close to Naples.  A place near and dear to my heart, although I haven’t visited Avellino yet.  I have been to parts of Campania including Naples and the stunning Amalfi coast.  As I’ve mentioned before, my father’s side of the family hails from this region.  There are plenty of great wines coming out of this wonderful wine region. 
Donnachiara wines of Avellino
The vineyards of Donnachiara - Copyright of Donnachiara
The vineyards of Donnachiara have been in the family for 150 years, but the winery was only established in 2005. It is a small, women owned winery owned and managed by 5th generation Ilaria Petitto and her mother Chiara. Through my research of the winery Ilaria is very active in the industry and her passion shows.  I truly appreciate women that work in this business as it’s not easy.  The winery was named after Ilaria’s great-grandmother Chiara and for all that don’t know donna means woman.  Chiara saw the estate through two world wars, on her own as her husband, Antonio Petitto whom was Colonel doctor in the Italian Red Cross, was off to war.  
Ilaria Petitto of Donnachiara wines
Ilaria Petitto - copyright of Donnachiara
Donnachiara only works with autochtonous grapes, native grape varietals.  For white grapes they produce greco di tufo, coda di volpe, falanghina and fiano di avellino.  All their red wines are produced from the aglianico grape in different styles including aglianico campania, Irpina Aglianico DOC, Taurasi and Taurasi riserva. 

The Grapes 
The wines featured today feature the greco and aglianico grapes, both DOCG designations in CampaniaGreco di Tufo gained its status in 2003 where wines must be produced with a minimum of 85% greco di tufo with an allowance of up to 15% of coda di volpe allowed.  Greco di Tufo is a respected white wine found in the Avellino province and is named after the town of Tufo, but also the type of rock in which it is grown produced from volcanic ash.  These wines are best suited to be produced in the volcanic hills of Avellino.    
Aglianico is one of my favorites and is found in both Campania and the nearby region of Basilicata.  For those of you that enjoy those full bodied, rustic wines, aglianico is for you.  It’s a wine full of body and character with high acidity and tannins.  It’s definitely a wine that can be aged for many years.  Taurasi is a wine that must be produced of at least 85% aglianico.  With the high tannins in these wines they do need some time to open up so if you’re looking for immediate gratification make sure to decant it.  It’s a shame that this wine is overlooked and not at the forefront of the market with some of the top players as it deserves.             
The Land  
The region of Campania is located in southern Italy bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea and touching multiple regions including Lazio, Molise, Puglia and Basilicata.  Originally colonized by the ancient Greeks and part of the Magna Grecia before the Romans dominated.  It was known as oenotria, the land of wine, and today is still known for the quality that is produced. 
Campania is mostly dominated by hills and mountains with a small percentage of plains.  What’s unique about this region is the presence of volcanic matter in the soils from Mount Vesuvius and Campi Flegrei that truly gives these wines the character that they are known for.  You’ll typically detect minerality and a “salty” character in the wines.           

The Wines 
2017 Donnachiara Greco di Tufo DOCG: I featured this wine as one of my Thanksgiving wine picks this past year.  It is made of 100% greco.  A dry and delicate wine filled with citrus, pears and pineapple.  Backed with good acidity, nice salinity and minerality rounding out with a lengthy finish.  ABV 13% SRP $20 

2013 Donnachiara Taurasi DOCG: Made of 100% aglianico this wine is sourced from their Torre le Nocelle vineyards.  It spends 12 months in french barrique and is refined in the bottle for another 2 years.  Ruby red in color with purple hues.  An intense, full nose of dark fruits (blackberries and plums) with hints of cocoa.  A dry, full-bodied wine with great structure and elegance.  ABV SRP $35
Donnachiara Greco di Tufo and Taurasi

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are my own and I was very happy to share these samplings today.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

It's All About Being Different with Tenuta Sant'Antonio

Time to visit a wine region I have had much personal experience with thanks to the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella.  I have taken a couple trips over to the Valpolicella wine region over the last few years tasting through the wonderful wines including Valpolicella, Soave and the prized Amarone wines that hail from this region.  Plus, as an added bonus this is a beautiful region to visit starting with the city of love, Verona.  It’s the perfect place to base yourself and take many wonderful day trips easily accessible by Italy’s most convenient train system or rent a car and be independent to go wherever you want.   

The Land 
Set in northeastern Italy, the wine area of Valpolicella is located just north of Verona nearby to Lake Garda and the Lessini Mountains.  The land is laid out via a series of valleys enriched with rolling hills.  The area of Valpantena as seen on the map is one of the areas with the highest quality.   
wine region of Valpolicella including Amarone
Copyright of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella
The Winery 
Tenuta Sant’Antonio is owned by the Familia Castegnedi family that is operated by 4 brothers: Armando, Tiziano, Massimo and Paolo.  Their father started the dream of owning a vineyard, which is located in San Zeno di Colognola ai Colli within the hills of Illasi and the Mezzane valleys.  In 1989 the brothers bought land and property in Monti Garbi since they didn’t want to continue to sell off the fruits of their labor to cooperatives as they were with their father’s vineyard.  Their aim is to be different and not traditional and I sensed that as well from my tasting.  Here are some examples:  
  • The Telos project is where they are experimenting with producing wine without sulfites
  • The use plant compost instead of manure and fertilizers
  • They believe in a green cover without weed control
  • Nitrogen is used as an anti-oxidant as a protectant to the wine throughout the process.
The Grape 
Amarone della Valpolicella is one of the top respected wines of Italy.  What makes this wine unique is the style in which it is produced, known as passito.  The process in producing these wines, appassimento, is when they harvest the grapes and dry the grapes, therefore, concentrating the sugars.  This process goes on for around 90-120 days. This results in fuller bodied, structured wines, high in alcohol, but that carry a nice elegance.   

Amarone is a wine where multiple grapes make up the blend of various levels including the primary grape, corvina, as well as corvinone, molinara and rondinella.  These wines retail at higher price points, but understanding the process and time period to produce these wines makes it understandable.  The law requires at least 2 years of aging and 4 years for a riserva.   

The Wine 
2015 Tenuta Sant'Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella2015 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Antonio Castagnedi selection DOCG 
Made of 70% corvina, 20% rondinella, 5% croatina and 5% oseleta.  These grapes were dried for about 3 months.  They were fermented with selected yeasts for 25 days in stainless steel and then aged for 2 years in 500 litre casks of French oak.  The wine was a deep garnet color with an intense nose of rich cherries and notes of raisins.  A full-bodied wine as Amarone typically is with good acid, elegant tannins and dried red fruits.  Some warmth on the finish, expected at about 15% alcohol.  I have tried a lot of Amarone from my visits to this region and I found this wine to be quite unique from the others, but I can appreciate wines for their differences.  The recommended aging on this wine is 15 years.  ABV 15% SRP $45 

I did try a couple of their other wines, the 2016 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Valpolicella Superiore Nafre DOC and the 2015 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Monti Garbi.  As always, regardless of whether I received the wines as samples or not, I like to share with you the wines that I enjoyed the most and would recommend to my readers so I chose the Amarone to share with you.   

I hope to get to visit this area if you haven’t already as it has a lot to offer along with some great wines.

*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are my own.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Argentina Wines with Familia Zuccardi

Our destination this month with our Wine Pairing Weekend friends is Argentina, definitely one of the top countries on my bucket list of places to visit one day.  Plus, it holds a special place in my heart as the only pets I've owned throughout my life are chinchillas that originate from the Andes Mountains nearby.

When I first became exposed to the world of wine many years ago, Argentina was one of the countries that offered great value.  Malbec wines were some of the first red wines that I really enjoyed.  My tastes have changed since then, but I appreciate all wines for the character that they lend to each glass.

You may be asking yourself why are we featuring Argentinian wines, but as always I believe a more well-rounded educated wine consumer is important.  Plus, I always try to find the Italian twist in many of these tastings.  If you're ever seen the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" it's like the father always trying to find how every word stems from a Greek meaning; )  The Zuccardi family also have a Santa Rose vineyard that experiments with nontraditional grapes including Italian grapes aglianico and falaghina as well as many others.  Unfortunately I haven't had these wines to share with you my thoughts.

The Zuccardi family first planted its roots in the wine industry when Alberto Zuccardi planted his first vineyard in the region of Maipu, just outside of Mendoza, Argentina in 1963.  His great grandparents had transplanted themselves from Avellino, Italy in Campania into the town of Tucuman.  Little did he know his passion would grow into the wine industry.  His son, Jose Alberto Zuccardi, became General Director of the winery in 1990.  Today the third generation of the family, Sebastian Zuccardi, has advanced the winery further developing a research and development department to study the terroir that affects production of their wines and opened a new winery in the Uco Valley in 2016.  For those always seeking out organic wines they achieved their organic certification in 2004.
Familia Zuccardi and Santa Julia wines from Argentina
Even though I'm not presenting all these today I will be updating my post once I do.

2016 Zuccardi Q Chardonnay2016 Zuccardi Q Chardonnay: This wine is made from 100% chardonnay and if fermented in concrete and oak barrels with indigenous yeasts.  It aged "sur lie" meaning on the lees or the dead yeast cells that add complexity to the wine.  This wine is sourced from vineyards in Tupungato in the Uco Valley.  A brilliant straw yellow with notes of vanilla and tropical on the nose.  Even though this is a wine partially aged in oak barrels the notes of vanilla and toastiness of the wine wasn't overpowering as it can be with other barrel aged chardonnay.  A dry, medium-bodied wine showing pineapple flavors.  Rather balanced with nice crisp acidity and citrus flavors on a lengthy finish. 13.5% ABV SRP $20

Wine Pairing: I paired thsi wine with garlic butter shrimp over brown rice and mixed vegetables.  It was a perfect complement to the shrimp and even my oldest (2.5 years old) requested "more shrimp please".  Warms my soul a future foodie in the making. 
wine and food pairing with Argentina Zuccardi Chardonnay
2017 Santa Julia Mountain Blend2017 Santa Julia Mountain Blend Reserva: The Santa Julia brand is part of the Zuccardi family portfolio named after one of the family members Julia.  This wine is made of 70% malbec and 30% cabernet franc.  Aged 10 months in French oak.  Deep ruby in color and really ripe, rich berries on the nose.  Dark fruits with some spice on the palate and rather full-bodied.  Nice acid and well integrated tannins.  An enjoyable wine and especially at this price point.  13% ABV SRP $13

Wine Pairing: Yes I'm a mom of 2 little ones so some nights I do what I have to do to feed the family, but no chicken nuggets being served here.  I paired this wine with beef tenderloins, a baked smashed potato and stuffed portabello with sauteed red peppers topped with monterey cheese.  The little ones did not participate in the wine tasting part though.  They still have some years to go. ; )
wine and fod pairing with Santa Julia Malbec Cabernet Franc

Join our wine pairing weekend group posts and discussion on Saturday Jan. 12 at 11am EST. You can find us on Twitter at the #WinePW hashtag.

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*These wines were offered for me to try as samples, but I only share those that I recommend to readers and I was not compensated for this posting.  Opinions are always my own.