Friday, August 30, 2019

White & Red Wines for the Summer with Nals Margreid of the Alto Adige

As we start to wrap up some of these last weeks of summer I wanted to share a couple wines I recently tasted before I start to really shift my focus to reds.  Although I enjoy both reds and whites all year long I do lean towards rose’ and whites in the warmer weather and reds once the cool weather starts to hit.  Today’s pick is a pinot grigio and a schiava, a lighter style red perfect for those craving reds in the warmer months.   

The Winery ~ Nals Margreid 
This was my first exposure to the wines of Nals Margreid and like many others in the Alto Adige they are a cooperative of about 140 growers.  This is very typical to see cooperatives as about 80% of the production comes from coops.  The terrain of this region is very mountainous and so the growers all own smaller plots of land.   

Nals Margreid is a merger that took place in 1985 between The Cellars Nalles established in 1932 and Magre Niclara established in 1954.  Their growers span from Nals in the north located between Bozen and Merano to Margreid in the south.  The grapes are sourced from almost 400 acres and with such a diversity of soils and microclimates coming from 14 winegrowing areas Nals Margreid produces a large variety of wines.   
Nals Margreid Alto Adige winery
Stunning landscapes copyright of Nals Margreid
Nals Margreid updated their winery in 2011 to be more modern.  They believe in using natural methods avoiding pesticides and I was told they were aiming to be biodynamic in the next 2 years.   

The overall climate of this region receives around 300 days of sunshine a year with diurnal temperatures fluctuating degrees between day and night, ideal conditions.  The vineyards receive the cool climate from the Alps in the north to the Mediterranean temperatures of the south. 

The Grapes ~ Schiava & Pinot Grigio 
Of course everyone knows pinot grigio, but seeking out the quality pinot grigio is always the chore.  This grape is the 2nd most widely planted grape in Alto Adige.  The whites take the lead in this region at 60% with pinot grigio leading the pack with others including sauvignon blanc, gewurztraminer, pinot bianco and chardonnay.  Pinot grigio produces wines that are clean, crisp with aromatic notes. 

Schiava is always one of my selections when someone asks me for selections on lighter style reds to drink in the summer.  It’s the most commonly planted grape of the Alto Adige.  It produces wines that are lighter in body and color that are rather low in tannin, but with a refreshing acidity.  Notes of juicy strawberries and almond.  It is best slightly chilled.  It is also known as vernatsch stemming from the latin word vernalucus meaning native, as it is native to the Alto Adige.  Schiava leads the pack with lagrein for red grapes in the Alto Adige taking up 60% of the vineyards.            
The Wine 
Both of these wines are sourced from particular vineyard sites due to their particular characteristics.  Their winemaker Harald Schraffl considers these vineyards “exceptional parcels”.   
vineyards of Nals Margreid Alto Adige
Vineyards of Nals Margreid ~ Copyright of Nals Margreid

2017 Nals Margreid Pinot Grigio Punggl2017 Nals Margreid Pinot Grigio PungglNamed after the vineyard, Punggl, in the southern point of their territory these grapes come from 80+ year old vines.  The wine spends 8 months in big oak, not something you see as the norm with a wine like pinot grigio.  The grapes are grown in clay soils resulting in a wine that was round and soft, but crisp with notes of apples and pairs.  I preferred the pinot grigio over their Sirmian Pinot Bianco.  SRP $20. 

2018 Nals Margreid Schiava Galea2018 Nals Margreid Schiava Galea – Made from the schiava grape, also known as vernatsch.  These grapes are grown on 100+ year old vines in the St. Magdalena vineyard on the northeastern tip of their territory.  The schiava spends 8 months in big oak.    A lighter bodied wine with beautiful fruit displaying cherries and raspberries.  Nice acid and rather well balanced with a little spice and vanilla notes.  SRP $23.  These were my two selections from the lineup of Nals Margreid that I tried, but the schiava was my top pick. 

Fun Fact: The Alto Adige produces 10% of Europe’s apple production.  

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Picotener Biotype of Enrico Serafino

We’re getting a little wine nerdy this week as we learn about biotypes of wine.  Recently I had a pleasant tasting with the export manage, Erika Abate, of Enrico Serafino wines of Piedmont.  Erika felt like a long lost friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time, but we’ve never met.  Some Italians can be so welcoming and warm.  I tasted a number of their sparkling wines from the Alta Langa of Piedmont.  My type of bubbly with soft, fine and elegant bubbles.  Although, I’m here to share a unique tasting of the 2017 Enrico Serafino Picotener wine.   

The winery ~ Enrico Serafino 
Enrico Serafino winery was established back in 1878 in Canale d’Alba within the Cuneo province, where it still stands today.  The winery exchanged hands in 2015 to the Krause Gentile family of Piedmont.  I’m dying to know if there is some relation as my maiden name is Gentile.  Family discount maybe???  The Krause family is dedicated to producing sustainable wines, expanding the vineyards and making advancements and upgrades within the winery.  It’s always sad for me to not see future generations of the Serafino family take over the family business, but there is a time and place for everything and I’m sure the Krause family will carry on their legacy.      

Enrico Serafino primarily produces sparkling wines from the Alta Langa along with barolo, barberagavi di gavi and the picotener I’m sharing today.  Why is this picotoner so unique?  It’s a biotype of nebbiolo and is a grape that has been rediscovered and that is rarely seen.  

So what is a biotype?  We’re going to keep it surface level here as I’m not a scientist and don’t want to bore you with the nitty gritty details.  In laymen’s terms it’s when a grape is mutated and develops particular characteristics.  The most widely used term that many refer to are clones of grapes, but clones share genes with its parents.  According to Ian D’Agata in his book Native Grapes of Italy he best describes biotypes as such: 

“Once reproductive cycles occur, there is a reshuffling of the parental genes, and the offspring will be genetically different from the parents.  Though we habitually describe these new and different grapevines as clones, this is incorrect, as clones are by definition genetically identical to the mother plant.  It is more accurate to refer to these new and different plants as biotypes”. 

About Picotener 
The Picotener that I tried from Enrico Serafino is actually one of the 3 most representative biotypes of nebbiolo along with lampia and michet per the December 2017 issue in the scientific report of Nature.  Nature’s article looked at the genetic mappings of nebbiolo and its biotypes and shared the differences in the genetic characteristics.  Picotener is originally from the Aosta Valley.  According to the article it’s primary characteristics are low vigor and yields, resistance to highly severe climates and it produces wines of intense color, not a characteristic typical of nebbiolo.  

Many producers gave up on picotener due to its low yields.  As you can imagine in a wine region as well known as Piedmont with much success working with other grapes why would one bother.  This is exactly why I love how some wineries dedicate their themselves to reinvigorating ancient grapes, restoring vineyards and digging into further research and experimenting to deliver to us consumers wines like picotener.  I think it’s a beautiful example of their passion for what they do. 

The Wine  
2017 Enrico Serafino Picotener
The 2017 Enrico Serafino Picotener was ruby in color with purple reflections on the rim.  Rather floral on the nose reminiscent of cherries, plums and violet.  Rather approachable with juicy, ripe dark red fruits with firm tannins and a nice structure.  The grapes were manually harvested and kept in temperature-controlled tanks then aged in wood casks for 12 months.  Enrico Serafino planted two vineyards with picotener and the 2017 was their first vintage of this wine.  Nebbiolo is one of my favorite red grapes of Italy and when I can enjoy one at a fraction of the price of a barolo and barbaresco I’m all in!

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Pearls of Sicily at Assuli Baglio

I’ll be continuing over the next month or two sharing some of my personal selections from the Gambero Rosso event I attended earlier this summer.  Thankfully I have been invited to tour the vineyards of Mt. Etna and some other locations this October so I can’t finally wait to truly understand what makes these wines unique.  Sicily has always been a wine region I find intriguing, mostly due to its volcanic soils.  I have a number of favorite grapes that I have enjoyed from this region, including today’s feature of nero d’avola and the unique native, perricone grape.  

I had the opportunity to meet Alessandro, the brand ambassador for the Assuli Baglio winery of Sicily.  Such a kind, enthusiastic man that was so ready to share the wonderful wines of this winery.  I was surprised that they didn’t have an importer yet in Boston and am glad when wineries get this opportunity to share their wines so that we can all experience them. 

The Winery ~ Assuli Baglio 
Assuli Baglio is located in the western part of Sicily near Marsala in the town of Mazara del Vallo in the Trapani province.  They own about 100 hectares dedicated to vineyards that are 50-60 years old.  Their goal is to go all organic next year too!  The winery is owned by Roberto Caruso whose father was known for discovering a new kind of marble known as the perlato di Sicilia back in 1948.  The Caruso family has strong ties to the land and Roberto decided to continue with their pride of the land and bottle the wines from their expanded vineyards.  He even used his father’s perlato di Sicilia in part of the winery’s architecture as you'll see from the video below.   

Assuli’s main focus is on the autochthonous, native, grapes of Sicily.  These grapes include nero d’avola, zibibbo, grillo, perricone, insolia and catarratto.  I personally I have found some great nero d’avola over the years that I have enjoyed and Assuli was just another to add to the list.  Even better at its suggested price of only $15.  I’ve always also enjoyed zibibbo in Sicily and have tried it in both a dry style and dessert style.  Both a pleasure!   
Assuli Baglio winery in Sicily
Copyright of Assuli
The Grapes ~ Perricone & Nero d’Avola 
Nero d’avola is the most well-known and widely planted red grape of Sicily.  This grape was previously known as calabrese due to the dialect in Italian calavrisi.  It hails from the town of Avola in the southeastern corner of Sicily.  It is a thick skinned, late ripening grape that does particularly well in Sicily’s hot climate.  It‘s a grape that lends deep colors to the glass with red and dark fruits.  A grape developing wines with generous body.    

Never heard of perricone?  It’s no surprise.  Perricone is a grape that disappeared over the last century.  It was basically wiped out by phylloxera.  He stated it is only produced in western Sicily.  It can also be known as pignatello.  I don’t know why so many Italian grapes have so many other names.  Like it’s not confusing enough, right?!  Perricone lends texture and tannin to wines, therefore, it’s typically blended with nero d’avola.  I was lucky enough to try this wine from Assuli made from 100% perricone.  I was able to see what this grape is really made of. 
Assuli Baglio winery Sicily
Copyright of Assuli
The Wines 
I tasted multiple wines from Assuli, but my personal favorites were the 2017 Assuli L’orlando Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia and their 2016 Assuli Perricone Furioso DOC Sicilia. 

2017 Assuli L’orlando Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia – Made of 100% nero d’avola this wine was aged partially in stainless steel and in the bottle.  Deep ruby in color with purple tinges.  A very intense nose of ripe red fruits balanced on the palate with soft tannins, nice acidity with a little spice.  SRP $15 

2016 Assuli Perricone Furioso DOC Sicilia – This was my top pick.  Made of 100% perricone the wine macerated with the grapes for about 25-30 days.  This wine spends 1 year in big barrels and 1 year in the bottle.  An intense ruby color with purple tinges.   A very well-balanced wine with nice structure and jammy fruits.  A wine with lots of characterSRP $20 
Assuli Baglio wines of Sicily
What are your discoveries with Sicilian wines and any particular favorites?

I love this video below on Assuli's website.  It show's the family's involvement with the perlato d'Sicilia and tying it into their passion for their land and vineyards.  All copyright of Assuli.