Saturday, December 28, 2019

Top 5 Italian Wine Blogs of 2019

Another year has past and another year I’m thankful for all my readers and opportunities that have been presented to me over this 6 year journey.  Although things have slowed down for me due to attention needed for my now 2 and 3 year old I’m committed to not only furthering  my education in Italian wine, but to all my readers. 

I always like to wrap up the year with the top most read articles from the year.  If you missed them for some reason throughout the year give them a read.  I also ventured to Sicily this October and I hope you had a chance to read the three part series featuring my visit to Firriato. 
  • #1 Argentina Wines of Familia Zuccardi 
  • #2 Lawyers to Winemaking with Antonelli San Marco 
  • #3 Zucchini Quiche with Raats Chenin Blanc from South Africa 
  • #4 Grape of the Sheep with Umani Ronchi Pecorino 
  • #5 Emilia Romagna and the Lambrusco of Today 
I strongly encourage feedback from my readers as well about what you’d like to see more of and what you enjoy about my site so please never hesitate to leave a comment or email me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  Here’s to a promising, happy and healthy 2020.  Happy New Year!  Buon anno!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Italian Wines for the Holidays

It's hard to believe Christmas is one week away and we're in the heart of the holiday season.  As you prepare for one party after another let our group of wine bloggers take the stress off your plate with this wide variety of Italian wine suggestions to enjoy this holiday season.

Cindy of Grape Experiences
2016 Alessio Komjanc Collio Picolit 
2016 Alessio Komjanc Collio PicolitPicolit is an indigenous grape found in territories within Friuli-Venezia Giulia, specifically Collio DOC and Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit DOCG . (The name “picolit” refers to small clusters; “piccolo” in Italian means “small.”) Picolit is used to make sweet wines and, as you might guess, only a small amount is produced, a factor that lends to its rarity.

We can enjoy a glass of Picolit as an aperitif or with aged cheeses, but the wine is incredibly expressive with dessert. When in Collio this year, I sipped Alessio Komjanc Collio Picolit 2016 ($31 for a half-bottle) at dinner one evening as I indulged in decadent dessert of Semifreddo di ricotta, meringa al lampone, gel alla verbena, a partially frozen delight of ricotta cheese, raspberry meringue and verbena gel.

At the winery of Alessio Komjanc, Picolit grapes are dried in boxes for two months. Soft pressing in a pneumatic press follows and vinification with temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks ensues; aging occurs in barriques. On the nose of this very special and unique wine, I explored magnificent aromas of ripe fruits, wildflowers and honey. The structured palate, rife with notes of beeswax, acacia, ripe apricots and honey, was sweet and soft. The finish was lengthy and honestly, I never wanted it to end - the sweetness levels of the semifreddo and Picolit were matched perfectly.
Picolit is an indigenous grape found in territories within Friuli-Venezia Giulia, specifically Collio DOC and Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit DOCG . (The name “picolit” refers to small clusters; “piccolo” in Italian means “small.”) Picolit is used to make sweet wines and, as you might guess, only a small amount is produced, a factor that lends to its rarity. For more information, click here.

Lauren at The Swirling Dervish
Masottina Conegliano Valdobbiadene Millesimato Prosecco DOCG Le Rive di Ogliano Extra DryMasottina Conegliano Valdobbiadene Millesimato Prosecco DOCG Le Rive di Ogliano Extra Dry 
Here’s one of Prosecco’s rive wines, made from grapes grown on the sunny, steep slopes of Ogliano in the east of Conegliano. Alpine breezes and less rain than in other parts of the region ensure the grapes linger on the vine pest- and disease-free, ripening at a leisurely pace. Soils derive from the incursion of the Piave glacier, which left rich deposits of calcium and clay. Vineyards are tended manually, requiring roughly 900 man-hours per hectare each year. The Dal Bianco family has farmed this land since 1946 and remains committed to the local community and to forging and sustaining the unique identity of the wines from Ogliano.
blood orange salad wine pairing
100% Glera, this wine is just off-dry and it is oh-so pleasant! Lovely aromas of clementine, kumquat, and green pear mingle with subtle spice – think ginger and nutmeg. On the palate it is crisp, with high acidity and a long, tangy finish. You could pair this wine with mild cheese, salty charcuterie, or even a light dessert. I’ve chosen to sip it with a salad featuring ruby-red slices of blood orange, slivers of red onion, and a rustle of arugula dressed in a simple vinaigrette. (11.5% abv; about $17 retail)
Barone Pizzini NV Animante FranciacortaJill at L'Occasion
I recently learned of a very cool environmental certification called Biodiversity Friend. Writing about the subject led me to discover that Barone Pizzini—in Franciacorta, Italy’s first sparkling DOCG—has earned the certification. This is a very cool Metodo Classico bubbly for the holidays, and one we know is cultivated mindfully  Try: Barone Pizzini NV Animante ($35)

In years past, I would spend hours upon hours cooking up a holiday feast. And while that extravagance has its place, for me, that’s no longer on Christmas. Instead, I prefer to go for an early morning hike with my family, then come home, don pajamas, play games, read books, and watch movies together for the rest of the day. I cook for a dozen guests on Thanksgiving; we have my parents over on Christmas Eve. But Christmas is now just for us. I’m selfish with my time. And for that I lean towards comforting foods that can be braised for hours without much attention from me. Something like this dish with braised beef cheeks
2010 Barolo - Rocche di Castiglione - by Giovanni Sordo 
This year we’ll be braising meat – probably wild boar – in a tomato-based sauce, hand-rolling gnocchi, and serving it with wine that’s intense, full-bodied but with solid acidity and noticeable tannins. I’m thinking a Barolo. One of my favorites is the 2010 Barolo - Rocche di Castiglione - by Giovanni Sordo. It is shockingly red. Not like a deep garnet, no hint of purple, just an extraordinarily stunning red. On the nose, you get notes of leather, spice, and roses. On the tongue, it was straightforward in its vibrancy. It was balanced but with firm tannins. It’s perfect for a long-braised, meaty ragù.

Primitivo Salento IGP 2016 from Santi Dimitri wineryKatarina of Grapevine Adventures
When we are now getting ready for the Christmas holidays, I will go back to Puglia to find a wine worthy of the Christmas celebrations.  Even is Negroamaro is the grape starring in the narrative about Salento.  I have here chosent o talk about a Primitivo wine I am thinking of the Primitivo Salento IGP 2016 from Santi Dimitri winery in Galatina, in Puglia.

I first encountered this winery some years ago at the Autochtona event in Bolzano, where I got enchanted by the Santi Dimitri wines.  Since then I have tasted their wines every year at some event, but it was only earlier this summer that I managed to visit them directly in Galatina.  

The brothers Carlo and Edoardo Vallone come from a family that can be traced as far back as to 1690 thanks to an old document that has been found.  Indeed, they cultivate grapes and olives at the estate since the 17th century.  Amazing, right?

However, it was only in the 1990s that Vincenze Vallone, the father of Carlo and Edoardo reorganized the family estate and founded the Santi Dimitri winery.  Today, it is Carlo and Edoardo who are running the winery since 2014 and they have put their own imprint on their winemaking.  They call is Going beyond, i.e. taking it one step further by combining interaction (research, tradition and cultural sustainability), management (data and research on native grapes), and connection (to connect and share with wine lovers while staying true to the local tradition).

In total, they have 200 hectares of land of which about 60 hectares are vineyards.  Even though they are not organically certified, sustainability is very important to them.  They focus on green manure and biodiversity.  

The Primitivo Salento IGP matured only in steel vats is a beautiful expression of the Primitivo grape in the Salento area; sweetness from the red fruit yet dry, and elegant at the palate.  The wines has herby, almost green spicy notes combined with a hint of the Mediterranean flora.  A touch of the Salento sun to enjoy at the Christmas table.

Pasqua Romeo and Juliet Passione Sentimento ProseccoThe holiday season is all about celebrations.  And nothing  says celebration better than sparkling wines, which convey sense of joyous celebration.  The Pasqua Romeo and Juliet Passione Sentimento Prosecco is a classic Brut-style Prosecco of 100% Glera grapes, all hillside-grown in the premium Conegliano subzone of Treviso DOC.  It pours a very pale straw color with green highlights and quince, lime zest and ocean breeze aromas. On the palate it's very dry and fresh with zesty acidity and a moderately creamy mousse with very appealing fresh quince, Fuji apple, lemon and lime zest flavors accented with a bit of honey and a very appealing tanginess, and a kiss of minerality, with a very satisfying finish. It has an appetizing character that Is atypical of Prosecco in my experience. At an SRP of $16 it offers wonderful quality for the price, and it's sure to elevate your holiday celebrations.

Lunadoro 2015 Pagliareto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCGThis holiday season, I’m raising a glass to my mother-in-law, who hosted our celebrations the entire time the children were growing up. At 96, Millie is now “retired” from cooking. Her specialty was herb-stuffed flank steak bathed in tomato sauce. A Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano would pair beautifully with this family favorite and with roast beef or lasagna. Don’t confuse this red wine with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo! Vino Nobile is from the Tuscan village of Montepulciano. It must be at least 70% Prugnolo Gentile, a synonym for Sangiovese, the same grape known and loved in Chianti wines. This Lunadoro 2015 Pagliareto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG is 100% Sangiovese. The wine shows aromas of blackberry jam and plum, and a spicy palate of chocolate, tobacco, and a touch of anise. Tangy acidity and medium+ finish. Clocks in at 14% alcohol. For Pennsylvania readers, it’s available in the state store for $17.99. Honestly, if your menu calls for filet mignon, maybe choose the premium-priced, longer-aged Brunello di Montalcino, which is made with 100% Brunello, another local name for Sangiovese. But, for a highly respected wine that won’t kill your budget, my vote is Vino Nobile. To you, Millie – you’re the best!

Susannah of Avvinare
This holiday season is all about Aglianico from Irpinia, a verdant green region of Campania. Aglianico generally is grown in Campania and Basilicata in Italy. For this holiday, I am having a few from Irpinia. Someone once told me Irpinia was Tuscany in the South. What they meant was beautiful green rolling hills, lovely small hilltop towns and incredible wines made from an important local variety. Aglianico has often been called  the "Barolo of the South" although I think it is really quite a different wine with more acidity and sexier, smoky notes. The ones from Irpinia are from vineyards at elevation because Irpinia is in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Irpinia has a continental climate rather than a Mediterranean one. There is considerable thermal excursion and this allows the grapes to reach phenolic ripeness. The soils are a mix of volcanic ash, sand, clay and limestone with fossil materials  and generally good drainage.

This fall I have had great Irpinia Aglianico and amazing Taurasi, Aglianico from a specific D.O.C.G. designated area in Irpinia. I find the wines lush and powerful at the same type. I have had older vintages of the Taurasi and younger more recent one of the Aglianico IGT from Irpinia.

All are food friendly and would pair beautifully with Brisket, Ham, Roastbeef,  Lamb or a rich pasta dish. Last night I had one with Peruvian chicken and it was perfect. I think Aglianico from Campania should grace everyone's table this season.

Some great producers I have had this fall include:


Aglianico from Irpinia seems to me to be more fruit forward and perhaps more approachable at a younger age than some of the Taurasi labeled wines I have had or those from Basilicata. It also has a nice price point between $15-$25. I think it's a great way to get to know Aglianico. For your holiday feast, a splurge on a great Taurasi might also be in order. Whatever fits your wallet and your meal, you can find an Aglianico to suit your needs

Nicole of Somm's Table
Malibràn Credamora Col Fondo Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG 2017Bubblies are a must during the holiday season and Italy makes some beautiful versions. On a recent work trip to Conegliano-Valdobbiadenne, I was loving the Col Fondo versions of Prosecco Superiore DOCG. This is a very traditional style where the wines are bottled with lees and are not disgorged. They have a slightly cloudy appearance and differ from the versions of Prosecco that are more common today that are made via the tank method. I find them to have quite a bit more texture than other styles and make great food wines. This Malibràn Credamora Col Fondo Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG 2017 had concentrated notes of Meyer lemon preserves, pear sauce, light pastry, and yellow flowers, with a round, rich mouthfeel. (I offer a few more options in this recent post.) It’s perfect with a salumi board.

Contratto Metodo Classico
If you prefer a traditional method sparkler, no worries, there are plenty of lovely versions to be found in Italy as well. Although Franciacorta is better known for this style today, Contratto in Piedmont was actually the first to make this style in Italy and continues to make excellent wines.

2012 Poggio Antico Brunello di MontalcinoJen here at Vino Travels
Tis’ the season for splurging and for me it means enjoying one of my favorite wines of Italy, Brunello di Montalcino.  I’m an old world girl who enjoys and appreciates traditional styles of winemaking when it comes to Italian wine.  This holiday I’m recommending the 2012 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino I recently tasted at a wine tasting.  Plus, I visited this winery back in 2004 and love this area of Montalcino in Tuscany.  This wine is made of 100% sangiovese and is aged in large Slavonian oak barrels for over 3 years with an additional 8 months in the bottle.  Elegant, approachable tannins and well-balanced.  Showing great red fruit on the palate with a hint of spice and licorice ending with a persistent finish.  ABV 12% SRP $85

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Firriato's Calamoni Estate: The Only Winery of the Aegadian Islands

This is my final edition of my recent trip to Sicily visiting the Firriato winery and I’ve kept their quite unique vineyard for last.  My previous posts including my visit to Cavanea Etnea on the east side of the island as well as a hike of Mt. Etna including the wines of Baglio Soria.  Now we’re venturing over to the Aegadian Islands, specifically the island of Favignana, where Firriato’s Calamoni estate is the only winery of these islands.  Vineyards used to be in existence until they disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century in favor of wheat. 

The Winery ~ Firriato Calamoni Estate 
The island of Favignana is located about 4 miles off the coast of Marsala and Trapani.  We boarded a boat at the port of Trapani and were there in no time.  Only we didn’t venture around too much as soon as we arrived it was quite lively with the local fisherman selling their daily catch.  I even discovered a hidden gem inside a local “bar” or caffe where they use the local pistacchio crème inside their espresso shots.  Amazing! 
Favignana Island of the Egadi Islands
Once we arrived at the Calamoni Estate I quickly learned what makes the grapes growing on these 12 acres special.  From the location just right off the sea with the salt air breezes to the soils rich in limestone and sea fossils.  The vineyards are separated from the sea by only a small road and surrounded by dry, stone walls.  The breezes here help to keep from humidity building upon amongst the vines.   
Firriato's Calamoni Estate
The unique soil, claimed as millions of years old, was full of sea shells and bones of sea life, which I experienced from walking through the vineyards and seeing the remnants.  The sandy soils rich in salt help prevent against the attach of phylloxera.  The local Neptune grass surrounding the area lends it’s rich potassium throughout the soils giving the vines nutrients and providing minerality in the wines.  Although this is a challenging environment to grow grapes in, these challenges are what makes these wines display the discernible characteristics of this area.   
Limestone rich soil with fossil remnants
If it’s so challenging to grow grapes here why is this something Firriato would want to tackle?  You can view my video for a quick explanation, but their overall philosophy is to express wines “based on the authenticity of the various Sicilian territories”.  They experimented with vineyards on a small scale with ungrafted vines planted directly into the soil.  The results were promising and they expanded to planting 1,000 more vines.  The grapes grown here zibibbo, perricone, grillo, nero d’avola and catarratto. 
The grape harvest at the Calamoni Estate seems like quite the spectacle for this small island.  All the grapes must be hauled to the mainland to their Baglio Soria winery.  It typically takes place at the end of August into the beginning of September weather dependent.  All the grapes are hand harvested at lower temperatures and loaded into wooden crates placed among fishing boats to be brought over to Trapani.  
Drinking Favinia wines at Tenuta Calamoni
The Wines 
Three wines hail from Firriato’s Calamoni Estate  and if you have the opportunity to get your hands on these they’re worth seeking out. 
Favinia wines of Firriato
2017 Favinia La Muciara IGT Terre Siciliane – This wine is made of 60% zibibbo, 20% grillo and 20% catarratto.  A small production of about 4,000 bottles.  This wine spends about 6 months on the lees in stainless and 1 year in the bottle.  The aromatics of the zibibbo are apparent on the nose displaying stone fruit notes.  The saltiness of the ocean air is displayed on the palate.  Crisp, high acidity with lemon rind notes.  Such a refreshing wine.   

2015 Favinia Le Sciabiche IGT Terre Siciliane – Made of 50% nero d’avola and 50% perricone.  Aged 4-6 months in barrique.  Licorice, herbal and ripe black cherries on the nose.  A dry, medium-bodied wine with bright acid, silky tannin showing dark fruits with a lengthy finish.   

2015 Favinia Passule Sicilia IGT – 100% made of zibibbo grapes in the passito style where the grapes are dried on straw mats.  Golden orange colors shining in the glass.  Intense flavors rich in apricots with a hint of raisins.  Just the right consistency in my opinion, not too heavy and not too light in body. 
With so much to see at all of Firriato’s estates, beautiful accommodations, amazing food and wines a visit to Firriato is a vacation in itself.  I hope you get to experience it for yourself.    
Finishing off the day at the "Wine House" in Trapani"


*This was a sponsored trip, but opinions are all my own.