Saturday, January 23, 2021

Sausage Stew Paired with Firriato's Ribeca Perricone

The more time I am away from vacationing the more I find myself daydreaming of all the wonderful places I have been fortunate to visit in my life.  When one has the travel bug though it’s in your soul.  For now I’m allowing the wine glass to transport me until I can get on the next plane.  This week we go to Sicily to the Firriato estate that I visited last fall.  I developed a liking to the Perricone grape and have only featured it a couple times on my blog so we’ll revisit it today. 

The Winery ~ Firriato 

The Firriato winery, founded in 1984, are one of the prominent figures in the Sicilian wine industry.  I toured their multiple estates from East to West with the COO, Federico Lombardo di Monte Iato.  It’s easily driveable as a straight shot from coast to the other, but such a difference in landscapes going from Mt. Etna to the seaside town of Trapani.   

Trapani Sicily

My focus today is on the western side of Sicily around the seaside town of Trapani.  Firriato’s Baglio Soria estate is set up on a hill overlooking their vineyards, the surrounding land and sea.  The view at sunset is breathtaking with a glass of vino in hand.  You can even stay onsite as it’s a total wine resort experience with a restaurant onsite including cooking and wine classes.  The food was top notch and such a beautiful place to spend a vacation. 

Sunset in Trapani from Baglio Soria

Firriato’s Ribeca wine made from Perricone that I’m featuring today is grown at their Pianoro Cuddia Estate nearby in the Trapani countryside 200 meters above sea level.  This area is very windy with a dry climate and soil consisting of clay and limestone.   

The Grape ~ Perricone 

Perricone is a grape, also known as Pignatello, that almost faced extinction due to phylloxera.  Since it’s a difficult grape to grow with low yields many producers replaced it after phylloxera with the Nero d’Avola grape.  Perricone is found mostly in the western part of Sicily and has a history been used mostly as a blending grape due to its deep color, heavier body and higher tannin.   

The Wine  

This is my 2nd time trying this wine, but a different vintage.  The 2015 Firriato Ribeca Perricone Sicilia DOC: Made of 100% Perricone.  Aged 10-12 months in French barrique with an additional 6 months spent in the bottle.  A deep garnet color with purple hues and an intense nose of mostly black cherries and raspberry.  A full-bodied wine, moderately complex with high acid and elegant tannins.  Ripe raspberries and blackberries with a hint of clove on the palette.  Towards the finish are vanilla nuances with a lingering finish.  SRP mid to high $30’s. ABV 14.5% 

2015 Firriato Ribeca Perricone
Pairing with Perricone 

I usually love to make soups this time of year and have been slacking.  This was the perfect opportunity to let one simmer and fill the house with amazing aromas to try with the Perricone.  I usually don’t always look to pair my wines with soups.  I prepared a sausage stew and the sausage was a great complement to this wine.  The stew consisted of sliced sausage, celery, carrots, cannellini beans and cheese tortellini.  Of course it had to be topped with a 24 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano.  Perfetto! 

sausage stew with Firriato Ribeca Perricone

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

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Garlic Herb Encrusted Cod paired with Donnachiara's Aletheia Greco di Tufo

Near the end of last year I attended a virtual tasting with Winestudio led by Tina Morey.  It was a partnership with Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications whom represents the wines of Donnachiara.  The real treat was having the owner, Ilaria Pettito, join us and provide some background on the winery and lead us through the tasting.  I’ve featured some of these wines in the past and had the opportunity to try more of their production leaving a continuing impressive impression.   

The Donnachiara winery is located in the southern region of Italy in Campania.  The winery is located in Montefalcione in the province of Irpinia on a hill about 600 meters above sea level.  Their vineyards, totaling around 66 acres, are situated in 2 of the 4 DOCG appellations in Campania.  The majority of the grapes they grow are dedicated to the red grape, Aglianico, but they also grow the white grapes, Fiano and Greco.  These are grapes that had been brought to Campania and other southern regions of Italy by the ancient Greeks.  Campania is home to over 100 indigenous varietals.  

Donnachiara was established in 2005 by Ilaria’s mother, Chiara, and father, Umberto.  Ilaria joined the family business in 2008 after leaving the legal field.  At that point in time the winery was producing about 10,000 bottles.  Over time with Ilaria’s leadership the winery has expanded to a production of around 200,000 bottles.  They have employed the expertise of the highly respected Italian enologist, Riccardo Cotarella, whom serves as their winemaker.  Per their site they practice “integrated management” that focuses on eliminating plant diseases, recycling their water supply and running on solar power energy.   

Ilaria Petitto and Riccardo Cotarella
Riccardo and Ilaria ~ Copyright of Donnachiara
About Greco di Tufo

In order to carry the Greco di Tufo DOCG status the wines must be made of at least 85% Greco.  The wine Greco di Tufo is a clone of Greco Bianco.  It is named after the grape itself and is the name of the local town, Tufo.  It is also named after the volcanic rock and ash, known as Tufo or tuff in English, in which the vines grow.  This soil is what lends minerality and the aromatic profile to the Greco di Tufo wines.    

The Wines 

In two or three weeks I’ll be featuring another of Donnachiara’s wine made from the Aglianico grape as the focused will be on a wine pairing with braised meats.  Today I’m sharing their 2018 Aletheia made from Greco that I paired with a garlic herb encrusted cod over spinach.

2018 Donnachiara Aletheia Greco di Tufo DOCG: Made from 100% Greco on tuffaceous soil.  The fermented must was left on the lees for a year noticeable in the glass.  A brilliant straw color in the glass the aromas from this wine left notes of pineapple, peach and lemon wafting from the glass.  Medium-bodied, the wine had crisp, tangy acidity with beautiful ripe fruit.  The texture was almost waxy on the palette.  Overall well-balanced with a lingering finish.  ABV 13% SRP $18  

2018 Donnachiara Aletheia Greco di Tufo pairing with cod

Ilaria shared with us that in the future Donnachiara will be producing a rose’ via the metodo classico style in stainless steel from the Aglianico grape.


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

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Kicking off 2021 with Prosecco DOC

As we get rolling into 2021 let’s keep the bubbly flowing from New Years Eve into the New Year.  There is nothing like bubbles to liven things up a little and we all could probably use it.  Last month I focused on the high quality Prosecco DOCG wines of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene wine region of the Veneto.  Today I’m sharing some samplings from the larger area of the Prosecco DOC while highlighting some of the differences between Prosecco from the DOC and the DOCG. 

I’m not one for judging a wine based on the wine designation it has obtained whether it’s an IGT, DOC, DOCG etc because as we all know in a blind tasting many of us may be fooled.  Although, I will say that when faced with a number of wines I have yet to try I will gravitate to those of a higher designation because there is something to be said for the regulations they are held to.  This is the case with both the Prosecco DOC and Prosecco DOCG wines.  The majority of the Prosecco on the market hail from the Prosecco DOC and some have tarnished the image of Prosecco due to focus on quantity over quality, but that doesn’t speak for everyone so we can’t always judge a book by it’s cover. 

Prosecco wine region
Copyright of Consorzio Tutela Prosecco
What are some of the main differences of Prosecco DOC and Prosecco DOCG wines?  Here are a few highlights to explain the differences.  

  • Prosecco DOC wines come from a very large territory covering 9 provinces between the Veneto and Friuli with most of the vineyards located on the valley floor.  Prosecco DOCG wines on the other hand hail from a smaller territory and the hillside towns of Asolo, Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.  
  • Prosecco DOC wines tend to be more reasonably priced where their counterparts carry a heftier price tag.    
  • The wines from Asolo, Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are more terroir driven and hand-harvested featuring specific single vineyards, Rive, and the highly regarded Prosecco from Cartizze.  Where the Prosecco DOC wines grown on the valley floor are more capable of being harvested by machines and due to their location, climate and soils tend to show less depth and complexities compared to those of the DOCG. 

Again, I dislike making these generalizations as the wines I’m sharing today are at great price points and enjoyable wines, but it is important to note the differences.  Prosecco is made from the Glera grape, which originated in nearby Slovenia before it was brought over the border.  The grape Glera was previously known as Prosecco, but officially was changed over to Glera in 2009. 

The Wines 

Here are some recent bottles I tried for you to consider in order starting with my most favorite. 

Pasqua Passione Sentimento Prosecco Treviso Brut:  Made of 100% Glera from Treviso.  I love the labeling on the Pasqua wines as it’s a photograph of Juliet’s wall in the city of love in the Veneto, Verona.  It brings me back to all my wonderful visits to this charming city.  This non-vintage is a lively and fresh Prosecco with green apple and citrus notes finishing with persistent bubbles.  ABV 11% SRP $16  

Pasqua Passione Sentimento Prosecco Treviso Brut

Bellafina Prosecco DOC: Made from 100% Glera around Treviso.  This wine is made in the frizzante style with less bars of pressure (1-2.5) compared to spumante (3+).  Straw colored with strong florals of peach and pears.  Fun, fresh and light with nice fruit.  The bubbles are fine and delicate and particularly my personal style.  You can’t beat the SRP on this bottle at $11.  ABV 11% 

Bellafina Prosecco DOC

Gran Passione Prosecco DOC Spumante: Made from 100% hand-picked Glera grapes.  With a floral nose with peach notes.  Light, dry, fresh and crisp with notes of green apple and a tingling acidity.  This wine interestingly had a residual sugar of 14-16 grams, but to me showed drier than the next at a lower residual sugar level.  ABV 11$ SRP $13          

Gran Passione Prosecco DOC Spumante

Tiamo Prosecco DOC: Made from 100% Glera and grown organically in the Valdobbiadene in sandstone and clay soils.  Produced extra dry with 9.2 grams of sugar.  Straw colored the aromatics of this wine were well perfumed reminiscent of concord grapes and apple.  Simple, light bodied with rather soft bubbles and fruity on the palette.  ABV 11% SRP $15 

Tiamo Prosecco DOC

Any particular favorite Prosecco bottles that you enjoy?


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.  Importer: Winesellers Ltd.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Starting the New Year off Right with Chianti Classico

Can you believe it's the start of a New Year?  Gosh how time flies, although 2020 was a struggle for all in some shape or form.  We're starting off on a positive note as the Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT) shares our personal Italian red and white wine favorites for the New Year.  

If you're a follower of Vino Travels you may already know my top pick if I'm forced to chose just one.  Although, I love Italian wine for a reason because I really enjoy them all from northern to southern Italy.  Sangiovese was my first love and even as I traveled the map of Italian wine it still remains my favorite.  We're not just talking Chianti because if I really had to narrow it down to a singular wine it would be Brunello di Montalcino.  Sangiovese is the primary grape used in all these wines along with others as well like Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  

During my wedding in Italy I made a stop at one of Chianti Classico's respected producers, Castellare di Castellina.  Located in one of Chianti Classico's main communes, Castellina in Chianti, the winery is located in the Siena province, just north of Siena itself along the breathtaking scenic drive known as the Chiantigiana.  It's easy to be mesmerized by the beauty that surrounds this area from the quaint and charming Tuscan towns with many of them surrounded by ancient medieval walls, containing cobblestone streets, picturesque alleys, and a number of wine shops and wine bars to stop into for a welcomed break.  

wine tasting along the Chiantigiana

Castellare di Castellina was started in the 70's by Paolo Panerai and is located on 46 acres at about 1,200 feet above sea level.  Their vineyards are spread out as an amphitheatre southeast facing surrounded by olive groves.  Their grape yields are much lower than those required by the Chianti Classico DOCG laws and they practice being environmentally sound.  You'll see on all their bottle labels rare local birds to the Chianti area that face extinction.  

The Chianti Classico consortium is the first one in Italy that preserves the authenticity of the wines produced within the boundaries of Siena and Florence.  The Chianti Classico DOCG was granted in 1995 and holds producers to a number of requirements in order to carry this designation.  A couple of the main requirements are that the wines are made of at least 80% sangiovese with up to 20% other local native varietals.  For the Chianti Classico level, like the one I'm share today, the wines must be aged at least 12 months.       

The Wine

2011 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG: I had been holding onto this wine longer than I should have with no explanation.  Even though I will say it was past its peak I have tried a number of their wines and there was a reason why I originally purchased it and would recommend this producer and their wines again.  Made of 90% sangioveto, a local sangiovese clone, and 10% canaiolo.  This wine is aged 7 months in French oak and an additional 7 months in the bottle.  Regardless of the lack of the fruit lost from age the wine was still balanced with tannin and acidity, medium bodied and rather soft with a rustic flair.  SRP $24 ABV 13.5%

2011 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico

Join us live on Twitter this Saturday @ 11am EST at #ItalianFWT and learn about our Italian wine and food lovers selections.