Friday, April 30, 2021

The Abundance of Barbera in Piedmont with Fontanafredda

Piedmont is one of my favorite wine regions in Italy.  Such a large variety of traditional and native grapes from reds to whites and sparkling.  This month our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT) is exploring the Barbera grape hosted by Gwendolyn of Wine Predator.  I recently bought a few bottles of Barbera so it was the perfect excuse to pick one to share with you today, which is from the Fontafredda winery. 

The Winery ~ Fontanafredda 

I love the history behind this winery.  It actually was purchased in 1858 from the first King, King Vittorio Emanuele.  He acquired the winery for his true love.  Quite the present if you ask me.  Although it was passed down to his children it wasn’t until 2008 that the property changed hands over to Oscar Farinetti whom it is operated by today. 

Fontanafredda is located in Serralunga d’Alba of the Langhe area in Piedmont, which is a large territory in the southwestern part.  The estate occupies 250 acres of vineyards with some planted back as far as 1940.  In addition to vineyards they own about 30 acres of woods that help create the biodiversity with their focus on organic farming.  As of 2018 Fontanafredda is the largest certified organic winery in Piedmont and is the largest estate in the Langhe spanning multiple municipalities.  They produce about 6% of the production coming out of the Langhe. Organic farming and sustainability is a key focus for the winery and their values.   

The winery is situated at about 250-420 meters above sea level facing a continental climate with varying temperatures and levels of rainfall.  The soils are mostly calcareous with differences depending upon what vineyards you are situated in.  On one end of the Serralunga d’Abla and Barolo you can have soils made up of about 50% sand and high up in the hills the soils are made of clay and loam.   

Fontanafredda is for sure known for their Barolo receiving a number of accolades over the year including “European Cellar of the Year” by Wine Enthuasist and their Barolo La Rosa has been selected as one of the top 100 best wines in the world along with some of the highest ratings amongst Italian wines.   

The Wine 

Piedmont is a region dominated by reds and Barbera is the most widely planted grape there.  It’s a grape known for its high acidity, deep color and low tannin.  It’s a highly productive grape and is very versatile.  You’ll see many variations of this grape depending upon the areas in which it grows and producers will use stainless or oak, which it takes a liking to considering its low tannin.   

The 2017 Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera is made of 100% Barbera made under the Piemonte DOC.  The fermentation takes place in stainless steel for 6-7 days and goes through malolactic fermentation in concrete tanks through December before its released in the spring.  It’s aged partially in large Slavonian casks and new Allier oak.  This wine is ruby red in color.  On the nose this wine shows juicy berries, mostly blueberries and plums, with some pepper and spice.  It’s an easy drinking, medium-bodied wine with soft tannin and fresh juicy fruit.  Nice and balanced.  SRP $15  ABV 13.5%  A perfect wine to go with my Friday night pizza! 

2017 Fontanafedda Briccotondo Barbera

Join the rest of my Italian food and wine lovers as they share some wonderful wines featuring Barbera with some suggested pairings.  Check us out live on Twitter this Saturday @ 11am at #ItalianFWT.  See you there!  Ci vediamo!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Refresh your Palette with Rias Baixas Albarino

This weekend our World Wine Travel group  (#WorldWineTravel) hosted by Linda of My Full Glass takes us through Northern Spain in the wine region of the Rias Baixas.  I had the pleasure to be part of a virtual journey with suitcases packed and Albarino in hand to Rias Baixas.  I always enjoy covering this region and exploring some different styles of Albarino.  Rick Fisher, a Spanish Wine Scholar Guild instructor, has frequently traveled through the Rias Baixas and shared his experience and information on the land, cuisine and wineries.  Let’s dig in!

The Region

Riax Baixas is a smaller wine region in Galicia in the northwestern corner of Spain.  The name Rias Baixas actually means lower estuaries in Galician.  There are a number of inland river valleys that run through this area.   The total land under vine is over 10,000 acres occupied by about 179 wineries and 6 coops.  It’s a land dominated 99% by white grape varietals with Albarino occupying 96% of it so it’s definitely the king of the land.  

Wine region of Rias Baixas

The Romans brought vines and winemaking to the area over 1,000 years ago.  Most of the vines are on the valley floor at sea level up to about 1,000 feet.   The vines create a pergola style, or “parras” as they call them, that are tied to stone columns that allow the grapes to get the most sunlight exposure and good ventilation so they aren’t prone to mildew.  The soils of the area are mostly made of granite with a gravelly, sandy top soil known as “xabre” that is rich in minerals and iron. 

The Wines

Albarino is a grape that is thick skinned, which helps protect it from the wet climate that is very much present in the Rias Baixas.  The wines show high acidity with floral aromas and notes of peach, citrus and grapefruit.    

Rias Baixas consists of 5 subzones, two of which we are covering today including the Val do Salnes and Condado do Tea.  What I loved learning about the wineries of Rias Baixas is that 50% of the winemakers are women and 2 of the wines today were women winemakers from Fillaboa and Martin Codax.  

Albarino wines from Rias Baixas

2020 Senorio de Rubios Robalino Albarino – Located in the Condado do Tea subzone close to the
Mino river.  The winery has been around for over 100 years and occupies small plots of vineyards.  This and all 3 wines today are made from 100% Albarino.  Brilliant straw colored.  When I poured the wine in the glass a strong grassy scent whaffed out of the glass along with florals and tropical fruits.  This was my favorite of the three and most likely because I love that grassy characteristic in wines that reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  On the palate citrus including lemon and grapefruit with a hint of peach lingered with a tingly finish. ABV 12.6% SRP $19
2020 Senorio de Rubios Robalino Albarino

2020 Fillaboa Albarino – Another winery located in the Condado do Tea subzone, but a very different style compared to the last as this wine was aged 6  months on the lees lending a whole different mouthfeel to it.  Fillaboa covers over 180 acres with this wine blended from 8 plots of their land.  This wine was straw colored with green hues. The aging with the lees was noticeable to me from the start as I picked up a yeastiness on the nose as well as the finish.  In the glass it the wine showed a slight frothiness from bubbles around the edges although none were present. A very different wine from the other two showing more ripe tropical fruits with a rounder mouthfeel and balanced.  ABV 13% SRP $20

2020 Fillaboa Albarino

2019 Martin Codax Albarino  - This is one of the 6 coops of Rias Baixas made up of over 300 growers.  It is located in the Val do Salnes subzone located right along the sea.  Due to the influence of the sea the area is temperature controlled and a salinity quality can be found in the wines.  Straw colored this wine was crisp and dry on the palette showing lots of citrus from lime to lemon pith.  Straightforward and resfreshing.  ABV 12.5% SRP $15.99

2019 Martin Codax Albarino

Join us live on Twitter this Saturday @ 11am EST at #WorldWineTravel and learn more about this beautiful region.  Follow my fellow food and wine lovers as they share their perspective on the Rias Baixas with some scrumptious food pairings. 


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Frascati: The White Wine of Lazio

Whether you may have heard the name Lazio or not, if you’ve been to Italy most likely you visited Rome, which is actually in the central region of Italy called Lazio.  Not a region I’ve written about too much on here and mostly because I don’t see wines from Lazio all too often.  Katarina, our host from Grapevine Adventures chose to feature the region of Lazio for Italian Food, Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT) this month.  With such limited time lately I actually stopped at a couple stores and couldn’t find a bottle.  Regardless, when learning about Italian wine it’s best to learn about all the wine regions, especially some of the best known from those regions and those that are the least discovered gems.  I decided to share with you today one of Lazio’s featured wines known as Frascati.  This will probably be one of the wines you’d most likely come across if you were to seek out wines in the market from this region. 

Lazio is a region dominated by white wines by about 70% over reds that are primarily based on the Malvasia and Trebbiano white grapes.  In Lazio you’ll find a couple different types of Malvasia including Malvasia Bianca di Candia and Malvasia del Lazio.  In the Lazio wine region they have the most planted Malvasia Bianca di Candia in all of Italy.  The same goes for Trebbiano where you will discover Trebbiano Giallo and Trebbiano Toscano. 

Malvasia di Lazio in Frascati
Malvasia di Lazio - Copyright of Consorzio Vini Frascati

You’ll find the appellation of Frascati up in the southeastern hills outside of Rome in an area known as Castelli Romani.  The Frascati appellations take their name from the actual town of Frascati located there.  When we’ve spoken about volcanic wines in the past throughout Italy Lazio may not come first to mind, but the soils located in and around Frascati consist of volcanic matter. 

Lazio hosts a very large number of DOCs with limited DOCGs and Frascati occupies 2 of the 3 DOCGs of Lazio: Frascati Superiore DOCG and Cannellino di Frascati DOCG.  What makes up the difference between the Frascati DOC, Frascati Superior DOCG and Cannnellino di Frascati DOCG?  Since the wines are all produced within this area there are some differences in what classifies the wines produced in this area into each appellation. 

Both the Frascati DOC and Frascati Superiore DOCG are made from the same requirements of grape composition at 70%+ Malvasia Bianca di Candia and/or Malvasia del Lazio and up to 30% blending grapes.  The Superiore though has lower yields, higher alcohol levels and can produce a Riserva style with a year plus of aging.  Typically, Frascati is a light-bodied, dry wine showing apple, florals and citrus.  As with many Italian wines the Superiore will tend to produce wines with more complexity and depth over the regular Frascati DOC. 

Cannellino di Frascati DOCG on the other hand is more of dessert style wine produced from the same variety and percentages of grapes, but the grapes are produced in a sweeter style opposed to the dry versions we previously discussed.  It’s mandatory that the grapes be harvested late, but it’s optional whether the grapes reach the favorable disease known as botrytis, also known as noble rot, or whether or not they go through an appassimento process where the grapes are partially dried.

Cannellino di Frascati DOCG
Cannellino di Frascati DOCG - Copyright of Consorzio Vini Frascati

What’s your experience with wines from this region?

Join my fellow Italian wine and food lovers as they share some other great selections of Lazio’s wine region.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am @ #ItalianFWT.  Ci vediamo!

  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Lazio in California: The Quintessential Roman Pasta + 2017 Big Sur Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: Alberico Appia Antica 400 Rosso 2016 paired with Stracci di antrodoco
  • Terri at Our Good Life: Pietro Est! Est!! Est!!! with Crab Dip Crostinis Our Good Life
  • Susannah at Avvinare: Cesanese del Piglio, Classic Wines From Lazio
  • Gwendolyn at Wine Predator: "If You See Kay" -- Lazio in Paso Robles? #ItalianFWT
  • Marcia at Joy of Wine: Bellone - one of Lazio's Great White Grapes
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles: Lazio – Exploring low intervention wines inspired by tradition and nature #Italian FWT
  • Katarina at Grapevine Adventures: How Wine in Lazio is Reimagining its Past Greatness