Friday, March 31, 2023

Antonella Corda: Mother of the Sardinian Vines

We keep off April with our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group covering the regions of Calabria and Sardinia.  Our host, Katarina of Grapevine Adventures, has provided a preview into these regions.  I’ll be starting off the month with Antonella Corda of Sardinia, 5th generation of wine growers, whom hails from the respected Argiolas family. 

Antonella inherited her family business in 2010.  Her grandfather, Antonio Argiolas, was the first to import modern technology to the island of Sardinia after his travels to California.  She grew up around vineyards since she was a young child and later studied at the University of Sassari to become an agronomist with further studies to obtain a master qualification in wine management from the respected Edmund Mach Foundation in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy.  Her parents have been a strong influence with her mother’s teachings of the wine begins in the soil driving a sense of love for the land and her fathers passion for the business.  

Antonella Corda winery
Antonella’s winery is located in Serdiana in the southern part of Sardinia about 12 miles north of Cagliari in the lower Campodiano.  This territory is rich in vineyards, olives and grain production.  Antonella’s property spans close to a 100 acres with 37 acres dedicated to vines, 30 acres of olive groves and the rest land cultivated for crop rotation.  She has 2 vineyard sites, Mitza Manna and Mitsa S’ollastu.  Mitza Manna was her grandfather’s favorite vineyard about 650 feet above sea level with 15 acres of soils consisting of sandy, clay, calcium and loam.  The vines consist of Vermentino and Nuraga white grapes.  The 24 acres at Mitsa S’ollastu border the town of Ussana and are dedicated to Vermentino and Cannonau grapes on a bed of the river consisting mostly of pebbles with some sand, clay and loam.  

Antonella Corda vineyards
I love this quote from Antonella’s website,  “loving the land means showing the same respect you will have for your mother”.  I feel this exudes her love and respect for the land and will allow her to continue her passion and hopefully pass it on for generations.  Her hard work and dedication to carry out the family’s legacy was recognized in 2019 by the Gambero Rosso when she received the “Emerging Winery of the Year”.  

Antonella Corda
I was able to connect with Antonella to ask some further questions to understand more about the land, her style and what is in store for Antonella Corda.

1.What have been some of your biggest challenges since you started making wine?
There have been several heterogeneous challenges. Since I manage a small company, I came across situations being completely different from one another. The biggest challenge has been the weather in 2018, an extremely difficult vintage. The heavy rains resulted in troubles for the vineyard, which was being turned organic during that period, pointing out the difficulties these climate changes can cause.

2.What drove you to become organic?
A rational approach drove me towards a sustainable way, which for the vineyards translates into organic. Since the beginning, it was clear that the organic allowed us to take more care of the environment and to make healthier wines, as a true expression of their area of origin.

3.What's unique about this area of Serdiana where you grow your grapes?
The area of Serdiana is peculiar for its deep soils where sandstone marls provide wines with freshness and elegance. Serdiana’s elegant wines stand out for their sapidity and the typical scents of the Mediterranean scrub.

4.How would you describe your style of winemaking?
A respectful style towards the grape and its origin, authentic winemaking aimed at preserving the scents of indigenous grape varieties, seen as expressions of Serdiana.

5.Who is your mentor and whom do you admire in the industry?
I don’t have a mentor, I can just think of different people I met during these years. In the hardest times I think about my grandad Antonio Argiolas’s approach towards work and people and my grandmum Evangela Zuddas’s strength, a widow who managed a company on her own in harder times.

6.What made you choose the Nuraga grape to work with?
The Nuragus grape is one of the oldest indigenous grape varieties. It was the most important white grape in our area and in South Sardinia as well. We’re now rediscovering it and its modernity due to its relevant freshness and low alcohol content. At the beginning, it was my mother who told me about wonderful Nuragus growing in that area.

7.I noticed there was some Syrah in the 2021 Cannonau bottle.  Do you grow this grape as well?
Yes, we grow Syrah too, a small percentage in the vineyard gathered together with Cannonau to make a blend not hiding, but rather highlighting the characteristics of Cannonau.

8.What's next for you and the winery?
The winery is relatively young, and I reckon some important objectives have been achieved, but I would like to invest in hospitality and make people smell the area scents holding a glass.

The Wines

I had the fortune of sampling some of Antonella Corda’s wonderful wines.  The 2021 Antonella Corda Cannonau di Sardegna DOC is made of 90% Cannonau and 10% Syrah.  In the 2016 vintage this wine won the esteemed Tre Bicchieri.  Vinified in stainless steel and spending 6 months of aging in stainless steel and non-toasted barrique.  The wine was translucent and lightly ruby colored.  Inviting aromas of cherry and raspberries with a touch of white pepper.  This wine was medium-bodied with juicy red fruit flavors filling the palate with a touch of spice. I found this wine very approachable and not as heavy as some other Cannonau I have previously tried.  I could picture this with a slight chill as the days slowly begin to become warmer here in New England. ABV14.5%  SRP $32.99 

2021 Antonella Corda Cannonau di Sardegna DOC

The 2022 Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna DOC is made from 100% Vermentino.  The grapes are hand harvested and vinified 6 months in steel tanks on the yeast.  The wine was pale straw colored with greenish hues.  A fragrant nose with grassy aromas, grapefruit, lemon and some tropical notes.  Almost reminded me of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  A mouthwatering acidity up front that carried throughout.  Crisp with minerality and orange and lemon citrus flavors.  A little warmth on the throat with the fruit lingering through the finish that softened the palate.  ABV 14% SRP $24.99

2022 Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna DOC
The 2020 Antonella Corda Ziru Isola dei Nuraghi IGT is naturally unfiltered and made from Vermentino grapes that are fermented on the skins and vinified and aged in amphora.  The name Ziru is the ancient local name for the jars that stored oil and wine.  Straw colored, the aromas were floral, but less intense than the prior wine.  It had richer more tropical notes with some vanilla nuances.  The medium-bodied wine had a palate that was balanced and round with persistent tropical notes.  A savory wine with a silky/oily texture.  ABV 14% SRP $45

2020 Antonella Corda Ziru Isola dei Nuraghi IGT

Thirsty for more on Calabria and Sardinia?  Read more from our fellow food and Italian wine lovers. You can also join us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST @ #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there!

  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm reports about Planning a “Trip to France with our Son from Germany while Sipping a Wine from Sardegna”
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares “On Italian Island Time: Vermentino and Cannonau di Sardegna with Pecorino and Fish Stew”
  • Camilla from Culinary Cam cooks “Mirto di Sardenga-Kissed Braised Ribs”
  • Cindy from Grape Experiences shares “Spring in Sardinia: Surrau “Branu” Vermentino Di Gallura DOCG with Spaghetti con le Vongole (Spaghetti and Clams)”
  • Andrea from The Quirky Cork is “Exploring Sardegna through Vermentino & Monica”
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles features “Monica and Fregola – a bit of Sardegna at the table”
  • Your host Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares about “Two Authentic Expressions of Native Grapes from Calabria and Sardinia”

Importer: Shiverick Imports

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

Saturday, March 25, 2023

A Look into the Basilicata Wine Region

I wrap up this month’s feature on the regions of Molise, Campania and the Basilicata with a look into the Basilicata wine region.  This region is one of the smallest regions in Italy with acres to vines.  It is located in southern Italy situated between the regions of Campania, Puglia and Calabria.  A small amount of the Basilicata lines the coast with the Tyrrhenian Sea to the southwest and the Ionian Seas on the southeast. 

map of southern Italys wine regions
Copyright of Wikivoyage

The Basilicata is a rugged terrain from the Apennines Mountains and hills that occupy about 90% of the territory.  There is a small amount of plains that are located closer to the sea.  The non-active volcano, Monte Vulture, is located in the northwest corner with altitudes about 4,300 feet where many of the Basilicata’s vineyards are located.  With such a mix of geography, the climate is continental with a higher amount of precipitation around the mountains and a mediterranean climate near the sea.

Monte Vulture in Basilicata
Monte Vulture - Copyright of Michael Nielsen

With the varied geography also comes a variety of soils.  Surrounding Monte Vulture the soils are rich volcanic soils as one would imagine.  The hills are full of clay and closer to the sea the soils are sandy with marine sediments.

The Basilicata is dominated by red wines with about 70-80% of the overall production.  The Aglianico grape is the primary red grape representing more than half of the wines. The only DOCG in the Basilicata is Aglianico del Vulturno Superiore DOCG that was promoted to this level in 2010 from the DOC originally established in 1971.   This is one of the respected wines of Italy and shares similarities with neighboring Campania's Taurasi and Aglianico del Taburno.

You will find Aglianico produced under both the DOC and DOCG designations with varying regulations.  Those of the Aglianico DOC can be released a year after harvest, but from the Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG the yields are stricter, higher alcohol levels are required and aging must be a minimum of 3 years with at least 1 year in wood and 1 in the bottle.  

Aglianico del Vulture grapes
Sourced from Consorzio di Tutela Aglianico del Vulture
Although white wines take a backseat in this region it’s worth noting that the grape of importance is Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata.  A couple DOC’s where you can locate this grape are the Matera DOC Bianco and Grottino di Grottanova DOC Bianco.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Comparison of Aglianico del Taburno vs. Taurasi

It’s almost impossible to talk about the wine region of Campania without discussing the Aglianico grape.  Campania is where Aglianico shines, along with the Basilicata region next door, but depending on the area in which it is produced will determine what you get in the glass.  Two of Campania’s appellations, Taurasi DOCG and Aglianico del Taburno DOCG, showcase the great qualities that this grape possesses so let’s take a look at the two in comparison.

Taurasi DOCG

The Taurasi DOCG appellation is in the province of Avellino in Irpinia about 35 miles east of Naples.  The area in which these vineyards are located are in the mountainous Calore Valley with altitudes of 1,000 to 2,300 feet above sea level.  As you can imagine due to the mountains this area has a cooler climate that moderate the Tyrrhenian Sea influences that create large diurnal swings.  Many of these vines beat phylloxera that ran rapid through most of Europe so you will find some ancient vines in this area.

The Taurasi DOCG was established in 1993.  It was the first DOC in southern Italy in 1970 and this was driven by the known producer, Antonio Mastroberardino.  He saw the potential in Aglianico and other native grapes of Campania after World War II when the government at the time was pushing for grapes that would be more productive.  Due to his efforts and success with producing quality Aglianico in 1968 he released his Aglianico that set the stage for this grapes success.  

Aglianico under the Taurasi DOCG must consist of a minimum of 85% Aglianico, although many producers you will see produce wines made from 100% Aglianico.  The wines must age a minimum of 3 years with one in wood with the riserva wines aging for at least 4 years with 18 months in wood.  The wines of this area are full-bodied, complex, structured wine with a rich, bold profile.  A flavor profile of cherry, black cherry, violet, spice, leather and tobacco to name a few.  They are wines that have high alcohol, acidity and tannin allowing these grapes to be quite age worthy.  To tame these wines to make them more approachable in their youth some producers will have shorter maceration times and the usage of barrels for balance.

Aglianico del Taburno DOCG

The Aglianico del Taburno DOCG on the other hand is located in the Sannio appellation that I spoke about last week within the Benevento province.  This DOCG was established much later in 2011.  This area faces hot days and cool nights tempered by the mountains.  Aglianico del Taburno has similar soils to Taurasi with volcanic matter and calcareous clay, but here there is sandstone while Taurasi has limestone in addition to the previous mentioned.

The Aglianico here is from a biotype known as Aglianico Amaro which carries a high acidity.  These wines will usually have a lighter profile than Taurasi.  They too also must be made from at least 85% Aglianico with most producers using 100% Aglianico as well.  They are aged at least 2 years and riservas are aged at least 3 years with 1 year in wood and 6 months in the bottle. 

The wine

Although I don’t have a wine from the Aglianico del Taburno to share this week, I did enjoy a bottle of Taurasi from Donnachiara.  You can’t go wrong with any wines from this producer as I’ve experienced over the years.  I sampled a 10 year old bottle that proved to me the longevity of this wine with how much life was still in the bottle.  It was a 2013 Donnachiara Taurasi DOCG made from 100% Aglianico. 
2013 Donnachiara Taurasi
This is a grape that grows early and is harvested late as you can see in this bottle with these grapes harvested the first half of November.  The wine was aged 12 months in 225 liters of French barrique with another 12 months in the bottle.  Although the label stated it is “ruby red with purple” colors in the glass mine was more garnet with some slight brick hues on the edge, which could be from it’s age.  A rich nose in the glass of black cherries, blackberries and licorice.  This wine needed  a little time to aerate as it had some gripping tannins up front that smoothed out with a little time.  Dry with a persistent finish.  ABV 13.5%

The pairing

I paired this Donnachiara Taurasi with ribs cooked in my Instant Pot as I've had much success in preparing them this way.  For me these days it's about the ease, time and quality with many balls in the air.  With a touch of homemade BBQ sauce broiled for a few minutes once they came out they held their own paired with this Aglianico.  This grape is one that definitely needs to be paired with rich meats and flavorful dishes.

Instant pot ribs paired with Taurasi
ribs paired with Aglianico

In conclusion, I connected with a couple producers from these areas and they both agree over the difference in quality between these two appellations.  Gianluigi Addimanda from Cantine Fratelli Addimanda stated that the biotypes are the same, but over the centuries they’ve differentiated expression and production.  Aglianico del Taburno is more productive than those produced in Taurasi.   Taurasi was influenced by the Vesuvius eruption in 79 B.C. that increased the quality of these wines allowing it to become the first DOCG out of those appellations primarily based on AGlianico.  Claudio de Luca of Case d’Alto states that AGlianico is still Aglianico physiologically with the structure of the grapes and moderate vigor.  Overall it’s the soils and technologies that allow for different products. 

Friday, March 10, 2023

One of Campania's Greatest White Grapes with Aia dei Colombi Falanghina del Sannio

Last week we touched upon the region of Molise showcasing a blend of Montepulciano and Aglianico and this week we venture to the region of Campania highlighting the native white grape, FalanghinaCampania is a region in southern Italy located on the western coast along the Tyrrhenian SeaWith Naples as the capital of Campania that most are familiar with, maybe you’ve also been fortunate to travel there to explore the Amalfi Coast and the ancient ruins of PompeiiA region with amazing history and amazing wines. 

The winery – Aia dei Colombi 

The Aia dei Colombi winery I’m featuring today is not one very large in size, occupying about 25 acres in the hills east of Naples in the towns of Castelvenere and Guardia SanframondiThe winery was established in only 2002 founded by Maria and Marcello PascaleOriginally much of the fruit had been sold off to other producers, but since their sons, Gaetano and Marcello, have become involved in the business they now produce their own wines from 3 primary varietals including Falanghina, Fiano and Aglianico.   

Aia dei Colombi winery in Campania
Sourced from Aia dei Colombi
The grape – Falanghina 

Falanghina is a grape that is believed to have arrived in southern Italy by the Greeks in the 7th century BCCampania claims 95% of Italy’s Falanghina plantings and the Sannio DOC that I’m sharing today is where 80-90% of Falanghina is grown.   

A key figure and local producer, Leonardo Mustilli, was instrumental in the Falanghina grape thrivingHe had found an ancient vine of Falanghina and began to work with the grape to be the first to release it as a single varietal in 1979 showing the qualities that this grape possesses to stand on its own. 

There are two different varieties of this grape, Falanghina Flegrea and Falanghina BeneventanaFalanghina Flegrea is typically lighter and brighter with showing notes of citrus, stone fruits, pears and applesFalanghina Beneventana, on the other hand, is more concentrated showing more tropical and floral notes with some herbal nuances.   

Falanghina is a grape that has a yellowish skin that loves the warm, dry Mediterranean climate, especially the volcanic soils of this region as wellMost of the wines made from Falanghina are made in stainless steel, but you may see the use of oak with some producersThe flavor profile will vary depending on the use of Falanghina Flegrea or Falanghina Beneventana grapes along with the specific terroirs of where the grapes are grown. 

The Wine 

The 2020 Aia dei Colombi Falanghina del Sannio DOC Guardia Sanframondi I purchased was brightly straw colored with pretty aromas of citrus mostly and green apple. The wine had a tingly acidity that lasted throughout to waken up that palate showing lemon, tart apple and some minerality. A decent finish with some length. Retailing about $15-17 a bottle it was worth the purchase. Although it’s always important to know the top producers making high quality wines to get a good sense of the typicity of these grapes, I always enjoy those I haven’t heard of that may be smaller as those can sometimes be the ones that surprise you. ABV 14% 

2020 Aia dei Colombi Falanghina del Sannio DOC