Sunday, April 30, 2023

Vino Travels 10th Blogiversary!

It's hard to believe I've been blogging mostly about Italian wine for the last 10 years on Vino Travels.  What started as an idea to motivate myself to research and learn about wine turned into something so much more complex and wonderful!  Yes, in these days with smaller children, it's tough to find the time to either taste some wines to share or write an article to share with my readers weekly.  My passion for wine and sharing this knowledge is what keeps me going.

Italian wine blogger

I've met so many wonderful people over the years and have made so many connections.  It's allowed me to some writing opportunities for magazines, an array of wonderful wines to sample and deep insight into some of the wine regions of Italy through travel that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to experience before.  

Although I wanted to open a special Italian bottle to share for the big 10th anniversary, I'll have to postpone that until a later time.  I wanted to take a moment before the month is over to thank you all.  To my readers that have been with me since day one and to some of my newest followers, thank you!  I deeply appreciate and want to thank all the wineries, companies and organizations that I have partnered with over these 10 years to allow me to such special and unique opportunities. 

I'd love to hear from you all.  I welcome any comments or emails at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  Since I don't advertise and don't get paid to write my blog I incur all the expenses to operate Vino Travels.  If you enjoy what you read and are interested in supporting and donating to Vino Travels you can Venmo me @Jennifer-Martin-987. I'd greatly appreciate the consideration.  Here's to another 10 years!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo: One of Italy's Great Rosè Wines

Seeing that we’re creeping into May after this weekend I’m going to get a head start into my features for the month of May which is covering the wines of Abruzzo and Marche wine regionsThis week I’m starting with the wines known as Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo and will feature a Cerasuolo from Cantina Tollo in Abruzzo. 

What is Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo? 

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is is one of Italy’s rosè style wines, also known as rosato.  It stems from the word cerasa, which is dialect for cherry that is demonstrated in both the color and characteristics of the wine. They have a more intense flavor profile and aromas along with deeper colors in comparison to their French counterparts.  The juice goes through a white vinification or short maceration of the Montepulciano skin contact with the juice. The Montepulciano grape is high in anthocyanins, which lends the rich color to these wines. The wines are fresh and juicy with great acidity and light tanninsThese wines are fruity with mostly red fruits of raspberries, strawberries and cherries filling the palate. 

The Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo wines used to be known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo that fell under the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC.  In 2010 it was promoted to it’s own DOC, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC.  These wines are made primarily from the Montepulciano grape in AbruzzoThe requirement of the appellation is a minimum of 85% Montepulciano with up to 15% other local grape varieties permitted, but many producers will use 100% Montepulciano grapesThese wines are eligible to be released to market January 1st the year after harvested allowing about 2-3 months of aging in the bottle before release.   

About Cantina Tollo 

Cantina Tollo is a wine cooperative consisting of over 700 members in the Chieti province of Abruzzo. Their vineyards span over 6,100 acres from the Maiella massif of the central Apennines to the coastal hills. The winery was founded in 1960 at a time when many were evacuating the area for a more promising future. Since that time, they have played a key role in establishing the regulations of the area and making sure there are quality improvements in winemaking within the region. They also have won Best Cooperative in Italy since 2019 and have introduced a line of organic and certified vegan wines since 2020.

Cantina Tollo Abruzzo
Copyright of Cantina Tollo
They focus on indigenous grapes of the region including Montepulciano, Passerina, Pecorina, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo and Cococciola across DOC and IGT appellations. These grapes are grown on pergola vines in a variety of soils from clay and sand to sandstone that are rich in minerals. The climate here is Mediterranean with considerate fluctuation in temperatures for optimal grape growing.  

Cantina Tollo winery Abruzzo
Copyright of Cantina Tollo

The Wine 

I sampled the 2022 Cantina Tollo Hedos Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOP wine made from 100% Montepulciano grapes. These grapes were harvested in October and fermented in stainless steel spending 4 months on the lees. One of my favorite things about Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is the beautiful color they produce in the glass. This wine has a beautiful deep salmon color. Aromas of wild strawberries with a hint of citrus. Light-bodied, crisp with refreshing acidity and juicy tart strawberries liven up the palate. A quite enjoyable every day refreshing rosè. 14%

2022 Cantina Tollo Hedos Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
In a couple weeks I'll be writing about the Masciarelli family when I share some of the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines, but I wanted to share their 2021 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Superiore DOC wine today.  Gianni Masciarelli first produced this wine in 1985 only 5 years after starting the winery.  He saw the potential of this grape to produce world class rosé wines.  This wine is produced from 100% Montepulciano grapes that spend 24-36 hours of skin contact creating a wine with a deep pink color.  
Juicy strawberries and raspberries on the nose with a hint of orange.  Refreshing with continued notes of strawberries and raspberries.  This wine was more round on the palate with a sapid finish.  A very different Cerasuolo from the one just shared so it's all about preference.  ABV 14%  SRP $20  Imported by Vintus.
2021 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Superiore
Don’t confuse Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo with Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is in Sicily and is their only DOCGCerasuolo di Vittoria is made from Frappato and Nero d’ Avola grapes. So, as you can see, two different regions, appellations and grapes used

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Cannonau: Sardinia's Premier Grape

In learning about Italian wine, I love to share the undiscovered areas and grapes, but it is just as important to talk about the regions and grapes that make a region what it is known forIn Sardinia that grape is CannonauIf you’ve never had wines from Sardinia the Cannonau grape is a great place to startIt’s the most accessible wine on the market and makes up about 30% of the island’s production with one in every 5 bottles produced from Cannonau. 

The Cannonau grape was believed to have originated in Spain and brought to Sardinia by the Aragonese in the 1300s.  Although, due to further archaeological studies, there have been 3,200-year-old Cannonau seeds found making it native to Sardinia insteadThis would also make it one of the oldest grapes in the Mediterranean. 

Cannonau grapes of Sardinia
Sourced from Tenute Soletta

Cannonau, pronounced cannon-now, is also genetically tied to Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in FranceThis late ripening, thin-skinned grape creates deeply colored wines that are full-bodied with medium to high alcohol. It displays ample red fruits (strawberries and raspberries) along with some spice and white pepper.  Cannonau can be made as a single variety or used in a blendDepending on where the wine originates from, you can get an array of styles from fruity wines to those with depth, richness and spicy notes. 

Nuoro province wine area of Sardinia
Sourced from Wikipedia - Nuoro province

The majority of the Cannonau vineyards are in the center of Sardinia along the eastern coastline. Some of the best expressions of Cannonau come from the Nuoro province including the areas of Oliena and Jerzu, which make up 70% of the production. There is also the area of Capo Ferrato in the South Sardinia province in the southern east corner worth seeking out. 

Nuoro province in Sardinia
Nuoro province - Photo by Dimitry B on Unsplash

The most popular appellation of Sardinia for Cannonau is the Cannonau di Sardegna DOC. Established in 1972, this appellation covers the whole island where you will find both red and rosé wines in either dry, sweet/passito and fortified styles labeled liquoroso.     

If you’d like to discover some Cannonau options, check out my prior articles. 

If you're interested in taking a look at Cannonau wines in Sardinia try a search on 

*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from this buyer to support the operations of Vino Travels.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

What are Calabrian wines all about?

Calabria is one of the regions in Italy that slips under the radar and understandably so for various reasons. It’s one of Italy’s smaller wine regions and produces a small number of wines annually that aren’t largely exported. At one point in time Calabria’s wine scene was very respectable, but after phylloxera hit this region in the 19th century, along with much of Europe, the region never seemed to fully bounce back. Thankfully there are several winemakers looking to revolutionize the wine industry for Calabrian wines to bring quality wines to market that set the identity for what Calabria is capable of.  Unfortunately, due to the expensive infrastructure to put in place for producing wine on a larger scale it limits many of the smaller producers in the region. 

Where is Calabria? 

Calabria is at the southern toe of the boot before the mainland extends into Sicily It’s a rural, mountainous region with the Apennines bordering Basilicata to the north This area has a Mediterranean climate that is warm and mild with the influence of the surrounding seas There is plenty of coastline in Calabria with the Tyrrehnian Sea to the west, the Ionian Sea to the east and the Strait of Messina that separates Calabria from Sicily The region receives a low amount of rainfall, so irrigation is of importance  

Map of Calabria wine region

Calabria’s economy 

The economy of Calabria is based on citrus fruits, various grains, olive oil and vegetables with vineyards making up a small part of the economyCalabria is also known for their red onions from Tropea, chili peppers and nduja, a local salami. Vines were cultivated there by the ancient Greeks and became known as the “enotria” meaning the land of wine due to its rich viticultural past.   

The wine of Calabria 

If you’re a red wine lover, then Calabria is for you to exploreAbout 90% of the wine production in Calabria is based on red wine. The red grape, Gaglioppo, is the primary grape with an increasing amount of MaglioccoYou will also find other red grapes including Greco Nero and Nerello CalabreseAlthough white grapes take the back seat in Calabria, Greco Bianco and Mantonico are the most prevalent along with Guarnaccia and Pecorello.  Greco Bianco is the second largest planted grape after Gaglioppo and is a sweeter wine named after the town of Bianco.  

Gaglioppo grapes of Calabria
Sourced from Consorzio Vini Cirò e Melissa

Calabria does not have any DOCGs in the region, but has 12 DOC’s that surprisingly only make up about 4-5% of the overall production. By far the oldest and best-known appellation that puts Calabria on the map is the Cirò DOC. This area is in the Crotone province along the Ionian coast in the eastern foothills covering the plains to the inland hillsides. This area was established in 1969 and makes medium to full-bodied reds primarily from the Gaglioppo grape displaying red fruits and spices. Depending on whether you have a Cirò Rosso, Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore or Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva will determine the quality and characteristics of the wine. Librandi is the trailblazing producer that will be the easiest to seek out for wines that are mostly exported from this region. They’re highly influential for reviving native grapes and experimenting to improve the reputation for quality Calabrian wines. 

Other DOC’s that may be a challenge to locate, but worth noting are the Melissa DOC, Terre di Cosenza DOC and Bivongi DOC. The Melissa DOC is only about 30 minutes south of the Cirò DOC sharing a similar climate, terrain and primarily based on Gaglioppo. The Terre di Cosenzo DOC is a region to keep an eye on with many young winemakers working hard to increase quality. The Bivongi DOC is the newest and smallest, but much of the wine is enjoyed locally so if you’re in the area take this chance to experience these wines as you may not elsewhere. 

If you're interested in taking a look at the Librandi wines or others from the region give them a search on 

*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from this buyer to support the operations of Vino Travels.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Sardinia's Top White Grapes: Vermentino and Nuragus

Sardinia, the 2nd largest island in Italy, is home to over 20 grapes that are native and unique to the island. Red grapes dominate the production with Cannonau leading the pack, but the white grape Vermentino also plays a key part in the makeup of Sardinia’s wine production. Both Cannonau and Vermentino account for about 40% of the island’s plantings. I tend to have highlighted Cannonau over the years, so I wanted to take a deeper look into Vermentino while also highlighting a native white grape Nuragus.  

The Grape - Vermentino 

Vermentino is the flagship white grape of Sardinia. It is genetically identical to other grapes in northern Italy including Pigato in the Liguria region and Favorita in Piedmont. This grape does well in Sardinia due to its proximity to the ocean with a warm and sunny climate. It’s a grape that is resistant to drought, which at times these grapes face in these conditions. 

Vermentino grapes in Sardinia
Sourced by Consorzio Tutela del Vermentino di Gallura

Vermentino shows its best expression in Gallura in the Sassari province in the northeast where its minerality is expressed. These wines typically have floral aromas with lively, refreshing acidity that have a textured body with notes of citrus and tropical flavors with hints of almond and herbs. You may be familiar with Vermentino grown throughout Italy including regions of Tuscany of Liguria, but Vermentino in Sardinia tends to have more intense flavors and structure.  

Vermentino di Gallura in Sardinia
Sourced by Consorzio Tutela del Vermentino di Gallura

There are a couple of appellations focused on Vermentino that you can find throughout the island. The most important is Vermentino di Gallura DOCG, which is the only DOCG on the island. This area covers the territory of Gallura. In Gallura, Vermentino grows in ideal granite soils that restrict yields, but don’t retain water well. The wines are made from at least 95% Vermentino. The other appellation where you will see Vermentino produced is under the Vermentino di Sardegna DOC, but this territory covers most of the island requiring a minimum of 85% Vermentino. 

The Grape – Nuragus 

Last week I featured the wines of Antonella Corda, who is one of the producers that works with the Nuragus grape. Nuragus is an ancient grape that is mostly located in central and southern Sardinia and is the 2nd most planted white grape on the island. It is named after a small town located in the hills between the capital Cagliari and Oristano. Also, throughout the island there are ancient buildings called nuraghe from the ancient Nuragic civilization.  

Nuragus is a grape that is best enjoyed in its youth. It contains delicate aromas, but lively acidity with vegetal, citrus and green apple notes. There is one appellation, Nuragus di Cagliari DOC, that spans a large territory producing wines with a minimum of 85% Nuragus that is crisp and fruity. 

Antonella Corda Nuragus grapes
Sourced from Antonella Corda's Nuragus grapes

What are your preferred grapes of Sardinia?