Friday, January 26, 2024

Slow Cooked Brisket Pairing with Bulichella Wines of Suvereto

Over the past few months I’ve been highlighting some of the wines of southern Tuscany highlighting some of the differences of those from the more northernly neighbors in Tuscany.  This week we’re exploring the area of Suvereto checking out the Bulichella winery and their “super Tuscan” style wines.

The southern Tuscany region

Suvereto is said to be the “borghi piu belli di Italia”, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, based in the Livorno province of Tuscany about 50 miles southwest out of Florence bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea.  This area is considered the Maremma, which you may recall me talking about some weeks back.  It’s situated between the hills and the sea, also known as the Etruscan coast, “costa degli Etruschi”. 

Suvereto is in the Val di Cornia which is full of forests and a variety of trees, especially the cork trees from which it takes its name, sughero translating to corks.  Records show that back in 973 the area was known as Suberetum and in local dialect, Sughereto.  It’s no wonder this area is full of craftsmen including carpenters and cork workers. 

The closest I have come to visit this area is the nearby island of Elba right off the coast.  The area surrounding Suvereto is full of wonderful outdoor activities including walking and biking trails as well as thermals baths.  Multiple festivals take place throughout the year including the “Calici di Stelle”, the chalice of the stars, that takes place in mid-August.  There is also the Sagra del Cinghiale, the wild boar festival, held the first week of December.   

The winery – Bulichella

I’ve mostly always written about the decades or centuries of traditions within wineries that families have passed down from generation to generation.  Today, the story behind Bulichella is different.  Owner Hideyuki Miyakawa first ventured to Italy in 1960 from Japan during the Olympics with some friends.  To earn more money during his travels he became a correspondent covering the car show in Turin, where he happened to meet his future wife, Maria Luisa Bassana, that he married 2 years later in 1962. 

Hideyuki Miyakawa owner of Bulichella
Hideyuki Miyakawa
Hideyuki established strong relationship with prominent figures in the car design industry where he later became partner in 1968 to the company Italystyling that is now known as ItalDesign.  He also became a large influence in exporting the Italian car design to his home country of Japan, which earned him in 2007 the award and honor of Grand Officer Order of Merit of Italian Republic by the President at the time, Giorgio Napolitano.

Hideyuki Miyakawa Bulichella owner

The clay mineral rich soils of the surrounding land along with the maritime climate create ideal conditions for making quality wine.  The vineyards are well ventilated from the breeze off the sea.  The Maremma territory is known for their “super Tuscan” style wines, which are Bordeaux based wines primarily made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot that show great balance and elegance.  They don’t conform to Tuscany’s regulations and the rules of its northernly neighbors so winemakers have branched out experimenting with how they would like to produce wines without the restrictions. 

soils in Montepeloso
Soils of Montepeloso
Some of Italy’s top wines hail from the Maremma.  Point proven that it isn’t always about the designation that one label bears, but rather the quality within the bottle.  Personally I’ve always been hesitant when I see wines marketed in the US as “super tuscans” as I feel many have used this as a marketing technique, but you decide.   

For a couple of the wines that I’m sharing from Bulichella, these wines fall under the Suvereto DOCG that was established in 2011 in which Hideyuki played a large role in getting established when he was the prior President of the Val di Cornia DOC Wine Consortium.  This area had previously fallen under the Val di Cornia DOC.  You may find wines produced there as single varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese or blended with at least 85% minimum of one of the grapes.

Bulichella was one of the first organic estates in Tuscany and is ICEA Organic certified throughout their entire production chain including their photovoltaic system.  Today their estate is comprised of about 103 acres of which 35 acres are vineyards and 25 are olive groves. 

Bulichella winery in Suvereto Maremma
The Wines

I sampled 4 wines from the Bulichella winery mostly made of blends with one based 100% on the Syrah grape.  I’m not a huge fan of oak usage, primarily newer oak, but what stood out to me about these wines was their elegance.  My favorite of the bunch was the Montecristo, but I tend to prefer Merlot and with a blend dominated by Merlot that took my preferable spot.

Bulichella wines of Suvereto

The 2020 Bulichella Rubino Costa Toscana Rosso IGT was made of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 14% Petit Verdot.  This wine was fermented in stainless steel, macerated for 8 days.  It was matured in stainless steel and spent 6 months in 3rd and 4th usage of French oak.  This was an enjoyable every day wine.  Transparent ruby colored with sweet cherries with a hint of licorice on the nose.  Medium bodied, but on the lighter end of the scale, with fresh acidity, red fruits and savory notes.  A nice silkiness on the palate, light on the tannin with a lingering finish.  ABV 14%

2020 Bulichella Rubino Costa Toscana Rosso IGT

The 2018 Bulichella Hide Syrah Costa Toscana Syrah IGT is made of 100% Syrah.  This wine had spontaneous fermentation in French oak with 25 days maceration.  Aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak barriques and tonneaux plus an additional 6 months in the bottle.  Transparent ruby colored with ripe, sweet red fruits with a hint of white pepper.  Medium to fuller bodied with juicy acidity.  Blackberry fruits with smoky notes.  Smooth tannin with cedar towards the finish that was lengthy.  ABV 14.5%

2018 Bulichella Hide Syrah Costa Toscana Syrah IGT

The 2018 Bulichella Montecristo Suvereto DOCG Rosso is made of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon (old vines) and 10% Petit Verdot.  This was was fermented in stainless steel with 24 days maceration.  Aged 22 months in 100% new French oak barriques and 6 months in the bottle.  More intense and deeper ruby in color than the prior wines.  Bold aromas of ripe cherry and cocoa with a touch of balsamic.  Full-bodied with mouthwatering acidity up front upon opening.  Plush red fruits and black currants. Fine, elegant tannin with a lengthy finish. ABV 14.5%

2018 Bulichella Montecristo Suvereto DOCG Rosso

The 2018 Bulichella Coldipietrerosse Suvereto DOCG is made of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20%Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Fermented in stainless steel with 25-30 day maceration.  Aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barrique and 6 months in the bottle.  Transparency ruby colored with notes of cassis on the nose.  Medium bodied with nice brightness and freshness that I wasn’t expecting.  With a 15% alcohol level I found it to be rather balanced.  Dark fruits with notes of tobacco and polished tannins.  

2018 Bulichella Coldipietrerosse Suvereto DOCG

Wine Pairing

One of my favorite dishes when in Tuscany is eating wild boar.  I was intrigued to discover that Suvereto has a wild boar festival.  Although I didn't prepare wild boar to taste with these wines I used the brisket that we bought from our local farm and cooked it in the slow cooker for about 7-8 hours for a quick, but delicious meal.  I browned the brisket first on both sides for 2-3 minutes for added flavor and set it on low with some water and wine (of course) along with garlic, onions and varied seasonings to include bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Once the brisket was done I pulled it out and added some corn starch to the remaining juice to thicken the sauce.  I added the brisket back in once the sauce thickened and shredded the brisket upon removing much of the fat.  

slow cooker brisket paired with Maremma wines

I have to say all these wines paired just lovely with this dish.  Between the complexities of the flavors and fat in the meat matched to the flavors in these wines with their fruit, acidity and tannin  made for a delightful pairing.    

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Cantina Vignaioli Wines of the Maremma Paired with Acquacotta

In 2024 I plan to focus on more Italian food and wine pairings that are unique to the region.  This month, I’m highlighting the Maremma wine region, often overshadowed by its neighboring wine regions to the north.  Located in southern Tuscany, the Maremma is a stretch of territory between Pisa and Livorno from the north down to the northern part of the Lazio region.  Let's learn all about the Maremma including some wines from a cooperative, Cantina Vignaioli Scansano, along with a traditional soup called acquacotta.

The wine region of the Maremma

Although you will find wine produced all throughout the Maremma, its main focal point is the central zone within the Grosseto province.  Maremma stems from Marittima due to its proximity to the sea.  What used to be an area of poverty and swamplands has become a landscape with an untouched countryside.  From the coast to the inland the land is filled with gentle hills containing sheep, vineyards, olive groves and wheat crop with dotted hilltop villages like Scansano that we're highlighting today.   

The Maremma has the influences of Monte Amiata to its east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. You'll find a Mediterranean climate on its coast with a more continental climate inland.  Areas with higher altitudes face colder winters.

Today I am focusing on the area of Scansano, one of the known places for wine production in the Maremma.  Italy is comprised of a number of cooperatives from north to south that are producing quality wines including today’s feature on Cantina Vignaioli Scansano. 

The winery – Cantina Vignaioli Scansano

Cantina Vignaioli is located near the historic center of Scansano.  Although the coop began from a few  farmers banding together to form the winery, the Etruscans had first realized the potential of this area when they began producing wines there in the 3rd century BC followed by the Romans.  Cantina Cooperativa Vignaioli del Morellino di Scansano, the officilal name, started in 1972.  Some years later in 1978, this area was granted the designation Morellino di Scansano DOC.  The winery continued to invest in their quality production and as popularity grew for the wines of Maremma a new bottling plant was built to increase their production along with providing an aging cellar.  

In 2010 the winery focused on sustainability and limiting their environmental impact and carbon footprint.  Over the years they have received a number of certifications to include the Carbon Footprint certification, VIVA Sustainable Wine certification and PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) from the European Union that certifies their efforts and process throughout the entire supply chain.

Today Cantina Vignaioli produces over 5 million bottles with 2.3 million bottles of that production labeled under the upgraded Morellino di Scansano DOCG that took place in 2007.  This represents 20% of the production under the DOCG designation.  The coop is comprised over 170 families and members that represent about 1,730 acres averaging about 7.5 acres per family.

I had the opportunity to connect with Cantina Vignaioli directly and ask them some questions about their wines and territory.  I hope you enjoy!

How does the cooperative best define their wines' quality and uniqueness as it
relates to the characterization of wines from the Maremma?

In our wines, our main focus is on indigenous varieties that are typical of the
Maremma area, starting from Sangiovese and Vermentino, but also including
Ciliegiolo, Ansonica and others. We aim to make neat and pleasant wines,
regardless of the specific label, trying to preserve the features of the wines
during the wine-making process, and limiting the use of oak to selected labels.

What does the winery pride themselves on? Is it special flagship wines or is it
a unique landscape, soils, etc?

As a co-op winery we’ve been working for over 50 years to represent our
vintners and market the wines made from their grapes. We are proud of the
economic and social role we have in our community, making it possible for 170
families to pursue their farming activities while making sure consumers can
enjoy the fine wines that result from this work. While economic and social
responsibility have been part of our DNA right from the start, for 15 years now
our attention has also focused on environmental sustainability, to safeguard our
territory and its community.

How would you best describe the wines of Maremma in comparison to
neighboring wine appellations within Tuscany especially?

Maremma is a very different area compared to other appellations in Tuscany.
The sea is closer, to begin with, and the climate is generally speaking drier and
warmer. The landscape is also more rural. This makes the area perfect for
white grape varieties like Vermentino and Ansonica, which thrive on coastal
areas and has an impact on Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo too, favoring ripe
tannins and round and easy-to-drink wines without the use of oak.

Can you tell me more about the governo all'uso toscano and why you chose to
use this method?

This method was traditionally used by local farmers to ensure they had a
production of wine before Morellino would be ready. We’ve recovered this
technique by dividing the grapes into two batches. One undergoes fermentation
right away while the other is left to whither in crates in a ventilated room for a
few weeks. When the grapes have lost approximately 15% of their weight, they
are pressed and once they reach full fermentation the fermenting batch is
gradually added to the rest. The result is a fruity, round wine that highlights the
features of the grapes.

The wines

My preferred wine of the 3 I tasted from Cantina Vignaioli Scansano was the 2020 Cantina Vignaioli Roggiano Morellino di Scansano DOCG.  Again, it's all about personal preference here, but I enjoyed them all in their own right.  This wine is made of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Alicante and comes from their line that they best feel represents their territory.  The grapes are harvested and preserved with carbonic snow and spend 12 hours in hot macerations.  In controlled temperatures the wine is fermented and spends 7 days on the skins with 4 months aging on the lees in stainless steel and 3 more months in the bottle.  

The wine was ruby colored with a touch of garnet.  A rustic, dusty nose of red cherries and blackberries.  Dry and medium-bodied with a pure, clean expression of Sangiovese.  Cherry notes with elegant tannin.  A wine where all the elements seemed to be in harmony.  ABV 14%. SRP $24

The other wine, the 2021 Cantina Vignaioli Sangiovese "Vin del Fattore" Maremma Toscana DOC, was also based on 95% Sangiovese with 5% of Cieligiolo.  I was intrigued by the term "governo all'uso toscano" found on the label , which as you read earlier was a ancient technique used during vinification where in this wine the Sangiovese grapes withered in refrigeration until they lost 15% of their weight.  The Ciliegioli grapes withered for 4 weeks.  After fermentation the grapes are blended and spend 3 months in stainless steel tanks on the lees.  

Ruby colored with slight purple hues.  Juicy, ripe aromas of ripe blackberries and cherries with baking spices.  Dry and medium-bodied with moderate tannin.  Richer in dark berries on the palette.  ABV 14.5%

Cantina Vignaioli Scansano sangiovese wines
The NV Cantina Vignaioli Scansano "San Rabano" Vermentino Maremma Toscana DOC Brut is made of 85% Vermentino and 15% Chardonnay.  The grapes were harvestedd and preserved in carbonic snow.  The Vermentino was fermented in stainless steel and the Chardonnay in barrique.  It was matured on the lees for 6 months and then blended and went through secondary fermentation for 5 months.  It was further refined for 6 months after the beginning of the secondary fermentation.  

This wine was brilliant straw colored with a floral nose of apples and some stone fruit.  Nice crispness on the palate with a touch of sapidity.  Lemon and apple notes.  Good body and the Chardonnay helps add some roundness.  Fine and persistent bubbles throughout.  ABV 12%

NV Cantina Vignaioli Scansano "San Rabano" Vermentino Maremma Toscana DOC Brut

Food and wine pairings from the Maremma 

In researching the food of Maremma I stumbled across a hot bread based soup that originated from the Maremma.  With winter upon us in the northeast I always enjoy making a soup once a week if I can.  Acquacotta translates to "cooked water".  This was tradionally a peasant food made from the poor farmers and shepherds that were trying to find ways to utilize their stale bread during their travels.  The main ingredients in this dish historically were water, bread, olive oil, tomatoes, onions or whatever leftovers they had to throw in.  Today folks have added a number of additional ingredients, myself included, to be able to make it a more robust soup to give it more greens.  You will see additional ingredients today to include porcini mushrooms, beans, leafy greens, cheeses, eggs, etc.  

It was a relatively easy soup to prepare and gives you a good daily dose of your vegetables.  Plus, I always find soups so filling so it's great way to eat healthy and stay on track in the new year.  I first started sauteing my onions and garlic in some extra virgin olive oil for about 3-5 minutes.  I then chopped up some carrots and celery to add to the mix cooking further for an additional 5 minutes.  I used Italian peeled tomatoes and cut them up adding salt, pepper and basil to the pot.  I brought these ingredients to a boil and then down to a simmer adding in the escarole and cannellini beans. I saw many recipes with poached eggs on top, which I think would be a delicious to this dish.  

wine pairing with acquacotta from the Maremma

I enjoyed acquacotta with the Cantina Vignaioli Scansano sparkling Vermentino.  Originally I was going to choose their red wines, but decided to save those for some bacon wrapped filets I had planned for later in the week.  Since the soup was relatively light with the vegetables and beans I would say the two went together just fine.  Although, the bites of pecorino I had while sipping on the Vermentino while cooking complemented each other well.  Sometimes you find some delightful treats when you least expect it.  

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are my own.  The importer is Nicola Biscardo Selections.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Vino Travels Top 5 Italian Wine Blogs of 2023

As I say goodbye to 2023 I wanted to thank all my loyal readers and followers along with the companies I had the pleasure to partner with through the year.  It was a celebratory year for me as I celebrated my 10th anniversary since I began Vino Travels.  It was a pleasure to write about all 20 of Italy’s wine regions highlighting some of the lesser known wine regions, grapes and producers.  In the world of Italian wine there is always so much to explore and I still have a long road to go.

Moving forward into 2024 I plan to write a little less frequently, but focus more on quality content.  I look forward to highlighting more Italian food and wine pairings monthly along with occasional  interviews and guests on my blog.  I’ve tossed with the idea of redesigning my website, but I’d also like to write for magazines again.  So much to do with so little time. 

Through and through my commitment to myself and my readers is to always continue to explore the Italian wine landscape to share with all.  Here is to 2024!  May we all experience great health and happiness in the year to come.

Here is a look at my top 5 Italian wines blogs from 2023.  Did you have a personal favorite?  Anything you want to see more of?  I love hearing from my readers so don’t be afraid to drop me an email or comment.  It keeps me going!

Since I don't advertise on my site 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.

Also, in support of Vino Travels, if you plan to purchase wines I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from 

Italian wine blog
Happy New Year from my family to yours!