Friday, May 17, 2024

National Pinot Grigio Day with Villa Sandi

Annually on May 17th the world celebrates National Pinot Grigio Day. Since my allergies have been kicking in this week and my taste buds haven’t been the best, I wanted to share a bottle of Pinot Grigio that I tried from Villa Sandi at Easter. With the warm days creeping upon us in the northeast I couldn’t think of a reason not to suggest this refreshing white wine to celebrate not only today, but the start to the weekend. 

Since today is all about the Pinot Grigio grape let’s take a look at the grape itself. You may ask yourself, is Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris the same grape? The answer is yes! You will hear it called Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris depending on the country or parts within the country in which you find this grape. Pinot Grigio is typically found in Italy, specifically the northeastern part of Italy in the regions of the Veneto, Friuli, and Trentino-Alto Adige. You will find Pinot Gris in France where it originated, along with Oregon, and New Zealand. In California you may see it called either Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris. 

Pinot Grigio is a grayish grape, hence the name Grigio in Italian that translates to graw. As the grape ripens it becomes pinkish with some slight purple huesd It is not actually a grape variety itself, but it is a clone of Pinot Noir. Although it is difficult to generalize this grape across the world as it has a range of flavor profiles and textures depending on where Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris is grown. Overall, it produces white wines that are dry with a lower acidity that display fruity aromas and notes of citrus, stone fruit, tropical fruits, apple and pear. I fell in love with the many styles of Pinot Grigio in Collio upon my trip last summer. Such a wide variety of styles including their unique orange wines which are a must try!

Pinot Grigio grapes
Copyright of Consorzio Vini DOC delle Venezie

The Wine 

Villa Sandi is owned by Giancarlo Moretti Polegato and the winery’s headquarters in a 1622 Palladian style villa are found in the heart of the Prosecco wine region. You can read more about the winery in my previous feature on Villa Sandi.  

Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC map
Copyright of Consorzio Vini DOC delle Venezie
The 2021 Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC is grown in one of the 20 territorial DOC’s that fall under the Pinot Grigio from the delle Venezie designation. This was a bright pale straw color in the glass. Not heavy on the aromatics, but very light and crisp on the palate. Notes of citrus and tart green apple. A pleasant, easy drinking wine to pop open on any occasion and only priced at $10-12. ABV 11.5%
2021 Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC

Enjoy your Friday and start it off by popping a bottle of your favorite Pinot Grigio this National Pinot Grigio Day!

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Pinot Grigio wines to try for yourself.

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

Saturday, May 11, 2024

A Taste of the Languedoc

It’s been awhile since I joined my fellow wine writers of the #Winophiles group, but I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to share some wines from the Languedoc I tried along with what I learned about this wine region of FranceI must admit my French wine knowledge is lacking, but I’m always intrigued by the wines of FranceI’m an old world wine girl, hence my love for Italian wineIt’s always easier to gravitate towards what you know, but you don’t learn unless you put yourself out there to try new thingsI attended a virtual wine tasting awhile back hosted by Gregory & Vine and Laura Maniec-Fiorvaniti, Master of Wine and owner of the Corkbuzz in New York CityLet’s dig into the Languedoc and get a taste of what it has to offer. 

The Languedoc wine region is located in the southeastern part of FranceThis area has a rich winegrowing history dating back 2,500 yearsThe region is mostly dominated by red wines at 59% with almost equal parts split between white and rosé wines at 21% and 20% respectivelyThe Languedoc has 23 AOC’s with over 3,000 winemakers including small growers, negociants and cooperatives farming across 90,000 acres of vines. 

Languedoc Rousillon wine region
Languedoc-Rousillon wine region - sourced from Wikipedia

The Languedoc is abundant in sunshine receiving over 300 days of warm sunIt has many climatic influences from the Mediterranean Sea and the cooling Atlantic wines along with the hillside and mountains influences to the north.   

For those conscious of organic wines, the Languedoc is the leading wine region in France for the most organic vinesAt the time of the virtual tasting they were at 33% and growing so I’m sure the numbers have incraesed since thenOver 25% were in the process of converting as well making up 6% or organic vineyards worldwideQuite the astonishing number if you ask meOne of the wineries that I’m highlighting today, Chateau Maris, is one of the pioneers of the region for not only organic, but sustainability and biodynamics as well. 

There is quite the diverse range of styles and terroir and the wines can be grouped into 5 classications: sparkling, sweet wines, the AOP Languedoc, village designations and sub regional areas.

Languedoc AOC wine appellations
Languedoc wine appellations - sourced from Wikipedia

The Wines 

The Languedoc produced the first sparkling wine in the world that came from Limoux in 1544 The Limoux AOC is located on the southwestern side of the Languedoc regionThis area has a cool, moist climate with crisp, dry winds from the Atlantic from the west and warm Mediterrean winds from the eastThe soils there are mostly rocky filled with limestone and sandstone.  

Limoux AOC wine appellation
Limoux AOC - sourced from the Wines of Languedoc
I tasted the 2019 Gerard Bertrand Heritage An 825 Brut Cremant de Limoux AOC which is owned by a famous rugby player whom owns over 17 estates in southern France.  Gerard grew up working alongside his family’s wine estate until he took it over in 1987 upon the passing of his father.  Five years later  he founded the Gerard Bertrand winery. 

The 2019 Gerard Bertrand Heritage An 825 Brut Cremant de Limoux AOC is named after the Abbey of St. Hilaire near Limoux that traced back to 825The abbey used to house monks who discovered effervescent winesThis wine is made up of 60% Chardonnay, 25% Chenin Blanc and 15% Pinot Noir.  Produced in the traditional method, this pale rosé did not macerate the Pinot Noir with the juice, but went through a light bleeding.  This wine was light salmon in color with a tinge of orange. Aromas of citrus and yeast.   Dry on the palate with notes of citrus pith. ABV 12.5% SRP $23

2019 Gerard Bertrand Heritage An 825 Brut Cremant de Limoux AOC
Next up is the area of Pic-Saint-Loup AOC located in the hills and mountains in the northern part of the Languedoc. This area has dry, hot summers with cold winters. It is known for producing red and rosé wines made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. The soils of this area are composed of red sanstone known as “ruffe” as well as Jurassic limestone, basalt and schist. The volcanic subsoils of this area lend to minerality in the wines.  


Pic-Saaint-Loup AOC wine appellation

I tasted the 2015 Chateau de Lancyre Vielles Vignes Pic-Saint-Loup that comes from old vines, averaging 30 years old. This wine is made up of 2/3 Syrah and 1/3 Grenache. Laura called this wine a “steakhouse wine”. Intensely colored to match it’s big, dark fruit flavors. This wine has a meaty structure, but also an elegance about it. SRP $21ABV 14%

2015 Chateau de Lancyre Vielles Vignes Pic-Saint-Loup

Lastly is the Minervois La Liviniere AOC named after the village of La Liviniere. It’s meaning translates to a place planted with vines after the original name, Lavineira. In Minervois is Chateau Maris, a pioneer of the region for organic and biodynamic farming and sustainability practices. Wine Spectator labeled them as “one of the 5 most environmentally friendly wineries in the world”. They are Biodyvin and Demeter certified and is the first and only B Corp Certified European winery. They are known for making terroir driven wines.  

Minervois AOC wine appellation
Minervois AOC - sourced from Wines of Languedoc

I tasted the 2019 Chateau Maris La Touge La Liviniere Minervois AOC which is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache that is vinified and aged in cement eeggs. Full-bodied, this wine has a meaty structure and is full of juicy black fruits and ripe red raspberries with a touch of pepper and herbs. ABV 14.5%, SRP $21 

2019 Chateau Maris La Touge La Liviniere Minervois AOC

Join my fellow wine writing friends as they share additional wines with some pairings from the Languedoc.

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find a variety of Languedoc wines to try for yourself.

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

Saturday, May 4, 2024

The World of Abruzzo Wines

I recently attended a virtual event on the Abruzzo wine region led by Andrea Eby, Italian Programs Director at the Wine Scholar GuildIt was a thorough look into the region highlighting all the elements that define this wine region including its history, climate and topography along with its featured grapesLet’s take an in-depth look into the Abruzzo wine region. 

Abruzzo’s location and topography 

Abruzzo is located in the central portion of Italy on the eastern side facing the Adriatic SeaThe Marche region borders to the north, the Lazio region to the west and Molise to the southAbruzzo has a unique terrain where there are three types of topographyOn the east side you have 80 miles of coastline filled with sandy beaches.   

The central part of Abruzzo is filled with gentle hills and inland Abruzzo is very mountainousAbout two thirds of Abruzzo is covered with mountainous terrain with steep high elevationsIt hosts the Apennines highest peak, Gran Sasso and the Maiella MassifAbruzzo has a very wild, untouched landscape. The southern portion is full of dense Mediterranean scrub.   There are also three national parks and 10+ nature reserves spread throughoutIt has a little bit for everyone to explore. 

The soil and climate of Abruzzo 

The climate is rather mild in Abruzzo on the side of the Adriatic SeaInland is more continentalThe territory experiences large diurnal swings in temperature, which is ideal for growing grapesThe grapes receive good ventilation that helps prevent the grapes from forming fungus and helps keep the vines healthy. 

In ancient times the land was covered by a vast lake, so the soil is high in clay and marine sedimentCloser to the coast the soil will be more sand based.  The vine system mostly found on these soils of Abruzzo is the pergola system, used by more than 80% of the vineyards. The pergola system naturally shades the grapes preventing them from getting sunburned and helps slow down the ripening so that the wines don’t result in wines that are too high in alcohol. 

Abruzzo’s wine territories 

Prior to the Renaissance period, the vineyards of Abruzzo were mostly based in the Peligna Valley within the L’Aquila provinceDuring the period of Italy’s unification, Abruzzo’s viticulture experienced rapid transformationOver the last 50 years viticulture has abandoned much of the Peligna Valley and shifted towards the hilly coastal territory.   Where L’Aquila used to have the majority share, today their production is less than 1%The Chieti province has about 83% of its territory planted with vines followed by Pescara and Teramo with 10 and 6% respectively.

Abruzzo's wine region and provinces
Sourced from Wikipedia - Abruzzo's wine region and 4 provinces

Abruzzo’s vineyards cover 84,000 acres with about 6,000 grape producers, 250 wineries and 35 wine cooperatives totaling an annual production of 140 million bottles As you can see there are many farmers in Abruzzo that sell their production to the cooperatives.   

Abruzzo’s wine designations

Abruzzo has 2 DOCG designations: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG and the most recent one, Tullum or Terre Tollesi DOCGThere Abruzzo DOC’s are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Controguerra, Ortona, Villamagna.  The subzones are Colline Teramane, Colline Pescaresi, Terre di Chieti and Terre Aquilane or Terre de L’Aquila.  These subzones are the only ones that can use Riserva and Superiore on their labels.   

The grapes of Abruzzo 

Abruzzo’s primary grapes are Montepulciano, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Pecorino and PasserinaOther grapes you will find in Abruzzo that are produced in lesser quantity and are mainly  blending grapes include Malvasia, Cococciola, Montonico and Moscatello.  Let’s take a quick peak at some of Abruzzo’s top grapes. 

Leading the whites is Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.   You may remember the Trebbiano grape when we’ve highlighted Tuscan grapes, where it is known as Trebbiano Toscana.  Trebbiano Toscana is the most planted, but Trebbiano d’Abruzzo has more complexity and bodyIt is a delicate grape with thin skins that is light, crisp and easy drinking.   It is a grape that has great acidity, but also has the risk to lose acidity and receive mild rot if not monitored closely.  Some producers will use barrel maturation and lees aging to give these wines more texture.   

Pecorino, along with the Passerina grape, are white grapes in Abruzzo that can also be found in the Marche regionPercorino faced extinction in the 20th century since it isn’t a high yielding grape.  The producer, Grifone, helped bring this grape back to life. Now plantings have been increasing since the 90’s so we are seeing more and more of this grape on the market 

Pecorino does well at high altitudes and will reach high sugar levels along with high acidity.  Pecorino, in comparison to it’s fellow Abbruzese friend Trebbiano, has more characterThe wines are dry with floral aromas and notes of tropical fruit, citrus and herbs.  There may also be some hints of minerality on the finish.  

Lastly, Abruzzo’s red grape Montepulciano is not only the top red grape of Abruzzo, but it is also the 2nd most planted red grape of Italy. Montepulciano is a late ripening grape that brings darker color to the glass due to its high anthocyanins. These wines are full-bodied and robust with notes of red and black fruits along with some spice and sometimes a rustic, earthy edge. There are plenty of quaffable Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on the market, but also some beauties with great complexity and ageworthy. 

Montepulciano grapes from Abruzzo
Sourced from Wikipedia - Montepulciano grape cluster

What are some of your favorite wines of Abruzzo? Do you have any favorite producers?  

You can reference some of my previous blogs on the many wines of Abruzzo.

You can shop on in support of Vino Travels and find Abruzzo wines to try.