Friday, April 19, 2024

Zucchini Patties Paired with Monte del Fra Chiaretto di Bardolino

Lake Garda in northern Italy is a perfect place to situate yourself for several reasons.  Not only is the area a beautiful place to tour, but you have great accessibility to many great towns in the not too far distance including Verona, Trento, Brescia and Bergamo to name a few.  Plus, you have the benefit of exploring two regions since Lake Garda sits between the Veneto and Lombardy. Not to mention the classic food and wines of both regions surrounding Lake Garda especially.  Today I’m highlighting one of Italy’s finest rosé wines found at Lake Garda, Chiaretto. 

Where is Chiaretto produced 

You can find Chiaretto wines produced in both the Veneto and Lombardy wine regions along the southern half of Lake Garda, the largest lake in the Veneto.. The name stems from the word Chiaro meaning light or pale color, which is represented in these wines.  They are lighter in comparison to other rosé wines found throughout Italy such as Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo from the Abruzzo region as well as rosé wines from Puglia and Sicily.   

There are a couple types of Chiaretto produced between the Veneto and Lombardy regions. In the Veneto you will find Chiaretto di Bardolino, named after the town of Bardolino located alongside Lake Garda. These wines were granted the Bardolino DOC Chiaretto status in 1968 with a later name change to Chiaretto di Bardolino DOC in 2018.  

The grapes used in producing Chiaretto di Bardolino are the typical red grapes of the Veneto region, including primarily Corvina along with Rondinella and MolinaraYou will also find these grapes in the wines of Valpolicella, Bardolino and Amarone from the surrounding territories.  

wine appellation of Chiaretto di Bardolino
Chiaretto di Bardolino appellation - copyright of Consorzio Vini Bardolino

In the Lombardy region you will also find Chiaretto produced in the subzone of Valténesi.   There you will find Chiaretto produced under the Valténesi Chiaretto Riviera del Garda Classico DOC.  These wines differ from their counterpart as the primary grape in these Chiaretto wines is Groppello along with Marzemino, Sangiovese and Barbera.  With both regions the red grapes are gently pressed and spend a short maceration time to produce the pale pink colors. 

The soils are sandy and stony with morainic hillsides.  Due to these morainic soils, you may find some minerality in these wines.  Chiaretto wines are dry and crisp with notes of citrus, red berries and some stone fruit.  They can also be slightly tannic and tend to have a refreshing, vibrant acidity.   

The wine 

I wrote recently about Monte del Fra so you can read more about this winery on my previous blogThis week I tasted the 2022 Monte del Fra Chiaretto di Bardolino DOC.  This wine is produced around the area of Sommacampagna sitting just east off the southern tip of Lake Garda.  The hills reside at about 350-490 feet above sea level in soils of morainic origin with calcareous clay, gravel and sand.    

2022 Monte del Fra Chiaretto di Bardolino DOC

The Monte del Fra Chiaretto di Bardolino is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and MolinaraThe wine spends 24 hours on the skin resulting in a wine with a pale salmon color.  There are aromas of citrus, wild strawberries and a slight herbaceous note.  Fresh and dry on the palate with crisp acidity.  Citrus and red berry flavors with a touch of minerality leave a lengthy, lingering finish.  ABV 12.5%    

Wine Pairing – Chiaretto with Zucchini Patties 

As the weather is warming up here in the northeast I’m getting into my grilling and lighter food fare mindsetI have been eating a ton of veggies and am expanding my garden this year planting many of my own flowers and vegetables from seeds with my childrenAlways a fun activity to partake in and watch them growI’m a huge fan of zucchini and eat it on the regularInstead of grilling it or roasting it with some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt I wanted to try making zucchini patties to pair with the Chiaretto. 

zucchini patties paired with Chiaretto di Bardolino

This was a simple side dish to prepare and to be honest it also makes a nice lunch alongside some added protein.  I grated about 3-4 smaller zucchinis into a bowl adding a ½ cup of flour, 2 eggs, ¾ cup blend of mozzarella and parmigiano cheese and salt.  Upon mixing the ingredients I formed them into patties and sauteed them in some extra virgin olive oil until brown before flipping a few minutes on each side. I would add a little more flour next time using this many zucchini to thicken the mixture. 

The zucchini patties paired well with the Chiaretto di BardolinoChiaretto tends to be a food friendly wine due to its vibrant acidityA light, flavorsome dish paired nicely with the crisp, citrus driven Chiaretto.  

Buon weekend!

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

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

Friday, April 5, 2024

A Perfect Value Wine Pick with Famiglia Cotarella

Although I love to share the lesser known grapes and wine regions throughout Italy, I also can’t pass up sharing wines I come across in tastings with a fantastic QPR, the quality relative to the wine bottle’s price.  This week that wine is the 2019 Falesco Tenuta Vitiano Rosso under Famiglia Cotarella.   

The winery – Falesco 

Falesco began 3 generations ago in the 60’s with Antonio and Domenico Cotarella whom wanted to start a winery and make their own wine.  In 1979 the Falesco brand was born under brothers Renzo and Riccardo Cotarella.   You may have heard me speak about Riccardo multiple times here at Vino Travels as he is a well-respected winemaker and consultant for over 80 wineries all throughout Italy.  The initial beginnings under Renzo and Riccardo Cotarella were to recover ancient vineyards and varieties through a multitude of experiments and research over the years.  

In 2016 the Famiglia Cotarella umbrella was established over the family’s 4 brands as Renzo and Riccardo’s daughters, Dominica, Marta and Enrica took over the leadership of the business.  The daughters continue to remember the origins of the winery while also allowing the wines produced today to show “elegance and modernity”. 

The vineyards within the Cotarella family span between both the Umbria and Lazio regions from Lake Bolsena in Lazio up to the hills of Orvieto in Umbria occupying over 740 acres.   

The Wine 

The 2019 Falesco Tenuta Vitiano Rosso Umbria IGP is one of the traditional wines under the Falesco line of winesThe vineyards are located in the comune of Montecchio in Umbria.    

This wine is made up of equal parts Sangiovese, Merlot and CabernetThe wine is fermented in stainless steel and is aged 3 months in neutral oak barrelsThis wine was medium-bodied with firm tannin on the palate, but balanced with fresh acidityRipe cherries with a hint of tobaccoAt only $10 a bottle this wine is a no brainerIt also seemed to be the hit with the surrounding tasters.   

2019 Falesco Tenuta Vitiano Rosso
You can find this wine at
*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from the above site to support the operations of Vino Travels.  
Importer: Trinchero 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Contucci: One of the Oldest Producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

As with many, Tuscany was my first love in discovering ItalyIt’s where I first lived outside the United States and fell in love with the city of Florence.  Chianti were really the first wines that I gravitated to once I returned to the states since no matter where you go you can easily access them and reminded me of my life in Tuscany.  To this day Sangiovese is still one of my favorite Italian grapes, if not my most favorite.  Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted red grape and can be found through a multitude of regions all showcasing this grape through their own expression.  This week I feature one of the areas of Tuscany most known for producing Sangiovese in its finest expression, Montepulciano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from the Contucci winery. 

About Montepulciano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 

If you’ve traveled throughout Tuscany’s wine region you may have stumbled across the town of MontepulcianoLocated between the Val d’Orcia and the Val di Chiana, Montepulciano sits in the southeastern part of Tuscany just east of the town of Montalcino, Italy’s other finest expression of Sangiovese in Brunello di Montalcino.  It’s another classic Tuscan hilltop village, but bring your comfortable walking shoes as you stroll uphill to the top at Piazza Grande. Thankfully there are plenty of great shops, restaurants and places to stop and visit during your journey to the stop that provides stunning views over the land. 

visiting Montepulciano

Montepulciano was upgraded to the DOCG designation in 1980 and was the first in Italian wine to receive it preceeding Brunello, Barolo and Barbaresco. The vineyards of this area sit at 800 feet up to almost 2,000 feet above sea level.  The wines from this area are produced with at least 70% Prugnolo Gentile, a clone of SangioveseUp to 30% of other permitted Tuscan varieties are allotted even up to 5% of white grapes, although not commonly used. Most producers will blend Canaiolo and/or Mammolo with the Prugnolo Gentile, but many producers are also producing Vino Nobile from 100% Prugnolo Gentile. Vino Nobile requires a minimum of 2 years of aging with 1 year in wood and the riserva wines require at least 3 years of aging with 6 months in the bottle. 

Piazza Grande in Montepulciano

The Contucci winery

I stumbled upon this winery on my visit to Montepulciano some years back and have been sitting on this wine since I brought it backNot knowing much about the Contucci winery at the time it was hard not to want to stop in as they are located in the historical center of Montepulciano right near Piazza Grande that you can’t miss as you stroll through this village.   

The winery has a rich history with over 40 generations of winemaking since 1008Imagine, 40 generationsPer their site they are one of the “founding fathers” of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and I can imagine with their history the family has probably seen it all with the transformations that have taken place throughout the years. 

The Contucci winery and palace in which they occupy in the center of town is from the 16th century architected by Antonio di San Gallo with frescoes by Andrea PozzoThe palace was once occupied by Pope Giulio III and Ferdinando I, the Grand Duke of TuscanyThe Contucci family has occupied the state since 1646. 

When you enter, although its been years since my visit, you are able to taste the wines produced by the Contucci family and also have the opportunity to wander through the cellars underground that were built into the rock and contain the original old walls of the town.   

The Contucci family follows traditional techniques along with manually harvesting their grapes and bringing them into the winery/palace in town for vinification where the wines are also agedTheir oldest bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano dates to 1887.   

Today the winery produces over 100,000 bottles annually and of their 420 acres of land about 50 acres are dedicated to vineyards with the grapes of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano occupying about 37 of those acres.  

Cantina Contucci winery in Montepulciano

The Wine 

I finally opened my bottle of 2008 Contucci "Mulinvecchio" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG that I brought back when I visited the Contucci winery years ago.  I tasted this wine during the Christmas holiday and delayed posting this last week as I've been trying to track down my notes, but unfortunately cannot locate them.  When I stumble upon them I'll update this post hopefully.  I don't have the particular blend used in this vintage, but the Mulinvecchio wines from Contucci are only produced in the best vintages.  It's a single vineyard Vino Nobile from their 25+ year old vines.  Contucci has had a strong impact on the history behind Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and in tasting these wines one can get a sense of the land and where these wines originated from.

2008 Contucci Mulinvecchio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

As rich as its history is I believe Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is still crafting its identity amongst some of the producers. There can be widely different styles due to the usage of a variety of grapes allowed, the type of oak used and the sand and clay soils where the vineyards are planted depending on the location of the estate. I personally can appreciate the wineries that are working in producing Vino Nobile made from 100% Prugnolo Gentile or even with some of the additional grapes included such as Canaiolo, Colorino or Mammolo. I think this best expresses the identity of the land with less intervention, influences from new oak or international varieties added. 

Although Vino Nobile is reasonably priced you can also buy Rosso di Montepulciano, which will give you some of the same characteristics of Vino Nobile, but the best grapes of course are reserved for the noble Vino Nobile.  

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has a new Pieve designation that will be releasing their first wines to the market this year that I have yet to try so make sure to seek those out as well. You can read more about it in my article below tasting with Antonio Galloni.