Wine of the Week: Valferana, Gattinara D.O.C.G. 2005


This week’s wine of the week is from Piedmont, from the winery Nervi. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Enrico Fileppo, the oenologist from the winery who has worked there since 1984, last year at a dinner during VinoVip 2013 in Cortina. I had never had the pleasure of tasting this exquisite wine previously and it was such a treat that I highly recommend it to everyone.

Nervi, founded by Luigi Nervi in 1906, is one of the older wineries in the area if not the oldest. They have 24 hectares (59.3 acres) of Nebbiolo vines, spread among different vineyard sites. The Valferana vineyard dates all the way back to 1242 according to local documents. The vineyards are protected from Northernly winds by the nearby mountains which also ensure cool breezes for the vines. The soil is a combination of volcanic and clay soils. They have a high pH and the combination favors the absorption of minerals (manganese, iron and zinc).

In order to qualify for the designation Gattinara D.O.C.G., the minimum aging requirement is three years of which two in wood. The Gattinara D.O.C.G. Riserva and single vineyard minimum aging requirement is four years of which three in wood. Gattinara is certainly less well known than some of its counterparts in Piedmont but it is definitely a wine to put on your list. The wine must be made from 90%-100% Nebbiolo which they call Spanna locally. A very elegant wine in my opinion, it was recognized as a D.O.C.G. in 1990.

In order to make the Valferana Gattinara D.O.C.G. wine, Nervi used about 10% whole grapes and fermentation lasted at least 22 days in concrete vats. The oak fermentation vats, which are from the 1960s, have no temperature control beyond their thick oak staves. They use ambient yeasts and the wine spends at least 40 months in oak barrels. Nervi uses only large oak casks for aging, ranging in capacity from 750 to 8,000 liters. Nervi´s casks are all made in Slavonian oak with the exception of six 3,200 litre casks made in oak from the Black Forest in South Western Germany.

The wine was gorgeous and balanced according to my notes with freshness and minerality as well as the wonderful violet and floral notes typical of Nebbiolo. It also had hints of blueberries, eucalyptus and earth. I loved this wine and couldn’t get enough of it that night but there were many of us at the table and of course I had to share…

I found the wine on for $45.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Piedmont, Travel, Wine of the Week, wine wednesday, Winery of the Week

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Franconia Nera & Fubiano Bianco

italy 600

I have a goal for this month’s indigenous varieties series: I need to reach the end of the “F” varieties by the end of August. This is to explain why I am jumping around a bit this month instead of going strictly in order.

Back to our weekly grape varieties, Franconia Nera is a grape that grows in Friuli Venezia Giulia, specifically used in a variety of denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) wines such as those of Friuli Isonzo and Friuli Latisana.

While it is not 100% documented, the general idea is that this grape came to Italy from Austria. The grape is widely planted in Austria and Germany as well as Eastern European countries where it is known as Blaufrankisch and/or Lemberger. It was first mentioned in Friuli in 1879 and also grows in the Trentino, the Veneto and Lombardia. The grape is a hearty red grape that is quite resistant to diseases of the vine. It is a grape that produces fruity wines with good color and full body as well as alcohol and acidity. It used to be used in Italy as a blending grape but today is mostly vinified as a mono-varietal wine. I have not had the pleasure of trying one from Italy but have had many from Austria and even from Long Island. I like wines made from this robust variety although at times they do suffer from a lack of elegance.

This week’s white variety is Fubiano Bianco, a cross made by Giovanni Dalmasso in 1936 from Furmint and Trebbiano Toscano. Dalmasso created many new varieties throughout his long career. This one was created as a possible alternative to Furmint because it doesn’t suffer from millerandage where uneven sized grapes grow in the bunch. I couldn’t find any producers of this grape today but I am still on the look out. In 2004, less than 10 hectares (24.7 acres) of this variety were grown throughout Italy.

Only five more varieties that start with the letter “F” to go. Thus far I have written about 110 grape varieties in this series over the course of a number of years.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Fortana Nera (Emilia) & Francavidda Bianca (Puglia)

emilia romagna

One of this week’s varieties hails from Emilia Romagna. It’s called Fortana Nera and is originally from France, specifically from the Cote d’Or. In fact it is also sometimes referred to as Uva d’Oro, even though is a red grape. It is only used in conjunction with other red varieties and can be part of the denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) of Emilia.

Here a post I wrote about Emilia Romagna. I’m quite partial to this region and its people as well as is food. I lived in Bologna for a year when I was in graduate school and have great memories of that time. I also have many friends from the region and they all tend to be open and warm with a great sense of humor.

A second variety for this week is called Francavidda Bianca. It comes from Puglia, specifically the province of Brindisi. Apparently the grape is not that hardy and can be susceptible to vine maladies. Here’s a post I wrote about Brindisi some years back. I love Puglia and have visited a few times through the years. An endlessly interesting region with beautiful beaches and great water, a perfect jaunt for the summer.

In other news, here’s a recent article I wrote for the Organic Wine Journal on a winery from Arezzo called Paterna. Tuscany perhaps more than any region in Italy feels like home to me thanks to the years I lived there and the people I met then and all those I now know in the wine world. One gorgeous country ovunque…

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Filed under emilia romagna, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Puglia, Travel, Tuscany

Happy Bastille Day: Remembering A Toast With Pierre Peters


I have been fortunate enough to celebrate La Fête Nationale Francaise – Le Quatorze Juillet, a holiday marking the anniversary of the fall on July 14, 1789 of the Bastille, in Paris on a number of occasions. As readers of this blog know, I was a Francophile in my early life and majored in French in college. My father has always been somewhat obsessed with France and the lifestyle and food so it is a natural for me to think of today as a celebration.

This year I am having a quiet holiday but last year was a real kick as I toasted with a marvelous champagne called Pierre Peters on a mountain top at 1,778 meters in Cortina, Italy as part of VinoVip 2013.


Charlie and I were both part of that lovely event. It was the first time I attended this incredible event or visited Cortina and I certainly hope it won’t be the last. VinoVip takes place every two years and Civilta del Bere and it’s publisher, Alessandro Torcoli, really put on a good show.


We toasted with the Cuvee Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs - Grand Cru. They have just over 18 hectares of vines,located in the area of the “Côte des Blancs” and more specifically in the villages of Mesnil sur Oger, Oger, Cramant and Avize. Just a bit south of Epernay, the soils are chalky while the vineyards face east as protection from westerly winds.

They only produce the Extra Brut in certain years but it is not marked on the label. I thought this was a lovely Champagne with white fruit and floral aromas as well as almonds and bread crust. On the finish, its all about minerality and finesse. A very elegant wine, I would snap up a couple of bottles whenever I see them.

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Chianti Colli Fiorentini D.O.C.G.: Always The Bridesmaid Never The Bride


The denomination Chianti Colli Fiorentini Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.) is just like someone who is always a bridesmaid and never a bride. While not the least mentioned of the seven sub-zones of Chianti D.O.C.G., it is rarely talked about and I think that’s a shame. This production zone is located in and around Florence and the Arno river valleys. Like its other six cousins, Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montalbano and Chianti Montespertoli, producers can chose to use the denomination or not. The area was defined in 1932. With DPR 290 of July 2, 1984, the Chianti Colli Fiorentini area was officially granted DOCG recognition; The Chianti Colli Fiorentini Consortium was founded on September 20, 1994.

The wines must be at least 70% Sangiovese. They can also contain Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in small quantities. I was introduced to the Chianti Colli Fiorentini in 2010 by their wonderful PR manager, Stefano. Despite living in Florence for many years, I didn’t know there was a specific denomination for the wines.

Some 18 communes can used this denomination including the following: Montelupo Fiorentino, Fiesole, Lastra a Signa, Scandicci, Impruneta, Bagno a Ripoli, Rignano sull’Arno and Pontassieve as well as Montespertoli, San Casciano Val di Pesa, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Certaldo, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Incisa, Figlini; Pelago, Reggello and Florence. Some 27 wineries are members of the Consortium.

The terroir in this area is mostly alluvial soils with good drainage. They also tend to have a high percentage of clay. Most of the vineyards are located on hills ranging from 150 to 400 meters above sea level. The exposition is quite varied. Some vineyards face southeast and southeast while others face north.

Generally, the wines from this region are well structured. While they have good tannins and acidity, they can be more approachable than some other Chianti wines. Some are more modern than you find in other areas, fruitier and easy to drink even when young.


One producer who I have met numerous times throughout the years is Malenchini. I liked both the wines and the winery owners. Another producer from the area that I know well is the Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini family who own Castello di Poppiano. I met the Count years ago at a tasting in Milan and have since come to known the family a bit better as well as the wines. I’ve tried to get them to adopt me but he chose his nephew Bernardo. What can you do….

I’m hard press to explain why these wines aren’t better known in the United States with their specific denomination. I think the theory is that Americans know Chianti Classico and Chianti only and that the rest confuses them. I disagree. I wonder if the new Gran Selezione will make any difference in getting these sub-zones their day in the sun or if they will continue to be a minor player, at least in terms of their denomination…

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Filed under Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Travel, Tuscany, wines

Wine of the Week: Termes 2010 from Bodega Numanthia


This week’s wine of the week comes from the DO of Toro in Spain in the province of Zamora, located in the west of the region of Castilla y León. It is from the well-known winery Numanthia. While a tad less famous than Numanthia and Termanthia, I also find it more affordable and approachable. Retailing at around $20, check out Wine-Searcher, it’s a beautiful expression of the Tempranillo grape in Toro where it is known as Tinta de Toro. The Toro region has been famous since Roman times for its great red wines.

I first tried this wine at a Numanthia dinner back in 2011 hosted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Editor-in-Chief of Snooth. I thought the wines were lovely and the dinner pairings were outstanding at the time. I recently tried the Termes again and thought it a lovely wine and a great value. It made me want to hop on a plane to Spain tomorrow.

The wine comes from vineyards located at 700 meters above sea level and 30-50 year old vines. It macerates for an extended time on the skins before fermentation at controlled temperatures. Post-fermentation, the wine spends 16 months in one year old French barrels.

On the nose and palate, you get the berries you expect from Tempranillo driven wines together with pepper and spice, cedar notes and a hint of leather and cacao. If you can afford the pricier Numanthia and Termanthia, they are certainly wines to try once in a lifetime. If you can’t, I think you’ll find the Termes a great alternative from this region.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Forgiarin and Forsellina From Friuli and the Veneto, Respectively

Me and Dad Fishing

I’ve been away on Cape Cod fishing with Dad and enjoying the beach. It shows on this blog where readership last week was at a low for the year. I guess it matters how often you post but every once in a while, it’s nice to kick back and not do any work or writing. Here we are though, back in the swing in this lovely month of July.

This week’s grape varieties hail from two regions in Italy – Friuli Venezia Giulia and the Veneto. Forgiarin is a red grape that produces wines with good acidity for a red grape and red fruit aromas and flavors. One producer is particularly noted for his wine from this variety, Emilio Bulfon. Bulfon has helped to rediscover ancient grapes from Friuli. His winery is located near the city of Pordenone.

The second variety for this week is Forsellina from the Veneto. Also a red grape variety, this one can be found in a variety of DOC wines such as Bardolino and Valpolicella. It is usually used as a blending grape with other red varieties such as Molinara, Rossignola, Rondinella, and Corvina.

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Filed under Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Veneto