Wine of the Week: Taurasi DOCG 2008 From Feudi di San Gregorio

This week’s wine of the week is Taurasi DOCG from 2008 made by Feudi di San Gregorio. I had the wine at home with a friend over the weekend. I was surprised at how lovely it was perhaps because I forget how much I like drinking older Aglianico. It had softened a bit but still had delicious red fruits and spice on the palate and the nose. The tannins were rounder than I had remembered and it paired perfectly with a roasted chicken we had.

Taurasi

I remember the first time I had Taurasi, it was Radici from Mastroberardino, at dinner with a fellow journalist who was from Naples sometime in the late 1990s. We were eating at a restaurant in Campo dei Fiori in Rome. I remember being struck at how big and powerful the wine was at that time. In fact, I was concerned the other night that the food wouldn’t stand up to the wine. My fears were unwarranted. The wine did stand up to the food. Here is an interesting take on the 2008 Taurasi from Kyle Phillips, a great journalist who passed away in the last years.

I chose this wine for the wine of the week today because two important men from Naples are on my mind – the first is Pino Daniele. A great musician, Daniele’s music has been part of my life for over 20 years. I was very excited to see him on his upcoming US tour but sadly that won’t happen. I did get to see him at least in 1994 and 2009. The photos of his funeral in Naples were very touching.

Giorgio Napolitano

The other Neapolitan on my mind is the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano who is stepping down today from his post after nine years in office, the longest of any Italian president. I’ve always like Napolitano and thought he brought stability to the country in these years. I was lucky enough to see him up close and personal three times, twice at the Quirinale for a ceremony for one of my clients that he attends and where he gives out the awards.

Quirinale

I also was on hand when he was presented a special bottle of wine at a ceremony in New York in 2011 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. At 89, he deserves a break after such a long and distinguished career in politics. I am amazed though that the contenders for the Presidency now are politicians who have been around for more than 30 years. I guess as Tancredi says in The Leopard…

“Tutto deve cambiare perché nulla cambi…”
(Il gattopardo- di Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa)

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Giro’ Nero from Sardinia

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This week’s indigenous grape hails from Sardinia, a beautiful region in Italy and one that should be on everyone’s bucket list. I have never seen such beautiful water as off the coast of Northern Sardinia near the Maddalena. I went on a fabulous sailing trip there some years ago but my photos aren’t digital so for the moment, these will suffice. An incredible place.

I love Sardinia in general and in fact where a ring that is a symbol of the island. I also love Sardinian wines. Some that I have never tried however are the sweet wines made from Giro Nero in the Cagliari Denominazione d’Origine Controllata (D.O.C.)

This red grape is believed to have been planted on the island when the Spanish controlled the territory. It used to grow all over the island but now is mostly grown around Cagliari.

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Nous Sommes Tous Francais

Paris

After a week like this one, I don’t have the heart to write about wine today although I do believe in carrying on with our lives as a way of fighting back. I am, as most are, shocked and sad about what happened in Paris, both at the newspaper, to the police and in the kosher supermarket. I am horrified at these attacks and the senseless loss of life. As France and journalism are two of my great loves and influences in my life, I feel it acutely. More than anything though, as a human being I am outraged. Vive La France, Vive la Liberte, l’Egalite’ et Fraternite’. Vive la Difference!

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Happy New Year!

Gearing up for the end of the winter holidays, everyone makes numerous resolutions, including me. One of mine is to write more copy on this blog. I will start with tomorrow’s holiday – la Befana. It is a holiday in Italy where an unattractive old looking woman gives out coal to children who are bad and candy to those who were good, the Feast of the Epiphany. Mostly though, the Befana signifies the end of the Winter holidays and after two weeks of vacation, everyone has to go back to work, even in Italy. Many including me, have considerable trouble getting back to work after the holiday season.

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In Spain tomorrow is Three Kings Day and celebrations abound as friends like the World Wine Guys and April Cullom of Casa Abril can attest.

Three Magi

Traditionally, Italians gave their Christmas presents on this day, timed to the arrival of the Magi. When I was living there though all anyone got on la Befana was candy or coal. I found this blog entitled Willy or Won’t He? about la Befana and thought it interesting to see how she was viewed by this particular family.

No specific foods or wines are used on this day. However, last year I discovered a winery called Raffaldini in North Carolina that makes a “Befana” sweet wine. Needless to say wonders never cease. Apparently this ancient family from Mantua in Lombardy has created what they call “Chianti In The Carolinas,” making a number of wines with Italian grapes. Their Befana wine is a sweet wine made using partially dried grapes, somewhat more like a Ripasso I imagine.

Speaking of Ripasso, I had a great one over the holidays from Fattori – Col di Bastia 2009. I remember when Antonio Fattori began making this wine. It has aged beautifully this last 5 years and was perfect with Roast Beef. Onward to a great 2015 for all.

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Sartori Wine Empire Sees Organics As Part Of Company Strength

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Today’s post is about a special wine family from the Veneto. I drank a wonderful Ripasso from the Veneto to celebrate the New Year yesterday and realized that I had never posted this story I wrote earlier this year about Sartori.

Anyone who has every met Andrea Sartori would be hard pressed to immediately guess where he is from. Blond and blue eyed with a decidedly American tinge to his accent when he speaks English, he is incredibly approachable for one at the head of a group like Sartori in the Veneto. Among the most important winery groups in the region, Sartori also heads many intergovernmental organizations and wine related groups that work on a plethora of issues from E.U. regulations to climate change. It would also take a bit of time to understand the growing importance that Sartori places on sustainability and organic farming.

Mostly known for their Amarone, Sartori is actually a partner in two wineries in two Italian regions that focus exclusively on organic grapes – Mont’Albano in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Cerulli Spinozzi in Abruzzo. I was told that they pick wineries to invest in that represent something unique and specific not only about the winery but also about the region where they are located. The Sartori family seems to have felt a kinship both with Friuli and Abruzzo as well. The link is undoubtedly family oriented firms as all three of these wineries are family run.

Having met Andrea numerous times throughout the years, nothing surprises me any longer. He and his consultant winemaker, Franco Bernabei, are always involved in interesting projects such as making the wines to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s death. The Foundation of the Arena di Verona launched a red and a white wine that celebrated the local wines from the Consortium of Bardolino, Cutoza, Soave and Valpolicella. It was the first time that some 4,900 producers and growers from the Verona area worked together to support one of the region’s most important cultural landmarks.

Arena di Verona

The white was a Garganega Verona IGT 2012 and the red was a Corvina Verona IGT 2011. Sartori is the official partner of the Arena Foundation and was behind much of the logistics and technical support for the project, including the packaging. Franco Bernabei was asked to create the wines together with the various Consorzi. The wines were offered and sold in local restaurants and wine shops, with part of the revenue given to the Arena Foundation for future initiatives.

Additionally Sartori launched a special edition of their Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 and donated part of the sales from that wine to the Arena Foundation. The wine has been served at a number of events, including one in Hong Kong that also involved the Gino Strada’s non-profit Emergency.

As to the interesting wines from Mont’Albano in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Sartori acquired the winery in 2008. Mont’Albano was ahead of its time and has been organic since the mid 1980s. Not only are the grapes organically grown but also the bottles they use are thinner and lighter in weight and the labels are all done using recycled paper.

Mauro Braidot is the founder of Mont’Albano, which is located in Colloredo di Monte Albano in Friuli. The winery has a host of organic certifications for each of its important markets such as the U.S. and Canada. Mont’Albano is in the Friuli Grave Denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) zone. The wines they produce are a combination of indigenous and international varieties, including a Pinot Grigio, and a Merlot/Refosco blend of note.

Fontanta - Verona

Another project that the Sartori/Bernabei team worked on together is the Cerulli Spinozzi winery in Abruzzo that Sartori bought into in the early 2000s. The winery was started in 2003 and the vineyard lands were a merger of two properties – that of the Spinozzi family and that of the Cerulli Irelli family,
The winery produces wines made from indigenous varieties from Abruzzo such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Pecorino. The grapes are organically grown. The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo comes from the area known as the Colline Teramane, Abruzzo’s only Denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita (D.O.C.G.) wine, awarded in 2002.

It’s interesting to note that a modern, large group such as Sartori expanded its holdings in these areas and with properties that are interested in sustainable development and organically grown grapes. Sartori while not using organically grown grapes in all of its wines does have every certification on record, no small feat, for the entire winemaking process. One can hope that they are a symbol of what is to come for other large groups in Italy but that might be wishful thinking. In any case, Andrea Sartori’s international style has translated into a very innovative group without sacrificing tradition or territorial connections, a winning combination it seems.

Happy New Year!

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Wine of the Week: Fongaro Brut from Veneto

Fongaro

In keeping with this month’s sparkling wine focus, this week’s Wine of the Week is a brut sparkling wine from Fongaro, a winery in the Veneto. I first heard of this winery in 2010 when they participated in an event held by Vinitaly in the United States. I was struck by the wine and the grape variety, Durella, which I found unique and interesting.

Fongaro was created in 1975 and has always focused on the indigenous grape Durella which hails from the Monti Lessini zone, a hilly area between Verona and Vicenza. The wines are all made using the traditional method, meaning with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle.

The grape variety ends in an “a” while the wine in an “o.” A couple of years later I was reintroduced to this grape variety by Antonio Fattori. He makes a wine which I adore called I Singhe Lessini Durello D.O.C. from 100% Durella. It is also a sparkling wine and Durella is well suited for these types of wines. Durella makes wines with a refined bouquet of citrus fruits and nuts as well as great acidity and minerality, perfect for sparkling wine.

This grape variety has considerable tannins which provide great structure to these sparklers. The terroir of this area of the Veneto is rich with volcanic soils and hillsides, ideal growing conditions for the grape variety.

The Fongaro Brut Cuvee is made from 80%-85% Durella and the remaining 15%-20% is Incrocio Manzoni. Incrocio Manzoni is a cross between Riesling and Pinot Bianco created in the 1920s in Conegliano (Veneto) by Professor Manzoni.

The wines remain on their lees for at least 24 months in the bottle before dégorgement. I was lucky enough to taste this wine recently at the Simply Italian tasting in New York at the end of October. Sadly, Durello is not widely distributed in the United States. I have tried to encourage the Consorzio to promote their wines in the States and to convince various producers that it is a market worth investing in. Thus far, I have had little luck but I do think this is a sparkler to look out for in the future.

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Happy Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia is a holiday in many parts of the world including Scandinavia and some towns in Northern Italy, particularly in the Veneto and two towns in Lombardy, Crema and Cremona. The latter is a very famous city for its liutai or lute makers as well. Here is an interesting explanation of this festive day that some consider almost as important as Christmas. Santa Lucia was a Saint from Siracusa, Sicily.

My own reason for celebrating Santa Lucia lies much closer to home with my beautiful niece whose name day is today – Lucia. Here’s a recent photo of Lucia holding her new cousin, Niccolo’, on Thanksgiving. Much to be thankful for this year.

Lucia and Niccolo

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