Day 1 at Vinitaly is off to a great start. Thrilled to be here and to see old friends and taste great wines. Despite the cold and rainy weather, typical at least one day of Vinitaly a year, the weather is turning out to be even better than expected. I started with a tasting of Susanna Crociani’s entire lineup of wines, always a pleasure. I found them all to be showing really well. I then moved on to taste Lugana with Carlo Veronese, the Director of the Consortium and then on to Sardegna and Vigne Surrau, Vermentino di Galllara. Lunch with Prosecco DOC in their new lounge area that they share with Prosciutto di San Daniele was a welcome respite from the frenetic pace I always feel at this fair. It’s only the first day at 345 pm and I have already done my yearly tasting at one of my favorite Sicilian Wineries, Tasca d’Almerita. I love tasting at Tasca and can’t wait to write about all the great wines I have had this morning. I actually love this fair and am very excited to be in Italy and to be here. I also can’t wait to write about the wines I tasted last night at OperaWine.
Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties
This week’s wine of the wine is made from 100% Aglianico del Vulture. The wine is called L’Atto and comes from the Cantine del Notaio winery. I can only imagine it is called this because of the play on the word ‘notary.” In Italian, l’atto also means deed, among other things.
This winery is in Basilicata. I’ve always had a thing about Basilicata. Many people know the region because it is home to the city of Matera, a beautiful city and absolutely worth a visit. I used to say I would never leave Italy unless I got to see Basilicata, a way of course of staying for many years. I finally visited in 2002 and remember fondly my first Aglianico del Vulture.
The best known wines to be produced in Basilicata are made from Aglianico. While exact evidence is difficult to uncover, experts agree that the grape was found in this region as early as the 6th century B.C. Likely brought by the Greeks, it was called ellenico until about the 15th century. Ellenico is the Italian word for Hellenic or Greek.
It is possible that the grape was brought to the settlement at Metaponto, near the city of Matera. Regardless of when it arrived in Basilicata, Aglianico has brought acclaim to the region for the fabulous wines it produces from the volcanic soils around Mount Vulture. Aglianico, a late ripening grape, is generally the last of the grapes to be picked for making dry wines.
In Basilicata, Aglianico, tends to be cultivated on slopes which are anywhere from 400 to 800 meters above sea level. The region is very dry and hot in the summer. In the winter, it can get quite cold. These temperature changes give the vines time to rest and help to create concentrated fruit. Aglianico has good acidity and firm tannins. The aromatics of the grape tend towards blueberry, cherry, chocolate, coffee and smoke notes. Aglianico del Vulture is a very long lived wine and can take some years to open up.
Aglianico del Vulture was given the DOC designation in 1971 and finally the DOCG in 2011.
Aglianico del Vulture can be made into a variety of styles. The base wine is aged for 12 months in barrels which are generally made of chestnut although some producers are trying to use French oak. When the wine label has the word vecchio on it, it means the wines have been aged in wood for 36 months. For the Riserva wines, the aging period is usually 60 months. Aglianico del Vulture can also be made into a dry and sweet sparkling wine as well.
Aglianico seems like a perfect wine to be drinking with this never ending weather. The grapes that went into this particular wine were hand harvested. They underwent a short maceration of 5-6 days. Maceration brings out the color in wine as well as tannin and other polyphenols but with a grape like Aglianico, you want to be careful not to over-extract. In fact to control the rate and depth of extraction, the winery vinifies the wine at a controlled temperature in stainless steel. The wine then ages in their funky tufa cellars in small barrels, tonneaux and others, for a period of 12 months.
The wine is full bodied and balanced with spice and fruit notes typical of this grape variety. It has a lot of finesse and elegance and a long finish. Balanced and harmonious, this wine brought me back to that fascinating region.
As Vinitaly draws nearer, I am reminded of all the amazing wines that I have tried in past years. Some of the wines are from the most famous regions while others are from lesser known ones. I have tasted a number of years with producers from Basilicata, specifically from Lucania.
Sadly none of my pictures of this region are digital so, here I suggest looking up a movie that came out in the last few years about Basilicata – Basilicata Coast To Coast. It will give you a flavor of the rugged landscape. Some 47% of Basilicata is covered by mountains and it has two coastlines, one on the Ionian Sea and the other on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Some of the otherfamous producers of these wines include Paternoster, Cantina di Venosa, Giannattasio, Terre dei Re, Bisceglia, and Donato D’Angelo.
Aglianico del Vulture is not the only area in Basilicata for wines. Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri and Matera are two additional well-known DOCs.
Oddly enough, international varieties are used in the Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri DOC. I tried the wines of the Consorzio Terre dell’Alta Val D’Agri. They were blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for the reds which surprised me as well as a small percentage of indigenous varietals. The whites were made with Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata.
I tried a number of wines including ones from Francesco Pisani’s Azienda Agricola Biologica Pisani. They were also organic which was even more surprising. Perhaps it was the altitude at which the vines were grown, 600-800 meters above sea level, that allowed them to grow without intervention of any sort.
I also tried wines from De Blasis, Nigro, Fiorenti and L’Arcera. They were all interesting, big, rich wines that needed to be tried with food. Needless to say, I am going to go back this year on a full stomach, towards the end of the day. These are not morning wines.
Matera DOC, the third area that I explored makes both red and white wines from indigenous grapes. One of the most memorable wines was from Ditaranto. I especially enjoyed the Greco bianco which was floral and fruity at the same time. I also really enjoyed their wine called L’Abate made from Primitivo.
Of all the wines I tried that day though, I have a soft spot for those of Michele Laluce. I highly recommend them if you have the chance. I think you will be as speechless as I was at their bonta’.
I can’t wait to try more of these wines and the new vintages at this year’s fair.
This week’s indigenous varieties are all ones that I had never heard of and first met in a book I own on indigenous varieties in Italy. Goldtraminer as you might expect is a cross created in 1947 by Rebo Rigotti at San Michele all’Adige between Traminer and Garganega. The grape is aromatic and is especially useful in making late harvest wines.
Gosen Nero was also created by Rebo Rigotti at San Michele all’Adige but this one was done in 1950 and is a cross between Carmenere and Teroldego. It has a very thick skin and is well suited to Northern regions in Italy with wet autumns. It is a very vigorous grape variety and thus needs to be limited in order to produce quality fruit.
The third variety for today is Granoir Nero which grows in the Valle d’Aosta, a cross between Gamay and Reichsteiner, created by M. Andre Jaquinet.
None of these varieties are ones that you will likely find at your local liquor store but you may come across them in your travels within il Bel Paese.
This week’s wine of the wine is from Tenuta Patruno Perniola located in the Murgia pugliese, in the town of Gioia del Colle, which is between the provinces of Bari and Taranto. The family has owned the property since the 1800s. It is focused exclusively on Primitivo which they make in a number of different versions, oaked, aged in stainless steel and sweet. The vineyards are located at 350 meters above sea level with constant breezes, good thermal excursion and rich soils filed with minerals that give the earth a red color and the nickname “red earth.”
I tried a number of their Primitivos at Vino 2015 and the one that I preferred was that made in a neutral vessel. Not a huge fan of the grape, I was surprised at how elegant and refined it was without being over the top. According to the winery’s website, their goal is to let the grape speak for itself and neither to make a big oaky version nor one that is a fruit bomb. I think they were successful in their efforts and I quite enjoyed the wine, much to my surprise. I worked at the Puglia tasting that day and tried a number of other wines made with this grape that were very interesting, albeit a bit too alcoholic for my taste. I’d love to go back to Puglia to taste these wines in situ, one of the loveliest of Italian regions, and that is certainly saying something.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Garganega is this week’s grape variety hails from the Veneto region. Garganega is the principal grape used to make Soave, an Italian white wine that we are all familiar with in the United States. According to DNA studies, it is related to Grecanico which is a grape variety widely used in Sicily. Garganega is able to produce a host of wines whether they are dry or sweet, such as the Recioto di Soave version.
The grape has moderate acidity and lovely fruit and floral aromas. It often has a slight almond taste on the finish as well. Hard to pronounce, Garganega is not listed generally on the Soave label but at least 70% of all Soave must be Garganega. The other 30% can be Trebbiano, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay.
Garganega is a vigorous grape variety and in the past was used to make mass market wines. That trend has completely changed and the grape is now used to make elegant, age worthy wines.
Many producers are worthy of note. Eric Asimov of the New York Times wrote this piece earlier this year on Soave. I’m very partial to the ones that can age such as those made by Antonio Fattori of Fattori Wines.