Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

Expo 2015 Day 2, Streets of Milan, Milan’s Only DOC Wine

Mountains in Milan

Expo2015 has opened and while this is a wine blog, I would be hard pressed not to mention the damage done to the city by those protesting the Expo. Many police were injured, protestors arrested, cars sent up in flames and store windows broken. Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon in Italy around large global events. I’m disheartened but not surprised.

While I’m on the subject of politics and all that is going wrong, it is certainly necessary to link to articles about the migrants, 700+ who died on a ship trying to reach Italy’s shores within the last few weeks. Again, not a new occurrence but horrific and hopefully European attention will now be focused on this ongoing tragedy.

This however is a wine blog and while I would love to be a pundit and expound on my views on everything, I don’t believe that this is the place to do it.

naviglio

While I’m on the subject of fantasizing – in this case to be a pundit – I’m having a crazy craving to be in Milan now and good to the Expo and walk around those streets I know so well.

Casa di ringhiera

The first street I want to write about is Via Vigevano where I first lived when I moved to Milan in 1995. I was living on a friend’s couch at number 9, a beautiful yellow stucco building with an interior courtyard, right behind the Naviglio, a casa di ringhiera – typical of Milan. I loved the church bells I heard from the windows and the views of the city’s red roofs.

If you are in the city for the Expo, this is a great neighborhood for food and an evening walk around the Naviglio. It’s the scene of the many locals serving the typical Milanese aperitivo as well.

My own favorite bar in the area is called Luca & Andrea at Alzaia Naviglio Grande 34 and my favorite restaurant is Osteria del Pre on Via Casale, 4.

Church Bells Nav

When one thinks of Milan, they so seldom think of wine but Milan does have a wine to call its very own, San Colombano d.o.c. wine. This is the only DOC wine produced in the province of Milan. It was designated a DOC in 1984.

Wines from San Colombano are generally made from Croatina, Barbera and Uva Rara for the reds in order to be part of the DOC. Some international varieties have been planted in recent years as well. For the whites, a number of grapes have been used in addition to the indigenous variety Verdea.

The soils in this area are a mix of calcareous soil and sand. The wines they produce are easy drinking wines that complement the local food perfectly.

The grapes for production of San Colombano DOC wines must be cultivated exclusively in the Comune of Miradolo Terme and Monteleone in the province of Pavia, Graffignana and Sant’Angelo in the province of Lodi and San Colombano al Lambro in the province of Milano.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Grecanico Dorato Bianco from Sicily

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Back with our latest Italian indigenous variety, this week’s grape is Grecanico from Sicily. The grape is often blended with Grillo and/or Catarratto. It is part of a host of D.O.C. wines from Contea di Sclafani, Contesa Entellina, Menfi and others.

I recently had a lovely one at Vinitaly from Tasca d’Almerita. The one I tasted was a wine made without the addition of sulfites, an experiment that Tasca had undertaken. Tasca is very conscious of its carbon footprint and is heavily involved in sustainability initiatives in Sicily. I will write about them tomorrow though. Today is about this grape variety. Grecanico has aromas and flavors of lemon and citrus.

A wine without the addition of sulfites still has some sulfites in it because they are produced during fermentation. This wine spends four months on its lees which is a natural level of protection for the wine. As we know, sulfur is added to wines as an anti-oxidant and to stabilize the wines.

media_res_Grecanico_Gerundio

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Day 1: Vinitaly – The World We Love

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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.

Pre-event at Vinitaly

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Wine of the Week: L’Atto Basilicata IGT from Cantina del Notaio

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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.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Goldtraminer Bianco, Gosen Nero, Granoir Nero

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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.

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Wine of the Week: Marzagaglia Primitivo Gioia del Colle

Primitivo

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.

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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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