Category Archives: Italian indigenous Grape Varieties

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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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Garganega from Veneto

Soave

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.

I had the opportunity to try wines from this region last week at a Wines from the Veneto (Uvive) event. If you live in New York or Chicago, you too can taste versions of Garganega at Eataly.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Gaglioppo from Calabria

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It’s December, it’s snowing on my blog and it has been three months since I have written a post about an Italian indigenous variety. I have a good excuse, a beautiful three month old baby, but I do miss writing about all of the gems that Italy has to offer so here we go with the first grape that starts with a “G.” This grape which is now associated with Calabria is likely of Greek origin and may be genetically related to the Sicilian variety Frappato. This hearty grape variety produces full bodied wines that are somewhat tannic when young and can be called “rustic” at times. It is used in a variety of denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) wines from Ciro’, Bivongi, Donnici, Lamezia, Melissa, Savuto, Scaviglia and others. The grape can be made into a mono-varietal wine or blended with red or white varieties, according to the rules of the particular D.O.C.

I have written a number of articles about wineries in Calabria. Here is another one about an organic winery in the region. Perhaps I am due for a visit…

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Wine of the Week: Nino Franco Valdobbiadne Superiore D.O.C.G. Brut

Nino Franco Brut

Earlier this year I had the occasion to meet Primo Franco of the Nino Franco winery at an intimate lunch organized by Tony Didio. Primo was fascinating and an incredible “Signore del Vino.” His family winery is one of the first to make a name for themselves in the Prosecco trade, quite unimaginable today when Prosecco is so easy to find but according to Primo at the beginning there were just a very few producers trying to make a name for themselves and their area.

His family got started in 1919 just after World War I. His grandfather, Antonio and his father, Nino built up the winery. Primo, himself a graduate of the prestigious oenology school in Conegliano, took over in the 1970s and thereafter put in some modern techniques.

We tried a number of his wines, including a Rose’ calle Faive and Grave di Stecca. Both were interesting and the Grave di Stecca a very elegant and special cuvee but it is the brut that I feel represents the area and the category most profoundly.

Faive Nino Franco

There are many areas for Prosecco as we know and generally different styles as well, according to the level of residual sugar in the wine. The Brut is the driest version of Prosecco. This one had very bright acidity and was a real joy as it paired with a salmon burger.

So many others have also written about their encounters with Primo Franco, including Charles Scicolone in this relatively recent post, Dobianchi earlier this year, and Alfonso last year. What I found throughout everyone’s posts is a common sense of how wonderful both Primo and his wines truly are.

Primo Franco Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.

I like Alfonso’s vision of Primo as a great tree but when I met him, he was in his version of a very dapper Italian in midtown Manhattan. We all have our individual experiences with winemakers, either in Italy or in the States, but its the shared impressions that they leave on each of us, that strikes me. Meeting Primo was a highlight of my New York wine life this year. Thanks Tony for introducing me, again, to wonderful producers.

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Wine of the Week: Faro from Palari (Sicily)

sicily

This week’s wine pick is Faro from Azienda Agricola Palari from Sicily. I first tasted this wine at a Tre Bicchieri event in New York some years ago. I was impressed with its unique blend of indigenous Sicilian grapes including Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Acitana, and Jacche’.

The wine was ruby red in color with loads of berry fruits, spice and a hint of vanilla. It was velvety and harmonious on the palate with juicy tannins. A great wine to age, I was very impressed with this beauty.

I’m having a Sicilian thing this summer with many memories of a couple of wonderful trips I took to Sicily years ago. This winery is located near Messina. Faro is a very ancient wine that was produced in this area for many years. Production was then interrupted both because of production issues and because of Phylloxera. The wine is made in a very particular area with a great micro-climate and on a series of vineyards that change dramatically in terms of their altitude from sea level to 1,475 feet with an eight mile range. The vines grow on very steep slopes and are bush trained requiring hand harvesting.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel but ages in new French oak and then in the bottle for at least 18 months before release. This is a big Sicilian wine and needs hearty dishes to support it. A land of contrasts, this is one side of Sicily – big, passionate and intense.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Fumin from the Valle d’Aosta

Valle d'Aosta

This week’s grape variety is Fumin. It is the last variety that starts with the letter “F.” Amazing to me to note, but I have written 111 of these sorts of posts through the years. Italy has such an endless number of grape varieties, there is always something new to learn.

Fumin is a variety that comes from the Valle d’Aosta. It can be made into a blend but it is also used to make mono-varietal wines and is used in the Valle d’Aosta Denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) wine. In a blend it brings both color and acidity. In fact, it is a wine that should age a bit before drinking to mellow out some of its robust and rustic aromas and flavors.

Valle d'Aosta

Every year at Vinitaly, I try to spend time at the Valle d’Aosta booth. I like the wines and the people, straight forward and frank. Some examples of great Fumin are from the top producers in the Valle d’Aosta, including Grosjean, Les Cretes, and Ottin, among others.

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