Today is Ferragosto or the holiday that celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. That said, mostly it’s a day when every Italian save the very unlucky few, is on holiday. The entire country is basically away this week and I for one applaud such dedication to relaxation for the mind, food & wine for the spirit and the beach to enjoy all of the above. I have spent many a Ferragosto on holiday in Italy or in other lands with Italian friends. It never feels right to me to work on this day but we do what we have to in order to get things done and I can’t complain having spent the better part of last week at the sea sailing or at the beach with a friend. On Saturday evening I even saw some of those amazing shooting stars I mentioned in my last post.
What do people drink on Ferragosto you might wonder? In my experience a bit of everything but it is slightly more celebratory than your average holiday so some sparkling wine might be involved or a good mixed drink like a Negroni Sbagliato. I can’t drink Gin it makes me mean like an angry cat so an ex-boyfriend introduced me to a Negroni Sbagliato years ago in Milan and I was hooked. I see I am not alone and that it has definitely made its’ way in the United States judging from this blog post at LA Cocktails.
Today we are also celebrating another holiday, Julia Child’s 100th birthday. I loved this piece in the New York Times by Jacques Pepin. She is and was such a part of our lives. Her cookbook stares out at me from my shelf everyday calling out for love as I slink past it to make simple fare. Sometimes though, I read it and imagine making what she would be making on any given night. As all readers of my blog know, like Julia, I was and remain a devoted francophile.
Filed under events, France
Tonight I’m celebrating the new year with my family. I’ll be having the usual fare but at least this year I will be drinking something I like, Chianti from Terra di Seta, the only all kosher winery in Italy.
I wrote a long post about the winery earlier this year which you can read here.
I’m looking forward to seeing how their wines have evolved since I last tasted them at Vinitaly in April.
I wish everyone a sweet and happy New Year.
Friday’s on this blog are supposed to be dedicated to Italian women in wine but today I am so disturbed by the latest economic news from that country that I feel it should be mentioned.
As I read with dismay the news about Italy’s rising borrowing costs, worsening debt to GDP ratio and increased bond spreads, I remember this same situation from 10 years ago when I was a financial reporter in Milan. It is just awful to see how little progress has been made in their labor markets, growth strategies and government rules. Prime Minister Berlusconi has been a disaster on this front in my opinion but even from those who do support him, they think he is at least ineffectual.
While most of Italy has gone away for the month of August, especially these two central weeks around the ferragosto holiday, no one is immune to the woes of this latest turn of events which are threatening the Euro and the European Union’s financial stability.
I have no immediate solution to this problem and will be glued to the papers, the internet and the TV to understand what the ramifications of all of this are but one small thing we can do to help is buy and drink more Italian wine. I don’t mean to sound flippant. The food and wine industry is an important part of Italy’s GDP. Exports are basically saving the wine industry as Italians diminish their per capita intake. Let’s all do our part to help “il Bel Paese.”
Italy, as we all know, has more indigenous varieties than almost any other nation. This is true throughout that beautiful country from North to South. This week’s indigenous variety is one called Bonda. It sort of sounds like an attractive and sexy brunette but is instead a grape that grows in the Valle d’Aosta. This red grape variety produces medium body wine and brings color to the blends it is added to. It is not used as a mono-varietal. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find any information about this grape variety.
Sometimes it is erroneously called Prie’ Rouge, another grape variety which grows in this smallest of Italian regions. I spent a long time trying wines from the Valle d’Aosta on the last day of Vinitaly with this incredibly well-prepared sommelier from the region.
What I love about people from that area is that they are very understated, a quality I like and that is very hard to find. The same is true about their wines. Not a lot of song and dance but a lot of quality behind their wine making.
I found two sites, new to me, that are really great sources for Italian wine lovers, wine90 and Tar and Roses.
I’ve been semi-absent from my blog this month. I’m basically home and astemia all month from the pain killers. I’ll be traveling back in time through my notes, wines and experiences. I’m glad to be back on track with my indigenous grape project. It’s taking a long time to get out of the “b” grapes but I am almost there.
Thanks for reading.
I’ve just been in the mood for Tuscany lately, what can I say. I was there just two short weeks ago having dinner with friends I have known for 20 years. I miss those carefree Tuscan days and my friends but lucky I can get good Tuscan fair right here in New York thanks to Iacopo Falai who made his name as a pasty chef in New York and is certainly remaking himself into a serial entrepreneur in the food industry. His latest venture, Bottega Falai, is doing just as well as all of his other locations.
The Bottega operates from 7 A.M. – 10 P.M. and sells a number of items to take out. There are a few tables to sit and have a coffee and a pastry but the main thrust of the place is that of a caffe. In the Bottega, one can buy all the fresh ingredients used to make delicious dinners at the restaurant next-door, Caffe Falai. The location on Lafayette was just recently expanded. Of course, using the same ingredients doesn’t guarantee that you food will be as good as Falai’s but one can always hope.
One can find prestigious Italian olive oils, teas, pastas, mineral waters, seasoning, and some prepared foods as well as a host of breads and pastry made daily.
To read more about the bottega, check out my article on Alta Cucina Society’s website.
I’m on the road again, having left my Milan friends, clients and engagements. I’m now in the Veneto on my way to meet a producer and I attended the third edition of Vulcania Soave. The event lasts for two days with discussions about the impact that volcanic soil has on the grapes that grow in it and the wines that are produced. The day also will have a tour of the hills around Soave and discussions about the volcanic grape producing areas in Italy: Etna, Monti Lessini, Vesuvio and them moving on to other volcanic areas in the world: Israel (Golan Heights), Galizia (Rias Baixas), California (Napa), and Capoverde (Fogo).
I’ve wanted to attend this event since I first heard about it one year ago. Good things do come to those that wait it appears .
In the meantime, while in the Veneto I have been availing myself of lovely opportunities such as sitting in Piazza delle Erbe drinking uno “Spritz”.
I had my first Spritz this trip at my favorite bar in Milan, Luca & Andrea, and I must say I do see why so many people drink this lovely cocktail. Ha il suo perche’….
Three year’s ago at Vinitaly, I had dinner in an amazing historic restaurant in this building called Ristorante Mazzei.
It was one of those meals I will never forget both for the food and the company. Verona has always been a city that I love. I’ve seen a few operas in the Arena – Aida, Carmen and Rigoletto as well as a great concert by Sting years ago. This past year I have spent more time in Verona thanks to work I do for Vinitaly.
I have come to appreciate the city and its people more and more on every trip. My heart soars every time I cross the Adige river and see these views. I’m sure you can understand why.
My wine of the week is
Villa Bucci’s Rosso Piceno.
The wine is made from a blend of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Sangiovese. It spends a year in oak and six months after that in the bottle before being released into the market. I found it on wine-searcher for between $17 – $25 depending on the store.
I thought it was a perfect wine for a meat based meal. I had it on Passover with Brisket which was divine but I can also see it with lighter meats or a pasta made with a heavy sauce.
I’m very partial to Sangiovese as a grape, less so to Montepulciano but I did like the blend coming from this historic winery in Le Marche, a region I love.
Villa Bucci is one of the more well-known wineries in Le Marche. It was started in the 1700s and the family has a very large agricultural farm that grows wheat and other products in addition to wine. They are most well-known for their Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. They also make around 12,000- 15,000 bottles of red wine.
For more information on wines from Villa Bucci, check out their website: http://www.villabucci.com.
There is no stopping the Italians these days in terms of the numbers of wines being recognized with a DOCG and DOC designation.
On April 21, just in time for the Easter holiday, three new DOCG and DOC wines were confirmed.
They are ‘Frascati Superiore’ , ‘Cannellino di Frascati’ and Montecucco Sangiovese for the DOCG or Denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita.
As well as ‘Roma’, ‘Maremma Toscana’, and ‘Falanghina del Sannio’ for the Denominazione d’Origine Controllata or DOC designation.
I for one am very happy. Frascati and especially Cannellino are very close to my heart as my dear friend Teresa lives in that area of Lazio and I have many fond memories of eating ciambelle (donuts) with Cannellino. Montecuoco, and Maremma Toscana are of course also close to me in that my first and third Italian lives are Tuscan to the core and the Falanghina del Sannio is something that I have been learning about in recent years at Vinitaly.
For a complete list of the DOCG’s, check out an entry On the Wine Trail in Italy. No one writes wine posts like Alfonso, the IWG.
Today is a holiday in Italy, Pasquetta. Everyone is generally having a big lunch somewhere “fuori porta” or out of town. I have many fond memories of Easter in Italy and Pasquetta.
One of the most interesting things I noticed during this visit to Italy was the plethora of Italian flags hanging on people’s balconies. Generally speaking, in my experience, Italians are not the most nationalistic of people, except when it comes to the Azzurri – the national soccer team.
That being said, this time was different. On two occasions, I was awakened by people singing the national anthem with their children, in two distinct parts of the country. My friend Stefano and his 2 1/2 year old daughter were doing a rousing version in Stefano and Anne Caterine’s home outside of Monza in a place called Vedano al Lambro. Stefano sings in a choir but in all the years I have known him, I have never heard him sing the National Anthem.
On another day, later in my visit when I was at Susanna Crociani’s agriturismo Cantastorie with friends, my dear friend Teresa’s 6 year old son Gabriele broke out into song and guess what it was? L’Inno di Mameli, of course.
Goffredo Mameli wrote the anthem in 1847 and the music was composed by Michele Novaro. This was at the beginning of the Risorgimento wars and immediately became a very popular revolutionary song.
In all the years I lived in Italy and all the years I have been a frequent visitor, more than 20 years, I have never had anyone sing the anthem to me. I found it quite touching. Susanna said that she thought Roberto Benigni’s performance at the San Remo Festival had something to do with it. It is quite fitting in this 150th year of Italian Unification. Even for those who don’t understand Italian, I think this is moving because you can catch Benigni’s enthusiasm.
This morning by chance I picked up a copy of the Canti, a newly translated collection of poems by Giacomo Leopardi, one of Italy’s greatest poets from Recanati in Le Marche.
I read the first canto entitled All’Italia . A beautiful poem and a fabulous translation. Leopardi died in 1837 before the Risorgimento and Italian unification. His desire to see Italy’s greatness is displayed in this gorgeous poem. I wonder what he would think on this anniversary.
Although today is Thursday and I promised I would write about Italian indigenous varietals, I want to write about a subject that kept coming up throughout my Italian trip – biodiversity.
If in the meantime, before my next indigenous variety post, you want to learn of a new grape variety, check out Dobianchi’s post on a new project in Venice by the Bisol family. Fascinating stuff.
Back to biodiversity in Italy. Italy is among the most cultivated of European countries with over 200+ products that have the protected designation of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI) status. There are over 500+ wines that have the DOCG, DOC or IGT designations as well.
Italy also has the highest number of unique flora and fauna in Europe. No mean feat. What does all of this mean? It means that attending to the health and biodiversity of these products is important for the Italian economy and Italy’s international reputation. It seemed to me that this year more than in the past, this was considered a strong point by the authorities, the agricultural ministry and producers. I am quite pleased at this renewed attitude.
More than ever they seemed to be seeking organic certifications. In the past, I have found that the Italian producers as opposed to the French were somewhat loathe to get the certification. Sometimes it was for the bureaucracy that it entailed and sometimes because of the stigma attached. I think that is no longer the case.
I also discovered that a number of food products in the Agrifood pavilion held the symbol Biodiversity Friend from the World Biodiversity Association. The organization, located in Verona, is attempting to make it’s voice heard and looking at the fair, it seemed to be making a difference. We shall see but everyone seems quite concerned about protecting their products. It seemed fitting to write about this right before Earth Day 2011.