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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What To Drink While Watching the Oscars?

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Despite the tundra where we now live, it will be warm inside and tonight’s a big night for those who follow the movies as well as for all Downton Abbey (DA) fans. I count myself in both camps and I’ll be hard pressed to decided which to watch. I know I will have a glass of something while I flipping between them. When watching DA, I always think I should have a claret (Bordeaux) but while watching the Oscars, a wine from California. I can split the difference and have a Bordeaux style wine made in California most certainly. What might that be? Perhaps a blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other grapes or a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend? So many different styles of wine to choose from.

There is a whole association dedicated to this pursuit in fact. Meritage is the term for wines made from these blends in the United States. I rarely used to drink these wines but as I am now enrolled in the mighty Master of Wine program, I am tasting everything I can and thinking about wine styles in a new way.

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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: Rolland &Galarreta Rioja D.O.Ca.

R & G Event

This week’s wine of the week is from Rolland & Galarreta, a joint project between Michel Rolland and Javier Galarreta. The pair teamed up to make wines in Rioja, Ribera and Rueda. The Rioja was from Alavesa from 25-40 year old vines. It was made from 100% Tempranillo and was lush ruby red in color with an elegant bouquet of floral and fruit notes as well as American oak undertones. On the palate, the wine was elegant and voluptous with a long finish.

Rolland & Galarreta

This new project which they announced in October at an event at the Tribeca Grill hosted by the Connected Table produces 500,000 bottles from 500 hectares of vineyards throughout the regions. They make approximately 150,000 of each one of the wines. The Rioja spent 10 months in American oak and is made to drink now rather than age, according to Rolland. He is interested in the more modern versions of Rioja he noted. The pair are able to pool considerable resources and to use such modern techniques as optical sorting. The wine retails for $23.

Wine Lineup

Charlie Arturaola was also part of the event, presenting a trailer of his movie The Duel of Wine. Charlie is a friend and I’m a big fan of his so whenever he is part of something I know it is something to consider.

Charlie Arturaola

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Italian Wine Week in NYC

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Two big events in Italian life this week, a new President, Sergio Mattarella and Italian wine week in New York City with both Vino and I Tre Bicchieri slated for this week. I know they are not of the same order but both matter to the health of Italy – politically the former and economically the latter. Additionally rather than joining with Vinitaly this year, Slow Wine is part of Vino.

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I’ll be at both shows this week working in one of the seminars at Vino and for a Sardinian producer at Tre Bicchieri. Come say hello. I’ve barely recovered from my introduction to the world of Masters of Wine during the intense residential seminar in Napa this past January. Looking to taste with renewed focus, I’m excited about the opportunities available in NYC despite the weather. Vino’s focus this year is on Southern Italian regions including Puglia, Campania, Calabria and Sicilia.I look forward to seeing old friends and maybe making some new ones in the trade.

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Italian Regions: Lombardy – Thinking About Milano Before the Expo

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As I read all the articles about the big push to visit Milan for the Expo, I am reflecting on all the years I spent there and how often people overlooked not just Lombardy (Milan is the capital) but the wines from the region, the food and well, almost everything.

I had the pleasure of living in Lombardy, in Milan, for 10 years from 1995 to 2005. It was a fabulously interesting place to live and I still feel that it is my third home. My first being New York and my second, Florence where I spent the first years of my Italian life and left a little piece behind. Milan though is where I lived 2/3 of my 15 years in Italy.

Milano

I have a number of clients in Milan, colleagues, and many friends there and go very frequently. This has allowed me to keep an eye on the evolution of the city, the region and all things related to Milan. When living there, I almost never drank or even saw any wines from Lombardy, except those from Franciacorta and Valtellina.

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I have had the pleasure of discovering just how wrong I was in thinking that the selection was limited. Lombardy has great wines produced from some local and more international varieties.

Mountains in Milan

Pinot Noir from the Oltrepo’ region is always a favorite of mine for example. I especially like the wines made by the Conte Vistarino family which apparently introduced the grape to the region in the 1800s.

Oltrepo’ is just one of the many areas in Lombardy though where wines are made. Another wine region that I like is Bergamo. I did a really interesting project years ago for the Cantina Bergamasca and discovered the pleasure of Pinot Bianco made in this region. I’ve always loved the city of Bergamo so I felt doubly blessed.

Bergamo

I also have tried wines from Mantova when visiting the Lombardy pavilion at Vinitaly.

Every year I start my day at Vinitaly in the Lombardy pavilion. It’s a great way to taste different wines and to get time in the press room during the same interval of time, something that always seems limited at Vinitaly. The wine that stuck in my mind was their version of Lambrusco, typically a grape that brings one to think of Emilia Romagna not Mantova.

Lambrusco Mantovano has been a DOC since 1987. There is also another area called the Colli Mantovani which is actually on the border between the Veneto and Lombardy that also makes DOC wines. These wines are made from a blend of indigenous and international varieties.

Lake Garda

Another area that straddles the Veneto and Lombardy is the Lake Garda region, another one of my favorites and the only one I will swim in. Garda is beautiful as everyone who has ever visited knows. The wines I prefer from this area are those made from Turbiana that make Lugana, a fresh and lively white wine that is minerally and a perfect wine for an aperitivo or with light fare. I spent a long time trying these wines two years ago and have had the pleasure of meeting many producers as I went on a press trip last year.

No discussion of wines from Lombardy could be complete without mentioning the two most famous regions, Franciacorta and Valtellina. I feel that they merit their own commentary. I adore the wines of Franciacorta and have always believed that they are not appreciated enough in the United States.

The Valtellina is another area of Lombardy that captured my heart years ago. I will write about those amazing wines made from Nebbiolo and locally called Chiavennasca in another post.

There are a few more areas that deserve a mention but the last one that I need to note is San Colombano. I feel that Milan’s only wine region always needs a little push. 10 years and many friends creates considerable loyalty and I am more than affectionate towards my adopted city and its’ local wine.

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