Monthly Archives: February 2009

Sangiovese or bust? Maybe not…

At the Italian Wine and Food Institute tasting last week, few journalists asked questions of note except for our beloved Ed McCarthy. Ed was quite insistent that “super-tuscans” are yesterday’s news. Super-tuscans are generally a blend of Sangiovese and either Merlot or Cabernet or both.

sangiovese

The winemakers listened to Ed’s comments and their reactions were interesting. Most said that there is no risk of losing Sangiovese as a grape because it will be and has always been the premier grape in Central Italy. Others added that while respecting tradition, they too wanted to be able to experiment and have a little fun doing something slightly different. Still another fellow, I believe Adolfo Folonari from Ruffino noted that Sangiovese was a hard grape to grow and that it did not grow that well in all areas. He added that this is the reason Chianti Classico has always been a blend. I found this back and forth quite interesting. Bolgheri, for example, and other parts of Maremma have soils similar to Bordeaux and thus are perfectly suited to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I have always thought about the Super-Tuscan issue as being one related to price – they can be more expensive – and appealing to the American palate – which likes Cabernet and Merlot. I have never really looked at it from the point of view of a producer who wants to be creative in the vineyard. Short-sighted on my part obviously.

In other news, I have been searching the web for Italian news for my new blog, unosguardo, about Italian and US business, and came upon a new website of interest Modern Italian Network.

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Chile Day 3: My First Glacier, A Memorable Event

glacial-ice

I often say to people who have never been to Italy that I envy them. The glory of seeing Florence for the first time while standing on a bridge overlooking the Arno, or that first climb to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo. Or the when you first walk the streets of Rome or see Venice from a Vaporetto, or Capri from a boat, or Sicily from a ferry or Sardinia through an airplane window. How exhilarating that feeling is or at least it was to me. It has always given me the same feeling as when you fall in love. Seeing a piece of a glacier in the water in Patagonia gave me a similar thrill. Your breath catches and then slows down and you let out that long exhale and break into a smile. Who knew glaciers were blue and that they would be so moving? I didn’t. Not just sort of blue but a deep blue.

glacier

We had a lecture on the boat about why some glaciers are blue and some are not. It seems that glacial ice can be a deep blue color because of the various mutations of sunlight as it penetrates the ice. As we know, white light is really a rainbow of colors with different amounts of energy. Blue has more energy than the other colors of the rainbow and thus can penetrate the thick ice while some of the other colors cannot. Other glaciers are dirty looking because solid materials and rocks get trapped in the layers of ice.

gkacier-patagonia

I hope you can see the different variations of the color of the water. The water closer to the glacier is a very pale gray while the rest of the water is a lighter shade of blue-green. The glacier in the photo is called the Amalia glacier and is located in the southern ice fields in Patagonia. It is approximately one kilometer wide and 40 meters high. There are 48 glaciers in this area which is also the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world. For more information on the ice field, check out the Navimag website.

rainbow

This complete rainbow appeared as I drank my first Carmenere of the trip, Chile’s signature grape variety, and toasted the glacier with friends. The wine was nothing to write home about but the glacier certainly was unforgettable.

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A Brief Chat With Zonin’s Franco Giacosa

home_vigneto

I was lucky enough to have the occasion to chat with Zonin’s chief enologist Franco Giacosa during the Gala Italia event last week held by the Italian Food and Wine Institute. Giacosa has been with Zonin for 11 years. Prior to that time, he was in Sicily with Duca di Salaparuta for 23 years. He is one of the people credited with reviving the Nero D’Avola grape and one of the world’s experts in terms of its cultivation. Franco Giacosa was at the event to present two different wines: one called Deliella Nero D’Avola IGT 2005 from Feudo Principi di Butera and a Chianti Classico DOCG 2006 from Castello d’Albola.

feudo-principi-di-butera

Both wines were a true joy to taste and I always get excited when I speak with an enologist. Giacosa manages 32 enologists on staff who look after Zonin’s 11 wineries and properties. Giacosa and I spoke mainly about the need for wine makers to stay in the same property or near the vineyards.

I spoke with Giacosa about his view of the role of the enologist.

“Most of the corrections to be done in the winery are small ones. Being far away for long periods of time makes these types of small adjustments impossible. You have to be near the wines on a constant basis to make sure everything is going according to schedule and if something is out of line, you need to be able to adjust it in as brief a time as possible,” Giacosa said.

I then asked what he thought about the concept of flying winemakers as a philosophy. “Traveling to different areas is very important in order to get new ideas but to be a talented enologist, you really have to be at the winery or close by,” said. “Quality wines require a lot of attention, short cuts are impossible and always fail.”

franco-giacosa

Many people debate the issue of flying winemakers and wine consultants who handle multiple properties. I have heard both sides of the argument. “One transfer of wine that was mishandled can ruin the vintage if you are not careful or distracted,” Giacosa added.

I don’t feel qualified to put in my two cents with my two home made vintages of bad wine. I do know though that even on my humble level, distractions can be costly. Franco Giacosa’s ideas made a lot of sense to me. I imagine that the same is even more true in terms of being an agronomist in the vineyard.

I also asked Giacosa what he thought the upcoming trends are in the wine world.

“There had been a trend towards making excessively alcoholic wines in the last 15 years thanks to lower yields which produced concentrated sugars in our very ripe grapes. These inky colored wines were lovely but are not easy to drink. What we need to do is to lower alcohol levels in the wines in order to make them more enjoyable and easier to drink.”

The Zonin family has been active in Italy since the 1800s and has been in the United States for many decades. The family has had a winery in Virginia since 1976. Zonin’s wines from the estate in Virginia, Barboursville Vineyards, were served at the inauguration of the President Barack Obame of the United States.

obama_octagon

The wines served were a Cabernet Franc 2006 and Octagon 8th edition 2005. The Cabernet Franc was served at a reception which preceded the formal dinner. The Octagon was served at the formal dinner.

Giacosa suggested that I try the Nebbiolo made in Virginia. I guess it’s time to visit Thomas Jefferson country.

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Sicily’s Nero D’Avola Shows Its Different Faces

italy-seminar

Lucio Caputo of the Italian Wine and Food Institute held the 24th annual edition of Gala Italia last week. The morning seminar showcased 26 producers. The tasting was divided into three sections, From Sicily With Love: Nero D’Avola, Chianti, SuperTuscan or Brunello, and My Best Wine From 2000 to Today. With so many wines to try even before getting to the grand tasting with over 60 producers, I tried to focus mainly on the different expressions of Nero D’Avola, a Sicilian grape that I have been fond of for a long time. Some were made in a more modern style such as that from Cantina Viticultori Associati from Canicatti,the Aynat Nero D’Avola IGT Sicilia 2006. This deep, ruby colored wine was intense and persistent with a cherry, pepper and spice bouquet. It was full bodied with fine tanins and notes of tobacco, spice, and black fruit on the palate. It had a long and elegant finish. The wine was aged in small new oak barriques. We also had a Nero D’Avola IGT from Cantina Corbera called Nero D’Avola IGT Sicilia Le Contrade 2006 from the Contessa Entellina area. This wine was a deep, ruby red in color with an intense and persistent nose of pepper, geranium and black fruit. It was full bodied with black fruit notes and lovely tertiary aromas of tobacco, chocolate, and leather. The tannins were particularly ripe and pronounced. The two styles were very different but both interesting expressions of Nero D’Avola from two Cantine Sociali or cooperatives. As each speaker suggested, Nero D’Avola has many clones and grows differently in each region of Sicily.

sicily-glasses

Unfortunately, not all of the wines were in top shape when they reached my glass. A few of the bottles were corked and not checked by the wait staff. With 26 wines for 110 settings I can see how something might have slipped but I was sorry to not be able to taste all of the wines.

I also truly enjoyed the wine by Feudo Principi di Butera. The Deliella Nero D’Avola IGT Sicilia 2005 was exquisite. Its opaque, ruby color and racy bouquet was followed by well balanced floral notes, black and red fruit, pepper, liquorice, tobacco and animal skin on the palate. The wine was aged partly in barriques and partly in larger barrels. It’s been many years since I tried this wine and I found it very well integrated and pretty.

A further Nero D’Avola that I thoroughly enjoyed was made by Tasca D’Almerita, again, a producer whose wines I haven’t tried in many moons. The Rosso del Conte Nero D’Avola Conte di Sclafani DOC 2004 was just divine. Deep, ruby red with intense and persistent red and black fruit, oak, spice, sage and pepper on the nose. It was velvety and full bodied on the palate with the same aromas and flavors that showed on the nose. This wine was simply exquisite. Originally created in the 1960s by Count Giuseppe Tasca, it come from 40 year old vines. Tasca D’Almerita has been making wine since the 1830s.

The current head of the winery, Count Lucio Tasca, didn’t even speak about his wine but let it speak for itself. Instead he pointed out that Sicily has 96% of the world’s soils and therefore Nero D’Avola grown in one area will be totally different than that grown even 20 centimeters away or the span of a human hand.

A trip to Sicily to try these wines and other gems seems in the cards.

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Italian Wine Seminar, Frick Gallery and Lorenzo in New York

Yesterday was one of those magical days when the stars are aligned and everything seems just right in the world. The morning was taken up with the very lovely tasting seminar run by Lucio Caputo of the Italian Institute of Food and Wine which was focused on Sicilian and Tuscan Wines with a delicious Amarone to finish. I will write about the tasting and my talk with Franco Giacosa, head enologist at Zonin on Sunday. I moved on to see a show at my favorite museum, the Frick of paintings on loan from the Norton Simon Museum which included beautiful paintings by Murillo and Zurbaran. I love Spanish still life paintings. The crowning joy of my day though was a concert by Jovanotti. Lorenzo as he is now known, was a hero of mine all the years I lived in Italy. His music is very upbeat and reminds me of many lovely moments. Last night he played to a packed house in the Village. He treated the audience to a fabulous show, singing many of his older songs although his lastest album, Fango, is also great.

lorenzo

After a rousing concert with Lorenzo sporting a variety of outfits including a Knicks jersey from Danilo Gallinari, the evening ended with a blessing by the father of a Bronx born member of the band. A truly memorable event.

This song always was a favorite.

Mi Fido di Te

Case di pane, riunioni di rane
vecchie che ballano nelle cadillac
muscoli d’oro, corone d’alloro
canzoni d’amore per bimbi col frack
musica seria, luce che varia
pioggia che cade, vita che scorre
cani randagi, cammelli e re magi

RIT:
forse fa male eppure mi va
di stare collegato
di vivere di un fiato
di stendermi sopra al burrone
di guardare giu
la vertigine non e
paura di cadere
ma voglia di volare

mi fido di te {x4}
io mi fido di te
ehi mi fido di te
cosa sei disposto a perdere

Lampi di luce, al collo una croce
la dea dell’amore si muove nei jeans
culi e catene, assassini per bene
la radio si accende su un pezzo funky
teste fasciate, ferite curate
l’affitto del sole si paga in anticipo prego
arcobaleno, piu per meno meno

RIT

mi fido di te {x3}
cosa sei disposto a perdere
mi fido di te {x2}
io mi fido di te
cosa sei disposto a perdere

rabbia stupore la parte l’attore
dottore che sintomi ha la felicita
evoluzione il cielo in prigione
questa non e un’esercitazione
forza e coraggio
la sete il miraggio
la luna nell’altra meta
lupi in agguato il peggio e passato

RIT

mi fido di te {x3}
cosa sei disposto a perdere
eh mi fido di te
mi fido di te {x3}
cosa sei disposto a perdere

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Women in Wine: Satsko’s Sake Bar On Eldridge Street: Small Gem on Lower East Side

I am writing a piece on Sake Bars in Manhattan for a magazine I work with and have been finding them hidden away in the most diverse neighborhoods.

satsko-21

Yesterday and the day before truth to tell, I wandered into Satsko. It has two locations, one on East 7th Street and a second, slightly larger version on Eldridge. Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Satsko Watanabe and sipping Sake while she told me her tale. Satsko used to be in another business but had always dreamed of owning a restaurant/bar. She told me that she had been very fearful of opening a place and that people constantly told her not to do it. Five years ago she conquered her fears and decided that she was no longer scared. “Everything was just aligned,” Satsko noted. The first bar on East 7th street was a huge success and led her to open a second one on Eldridge.

satsko-eldridge-3

Satsko introduced me to two wines which I really enjoyed. The first was called Ichinokura Taru Miyagi. It was divine with a very earthy taste on the palate and a dry finish. I had a small sampler of three kinds of Sake. While many are partial to Nigori (unfiltered) Sake, I was not. Instead I also very much enjoyed Wakatake Onigoroshi or Demon Slayer, which was smoother and a bit more elegant than the Taru. Satsko suggested pairing this last with Sashimi which wouldn’t overwhelm the delicate flavors of the Sake. The Taru could pair with something more robust but she said she likes to sip it on its own. Both wines are available by the glass and by the carafe. Satsko on Eldridge hosts Wednesday evening Sake Tastings where you can try six Sake and three appetizers. I will definitely go back for further “research.”

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New York Stores Post Concern For Dec 16 Paterson Proposal

As most of us know, wine stores and wholesalers have joined together to protest Governor Paterson’s proposal, first outlined on December 16, to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores throughout New York State. Dr.Vino wrote a long post about this n December and many local publications have been following the story. I was struck yesterday by a large poster I saw in the window of In Vino Veritas on First Avenue and 73rd Street, a wine store that I like run by two helpful and knowledgeable brothers.

protest

While we (consumers) may save money, I for one would regret the closing of many wine shops and small importers who won’t be able to compete against the larger chains. Wine will certainly be sold at a more affordable price but I love the experience of discovering a new small wine shop and speaking with the owner. Terry Hughes of Mondosapore and Domenico Selections rightly noted that the wines sold in grocery stores may not be of the same quality and thus he wasn’t up in arms about the proposal.

The poster outlines two arguments against the proposal: jobs will be lost in New York State and underage drinking will increase because controls will be less severe in large supermarket chains. A website has been created outlining the views of those who are against the proposal. It’s called Last Main Street Store and clearly lays out the argument against the proposal. I wonder if the new monies from Obama’s Stimulus package will offset this proposal. April 2009 is the cutoff date. Protests are sure to mount. I am sure we will begin to see posters all over town but this was the first one that I have seen.

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