Monthly Archives: November 2009

Super Whites Tasted At Del Posto

A fabulous tasting took place a couple of weekends agp at Del Posto. Super whites or white wines from Friuli Venezia Giulia were shown and they were exquisite. I was there for Lis Neris, Alvaro Pecorari’s winery in San Lorenzo which I have mentioned many times on this blog.

Alvaro is a real cult figure in Italy, a great winemaker and a friend. I won’t go on and on about his wines because they speak for themselves but don’t miss the opportunity to try them when offered. At this tasting I found I appreciated his Jurosa, single vineyard Chardonnay more than ever before. It ferments and ages in 500 hl French oak barrels and has a wonderful bouquet. It shows nutty and yeast aromas together with more honey and buttery notes and it is elegant and not over the top.

In addition to Lis Neris, I tried some great wines from Livon, Zamo, Venica, Villa Russiz and Collavini as well as Livio Felluga. I didn’t get to try the Bastianich wines but heard they were delicious. For years, friends in Milan have been mentioning the Superwhites tasting that takes place there every March. I was very excited to have the same opportunity here in New York City.

Whites from Friuli are among the best white wines in all of Italy thanks to great acidity, purity of varietal characteristics and careful wine making and viticultural practices. The wine makers are almost universally meticulous about their grapes and hygiene in their wineries. Many use only stainless steel while others experiment with wood barrels of varying sizes and different woods.

Interestingly enough, I liked different wines from various wineries. The Pinot Grigio from Venica was delicious with some lees notes while that of Collavini was pure fruit. The Sauvignon blanc from Villa Russiz was elegant and soft while others were bigger over the top Sauvignons. The grape I had the most fun with was Friulano. Zamo made an incredible version from 50 year old vines. A gorgeous wine, it was my favorite of that grape variety. Zamo also had beautiful packaging on his brochures with earth from Friuli inside.

One of the producers said that Friulano was an austere and masculine wine and seemed surprised that I liked it so much. I thought it was pure and racy and imagined it paired with numerous delicacies from the area. I tried it with some Prosciutto from San Daniele and Montasio cheese which were offered at the tasting, both are local delicacies from Friuli.

My favorite wine of the day though was the Braide Alte from Livon. The wine was overwhelming, a blend of five grape varieties with layers of fruit, floral notes, minerality and acidity as well as a hint of sweetness from Picolit. It was truly noteworthy. They also brought a Verduzzo dessert wine which was a great way to end the tasting and paired perfectly with the best walnuts I have ever had.

The next time a Super Whites tasting comes to town, try hard not to miss it, every wine was a real gem and puts an end to the idea that Italian whites aren’t singular, important wines.

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What To Drink On Thanksgiving? Montepulciano, Barbera d’Alba or Pinot Nero from Oltrepo’ Pavese

I love Thanksgiving. It’s actually my favorite holiday of the year. Not just for the food but mostly for the chance to see relatives I rarely visit with and to see how big my extended family has become. Like everyone else who loves wine, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what I might like to bring and to drink on Thanksgiving. Traditional wisdom has it that Pinot Nero goes very well with Turkey. I tend to agree and am going to bring a bottle of Pinot Nero from the Oltrepo’ Pavese, a region on the border between Lombardy and Piedmont which has a long tradtion of growing Pinot Nero. It’s a little more earthy and rustic than Pinot Noir from Oregon and certainly from Burgundy but delicious nonetheless.

I will also bring a wine from my friend Susanna Crociani. She makes wines in Montepulciano in Tuscany. I may bring one of the wines she has dedicated to her brother Giorgio who passed away at the untimely age of 50 in 2007. The wine called Il Segreto di Giorgio is one of my favorites and will pair very nicely with Turkey. I can’t tell you what the secret is though.

I am also going to bring a Barbera d’Alba. I have been rediscovering this grape of late. When I lived in Italy, I shunned it and assiduously avoided it. Oddly enough, this past week I was in Italy and went to a Barolo/Barbera tasting with friends. Most of them avoided the Barbera. Perhaps it was something about the proximity of 25 Barolo Producers with 2-3 Barolos which you can taste for 10 euros that put everyone off, but that said, the Barbera was neglected. This time though, not by me.

I find that Barbera has both enough fruit and structure to pair well with foods. Its acidity, when it is well made, is also an excellent counterpoint to some of the richer foods that will grace our Thanksgiving table.

I’d love to know what other people are having or have had for their Thanksgiving feast. Drop me a note and let me know so I can add to my own list for next year. I’d love to have Thanksgiving once a month but I think I’d have to get a whole new wardrobe…

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Ancient Asprinio From Campania

This is the last article in my Italian indigenous grape variety series of grapes starting with the letter “A”. I can’t believe how many there were.

Asprinio Bianco is a little known indigenous Italian white grape variety that hails from the Campania region in Southern Italy. Asprinio wine has very particular viticultural and vinification traditions The grape variety is grown on local poplar trees and can rise up to 30-45 feet in the air.

Asprinio’s origins are not entirely clear and two different hypotheses have been put forth. The first places Asprinio in the pinot family of wines which includes Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco. The second sees the vine as related to the grape Greco. The latter seems to have won out in the debate but there are still some who maintain that Asprinio has something in common with pinots.

The grape is very ancient and is said to have made the transition from a wild grapevine to a domesticated one during the Etruscan period which lasted from about 800 BC to 500 BC. The Etruscans were a pre-Roman civilization that dominated central and parts of Southern Italy.

Asprinio is grown largely only in Campania, in the province of Caserta but can also grow in Apulia. Asprinio is grown around the town of Aversa, some 15 kilometers from Naples. Caserta is the most widely known city in this area. Caserta is famous for its Royal Palace or the Reggia di Caserta. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mirrored on Versailles, it was actually built in the 18th century by Luigi Vanvitelli. The building is enormous and houses more than 1200 rooms and wonderful expansive gardens.

This wine has very particular viticultural and vinification traditions The grape variety is grown on local poplar trees and can rise up to 30-45 feet in the air. The vines grow up the trees and then are bent onto wires that are strung between the poplars. This was apparently an Etruscan technique. This vine wall is quite a sight. This system is called vite maritate (married vines). In order to pick these grapes, the growers have to climb very high in the air on thin ladders called scale napoletane (Neapolitan ladders).

To read the rest of the article, please check out Alta Cucina.

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Vive La France! Bordeaux Tasting At Maslow 6 With Francois Thienpont

As a declared Italophile, I always feel somewhat guilty when I swoon for wines from a different country, even if that country is France which as readers of this blog know, was my first love.

A couple of weeks ago I had the occasion to stop in at Maslow 6, a lovely wine shop run by friends and wine colleagues Mollie Battenhouse and Keri Jackson Kunzle. I love that store, partly because I feel at home but mostly because they have great wines and great producers come to visit on a regular basis.

This recent visit brought to light wines from the right bank of Bordeaux which were being showcased by producer and negotiant Francois Thienpont and his distributor Alain Blanchon.

Alain, Keri, Francois, Mollie at Maslow 6

The wines were part of the Terre di Burdigala line and were made by Stephane Derenoncourt. They were on the whole delicious, approachable and affordable, not what usually comes to mind when one thinks of Bordeaux.

Thienpont’s family has been in the wine business for more than 150 years and they make numerous celebrated wines including Le Pin and Vieux Chateau Certan. . The family owns a number of well known chateau such as Le Pin, Vieux Chateau Certan, Chateau Pavie-Macquin, Chateau Charmes-Godard and Chateau Lauriol.

Despite this impressive pedigree, Thienpont was immensely approachable and very enthusiastic about this new line of wines which could fit every pocketbook. Terra Burdigala is the old Roman name for Bordeaux. This collection is looking to compete with less expensive wines from the Old World as well as wines from the New World. Blanchon noted that the wines are largely positioned between $12 to $25, mostly at the top end of the range.

Many of the grapes for the wines come from properties that Thienpont owns but some fruit is bought. Thienpont said the hardest thing in terms of quality control when you don’t own the vineyard is to convince the growers to wait. “We try very hard to get the growers to wait until the grapes have reached phenolic maturity and ripeness but it is an uphill struggle. Once one grower brings in his grapes, the others feel compelled to do the same,” he noted.

That evening we tried seven wines from the Terra Burdigala collection. I thought they were all impressive. For a complete list of the wines and more information, please check out Mollie’s informative post on the event.

La Violette

I was particularly taken with Chateau Manoir du Gravoux “La Violette” 2005 from the Cotes de Castillon. It was elegant and well rounded with delicious red and black fruit notes, cedar and hints of chocolate. This Chateau Peyroutes St Emilion Grand Cru 2006 was also fabulous with plummy flavors and fine tannins.

Thienpont family also makes the celebrated Vieux Chateau Certan but we didn’t try the “Grand Vin” that evening. If those were the petits vins, I can only imagine what VCC tastes like. That’s what those in the “know” call it…VCC.

We did get to try a gem called La Gravette de Certain 2005. This scrumptious wine was velvety and rich, elegant and silky with hints of oak, fruit and flowers. It was immensely well balanced and a true pleasure to drink.

La Gravette

The wine store owners, the producer and the distributor were all lovely and welcoming, a perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening. So much so, I plan on going back this Wednesday.

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Women in Wine: Celebrating New York With The Yankee Parade and Lisa Donneson’s Bouke Wines

Today was a big day in New York City as hundreds of thousands of people welcomed the Yankees in a ticker tape parade in lower Manhattan. The celebration of the 27th World Series for Gotham city couldn’t come at a better time. Fans of all ages, colors and sizes came out to celebrate and getting around the city was just crazy. Thinking about how to celebrate the Yankee win, I thought it would be appropriate to drink wines made from New York. My nephew is a huge Yankee fan and while I am actually a Mets girl…I still celebrate the victory of a New York team, especially one that makes my 7 year old nephew Lukas so happy.

Bouke is a owned by Lisa Donneson, a Long Island native and a wine expert. She has her Diploma from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and launched her line of wines a few years ago. Her fruit all comes from Long Island and she is looking to create wines with a real sense of terroir. She makes her wines together with Frenchman Gilles Martin. Martin is the consultant to a variety of wineries on Long Island.

Donneson makes four wines at the moment, all blends of grapes, largely from France. She makes a Bouke red which is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Merlot. This 2007 is elegant with intense flavors of black currant, black cherry and some herbal notes. It is quite round and velvety on the palate and has a long finish. I was truly surprised by this wine when I tasted it. It was much more integrated and balanced than many of the Long Island wines I have tried. Each of the grape varieties was made into a wine separately before blending.

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In order to bring out the fruit in the wine, it went through a five day cold soak at 50%-55%. A mix of wood was also used for aging, some French and some Hungarian as well as some stainless steel. This wine pairs well with steak or short ribs.

Donneson also has a white wine made from a blend of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. She also has made a rose of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well as a dessert wine. The dessert wine is the first in a series of wines which will have a different label: Bouquet. This vin doux naturel was made with a blend of Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. Donneson’s wines can be found throughout Long Island and the New York City including Brooklyn and Queens. She is doing a variety of promotional activities to drive interest in the product including one this weekend at the Grape Exchange.

Donneson’s passion for her wines and Long Island was evident in a phone interview we did a few months ago. I’m happy to see she’s really taking off and I look forward to trying her new wines as well.

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Wines of Lombardy Events In New Jersey This Week

Wines of Lombardy is having a series of events in New Jersey this week starting today. I plan on attending tomorrow’s session at the HILTON HOTEL (Bentley Rooms), Gateway Center 1, Newark, NJ. There will be a tasting and a mini sommelier course. Friday, the festivities continue with a gala event at the The Mall at Short Hills (Neiman Marcus’ court: park on their deck), Route 24 West & JFK Pkwy, Short Hills, N. The proceeds from the event will benefit two worthwhile causes
the Association of Volunteers in International Service and Italiano Operatic Experience.

Few people know about the wines of Lombardy and this is a great occasion to try them. Having lived in Milan for ten years, I am quite familiar with these gems and was excited to hear that they are making a push for the US market.

Lombardy has a host of different wine areas including the Valcalepio near the city of Bergamo, the Valtellina which borders on Switzerland, the Colli dei Longobardi near the city of Brescia, Franciacorta which is also near Brescia and is famous for its sparkling and still wines, wine from around Lake Garda which is close to both Brescia and Verona, wines from Mantova, from Cremona, San Colombano near Lodi and the Oltrepo’ Pavese.

Each one of these areas is a long post in and of itself. These summer I spent some time in Bergamo and had the opportunity to try a number of delicious wines from the Valcalepio. They are experimenting with both international and indigenous varieties that work well with their food.

Bergamo is a stunning city that should absolutely be visited when you are in Milan. Only an hour away on the train, it has a completely different ethos. It also has great food and nice shopping as well as a contemporary art museum and stunning landscapes and vistas.

Brescia is another treat with its 99 churches and Roman ruins. The city is near two fabulous wine regions, Franciacorta which makes wonderful sparkling wines in the traditional method and Garda, where some lighter wines such as Bardolino can be tasted.

I could go on and on but I think I am going to go to the event first and see what is available in the US market and then write about the wine. It will be nice to have a slice of Milan nearby.

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Vinitaly US Tour – Market Continues To Expand

I heard the news today oh boy…about a lucky wine that made the grade…or better that Italian Spumante and Prosecco imports had risen 9% while French Champagne fell by 27% in terms of imports into the United States. The news came from ANSA, the Italian news wire. The data is from a report by the Italian Wine & food Institute (IWFI) and reflects the market during the first eight months of this year.

“A total of 11.5 million bottles of Italian spumante and prosecco were exported to the American market in the first eight months of the year, compared to 8.9 million bottles of champagne,” the report said. “In 2008, for the first time ever, Italy exported more spumante and prosecco than it consumed.”

I love Spumante as many people who read this blog know and am thrilled that the trend is catching on. I am shocked truly shocked to find lots of drinking going on…

In other news, I wrote this article about Vinitaly for I-Italy.org, a website I often contribute to where I have another blog as well called Italica. I write about events related to Italy, politics, culture and anything under the sun that is related to Italy and my former life there.

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