Monthly Archives: May 2010

Wine of the Week: Crociani’s Il Segreto di Giorgio

I’ve decided to start a new column on this blog called Wine of the Week. This week my favorite wine is Susanna Crociani’s Il Segreto di Giorgio 2007. I was supposed to be in Tuscany visiting Susanna this weekend but for a variety of reasons, things didn’t work out as I had planned. Saddened by that and other news, I reached for my first glass of wine in two weeks. This wine seemed appropriate both because Susanna, a dear friend, made it and because it is dedicated to her brother Giorgio who left this world too early in 2007 but whose life was marked by a gentle twinkle and fabulous sense of humor and proportion, both of which at times I confess, I lack. I’m turning over a new leaf as we move into the summer season and this wine seemed like a great way to start out.

The wine itself, made from a variety of grapes which Susanna refuses to divulge, was delicious with red fruit aromas and flavors and soft sweet spice notes. The tannins were ripe and juicy. It went very well with the pork chop I made with tomato sauce, a Martha Gold staple growing up.

So here’s to Giorgio and to the summer being everything we all want it to be. Auguri a te Susanna e a presto cara.

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Marchesi Ginori Lisci Focuses On Energy Conservation While Making Wines

The Marchesi Ginori Lisci family was first introduced to me in 2007 by Eric Munson, their New York importer from Dancing Bear Cellars.. I wrote a long post about the family on Avvinare in 2008.

Through an odd series of Florence related coincidences, the family is never very far from my thoughts. A dear old friend from Florence rents a home in their lovely borgo called Querceto and on a recent night in Florence, another person I know brought me a bottle of wine that they said I had to try. It was the Campo Ordigno from the Ginori Lisci family.

What I didn’t know, until I discovered it by chance at Vinitaly was that the family is now producing energy while making wine. As we all look at the disaster that is happening in the Gulf right now with the oil spill, my thoughts turn to people who are trying to protect our environment.

I was pleased to discover that the Ginori Lisci family is so attentive to their environs. Together with Biogas, the family has started a project that will produce enough energy for 1200 families and for their 2000 hectare agricultural farm, no mean feat, without producing an extra gram of Co2. The new project will produce 5.6 kW a year. The project is in the Val di Cecina in Tuscany. The raw material to produce this energy comes from 280 hectares of corn and other crops as well as the remains from their winemaking activities.

The project cost 3 million euro and should be amortized within five years. Some 49% of the energy produced will be sold back to the national energy grid.

I found this news fascinating. A number of wineries at Vinitaly were talking about this issue and an entire book on the use of agricultural land to create a new economy was discussed at a press conference I went to at the fair. I look forward to more news of success for the Ginori Lisci family and for others that have the opportunity and the means to follow suit.


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Italian Organic Wines Are Becoming More Popular

The myth is that organic wines aren’t that tasty. Certainly this is what many of my Italian friends ask me. I laugh and think how different it would be if we were talking about food. I can’t imagine that any of them would say something similar about an organically grown tomato.

Why should this be the case one asks? I think it’s because in the past, many Italian organically made wines were not particularly good or better some of them had aromas and flavors that were not pleasing to the average palate. Certainly they were different from what people usually drink. All of that is changing and organic wines are becoming an ever more important part of the Italian wine landscape.

I see this at trade fairs such as Vinitaly and at local tastings such as one held at Alta Cucina on Monday and a tasting that I went to with other bloggers on Soave wines. Many of the Soaves that we tasted and that I wrote about yesterday were made using sustainable farming practices and some were made following biodynamic principles.

This increased attention towards organic wines in Italy is not quite at the same level as it is in France but I imagine that will only be a matter of time. Without a doubt organic farming of agricultural products will be the driving force beyond a similar move in the wine industry, at least in Italy, home of the Slow Food movement.

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Is Soave Back In Style?

I was invited to a tasting of Soave the other day by Colangelo PR. Wearing my wine journalist and blogger hat, I sat down with some friendly faces and tried a variety of different expressions of the Garganega grape.

The Soave region, located in the Veneto is one of 20 DOCs. There are three different classifications for Soave:

• Soave DOC, includes the sub-zones of Soave Classico and Soave Colli Scaligeri
• Soave Superiore DOCG (2001) includes wines with the “Riserva” designation
• Recioto di Soave DOCG (1998), a dessert wine

On the whole, the large area which can use the Soave appellation has a Mediterranean climate and a blend of volcanic, calcareous and alluvial soils. These produce wines with highly aromatic and floral notes. Most of the wines are fresh and bright and are made in stainless steel. I got some yeast and toasty notes on some of the wines but that is due to lees aging/stirring and not wood. If wood is used in Soave, it tends to be older oak which is neutral.

On the whole I liked the wines and can definitely see the pitch that Soave can replace Pinot Grigio as everyone’s favorite Italian white grape. I like the bitter almond note I get on the finish of all of the Soaves, much more than the one I perceive on the finish of Vernaccia di San Gimingnano. I think it’s the inherent minerality in the Garganega grape that I prefer.

Light and easy, this can be a nice quaffing wine or something somewhat more serious. Like many people, I know the very famous Soave producers quite well such as Pieropan.

On Tuesday I had the occasion to try a number of wines from producers that I know such as Inama and some from ones I have never heard of such as Rocca Sveva, La Cappuccina, Coffele and Gini.

Of the group, I liked the Inama for its minerality and good acidity, the La Cappuccina for its elegant herbal notes, the Gini for its more oppulent notes and the Coffele for its full bodied, white fruit notes and richness which the 5% of Chardonnay in the blend brought to the fore. The Rocca Sveva was probably the lightest of the group and perhaps the most approachable for a wide audience.

Many in the group liked the Cantina del Castello Soave Classico which was the biggest of the wines, at 13% alcohol. It was a blend of Garganega (80%) and Trebbiano di Soave (20%). It was richer and more lush than the others and a favorite in the group.

A number of the wineries, I discovered, practice organic farming and harvesting and some are attentive to biodynamic practices as well in terms of planting and pest management. I was surprised at this and thought it was a sign of how much times had changed.

On the whole I like Garganega and was excited to try my first Soave Spumante from Coffele. The wine spends eight months in tanks before being bottled. I thought it was lovely with nutty, yeasty, creamy notes which appeal to me quite a lot, in all seasons but even more so in the Summer.

Another thing I appreciated about these wines is their low alcohol content, somewhere between 11,5% and 13% for the most part, just where it should be in my opinion. These wines can be served with a wide variety of foods without overwhelming any of them.

I know that Soave hasn’t always had an easy time of remaking its’ image but if these wines are any indication of the more recent trend for the area, I think they have little to fear for the future. So is Soave back in style? I think so. It is for me. Then again, I’ve always been a fan. Auguroni!


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Two Years Of Blogging- Seems Like Only Yesterday

This month, if not today exactly is the two year anniversary of my blog, Avvinare. The post I wrote two years ago today was about Tenuta di Blasig. Tenuta di Blasig celebrates 221 years of activity today.

I met Elizabetta Bortolotto Sarcinelli, the owner, some years ago and interviewed her at her lovely home at the time. The wines were exquisite and it was the first time I had ever had Malvasia Istriana. I reposted in the above link the original article I wrote about Elizabetta.

It’s been a long two years with lots of fun and lots of wine. I’ve met some great people through this blog and had some truly memorable experiences. I’ve decided I need to spend at least a few weeks getting back to my roots and will only write about Italian wines this week and will finally publish one of my women in wine articles that have been languishing in my drawer.

As I rearrange my house for the nth time and try to incorporate all of my materials, I realized with chagrin that I will never live in a paperless world. I have reams of paper, brochures and maps from every town and winery I have ever visited. E piu forte di me….(I can’t fight it.)

In any event, thanks to anyone who has been reading my missives on wine and life. If anything is a topic that you want to discuss or research, please let me know. Additionally, anyone writing about indigenous varieties from other regions of the world, my favorite topic other than women in wine, who wants to guest blog or post here, also let me know.

Tanti auguri to me 🙂


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Wines from Portugal: A World to Explore For Value and Diversity

I initially wrote this article on wines from Portugal following a tasting organized in early April by my friend Aileen Robbins for Gourmet Retailer.

I’m not sure how well the link is working so I thought I would just post the entire article. Unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures of that beautiful country. Many years ago I went on a long car trip through the Algarve and I must say I think I am in need of another visit. In the meantime, I can always taste great wines from Portugal here at home.

Anyway, here’s my article:

The world of wine is extremely varied and diverse and nowhere is this more evident than in Portuguese wines. These wines, both white and red varieties, were the subject of a big trade show in Manhattan on April 1 at Cipriani 42nd Street. Professor Michael Weiss of the Culinary Institute of the Arts gave an in depth seminar on Portuguese wines entitled “A World of Difference.”

Portugal has been a wine producing country for centuries, even going back as far as the Phoenicians who introduced the vine to Portugal in the 7th century. Portuguese wine traditions are still quite evident in its wine making. In some areas grapes are still pressed by stomping on them in bare feet in Lagares. However, there are a lot of producers making wines in a more modern style, trying to appeal to international palates. Portugal spent many years under the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, from 1932 to 1974. After Salazar’s death, the country began to modernize and in 1986, it joined the European Union which eventually provided funding to improve Portugal’s vineyards.

There are more than 260 grape varieties native to Portugal. Portugal has a very long tradition of wine Making, separated into distinct categories. One extremely important part of Portugal’s history is the Port trade. Port is a fortified wine. In another category are the sweet wines made on the island of Madeira, and the sweet wines of Setubal. Port has been famous for centuries, thanks to the relationship between the Portuguese and the English, who signed the Treaty of Windsor as far back as 1386.

Portuguese still wines only really came into their own in the late 1980s. Portugal is less than 400 miles long and 125 miles wide but has a plethora of climates, soils and of late, wineries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the stunning Douro Valley where Port is made. The Douro was the first wine region in the world to be demarcated, in 1756.

In the 1970s, two Portuguese wines were the most widely drunk wines in the United States – Lancer’s and Mateus. The new Portuguese wines have very little in common with those wines which were a fixture in many homes, including mine, although my mother shudders thinking about her earlier wine days.

Portugal has both white and red varieties which are made into interesting wines. The whites can be light and floral and are made with Alvarinho, Encruzado and other varieties. The reds tend to be more full bodied. The premier red variety in Portugal is Touriga Nacional. Baga, another indigenous variety, makes some of the most heavily tannic still wines in the world, rivaling Italy’s Amarone, according to Weiss. International varieties are also grown in Portugal and some producers are experimenting with blends of both.

Most Portuguese wines are sold in retail stores for somewhere between $10-$25 dollars. There are wines that are more expensive and some are absolutely worth it but you can get a great bottle of wine for the lower price as well. Garrafiera is an important term to know when reading a Portuguese wine label. It is used for red wines mostly and means that the wine has been aged for at least two years before bottling and has spent at least a year in the bottle. White wines that use the term are aged for at least six months before bottling and then have to spend at least six months in the bottle after.

Portugal has a number of wine regions but some of the most famous are the Douro Valley, the Minho, the Dao, Beiras, Bairrada, Ribatejo and the Alentejo. The wines from the Minho are just on the border with Spain and share a lot in common with their Spanish brethren. Vinho Verde, a light white wine comes from this area. This easy quaffing wine is quite low in alcohol and can be served with a variety of dishes as well as for an aperitif. Quinta is another important word in the Portuguese wine world and means winery. Qunita Aveleda is quite famous for its Vinho Verde, which can be made from a blend of twenty five white grape varieties. The best wines use Alvarinho, Trajadura and Loureiro. All three varieties are also found in Spain in Galicia. Vinho Verde is slightly frizzante thanks to the addition of carbon dioxide.

The Douro Valley is undoubtedly one of the finest regions for making not just Port wines but also still red wines in Portugal. That is due to the rocky schist soil which helps to produce great wines the world over, and to the Douro River which runs through it creating the perfect microclimates for grape growing. Still wines are made from the same combinations of grape varieties that can be found in Port wines such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in Spain), Tinta Barocca, Tinta Cao and Touriga Francesca.

The Dao region also is known for its great red wines. It is close to the Douro and is sheltered by mountains which creates an interesting almost Mediterranean climate and protects the area from the chilly breezy coming off of the Atlantic Ocean. Touriga Nacional is grown in this area as well as Tinta Roriz.

Another wine region in Portugal is the Bairrada which lies to the West of the Dao. The area is known for its clay soils and the Baga grape. Most of Portugal’s sparkling wine is also made in this area.

Alentejo, a region farther in the Southern part of Portugal is the largest of the wine regions. It is hot and is an agricultural center for cereal grains, olive oil and most of the world’s cork. The soils in this area are a mixture of schist, volcanic ash and limestone. Many red wines come from the Alentejo where the principal grape variety is Aragonez, another name for Tempranillo and from Sousao.

Portugal is a fascinating country to discover and its wines hold a whole new world of flavors. Many of the red and white wines displayed an incredible minerality. This is due to the soils on which the grapes are grown. We will surely be seeing many more Portuguese wines gracing our tables as a nice alternative to better known wine regions.

Tasting notes from Wines of Portugal Event on April 1, 2010

Quinta da Aveleda Alvarinho from Minho region 2009
Fruity and floral with great acidity, this wine would go well with fish, white meats or as a stand alone aperitif.

Casa Santos de Lima Sousao Lisboa region (Estremadura) 2008

This wine was rich and complex with great black fruit aromas and flavors, liquorice and tobacco, pepper and spice. It also had a long length.

Esporao Touriga Nacional Alentejo 2007

This wine was oaky and round on the palate with hints of vanilla and black fruits.

Quinta de Ventozelo Touriga Nacional Douro Valley

This wine was truly exquisite, elegant and refined with layers of aromas and flavors. Very well integrated and balanced, it was long and persistent on the palate. A great wine.

Quinta do Mondego Encruzado Dao Region

This delicious white wine was very reminiscent of Chardonnay with toasty noted and white fruit aromas. It was very refreshing with a considerable body.

Espirito Lagoalva 2007 Touriga Nacional and Castelao from Ribatejo

This red wine was complex and varied with red and black fruit notes as well as mineral notes. Very pleasing to the palate, this is an everyday wine and is food friendly.

SO Touriga Nacional 2006 from Bacalhoa from Terras do Sado region (Setubal Peninsula)

This wine was quite floral with red fruit notes and a lot of minerality on the nose and palate. It was well integrated and balanced with good acidity.

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Italian Organic Wines At Alta Cucina’s Epicurean Center On May 24

Organic Italian wines, an umbrella category which include sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines are coming to New York thanks to Italian marketing agency Wine Dreamers Communications.
Berebio, the New York stop, is part of a larger roadshow for these wineries and will be held at Alta Cucina’s Epicurean Center on May 24 from 3pm to 8pm.

An organic wine show is somewhat rare when speaking about Italian wines. Italy tends to be behind its’ French counterparts in terms of certified organic wines. Italian producers say that the difficulty of obtaining official certification is one the reasons that it is not more common. Another is the perception of consumers that organic wines are not as good or as well made as non organic wines. Nothing of course could be further from the truth. Organic wines are very well made and producers who make them tend to be even more attentive to how the wines are created.

Luckily, organic wines are becoming an evermore important part of the US wine market and therefore perceptions are changing. One reason for the confusion about organic wines is that there are many definitions floating around about what makes an organic wine.

Organic wine in Italian is usually called biologico. This is the umbrella term in Italy, just as natural or organic wines would be in the US.

To read more, click here.

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