Monthly Archives: March 2011

Women in Wine, Indigenous Varieties: Great Articles On My Favorite Subjects

As readers of my blog know, I am very focused on women in wine in general and Italian women in wine in particular. I’m not the only one who writes about this subject. Check out this blog post from Tom Hyland. Nice article Tom.

It’s Thursday and I said I would be writing about indigenous varieties on Thursday but sometimes work and life take over and I can’t get to blog. So, looking around the web or closer to some of the well known Italian wine bloggers out there, I thought I would also give a shout out to Jeremy Parzen at Dobianchi who is doing a great project on indigenous Italian varieties, another theme that I am particularly fond of on my own blog. I actually just saw that he wrote about one of my favorite women, Laura Brunelli. I’ll leave you to read his thoughts on the wines. I will write about my latest Laura experience this weekend.

Way to go boys…we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, wines, Women in Wine

Wine of the Week: Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc 2009 From New Zealand

Those who read this blog know that Sauvignon Blanc is a grape I write about very little. In the past, I have tried to expand my horizons from only drinking Sauvignon Blanc from France, to trying that of Chile which I enjoy but from other regions, I confess I have always found them not right for my palate. Until now. Two or three years ago at a Society of Wine Educators conference seminar in New Orleans, I did a seminar with an MW named Jeff who showed us 10 different Sauvignons. I remember that the one I liked best was from Craggy Range.

I had forgotten that until I had it again, this time last night at a great Indian restaurant that had fabulous food, Tamarind Tribeca on Hudson Street in New York. With a friend I shared a number of appetizers, one better than the next. I would be hard pressed to choose between the chicken and the crab which one was my favorite. Everything went extremely well with this wine which undergoes lees aging and a small percentage is barrel fermented. I loved the blend of nut notes, tropical fruit, peach and citrus. It brought out the best aromas and flavors in the food without overwhelming it. Also, it didn’t have that green note that many Sauvignons do. I’m a fan of this wine which comes from Martinborough and is made from grapes grown on vineyards with limestone and stony soil, interspersed with sand, silt and clay.

The wine is made by MW and New Zealand wine authority Steve Smith together with Doug Wisor. Steve and Doug share production of the Sauvignon Blanc.

The importer is Kobrand and the wine costs anywhere betweeen $15-$20 at a large number of wine stores which can be found on


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Auguri all’Italia per i Suoi Primi 150 anni

It’s Italy’s 150th birthday today….Auguri. I usually write about Italy talking about it’s wines, its beauty in terms of places and people but Italy is much more than that even. Italy is, in my opinion, one of the most blessed places on earth despite political and economic trials of various kinds.

There is no country on earth that has brought me more joy and a profound sense of life’s complexity than Italy. I say that despite my love for my country and its ideals. Italy has something else, something ancient, something mystical. Maybe it’s the long history of occupation, the mixture of peoples, languages, locations, terroirs and other traditions but Italy is and will always be a lifelong passion for me. So I say unabashedly, AUGURI all’Italia, un paese e un popolo che amo.

Here’s Roberto Benigni singing a version of the l’Inno di Mameli.

Most Italians also consider Va Pensiero from the Nabuco a sort of national anthem.

I heard Va Pensiero in Piazza della Signoria in Florence led by Zubin Meta after the bombs exploded, killing a family of five. The entire city was in the square singing together. It was incredibly moving.

Much is going on today as well but I did want to take a moment to mention the birthday of that great nation, that we all love so well.

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Women in Wine: Japan’s Ayana Misawa and Koshu Grape

I wanted to write about Japan again today and realized I know very little about their wine culture which is apparently quite long and varied. I knew about their rice wine culture and have even taken classes on that from the wonderful Michael John Simkin of MJS Sake Selections. His knowledge is encyclopedic and his enthusiasm infectious. If you see one of his classes anywhere take it.

That said, I repeat my knowledge of Japanese wine drinking trends, habits and products is very limited. Then I found this entry on Wikipedia and was quite intrigued.

I discovered that there is even an indigenous grape that everyone is betting on called Koshu and a very snappy young women in wine named Ayana Misawa, daughter of Shigekazu Misawa, the owner of Grace Winery.

A majority of the wines produced at Grace winery come from this gray grape. They also plant international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The winery was planted in 1923.

Ayana is one of only two or three female winemakers in Japan. Here she is on Youtube. talking about her wines. I haven’t had the good fortune to try them but here is a description from another blogger in Australia, Sarah Winehouse. It seems that Misawa travels there often and gives Master classes on her wines. I’d love to taste one of them over here.

Price I discovered is a problem for these wines but that is to be expected. As I write this post I’m sipping a delicious extra dry sake from Harushika. It’s been in my fridge for ages but it’s still fresh as can be.

I just want to keep writing about Japan so that we all keep it in our minds at this sad time. The pictures in the New York Times today looked as if they were out of a horror film about the end of the world. Everyone looks to different things in times such as these, friends, family, loved ones, pets, alcohol but I think what we all look for is community. These blog posts about Japan are my way of showing community with that nation, as are my donations to various relief organizations.

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Japan: Thoughts & Prayers

Like everyone else I believe, I am horrified, saddened and shocked at the devastation in Japan. My journalist self has come out in full force and I want to know every detail and what is being done to help people. Over here, we can donate money to organizations that are helping the relief efforts. I made one to Mercy Corps but there are many organizations out there. Choose one.

I wanted to write about Japan and Sake but I haven’t been out to a Sake bar in a while. I decided to flag a post I did two years ago on a Sake bar in New York and its fascinating Owner, Satsko.

I will raise a glass of Sake later today and celebrate life and prayer for those in need in Japan. I hope you join me both in donating and in praying for people’s safety as well as in supporting their economy.

I visited Japan over 20 years ago. It was beautiful, fascinating and very foreign to me. I still have never truly bridged that distance but it is a culture that I admire greatly for its determination, respect for elders and craftsmanship among other traits. I am sure these characteristics will help them get through this difficult time.


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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Biancone, A Minor Grape Variety

Writing about Italian indigenous grape varieties is somewhat like counting pebbles on a beach. Some are bright and shiny and stand out for all to see, pick up, and polish while others are smaller, hidden, and often overlooked.

This is the fate of biancone, a minor grape variety that doesn’t even get a mention in the books that I have from the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (AIS). Why am I writing about it then? Well, for completeness and because it is often used as an alias for the very popular Trebbiano grape which grows throughout Italy. Others suggest that is is a synonym for Mostosa, another variety. In short, it seems the views are not uniform.

This grape gets a better rap in Australia where it makes white wines which are considered fresh and fruity. It is also used to make dessert wines. In Italy, it doesn’t get a lot of respect but it’s name, Biancone, means “big white grape” so at least it has some dignity from its consideration as a “weighty grape.”

How many varieties are there in Italy? I’ve heard many numbers but in a recent interview with distinguished enology professor from La Cattolica in Milan, Attilio Scienza, I was told that there are around 3,500 but only 700 are truly used to make wines of stature. In any case, the numbers are outstanding and only by drinking and studying often can one get a grasp on this variety or at least have a great time trying.


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Women in Wine: Cristina Mariani May from Banfi and Marilisa Allegrini from Allegrini Wines

Today is International women’s day. It is the 100th anniversary and a perfect moment to speak about women in wine, one of the key topics for this blog.

Here’s some information on the day that I got from the website:

“Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was honored the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labor legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events.”

Tonight, wines from Banfi are being poured at Eataly to celebrate the day. Cristina is the co-CEO of Banfi together with her cousin James Mariani. They are the third generation in the family to run the company.

I interviewed Cristina a couple of weeks ago. I’ve known her for a few years and had the opportunity to participate in a great event with Vinitaly during Vino 2011 at the Nasdaq in January. The idea for women in wine at the Nasdaq came from Stevie Kim, Senior Advisor to Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veronafiere which runs Vinitaly. Of course, I was thrilled as it was the primary motive for my starting my blog, writing about women in wine.

I also interviewed Marilisa Allegrini at the charity portion of the event held at the American Cancer Society.

Cristina and I spoke about what she sees for women in the wine industry. “I’m seeing many more women coming into the business, many in the sales force. This is new on the distributorship level. Women do a fantastic job of creating relationships which is very useful in our three tier system,” she said.

She also noted that you see more women winemakers, owners and in marketing. In California, she said, the numbers were staggering while in Italy they are also growing. She added that many daughters are now taking over from their fathers and that the culture has become more welcoming and open to women.

“Women have passion and are sensitive to the people they work with. There are so many beautiful wines out there but it is the story and the people behind the wines that actually gets the story out there. Women are helping to do that. They create team spirit, are empathetic and good at connecting with people,” she said.

I asked her what her advice would be for young women who wanted to get into the wine industry. She said they should learn first and foremost what drives sales and should have direct contact with consumers.

Cristina is a global Ambassador for her winery, traveling all over the world and promoting Banfi. The company is concentrating on overseas markets such as Hong Kong, India, Mexico and Brazil and has purchased a new property, Pacific Rim, in Washington State to focus on Riesling.

She also told me that she believes the classic regions such as Tuscany and Piedmont will come back in full force despite the slow down in recent years as people bought more value brands.

Marlisa Allegrini and I spoke about six weeks ago and she told me the story of her family’s 500 years in the wine business. She is the sixth generation in her family to work in the wine business. This year she will be celebrating her 30th year working for the business.

Her first market for exporting was the United States where she said she learned that making good wine is not enough but that educating the consumer was key.

“You must explain your production methods and differentiate yourself from other wineries,” she said. In the 1980s, she was one of the first women in the wine business. “There are many more women in the business now which is a great thing,” she said. “Women know how to dress a bottle of wine and make it prestigious and also know how to market a wine, that is key.”

Here’s a great video that we filmed after the Nasdaq event where you can hear what these two lovely women have to say.

To women everywhere, salute! Essentially I think everyday should be a celebration of women but that’s just me.

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Filed under Italian regions, italy, Travel, Wine Industry, wines, Women in Wine