Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cantine Aperte, Milan Elections, Jewish Choir of Rome

This is a big holiday weekend in the United States, the unofficial beginning of Summer. It’s also a big weekend in Italy for a number of reasons. First, Sunday is Cantine Aperte. It’s always held the last Sunday in May. This is the 19th year of the festival. I remember the first year of the festival and the first guidebook that the Movimento del Turismo del Vino put out. I still have that guide. It was my second year living in Italy and I was thrilled. I wish I could go to a winery this Sunday in Italy but I will have to settle for something closer, maybe Long Island or the Hudson Valley, always a nice jaunt.

On Sunday, the second round of voting in the Mayoral election in Milan is also taking place. It is possible that for the first time in 20 years, a left leaning politician, Giuliano Pisapia, could be the Mayor of Italy’s largest city. The current mayor, Letizia Moratti is getting a run for her money. It still remains to be seen who will win but what a comment on Prime Minister Berlusconi’s government that the right could lose Milan. In fact, he’s rather infuriated and sadly is appealing to people’s greatest fears.

This brings me to my third theme for this blog post, the Jewish Choir of Rome. I sometimes write about subjects having nothing to do with wine or finance such as this article published in I-Italy. The event was truly touching and for me was a blend of so many parts of my soul. Va pensiero which has always been one of my favorite pieces of music took on a whole new meaning.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, politics, Travel

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Bombino Bianco From Apulia, Bombino Nero From Basilicata

Thursday is indigenous grape variety day here at Avvinare. This week’s grape is Bombino Bianco, a white grape variety which grows in Apulia and some other regions surrounding that part of the Italian boot. Bombino Bianco is cultivated both in the area around the city of Bari as well as the Salento, lower down in Apulia near the city of Lecce. This grape variety has many names and is often erroneously called Trebbiano, the most widely planted white grape in Italy. Trebbiano is a distinct grape variety. In fact, sometimes, Bombino Bianco is blended with Trebbiano such as in the San Severo Bianco made by the lovely producer Alberto Longo.

I looked high and wide but could not find an monovarietal wines made from Bombino Bianco to try. I know that some producers do make them but I have never had one. A winery called Cantine Teanum makes one apparently.

There is also a Bombino Nero, which is a red grape variety that grows in the region of Basilicata principally and a bit around the city of Bari in Apulia. Bombino Nero is almost never vinified along but is used as a blending grape with Uva di Troia, Malvasia Nera and Montepulciano. Both of these grapes have no clear origin but some say at least the white comes from Spain initially. Both are extremely productive as well and are sometimes used as table grapes.

Both of these regions are close to my heart. In fact, Basilicata for me was something of a jumping off point or better, an arrival. I always said I couldn’t leave Italy until I visited Basilicata. Then I went and still didn’t leave for three more years. I will have to scan my photos of that beautiful region but suffice it to say that it is still very much as it was centuries ago. There is a great movie that takes place in Basilicata that came out last year called “Basilicata Coast to Coast.” I loved it although some said it was a bit sentimental. The again, so I am.

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Filed under Basilicata, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Puglia

Wines From LiberaTerra – Remembering Giovanni Falcone

On May 23, 1992 – 19 years ago – Anti-Mafia Judge Giovanni Falcone was murdered together with his wife Francesca Morvillo and three of his bodyguards. It was a day I will never forget. My boyfriend and I lived in a cute apartment in Florence near the Boboli gardens.

I had moved to Florence the summer before. My Italian wasn’t great at that point and I learned it partly through reading the newspaper, specifically stories about the Mafia and the heroic judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino who fought to put the bosses and their cohorts in jail. I was and remain fascinated by Italian politics and the struggles that went on.

The day Falcone was murdered I remember feeling ill and shocked. They blew up a entire part of the highway in what came to be known as the “Strage di Capaci” or the rampage at Capaci.

I can’t believe so much time has gone by. Those responsible for these murders have been arrested. I am happy to see that a very important priest Don Ciotti and an organization he works with has been able to confiscate much property from the Mafia. It is part of an association called “Libera” or free.

I had first noticed these products when shopping in a store in Milan that I love called “Altromercato.” They sell a host of things using rules of fair trade.

It’s one of my favorite stores and an obligatory stop on all my Italian trips. A number of my friends have gotten wedding gifts there and the proceeds always go to things I believe in. I often buy products there too and found this wine called Centopassi.

Centopassi was the name of a movie I saw many years ago about the life of a young political activist and radio host called Peppino Impastato. Peppino was murdered by a Mafia boss.

Apparently, centopassi was the number of steps between Peppino’s home and that of the boss that killed him. It is a reference to how difficult it is to fight your neighbors and how entrenched the Mafia is in Italy.

The wines made from lands confiscated from the Mafia are called the Centopassi line. They are dedicated to victims of the Mafia, among them Pio La Torre, Peppino Impastato, and Placido Rizzoto.

This catarratto that I tried was a nice wine as an aperitivo or with a light first course. I especially enjoyed giving money to a good cause and drinking to the memory of these special people.

Falcone and Borsellino’s murders will forever remain ingrained in my mind. Paolo Borsellino was murdered in front of his mother’s home on July 19, 1992.

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Filed under italy, wines

Wine of the Week: Taittinger Champagne

As some of you know, I was a francophile before losing my heart to Italy lo those many years ago. I was a French major in college and lived in France during my junior year. My father is obsessed with France and when I was a child, France was considered the bastion of civility for its language, long meals, food, culture, literature, politics, 35 hour work week, educational system, healthcare, and art.

Yes, Italy kidnapped my soul and has held onto it all of these years but still, France holds an extra special place in my heart, my mind and of course, my palate. How could it not…I lived in Dijon, the heart of Burgundy so of course, my love for French wines runs deep.

Lately, I have had the opportunity to taste some wonderful wines from France, among them champagne from the Taittinger Champagne house.. Taittinger is one of the few Champagne houses to still be
family-owned.

One of my first trips to a wine region when I was 20 was to Reims. It was an unbelievable experience and helped start me off on a lifelong love of sparkling wine.

This wine is a perfect wine for any occasion. I wish I could drink a bottle everyday. In fact, I love to drink champagne throughout a meal from start to finish. The acidity and minerality in champagne makes it a perfect companion to many dishes.

Taittinger Brut Millesime 2002

I have had Taittinger many times of late and I was excited to attend a fun event recently at the Museum of Arts & Design where Taittinger was being served as an integral part of a new art exhibit.

The exhibit, which will be on for another four months, was curated by Stephen Burks, often said to be America’s foremost industrial designer. His group exhibition,
“Are You A Hybrid?” presents the works of over 30 artists, photographers & designers tracing the influence of the developing world from the mid-century to the present in an effort to present a more inclusive pluralistic vision of design.

Among these works of art is that beautiful bottle in the picture created by Amadou Sow and called the “Cosmic Pearls” bottle. Taittinger, infact, has an “Artist Collection” in which it pairs its best vintage years with bottles designed by famous artists. Sow’s bottle is for the Brut Millesime 2002 and he is the first African artist to join the collection.

The 2002 is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in equal amounts. The wine is widely available in the United States, according to wine-searcher.com.

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Filed under Africa, Art, France, Wine Industry, Wine of the Week, wines

Italian Sommelier Society (AIS) Hosts First National Wine Day

Yesterday, May 21, was the first “National Wine Day” in Italy held by the Italian Sommelier Society (AIS) .

The new President of AIS, Antonello Maietta, spoke about this day at Vinitaly earlier this year. I went to his press conference during the fair and was very excited to see the new work that the association is doing globally.

Italy is also at the head of the Worldwide Sommelier Association this year.

Maietta is mindful of the drop in Italian wine consumption, down to less than 40 liters per head, and the lack of knowledge among consumers. He announced that he wants that to change all of that. Italy’s first national wine day is a step in the right direction to educate consumers about the value of wine in a larger sense, linked to cultural traditions and Italian history.

If Italian wine is suffering a drop in consumption internally, it is doing extremely well abroad and is the largest component of Italy’s agricultural export sector . In 2010, revenues from the export of wine were up to 3.9 billion euro.

I’m sorry I missed out on yesterday’s fanfair. Apparently, AIS held a series of seminars throughout Italy from the Alps to
the Mediterranean.

I’m a huge fan of AIS and have been for over a decade. One of my proudest days was when I got my certificate from AIS in June 2004.

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Filed under italy, Sommeliers, Wine Industry, wines

Sommelier Series: Ryan Mills-Knapp From Tribeca Grill At Maslow ^

I had the pleasure of attending a seminar on Thursday at Maslow 6 in Tribeca. The wine shop where I have worked a bit over the past year is one of my favorites in the City and not because it is owned by a friend but because it is warm and inviting, has a friendly and knowledgeable staff and most importantly in a wine shop, great wines at good value.

We were a group of 12 who tasted through seven wines from the Rhone Valley. The Rhone Valley I have been told is many a sommelier’s go to region for its wide variety of grape varieties, styles and wines for every budget.

We started the evening with two whites from the Rhone, one a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2009 made with a blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussane and Bourbelenc. It had a lot of stony, minerality and nice acidity. I enjoyed it and could see it with white meats. Ryan was incredibly engaging as he discussed the producers, the wines and pairing options. He was also very funny, which I appreciate any day of the week.

I actually preferred the Paul Jaboulet-Aine “Domaine Raymond Roure” 2003 which was made from 100% Marsanne. I have had very few monovarietal wines made from this grape. This one really impressed me with its tropical fruit notes, honeysuckle flower aromas and its minerality and acidity on the palate. Ryan told us that Marsanne often brings out orange aromas and can sometimes be a bit flabby but this one was anything but. It was racy and had a lanolin, waxy taste that I really like. I could see it with crusted salmon maybe with some dill.

Of the numerous reds we tried, broken up into two camps: Syrah based wines from the Northern Rhone and Grenache-based wines from the Southern Rhone, the North won me over this time, although Syrah is never my favorite grape. Of the wines we had the Yves Cuilleron “l’Amarybelle 2008” from Saint-Joseph really stole the show. It had it all: spice, savory notes, red fruits and tobacco. I thought this was a beautiful wine. I bought some and intend to enjoy it Memorial Day weekend at a nice barbecue. It will be worth the wait, of that, I am sure.

Another great thing about this Sommelier Series is that the proceeds benefit the Church Street School for Music and Art. This school “recognizes that creativity is an essential part of our humanity as it strives to make arts education available to everyone in the community.”

This is a mission that I wholeheartedly support, as music and art have been a core component of my life. This Sommelier Series is, therefore, a project that speaks to many parts of me and which I will try to attend throughout. I can’t wait until the next sessions on May 24, June 5 and June 9.

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Filed under France, Memorable Events, Sommeliers, wines

LinkedIn IPO – Someone’s Popping Corks Today

Today is indigenous grape Thursday I know but I thought I would deviate and mention today’s IPO of LinkedIn, the popular networking site for professionals. It was up 109% from its listing price. No mean feat. I am sure they are enjoying some sparkling wine toasts with French Champagne, Italian Franciacorta, Prosecco or Spumante or maybe some Spanish Cava.

I had a nice little bottle of Asti last night actually to celebrate a family event. My aunt Clara was a huge Asti Spumante fan all her life. I wear a beautiful ring that she gave to my mother so perhaps it is channeling me to drink Asti. I’m not alone though, Asti which is made from the Moscato grape, is doing an amazing business thanks to the growth of the Moscato market.

Getting back to the IPO, I started my career as a financial journalist and still follow politics and economics quite assiduously. In fact, I am currently in shock about Dominique Strauss-Kahn like many other people I know.

On another note, I myself have had a LinkedIn issue this week and sadly it wasn’t about my stock almost doubling. My email mistakenly contacted everyone who has ever been in my yahoo email account so, I apologize if I have sent you a second request on LinkedIn and we are already connected or any other version of that. It has created a number of uncomfortable moments this week but hey, my numbers are skyrocketing and I have some great new contacts.

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Filed under Italian regions, italy, Memorable Events, New York, wines