Monthly Archives: May 2012

World Science Festival, Oscar del Vino and Emilia Romagna

It’s hard to believe it is the end of the month already. Summer’s here, the World Science Festival is back in town and troubling news of earthquakes has been coming from Italy all week. For those who don’t know me, I wear many hats and sometimes they converge, sometimes they do not.


This week, my worlds are converging around science. I have been working for about five years for a client called the International Balzan Foundation. I work for them under my other company, Gold Communications. Thanks to the Balzan Foundation, I have developed a fascination with science and scientists. That’s why I am always so excited when the World Science Festival comes to town. This week’s line up is most impressive. In fact, almost everything is sold out including a great discussion held at Eataly about ancient brews. I wish I could go but it was sold out early on.

I also love the science behind studying wine. When I studied for the sommelier certificate at AIS in Milan, I was thrilled with learning about all the chemistry behind winemaking. I still think this is largely ignored in most English language programs and I think it is something that should be added to the curriculum.

I noticed on the AIS website that this week was the setting for the Oscar del Vino by Bibenda. Bibenda was just recently translated into English and is available via Amazon for those who want to purchase a copy. This year’s Miglior Vino Spumante went to three producers from Franciacorta, including the Non Dosato Gualberto 2005 from  Ricci Curbastro. Riccardo Ricci Curbastro is a lovely and bright guy, a great font of information on Franciacorta. His wines are brought in by Domenico Valentino.

These last few weeks were also the scene of horrible earthquakes in Emilia Romagna. My heart goes out to those whose loved ones were affected first and foremost but I also hate seeing the physical destruction of Italian landmarks. I studied in Emilia Romagna, at SAIS in Bologna, so I feel a particular kinship to this region. I know  producers of Parmigiano Reggiano were impacted. I haven’t heard of any devastation of wineries and wines. My friend, Dave Buchanan at Wine Openers wrote a nice ode to Drei Dona, a famed winery in the area. I had the pleasure of meeting a number of producers from Emilia Romagna when I was translating for them last year with a well-known wine magazine during Vinitaly.

Emilia Romagna is often overlooked but I think that is a real mistake. They have lovely wines, including great Sangiovese and Pignoletto to recommend as well as some interesting passito made from Albana and other wines made from grapes such as Bonarda and Lambrusco.

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Filed under emilia romagna, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, New York, Wine Industry, wines

Italian Regions: Puglia – Brindisi, Maci Family

Brindisi is such a curious word. On the one hand it means let’s have a toast, a “brindisi” to someone or something. On the other, it used to bring to mind ferries going to the Greek islands, a port city like so many others. However Brindisi, the city, is much more than that.

Brindisi, in particular and Puglia, in general used to be the agricultural basket and wine providing area for the Roman legions when they set off for their conquests. The Salento has been a well known region for centuries but Brindisi has never been top of the mind except for a few wineries.

Brindisi is on my mind today because of the terrible news of a bomb at a girl’s school. The attack happened at a school named after Giovanni Falcone and his wife who were killed 20 years ago on May 23. Very sad.

I have dear friends from Brindisi too but I haven’t been back to Brindisi since my first foray when I was in college, taking the ferry to Greece, along with thousands of other people. I’ve had a number of wines from Brindisi, even as recently as this past Vinitaly.

When talking about wine and Brindisi, there is one family name that comes to mind, Maci. Angelo Maci is the head of the cooperative cellar, Cantine Due Palme which has 1000 members and over 2200 hectares of vines. Maci has been very active for years in Cellino San Marco (Brindisi). He is the third generation in his family to work in the industry following his father Marco and grandfather Angelo.

He’s not the only Maci well known in the area. His son, Marco Maci, has also made quite a name for himself in the world of wines from Puglia with his winery, Azienda Agricola La Mea.

I know Marco a little bit, having met with him several times at Vinitaly and in New York. He’s very warm and generous, quite a gregarious and big personality, just like some of his wines. His luxury line is a big showy group of wines with beautiful black packaging and stylish labels but it is his young and classic lines that I prefer, those made with indigenous varieties from Puglia.

One that I liked a lot is called, Lume di Candela, a wine made with 70% Negroamaro and 30% Malvasia Nera, two great indigenous varieties from Puglia. A second that I particularly enjoyed is called Ribo made with 100% Negroamaro. Marco makes a number of wines that have a large precentage of Negroamaro, with varying degrees of oak aging.

Negroamaro is a  grape that I really enjoy. It’s tannins are much light than one might expect. Despite that, I prefer the ones that spend less time in wood.  Many wine makers blend Negroamaro with other wines. I prefer blends made with indigenous varieties. Here’s a fun post on the grape in an interesting blog called By The Tun.

I can’t post something about Italy without mentioning the earthquake  that took place earlier today. Thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian wineries, italy, Puglia, wines

Last Dance – Raising A Glass To Donna Summer

I just heard the news, Donna Summer died. How odd. First Whitney and now Donna Summer. I’m feeling sad, odd and thinking about things I haven’t thought of in 20+ years.

Appropriately, I just had a meal at a TGI Friday’s. Something I haven’t done in 20+ years either with an average Cabernet. I am randomly in Texas, waiting for a flight to New Mexico and I just read the news.

I will always remember Donna Summer’s song Last Dance as the end of the night. The song you felt silly dancing to and singing but you did it anyway whether at a bar mitzvah or a Sweet 16 or the Prom.

I know some dear high school friends of mine are thinking these same thoughts. We were in high school in the 1980s but for some reason, the Queen of 1970s disco was still popular.

I’m sad to hear of her death. She gave me many hours of joy and that lovely feeling when you want the moment to continue but you have to accept that it’s done.

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Happy Mother’s Day Maman

Ah Mother’s day. Yes, a hallmark holiday I know but for me, any holiday at all is a cause for celebration. With my mother, we always agree on what to drink…something, almost anything. She likes mostly white wines, including Prosecco, Franciacorta (Berlucchi) and  Ferrari (Trento Doc), and of course, Champagne. She’s  taken a liking to Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and most everything I bring home. In fact, she has always been a great supporter of my wine exploration.

Maman, in fact, got me started on the road to perdition with wine, one could say. She and her best friend would drink Lancers and Mateus  many a day in my house when I was young. All that laughter that they shared over a glass of wine stuck with me and to this day, I associate it with a glass of wine and Maman.

We’ve both moved on to big and bigger wines but the common joy of raising  glass together has never waned. Today, I’m bringing her a bottle of Pecorino from Angela Velenosi. Angela is an incredibly interesting and funny woman from Le Marche. Also, full of joy and mirth, she is a pleasure to be around. I really like this Pecorino, Offida Doc and I’m certain my mom will too. Pecorino is a low yielding white grape from Le Marche which makes refreshing relatively full bodied wines with fruit and floral notes. I’m think it will go very well with salmon that we are having for lunch.

On this Mother’s day, I will, as always, toast her and all the love that has shined on me all of these years. I have been very lucky in this department.



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Friday How To Series: Wine Tasting With Friends: How To Organize, What To Bring To The Table

I’m starting a new series on this blog as I move into a new phase of my wine life, entitled “How To…”. This first post is about wine tasting and I would love to hear others opinions on this theme so please chime in, if you have the inclination.

I think about this issue a lot both if I’m doing an event for someone else, organizing a tasting for myself or studying for a wine exam.  If I am having a tasting with friends I think about what our goals are: to have fun, to learn something about wine, to test pairings with different foods. Mostly I think about what we collectively want out of the evening.

If I am organizing an event, I think about what the participants want out of the evening and their level of knowledge. I try to bring something new to the discussion, a grape, a region, a wine or a pairing but not so much information that they don’t remember what they have tried. I also try to leave them with materials on which to write notes and to bring home so that they remember what they have tasted.

If on the other hand I am studying, then things get more focused. A vintage, a grape, a region is usually the theme. What I am trying to do in those sessions is to profile a style in my mind. Perhaps I am tasting wines from a region that encompasses both modern and traditional styles of a certain wine. I will include both in a tasting but enough of each to firmly fix what would be a “perfect expression” of that style of wine in my mind.

This leads me to a second part of this topic, how many wines to taste at the same time. I find 12 wines a great number to pair and ponder, discuss and contrast in an evening. I also like to taste in pairs which enlivens the discussion for all.

Lucky for me, I am invited to taste wines with Gregory Del Piaz  from Snooth and his friends on a pretty regular basis. Greg is a fabulous taster as are many of his friends and he is very generous with wines from his cellar. Last night we tried a number of Chateauneuf-du Pape from the 1998 vintage.

Through the experience I reinforced what I know about Chateauneuf and how I think about those wines, all of which will help me with some future wine plans that I have in the works. We tasted in pairs and while not all of the wines showed their best, the evening was fun and helpful. My favorite was a Chateau Fortia although I think others had different preferences. It was a root day and I actually think that had something to do with the wines not showing their best.

What I also loved about the evening was listening to what people had to say and what their experiences were with these wines and other Chateauneufs. I like to taste wine with people who have more experience of a certain region than I do. With Greg, I’m in luck. He tastes more wine than anyone I know so I’m always happy to hear him wax poetic or rant about a certain wine or region. Thank you!

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Filed under France, Friday How To Series, Friends/Family, Wine Tasting, wines

May Day- Heading Back To New York For Vinitaly Tour on May 2

After a lovely jaunt to Chicago, albeit the weather which didn’t cooperate, I’m heading back to New York for the second leg of the Vinitaly In The World tour at Three Sixty on May 2, 2-6pm for the trade/press. I’m looking forward to trying some of the wines. When not working at these events, or while working would be more appropriate, I sometimes do get to try great wines. My favorite of the day yesterday was a Gavi di Gavi from Villa Sparina.

This DOCG is made from the Cortese grape in Piedmont. It is a beautiful expression of this grape and the terroir in the region it comes from. I found it precise and clean with pure stone fruit and mineral notes as well as some layers of floral notes. It had an almond undertone on the finish which I really like. I thought it was lovely and will be searching for some when back at home. Luckily it looks like it’s easy to find and nicely priced in the $14-18 range. I haven’t thought about Gavi in a bit, that was my mistake apparently but it will be rectified soon. I hope to see you in New York at the Vinitaly tour tomorrow!

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