Monthly Archives: January 2014

Wine of the Week: Brolio Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Riserva

This week’s wine of the week is one I tasted back in October, Brolio Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Riserva 2010.

I am fortunate enough to be invited to a variety of lunches, events and trips by other public relations companies, importers, brokers and the like. I so appreciate all of these invitations that I try to write about them but usually it takes me much longer than I expect. This particular lunch took place at the Lincoln thanks to the fabulous Tony DiDio. I met Tony at a Wildman tasting earlier last year and have had the pleasure of dining with him and wine producers a couple of times. The events are always very elegant, well put together and relaxing which I greatly appreciate. The wines, more to the point, are usually exquisite. This time was no exception.

The lunch was held for the Barone Ricasoli winery. We tasted the Brolio Chianti Classico from 2011, the Brolio Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. 2010 Riserva and the Castello di Brolio from 2007 and 2010. We finished the meal with the Castello di Brolio Vin Santo 2005.

Chianti is undergoing a transformation, as we all know, with the addition of the Gran Selezione and the call for more definition of the Sub-zones. I’m not sure how I feel about that from a consumer’s point of view. As a wine geek, I get it and I applaud the linking of wines to specific terroirs but I am not sure it will translate into sales that at the end of the day, make everyone happy, and help the business to flourish. Here’s an interesting blog post on the subject.

Barone Ricasoli is perhaps the definition of Chianti. As we know, the recipe for Chianti was first created in 1872 by Barone Bettino Ricasoli in a famous letter to a Professor Cesare Studiati at the Università di Pisa where he suggested the use of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia, in differing proportions, according to what they brought to the wine. The Castello di Brolio became a part of the Ricasoli family properties in 1141. The family itself is much older and the first records of their existence date back to the 7th century.

Wine notes –

Brolio Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Riserva 2010 is made from 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is vinified in stainless steel at controlled temperatures with 12-16 days of skin contact. It spends 16 months in large barriques and tonneaux and a further three months in the bottle. It is a perfect example of a Chianti with cherry notes, dusty tannins, earthy flavors and a hint of wild flowers. It also showed mineral notes, which I favor and spice. It was harmonious and long on the finish. A beautiful wine it had me dreaming of Florence in one sip.

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. 2010 made from Sangiovese with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is vinified in stainless steel at controlled temperature and spends 7-9 days on the skins. It ages in barriques for 18 months. The wine had soft plummy aromas and spices, with a hint of spice, cedar and earthy notes. It was balanced and harmonious with supple tannins and a long finish.

Castello di Brolio Vin Santo is made from Malvasia del Chianti, production is done in the traditional method with grapes left to dry for three months. The grapes then ferment for 24 months in wood casks.

Apparently, 2010 had a cold and snowy winter with a rainy spring and a hot summer. The weather in September and October was also somewhat variable. All three wines were real keepers for me.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Cornarea Nero from Piedmont

italy 600

This week’s indigenous grape variety entry will be a short one because I could find very little information on this variety on the internet or in other sources. The variety, Cornarea Nero, hails from Piedmont in the North-West corner of Italy. It is a cross created by Giovanni Dalmasso in 1936 between Barbera and Nebbiolo. The idea was that is would be able to show the best characteristics of these typical Piemontese parents and add color to a wine. Just a refresher note on the difference between a cross and a hybrid: a cross is between two varieties of the same species, i.e. Vitis Vinifera while a hybrid, is between two different species say a Vitis Vinifera and a Vitis Lambrusca, native to America.

In other wine news, it was great to see so many familiar faces at the Benvenuto Brunello tasting yesterday. Next week is also a big week for Italian wines with both the Vinitaly/Slow Wine Events on Monday, February 3 and the Tre Bicchieri on February 6 in New York City…I will be holding one of the classes on Prosecco at Vinitaly on Monday so come say hello if you are at the tasting.

In other not wine news, yesterday was the “Giorno della Memoria” or International Holocaust Remembrance day which celebrates the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in January 1945, the largest Nazi death camp, by Soviet troops. I lost 80 relatives in the camps and although I didn’t know them or their children, I certainly think of them and am happy that their memory is kept alive officially on this occasion. I meant to write about it yesterday but was out all day.

Another piece of news saddened me today that Pete Seeger passed away. I know he was 94 but you always want the good ones to last forever. What a man, what a life.

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Blog Traffic, Brazil

Wines of Brazil

Lots of sad and gruesome news in New York this week but on a more positive note, I was happily surprised to get more traffic on my blog than usual. This was thanks to a blog post that Alfonso wrote On the Wine Trail In Italy on Sunday. I was lucky enough to have a long lunch with Alfonso last Friday and discuss the wine world and its vagaries. His piece was particularly interesting because I think we all fall into the trap of trying to ignore the four big wines often to our detriment. The other major traffic driver to my blog, in terms of other bloggers, is always Dobianchi, so thank you to those two Texans.

brazil

The biggest driver to my blog over the past year however is the word Brazil. Shockingly, I wrote a couple of posts about Brazilian wine and they get the absolute most traffic. I attended that tasting as part of the Snooth PVA blogger weekend. I guess it’s the upcoming World Cup and people aren’t sure what they will be drinking or celebrating with but I do find it interesting. In the past, a post on Italian Kosher wine was a bigger driver but now it’s Brazil all the way.

It will be interesting to see what the drivers of traffic will be in 2014.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Cornalin d’Aosta from the Valle d’Aosta

Valle d'Aosta

This week’s variety hails from the Valle d’Aosta. While last week I was imagining myself on a sailboat, with today’s weather, skiing in the Valle d’Aosta is more appropriate as a destination. I have had amazing experiences in Courmayer, La Thuile-Gressoney Saint-Jean, Aosta-Pila and mostly in Cervinia. I love the Valle d’Aosta and because I lived in Milan, I got to spend many a happy weekend skiing there during the years I lived in Italy. I also spent a lot of time drinking the local wines whether they were white or red. The whites are easy to drink and I’ve written about many on my blog over the years, such as this post or this one.

The reds are also wines I enjoy. This particular grape variety is a red grape from this region that produces a rustic, spicy, medium-bodied wine with fruit and earthy notes. It is used in the Valle d’Aosta D.O.C. which can also be spelled “alla francese” Valle d’Aoste.

It shouldn’t be confused however with the Cornalin du Valais from Switzerland. Cornalin d’Aosta is also known as Humagne Rouge while Cornalin du Valais can be called Rouge du Pays, Landroter, or Rouge du Valais. Confusing but not impossible to remember also because they aren’t grapes you see all the time so they stick out…

Grosjean makes a Cornalin d’Aosta to be tried if you have the chance called Vigne Rovettaz. It would be perfect with cheese right now maybe even Fondue if I was going to make it. The vineyards in the Valle d’Aosta are at an incline of 20%-70% so all the grapes in this wine are handpicked. It matures in stainless steel. The wine is sold by here and retails for around $30.

Here’s an interesting piece on the Valle d’Aosta by Eric Asimov and another fun piece by Stevie Stacionis for Serious Eats on the grape variety and its origins.

If you haven’t visited the Valle d’Aosta, try to go there at least once in your life whether for the wines, the skiing, the castles, the hiking or the food. I love this part of Italy and its beautiful sky, mountains and fresh air. Driving in that region at night on the way back to Milan was always magical, dark with hundreds of stars. Something I have seen only in Colorado in the US and Chile in South America. I always felt closer to the sky and the universe on nights like that.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Corinto Nero from Sicily

This week we are looking at an Italian indigenous variety from Sicily – Corinto Nero. The grape originally hails from Greece, either from the city of Corinth or Naxos. It was brought to the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily sometime in the Sixth Century.

Aeolian_Islands_map

In the past, the grapes were present on Lipari, Stromboli and Salina and were used in the making of a sweet wine known as Malvasia delle Lipari. It was generally used for only 5% of the blend and was called “Passolina“ because the grapes are dried, known as “uva passa.”

Today at least one producer also makes it into a mono-varietal wine on Salina called,
Nero du Munti.

Nino Caravaglio started making the wine after a visit to Lipari.I have not had the pleasure of trying it yet but look forward to doing so. It is described as being spicy with red plum notes on the nose and palate.

There is also a Corinto Bianco and a Corinto Rosa but they are less frequently planted. Corinto Nero also grows in the Emilia-Romagna region where it is called Tarmarina.

Corinto Nero is a hardy variety that was never effected by phylloxera. It grows well in sandy soils and has been able to withstand strong winds that blow in the Aeolian Islands. I experienced those winds first hand on an amazing sailing trip through the islands some years ago. We got caught in a huge storm with 50 knot winds but luckily I had a talented skipper and we were all fine. Some 100 boats were destroyed on Panarea in that storm. No laughing matter.

Apart from the one eventful evening, it was one of the most glorious weeks of my life in Italy – no small feat. From Salina, a gorgeous island where il Postino was filmed with wonderful granita alle mandorle Da Alfredo to the lava explosions that continually roll down the side of the mountain in Stromboli known as la Sciara, to the thermal waters of Vulcano, to the caperi and dateri from Alicudi and Filicudi, to Panarea, an incredibly romantic island with no cars and few lights as you wandered around at night, the islands were all just marvelous.

Corinto Nero is also grown by the Azienda Agricola di Paola Lantieri on Lipari. For those who can read it, this interview is very interesting about how she decided to start producing wine from her small plot on Lipari thanks to her love of the islands. I can see how so many people go on vacation to these islands and fall in love with them. I know I did and I can’t wait to go back, maybe one day for the Salina Doc Festival, a film festival centered around young directors run by Artistic Director Giovanna Taviani. While there I would love to visit the Capofaro resort of noted Sicilian producer, Tasca d’Almerita.

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New World Wines from the Livermore Valley, California

Every year for the past six years, I have tried to go to the Society of Wine Educators conference. I go for a number of reasons: to see old friends, meet new contacts, take great seminars, travel to the regions around where the conference is held and learn more about Californian wines. Many of the seminars at the conference tend to focus on wines from California and the conference is often held in California so I have been able to participate in my fair share of these tastings. Why California one might asks? It seems obvious to me although maybe it isn’t because I am largely associated with Old World wines and specifically with Italian ones but to be a well-rounded wine professional in America, California is a primary area of study and should be of knowledge. So instead of taking a class on Barolo Vs Brunello, this year, I opted for one on the Livermore Valley.

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Apparently C. H Wente, James Concannon and Charles Wetmore founded the first wineries in the Valley in the 1880s. According to the association’s website, the “Livermore Valley put California on the World Wine Map by capturing America’s First Gold Medal for Wine in the 1889 Paris Exposition.” Today there are 50 wineries in the area and it lies just an hour east of San Francisco as you can see from the map.

An odd fact is also mentioned on their website, “Nearly 80% of California’s Chardonnay vines trace their genetic roots to a Livermore Valley clone.” Who would have thought that? Certainly not me.

According to Steven Kent of the eponymous winery, some of the secrets to the success of the Livermore Valley in creating great wines include the fact that it runs from East to West, its great diurnal temperature swings, its microclimates, rock soils, elevation 500-1000 ft above sea level and its long growing season.

The area also permits grapes to have good acidity as well as phenolic ripeness, not always an easy task. Kent said the soils maintain enough heat here but do not have “wet feet” from irrigation.

We tried a number of his wines from the Steven Kent line as well as the Lineage line and the La Rochelle wines. He also showed us wines from Fenestra, Nottingham Cellars and McGrail vineyards.

All of the wines showed considerably acidity despite their jammy flavors and high alcohol content. I also found them to be quite earthy and herbaceous on the whole with silky tannins and judicial oak treatment. I was partial to the single Bordeaux varietals that were shown both a Petit Verdot and a Cabernet Franc. The Kent winery often makes 100% mono-varietal wines from the Bordeaux varieties that are cultivated.

On the whole, the wines were all well made and interesting if a bit bold for my palate. I can see why the Mirassou family picked this area for their wineries. I look forward to visiting on my next trip to San Francisco.

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Avi: A Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva D.O.C. Wine From San Patrignano in Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna usually brings to mind great food rather than great wines. I would argue that while that might have been true in the past, the region has made great strides in recent decades. I just found an old copy of a Kyle Phillip’s International Wine Review from 2002 in which he reviewed, mostly favorably a number of wines made from Sangiovese di Romagna.

emilia romagna

I spent a considerable amount of time tasting wines from Emilia-Romagna a few years ago during Vinitaly. Since then I have tasted many more and have remained happily surprised by the tastings.

Emilia Romagna represents about 8% of Italian vineyards and 13% of national production. About 75% is red or rose wines and the remaining percentage are whites. The signature red variety from the area is Sangiovese di Romagna. It is similar to its Tuscan cousin but is unique as well. I find it rounded and softer than the Sangiovese from Tuscany, on the whole.

Avi

Avi is a Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva. The wine is dedicated to the founder of San Patrignano, Vincenzo. For those who don’t know San Patrignano, it is an rehabilitation facility for those with drug abuse problems. It also involves the same people in the making of various food products and wines. It is a wonderful institution that has helped over 20,000 people since it started in 1978.

This wine was a nice expression of Sangiovese di Romagna with supple tannins, good acidity and red fruit and spice aromas and flavors. It is aged in large barrels and then spends time in the bottle before being released into the market. I like this wine and I like to support the projects that San Patrignano undertakes. Not an inexpensive wine for these times, I think it is a good value for the price.

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