Monthly Archives: March 2014

Memorable Events: Wine in More – A Vinitaly Seminar – Part 2

Alessandro Torcoli

The seminar entitled “Wine is More – Message in the Bottle,” continues with five more producers who I will discuss in this companion piece to my first blog post. There were so many people and projects to talk about that I thought I would split it into two days.

The sixth producer to speak at the seminar was Albiera Antinori from the Antinori family. She showed us a film about the construction of their new headquaters in Bargino (San Casciano Val di Pesa) The work lasted six years and is a testament both to the family and the protection of the environment. The building is almost completely underground, built into a hill but is so large inside that it contains an auditorium that seats 250 people, as well as a restaurant, the winery, the tasting room, a store, a library and a museum.

The Antinoris are one of the most historic winemaking families in Italy. Albiera is the oldest of three sisters. The family had been in San Casciano for 200 years but the winery they wanted to build was too big for the town and for the population so they came up with an innovative project that only created two long cuts into the earth.


The wine we tasted was a Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G. 2007 from Badia a Passignano. It is 100% Sangiovese. The wine is macerates and ferments in stainless steel and then ages in barriques of Hungarian and French wood where it undergoes malolactic fermentation for 14 months. It then spends 12 months in the bottle prior to release.

The wine was deep ruby red in color with intense and persistent dusty cherry notes of Sangiovese. It was dry and full-bodied with nice acidity and minerality, a bright version of Sangiovese with sweet tannins.


The next winery was San Patrignano from Emilia-Romagna. I have written about this winery in the recent past.

Riccardo Cotarella, the famed oenologist, spoke about the winery where he consults. He introduced us to two young men who had been part of the program and gone on to work in the industry. The winery is part of a larger institution which works with drug addiction. They have helped over 20,000 people since it was founded in 1978. Some of the programs they offer are tied to agriculture and viticulture in particular.

The wine we tasted is the same one that I had written about in my post, dedicated to the founder of San Patrignano, Vincenzo Muccioli, Avi stands for for “A Vincenzo.”

Lungarotti museum

The eighth producer was Lungarotti. Teresa Severini who runs the winery together with her sister Chiara was the speaker. She spoke about the wonderful oenological museum that they have created called the Museo del Vino di Torgiano (MUVIT) and the Museo dell’Olivo e dell’Olio (MOO). Giorgio Lungarotti and his wife Maria Grazia Marchetti were ahead of their time and opened the museum in 1974.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Lungarotti family in 2005, to visit the MUVIT and to stay at their hotel, le Tre Vaselle. It was one of my most memorable wine-related visits in my years in Italy.

We tasted their signature wine Rubesco Vigna Monticchio, Torgiano Rosso Riserva D.O.C.G. 2006. The wine is made from Sangiovese (70%) and Canaiolo (30%). The grapes are vinified in stainless steel and ferment on their skins for 15-20 days. The wine is then put into barrels of different sizes for 12 months. It then ages in the bottle for a further four years.

The wine was ruby red in color with intense and persistent aromas of earth and fruit. On the palate the wine was dry, full-bodied, with cherries, berries and ripe tannins. It was harmonious and balanced on the palate.

Lungarotti Museum 2

The ninth producer was Marilisa Allegrini. Marilisa spoke about her dream which was to purchase and restore the Villa Della Torre, a jewel of the Italian renaissance, created by famed architect Giulio Romano. The villa is used as the symbol of the winery and for wine tastings and wine tourism visits but it also hosts a series of initiatives for the Associazione Arcobaleno, part of the Oxfam Italia network that works with handicapped children.

We tasted her Palazzo della Torre, IgT Veronese 1998, a wine made with Corvina Veronese (70%), Rondinella (25%), and Sangiovese (5%). The grapes are harvested in September but they 30% are left to raisin until the first two weeks of January when they are added to the fermented wine and undergo a second fermentation. Malolactic fermentation takes place in April in barriques, The wine then ages in barriques for 15 months and finally spends 7 months in the bottles.

The wine was quite herbaceous and earthy on the nose with sweet cherry and berry fruit as well. On the palate it was similar, rich and luscious, it called for a hefty pasta or meat dish.

The tenth producer was Masi Agricola. Masi gives out a series of prizes every year, and 2014 is their 33rd edition. They give out prizes in three areas: the first is given to someone from the Veneto of distinction, the second someone in the wine world from outside of Italy and the third to a global figure who has contributed to spreading culture. Sandro Boscaini, the President of Masi Agricola wants the prize to be a symbol of his links to his land and its traditions, of which wine is one essential component. Since 2001, the group has promoted its cultural activities through the Masi Foundation,

We tasted the Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera. The wine is made from Corvina (70%), Rondinella (15%), Oseleta (10%), and Molinara (5%). The wine ages in oak barrel from Slavonia and France of 600 liters for 24 months. Oseleta is a very ancient variety that was brought back to life by Masi.

The wine was opaque in color and very powerful with intense and persistent notes of chocolate, red and black fruit and oak.

Another long seminar that ended with a bang. It was also held on the last day of the fair and was a spectacular way to close out the experience. Thank you Civilta del Bere.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, Travel

Memorable Events: Wine Is More – A Vinitaly Seminar – Part 1

Vinitaly Seminar

As Vinitaly approaches again, I have been going through my notes to see which producers I want to visit this year and what I have tasted and written about in the past. Of course, as happens to the best of us, numerous articles that I promised I would write last year didn’t get written. Not for lack of trying but for lack of time. Evidently I haven’t broken the habit of needing a deadline, formed when I was a young and further developed when I was a newswire journalist in Milan. Something about the pressure to write on deadline makes me get things done. I wish this weren’t the case and I guess that is why I am taking forever to write the book I have in mind. Musings about why things don’t get done are even less interesting to someone else than they are to me so enough of that…

“Wine is more – Message in the bottle” was the theme of the tasting I attended which showcased ten top producers and the socially-minded activities that their wineries fund or support in one way or another. I often work with non-for-profits and was particularly touched by the content of this seminar.

The first winery was Villa Russiz from Capriva del Friuli. The winery was created in 1869. The Villa Russiz has a foundation which manages their 90+ hectares and is a home for children in difficulty. Children from the age of 3 to 14 live in the home when they have been removed from their family homes which allows them support and a safe and loving environment.

The winery is also very active in the arts and signed an agreement with the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg to study the theme of wine landscapes in painting. The wine that we tasted was one made for the Hermitage with a special label to celebrate the museum’s 250th anniversary.

This white wine is the official wine of the Hermitage for the coming years thanks to the agreement they signed. The wine is from 2011 and was a 100% Tocai Friulano, Friuli per l’Ermitage, Collio D.O.C.

The next winery was Argiolas from Sardinia. Valentina who I have interviewed in the past, showed a beautiful film about the institutions her family has helped to create in the Democratic Republic of Congo together with the non-for-profits Africadegna and L’Associazione Alerte Solidariete Sante. The Argiolas family has helped to build a medical center and has helped to make sure that it can be self-sufficient even in terms of energy. The project is called Iselis and two wines were made to support and symbolize this initiative – Isola dei Nuraghi Igt Bianco e Rosso.

The wine we tasted was the Iselis Rosso made from 85% Monica, 10% Carignano and 5% Bovale Sardo. The wine spends time both in concrete where it undergoes malolactic fermentation and then spends another 12 months in barrique and six months in the bottle before being released into the market. According to Valentina, Monica is a great grape for aging while Bovale Sarda adds structure and backbone to the wine.

The wine was deep ruby red in color with an intense and persistent bouquet of herbs, earth, spice and pepper. On the palate it was dry, full-bodied, with ripe juicy tannins.

Civilta del Bere

Michele Chiarlo from Piedmont was the third winery in the line-up. The Chiarlo family has created a one of kind artistic park using works by Emanuele Luzzati. Works of art dedicated to the themes of the elements – air, water, fire and earth, are interspersed between the vines. Every year the family hosts a festival of art, theater and film in the Orme su La Court park.

The wine we tasted was the La Court “Nizza” Barbera d’Asti Superiore D.O.C.G. 2010. The wine spends 12 months in French oak, half of it spends time in barriques for 12 months. The wine then spends a second year in the bottle before release. Chiarlo was particularly pleased as he described how his father wanted to make a great Barbera in Piedmont, up to the task of competing with Barolo and Barbaresco.

The wine was a deep ruby red with intense and persistent black fruit aromas. On the palate it was dry, full-bodied with good acidity, rich cedar and oak flavors as well as chocolate notes. The tannins were ripe and welcoming, the wine velvety and enveloping.

Wine Is More

The fourth winery was Tasca d’Almerita from Sicily. In its 8th generation, Tasca is at the head of a group of wineries working on a project called SOStain that is involved in protecting the environment. The mission of the project is to promote sustainable agriculture. Tasca is convinced that the responsibility of each producer is to make great wine and to protect the land and the local flora and fauna while doing so. They have also created a mini-agricultural group called Naturaintasca that involves a group of local farmers who work with typical Sicilian products. Alberto Tasca d’Almerita showed a film I just loved about his family but I can no longer find it on the website. At a certain point in his speech, Alberto said the following line which I really appreciated as well, “We didn’t receive the gift of our lands from our fathers but as a loan from our children/Non abbiamo ricevuto la terra in eredita dei nostri padri ma in prestito dai nostri figli.” So much more to say about this project but I will write about that at another point.

The wine we tried was the Riserva del Conte, Contea di Sclafani D.O.C. 2010 made from 67% Perricone and 33% Nero d’Avola. The grapes are vinified together with ambient yeast, maceration lasts for 25 days during which time malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine then ages in 500 liter wooden barrels made from Chestnut wood for 26 months.

Ruby red in color with developing aromas of earth, fruit, animal skin and bacon, the wine was dry and full-bodied on the palate with flavors of oak, chocolate, and vanilla. It had sweet ripe tannins and a velvety mouthfeel.

The fifth winery was Casa Vinicola Zonin from Gambellara (Vicenza). Originally, they had only property in the Veneto but now are among the largest wine companies in Italy and in Europe with 1,800 hectares under vine. They are working on a project called Tergeo together with Unione Italiana Vini and other research institutions. At the core of the project is the concept that there are ethics to sustainability in terms of protecting the landscape, energy, education and of course, viticulture. In terms of the landscape, they look to protect biodiversity, in terms of energy to be self-sufficient, in terms of education they look to promote more of it and in terms of viticulture, they are moving towards biodynamic viticulture, already in place in Sicily at their winery Feudo Principi di Butera. In the Maremma, they are practicing organic composting at Rocca di Montemassi.

The wine we tried was their Rocca di Montemassim Igt Maremma Toscana 2010 made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. Each grape variety is harvested and vinified separately in stainless steel and then aged in 350 tonneaux of first and second use for one year. The wine was a deep ruby red in color with persistent aromas and flavors of oak, bacon, fruit, and earth. The tannins were refined and ripe and the finish was long. I also found minerality in the wine which Francesco Zonin said came from the soil composition in this part of the Maremma.

I’m going to split this post into two parts like I did last weekend otherwise it will be too long for anyone to want to read. The experience though was very memorable and the stories and the wines powerful.

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Women In Wine Fridays: Tema Agricola From Sardinia


I first met Francesca, one of the women who runs Tema during a Vinitaly tour in New York in 2010. She was very charismatic and interesting and so I took the occasion to see her again and tasted her wines at Vinitaly in Verona where these photos were taken two yers ago. Together with her mother, Silvia, she started Tema in 2006 at an old farm on the coast of Sardinia near the city of Oristano. A river runs through this area called the Salighe. She described the area as having both mountains and sea. Additionally, the winery is close to the Capo Nieddu waterfalls. The farm used to be a stud farm for Anglo-Arab Sardinian horses and was then converted for use in the production of extra virgin olive oil. Francesca and her mother though wanted to plant grapes and make wines using Sardinia’s signature varieties: Vermentino and Cannonau.


The vineyards have somewhat sandy soils with layers of basalt. They use organic composting as fertilizer and do bunch thinning to control vigor. They also harvest all the grapes by hand. Their Vermentino grapes undergoe soft crushing and pressing and partial malolactic fermentation. The red grapes used for their Cannonau are macerated and are kept at a controlled temperature of 25-28 °C before fermenting and aging. The winery uses consulting oenologist Angelo Angioi. They make two wines, Silbanis and Orassale.


Silbanis was a nice expression of Vermentino with fresh flowers and white fruit aromas. It had considerable minerality and sapidity which I always get from wines that are produced near the sea. It is a perfect seafood wine while Orassale is a full-bodied, layered Cannonau with black and red fruit aromas and some earthy undertones, according to my notes.


When I first heard of the winery, I had no idea that it was linked to a gorgeous resort, Capo Nieddu. Their property is part of the “Costa di Cuglieri”, a specially protection area designated by the European Union. This region has a long historical tradition and many of the famed nuraghe that dot the Sardinian landscape. The nuraghe are megalithic structures developed during the Nuragic Age between 1900-730 BC. At that time, villages were made of huts of local stone and in the center they would have a large nuraghe. Everything about the resort looked interesting to me and it was clear that much attention is paid to details, just like with the labels of their wines. The labels were designed with ancient symbols of Sardinia in mind.

I confess I have had a long love affair with Sardinia since I first visited in 1993. I also had a marvelous three week stay there in 2001 sailing around the islands of the Maddalena. I have never visited the area around Oristano but meeting Francesca and tasting the wines certainly makes me want to go back and explore.

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

Wine of the Week: Colline di Sopra from Montescudaio (Tuscany)

This post is as much about the winery Colline di Sopra as it is about their lovely labels. Unfortunately they are not yet distributed in the U.S. but they should be.


Everyone interested in wine, whichever side you are on (producer, customer, importer, retailer, wine bar owner, restaurateur, journalist, media spokeperson, etc) cares about the labels of the wines that they own, represent or write about. Producers tend to be attached to their labels for a variety of reasons including tradition, history, family or design.

Customers care about labels too especially ones that they can remember – think of the numerous apps that allow us to take pictures of labels and save them. Importers, retailers, wine bar owners and restaurateurs care about labels too because they want them to be easily recognizable by their customers.


Journalists and media spokespeople have a different take – they want labels that tell a story and are easy to photograph. I love looking at labels and finding out why people choose various patterns, icons, or set-ups. I find that I tend to like labels that are relatively simple, kind of like a Milanese kitchen, clean lines and uniform color schemes.

I came upon labels just like this last year at Vinitaly. Each year Vinitaly holds a packaging contest. This year, the 18th such contest saw a “Bardolino doc Classico 2013″ from Azienda Agricola Bigagnoli, win the special prize for best label of the year in the wine category, the “Premio speciale packaging 2014.”


I rarely mention labels here and always cringe when someone tells a producer what to do with their label but I understand the logic of it all and occasionally see the real need for it with some wines. The labels of the Colline di Sopra wines were quite simple and clean as were the wines inside those lovely bottles.

The winery was founded in 2006 and the vines were planted in 2007. The winery is located in the Montescudaio area in Tuscany with vineyards planted at 120-200 meters above sea level. The winery is only 10 kilometers from the sea and is subject to strong winds. They use organic viticulture practices, renewable energy and water maintenance. They also use gravity instead of pressing for the grapes. The soils are a mix with clay and marine fossils as one would expect in this location.


They make five wines, including Sopra which is 100% Sangiovese – aged in second use French oak barrels for 18 months and then in the bottle for another six monts; Eola IGT- a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sangiovese vinified and aged in stainless steel; Lara IGT- a blend of Merlot and Syrah also made in stainless steel; Ramanto IGT- Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot aged in French oak for 12 months and then 6 months in the bottle; and finally Luis IGT – a Moscato Bianco from raisined fruit that dries on wooden flats before being pressed into this .


Looking through my notes I had the word clean over and over again when describing these wines. I found them to be focused and have good acidity on the whole, derived I am sure from their particular micro-climate and soils. Definitely not a traditional winery, the labels were a great example of branding and conveying the message of what is in the bottle: clean, harmonious, modern wines, just like the labels.

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Filed under Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, Travel, Tuscany, wines

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Damaschino Bianco From Sicily

italy 600

This week’s grape variety is Damaschino Bianco which hails from Sicily, specifically the area near Trapani and around Marsala. This grape may have come to Sicily during the Arab period but there are no precise documents which can confirm this hypothesis.

It is said to be a grape that makes white wines that are straw-yellow in color and not very alcoholic. Wines made using this grape tend to be those that are ready to drink quickly rather than to age. It is generally blended with other grapes such as Grecanico. It is a grape that used to be more popular than it is now and has tended to be replaced by Catarratto, a hardier grape that is less affected by Oidium and rot.

I visited Trapani many years ago during a holiday to the Egadi Islands, a fascinating group of islands off the West Coast of Sicily. We stayed on Favignana and traveled to Levanzo and Marettimo. My visit to those islands and my travels around them in a dinghy can be the subject of another post. Suffice it to say that they are beautiful and the whole area is a wonderful place for a magical holiday.

In other news, here’s a recent article that I wrote for the Organic Wine Journal about a group of producers in the Trentino.

Snooth has also been doing a series that I am pleased to be part of. This week’s piece is on Grenache.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Sicily

Women In Wine Fridays: Le Donne Del Vino 26 Years Of Success – Part 2

Donne del Vino Seminar

This is the second part of my post on the Le Donne del Vino seminar held by Civilta del Bere last year at Vinitaly. My post was getting so long yesterday that I feared no one would read it on the web and each one of these women deserves to be recognized and written about together with their wonderful wine from 1988.

The fifth winery that was presented was Castello di Querceto. The winery is located some seven kilometers from Greve in Chianti, in the heart of Chianti Classico. They have 60 hectares that are planted with vines in a property that is 190 hectares. The property is owned by the Francois family and the castle was renovated in the 16th century from previously existing medieval ruins. The winery has been operating for 115 years. They are lucky enough to have library wines starting from the year 1904. In 1924, it was one of the 33 estates that founded the Chianti Classico Consortium.

The winery has been paying particular attention of late to the nexus between environmental concerns and producing quality wines. In the coming years they will be replanting part of their vineyards with a higher density per hectare.

Maria Antonietta Corsi Francois was on hand to present her family winery. She too has been in Le Donne del Vino since its inception. She has been involved in many aspects of the winery where he husband is the oenologist. For many years she has been involved in the environmental aspects of the winery and the changes made to the castle.

The wine we tried was Il Picchio, a Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G. 1988. It had a beautiful ruby red color with cedar, oak, smoke, animal skin and savory aromas on the nose and similar flavors on the palate as well as a fruity and an earthy note. It had good acidity and firm tannins and was long and persistent. I found this wine to be harmonious and balanced. A gorgeous layered Chianti.

Le Donne del VIno - Part 2

The sixth producer was Chiara Lungarotti from Lungarotti in Umbria. I have met Chiara numerous times and interviewed her in 2005. Her winery really defines Umbra and together with her Mother and sister Teresa, Chiara has been running the show since her father passed away in 1999.

The family owns two large properties, one in Torigiano and the other in Montefalco with 250 hectares of vines. They have 21 labels but Rubesco is the wine that has been the star of their lineup since the 1960s. Giorgio Lungarotti, Chiara’s father created the wine.

Lungarotti is also attentive to the environment and was the first winery in Europe to produce energy using the biomass from the winery. Lungarotti is today getting organic certification for the winery in Montefalco.

Chiara has been working in the winery since the beginning of the 1990s. Chiara has an undergraduate degree in agronomy and has taken a number of specialized courses in viticulture from the University of Bordeaux. Chiara has also been involved in the Movimento del Turismo Vino where she was a past president, and today is a member of Federvini, of the Accademia della vite e del vino and the Accademia dei Georgofili.

We tried the Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Torgiano Rosso Riserva D.O.C.G. 1988 which is a blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The wine was deep ruby red in color with a lighter rim. It was quite fruity on the nose with aromas of cherry, syrup and earth. On the palate, it was dry, full-bodied with rich fruit flavors and dried fruit, meat, and tobacco notes. It was quite balanced and enveloping.


The next producer, Marilisa Allegrini from Allegrini is also someone I have interviewed in the past and met numerous times. To me she is the quintessence of Verona and for that reason I put this picture above. The Allegrini family has been in Valpolicella since the 16th century and they have 100 hectares of vines. Marilisa and her brother Franco together with her niece Silvia are the principal actors in the winery. Her father Giovanni was one of the first in the area to make changes in terms of the grapes that they were growing and new techniques for pruning and planting density. They also were among the first to created single cru wines from the Valpolicella vineyards.

Marilisa has been working in the winery since 1980. Together with her brother she has moved into Tuscany acquiring wineries in Bolgheri and Montalcino.

The wine we tasted was La Poja, a Vdt Veronese 1988 made from 100% Corvina Veronese. This is one of the few mono-varietal made from Corvina, a blending grape usually seen in Amarone and Valpolicella wines.

The wine was a very deep color, almost opaque with aromas of bacon, dust, cherries and syrup. On the palate it was rich with juicy tannins and similar flavors to those I got on the nose. It was long and persistent with good acidity, a signature of the Corvina grape.

Arena di Verona

The ninth producer was Zenato. I have also met Nadia numerous times, most recently at VinoVip in Cortina, also held by Civlita del Bere. Nadia Zenato’s family is also very closely tied to the Veneto hence more photos of Verona.

The family has 75 hectares of vines located between Lugana and Valpolicella Classico. Started in 1960 by Sergio and Carla Zenato, their mission has always been to protect indigenous varieties such as Trebbiano di Lugana. Today the winery is run by Nadia and her brother Alberto.

Nadia is in charge of sales and marketing and the wines are now sold in 65 countries. She also makes a jewelry line called Nadia Pensieri and is active in social enterprises such as Save Guinea as well as the national and local organizations of Le Donne del Vino, among others. Nadia was emotional when she spoke of her father and working in the winery. She spoke about walking among the vines as a young girl.

The wine we tried was an Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva D.O.C. 1988. The wine was a beautiful example of an Amarone with a deep ruby core and lighter rim, intense and persistent aromas of bacon, oak and tobacco. On the palate it was full bodied with good acidity, minerality and the same powerful flavors that I got on the nose. It was layered and rich with ripe tannins and a long harmonious finish.

Verona 3

The tenth and final producer was Alessandra Boscaini from Masi Agricola. Also from the Veneto, the Masi family is extremely well-known for their Amarone. The family has been in the Valpolicella for 300 years. The family owns a number of properties in the Veneto and Trentino as well as in Tuscany and Argentina. The winery is specialized in their drying techniques for the grapes that go into Amarone.

Alessandra is the seventh generation of the Boscaini family to lead the winery. She inherited her father and grandfather’s passion for the industry and has been putting a more “feminine” face on the winery. She is very active in the oenotourism moviment as well as in the sales of the wines. She is often asked to represent the company in the Asian and Pacific markets.

The wine we tried was the Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C. 1988. This wine comes from the Serego Alighieri vineyards that belong to the direct descendants of the poet Dante, and form Valpolicella’s oldest and most traditional estates. Dante’s son Pietro bought the property in 1353. The Masi family collaborates with the Serego Alighieri winery offering technical expertise and an international distribution chain.

The wine was very big at 15.5% alcohol and as you might imagine knocked my socks off after the last nine wines. It was very full bodied with notes of pepper, liquorice and black fruits. It had long, ripe tannins and was quite a powerhouse.

As you can see, this was a very special tasting and one that I am very happy to have been able to attend. The women and the wines were all fabulously interesting, inviting and enveloping. I don’t know how Alessandro was able to limit the tasting to just 10 women out of so many to choose from but I am glad he did because it would have been hard to take in much more. Writing about this experience over the last two days has made me so excited to go back to Italy and Verona in about two weeks time!


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

Women In Wine Fridays: Le Donne Del Vino 26 Years Of Success – Part 1

Le Donne del Vino - Vinitaly

It is hard to believe it has been a whole year since the last Vinitaly but life seems to have a way of speeding up as you get (a little bit) older, as some of you may have noticed. In any event, this post is about the 25th anniversary of the organization Le Donne del Vino, even if this is their 26th year. The organization which began in 1988 started as the brainchild of Elisabetta Tognana and today has 650 members.

I first heard about the organization when I began seriously studying Italian wine in Milan in 1997. I did my first women in wine interviews in 2005 when Pia Donata Berlucchi was the President of the group. Thanks to this long standing interest in the group, I was invited by Alessandro Torcoli of Civilta del Bere to one of his seminars at Vinitaly last year dedicated to the organization.

Civilta del Bere always organizes one or two seminars during Vinitaly. I must say that they have often been highlights of my trip to Verona. This will be my ninth Vinitaly and every year I seem to find more to do at the fair between tastings, seminars, meeting clients and friends, tasting wine with sommeliers at the regional desks in each pavilion not to mention the other areas of Vinitaly such as Sol and Enolitech, Vivit and the new ViniBio section this year.

25 Anni

The tasting was fabulous and the wines were as well. Each wine was also from 1988, the year the organization was founded. Ten women and their wines were part of the tasting. Each of the women described how their wineries were part of what they brought to the table and how the importance of certain values for each played into their work in the wineries: family, sustainability and culture. Wine is more than just wine was the theme. They also spoke about how women are used to multitasking in their daily lives and how this translates into their work in the vineyards as well.

We stated out with the wines from Grotta del Sole (Napoli) with Elena Martusciello, President of Le Donne del Vino since 2010. The winery was created in 1989 and is active in the areas known as the Campi Flegrei D.O.C., Penisola Sorrentina and Aversa. The family has been interested in the revival of grape varieties that were out of favor or moving towards extinction. The winery also was the first in Campania to make a sparkling wine using the Classical method and the Martinotti method (charmat). The winery has 42 hectares plus two additional properties of 4.5 hectares and 7 hectares. Martusciello is very active in the cultural life of her community as well, working to promote the heritage of the Campi Flegrei.

We tasted a wine called Aspirino d’Aversa Spumante Metodo Classico Extra Brut 1988. It was a lovely example of this grape which I have tried in a still version in the past. The wine was a deep, golden color with a citrus tart bouquet. It was a semi-dry wine which was full-bodied on the palate with nice acidity and alcohol, nutty, fruity and yeasty flavors with minerality and sapidity. It has a very long finish and made me want to have seafood right away. Marusciello said they wanted to make a sparkling wine because Campania didn’t have any at that point. Apparently her brother-in-law, an Oenologist had studied in Conegliano (Veneto) and became obsessed with sparklers as it is the land of Prosecco. Her son also is quite passionate about sparkling wines so the traditional will definitely continue.

Here’s an article I wrote about in the early days of my Italian Indigenous Varieties series on Aspirinio.

E. Martusciello and A

The next wine we tried was from Chiara Soldati from La Scolca. It was a Gavi dei Gavi, Gavi DOC 1988. Scolca became part of the Soldati family between 1917-1919. Chiara is at the head of the winery and has been since she was very young, together with her father Giuseppe. At the time of the acquisition, the family decided to plant the white Cortese grape which was a big shift from the traditional plantings of the area which were all red. Chiara is the fifth generation to run the winery.

Chiara spoke about her family winery and the emotions that she felt towards the industry. She is also very active in her local area both in terms of academics where she teaches in a Masters programs as well as promoting the area as a tourism mecca with the Movimento Turismo Vino.

The wine, a Gavi dei Gavi DOC 1988, was a deep, lemon color with a persistent, tropical and dried fruit bouquet. On the palate, it was dry, full-bodied with great acidity, waxy and lanolin flavors with almond notes and again, mineral overtones. The wine was first made in 1975 and undergoes a partial maceration with the skins as well as lees aging.

The next wine was from Castello della Sala, a winery of the Antinori family. Albiera Antinori presented the wine. She is part of the 26th generation of this family which has been in the wine business for 600 years. Albiera is one of three sisters. Allegra and Alessia are the other two and all three work in the family business. The Antinori group has 1,700 hectares in Italy and 540 hectares in other nations (USA, Hungary, Chile and Malta).

Albiera is the oldest of the three sisters and has been working for the company since 1986. She has held various positions throughout these years including the recent project developing their new mega headquarters in Tuscany. Speaking of her experiences in the industry, she said she felt it was actually harder to be a young person than to be a woman. Interesting comment.

The wine we tasted was the Cervaro della Sala, VdT Bianco dell’Umbria 1988. A blend of Chardonnay and Grechetto. According to Albiera, the wine was a real exception when it was first created. It spends time in wood and undergoes malolactic fermentation and then ages on its lees. An example of how the traditional Antinori family approached innovation and new techniques in their wineries.

I have had this wine a number of times and always enjoyed it. It had a golden color with an intense, persistent nose of golden apples, honey, butter and almond. On the palate, it was dry, full-bodied with good acidity and alcohol. It had an oaky note to it as well as the same flavors that I got on the nose.

Le Donne del Vino

The fourth wine was from the Tenuta di Capezzana and was presented by Beatrice Contini Bonacossi. Her Villa di Capezzana Carmignano Riserva DOCG 1988 is one of my favorite wines and has been since I lived in Florence. I’m a huge fan of Carmignano which I feel is woefully underrated.

The winery was founded in the 1920s by Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi who hailed from a noble family from Mantova. Beatrice’s father, Ugo, the nephew of Count Alessandro was the innovator of the winery. Since 2009, the winery has moved towards organic agriculture. Some 50% of the vineyards are now organic.

Beatrice was a swimming champion as a youth and has worked with the winery since 1983. She is one of seven children of Ugo. Beatrice has been a member of Le Donne del Vino since the beginning. She said that being a woman is no longer truly an issue in the field. Her sister, Benedetta is an oenologist and her niece a member of the winery team as well.

The wine, Carmignano Riserva D.O.C.G. 1988 contained a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Canaiolo, and 5% of other varieties. It made its debut in 1925.It was a deep ruby red with intense and persistent aromas of cherry, tobacco and oak. On the palate, the wine was dry, full-bodied with good acidity and alcohol. It had similar flavors to the aromas on the palate with more black fruit notes.

The fifth woman on the panel was Antonella D’Isanto from I Balzini, a winery in Barberino Val d’Elsa (Florence). The winery was bought by her husband, Vincenzo D’Istanto, in the 1977 and planted in 1980.Barbara Tamburini, a wonderful oenologist and a personal friend is their consulting winemaker. Antonella has been heavily involved in the winery since 2005 and in a project called Tuscan Colors which has different colors for each label.

Originally from Messina, I spent some time with Antonella outside of the seminar and she was truly lovely to speak with, warm and generous. In addition to everything else, she makes jewelry from corkscrews and gave me a great pair of earrings during the fair. She is very interested in sustainability and theirs was one of the first wineries to have photovoltaic structures in the vineyard which covers 80% of their energy needs. Carbon zero is a goal for the winery. In addition to the wines they make, Antonella has included other products in their lineup including wine gelatin.

The wine we tried was called I Balzini White Label, a VdT Rosso di Barberino Val d’Elsa 1988. It was ruby red in color with intense and persistent aromas of animal skin, earth and savory notes. On the palate, it was dry, full-bodied with alcohol and acidity. The tannins were gritty with rich, fruity flavors and again a distinct earthy note in the background. It had a long finish as well.

I’m going to finish the second part of the tasting in a separate post tomorrow. As you can see, each woman and each wine was fascinating.

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