Monthly Archives: May 2014

Wine of the Week: Barrua IGT from Agricola Punica (Sardinia)


This week’s wine of the week is from the beautiful island of Sardinia. Sardinia has been on my mind a lot lately as the weather gets nicer and my desire to go on vacation becomes stronger. Sardinia is a magical island for exploring, going to the beach, sailing, and so much more. Its wines and foods are getting more well known but many still think only of Cannonau and Vermentino when thinking about Sardinia.

This particular wine is made by a famed group of people – Agricola Punica is a joint venture between Sebastiano Rosa, Sardinian winery Cantina di Santadi, Tenuta San Guido, Santadi President Antonello Pilloni and legendary Tuscan consulting oenologist Giacomo Tachis.

Rosa is the winemaker at Tenuta San Guido and Santadi and they each own 40% of the venture. Marchese Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta is the President of the winery and owns ten percent, with Giacomo Tachis and Santadi President Antonello Pilloni equally sharing the remain ten percent. The winery owns a 370 acre estate in the southwest of Sardinia. The vineyards are located in the Carignano del Sulcis DOC area but the wine is an I.G.T. of Isola dei Nuraghi, a reference to the stone pillars that dot the landscape from the Nuragic civilization from the Neolithic age. I did a project for this region last year for Valentine’s day and I have been dying to go visit ever since.

Apparently, the Barrua vineyard is a bit inland from the coast and grows Carignano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The soils are a mix of clay and sand. The vines here are very hearty. Temperatures are hot and the warm African wind known as the Scirocco blows constantly. Luckily the sea mitigates the hot breezes and climate. Carignano first came to the region with the Phoenicians according to local lore.

Barrua I.G.T. is a gorgeous, polished wine with spice and great fruit and floral aromas and flavors. It has juicy, sweet tannins thanks to the ripeness of the grapes. It also has nice minerality. I had the occasion to taste this wine again at Vinitaly this year during the Opera Wine portion of the show, a joint venture between the Wine Spectator and Vinitaly/Veronafiere. Agricola Punica, together with five other wineries, was added to the list of the Wine Spectator’s top 100 Italian wines for the first time this year.

You can find the wine here at The wine is brought in by Kobrand.


Filed under Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Sardinia, Travel, Wine of the Week, wines

Italian Indigenous Grapes: Ervi Nero from Emilia Romagna


This week’s grape variety is from Emilia Romagna, a lovely region with great food and interesting wines. The variety was created in 1970 as a cross between indigenous grape varieties Barbera and Croatina, locally called Bonarda as well. It was created at the Universita’ Cattolica di Piacenza by Professor Mario Fregoni, Professor of Viticulture, as part of a larger study of indigenous varieties of the region. Fregoni was recently nominated President of the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), an organization with fifty members in countries around the world.

Ervi is a red grape variety that is full bodied and brings sugar and color to blends. It is usually blended with Barbera. The name is a recognition of the role of one wine producer who was a significant help in the first stages of research, Ernesto Vigevani. It also means wine in Aramaic.

Here’s a link to blog post I wrote a couple of months ago about wines from the area near Piacenza or the Colli Piacentini.

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Italy’s Ferrari Winery Expands Into the Veneto

Trentino’s Ferrari Winery has just purchased a 50% stake of Bisol, the prosecco superiore producer from the Veneto. According to Ferrari’s Alessandro Lunelli, “What we are trying to do is showcase the variety in Italian sparkling wine. Some people may have seen us as competitors but we see Prosecco DOCG and Trento DOC classico as completely different wines. One is made using the traditional method while the other uses the Charmat method. Not much will change at Bisol, we are just giving them access to our distribution system and our high levels of technology,” he added.

Gianluca and Desiderio Bisol will continue their work with the company in their current positions, continuing the family tradition that is now in its twenty-first generation.

“’This investment in Bisol is consistent with our plan to create a group made up of Italian drinking excellence,“ says Matteo Lunelli, CEO of the Lunelli Group. ”We’ve deliberated whether to enter the world of prosecco for a long time and we’ve found the ideal company in Bisol: a historic and prestigious brand with huge potential for growth, managed by a family we greatly esteem. Back in 1952 our grandfather, Bruno Lunelli, started to work alongside Giulio Ferrari and would continue to do so for years. And, as advocates of continuity, today we’ll do the same and work enthusiastically alongside the Bisol family.”

To continue reading, please click on this link to the story on the Organic Wine Journal.

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Filed under Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, sparkling wine, trentino, Veneto

Women in Wine Fridays: An Interview with Harriet Lembeck from the Wine & Spirits Program

Harriet's Photo Color

Today’s interview is with Harriet Lembeck of the Wine & Spirits Program in New York City. The program was originated by the late Harold J. Grossman in 1940. Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSS*, has continued this mission since 1975 and the course has been given continuously to this day. Harriet was also Wine Director of the New School for 15 years. She is the author of the 6th and 7th editions of “The Grossman Guide to Wines, Beers, and Spirits”, Chairman of the NY Wine Press, and is a frequent guest on radio and TV, as well as a frequent judge at wine competitions around the world.

I have known Harriet for a number of years and finally had the occasion to share a table with her at a tasting a couple of weeks ago. I am intrigued by her knowledge and dedication to the field. I also like her quick wit. Someone made a very sexist comment at the tasting and Harriet didn’t skip a beat to respond to the comment. I was doubly impressed.

1. How did you get into the wine business?

I took a wine class given by the late Harold G. Grossman, and at the end of the term, he asked me to work for him. The rest is history.

2. What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

Getting passed over for speaking engagements or seminars, both by the trade or even consumer groups who hold tastings and need a speaker. The guy always gets the gig, even if you are convinced that you know more than he does.

3. What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business?

More women are taking wine classes. They are serious about possible careers in the wine business, and they study very hard. Also, there are more and more wine classes available, and students have choices. Previously, there were only a few classes – most notably my class: the Wine & Spirits Program, Mary Ewing Mulligan MW’s classes at the International Wine Center, and Kevin Zraly’s the Windows on the World Wine School. Today students can also take classes on line, and compare their tasting notes with the notes of others.

4. What do you see happening in wine education?

As noted, it is becoming less structured, with more use of the Internet, both for doing research and for attending webinars.

5. What is happening in terms of varietals? International varietals?

Interest in varietals is exploding. Those who only knew the important grapes of Burgundy and Bordeaux can now recite uncommon varieties from all corners of the wine world. Those who never knew what grapes were in the glass in their hands now have to know the grapes in every glass before they can begin to taste the wine. Books like Wine Grapes, by Jancis Robinson’, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz have greatly simplified the entire field, and made live easier for other researchers.

6. What tops or sectors are people most interested in learning about?

People want to know how to get into the ‘wine business’ –as if it were a single entity. They like the glamour, and are not interested in all of the laborious paperwork that comes along with it, or the heavy lifting of all those cases.

7. What do you think about the level of wine education in the US today?

The level of Wine Education is very high – poor teachers find few repeat students. The field is very competitive. If you aren’t a good teacher, and students don’t feel that they are learning anything, the word gets out quickly. The teachers who prepare thoroughly have the best reputation.

8. Do you think we are still focused on France, Italy and California?

We are focused on wines from all over the world, and even when France, Italy and California are mentioned, it is the more obscure corners of those countries that command attention.

9. Who is the average wine drinker today?

There is no ‘average’ – it’s a game anyone can play. People get wine advice all the way from Robert Parker to their best friends, but the younger wine drinkers, over 21 of course, are more adventurous.

10. Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

There will probably be more women working in big companies, many will be making wine, and many will be advising restaurants on food and wine combinations and creative pairings.

* Certified Wine Educator, Certified Specialist of Spirits


Filed under Wine Educators, Wine Schools, wines, Women in Wine

Wine of the Week: Terra di Lavoro 2009 from Campania

Terra di Lavoro 2009

This week’s wine of the week is Terra di Lavoro from Campania. The wine is the only one that the Galardi family makes on its estate. The estate was created in 1991 by four cousins. The family hired Riccardo Cotarella and the first vintage was made in 1994, just 600 bottles of the wine were released. Now 32,000 bottles of the wine are produced. The winery is located on the slopes of the extinct volcano Roccamonfina in northwestern Campania.

The name of the wine is actually a reflection of how difficult it is to work this land and grow grapes. The wine is made from a blend of indigenous varieties from Campania – Aglianico and Piedirosso. Aglianico does the lion’s share for the wine. Some 80% is Aglianico, with Piedirosso playing a supporting role. The vineyard lies at 1500 feet and is subjected to strong winds in both directions.

Fermentation takes place in stainless steel before the wine ages in French barriques from Allier and Nevers for one year, after which time the wine spends an additional 10 months in the bottle before release. They use 70% new oak and 30% second passage.

I first tasted this wine back in 2010 as part of a tasting I helped with at Vinitaly for the
Wine Spectator. I had never heard of it before that event but have taken the opportunity to taste it again every chance I get. The most recent one was at an event held in March 2014 at Del Posto.

Campania's Wine Excellence

The wine was just incredible. It had rich, spicy notes with black and red fruit aromas and flavors as well as floral overtones from the Piedirosso. It also had an herbacious, earthy quality with hints of tobacco and ripe, juicy tannins. I highly recommend this wine with a special meal. I tried the 2009 and the 2011 at the event and both were gems. The wine is imported by Winebow.

The wine is deep purple in color with smoky, earthy aromas and seductive hints of tobacco and graphite. Notes of ripe black cherries, cassis, tobacco and leather come through on the palate of this big-structured, full-bodied wine.
Food Pairing

This iconic wine pairs beautifully with Italian or French pot roasts, filet mignon or aged cuts of beef.

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Filed under Campania, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Wine of the Week, wine wednesday, wines

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Erbaluce Bianco (Piedmont)

italy 600

This week’s Italian indigenous variety is Erbaluce bianco. It hails from Piedmont and the wine you have probably heard of is Erbaluce di Caluso which is now a denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) e garantita (D.O.C.G.) wine. The wines produced using this variety tend to have great acidity and minerality, floral and fruity aromas and flavors with a bitter almond finish.

Apparently it was often used in sparkling wine in the past and can still be found in the passito version as well. The origins and DNA relatives of the grape are not fully identified. Nor is the origin of the name Erbaluce. Some say that is comes from the brillant color of the grape variety.

It grows in different areas in Piedmont and can be used in Canavese denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.), Colline Novaresi D.O.C., Coste della Sesia D.O.C.,Piemonte D.O.C. and Erbaluce di Caluso or Caluso D.O.C.G. wines. In the provinces of Torino, Biella and Novara, the grape is known as Greco. The grape is sensitive to oidium as well as frost. While it is a very vigorous grape variety, its production is not consistent.

I have tried this wine many times in Italy and even in the United States. Domenico Valentino, a New York based importer, has a terrific one called Orsolani.

As an aside, the best Italian restaurant in Boston is also called Erbaluce. I had the occasion to host an event there two years ago with producers from Morellino di Scansano DOCG. Chef Charles Draghi is a genius and I highly recommend a meal there to anyone who is in Boston.

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Umani Ronchi’s Organic Wine From L’Abruzzo – Montipagano

Umani Ronchi is one of the most famous producers in Le Marche and in Abruzzo. The winery has been in the Bianchi-Bernetti family for almost fifty years. Gino Umani Ronchi established the winery at Cupramontana in 1957 in the heart of the production area of Verdicchio Classico. Roberto Bianchi and his son-in-law, Massimo Bernetti, joined the company a few years later.

Michele, Aileen, Mario

Michele Bernetti began working with his father, Massimo and his uncle, Stefano in his teens, but officially joined the winery after University and a stint in London working for their importer. He is currently the CEO and the third generation of his family to run Umani Ronchi. I caught up with Michele during the recent edition of OperaWine, a tasting of the top 100 Italian wines organized by the Wine Spectator and Vinitaly/Veronafiere.

Umani Ronchi is very active in two areas in Le Marche that produce beautiful wines – Castelli di Jesi and Rosso Conero, where Verdicchio and Montepulciano grow, respectively. They also own an estate in Abruzzo in the Colline Teramane DOCG area. Umani Ronchi sees it mission is to promote the wines of these two regions. The winery promotes quality wines from both its indigenous and international varieties and has more than 200 hectares under vine.

If you want to read the rest of this article, please click here to read it on the Organic Wine Journal website.

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