Monthly Archives: January 2015

Italian Regions: Lombardy – Thinking About Milano Before the Expo

milano

As I read all the articles about the big push to visit Milan for the Expo, I am reflecting on all the years I spent there and how often people overlooked not just Lombardy (Milan is the capital) but the wines from the region, the food and well, almost everything.

I had the pleasure of living in Lombardy, in Milan, for 10 years from 1995 to 2005. It was a fabulously interesting place to live and I still feel that it is my third home. My first being New York and my second, Florence where I spent the first years of my Italian life and left a little piece behind. Milan though is where I lived 2/3 of my 15 years in Italy.

Milano

I have a number of clients in Milan, colleagues, and many friends there and go very frequently. This has allowed me to keep an eye on the evolution of the city, the region and all things related to Milan. When living there, I almost never drank or even saw any wines from Lombardy, except those from Franciacorta and Valtellina.

santambrogio

I have had the pleasure of discovering just how wrong I was in thinking that the selection was limited. Lombardy has great wines produced from some local and more international varieties.

Mountains in Milan

Pinot Noir from the Oltrepo’ region is always a favorite of mine for example. I especially like the wines made by the Conte Vistarino family which apparently introduced the grape to the region in the 1800s.

Oltrepo’ is just one of the many areas in Lombardy though where wines are made. Another wine region that I like is Bergamo. I did a really interesting project years ago for the Cantina Bergamasca and discovered the pleasure of Pinot Bianco made in this region. I’ve always loved the city of Bergamo so I felt doubly blessed.

Bergamo

I also have tried wines from Mantova when visiting the Lombardy pavilion at Vinitaly.

Every year I start my day at Vinitaly in the Lombardy pavilion. It’s a great way to taste different wines and to get time in the press room during the same interval of time, something that always seems limited at Vinitaly. The wine that stuck in my mind was their version of Lambrusco, typically a grape that brings one to think of Emilia Romagna not Mantova.

Lambrusco Mantovano has been a DOC since 1987. There is also another area called the Colli Mantovani which is actually on the border between the Veneto and Lombardy that also makes DOC wines. These wines are made from a blend of indigenous and international varieties.

Lake Garda

Another area that straddles the Veneto and Lombardy is the Lake Garda region, another one of my favorites and the only one I will swim in. Garda is beautiful as everyone who has ever visited knows. The wines I prefer from this area are those made from Turbiana that make Lugana, a fresh and lively white wine that is minerally and a perfect wine for an aperitivo or with light fare. I spent a long time trying these wines two years ago and have had the pleasure of meeting many producers as I went on a press trip last year.

No discussion of wines from Lombardy could be complete without mentioning the two most famous regions, Franciacorta and Valtellina. I feel that they merit their own commentary. I adore the wines of Franciacorta and have always believed that they are not appreciated enough in the United States.

The Valtellina is another area of Lombardy that captured my heart years ago. I will write about those amazing wines made from Nebbiolo and locally called Chiavennasca in another post.

There are a few more areas that deserve a mention but the last one that I need to note is San Colombano. I feel that Milan’s only wine region always needs a little push. 10 years and many friends creates considerable loyalty and I am more than affectionate towards my adopted city and its’ local wine.

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Winery of the Week: Gualdo del Re from Suvereto

Barbara Tamburini

This week’s winery of the week is Gualdo del Re, a winery in Suvereto. Barbara Tamburini, the lovely lady in the photo is their amazing winemaker and a friend of mine who will be here next week for Vino!

While organic and biodynamic viniculture is more widespread in Italy than people realize, most producers who follow these practices still do not get certification. One winery bucking this trend is Gualdo del Re in Suvereto, a lovely town in Southern Tuscany, not too far from the Mediterranean coast. On a clear day, you can even see the island of Elba in the distance.

Terroir GDR

Teresa and Nico Rossi, the owners of Gualdo del Re, have always worked the land using organic methods, but felt that certification was a further seal of approval recognizable by consumers who want to be certain they are purchasing “natural” products. After completing the three year process for certification, they received approval in 2011 for two of their white wines: Eliseo Bianco 2011 and Valentina 2011. Their red wines will be certified by the start of 2014.

Barrigues GDR

Gualdo produces a classic line-up of wines from Valentina, a Vermentino, an award winning Merlot, L’Rennero, made from 100% Merlot and aged for 36 months; 15 months in oak barriques and 21 months in the bottle. There is a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon called Federico I and an interesting 100% Aleatico from Elba DOC called Amansio. Valentina and Federico are the names of their children.

Restaurant GDR

A forward-looking pair in all ways, Nico and Teresa hired a top female enologist at a time when women in the cellar were pretty rare. Barbara Tamburini, has been with Gualdo for about 13 years. She started her career working with noted Tuscan enologist Vittorio Fiore.
Val di Cornia, where Suvereto is located, only recently received its denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita (DOCG). Yet the Val di Cornia became a DOC in November of 1989. There are only six towns that may use this legislation for wine labeling and that includes Campiglia Marittima, Piombino, San Vincenzo, Suvereto, Sassetta and Monteverdi Marttimo. These towns are located in the provinces of Livorno and Pisa.

Stainless Steel GDR

Nico and Teresa have been singing the praises of their area for years, well before the DOCG recognition. A wine industry expert said he felt the area was similar to Pomerol in terms of the terroir and growing potential of certain grapes. Gualdo del Re also cultivates olive trees and makes grappa. The soil is a mixture of limestone, sandy, and clay. This area of Tuscany has a mild climate due to the tempering influence of ocean breezes. The wines exhibit their terroir and have both minerally and salinity. The grapes are very healthy as well because of these constant breezes.

The woods where Gualdo del Re’s 25 hectares of vines are located were a King’s retreat in the Middle Ages. There are numerous medieval towns with ancient ruins in this Etruscan Coast area. Nico and Teresa have created a “piccolo paradiso” in this lovely spot complete with delicious wines, a fine restaurant and a bed and breakfast set amidst pine woods and olive grows. They also have an agriturismo nearby where they are very careful with their use of water. The entire area is one viticultural park.

Ducks GDR
During my visit a couple of years ago, Teresa was furious because hunters had wandered onto her land. Wild pheasant and rabbits frolic in this area, usually untroubled by man. Part of the environmental vision that Nico and Teresa have also pertains to animals and how healthy the area is for them. Nico and Teresa also breed ducks in their pond and grow vegetables in an orchard.

Agriturismo GDR

While Nico and Teresa noted that they haven’t seen much excitement in Italy over organic wines, especially because of the difficult economic situation that most people are facing. However, the pair remain convinced that they are absolutely certain that this is the direction for them and for the future of their wines.

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Il Giorno della Memoria

Today is called Il Giorno della Memoria in Italy. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army entered and liberated Auschwitz. In 2000, Italy, France and Germany established this day as a day of remembrance. As always on this day, my Italian friends, one in particular, write to me. I will never forget the day that it was made into law.

I remember weeping with joy that the country where I lived and love, would make this a national day. Furio Colombo, a journalist that I followed and a parliamentarian made passage of this day a lifetime goal.

I’m glad that there are national days in these nations to remember those who perished merely because of their religion – children, women and men. Many others died in the Holocaust too, not just Jews and this day is of course, for them as well. In my own little world, my family lost 80 relatives because they were Jewish.

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Wine of the Week: Taurasi DOCG 2008 From Feudi di San Gregorio

This week’s wine of the week is Taurasi DOCG from 2008 made by Feudi di San Gregorio. I had the wine at home with a friend over the weekend. I was surprised at how lovely it was perhaps because I forget how much I like drinking older Aglianico. It had softened a bit but still had delicious red fruits and spice on the palate and the nose. The tannins were rounder than I had remembered and it paired perfectly with a roasted chicken we had.

Taurasi

I remember the first time I had Taurasi, it was Radici from Mastroberardino, at dinner with a fellow journalist who was from Naples sometime in the late 1990s. We were eating at a restaurant in Campo dei Fiori in Rome. I remember being struck at how big and powerful the wine was at that time. In fact, I was concerned the other night that the food wouldn’t stand up to the wine. My fears were unwarranted. The wine did stand up to the food. Here is an interesting take on the 2008 Taurasi from Kyle Phillips, a great journalist who passed away in the last years.

I chose this wine for the wine of the week today because two important men from Naples are on my mind – the first is Pino Daniele. A great musician, Daniele’s music has been part of my life for over 20 years. I was very excited to see him on his upcoming US tour but sadly that won’t happen. I did get to see him at least in 1994 and 2009. The photos of his funeral in Naples were very touching.

Giorgio Napolitano

The other Neapolitan on my mind is the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano who is stepping down today from his post after nine years in office, the longest of any Italian president. I’ve always like Napolitano and thought he brought stability to the country in these years. I was lucky enough to see him up close and personal three times, twice at the Quirinale for a ceremony for one of my clients that he attends and where he gives out the awards.

Quirinale

I also was on hand when he was presented a special bottle of wine at a ceremony in New York in 2011 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. At 89, he deserves a break after such a long and distinguished career in politics. I am amazed though that the contenders for the Presidency now are politicians who have been around for more than 30 years. I guess as Tancredi says in The Leopard…

“Tutto deve cambiare perché nulla cambi…”
(Il gattopardo- di Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa)

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

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Giro’ Nero from Sardinia

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This week’s indigenous grape hails from Sardinia, a beautiful region in Italy and one that should be on everyone’s bucket list. I have never seen such beautiful water as off the coast of Northern Sardinia near the Maddalena. I went on a fabulous sailing trip there some years ago but my photos aren’t digital so for the moment, these will suffice. An incredible place.

I love Sardinia in general and in fact where a ring that is a symbol of the island. I also love Sardinian wines. Some that I have never tried however are the sweet wines made from Giro Nero in the Cagliari Denominazione d’Origine Controllata (D.O.C.)

This red grape is believed to have been planted on the island when the Spanish controlled the territory. It used to grow all over the island but now is mostly grown around Cagliari.

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Nous Sommes Tous Francais

Paris

After a week like this one, I don’t have the heart to write about wine today although I do believe in carrying on with our lives as a way of fighting back. I am, as most are, shocked and sad about what happened in Paris, both at the newspaper, to the police and in the kosher supermarket. I am horrified at these attacks and the senseless loss of life. As France and journalism are two of my great loves and influences in my life, I feel it acutely. More than anything though, as a human being I am outraged. Vive La France, Vive la Liberte, l’Egalite’ et Fraternite’. Vive la Difference!

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Sartori Wine Empire Sees Organics As Part Of Company Strength

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Today’s post is about a special wine family from the Veneto. I drank a wonderful Ripasso from the Veneto to celebrate the New Year yesterday and realized that I had never posted this story I wrote earlier this year about Sartori.

Anyone who has every met Andrea Sartori would be hard pressed to immediately guess where he is from. Blond and blue eyed with a decidedly American tinge to his accent when he speaks English, he is incredibly approachable for one at the head of a group like Sartori in the Veneto. Among the most important winery groups in the region, Sartori also heads many intergovernmental organizations and wine related groups that work on a plethora of issues from E.U. regulations to climate change. It would also take a bit of time to understand the growing importance that Sartori places on sustainability and organic farming.

Mostly known for their Amarone, Sartori is actually a partner in two wineries in two Italian regions that focus exclusively on organic grapes – Mont’Albano in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Cerulli Spinozzi in Abruzzo. I was told that they pick wineries to invest in that represent something unique and specific not only about the winery but also about the region where they are located. The Sartori family seems to have felt a kinship both with Friuli and Abruzzo as well. The link is undoubtedly family oriented firms as all three of these wineries are family run.

Having met Andrea numerous times throughout the years, nothing surprises me any longer. He and his consultant winemaker, Franco Bernabei, are always involved in interesting projects such as making the wines to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s death. The Foundation of the Arena di Verona launched a red and a white wine that celebrated the local wines from the Consortium of Bardolino, Cutoza, Soave and Valpolicella. It was the first time that some 4,900 producers and growers from the Verona area worked together to support one of the region’s most important cultural landmarks.

Arena di Verona

The white was a Garganega Verona IGT 2012 and the red was a Corvina Verona IGT 2011. Sartori is the official partner of the Arena Foundation and was behind much of the logistics and technical support for the project, including the packaging. Franco Bernabei was asked to create the wines together with the various Consorzi. The wines were offered and sold in local restaurants and wine shops, with part of the revenue given to the Arena Foundation for future initiatives.

Additionally Sartori launched a special edition of their Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 and donated part of the sales from that wine to the Arena Foundation. The wine has been served at a number of events, including one in Hong Kong that also involved the Gino Strada’s non-profit Emergency.

As to the interesting wines from Mont’Albano in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Sartori acquired the winery in 2008. Mont’Albano was ahead of its time and has been organic since the mid 1980s. Not only are the grapes organically grown but also the bottles they use are thinner and lighter in weight and the labels are all done using recycled paper.

Mauro Braidot is the founder of Mont’Albano, which is located in Colloredo di Monte Albano in Friuli. The winery has a host of organic certifications for each of its important markets such as the U.S. and Canada. Mont’Albano is in the Friuli Grave Denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) zone. The wines they produce are a combination of indigenous and international varieties, including a Pinot Grigio, and a Merlot/Refosco blend of note.

Fontanta - Verona

Another project that the Sartori/Bernabei team worked on together is the Cerulli Spinozzi winery in Abruzzo that Sartori bought into in the early 2000s. The winery was started in 2003 and the vineyard lands were a merger of two properties – that of the Spinozzi family and that of the Cerulli Irelli family,
The winery produces wines made from indigenous varieties from Abruzzo such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Pecorino. The grapes are organically grown. The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo comes from the area known as the Colline Teramane, Abruzzo’s only Denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita (D.O.C.G.) wine, awarded in 2002.

It’s interesting to note that a modern, large group such as Sartori expanded its holdings in these areas and with properties that are interested in sustainable development and organically grown grapes. Sartori while not using organically grown grapes in all of its wines does have every certification on record, no small feat, for the entire winemaking process. One can hope that they are a symbol of what is to come for other large groups in Italy but that might be wishful thinking. In any case, Andrea Sartori’s international style has translated into a very innovative group without sacrificing tradition or territorial connections, a winning combination it seems.

Happy New Year!

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