Monthly Archives: December 2016

Italian Indigenous Grape Varieties: Magliocco Canino Nero from Calabria

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I haven’t visited Calabria in many years and the last time I was in Calabria was 2003. I went to see two beautiful men, the Bronzi di Riace, in Reggio Calabria, took a local train to Tropea, a lovely town on the coast, and went swimming in the cleanest water I have ever seen at Scilla. What I remember from that trip was the beauty of land and the spiciness of the food. Calabria is home to some of the world’s most famous peperoncino. What I didn’t remember at all were the wines and not because I didn’t drink them but because they left me without any lasting memories.


The only winery I had heard of at the time was Librandi, a leader and a great winery. In 2011 I was invited to an amazing vertical tasting of their wine “Magno Megonio,” another post that ought to be written.

Since that time, things have changed and I have discovered many wines from Calabria often based on a blend of Gaglioppo and Magliocco. This week’s variety is Magliocco Canino Nero which is found in Calabria, mostly along the coast in the provinces of Cosenza and Catanzaro however it can also be found in Le Marche and in parts of Sicily.

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Some years ago at Vinitaly I attended a long tasting of wines based on Magliocco under the denomination Terre di Cosenza. There are a variety of wines that are governed by this new DOC including a red, a white, a rose’, a sparkling white and a sparkling rose’and a wine called “Terre di Cosenza DOC Magliocco”. There is also the possibility to make novello, red and white passiti, and red and white late harvest wines in the new legislation as well as a riserva version of the red wine and the Magliocco. There is also an additional “sottozona” or area that can be indicated on the wine – “Colline di Crati” to indicate a specific part of the viticultural area where the grapes can be grown.

Terre di Cosenza

For the red version of Terre di Cosenza DOC, wineries must use:
Magliocco (a minimum of 60%) while the Rose’ must be a created from the following grapes either individually or blended for a minimum of 60%:
Greco nero, Magliocco, Gaglioppo, Aglianico, Calabrese.

White Terre di Cosenza DOC is made from Greco bianco, Guarnaccia bianca, Pecorello, Montonico (locally Mantonico), alone or together they must be 60% of the blend.

Both the white and rose versions of the sparkling wine must be made from 60% Mantonico and “Terre di Cosenza” Magliocco must be made from 85% Magliocco.

There are a variety of wines that are governed by this new DOC including a red, a white, a rose’, a sparkling white and a sparkling rose’and a wine called “Terre di Cosenza DOC Magliocco”. There is also the possibility to make novello, red and white passiti, and red and white late harvest wines in the new legislation as well as a riserva version of the red wine and the Magliocco. There is also an additional “sottozona” or area that can be indicated on the wine – “Colline di Crati” to indicate a specific part of the viticultural area where the grapes can be grown.

In terms of climate and exposition, the entire Calabrian peninsula is surrounded by the sea, both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian sides of the Mediterranean. The area near Cosenza, however, does have higher elevations than some of the other DOCs in Calabria. The climate is Mediterranean near the coast and becomes more Continental as you move inland, I was told.  Calabria suffers from drought but the grape varieties grown in this area are well suited to the particular micro-climate and are able to ripen thanks to good thermal excursion between day and night temperatures.

Terre di Cosenza DOC wines

Wines made from Magliocco tend to be quite dark in color because of an elevated amount of polyphenols in the grape and tannic with good acidity and structure. This enables them to potentially age well. It produces a full-bodied wine and tends to work best in blends.

While Calabria is still not on the beaten path, the attention that they are now devoting to their wines deserves to be recognized. If you can see the Bronzi di Riace and also swim in that beautiful sea at the same time, I think you will feel very satisfied with a trip to Calabria, a feast for the stomach, the heart and the soul. Salute!



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Filed under Adventures in Winemaking: Super Teaneck 1st Vintage, Calabria, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian indigenous varieties, Italian regions, wines

Wine Wednesday: Coimbra De Mattos 1858 Port Valriz


Coimbra De Mattos was one of the older estates I visited during my trip to the Douro Valley in September. The family has 55 hectares and produces port wines and still wines from a host of indigenous grape varieties. The sell their port wines under the brand Valriz while their still wines are sold under the brand names Quinta dos Mattos, Quinta de Laceira and Quinta das Condessas.  They have seven quintas as part of the group.


The family which has lived in Calafura for over seven generations is a descendant of Francisco Ayres de Carvalho and Maria de Mattos who lived on the property in the 17th century and were focused on viticulture.


We tried a number of their wines and ports and I enjoyed many but the stand-out was the 1858 tawny. It was fantastic and had hints of dried fig, nuts, carmel, fresh fruit and even great acidity with a rich long finish. Apparently over the years as evaporation takes place, the acidity becomes even more explosive. It was fantastic and such a treat. In the past I had tasted one older port, Scion, an 1855 port from Taylor Fladgate.


What a memorable experience both of these amazing ports were. The family was very generous to share this wine with us, they only have 600 bottles of it.


We met this father and son team who share this gem with us. Apparently the older gentleman’s father only opened one bottle of the wine throughout his life, at his wedding.

I also liked their white port which was salty with racy acidity made from Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Rabigato and Siría.


The 20 year old tawny was another standout with dried fruit, vanilla, oak, bramble and nuts on the palate as well as a rich and layered finish. It was made from Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. Apparently Tinta Amarela is a thinner skinned grape than the others. It was the first time during the trip that someone spoke about this particular variety. Tinta Roriz is of course Tempranillo by another name.


The 40 year old Port Valriz was also exceptional with great concentration and aromas of coffee, chocolate and dried fruit and nuts. Again, the acidity was surprising and exciting.


It was a truly gorgeous location and they showed us photos of how the pipes were brought down the mountain on oxen to the river. It had a lot of history and I was impressed with the owners and their humble approach. I found that at many of the wineries but not all.


I  am enjoying looking through  my notes and the photos from this magical trip which was a real gift and a surprise. Feliz Ano Novo!


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Thinking Of Milan & Christmases Past


As we approach Christmas Eve, Christmas day and the holidays, I am thinking about Milan and all of the Christmases I have spent there. As visions of Christmas dance in my head I read thew news that a police trainee in Sesto San Giovanni was able to stop the man who was allegedly responsible for the attack in Berlin on Monday. What a world, I hate to think of what he was doing in Italy and what else was planned.


While not considered Italy’s most beautiful city, Milan creeps into your heart and is today considered to be an international city of sorts after the Expo and all the new buildings.


As a New Yorker, it’s not the new buildings that interest me but the old such as Sant’Ambrogio where I once spent a beautiful Christmas Eve with friends listening to Mass. I know all of my Italian friends met tonight for an apertivo to toast the holidays. I am sure they are toasting with Prosecco, a Franciacorta, likely Berlucchi if in a bar or Ferrari.


Primo Franco Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.

I raise a glass to all of them! Buone Feste Amici Miei!!

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Quinta Do Beijo: Kisses from Douro Valley


All of the wineries that I visited on my September trip to the Douro Valley were family owned concerns except for one, Caves Santa Marta, a cooperative. Today’s post is about Quinta Do Beijo located in Celeiró do Douro. The winery owns 15 hectares of vineyards and olive trees. They make a range of port wines and still wines.


The two pictures above are of the father and son team who we met. The father, Professor Miguel Videira Monteiro, is responsible for the growth and development of the farm and the son just recently joined the business. In these pictures they are showing old presses that were used in the winery.


As in all of the wineries we saw a number of older barrels. In this particular winery we also saw one that had recently been restored, quite a laborious process.


I love these old barrels and wish I had space for one in my home but of course my apartment isn’t big enough.


One of the parts of the visit to this particular winery that I enjoyed most was that each child in the family gets a pipe of port when they are born. That Port is the colheita (vintage) from their birth year. We tasted a number of the different ones that the children had.


You can see the names on the pipes in this picture. I would love to be able to buy one of these pipes for my son.


In addition to wanting to have my own pipe resting in their winery, I really liked this wine called Porta Celeiró D’Oiro Douro Riserva from 2011. A blend of the traditional Port varieties, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. It was a big and plushy wine with juicy tannins, ripe black and red fruits and a hint of spice. At 13.5% alcohol it paired well with their local meat and pork dishes.


We also tried the 2009 of the same wine. It was even more elegant and enjoyable. Touriga needs a bit of time in the bottle in my opinion.


I took so many photos on this trip I thought I would just share a few more. The man in the picture below is a wine journalist from Poland. He had an amazing eye and took a series of pictures of everything red one day and then anything with a faucet the next, if memory serves. He was lovey. I need to find the name of his blog and link to it. Marius Kapczyński is one of the most famous wine bloggers in Poland apparently. Lovely guy. I wish I could read Polish. And did you know that Polish people under some Portuguese and vice versa because the accents are similar….




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Wine Wednesday: Vecchia Modena Cleto Chiarli


Today’s wine of the week is a Lambrusco that I had last week at Aldo Sohm’s Winebar in Midtown. The occasion was to celebrate the success of a Spanish campaign I work on with some colleagues under her brand but I have been writing so much about Lambrusco these last weeks that I requested we drink one and everyone seemed to enjoy it. This Lambrusco di Sorbara was from Cleto Charli, a historic producer of Lambrusco and one of the most widely distributed in New York. I have never visited the winery but look forward to doing so at some point in the not too distant future.

Here are links to my recent posts on Lambrusco varieties:








I had never been to Aldo’s winebar and he is someone I have only met a couple of times. I was surprised at how corporate it felt at first but then the evening slowly took another turn. The place was packed and hopping from 500pm on. It was an impressive show of different kinds of people and fun was had by all!.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Maceratino Bianco

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This week’s grape variety is Maceratino bianco from Le Marche, an incredible region that has been hard hit by the recent earthquakes in Central Italy. This variety grows in the provinces of Macerata, Ancona and Ascoli Piceno and can be used in Bianco Piceno and Bianco dei Colli Maceratesi. The grape variety is thought to be related to Greco. It produces wines that are straw yellow in color that are dry and often sapid. These wines work well with pasta, light fare, as an aperitif and of course with seafood. Le Marche is an amazing and underrated region in my view for its wines, food, beaches and art. Maybe it’s better that way so that it still retains its traditions. In any event, it is an incredible place to visit and one that needs our attention following the devastating earthquakes so consider a wine from Le Marche when thinking about your holiday table.

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Women In Wine Fridays: Meet Meg Houston Maker of


This week’s piece on women in wine focuses on Meg Houston Maker of I met Meg some years ago at a conference in New York and have followed her writing as she travels around the globe. One of the things I like about her writing is her use of language. She is very precise and uses interesting turns of phrase, not typical in the wine writing world, alas alak. You can tell that first and foremost she is interested in the craft of writing. This series started as a series solely on Italian women in wine but I have opened it up to women from all aspects of the wine business and from all countries. I think the answers are really interesting and I enjoy having other people discuss their views on Avvinare. I sent Meg these questions and she emailed me back with these answers kindly in the midst of the Christmas rush to finish everything before the holidays. For more on Meg, check out her website and social media feeds.

Site: Maker’s Table:
About: (Author page)

How did you get into the wine business?

I began writing about wine in 2008. I was in the midst of a graduate writing program focused on creative nonfiction narratives about nature, culture, food, and place. Wine seemed a vexing and difficult topic to write about well, so became an attractive challenge. Soon I was contributing to and editing wine publications, but I gave that up to serve a two-year stint as manager of consumer marketing for a California winery. That experience proved invaluable, deepening my understanding of the industry, but I missed the writing and the engagement with other winegrowers and makers. So, in the last five years I’ve returned to the writing, traveling throughout Europe and the New World to meet with producers, find out what links them to their land, and share their stories with readers.

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

I’ve worked in a range of industries, from software to publishing to education, and have experienced problems everywhere. Often the affronts are personal rather than structural—one colleague with a baleful attitude making it difficult for others, rather than systematized sexism, which seems mercifully less common. What is common everywhere is simply a lack of gender diversity, which dulls innovation and impoverishes the work enterprise. Wine communications in particular used to be male-gender dominated, decades ago. I was in Bordeaux recently, traveling with two other young women wine writers. We were met with surprise by one vigneron, who confessed that when he was told he’d be hosting “three American journalists,” he expected three old men. But there is a palpable shift underway, and there are now powerful women editors and publishers working in wine and food. I’ve been fortunate to work with many.

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?

Even just in the last five years, digital outlets have amped up their publishing volume and velocity. Traditional print publications have added online magazines with their own content wells, too. That has produced a terrible appetite for content to fill the maw. It’s yielded more publication options for excellent journalism, and more exposure for new, fresh voices. But it’s also yielded more non-excellent work. Editing is often minimal or nil; ditto fact checking. Some of the work winds up feeling rushed and unconsidered, and some seems designed only for social sharing, with its predictable 24-hour poof! flameout. Unfortunately, digital paydays are extremely poor. Many popular sites pay far less than $100 per story, while digital gigs that pay more rarely graze $500. These pieces are just as labor intensive to produce as stories for print. I don’t foresee a shift anytime soon, because the forces are so powerfully aligned around this model now. But I don’t believe it’s sustainable for either readers or writers. On a brighter note: Twenty years ago there was almost no literary food writing, and now it’s everywhere. Recently several new food literary magazines have launched, and I think readers need these chewy pieces, while writers need these new outlets to conduct deeper inquiries. In 2017, I plan to do a lot more literary work, returning to my creative nonfiction roots and trying to sort out what “true stories, well told” might mean for wine and food.

Are people interested in different varietals? International varietals?

It depends on whether the people in question are casual wine drinkers or industry insiders. Wine styles take hold slowly, especially in the hinterlands. Consumers are still catching up to Nerello Mascalese, while somms feel like it’s over. Repeat. Especially with other shiny topics that have blazed through recent wine discourse: orange wines, natural wines, “balanced” wines, sweet Riesling, yadda. The industry begins to tire of them before they actually get traction with customers.
I think I do see expanding appetite for native grapes. Maybe I’m delusional, though, because I value them and am doing what I can to promote them. But I think grapes like that Nerello that are well suited to their place of origin—and arguably ill suited anywhere else—have a strong personality. Strong personality makes a compelling narrative. It makes the wines matter. People like stories about delicious things that matter.

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

The U.S. doesn’t have a strong wine culture, not like in Europe or Argentina, for example, where wine is almost unexceptional because it’s simply part of the rhythm of the day. I often hear Americans who enjoy wine say, “I love it, but I don’t know anything about it.” This perhaps translates to, “I haven’t enough experience with it to have baked it into my life.” So, they treat it as glittery object, highly charged and rarefied, intimidating. And it’s hard to get motivated to learn about something that intimidates you. Many people also seem to feel incapable of talking about wine. They worry they’ll sound, to themselves and others, like fools. When I teach wine classes, I try give people simple language for talking about what they’re experiencing with their senses. It’s amazing how liberated they feel when they have a few reliable words for some of these sensations. You can see a weight lift. Food and wine are social, so building a vocabulary for describing what we’re tasting can connect us not only to the food but to one another. I call this “taste literacy,” and I think it’s critical learning.

What secrets can you share about pairing wines with food?

It’s a big topic! I actually have so much to say that I’m writing a book about it. I used to be more orthodox about pairing, but my perspective and palate have loosened dramatically over the last couple of years. I think it can help to think of wine as food. It evolved to serve a particular role on the table, namely to provide companionable refreshment to other foods. In that way it’s inherently similar to dressings, sauces, chutneys, pickles—foods designed to refresh the palate.
Putting a finer point on it, wine is an acidic food, and good pairings hinge on that acid factor. More acidic wines are more versatile, because they act as peers of high acid foods, but can also balance rich, savory, or unctuous foods that need a cleansing counterpoint. Less acidic wines are more difficult at the table. They flatten out when tasted with more acidic foods, and feel fatiguing and non-refreshing with richer, savory foods. Almost all popular beverages are at least somewhat acidic: coffee, tea, soda, lemonade, even seltzer water. Same principle. So, here’s one pairing tip: Focus first on the wine’s acidity. Then worry about other factors, like fruit, flavor, and texture.

What is going on with sustainability and the natural wine movement?

I’ve encountered may smaller producers in the U.S. and abroad that are quietly committed sustainability and sensible viticultural practices. These winegrowers often forego certification because of the expense, or because of regulations they feel bind their hands. But they uphold a commitment to viticultural holism and pragmatism, to la lutte raisonnée (reasoned struggle). Many live on or next to their vineyards and want to keep their living environment free of chemicals for themselves, their kids, and their employees. (Of course, it’s easier to be an organic producer in sunny, dry, southern Spain than in rainy, gray Bordeaux.) The larger commercial producers seem less interested in the extra handwork and attention that organic or sustainable viticulture requires, and in its perceived risks. But I’ve been encouraged by the dedication and commitment I’ve found among the smaller families who have been on the land for generations—and want to stay there for generations more.

Are you excited about any particular area or varietal these days?

Right now I’m particularly curious about viticulture in special biomes, both cultural and anthropological: islands, high altitudes, cold climates (really cold). Sometimes there’s an enduring heritage of winegrowing in these regions—the Dolomites, Mallorca—which begets a site-specific, autochthonous viticulture and winemaking tradition. Other times these regions are new, or being renewed—southern England, northern Vermont—so the viticulture is based less on legacy and more on personality: Who wants to undertake this winegrowing, on this piece of land, right here, right now? Both types of story fascinate me. On one hand are people working within the constraints and expectations of long history, on the other are people working at the edge of a frontier. This is partly why I love writing about wine. Wine exists within the framework of culture, a dialogue between nature and tradition. But it also must be made anew each year, a fresh interpretation of what the land can yield.


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