Category Archives: Indigeous varieties

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Rosa from Piacenza

italy 600

This is my 16th and last post in the series on Malvasie. It has been very interesting to see just how many variations there are of this grape from the Malvasia family. This week’s variety is Malvasia Rosa which is a mutation of Malvasia di Candia which I wrote about here. This Malvasia can be found in the province of Piacenza in Val Nure. This wine makes a rose that is fruity and can be made into a sparkling wine, either spumante or frizzante.

This winery. Azienda Vitivinicola Mossi from 1558 which had until 2014 14 generations owning the property. They sold it to a young couple who are continuing the traditions of the Mossi family and are one of three wineries producing wines from this variety. That makes it quite that noteworthy and one that I would love to taste. Maybe the next time I am in that area. Another producer is Azienda Vitivinicola Montesissa. They also make a passito using this grape. What a pleasure these weeks of Malvasia have been. I had no idea it was such an interesting variety.

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Filed under emilia romagna, Indigeous varieties, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Lombardia, Memorable Events, Piacenza, Travel

Wine Wednesday: Petite Arvine from Ottin (Valle d’Aosta)

Ottin Petite Arvine

This week’s blizzard has really made me miss ife on the slopes, all of it. I always remember the panini with speck and asiago cheese that I would eat when skiing in Italy and the desire to drink Vin Brule but the knowledge that too much of it would make me a worse skier. Hopefully, a settimana bianca will again be part of my life as Niccolo’ learns to ski and wants to go. It’s a great tradition in Italy that I miss.

This week’s wine of the week for wine wednesday is about Petite Arvine from Ottin. It was very clear and crisp with nice minerality and acidity. A straight-forward wine, “franco” the Italians wood say.

This is a fresh and friendly white wine which is a perfect drink on the mountains after a tough day on the slopes or after a hike in that beautiful countryside. I’ve always had it with mountain cheese such as Fontina DOP, charcuterie such as Jambon de Bosses DOP, Lard d’Arnad or alone as an aperitif.

I wish I had great pictures from the Valle d’Aosta. It is such a marvelous and special place. I have been skiing there a number of times (Monte Cervino, Monte Bianco, La Thuile) in my years in Italy and each time came back with a renewed respect for the mountains, the land and the wines. I have not spent much time there during the summer but I am sure the hiking rivals the skiing.

Each year they have an exposition for their wines in September. The association is called the Associazione Viticulteurs Encaveurs. In Italian, the term “viticultura eroica” means that those harvesting the wines are basically “heros” because it is so difficult in terms of the slope of the terraces.

In terms of wine production, there are a number of cooperatives as well as many individual producers. I also learned that some 40% of the members of the cooperatives are women, a fact I found quite interesting.

I spent a long time with a sommelier from the Valle d’Aosta at VInitaly one year. He was so incredibly well prepared and knowledgeable that I felt I had taken a trip through the region and through the vineyards with him. In fact, I highly suggest going to the sommelier booths at Vinitaly in years to come. You learn a lot and can taste many wines. I went on the last day of the fair at 900 AM and was alone with him for about one hour. I realize not everyone has that luxury. I felt very lucky that I did. It was one of my favorite tastings at the fair and among the most instructive.

For now, just an invitation and a suggestion – visit the Valle d’Aosta on your next holiday, winter or summer and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Valle d'Aosta, Wine of the Week, Wine of the Week, Wine Schools, Wine Wednesday, wines

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Fumin from the Valle d’Aosta

Valle d'Aosta

This week’s grape variety is Fumin. It is the last variety that starts with the letter “F.” Amazing to me to note, but I have written 111 of these sorts of posts through the years. Italy has such an endless number of grape varieties, there is always something new to learn.

Fumin is a variety that comes from the Valle d’Aosta. It can be made into a blend but it is also used to make mono-varietal wines and is used in the Valle d’Aosta Denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) wine. In a blend it brings both color and acidity. In fact, it is a wine that should age a bit before drinking to mellow out some of its robust and rustic aromas and flavors.

Valle d'Aosta

Every year at Vinitaly, I try to spend time at the Valle d’Aosta booth. I like the wines and the people, straight forward and frank. Some examples of great Fumin are from the top producers in the Valle d’Aosta, including Grosjean, Les Cretes, and Ottin, among others.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Valle d'Aosta

Wines from the Loire Valley: A Welcome Summer Treat


After today’s soccer defeat for the Azzurri, I think I will be rooting for France to win the World Cup and thus writing a lot about French wines this summer. All kidding aside, as readers of this blog know, I was a Francophile before Italy stole my heart years ago and still have a long and intense love affair with the country. Today is a big day in Florence, my adopted city, San Giovanni, so I am just going to put a link to an article I wrote years ago about the holiday.

Going back to the World Cup for a moment, I am scandalized by that bite from Suarez yet it doesn’t seem that Fifa is going to do anything about it. We’ll see. I think he should be banned from the World Cup and beyond. What kind of a message is that, bite your opponent? Don’t we try to tell children not to bite each other out of frustration…I’ll stop now on this rant.

Back to the Loire it is then. Last year I had the occasion to attend the Society of Wine Educators conference in Orlando, Florida where Linda Lawry, DWS, CWE,CSS of International Wine Center fame gave a great lecture on wines of the Loire. Linda was a marvelous professor when I was studying for my Diploma in Wines & Spirits years ago. Funny and incredibly knowledgeable, she brooked no silly comments and during the lecture in Florida, she was much the same.

The Loire is the third largest producer of Appellation d’Origine Protegee (AOP) wines after Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley and is the number one producer of AOP white wines. The Loire river is the longest one in France with four distinct growing regions: Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine and the Central Vineyards.

In terms of the market in the Loire, some 80% of the wine is sold through co-ops or negociants. Weather is an issue in the Loire and some of the hazards include spring frosts, heavy rains, hail and humidity. Soils are also somewhat varied with the Nantais showing sand, shale, and gneiss while Anjou and Saumur have more volcanic schist and slate. Touraine has considerable clay and gravel while the Sancerre region has chalk and the famed Kimmeridgian marl.

About 55% of the wine produced in the Loire is white while 45% is red and 14% of that is rose. The Loire also produces a considerable amount of sparkling wine, second only to Champagne.

The wines we see from the Loire in the United States most often include Sancerre (Sauvignon), Vouvray (Chenin Blanc), and Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne). I’ve had great wines made from Romorantin, another grape grown in the Loire as well as from Cabernet Franc, a personal favorite. Two indigenous varieties that only grow in the Loire are Grolleau and Pineau d’Aunis.

The Nantais and the Sancerre regions produce mostly white wines while Anjou-Saumur producer 60% red wines and some of the world’s greatest sweet wines. Touraine makes both white, rose and red wines and much of the Loire’s sparkling wines.


Travel to the Loire is always a great adventure. Relatively recently, I had the occasion to visit Chambord, one of the great estates. Always a pleasure.

We tasted a number of stand out wines that day including a Vouvray from Domaine de la Taille aux Loups “Les Caburoches”, Michel Redde “La Moynerie” 2010, a Savennieres from Domaine des Baumard 2004 and a lovely Sancerre Rouge from Domaine Serge Laloue 2010.

It’s hard to go wrong in the summer with a wine from the Loire, be it a Muscadet with shellfish or a sweet wine from Coteaux du Layon with dessert, this is also a go to region for great wines throughout the year.

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Filed under France, Indigeous varieties, Loire Valley, Memorable Events, Travel

Wine of the Week: Solagi from Caparra & Siciliani – Calabria


Last week was a busy one for the Italian wine world in New York City. Two major events took place,the Vinitaly/Slow Wine tour on February 3, 2014 and Tre Bicchieri on February 6, 2014. I was lucky enough to be able to attend both events where I saw many old friends among the US wine industry and many imports and producers at both events. Of course, I also was able to taste a lot of great wine.

This week’s wine of the week is from Calabria from a winery called Caparra & Siciliani. I first met this producer at a dinner last year thanks to their importer, a friend, Andrea Fassone of Enotria. They have a great selection of family-owned wineries. This particular producer hails from the province of Crotone. The winery was created from the merger of two family businesses in 1963. Each family began cultivating the vine in this area in the late 19th Century. They work in the Ciro and Ciro Classico areas of Calabria with 213 hectares under vine. They work with a well-known Italian Enologist, Fabrizio Ciufoli.

Tropea 2

Wines from Ciro and Ciro Classico are typically made with Gaglioppo, a grape thought to be of Greek origins. The Greeks, in fact, played a large part in the early settlements in Calabria. Calabria, as we know, is one of the most Southern Italian regions located in the “toe” of the Italian boot. I never think of Italy that way but I know it is a shorthand way to look at the country.

The core of the Ciro production is located in the towns of Cirò and Cirò Marina in the province of Crotone. These two ancient towns are located near the Ionic coast and benefit from wonderful sun and cooling breezes. They are not completely flat areas but instead have gentle rolling hills. The soil is calcareous marl with some clay and sand deposits.

Tropea 3

When I met one of the owners he told me that Gaglioppo was the Nebbiolo of the Sea Coast. One could debate this for a long time I imagine and Sicilians and Pugliesi would have a different idea for the Nebbiolo of the Sea Coast but that’s for another time.

Solagi is 100% Gaglioppo and ferments and ages in stainless steel and large barrels. It is a very pure expression of this grape and is ruby red in color with an intense and persistent nose of developing aromas of fruit and flowers. On the palate the wine is full bodied, with nice minerality and sapidity as well as fine tannins. I thought it was balanced and harmonious, a real showcase for the grape itself.


Solagi is the name of a location in Ciro Marina where there is an ancient tower. This fortress was a lookout in ancient times. I also tasted two other wines that they make, Volvito and Mastrogiurato. The former is a Ciro Classico Superiore Riserva and is also 100% Gaglioppo. It has more mature aromas and flavors than Solagi. This wine is aged in small French oak from Allier. The latter is a blend of Gaglioppo and Greco Nero, also aged in small wood barrels.

Solagi, Volvito, Mastrogiurato

All of the wines would work beautifully with pastas with a meat sauce, salumi or aged cheeses. I tried all three of these wines again at Vinitaly and was quite impressed. Calabria is a very exciting place and one where I have not spent enough time. I will need to rectify that in the coming years. One wonderful trip I took was to visit the Bronze di Riace in Reggio Calabria as part of a longer sailing vacation. I was also able to visit the beautiful towns of Tropea and Scilla. These photos are from the Tropea trip. I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting Crotone. Here is a post I have written about Calabria in the past. There is a lot to discover in this part of il Bel Paese (Italy).

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, Travel

Wine of the Week: Scubla Friulano 2011


I was lucky enough to try this wonderful wine, Friulano 2011, from Scubla earlier this summer and then to drink a bottle during my vacation holidays with great swordfish.

I like Friulano with its almond notes, good acidity and refreshing sapidity. I am tempted to write minerality but am trying to get away from that word which has caused so much consternation in the wine community. I have never visited this winery located in the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC, near the city of Cividale.

Scubla makes just 11,000 bottles of this wine a year. The winery has 12 hectares and was created in 1991. To make this Friulano, they use whole cluster pressing and leave the wine sur lies for eight months. The nutty, yeasty notes you get from this process appeal to me greatly and were also a nice pairing with the torta rustica that I made. The wine is imported by Vinifera Imports.

torta rustica

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Filed under Friuli, Indigeous varieties, Italian DOC Wines, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian recipes, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Wine of the Week

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Chasselas Dorato Bianco

Chasselas is a grape variety that is mostly associated with Switzerland although it has been in Italy for decades and some consider it to be a relative of a grape brought to Switzerland by the Romans called “Aminea.” While the white version of Chasselas is the one that has been used in wines in Italy, the variety has produced both red and white offspring that have been strewn throughout Europe. Chasselas is now considered by some experts to be one of the parent grapes of Muller Thurgau. Often it is used as a table grape. In Italy it has largely been seen in the province of Lombardy in the San Colombano DOC, even though it is not mentioned “disciplinare” o “legislative rules for the denominazione d’origine controllata (DOC).”

I wrote this long piece some years ago on my adopted city of Milan and its’ only DOC wine – San Colombano al Lambro. These are the kinds of wines you would taste at the local Sagre on the weekend, a part of my Italian life I sorely miss. I’ve had a lot of bland Chasselas in my life traveling to Switzerland. Perhaps I will have the opportunity in November to travel to Bern for the Balzan Prize ceremony, a client of my other business and find some delicious Chasselas. I certainly hope so.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Italian DOC Wines, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Lombardy