Category Archives: Italian Delicacies

Italian Regions – Calabria – Terre di Cosenza DOC

As 2013 begins, I have unfinished business from 2012 to attend to, none more than three articles which never got written in 2012 thanks to too much work, too little time and life in general. I was happy to see a post bemoaning similar pieces almost not written in 2012 by Alice Feiring who is a much more prolific writer than I am. I guess we all have articles that remain unwritten until the right moment reveals itself.

I then preceded to read a number of Alice’s last posts in December, including one on the Drinks Business article on the 50 most influential women in the wine world. All the posts were worth a read but that one really piqued my interest.

I’ve been trying for years now to write a book on women in wine and I often find myself asking some of the silly questions that Alice refers to but what has stymied me the most is that many women don’t, rightly so, want to be thought of in terms of what sex they are but rather on the quality of their work. There’s no denying that being a woman in the wine world is different than being a man but certainly that is just a starting point.

Terre di Cosenza

I’m still trying to complete that book and hope this will be the year I actually do it. I can take a leaf from Tom Hyland who recently published his book and of course, from Alice herself who has published two of note.

Terre di Cosenza DOC wines

As always, I digress, from the topic of this entry – Italian wines from the Terre di Cosenza DOC of Calabria. How did I discover these wines? Through an amazing woman I met at Vinitaly, Maddalena Mazzeschi. I had the pleasure of meeting Maddalena through a mutual friend, Susanna Crociani.

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 Gaglioppo. Terre di Cosenza DOC is a new DOC that was created in 2011.

Terre di Cosenza DOC

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.

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.

As often happens when tasting wines at Vinitaly, the local office of the Italian Sommelier Association of the region was involved in my tasting. They were all very efficient and friendly.

Terre di Cosenza, in Northern Calabria, was created in order to simplify the panorama of Calabrian wines, I was told, and it incorporated some of the existing DOCs and IGTs. Calabria as a wine region was already producing wines when the Romans occupied the land but the fame of these wines disappeared for many years and the wines were first mentioned again in the Middle Ages.

Magliocco Dolce (Arvino) was the grape that held my interest with its spicy, sexy dark fruit and tertiary aromas and flavors. I could see how this grape and the wines made from it were able to hold their own against the Calabrian cuisine, which for me at times, was almost too spicy and I love spicy food.

Magliocco Dolce was a real discovery and I was enthusiastic about its’ potential. It is often blended with Greco Nero in these wines, a combination I preferred to the blending with international varieties. Other interesting grape varieties that I tried were Montonico and Pecorello.

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.

I was excited to try these wines and look forward to getting to know the area better. Calabria, like much of Italy, is a wealth of treasures which need to be savored slowly and thoughtfully and which are best shown to you by friends.

Before I end this though, I must mention one fruit from Calabria which is close to my heart, the Bergamotto.

Bergamotto

This citrus fruit is used in a variety of ways – as an essential element in many perfumes, as a celebratory fruit in Jewish ceremonies, and as an element in baking. A chef I met in New York two years ago, a Paolo Caridi, for a project that I was working on for Casa Italiana Atletica has founded an entire pasty shop in Reggio Calabria based on using ancient aromas such as the Bergamotto.

While Calabria is 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.

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Filed under Art, Calabria, Indigeous varieties, Italian Delicacies, Italian DOC Wines, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, wines, Women in Wine

Wine of the Week: Rosso di Montepulciano

My wine of the week is Rosso di Montepulciano. This denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) wine has been woefully underrated in my view with very few people even aware of the location of Montepulciano, often forgotten or seen as a poor relative of Montalcino or worse, thought to be in Abruzzo and made from the Montepulciano grape.

Let’s start with the basics:

Montepulciano is a town in Tuscany famous for its red wines made from the Sangiovese grape which is called Prugnolo Gentile in this area, in particular Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  However, a second wine that spends less time in wood, has softer and more approachable tannins is also made and it is called Rosso di Montepulciano.

Rosso di Montepulciano traditionally is made with smaller percentages of two additional grape varieties that are grown only in Tuscany, Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo. The wine undergoes a long maceration on the skins and then usually spends seven to eight months in large oak barrels before being released into the market.

It is soft and a little bit velvety with fine round tannins but without sacrificing Sangiovese’s signature acidity, a necessary counterpart to much of the local cuisine.

Perfect with a meat sauce from this neck of the woods or any of the grilled meats, I had a great bottle from 2010 last night with a “Tagliata with Rucola e Scaglie di Parmigiano,” a thinly cut style of beef that I love when in Italy.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Italian Delicacies, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, italy, Tuscany, Wine of the Week, wines

Back In The Eternal City – Roma

I’m back in the eternal city and too excited and overwhelmed to sleep. I’ve in fact been up reading since 400am but no matter life is to be enjoyed “anche durante le ore piccole” or the wee hours of the night.

I’ve been in town just two days staying with riends from Italy and hanging out with  friends from the States who were in a Master’s program with me in Bologna. In fact, Zach, Julia and their great kids Sam and Jules but not little Elena and I spent part of our afternoon in Piazza Navona.

We also went to look at the Caravaggio’s in a nearby church, San Luigi dei Francesi. Somewhat overcome with all the emotions of the beauty of Rome, we settled down to have fabulous gelato near the Pantheon. My favorites are always the same, coco e caffe but the chose was difficult.

San Luigi dei Francesi was one of the stops on my dear friend Teresa’s family tour of Rome. Her father, Brunello, loved Caravaggio and it was with Teresa that I first went to that church. I got to spend an amazing day with her family on Friday in Zagarolo.

I was Teresa’s testimonio di nozze in 2008 and I’m glad to be here for her fourth anniversary, more or less. I’m sorry that I will be missing the annual festival of the Tordo Matto. I tried this local delicacy for the first time at Teresa and Filippo’s wedding and while I am against eating la carne equina (I can’t even write it),I must say that this dish was particularly memorable and part of me is sorry to not have the opportunity next weekend but I’ll be in the North.

Teresa and Filippo have introduced me to some of the most incredible restaurants and chefs that I have ever met. Top among them were Sor Anna, Antonello Colonna and the famed sommelier turned restaurateur Pipero. Who you might ask are these people?

A trio of noted Roman food & wine notables. Anna Dente is the owner and maestra of the Osteria San Cesario.

Sor Anna is the “quintessenza della Romanita’.” I know not everyone reads Italian but I just found this amazing entry about Sor Anna on the blog Le Forchettine by the multitalented author of Aglioolioepeperoncino.com. This is such a perfect description of Sor Anna and a beautifully written blog post, worth reading with a dictionary to catch some of the underlying things that make Rome great.

Sor Anna is particularly enamored of Filippo and I have always had royal treatment when I have been at the restaurant. Sadly much of the menu are things that I don’t have nell’anima. Someone who I have always thought was her son but am now less sure asked me if I didn’t like eating the “menu macabro” or a menu of internal meats much to my dad’s chagrin.

I have never forgotten that statement nor have I ventured towards any of the items on that list but if you are in Rome and like those dishes, Sor Anna is a must.

Antonello Colonna I met at his restaurant in a town called Labico outside of Rome. It was the first “ristorante di alta cucina italiana” that I had been to in my many years in Italy. Filippo was the assistant sommelier when interviewed Colonna in 2005 and was fascinated with his conceptual ideas of the kitchen, food and the like. I remember him telling me about his plans to open a resort and I see from his site that his dream has been realized. I will have to check it out. He also runs a famed restaurant in Rome at  Palazzo degli Esposizioni.

Alessandro Pipero, un altro personaggio storico and good friend of Teresa and Filippo’s is perhaps the perfect incarnation of a restaurateur. He also catered their wedding so I have been able to see his work on in the intimate setting of his restaurant as well as at a wedding for 100+ people. This blog post about his new restaurant Pipero al Rex, also in Italian is just dreamy and makes me want to eat immediately, even through it’s only 730am. Not only would I trust all of his food recommendations but wines as well without blinking. Truly a memorable experience, you must meet Pipero at least once in your life and eat in his restaurant drinking wines that he has chosen for you. He also happens to be very funny so it really is a truly memorable evening.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, I’m staying with my lovely friends who are Rome transplants from Emilia and Milan, Cristina and Giuliano and their three delicious children Emma, Camilla and Giacomo who wasn’t born at the time of the photo in 2009.

Cristina is among the loveliest and brightest people  I know as well as one of the best cooks I have the pleasure to count among my friends. It’s always a joy to be in her house with her family and her food. Cristina comes from Emilia, Borgo Taro, specifically which is home to the mushroom. In fact some of the best meals I have had in Italy with mushrooms have been at their houses.

We’ve been friends since 1998 and I went to my first Cantine Aperte  with them to Alba. I had my first Barolo from Oddero and my first Brasato al Barolo with Cri and Giuli, other moments that remain in my heart. Here in the Boggiali house in Rome in the incredible neighborhood of San Saba, I have rediscovered the joy of being with old friends once again and spending time with 2, 8 and 10 year olds and their passions. For years I have visited Cristina and Giuliano in Rome, in Milan, in Levanto, and in Gressoney. Always welcoming and generous, I also was first introduced to wines from the Valle d’Aosta, Donnas Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ,   with them and the particular varieties from their area of Liguria, Levanto, wines I love from Colli di Luni.

All of these wine and food discoveries have been part of the conversation and experience but never the main event, perhaps that is why I never realized just how many things they have introduced me to during the course of our long friendship. In just two days in Rome, I feel completely back to myself, my Italian life and of course more enamored than ever of this eternal city. Happy that I am just at the beginning of my trip, I may have to leave Rome soon otherwise my friends will have a guest “a vita.”

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Filed under emilia romagna, Friends/Family, Italian Delicacies, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian recipes, Italian regions, Italian Restaurants, Italian wineries, lazio, Liguria, Memorable Events, Piedmont, Sommeliers, Travel, Valle d'Aosta, wines

Italian Regions: Emilia Romagna On My Mind, Modena DOC

I’ve finally had more time to read the news and look at the devastating pictures of Emilia Romagna. Scary. According to this story published yesterday on the Wine Enthusiast’s website, much of the damage has been to the cheese industry rather than the wine industry although some producers have naturally been impacted severely. Here is a nice blog post with a list of places to donate money should you want to give concrete help. As the days pass by and I am closer to the event, leaving for Italy on Thursday, I am getting more anxious. Not for myself but for the people who have been harmed and for friends in the area.

I looked into which wineries are located right near the epicenter of the earthquake. They seem to be around the towns of Carpi, Finale Emilia and Mirandola. That is an area know for producing Lambrusco and not just any Lambrusco but specifically Lambrusco made from Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce.

In order to make this Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC (denominazione d’origine controllata), a wine must be made with 85% Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce. There are other famed Lambrusco clones that one sees widely including Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grassparossa di Castelvetro and Modena DOC Lambrusco.

Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce comes in a variety of styles: red and rose’ both with a frizzante and a spumante version. There are a few wineries that are known for producing this particular wine including Cantina Santa Croce.

Emilia-Romagna has a number of DOC wines, although few that are very well known. In April I spent a considerable amount of time tasting wines from the Colli Piacentini while staying with friends in Bobbio, a wonderful town in the northern part of the region.

Parma is another city that I love and I have tasted numerous wines from the Colli di Parma DOC, as noted in yesterday’s repost of an article I wrote two years ago about these wines. Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa DOC are wines I know less well while the Colli Bolognesi are favorites from my graduate school year in Bologna. Reno DOC, Bosco Eliseo DOC, Colli d’Imola DOC, Colli di Rimini DOC, Colli di Romagna Centrale DOC are all wines that are seldom seen in the States. I’ve tried some of them during the years I frequented the Lidi Ferraresi with my exes. Yes plural. Both of my long term Italian partners had families in different parts of Romagna. Thus, it is an area that was and remains close to my heart. I hope the earth has stopped shaking although I just read that today they had 30 small earthquakes. I hope that  population has at least some rest and sogni d’oro stanotte.

 

 

 

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Filed under emilia romagna, Friends/Family, Indigeous varieties, Italian Delicacies, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Wine Industry

Vinitaly Day 1: Old Friends, New Friends & Vivit – Natural Wines Debut At Vinitaly

My Vinitaly over the last four years has always started in the same way, with Susanna Crociani, my dear friend and producer of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I have written about her wines numerous times so today, all I will say is if you are at Vinitaly, go to pavilion 8, stand B14 and try them for yourself.

Susanna, journalist friends and I have shared an apartment for most of the last four years at Vinitaly. It’s great and very homey. Last year I worked for Vinitaly during the fair so I stayed in a hotel but this year, I’m back in the family fold, discussing wines over the dinner table at our house instead of out on the town.

I wouldn’t say that we are slouching though. Yesterday we shared a pretty amazing bottle over dinner and they always introduce me to some new, exceptional Italian food product. This year we had a cheese feast which I will likely digest by next week 🙂 but wow did I enjoy that. I tried an Italian cheese I had never heard of Monte Veronese stagionato (aged) for example.

Mostly, I learn from them,Giampaolo Giacomelli and his wife Bruna, owners of an enoteca near Sarzana in Liguria, Il Mulino del Cibus, about their winemaker friends and products that they have tried. It is a real education for me besides being very funny.

The first day I always spend in Tuscany, saying hello to old friends and trying their new wines. When I emerge from Tuscany, I try to visit a few regions every day. Yesterday I made it to Vigne Vignaioli Terroir Vinitaly, a new area within Vinitaly that focuses on organic, sustainable and biodynamic wines. There have always been producers who follow the various criteria that are required for each of these “designations” within the fair but there has never been the focus that has come into play this year.

This group of 127 producers showcases a mixture of different regions and with a variety of reasons for using natural winemaking methods.

For those who generally go to Vini Veri and Vin Natur, two exhibitions that take place during the same period of the year as Vinitaly, perhaps this part of the show is not quite the novita’, for others though it allows them an opportunity to explore these wines.

I had the pleasure of speaking at length with two producers, one from Lazio and the other from Trentino who were truly passionate about their work, their approach towards wine and their wine making philosophy. Sadly I also spoke with a producer who told me he had decided to follow biodynamic winemaking because it is a better “marketing” approach.

Like in anything else, you find people who make decisions based solely on money, others who make them based on a more deeply held conviction about something in addition to a desire to make money. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against making money, love to make more of it, but I did find it the opposite of what I would have expected in this part of the fair. Perhaps that is just my naivete or as I prefer to think of it, the hopeful side of my indole (nature) coming out.

The first producer that I spent the most time with was Claudio Menicocci from Azienda Agricola Menicocci Cristina from Faleri near Viterbo (Lazio). His property also has ruins from 313 AD.

He has been focused on “natural” winemaking for many years. He was the fifth producer in Lazio to follow biodynamics, he said. I tried two of his wines which were made without using sulfites, Stafilo and Rhesan. Stafilo is made with the Trebbiano grape while Rhesan is a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano. Claudio has more certifications than I have every seen, including the right to call his products vegan. One thing he said really resonated with me. “Wine is a food,” un alimento.

What a simple yet profound statement. When one thinks of the food they eat, of course we don’t want there to be chemicals, pesticides and the like in it. We think about vegetables and fruits and animals and how they grow, are cultivated and mature. Why should we not think the same of wine? We all know it’s a living product that changes over time.

“I don’t want my wines to be the same year after year that’s why I don’t put the year on the wine. I put the bottling date which is more a reflection of a particular time period,” he said. This too was simple yet profound as an idea. A bottling date is the same for all but if I buy a wine in May and someone else buys that same wine in December of that year, it will be a slightly different.

The second producer I met was equally as fascinating but I’ll write about him another day. I hope to go each day during the fair to try a couple of these wines.

Tomorrow, March 27, there are a number of interesting conferences on natural wines with the first French female Master of Wine, Isabel Legeron. Famed French producer Nicolas Joly will also give a talk on natural wines. Additionally, there will be a seminar on Demeter, a certified trademark for biodynamic wines. Lastly, Jonathan Nossiter, director of the film Mondovino will show parts of a new film he is working on during a talk with Giovanni Bietti, a sommelier and musician.

I was very lucky to be able to taste these wines with my dear friends Teresa and Filippo, two knowledgeable sommeliers who always bring light to my life.

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Filed under Biodynamic Wines, Italian Delicacies, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, italy, Organic Wines, Tuscany, wines, Women in Wine

Upper West Side At Christmas Time

I don’t know about you but the last week of the year always seems like summation time. What you’ve done, what you haven’t done, what has changed and what has remained the same. It also tends to bring up all of the Christmases of the past and the memories of those who are no longer with us. I always miss my relatives who are no longer with us but also rejoice with the ones who are. I also marvel at how time flies as my lovely niece and nephew grow bigger and wiser. Soon my beautiful niece will be my fashion consultant to give me a younger look. They are still too young to drink wine though so my adult family members and I get to share whatever we have at the table. We have a family tradition that on Christmas Eve we go to hear Christmas carols at St. John the Divine, a gorgeous cathedral on the West side of New York which cures one’s need to be in Paris, even if only temporarily.

My family always goes to eat at the V&T, a pizza joint in the old fashion sense of the word. Yes, they have other items on their menu but I can’t see eating anything other than pizza at the V&T. My parents have been going there since the 1950s, specifically in 1955 when my 16 year old Dad went to Columbia University for the first time. Some traditions endure.

So go to the V&T and get the classic Chianti on the menu, Ruffino.

While no longer in a straw basket, it still gives me that same down home feeling. I’m a sucker for tradition and this is one I will be continuing for as long as I can with the family.

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Filed under Italian Delicacies, Italian wineries, italy, wines

Indigenous Italian Varieties: Caddiu Nero from Sardinia

I am skipping over one grape variety this week because I am a bit rushed but next week will report on that all important one: Cabernet Sauvignon. For today however, I want to talk about Caddiu Nero, a little known grape from the beautiful island of Sardinia. This grape hails from the region around the cities of Cagliari and Oristano and is usually used in a blend with other indigenous varieties such as Bovale e Monica. The specific area where it grows is called the lower Tirso Valley.

If you have never spent any time in Sardinia, you have a real treat in store. It is a beautiful and varied landscape with great food, wine, beaches and unbelievable rock formations. I have spent a considerable amount of time in the North of the island but much less in the South. I highly recommend it as a tourist location as well as a must on any enogastronomic tour of Italy.

When I was in Sardinia, I spent a month sailing and scuba diving, one of my most memorable Augusts on record. Oddly enough, for years people would ask me if I was Sardinian. Not sure if it was the Sardinia wedding ring on my finger or my speech pattern but I could never see that. I would have to change my last name to Goldu perhaps. Might spice things up.

Anyway, don’t miss out on this beautiful part of Italy when planning your next trip.

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