This week’s grape variety is called Malvasia del Lazio. It as you can imagine, grows primarily in the southern Italian region of Lazio, of which Rome is the capital. It is sometimes also referred to as Malvasia puntinata because of the small dots on the grape. Usually this grape is blended with other varieties, Trebbiano and other Malvasia varieties. It brings color, distinct aromatics, and finesse to the blend. It has a lot of sapidity, minerality and lovely floral aromas. It can be seen in the following DOC wines: Bianco Capena, Cerveteri, Colli Albani, Frascati, Marino and Montecompatri-Colonna. I once wrote a post about Malvasia Puntinata which you can read here.
Lazio is truly a forgotten region in my view in terms of their viticultural offerings. I have written often about their wines because it is a personal passion and I have dear friends in Rome so I get to visit frequently and am introduced to new producers through these friends. It’s hard to find wines from Lazio in the states but it is possible. Here are some that are available stateside.
I have tried a number of wines made with this particular Malvasia and one I really enjoyed was the Pallavicini dessert wine called Stillato, made from 100% Malvasia del Lazio. It is simply a symphony in your mouth with notes of apricot, tropical fruits, honey and vanilla. Approximately 25% of the wine is partially fermented in barriques made from Acacia wood which gives it a honeyed complexity on the palate. The Pallavicini make a very wide range of white and red wines. A fascinating family history goes along with that storied Roman name and great wines.
This week’s variety hails from Southern Italy. It is called Malvasia Bianca B and is a biotype that is not related to other Malvasias. This one grows in Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Puglia, specifically in the provinces of Brindisi, Catanzaro, Cosenza, Crotone, Lecce, Siracusa, Vibo V., Avellino, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Reggio Calabria, Salerno, and Trapani. It is used in the DOCs from Donnici, Savuto, Pollino, S. Anna di Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Melissa, Leverano, Biferno, Cilento, Castel San Lorenzo, Scavigna, Lamezia, San Vito di Luzzi, Verbicaro, and Bivongi. It is also usually blended with other grapes and brings a pleasing roundness and freshness to the blend. Low in alcohol, it does however, retain good acidity.
I am having a hard time writing a wine blog in this period I confess when the news is so fast moving and for me, upsetting. Luckily this week’s grape hails from a place that I wanted to write about anyway. Sicily. Why do I want to write about Sicily? Because of the number of refugees that they are rescuing on a daily basis from the sea. While our government has shut it’s doors and officials appear to have handcuffed a five year old girl, the Italian coast guard off the coast of Sicily have been doing their job and trying humanely to rescue people. Certainly this was unexpected for them and surely not what they want to be doing on a daily basis but when confronted with the level of despair they see, they are going above and beyond. Would that our government had a 100th of the humanity these people are showing. There are so many articles that I could post and videos of people being saved from the sea. Men, women and children who are desperate. Many do not end up with better lives in Italy or Europe so you can imagine how bad it is where they are fleeing from. Those who seem unmoved by the refugee crisis I guess think that could never happen to them or their families or people they love. While that is of course not true as anyone who has lived through a war, a hurricane or other natural disaster can tell you, the ability to put yourself into someone’s shoes even for a moment should be enough. There I have said my piece for today. As the grandchild of refugees from Nazis and pogroms in Russia and Poland, I cannot and will not stay silent.
I had the good fortune to travel to Laguna Seca for the World Superbike Race this past weekend for a client, Prosecco DOC. While I don’t usually write about clients, I do want to post these amazing pictures of race #2 winner Eugene Laverty . They are riding at an average of 150 kph. These are his stats for the race:
1. Laverty (Aprilia) 26 Laps/93.860 km in 36’44.555 average 153.272 kph. Crazy fast and exciting I must say. Who knew I would become a Superbike fan after years of wondering what everyone loved in Italy about Superbike.
Although the cold seems to be setting in at night, my mind and body are still focused on the summer and great wines that I tasted while enjoying seafood and the beach. One of these wines was from the Mascarelli family: Castello di Semivicoli Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC. Without a doubt this was the best Trebbiano I have ever tasted.
Trebbiano has long been a grape that I have basically ignored. Somewhat of a bland relation to the other more exciting varieties that I have given my attention to, it is however, the most widely planted white grape in Italy, I have never been very excited by its aromas or flavors. That is, until I tried this version from the Masciarelli’s third line called Castello di Semivicoli, the name of the property with a “castello” that they own.
The wine was gorgeous with bright acidity and lovely aromas and flavors of white fruits – peach and apricot – as well as flower blossoms and honey. It also had Mediterranean undertones that I love of thyme, herbs and the “garrigue” note that makes me want to jump on a plane immediately and be on the Mediterranean.
According to their website, the vines are an average of 40 years in age with an Eastern exposition and are located at 380 meters above sea level. The wine is made in stainless steel tanks and spends 18 months aging in the bottle before being released.
I loved this wine and was sad to see it end. I paired it with great fish. It’s nice to be surprised by that which we have ignored for so long. It’s just a reminder that it only takes one to change your mind.
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.
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.
This week’s wine of the week is Les Cretes Chardonnay Cuvée Bois Valle d’Aosta. The wine was exquisite with a beautiful gold color and a rich bouquet of fruits and flowers with considerable sapidity and oak notes. The wine ferments in small French oak barrels before resting on its lees for 10 months with continuous battonage. It then spends 8 months in the bottle before being sold into the market. Not an inexpensive wine, it was very interesting and would pair well with numerous foods from hearty pastas to meat-based dishes and even some aged cheese. It has a hint of late harvest notes with a touch of sweetness that would suggest it could be a good pairing for Foie gras as well.
Les Crêtes was founded in 1989 in Aymavilles (Valle d’Aosta) by Costantino Charrère. His family has owned a water mill since the 1700s and has been in agriculture for five generations. The winery owns 25 hectares in the towns of Saint Pierre, Aymavilles, Gressan, Sarre, Aosta and Saint Christophe. The vineyard parcels are very fragmented and densely planted with 8.000-9.000 plants per hectare. The vineyards are very hilly with sandy and moranic (originating from an ancient glacier) soils.
The winery makes some 230,000 a year but only 7,000 of this particular cuvee. Les Cretes makes a number of wonderful wines including those made from indigenous grapes such as Petit Rouge, Fumin, Petite Arvine, Gros Rouge, Cornalin, Mayolet, and Prëmetta as well as wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
I will bring the wine to my New Year’s dinner later this evening and see if it pairs with my Apple Honey bundt cake that looks a bit like a donut because the center collapsed. That said, with all those walnuts, honey and apples it can’t be all bad.
It’s odd to celebrate when the world is so chaotic and so much around us is not as it should be but I believe in holidays and celebrating as often as possible. So Happy New Year, Shana Tova to those who celebrate and a great Indian Summer to all.