This weekend, May 27-28, is Cantine Aperte 2017 throughout Italy. It is the premier Wine Tourism event for wine lovers throughout the country. It began in 1993, when member wineries of Movimento Turismo del Vino opened their doors to the public.
In the States, most wineries have always looked to be tourist destination but the same cannot be said of Italian wineries. Many have now embraced the concept of wine tourism but usually only if they have a tasting room and even better if they have a bed and breakfast or agriturismo.
That said, it is still rare that you see the kind of tasting rooms as we see all over the US and I learned are also being opened in China. Certainly this is about the differences in culture, tradition and the history of winemaking in the various countries. While Italy is such a historic and well-known wine producing country they only really embraced wine marketing these part 25 years, thanks certainly to organizations like the one hosting Cantine Aperte.
Many wineries throughout Italy have embraced wine tourism and Cantine Aperte is a huge success. I went to my first Cantine Aperte in 1998. We went to Piedmont from MIlan, visited Oddero and a few other wineries and had a perfect day with friends. It was a truly marvelous experience as a wine enthusiast, at the time I was studying wine but did not yet work in the business. I also bought my visit wine tourism guide from the Movimento del Turismo del Vino. All of the pages are dog-eared after years of use but it is still a reference guide.
It’s amazing when I reflect on how much the industry has changed and how long I have been involved in it now. It’s exciting to see that wine tourism has become such an important part of people’s experiences and a way to share one’s love of wine, food, culture, travel and friendship. It has been a great boon to Italy and I hope this edition is a huge success! Salute.
This week’s variety hails from Tuscany and is called Mammolo. It tends to be mostly found in the province of Siena, Lucca and Grosseto. When I think of Mammolo, I think of Susanna Crociani, a producer and friend from Montepulciano. She always reminds people that Mammolo is also the name of one of the Seven Dwarfs, Bashful.
Mammolo is a hardy and somewhat rustic grape that is usually found in blends rather than as a mono-varietal wine.
It produces full bodied but not highly alcoholic wines. Mammola also means violet which comes out as the wine made from this grape ages. It is used in a variety of Tuscan DOCs and DOCG wines: Carmignano, Pomino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montepulciano, Chianti, Colli dell’Etruria centrale, Morellino di Scansano, Monteregio di Massa Marittima and Parrina.
Mammolo is a grape variety that also produces a pronounced pepper note when a certain portion is added to a blend. I have always found it one of the components of the Crociani line that I really enjoy.
While this latest variety, Malvasia Nera di Basilicata, has some of the same origins as the other Malvasias that I have written about, it is said to be less ancient than the white grape versions of Malvasia. This one probably came to Basilicata from nearby Puglia and has a lot in common with Malvasia di Brindisi which I will write about next week and Malvasia di Lecce. This red grape variety tends to be used as a blending grape rather than as a monovarietal. It brings aromatics, alcohol and acidity to the blend. It grow around the cities of Matera and Potenza. It is part of the Grottino di Roccanova DOC, which was given that designation in 2009. It is blended with Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Cabernet Sauvignon in the DOC. This winery, Cervino Vini has a few different versions of wines made with this grape variety as do a couple of other wineries I found. Sadly, none seem available yet in the States.
I’ve always had a thing about Basilicata. Many people know the region because it is home to the city of Matera, a beautiful city and absolutely worth a visit. I used to say I would never leave Italy unless I got to see Basilicata, a way of course of staying for many years. I finally visited in 2002 and remember fondly my trip there. Having just returned from Vinitaly, I am reminded of all the wines that I have tasted over the years with producers from Basilicata, specifically from Lucania.
Sadly none of my pictures of this region are digital so, here I suggest looking up a movie that came out in the last few years about Basilicata – Basilicata Coast To Coast. It will give you a flavor of the rugged landscape. Some 47% of Basilicata is covered by mountains and it has two coastlines, one on the Ionian Sea and the other on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
This week’s indigenous grape variety is called Malvasia di Schierano Nero. This aromatic grape comes from Piedmont and produces either frizzante or spumante red or rose style sweet wines. The grapes are occasionally dried and made into a passito style wine as well. The wines are said to be of low alcohol and to pair well with regional desserts. I have never had a wine from this particular denomination but it seems to be relatively popular in the Torino area. I found the names of a few producers and I think I may look them up at Vinitaly in two weeks. One is called Carlin de Paolo while another is Terre dei Santi. The grapes tend to grow near Castelnuovo Don Bosco and some other villages in the Astigiano area such as Albugnano, Passerano Marmorito, Pino d’Asti, Berzano and Moncucco. Another producer is Casa Vinicola Franco Francesco. Cascina Gilli also makes this sweet wine. I have had many of their other wines so I think this may be my first stop. The must be cooled down and then refermented with yeasts in an auto-clave. The cold temperature enables the grapes to keep their fresh, lively, primary aromas of fruit and flowers.
To have the Malvasia di Castelnuovo don Bosco DOC designation which includes sweet, sparkling, red and rose wines, the wines must be made from 85% Malvasia di Schierano grapes. This area of Piedmont is farther inland and has higher elevations. The climate is more Continental than Mediterranean and the grapes retain their freshness. I always feel that Piedmont is one area of Italy that I haven’t spent enough time in. Turin, like Milan, is a city that has undergone many changes throughout the areas. It is a city that surprises you and offers unexpected beauties. I think maybe I am due for a visit. I have some friends who live there so it could be the right time. Perhaps later this Spring. Five more Malvasia varieties to describe. This is my 169th post in this series….
I had the opportunity to taste through the Cos wines last month at the Domaine Select tasting. One was better then the next. I loved all of them but today will just mention the ones in the picture. My favorite was their Pithos Rosso DOC. Made from a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, it purred at me with waves of flavor and depth. I loved its unique cherry flavors and its enveloping floral aromas and nuances. It was pure and perfectly clean. Reading through the website, I learned why. They pay enormous attention to every detail in their wine making and are biodynamic and organic. They also vinify and age their wines in amphora. I love this 30 year history of making wines in this way, very unique for Sicily and at the time, the only one doing so. That takes guts and drive.
The winery was founded by three friends in 1980: Giambattista Cilia, Cirino Strano and Giusto Occhipinti. The acronym of their last names is where the name for the winery – COS – comes from.
Giambattista Cilia’s father Giuseppe Cilia gave them an old winery and the nearby vineyard of bush trained vines, a total of less than 4 hectares in the town of Bastonaca. The winery follows the principles of biodynamic faming in order to help the vines find and maintain a balance with nature in order to be able to express their true character and that of their terroir. For vinification, they decided to use terracotta vases that left no traces or aromas on the wine but were completely neutral vessels. In 2000, Pithos was created, a Cerasuolo di Vittoria that ferments and ages in amphora. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the only Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.) wine in Sicily thus far.
I also loved the shape of their bottles. I wondered how it works on the shelves in wineshops but was told it isn’t a problem. I have never visited this part of Sicily but have a dear friend from Ragusa. Growing up, my neighbor who used to make wine with my father in our basement was also from Ragusa. I often credit them for getting me started in the wine industry. I sense a pattern here. Perhaps it is time for a trip to this part of Sicily.
This week’s wine of the week is from a wine called Caiarossa. I first discovered this winery last year at Vinitaly. I was attracted to their labels with the enigmatic bust on them and the esoteric names of their wines.
The winery is owned by a Frenchman and the grapes grown are mostly international or French varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, etc. He also grows Sangiovese but most of his wines are blends. Usually this would put me off but I persevered and am glad I did.
I very much enjoyed all of the wines I tried and the gentle hand of the winemaker was pretty consistent throughout the wines. The goal of the owner, Eric Albada Jelgersma who also runs two chateaux in France, Chateau Giscours and Chateau du Tertre is to express the particular terroir of the vineyards. The vineyards at Caiarossa have red soils and “ghiaia” or small stones. They are certified organic and biodynamic. I tasted a couple of the wines again at the Slow Wine event in February. She wasn’t a fan but I found them to be to my liking much as I had a year earlier. I found the blend in Pergolaia, Sangiovese with a small percent of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, engaging and juicy both on the nose and palate with rich red fruits, tertiary earth notes and foral undertones. I thought it had a long finish and would work beautifully with a light pasta or a chicken dish.
I think this is a winery to watch. Not inexpensive, I thought the wines were worth it.