Category Archives: italy

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Nera di Basilicata

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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.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Schierano Nero from Piedmont

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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….

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Casorzo Nero (Piedmont)

Piedmont

This week’s variety hails from the province of Asti in Piedmont and is known as Malvasia di Casorzo Nero. This Malvasia belongs to the same family of grapes that we have been visiting each week but this one is a red grape.

This Malvasia can be made into sweet wines, either frizzante or spumante versions or more infrequently into a passito.

Malvasia di Castorzo

I found a couple of producers who describe the wines made from this grape as being fruity and floral but who swear it is not unctuous and cloying. There is a historic Cantina Sociale Sometimes the wine is made with a percentage of Barbera which gives it a more sapid note but often it is made from 100% Malvasia di Casorzo.

Antichi Giochi

On wine-searcher.com, I was able to find this wine and the price which was about $15.

Malvasia di Casorzo Nera seems to lack a presence in the U.S. for the moment but that may change as more people turn to sweet red wines. When I think about the popularity of Bracchetto d’Acqui, I smile and think Casorzo has a future too.

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Winery of the Week: Cos From Sicily

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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.

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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.

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Wine of the Week: Caiarossa Pergolaia (Tuscany)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I think this is a winery to watch. Not inexpensive, I thought the wines were worth it.

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Wine Wednesday: Syrah from Baracchi Winery in Cortona

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I first was introduced to Baracchi Winery at Vinitaly a couple of years ago. The owners are very involved with their falconeria and I had a hard time concentrating on the wines. I think I gave them only a cursory run through the first time I met them but this summer I was in their beautiful city of Cortona in Tuscany and was able to appreciate the wines for what they are.

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They own a beautiful winebar on the coroner of the main street in Cortona and the name Baracchi is hard to ignore in that beautiful city. Syrah has found its home in Cortona thanks to the microclimate and the soils.

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Here one could discuss whether international varietals should be grown in Italy or if they should only concentrate on indigenous varietals. While many bloggers and journalists are of the traditionalist view, I tend to think that a winemaker can explore what they want to do with their land. While I don’t necessarily believe in planting extreme varietals or at all costs trying to grow something one thinks will sell in a particular market, I do believe that if the soils can be a good home to a varietal as they are with Syrah in Cortona, then why not grow it there.

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The Syrah was beautiful, elegant with good fruit and spicy aromas and balanced alcohol. The winery owns 30 hectares. Some plots have more sandy and others clay and gravel. I would love to do a vertical tasting of their wines and see how they develop with time. I imagine the results will be interesting. I am glad I took a second look.

Cortona, a city I had never visited is a fascinating city where everyone should head at least once in their lifetime. It sits on the top of a mountain but what was amazing to me was the Etruscan art museum. They have an incredible collection that includes an old chandelier. My pictures don’t do the works of art justice I am afraid. I loved the museum. My mother was getting her PhD in Etruscan Art at Columbia when pregnant with me and we joke that that is why I love Italy so much. Perhaps it is true.

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Whatever it was the day, the city where Jovanotti was born, Baracchi’s Syrah, Etruscan art of the small stuffed animal of a Cinghiale I bought for my son, Cortona was perfect and a place to visit for all, in my view.

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Vermentino, the perfect coastal white wine from three Italian regions: Liguria, Tuscany and Sardinia

Ligurian Hill Towns

Vermentino is one of Italy’s great grape varieties. It is the perfect white wine to sip on a beach, have as an aperitivo or pair  with wonderful seafood. To me it spells summer, sailing and relaxation. Vermentino can be found in a number of different regions in Italy including all over Liguria, pictured above.
Liguria
It grows from North to South in Liguria, both along the coast and inland. Some of the most famous wines made in Liguria from Vermentino are from the Colli di Luni, pictured in the distant hills.
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Vermentino is also widely grown in Tuscany, in Maremma, along the coast and a bit inland. I have had a number of wonderful Vermentinos from Maremma including some from Suvereto, right in front of the Archipelago of Elba. This particular wine is made by a friend, Barbara Tamburini at Gualdo del Re. They can’t produce enough of it according to Nico Rossi, the owner. It flies off the shelves. I certainly can understand that. Vermentino has enough fruit and floral aromas, acidity and minerality that it goes down quite quickly and one glass leads to another pretty seamlessly. I was told recently that a big Tuscan producer who shall remain nameless believes so highly in the grape that he was planning to plant an extra 50 hectares rather.
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When speaking about  Vermentino however we must always remember to mention Sardinia where it holds a distinctive DOCG denomination in Gallura.  Vermentino also grows on Corsica but that doesn’t come into our discussion. It does however make the cut for Benvenuto Vermentino, a festival now in its third year celebrating Vermentino from around the Mediterranean.
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Vermentino is a great grape variety that should be on your radar and there are as you can see many places to choose from. It is quite versatile and easy to pronounce as well so I think it can have a great future both on American wine lists and as a by the glass pour in many a wine bar. Vermentino from Sardinia tends to have more salinity and to be a bit more full bodied. I have had sparkling, still and late harvest versions of this great grape. I look forward to having many more.
Join us today, Saturday January 7th for a live Twitter chat at #ItalianFWT 11am ET about Coastal White and Red Wines, Foods and Travel along Italy’s long coastline.
Avvinare – Vermentino the perfect coastal white wine from three Italian regions: Liguria, Tuscany and Sardinia
Vino Travels -Negroamaro of Salice Salentino with Leone de Castris
Food Wine Click – Swordfish Pasta with a Not So Crazy Sicilian Red

The Wine Predator – Sicily: Global and Coastal Influences Flavor Four Dishes Paired with Wine
L’Occasion – The Terraced Vineyards of Liguria
Enofylz Wine Blog – A Ligurian Red Blend: 2015 Liguria di Levante Rosso

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