Happy St. Patrick’s day. In the nine years that I have been posting on this blog, I think I have written about beer twice or maybe three times. It’s not that I don’t like beer it is just that I gravitate to other beverages on a continual basis. Sometimes though, after a big tasting or during the right kind of event, I crave a beer. Recently, I went to a historic New York hotspot, Fraunces Tavern. I haven’t been there since I worked on Wall Street right after college as a paralegal. A lifetime ago and another world. My memories of the place were not spot on and it has changed remarkably.
They have a great bar with live music a few days a week and a huge list of both beers and whiskeys. While they are well known for their dark beers, I chose a red ale, not being partial to the darker stout. The Red Ale was delicious and refreshing with just enough citrus and hoppy notes to strike my fancy. The Porterhouse Brewing Company is a chain of six bars Irish bars in Bray and Dublin, London and New York. It was founded in 1989 by Liam La Hart and Oliver Hughes. Fraunces Tavern, on the other hand, has been open since 1767. To judge from the crowd last night, they are poised for another 200+ years. I bet today is a big day there as well. I have only been to Ireland once but I have been around the Irish my whole life, as a New Yorker and an America. There is nothing quite like the lilting sound of an Irish accent. It thrills me when hear it. I used to have an Irish boss and I remember having a hard time actually listening to the what he was saying because I love the tone of it. Go figure. I bet I’m not the first lass to fall for the accent and I doubt I will be the last.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week’s variety is called Malvasia bianca di Basilicata. It is usually blended with other grapes, particularly with Moscato. One can find it in some of the DOC wines in Matera. For example, Matera Bianco. It must be made from a minimum of 70% Malvasia bianca di Basilicata. To make a sparkling Matera DOC, 70% must be Malvasia di Basilicata. Like many of the other Malvasias we have seen, this one also is said to hail from Greece from the city of Monemvasia in the Peloponnese. Malvasia is often used as a term to denote wines that are sweet, aromatic and not too alcoholic. This variety used to be used in Aglianico but now is found mostly in the white blends. Basilicata is a fascinating region and one that I would love to go back to visit. I went to Matera many years ago and was quite taken with it. It is very rugged. 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. In fact, Basilicata for me was something of a jumping off point or better, an arrival. I always said I couldn’t leave Italy until I visited Basilicata. Then I went and still didn’t leave for three more years. I will have to scan my photos of that beautiful region but suffice it to say that it is still very much as it was centuries ago. There is a great movie that takes place in Basilicata that came out some years ago called “Basilicata Coast to Coast.” I loved it although some said it was a bit sentimental. Then again, so I am.
This week’s indigenous variety is called Malvasia Nera, one of the many in the Malvasia family of grapes. I will be writing about Malvasia for many weeks to come. This first one is thought to have been brought introduced in the Veneto by Greeks in the 13th century, specifically the cities of Monebasia from which it’s name is derived. It was grown in Trentino Alto Adige, particularly in Terlano, Bolzano and Valsugana.
This variety makes a wine with good acidity and few tannins. It can be made into a monovarietal or blended with other grapes. It is seen in the province of Bolzano, Arezzo, Salerno, Nuoro, Cagliari, Sassari and Oristano. This Malvasia Nera needs to be distinguished from the other Malvasia Nera Lunga which is used in Piedmont and the Malvasia Nera from Brindisi used in Puglia or the Malvasia Nera from Basilicata.
Lots to learn as we discover the Malvasia family.
Withour making a comparison between Dr. King and others, I just want to quote him on this day:
“A man (or woman) should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”
I keep this quote on my desk and have since I went to college to remind myself to do my job to the best of my ability. It would be great if all of our politicians, especially those of the highest office of the land, considered this quote and did their jobs well. A hope on this day of celebration of a noble man.
This past year, my family and I have been opening a number of older bottles that were given to us when my uncle passed away in 2013. The storage conditions as you can see from the label of this wine were not perfect but what was in the bottle was remarkable in terms of its subtle nuances and lasting freshness lo these 31 years in its bottle. The wine is from the Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, located in Chambolle -Musigny. It is viewed as one of the pinnacles of great Burgundy wines and I must say, it was a truly memorable wine experience. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, we had it with our Thanksgiving meal, a holiday my Uncle Tony loved.
It was beautiful on the nose and the palate and the color was exceptional. It had great tannins and still hints of fruit albeit complex tertiary notes were more highlighted. It also had power which I didn’t expect and loads of subtle undercurrents of bramble and earthy notes and of course, finesse and elegance that I would expect in a great Burgundy.
This estate can date its history back to 1450. It remained in the same family until 1766. The latest iteration of both the property and the label began in 1925 when Comte Georges de Vogüé took over. The estate owns 7.25 hectares of the Le Musigny vineyard, about 80% of the total. They also have 2.75 hectares of Bonnes-Mares and some 1.8 hectares of Premier Cru Chambolle-Musigny.
The winemaker is François Millet who works with agronomist Eric Bourgogne in the vineyards. The average age of their vines is 40 years old and thus the label Vieilles Vignes.
These amazing wines are brought in by Dreyfus Ashby. Truly an exceptional experience. Merci Tony. I would rather have him here but I do know that he would smile that we were enjoying the wines.