Category Archives: Travel

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Rosa from Piacenza

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This is my 16th and last post in the series on Malvasie. It has been very interesting to see just how many variations there are of this grape from the Malvasia family. This week’s variety is Malvasia Rosa which is a mutation of Malvasia di Candia which I wrote about here. This Malvasia can be found in the province of Piacenza in Val Nure. This wine makes a rose that is fruity and can be made into a sparkling wine, either spumante or frizzante.

This winery. Azienda Vitivinicola Mossi from 1558 which had until 2014 14 generations owning the property. They sold it to a young couple who are continuing the traditions of the Mossi family and are one of three wineries producing wines from this variety. That makes it quite that noteworthy and one that I would love to taste. Maybe the next time I am in that area. Another producer is Azienda Vitivinicola Montesissa. They also make a passito using this grape. What a pleasure these weeks of Malvasia have been. I had no idea it was such an interesting variety.

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Filed under emilia romagna, Indigeous varieties, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Lombardia, Memorable Events, Piacenza, Travel

Spanish Sundays: 2012 Numanthia Termes From Toro DO

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Spain is rarely discussed on this blog but it is never too far from my heart. I have a couple of Spanish DOs that I work with and I often drink Spanish wines. I studied Spanish for seven years after returning home from Italy but alas alak, have spent precious little time in that country of late. I do get to travel there though thanks to the wines I can savor here in New York.

This week’s Spanish Sunday is about a wine from the DO of Toro in Spain in the province of Zamora, located in the west of the region of Castilla y León. It is from the well-known winery Numanthia. While a tad less famous than Numanthia and Termanthia, Termes, the wine I had at the Mandarin Oriental in the Lobby Lounge is more affordable and approachable. Retailing at around $25, check out Wine-Searcher, it’s a beautiful expression of the Tempranillo grape in Toro where it is known as Tinta de Toro. The Toro region has been famous since Roman times for its great red wines.

I first tried this wine at a Numanthia dinner back in 2011 hosted by Gregory Dal Piaz, then Editor-in-Chief of Snooth. I thought the wines were lovely and the dinner pairings were outstanding at the time.

The wine comes from vineyards located at 700 meters above sea level and there are some 100 year old vines. Many are also ungrafted because phylloxera never flourished in this region. It macerates for an extended time on the skins before fermentation at controlled temperatures. Post-fermentation, the wine spends 16 months in one year old French barrels.

On the nose and palate, you get the berries you expect from Tempranillo driven wines together with pepper and spice, cedar notes and a hint of leather and cacao. If you can afford the pricier Numanthia and Termanthia, they are certainly wines to try once in a lifetime. If you can’t, I think you’ll find the Termes a great alternative from this region.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day With Porterhouse Red Ale

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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.

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia di Casorzo Nero (Piedmont)

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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.

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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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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Piedmont, Travel

Discovering Tasca d’Almerita, A Sicilian Icon

I first heard of Tasca d’Almerita  many, many years ago. I knew it was one of Sicily’s great wineries with a long and noble past and family behind it. What I didn’t know was how innovative the winery is as well.

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Tasca d’Almerita is its 8th generation of their history. They have five estates and
about 600 hectares of vines in Sicily. They are exported all over the world and are brought into the US by Winebow

They also have two amazing resorts and a serious commitment to sustainability.
The estates are Capofaro on the Aeolian island Salina, Tascante on Mount Etna, Sallier de la Tour in Monreale, a joint venture, with the Whitaker Foundation on Mozia, and the Regaleali estate which now stretches over 500 hectares in the very heart Sicily. They also have Villa Tasca (formerly Villa Camastra) in Palermo.

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I first met one of the two brothers running Tasca today –  together with their father Count Lucio –  at Vinitaly in 2011. I was translating for the Wine Spectator at meetings they had with groups of 10 wineries from each region. All of the Sicilian wineries that day were impressive but Tasca was something more.

Every year I spend a long time at the Tasca stand at Vinitaly. It is always artfully done with interesting materials and with vegetation from Sicily. One year they brought orange trees, another herbs that grown on the island. It is usually so packed it’s hard to get a space to taste but I always taste through all of their wines.

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I’d be hard pressed to say which one I prefer because honestly I love almost all of them. One that of course stands out is Almertia Extra brut. It is made from 100% Chardonnay and has the Contea di Sclafani D.O.C designation and hails from the Regaleali Estate. It stays on its lees for 36 months. It has rich, apple flavors with a great almond note. I also love that Tasca has a female winemaker, Laura Orsi on their team at Regaleali. Tasca planted Chardonnay in Sicily in the 1980s, the first to bring Chardonnay to Sicily.

Another Tasca wine that has always appealed to me is their Regaleali Rose made from 100% Nerello Mascalese. I drink a lot of rose all year and this one went well with the lovely pizza I had this weekend. I was surprised at its freshness but then I remembered that the estate is located at 400-900 above sea level and therefore the grapes do get to rest from the heat of the hot Sicilian sun.

Regaleali Rose

Tasca is not only at the forefront of Sustainability but they also are trying to make wines without sulfites. I tried a version of their wine Antisa that was made without sulfites in 2015. Antisa means “wait.” It had great acidity, again thanks to the elevation at Regaleali.

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Catarratto bianco is a widely planted grape on the island of Sicily. There are two very common types of Catarratto grown: bianco comune e bianco lucido. Antisa is made with bianco comune. The wine was also under screw cap which was interesting. Tasca tries everything it seems.

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Nozze d’oro is another famous Tasca wine. This one is made from 72% Inzolia and 28% Sauvignon Tasca, This Sauvignon clone  has been growing at Regaleali since the First world war. It was soft, fruity and beautiful and I am not even a huge fan of Sauvignon.

Tearing myself away from tasting wines from Regaleali, I did a tasting of their wines from Etna. I was particularly taken with one of them called Buonora. Made with Carricante, it was rich and sapid with loads of minerality. I also love their version of Nerello Mascalese from Etna, known as Il Tascante. It had depth and layers of nuanced flavors much like a great Pinot Noir. It was elegant with finesse as well.

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Before I write more about other Tasca wines, I want to mention that  Tasca is at the head of a group of wineries working on a project called SOStain that is involved in protecting the environment. The mission of the project is to promote sustainable agriculture. Tasca is convinced that the responsibility of each producer is to make great wine and to protect the land and the local flora and fauna while doing so. They have also created a mini-agricultural group called Naturaintasca that involves a group of local farmers who work with typical Sicilian products. At one event I attended, Alberto Tasca d’Almerita showed a film I just loved about his family but I can no longer find it on the website. At a certain point in his speech, Alberto said the following line which I really appreciated as well, “We didn’t receive the gift of our lands from our fathers but as a loan from our children/Non abbiamo ricevuto la terra in eredita dei nostri padri ma in prestito dai nostri figli.” So much more to say about this project but for now I will go back to the wines.

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Three more wines which I must mention are  their Riserva del Conte 2010, Contea di Sclafani D.O.C. made from 67% Perricone and 33% Nero d’Avola. The grapes are vinified together with ambient yeast.  The wine then ages in 500 liter wooden barrels made from Chestnut wood for 26 months. After 40 years, they wanted to commemorate the first vintage of the Riserva del Conte  and made this wine in 2010.

Ruby red in color with developing aromas of earth, fruit, animal skin and bacon, the wine was dry and full-bodied on the palate with flavors of oak, chocolate, and vanilla. It had sweet ripe tannins and a velvety mouthfeel.

Rosso del Conte is their flagship “SuperTasca.” Count Giuseppe planted vineyards of Perricone and Nero d’Avola in 1954 with a desire to create a wine to rival  French wines for both their elegance and longevity. The true expression of their family and their terroir. It spends 18 months in 100% new French oak (Allier & Tronçais) 225 liter barrels and 6 months in bottle before being released. According to their exhaustive website, it is  made from a selection of best Nero d’Avola grapes (63%) and other red vaieties among those authorized by the DOC (37%). I always find it a sensual wine with sweet tannins and a long finish.

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The last wines to mention are from their incredible estate Capofaro on Salinia. I went on an amazing sailing trip to Salina but didn’t get to Capofaro. I hope to spend time their one day. Their amazing Malvasia are always the perfect ending to these exquisite tastings. They have two and every year I try to decide which one I like better. One is sweeter, Malvasia Capofaro and the other Didyme which I was told means twins but is also the ancient name for Salina is dry with great acidity.

Tasca also makes interesting wines with Cabernet Sauvignon, Grillo, Grecanico and Syrah which I have tasted but the ones I mentioned were my favorites among their very vast range.

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I am an unabashed fan of this fantastic Sicilian winery and I look forward to this year’s mega tasting. Tasca is at almost every big wine event in the U.S and in restaurants and wine stores all through the country so everyone should have the occasion to try their wines.  Don’t miss out, I’m sure you will become a fan as I have.

Join the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel Group (#ItalianFWT) later today  as we virtually return to Italy’s southernmost wine region, and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea – Sicily! We’ll be posting and chatting about our discoveries with a live chat on Twitter 8-9am PST/11-12 EST . Come join us!

Italian Food Wine and Travel is a bloggers group that focuses monthly on a particular region of Italy showcasing our experiences with the food, wine or travel from that region.

  • Cam of Culinary Adventures With Camilla with be sharing Gnocchi Con Salsa di Pistacchi + Donnafugata Sherazade Rose 2014
  • Jill of L’Occasion offers a Winemaker Rendezvous: Lucio Matricardi of Stemmari
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be Discovering Tasca d’Almerita, A Sicilian Icon
  • Jennifer of Vino Travels will be serving Sicilian Steak with Eggplant Caponata & Nero d’Avola
  • David Crowley of Cooking Chat Food will be offering Pairings That Work With Sicilian Wine
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick with be having Sicilian Fun with Frappato, Grillo, Swordfish and Artichokes
  • Lauren of the Swirling Dervish – A Week-Night Dinner in Sicily
  • Gwendolyn of the Wine Predator will be serving up Sicilian Wine and Food by Candlelight
  • Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog will be exploring Two Tastes of Sicily’s Autochthonous Grape – Nerello Mascalese!

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Filed under #ItalianFWT, Italian regions, Travel, Winery of the Week, wines

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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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Sicily, Travel

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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