Category Archives: Tuscany

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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Filed under Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Tuscany, Wine of the Week

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Bianca Lunga

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This week’s indigenous variety is Malvasia Bianca Lunga. This one hails first and foremost from Tuscany but can also be found in many other Italian regions including the Veneto, Puglia and Lazio. It was used in the first traditional blend for Chianti set forth by the Baron Bettino Ricasoli. Baron Bettino Ricasoli invented the Chianti formula in 1872. It used to grow in the field alongside Trebbiano Toscano.

Baron Bettino Ricasoli wrote the Chianti formula in a famous letter addressed to Professor Cesare Studiati at the University of Pisa:
“…I verified the results of the early experiments, that is, that the wine receives most of its aroma from the Sangioveto (which is my particular aim) as well as a certain vigour in taste; the Canajuolo gives it a sweetness which tempers the harshness of the former without taking away any of its aroma, though it has an aroma all of its own; the Malvagia, which could probably be omitted for wines for laying down, tends to dilute the wine made from the first two grapes, but increases the taste and makes the wine lighter and more readily suitable for daily consumption…”

Vin Santaia

Few still use Malvasia in Chianti today to produce their red wines but most still use it to make Vin Santo. Vin Santo is made from dried grapes that spend time in small barrels called carratelli. Madeline of Wine Folly gives a nice overview of Vin Santo here.

Carratelli

Malvasia Bianca Lunga can at times be prone to oxidation so it is best used in a blend with Trebbiano Toscano. It brings aromas and body to the blend. You can find Malvasia in Chianti DOC, DOCG, Bianco dell’Emploese, Colli Lucchesi, San Gimignano,  Orvieto,  Verdicchio. You can also find it in the Veneto in Bianco di Custoza, Garda Orientale and Valdadige.

Malvasia and Vin Santo are perfect wines for Valentine’s Day. The right amount of sweetness without going over the top but something out of the ordinary to remind us that today should be a celebration of love.

Crociani Vin Santo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Chianti, Dessert Wines, DOCG, Tuscany, wines

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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Filed under Italian wineries, italy, Memorable Events, Travel, Tuscany, Wine of the Week

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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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, italy, Liguria, Memorable Events, Sardinia, Travel, Tuscany, wines

A Florentine Christmas – Buone Feste!

Florence

Florence is beautiful any time of year but I especially love it when all of the Christmas lights are up. The streets are all strung with lights and there is always a tree in the principal piazzas. I especially love all of the decorations in stores. Everything feels very festive and the whole town shut down from December 24 to January 6, after the feast day of the Epiphany, locally known as La Befana.

Palazzo Strozzi

The Italians have a saying, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua dove vuoi” which translates into stay at home with your relatives for Christmas and go anywhere you want for Easter. No one travels more than the Italians largely because most have six weeks of holiday. For Christmas though everyone tries to stay at home. Many leave the next day, December 26 or December 27 either for Ski locals or warmer climes. In some towns, Christmas is celebrated on December 13, Santa Lucia, but in most it is celebrated on December 24 and 25.

Making Pasta In Florence

Here I am making homemade ravioli with friends in Florence but not for Christmas when Tortelli in Brodo are usually the pasta of the day. This dish is not from Tuscany but everyone always eats it then. One part of the Christmas meal that is very Tuscan are the Crostini con Fegato, not my favorite dish, but a necessary one. The meal continues with a roast, side dishes and then a parade of desserts, again, many from other parts of Italy. One very Tuscan tradition though is the Vin Santo.

Vin Santaia

Vin Santo is made from dried grapes that spend time in small barrels called carratelli. These pictures were taken at Castello di Poppiano.

Carratelli

I love Vin Santo, both the traditional version and Occhio di Pernice which comes from Sangiovese grapes and is much rarer.
Occhio di Pernice - Poggio Bonelli

On my table I always have a bottle of Susanna Crociani’s Vin Santo, a family favorite.

Crociani Vin Santo

With the Vin Santo, everyone dips their cantucci, the Tuscan biscotto par excellence. I have spent many a Christmas in Tuscany and it has always been an all day affair. A huge lunch, lots of games of cards, more eating and maybe a walk between lunch and dinner. I once sat at the table for 12 hours but that was in Rome. All told, Christmas in Florence is magical and nowhere do I prefer to wait for Babbo Natale than on the banks of the Arno.

However you celebrate your Christmas we’ll have lots to share on how Christmas is celebrated throughout all of Italy so don’t miss it! Here is a preview of what’s to come this Saturday December 3rd. Join us for a live Twitter chat this Saturday at #ItalianFWT 11am EST.

Vino Travels -Christmas in Molise
Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth or Tradition
Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti
Avvinare – A Florentine Christmas
L’Occasion – 5 Italian Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings
The Wining Hour – A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food,Tradition
The Wine Predator – Italian Holiday Traditions Adapted to CAlifornia Conditions: 3 dishes with wine

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Filed under Christmas Wines, Memorable Events, sweet wines, Tuscany, wines

Wine Wednesday: Vecchie Terre di Montefili

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I tried this wonderful Chianti Riserva last week at a tasting in New York. Vecchie Terre Montefili – Chianti Classico. The property which I believe has changed owners in the last years is located at 400 meters above sea level in Greve in Chianti. The symbol on the label is taken from two cypress trees that grace the property. This is a Chianti Classico made from Sangiovese. The Montefili family were Florentine nobles. This particular version of Chianti is more severe than some of the others due to soil, altitude and exposure. I found it to be lovely with cherry, earth, floral and Mediterranean herbs or “macchia mediterranea” aromas and flavors that one associates with Italy. As a Riserva is has to spend at least two years in oak. In the past Vittore Fiore who I have had the pleasure of meeting many times has been the oenologist. I hope he continues with the new owners.

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Podere La Marronaia – A Nice Expression of Vernaccia

Lobster

This morning I walked a 10k to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. The race was all women in Central Park. There were so many of us.over 8,000 and so many people cheering on Team In Training runners/walkers, etc that it felt really celebratory. Lots of people donated to my fundraising page and I very touched. I had a few people to see today so after playground and sprinkler time, I was really ready for a nice glass of wine. I have found a new place to hang out on the Upper West Side, Acqua. It’s been there for a long time but I had never gone until recently. I had a glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, something I never do. Oddly enough, it was the first Italian DOC wine in 1966. The wine received its DOCG designation in 1993.

Vernaccia is not an easy grape. The wine is generally pretty bitter and acidic. It has to be made from 90% Vernaccia and 10% of other grapes but non-aromatic ones.

I have had many Vernaccia over the years but it has never been my favorite, until one summer when I brought a bottle of wine from Podere la Marronaia called Visla to Cape Cod. I had met the owners years ago,  Luigi Dei and Silvia Morrocchi, and their sons Pietro and Corrado. I remember Luigi was doing the New York Marathon. I enjoyed reconnecting with their wine today. Their grapes are organic certified and they pay a lot of attention to their practices. A friend used to make their wine but I think she is no longer involved. I can’t wait for this year’s Lobster evenings on the Cape.Lobster

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Tuscany, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, wines