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Wine Wednesday: Re Manfredi Aglianico del Vulture

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This week’s wine Wednesday is dedicated to Re Manfredi’s Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata. The winery has 120 hectares and the vineyard that makes this wine is at 420 meters above sea level. I tasted it last at this year’s Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri event. The woman who was showcasing the wine, Tiziana from GIV is a lovely person that I met in Italy many years ago. I tried the wine because I know her but also because I have a love affair with Basilicata as a region.

I have only visited a very small part of Basilicata, Matera, but it has been a crucial part of my Italian journey throughout the years. I always used to say I couldn’t leave Italy until I visited Basilicata. When I finally did, it still took me three more years to leave. The first time I heard about Aglianico del Vulture was in a wine class in Italy many years ago. Aglianico del Vulture is considered the most prestigious area for Aglianico in Basilicata. The Re Manfredi winery is located in Venosa, the birthplace of Horace, the Latin poet. Mount Vulture is an extinct volcano and the soils near it are particularly fertile with nitrogen, calcium and tufa. Wines made from volcanic soils all have mineral notes I find and a certain elegance and grace. This one was no different. Aglianico is a tough grape because of its powerful tannins yet those from this area are rounded and more refined than some others I have had. This wine ages in oak for 10-12 months. You can taste some oak and vanilla flavors but they are not overwhelming. The wine is a nice balance of fruit, earth and spicy aromas combined with tertiary notes from the oak. Really enjoyable, it made me want to eat a very large steak although I am no longer a huge meat eater. The wine retails for about $34 and is imported by Frederick Wildman.

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Wines from the Valtellina: Nino Negri Sfursat 5 Stelle 2011

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Last week’s Italian extravaganza of wines included some wines from the Valtellina in Lombardy, particularly this one from Nino Negri. I got about 10 text messages from a friend who lives in the Valtellina last week asking me if I had seen that Eric Asimov had finally taken note of Valtellina. Yes I had read the article. Funny that even in Sondrio, what the New York Times writes about, is what they have their minds on. That said, I actually had first visited the Valtellina with the person who texted me over 15 years ago. His family has a house there and we went to visit and tasted wines along the way. I loved the wines from Sandro Fay I remember and a few others. One of the famous names forever from that region though is Nino Negri. Last week I just had the pleasure of tasting his Sfursat 5 Stelle from 2011 which won a “Tre Bicchieri” award. This 100% Nebbiolo based wine is made only in select years. The grapes are dried for three months and the wine ages for 18 months in new French oak barriques and then a further six months in the bottle. The wines are made by winemaker Casimiro Maule who has worked at the winery since the 1970s. I find that Sfursat, like Amarone, is an acquired taste. My friend who was tasting with me was quite surprised at this version of Nebbiolo which locally is called Chiavennasca. Apparently, according to their website, Nino Negri was the first winery to produce a Sfursat also called a Sforzato. It was a big, rich, complex and layered wine with red fruit, pencil shavings, tobacco and spice notes. It also had great acidity. Infact the acidity, in my view, due to the elevation of the vineyards, enables these concentrated wines to be imbibed with slightly lighter food than what an Amarone requires. Worth learning to pronounce, try wines from the Valtellina, Sfursat and others, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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The Italians Are Coming, The Italians Are Coming

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During the next two weeks, New York City will host so many Italian wine-focused events that everyone in the area has an opportunity to try Italian wines from producers they know and those that they don’t. The week begins on Wednesday with the Slow Wine tour and continues next week with Vino 2016, Doctor Wine’s Book Launch and olive oil tasting and Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri event. Seminars, masterclasses and the like are on offer. Many of these events are listed on Nicholas Palazzi’s great calendar at http://www.pmspirits.com and others on their own websites. I for one have lots of producers and clients coming to town so expect to be really busy but not too much to be able to meet and greet new ones. Salute and happy tasting. It looks like the weather is even going to be our friend. Check out Wine Openers interesting article on the role of Italians in US viticultural history and business.

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Wine of the Week: Cumaro Conero Riserva D.O.C.G. from Umani Ronchi (Le Marche)

Umani Ronchi is certainly one of the most famous producers in Le Marche. In fact, it came as no surprise to me to see that they won a Tre Bicchieri award for their Castelli di Jesi Classico Verdicchio Plenio Riserva 2010.

Plenio 2010

This was also a great occasion for me to once again taste some of their other fabulous wines such as the Rosso Conero Cumaro 2009 and Marche IGT Pelago 2009.

I am thrilled to have been able to taste the newer vintages of these wines because I attended a lunch in September 2012 with Michele Bernetti hosted by their importer Bedford International and organized by the lovely Aileen Robbins of Dunn Robbins and was able to taste through their older vintages. I was happy to be able to go back to those notes and compare them with what I tasted two weeks ago.

Michele, Aileen, Mario

The winery has been in the Bianchi-Bernetti family for almost fifty years. It was established in 1957 by Gino Umani Ronchi at Cupramontana, in the heart of the production area of Verdicchio Classico. Roberto Bianchi and his son-in-law, Massimo Bernetti, joined the company a few years later. Michele began working with his father, Massimo and his uncle, Stefano in his teens but officially joined the winery after University and a stint in London working for their importer. He is currently the CEO of the winery. Michele is the third generation of his family to run Umani Ronchi.

Umani Ronchi Tasting

Umani Ronchi is very active in two areas in Le Marche which produce beautiful wines – Castelli di Jesi and Rosso Conero, where Verdicchio and Montepulciano grow, respectively. They also own an estate in Abruzzo in the Colline Teramane denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita (D.O.C.G.) area. Umani Ronchi sees it as its mission to promote the wines of these two regions – Le Marche and Abruzzo. The winery promotes quality wines from both its indigenous and international varieties. They have more than 200 hectares under vine. They make a host of wines, both red and white.

Le Marche has very favorable growing conditions thanks to its location on the eastern coast of Italy. It has long hours of sunshine and cool sea breezes which keep the vines cool and healthy.

The wine that won the Tre Bicchieri, Plenio Riserva 2010, was a beautiful expression of aged Verdicchio with great acidity and nutty, ripe fruit, floral and almond notes thanks to its aging regime. It is made from 100% Verdicchio from vines that grow in one of the areas historically regarded as most suitable for the production of Verdicchio, near the village of Cupramontana. The vineyard is situated at about 350 meters above sea level, with an eastern-facing aspect. The soil has very deep clay loam, with poor fertility.

In terms of vinification, fermentation takes place in part (60%) in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, while the rest ferments (40%) in 5000 liter Slavonian oak casks. Some 10-15% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. The parcels are then blended. This vinification regime lasts about 12 months, during which the wine remains in contact with its lees. Plenio completes its aging with a further 6 months in bottle.

The name Plenio means round, complete and ample in Latin and the Riserva did its name justice. They also make other versions of Verdicchio which should be mentioned including Vecchie Vigne, Casal di Serra, among others. I was able to try these wines in 2012 and they were exquisite. I particularly remember the Vecchie Vigne Casal di Serra from 2007 and 2009. This wine sees no malolactic fermentation. My notes show that I thought these wines were quasi reminiscent of wines from Alsace with white blossoms, almond and honey notes paired with the great acidity of the Verdicchio grape.

Cumaro 2009

In terms of their red wines, the family were among the first to champion red wines from Le Marche. The reds tend to come from the Rosso Conero area. My wine of the week this week is their Cumaro which I tasted again at the Tre Bicchieri on February 6. I had done a vertical tasting of it back in 2012 of the 1995, 1997, 2001, and 2007. This wine is only produced in great vintages. This time I tasted the 2009 Riserva. On both occasions I was impressed with what they do with the Montepulciano grape.

The grapes that make Cumaro are produced in a south-east facing vineyard called “San Lorenzo” at about 150 meters above sea level. It is close to the sea with highly calcareous soils. Cùmaro means Komaros in Greek and is a tribute to Mount Conero. The Conero Riserva wines were awarded the coveted D.O.C.G. designation in 2004.

Montepulciano is a late variety ripening variety. The wine ages in barriques for 12-14 months and then spends about 6-8 months in the bottle. They produce about 46,000 bottles of this wine a year.

This wine was very deep ruby red in color with garnet notes on the rim. On the nose it showed ripe dark fruits, spice, vanilla and tobacco. On the palate it was tannic with chocolate and oak flavors but I also detected a hint of minerality. This is a powerful, full bodied, harmonious wine which we had with a steak during the lunch in 2012.

Steak

Another wine I want to mention is the Marche IGT Pelago which I also tasted both in 2012 and at the Tre Bicchieri. In 2012 we tasted the 1995, 1997, 2001 and the 2007 vintages. Recently I tried the 2009. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Montepulciano. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is transferred to barriques for aging, for a period of 14 months. Pelago then ages for a further 12 months in the bottle.

Pelago 2009

It made a big splash when it was first launched in 1994. It was and is a big, juicy wine with rich aromas and flavors of black fruits and berries. It too had the minerality that I found in the Cumaro. It was created by Giacomo Tachis, the famed Enologist who created Sassicaia.

During the 2012 tasting we also tried two additional wines made with Montepulciano, Jorio and San Lorenzo. The former comes from their vineyard in Abruzzo while the later from the Rosso Conero. It was interesting to compare the two variations on the theme of Montepulciano.

I have never visited their vineyard but I did spend a wonderful holiday in Le Marche years ago, traveling around the area and discovering unknown wines. It was truly magical and at the time undiscovered. Le Marche has a lot to recommend it as a region whether its the wine or the food or the beautiful art treasures to be found in Urbino or at the Sanctuary of Loreto. Absolutely worth a trip.

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Filed under Abruzzo, DOCG, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Le Marche, Memorable Events, Travel, wines

Going To Tre Bicchieri New York 2012

I’m running out soon to go to the Tre Bicchieri event soon. I want to say hi to some old friends and try a couple of new wines. This year, I’m interested in white blends, oddly enough. I really feel that they are coming into their own and have found some level of acceptance in restaurants and wine bars as well.

My first Italian white blend that I became really familiar with was Lis Neris‘ wine, Confini. I found it to be a thrilling blend that spoke to me of a border land, the blend of Italian, Croatian and Slovenian influences that you find in Friuli where Lis Neris sits.

In fact, I’m going to the event to say hello to Alvaro Pecorari from Lis Neris, a great winemaker, a friend and a very particular individual.

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Tre Bicchieri Tasting Today

Today is the Tre Bicchieri tasting. Although people are constantly critical of these types of shows or of awards in general, no one can say they don’t give us wine geeks the chance to try a lot of great wine. The show organized by Gambero Rosso gave out over 400 awards of three glasses,their top award along with special awards in the following categories:

Red wine
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva ‘04 Biondi Santi

White wine
A.A. Sylvaner R ‘09 Köfererhof

Sparkling
Franciacorta Brut Secolo Novo ’05 Le Marchesine

Sweet wine
Albana di Romagna Passsito AR Ris. ‘06 Fattoria Zerbina

Best value wine
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cl. Sup. ’09 Pievalta

Winery of the year
Valentini

Up-and-coming winery
Polvanera

Oenologist of the year
Ruben Larentis

Grower of the year
Walter Massa

Award for sustainable viticulture
Sandi Skerk

I’m looking forward to seeing old friend and making new ones, meaning people and wines…

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Filed under Elena Walch, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Travel, Wine Industry, Women in Wine

Tre Bicchieri Tasting In New York

Today was the Tre Bicchieri Tasting in New York. I didn’t go. For the past few years I have worked at the event for a producer friend whose wines always win a Tre Bicchieri classification. This year, things were a bit different and I had too much to do to be able to go and taste. Gran peccato. I look forward to reading other people’s posts about the event.

The Tre Bicchieri tasting is always a madhouse as people rush to taste which wines have won those coveted awards. Gambero Rosso, the organization which gives out the awards, has been much criticized of late as have other wine guides and wine critics. Gambero Rosso and Slow Food are officially divorced and this was the first edition of the show without their collaboration.

I am sure there are merits to all sides of the debate about guides in general and about Gambero Rosso in particular but I try to take it all with a grain of salt and to never discount a source just because they are famous or have made a lot of money from their ratings.

Like many other people, I like to discover wines on my own or through the suggestion of a friend whose palate I trust. Sometimes that isn’t possible though and I have discovered many a great wine thanks to the Tre Bicchieri event in years past.

The Tre Bicchieri list of wines for this year was impressive as always, with some new regions getting more play than in the past such as Emilia Romagna, Le Marche, Liguria, and the Valle d’Aosta. I’m sure I will have the occasion to taste some of these wines at Vinitaly in April.

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