Tag Archives: Vino Travels

Easter Traditions In Rome

Fountain in Piazza Navona - Rome

I have had the pleasure of spending Easter in Rome a number of times. The city is very crowded with tourists and often school children. “La Settimana Santa” or the Holy Week is considered a perfect time to visit the Eternal City. Many hope to see the Pope who is in residence and gives Mass in St. Peter’s square on Easter morning.


Romans skip their cornetti or brioche as they are known in other parts of Italy and have a big breakfast with eggs and salami. I once had one that was billed as an Easter donut or Ciambella that was filled with eggs and salami. The only problem was that we were on a sailboat going around the island of Elba and the weather wasn’t great so that kind of a heavy breakfast on Easter was hard for me but hey who am I to argue with tradition.

After breakfast, when in Rome, many do try to go see the Pope. One year I did that as well. The crowd was immense and the experience was intense and moving, even to a non-Catholic such as myself.


When Romans sit down for their Easter lunch, as I did with friends at their home in Zagarolo, they will find Abbacchio at the table, or lamb. Here’s a recipe for how it is made. You will also find Carciofi alla Romana. I love Artichokes and this is the season you will find them in Italian markets all over the country. Here is a recipe for making Carciofi alla Romana. Lots of other items may be part of the meal but these two are key components as is the Colomba di Pasqua for dessert.

While this is happening, what are people drinking? I’ve found that Romans tend to have a mix of wines at the meal. Perhaps a red wine with the lamb. It could be Cesanese del Piglio which is a local grape from Lazio. I first discovered this grape variety in 2005 when I was doing a series of interviews with winemakers throughout Italy for a project. Cesanese del Piglio is made from a minimum of 90% Cesanese Comune and Cesanese d’Affile. Cesanese is not that widely seen on wine list menus and I think it is a real shame. It produces wines that are hearty and ruby red in color. It also brings spice and supple tannins to the table and blends well with other grape varieties.


For dessert, Romans have a few fun local choices including Malvasia del Lazio which I wrote about in February as part of my Italian indigenous grape variety series. Or perhaps Cannellino from Frascati made with Malvasia and Trebbiano.

Easter Monday is a holiday in Italy, Pasquetta. Everyone is generally having a big lunch somewhere “fuori porta” or out of town. I have many fond memories of Easter in Italy and Pasquetta. It’s a lovely way to begin the Spring season.

Here are a variety of other Easter dishes and wines to enjoy.  If you catch this in time, chat with us live this Saturday April 1st on Twitter at #ItalianFWT @ 11am EST.  

Jen from Vino Travels features Easter Celebrations in Puglia

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla features Il Verdetto di
Pasqua + Sella & Mosca Terre Rare Riserva Carignano
Susannah of Avvinare features Easter Traditions in Rome
Jill of L’Occasion features 5 Italian Easter Dishes and Wine Pairings

Gwendolyn of Art Predator features Easter Bread and other Italian Traditions Paired with Wine

Mike of Undiscovered Italy features Colomba di Pasqua

Join us next month on May 6th as Gwendolyn from Art Predator hosts Italian Sparkling Wines.  See you then!


Filed under #ItalianFWT, Holidays, lazio, Memorable Events, wines

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

Discover Off the Beaten Path Nebbiolos from the Carema and Canavese DOCs

italy 600

While people often debate the merits of Brunello vs. Barolo or Barolo vs Barbaresco, the smaller appellations where Nebbiolo grows are often overlooked. This is certainly the case with Carema DOC and it is a real shame. I first heard of these wines about 20 years ago when I lived in Florence and someone who was close to me mentioned them as sensational wines. He had worked for many years at Olivetti in Ivrea and discovered the wines during his years in Piedmont. I always remembered the name Carema because it sounded musical and lyrical to me. The wines when I finally tried them a couple of years later were what I could call lyrical –  elegant and beautiful expressions of Nebbiolo. Carema is located in the province of Turin very close to the Valle d’Aosta. In fact, I visited there after a skiing vacation in the Valle d’Aosta, an amazing part of Italy as well, and not to be missed.

These are some of the most northern Nebbiolos one will find and growing vines on the steep and terraced vineyards there is quite difficult. The wines are a tad more austere than some of the Nebbiolos people might be used to. They also have great acidity, again not, what one immediately associates with Nebbiolo. There are two varieties of Nebbiolo that grow in this area, one is called Picutener and the other  Pugnet. Carema sits on the remains of a moraine at the foot of the Maletto mountain. In addition to this special mineral rich soil, the climate also helps to grow healthy grapes as the weather is somewhat mild, and protection from harsh winds can be found both from the alps and the smaller hills surrounding the area. Furthermore, the climate is mitigated by the presence of a myriad of lakes.

The grapes grow at altitudes of 350 – 700 meters in a pergola form supported by stone pillars. These are mountain wines. It is very hard work and erosion and damage to the terracing is common, requiring constant attention to the vineyards. The terraces are all supported by dry walls. The thermal excursion or difference between day and night temperatures in this area is quite large, adding to the elegance and balance one finds in these wines as it helps grapes reach phenolic ripeness. The pillars also help to retain heat during the day and then they release it at night, again, helping to keep the vines healthy with a good balance between acidity and sugar in the grapes.

The wines are aged for 24 months by law, at least 12 of which in oak or chestnut barrels. For the Reserva level, they age for 36 months. While Caluso makes wines with Erbaluce and Canavese makes many wines not just Nebbiolo as one finds in Carema, all three are grouped together in a Consortium and thus I am mentioning all three of them. The first Consortium was established in 1991 for Caluso DOC wines. In 1996, the Consortium added Carema DOC wines and finally in 1998, Canavese DOC wines. The Consortium has some 26 members. Carema is located near a famous town called Pont Saint Martin. This is a picture of the remains of a castle there. It is named for a Roman bridge that crosses the Dora Baltea river there.


Nebbiolo also grows in the Canavese area which includes one hundred towns near Turin and 10 near the Piedmont towns of Biella and Vercelli. Other grape varieties also go into this designation including Barbera, Bonarda, Freisa and Neretto. For the Canavese Nebbiolo DOC, some 85% of the wine must come from Nebbiolo grapes, while the other 15% can be made up of other locally-grown red grapes. These Nebbiolo based wines are generally more fruit forward and less austere than the ones from Carema. Carema is much smaller than Canavese, as one can see from the list below  of production areas.  Two very well known producers  who are available in the USA are  Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema and Luigi Ferrando. Click here to find them.

The Carema DOC winegrowing area is in the town of Carema while the Canavese DOC winegrowing area is in the following towns:

Province of Torino: Agliè, Albiano d’Ivrea; Alice Superiore, Andrate, Azeglio, Bairo, Baldissero Canavese, Balangero, Banchette, Barbania, Barone, Bollengo, Borgiallo, Borgofranco d’Ivrea, Borgomasino, Burolo, Busano, Cafasse, Caluso, Candia Canavese, Caravino, Carema, Cascinette d’Ivrea, Castellamonte, Castelnuovo Nigra, Chiaverano, Chiesanuova, Ciconio, Cintano, Cofieretto Castelnuovo, Colleretto Giacosa, Corio, Coassolo, Cossano Canavese, Cuceglio, Cuorgnè, Favria, Feletto, Fiorano Canavese, Forno Canavese, Front, Germagnano, Ivrea, Lanzo Torinese, Lessolo, Levone, Loranzè, Lugnacco, Lusigliè, Maglione, Mazzè, Mercenasco, Montalenghe, Montaldo Dora, Nomaglio, Oglianico, Orio Canavese, Ozegna, Palazzo Canavese, Parella, Pavone Canavese, Pecco, Perosa Canavese, Pertusio, Piverone, Pont Canavese, Prascorsano, Pratiglione, Quagliuzzo, Quassolo, Quincinetto, Rivara, Rivarolo Canavese, Romano Canavese, Salassa, Salerano, Sarnone, San Carlo Canavese, San Colombano Belmonte, San Giorgio Canavese, San Giusto Canavese, San Martino Canavese, San Ponso, Scarmagno, Settitno Rottaro, Settirno Vittone, Strambinello, Strambino, Tavagnasco, Torre Canavese, Valperga, Vauda Canavese, Vestignè, Vialfrè, Vidracco, Villareggia, Vische, Vistrorio;

Province of Biella: Cavaglià, Dorzano, Roppolo, Salussola, Viverone, Zimone;

Province of Vercelli: Alice Castello e Moncrivello.

These Nebbiolos are absolutely worth searching out and can be both of good value and wines to keep.

Check out other alternative Nebbiolos and our discussion later today on Twitter.

Blog and Chat With Us!
Our group will get together for a chat on Twitter 10-11am today, Saturday, February 4th  to discuss our finds. Join us at #ItalianFWT!!

  • Jill from L’occasion shares The Test in Life is Unity: G. D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo
  • Susannah from Avvinare shares Discover Off the Beaten Path Nebbiolos from the Caluso, Carema and Canavese
  • Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares 2015 Cantalupo “Il Mimo” Rosato Nebbiolo
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso + Bava’s “Gionson” Nebbiolo
  • Mike from Undiscovered Italy shares Let’s Go Grumello
  • Jen from Vino Travels shares The Land and Soul of Ceretto
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares Silver and Gold: Nebbiolo from Santa Barbara and Italy
  • Jeff from FoodWineClick! shares Nebbiolo Grows On My Desert Island

    Filed under #ItalianFWT, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta, wines

    Coastal White and Red Wines, Food & Travel with #Italian FWT


    Italy is known as a country of “navigatori and marinai” or explorers and sailors. That’s because so much of Italy is coastline. This led to the choice for this January’s topic for writers in the Italian food, wine and travel group (#ItalianFWT). We are featuring coastal wines, foods and travel this month. Another reason for the choice was the idea of summer in the dead of winter although thus far we can’t complain too much about the temperatures, certainly not here on the East Coast. That makes these wines and foods even more interesting. As we become a more temperate part of the world, there is room to drink and eat all sorts of foods, any time of the year.

    Narrow Streets in Liguria

    Here’s a preview of what’s to come this Saturday January 7th. Join us for a live Twitter chat at #ItalianFWT 11am Est about Coastal White and Red Wines, Foods and Travel around Italy’s long coastline. If you’d like to be part of the group there is still time. Email directly at susannah@vignetocommunications.com.
    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