Sofia – An Update



Just in case you were all chewing your nails wondering how Sofia is doing, she is now 6 months old and I am happy to report that she is doing great, growing up just fine both physically and mentally. She is sweet, sociable, smart and occasionally hyper as only a lab puppy can be :-) And of course, she is cute! :-D Most importantly, we are all very happy.

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!Just a quick note to wish you all a very happy Easter.

Spring break is here and I have decided to take a break myself from everything (including blogging), go on a trip and enjoy some quality time with Her Majesty and my parents who just got here from Italy.

Happy Easter!

Enjoy the sunshine! May the Easter Bunny be good to you and good luck for your jelly bean hunt!

Happy Easter!

Talk to you all soon!

Francesca Xx

Happy Easter!

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Wine Review: Masciarelli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso “Marina Cvetic” DOC 2007

In a previous post we reviewed an excellent white wine made by Masciarelli (a quality producer based in the central Italy region of Abruzzo) the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic”. Today we are going to review another great wine made by Masciarelli, this time a red, the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso “Marina Cvetic”.

Masciarelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso "Marina Cvetic" DOC

Masciarelli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso “Marina Cvetic” DOC

Not unlike the case of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, even this wine is made from a grape variety that over time has had some pretty mixed reviews. Due to it being so widely grown a variety in central Italy, quality may vary dramatically from producer to producer, which in essence means that you need to be aware of who the best producers are in order not to be disappointed.

Masciarelli is definitely one of the great Montepulciano producers and hopefully this post will help readers become acquainted with quality Montepulciano wines and have an idea of what to expect from them.

About the Grape

Montepulciano is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to Italy (most likely, the Abruzzo region) and is widely planted across central Italy (about 30,000 HA), especially in the regions of Abruzzo, Marche and Molise. Beside Italy, it is also grown in California, Australia and New Zealand. It is a grape variety that results in deeply colored wines with robust tannins, that are often used in blends. On account of the wide diffusion of Montepulciano grapes, the quality levels of the wines made out of them varies considerably – hence, caveat emptor: you need to know which producers to trust and buy from.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Appellation

The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC appellation is one of the eight DOC appellations of Abruzzo (as at the date of this post). The appellation was created in 1968 and it encompasses a large area near the towns of Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo. Its regulations require that the wines produced in this appellation be made of at least 85% of Montepulciano grapes, to which up to 15% of other permitted black-berried grapes may be blended.

Our Review

The wine that we are going to review, Masciarelli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S. Martino Rosso “Marina Cvetic” DOC 2007, retails in the US for about $22.

As mentioned on a previous post, Marina Cvetic is both the name of the wife of the founder of the Masciarelli winery (Gianni Masciarelli) and the brand under which Masciarelli’s flagship line trades.

The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic” that I had was 14.5% ABV and was made from 100% Montepulciano grapes grown in Masciarelli’s vineyards near the town of Chieti, at an altitude above sea level ranging from 655 ft (200 mt) to 1,310 ft (400 mt). The density in the vineyards ranges from 1,600 to 8,000 vines/HA.

The must was fermented in stainless steel vats for 15 to 20 days at 82-86 F (28-30 C). The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation and then aged for 12 to 18 months in 100% new oak barrique casks.

As mentioned in the About the Grape paragraph above, Montepulciano is a variety that makes wines with robust tannins: this means that, in order to really enjoy your bottle of Montepulciano, you need to give it some aging or you may be disappointed because its tannins may strike you as harsh and edgy. Much like in the case of Barolo’s and Brunello’s, drinking too young a bottle of Montepulciano is one of the main reasons why certain consumers are put off by this variety: let it age at least 6 to 8 years and you will see that your sensory experience will be entirely different, definitely for the better!

As usual, for my reviews I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was ruby red and thick.

On the nose, it was intensecomplex and fine with aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, sweet tobacco, black pepper, dark chocolate and hints of licorice.

In the mouth, the wine was drywarmsmoothfreshtannictastyfull-bodiedbalancedintensefine with flavors of black cherry, blackcurrant, licorice, black pepper and dark chocolate. It had a long finish and its evolutionary state was ready.

Overall, the S. Martino Rosso was an excellent wine at a very attractive price point - provided, like I said, that before enjoying it, it is left aging enough to mellow its vibrant tannins. The bottle I had sported a great, complex nose, coupled with an awesome mouth feel showing great correspondence with its aromas. With seven years of aging under its belt, it had supple tannins, great structure, still good acidity and a long finish. For those who can wait, it can age for a few more years and continue improving.

Rating: Very, Very Good and definitely Recommended given its excellent QPR

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Party season warm-up: pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes

About 18 croquettes

Are you getting ready for party season? Easter is around the corner and I’m sure some of you will host the legendary Easter lunch. Personally I’m starting working on the menu for Her Majesty’s First Communion party. 

Every time I work on a menu for an event, I always start from the appetizers. After all they are the “preview” of the quality of the food that will be served during the event. They are critical to help creating that magical atmosphere (along with champagne glasses and colorful cocktails, of course!) when everybody gets to be cheerful and relaxed and starts to have a good time.

Potato croquettes are pretty popular in my house and they are such a tasty appetizer. I usually dip the croquettes in some bread crumbs and fry them in olive oil. However, an idea has been fluctuating in my mind lately. With the same potato mixture, I wanted to make something a little more sophisticated from the presentation point of view and a little less messy from the cooking point of view. So I put the mixture in a mini muffin pan, added cheese and bacon on top of every muffin and baked them. The result was fantastic. The crunchiness of the top contrasted beautifully with the softness of the inside. After the first tasting of my little experiment, I had a few croquettes left, so I warmed them in the oven the next day. And they tasted just perfect! A total blessing when you have to cook for a party, since they can be made the day before.

This recipe is just my basic mashed potatoes to which I add a couple of yolks. I tend to keep food pretty simple because of Her Majesty’s taste. However, feel free to use your own mashed potato recipe instead or to adapt mine the way you like, by adding a few herbs for example. After all, recipes are just suggestions that every cook should change according to their taste. :-)


3 medium size potatoes
2 Tbsp, butter
1/2 cup, heavy cream or milk
6 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
2 egg yolks
3 oz, pancetta, finely chopped
1/2 cup Emmental cheese, shredded
Ground black pepper
Ground nutmeg

Pancetta and potato croquettes

Pancetta and potato croquettes


Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel the potatoes, cut them in half and rinse them under running water. Bring a pot of water to simmer and place the potatoes in the pot. Cook the potatoes for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked through. Check with a fork: if the fork easily slides into the potatoes with no resistance, the potatoes are done.

In a non-stick pot, melt the butter on a very low heat. Drain the potatoes and, when the butter is completely melted, place them into the pot. With the help of a potato masher, mash the potatoes very well. Add the Parmigiano and the heavy cream and mash again. Add some salt, pepper and nutmeg (to taste) and toss to coat. Turn the burner off and let the mashed potatoes cool down for about 10 minutes. Add the yolks and toss to coat.

Place the potato mixture into a pastry bag and fill the greased and floured molds of a mini muffin pan. Sprinkle the top of each muffin/croquette with some shredded cheese and some pancetta and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove the muffin pan from the oven and let the croquettes cool for at least 10 minutes before taking them out of their mold – otherwise they will fall apart. 

Serve with a glass of what you like the most (in my case champagne! ;-) )

Bye for now!

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Because spring is a state of mind: lemon tagliatelle

Lemon tagliatelle2 Servings

That’s it! I can’t take it anymore and I’m officially putting the word “end” to this long, freezing winter. I hate winters. I know… I should not say the “H” word but here I’m saying it loud and clear!

Five long months of total hibernation, of postponing projects, of being cold all the time, of stopping buying shoes because I didn’t feel like going anywhere (well, actually Stefano and our bank account were very happy about that! :-) ), of just wanting to spend time under the warmth of the covers hoping that the next day would bring along milder temperatures… That’s how I have been feeling during the past months and that’s why I’m saying: enough!

I consider this dish my personal propitiatory dance to spring.  Lemons need lots of sunshine and warm weather to ripen. They remind me of my childhood summers spent at my grandparents’ beachhouse in Sicily where the heat was so suffocating that we used to spend the entire day on the beach eating nothing else but lemon granite and gelato.

I’m offering this dish to the gods, hoping that they will answer my prayers and send us the spring goddess. ;-)

After all, it’s just a matter of believing in it. ;-)


1 lemon
3 Tbsp, butter
3/4 cup, heavy cream
7/8 oz, tagliatelle (or linguine), preferably fresh
2/3 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
6/7 parsley leaves, chopped
white ground pepper

Lemon tagliatelleDirections:

Put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil.

While the water is warming up, wash the lemon under running water and dry it. Zest the lemon and place the zest into a non-stick medium pot.

Squeeze the lemon and put the juice aside.

Add the butter to the zest and cook on a very low heat until the butter is completely melted (make sure not to burn the butter :-) ).

Add the heavy cream and after a few minutes pour the lemon juice. Keep cooking on a very low heat, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, when the water comes to a boil, cook the tagliatelle stirring occasionally and drain them a couple of minutes before they are al dente. Put the tagliatelle into the pot where you have been warming the lemon sauce and toss to coat. Add 2 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thin, add more Parmigiano (not too much though otherwise the sauce will dry) and keep tossing, on a very low heat, until the sauce thickens.

Put the tagliatelle into the serving plates, dust the top of each plate with some Parmigiano cheese and white pepper and garnish the plate with some parsley.

May the spring be with you! :-)

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Wine Review: Montelvini, Prosecco di Asolo Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry “Venegazzù” DOCG NV

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wine are my own.

Montelvini, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Millesimato DOCG Extra DryIt has recently been reported that, in 2013, worldwide sales of Prosecco were for the first time greater than those of Champagne (307 million vs 304 million bottles, respectively – thank you Franklin Liquors for sharing the link to this piece of news).

In spite of such a commercial achievement, if you have been following this blog for a while, you may recall that generally speaking I am not a big fan of Prosecco, with very few exceptions. I just like the extra complexity and structure that is typical of a Classic Method sparkling wine (like Champagne or Franciacorta, for instance) over the simpler, fruitier profile of a Charmat-Martinotti Method sparkler (like Prosecco). If you are not familiar with the two methods, please refer to my previous posts on the Classic Method and on the Charmat-Martinotti Method.

Having said that, I am always happy to try and taste new Prosecco’s to hopefully add new… “exceptions” to my list. So I was excited when representatives of Italian Prosecco producer Montelvini were kind enough to have a couple samples of their premium Prosecco delivered to me so I could taste it and possibly review it.

Now, let’s see how it was.

About the Grape and the Appellation

The main grape variety that is used in the production of the wine Prosecco was called Prosecco Tondo (now Glera) which DNA profiling has shown to be identical to a rare variety that is indigenous to the Istria region of Croatia named Teran Bijeli. This evidence supports the theory of an Istrian origin for the Prosecco/Glera grape variety. Glera is a partly-aromatic white-berried grape variety (grape variety information taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012).

Prosecco wine is made in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene (or simply Prosecco di Valdobbiadene) DOCG in the Veneto region, near the town of Treviso;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani (or Prosecco di Asolo) DOCG in the Veneto region, near and including the town of Asolo (this is the appellation of the wine we are reviewing today);
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which covers a vast territory stretching between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

Montelvini Estate, Asolo

The Montelvini estate in Asolo (image courtesy of Montelvini)

With regard to residual sugar levels, according to applicable regulations, Prosecco spumante wines may be produced in any of the following styles, and therefore except only in the Extra Brut (less than 6 gr/lt of residual sugar) or Sweet (more than 50 gr/lt of residual sugar) versions:

  • Brut (less than 15 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Extra Dry (12 to 20 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Dry (17 to 35 gr/lt of residual sugar – as in the case of the bottle that we are reviewing)
  • Demi-Sec (33 to 50 gr/lt of residual sugar, which would make it taste quite sweet).

For more detailed information about Prosecco and the Glera grape variety, please refer to our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method and to the “Glera” entry in our Grape Variety Archive.

About the Producer and the Estate

The Serena family, who owns Montelvini, has been in the wine making business for 130 years in the hilly area surrounding the town of Asolo in Italy’s Veneto region. Nowadays, they manage 35 HA of vineyards in four different estates, with Glera, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon being the most cultivated grapes, accounting in the aggregate for 85% of the total vines, with an average density of 4,500 vines/HA.

Montelvini: Alberto, Sarah and Armando Serena

The Serena family (image courtesy of Montelvini)

The annual production is 3 million bottles, 20% of which are exported to 36 countries. The Montelvini winery accommodates 48 temperature-controlled autoclaves dedicated to the production of Charmat-Martinotti Prosecco sparkling wines.

Our Review

The wine we are going to review today is Montelvini, Prosecco di Asolo Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry “Venegazzù” DOCG NV, which retails in the U.S. for about $15.

The wine is made from 100% Glera grapes, has 12% ABV, a pressure of 5.6 ATM and comes in the “Extra Dry” variety, with 15 gr/lt residual sugar.

One thing that I did not like is the use of the word “Millesimato” on the label of the wine. In Italian that word refers to the vintage of a wine, particularly a sparkling wine, and is utilized to distinguish a vintage sparkler from a non-vintage one. However, the label of the Prosecco that we are reviewing does not contain any indication of the vintage of the wine, which makes the use of the term “Millesimato” pointless or even potentially misleading. I believe Montelvini should either keep the word “Millesimato” and include the year of the harvest (if their wine is in fact a vintage wine) or drop the use of “Millesimato” altogether if their wine is non-vintage.

Anyway, let’s move on to the actual review of this Prosecco.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was brilliant and pale straw yellow in color. Its bubbles were quite numerous, fine and long-lasting. A very nice perlage.

On the nose, its bouquet was quite intense, quite complex and quite fine, with aromas of apple, white blossoms and hints of tangerine.

In the mouth, it was medium-dry, quite warm, quite smooth; fresh and tasty. It was medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors reminiscent of apples with hints of tangerines and minerals. The finish was quite long and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning: do not cellar, drink now to enjoy its freshness.

Overall, I quite liked this Prosecco (despite being slightly irked by its label) and I appreciated its fine perlage, considering that the Charmat-Martinotti Method generally results in bigger bubbles. It is a nice, easy to drink sparkler with an appealing quality-to-price ratio: it has pleasant mouth flavors and mineral hints that make up for its not very complex or intense aromas. It definitely has its place as a Spring-y/Summer-y “cool but not intimidating” ;-) aperitivo.

Rating: Good and recommended, considering its attractive QPR

Posted in Sparkling Wines, White Wines, Wine, Wine Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Breaking News: The demise of tiramisu’?

Francesca's TiramisuA few days ago, I read an article on an Italian newspaper that saddened me a bit. Le Beccherie, an Italian restaurant located in Treviso (a town in the northeastern region of Veneto) that is credited for creating one of the most famous spoon desserts the world over, tiramisu’, will close its doors for good on March 30 reportedly due to the long-lasting recession that Italy has been going through during the last years.

The restaurant has been in the Treviso culinary scene for a very long time. It opened on September 1, 1939. Ring any bell? Yes, exactly the same day that World War II started.

In the Sixties, Ada (the wife of the restaurant owner, Aldo Campeol) and pastry chef Roberto Linguanotto, came up with the recipe of tiramisu’ in the kitchen of Le Beccherie by finding inspiration in and elaborating on existing dessert recipes, including that of the restorative, “energizing” desserts that at that time used to be offered to the clients of the… local brothels! See now the reasons for both the name tiramisu’ (that translates into “pick-me-up”) and all those eggs that go into it?… ;-)

I was born and raised in Italy, but I have never been to Treviso. And now I will never have the chance to taste the original Tiramisu’ prepared at Le Beccherie. What a shame! :-(

So, if any of you or someone you know happens to be in Italy in the Treviso area before the end of the month, I suggest you or your friends stop by the restaurant for a taste of the “real tiramisu’”, a delicious milestone in the Italian culinary history.

Wish you all a great week – and of course Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Xx

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Turning sweet into savory: basil olive oil and taleggio madeleines

Basel olive oil and cheese madeleinesEverybody is familiar with madeleines, the extraordinary, shell-shaped French small sponge cakes with crispy edges and a moist and soft interior texture to die for. They are very popular in my house and we love eating them for breakfast or for an afternoon tea.

However, who said that those beauties only belong to sweetland?

Madeleines can be turned into a wonderful, savory appetizer in a matter of just a few steps. They can be prepared ahead of time and you can be sure that they will amaze your cocktail party guests, giving your party kind of a sophisticated edge.

These madeleines can even be a great snack for kids (Her Majesty loves them! :-) ), one where you can “hide” some of the ingredients children are not so crazy about and still get away with it. ;-)

Well, here are the steps:


2 eggs
4 Tbsp, grated parmigiano
1/3 cup, shredded taleggio cheese
A little less of 1 cup, flour (100 grams)
2 1/2 Tsp, baking powder
1/4 cup, basil olive oil
5 Tbsp, butter melted
6 Tbsp, milk
10 basil small leaves, shredded (optional)
Pepper (optional)

Basel olive oil and cheese madeleinesDirections:

Preheat oven to 325F. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the eggs, the parmesan and the taleggio cheese and mix until they are blended. Add the flour, the baking powder, a pinch of salt, some pepper (to taste) and mix. Add the olive oil and beat until the oil is completely blended. Add the melted butter and, if you decide to do so, the basil leaves and mix for a few minutes. Finally, add the milk and mix until well blended. Stop and scrape the bowl.

Place the batter into the greased and floured molds of a madeleines pan. Bake the madeleines for 15 to 18 minutes or until they are golden and spring back when you touch them. With the help of a knife, remove the madeleines from the pan and place them on a rack to cool before serving them. 

Basel olive oil and cheese madeleinesJust a few more words of advice. The combination of flavors and ingredients that can go into these savory madeleines is truly endless. You can go from plain extravirgin olive oil (that’s what I use when I make these madeleines for Her Majesty) to garlic oil, truffle oil or chili pepper oil. As to the cheese, taleggio is meant to be just a suggestion. Pick the cheese you like the most. Just make sure that it melts nicely and evenly in the oven. You can also give these yummy shells a tasting boost by adding some “meat” such as bacon, pancetta, salame, speck, ham or prosciutto bits. You can even add some vegetables such as zucchini and the herbs you love the most.

Simply unleash your creativity and surprise your family and friends with these lovely madeleines.   

Talk to you soon! :-) 

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The Best of Vinitaly International/Slow Wine 2014 NYC

On February 3 I went to the 2014 Vinitaly International / Slow Wine event that was held in New York City, where Slow Food Editore (the publisher of the Slow Wine Guide, a guide in English to Italian wines) and Vinitaly (the largest Italian wine fair in the world) once again joined forces and brought together a number of quality Italian wine producers in the two sections of the fair, the one managed by Vinitaly International and the one managed by the Slow Wine organization. Another cool feature of the event, beside the tasting stations of the various producers, was a series of limited admission master classes dedicated to certain specific top Italian wines and organized by the Vinitaly International Academy.

Should you wish to read my impressions and tasting notes of the 2013 edition of the event, check out my wrap up post from last year.

This year, I was fortunate enough to go to the event with fellow bloggers and good friends Anatoli (AKA Talk-A-Vino) and Oliver (AKA The Winegetter): I had a great time in their wonderful and knowledgeable company (a special mention goes to Oliver who flew in from Michigan for us to hit the City together!) You can read their takes on the event directly on Anatoli’s and Oliver’s blogs. I have not yet read their accounts of our foray into Italian wine territory myself because I did not want to be influenced by their own experiences, but I will rectify that shortly now that I finally got this post out! :-)

A few numbers: this year there were 69 producers represented in the Vinitaly International portion of the event (down from the 86 that there were last year) and 70 in the Slow Wine portion (down from 78 last year). The Vinitaly International Academy offered three master classes, each one focusing on a different Italian top wine: Barolo CannubiFranciacorta sparkling wine; and Amarone. I was able to attend the Franciacorta and the Amarone seminars.

The event was well organized except for two aspects:

  1. Personally, I would find it much preferable if the tasting tables of the various producers were organized by region instead of by distributor or according to an apparently random order, which makes it more difficult to focus on the wineries that one is mostly interested in; and
  2. For some inexplicable reason, in the master classes that I attended the wines in the glasses on each desk followed an order that was different from that of the tasting note sheet that was given to the participants such that, for instance, wine number 1 on the sheet corresponded to glass number 7, wine number 2 to glass number 10, and so on: just a big, awkward mess.

Anyway, below are my personal highlights of the day, the wines that I liked best from both the master classes and the walk around on the tasting floor, together with the short tasting notes that I could jot down while I was tasting. For ease of reference, I grouped my personal favorites by region, from north to south – enjoy the virtual tasting!

(A) Friuli

1. Ronco del Gelso, Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte Sauvignon “Sottomonte” 2012 (white): a wonderful varietal bouquet of asparagus, tomato leaf, boxwood, typical cat pee(!), nettle and minerals, combined with fresh acidity: Excellent

2. Le Vigne di Zamò, Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo Pignolo 2007 (red): a kaleidoscopic nose of juniper, wild berries, plum, blackberry jam, cocoa, freshly ground coffee and minerals, complementing a structured and smooth wine: Very Good

(B) Piemonte

1. Borgogno, Barolo Riserva 2006 (red): from 40 year old vines, with great aromas of tobacco, cocoa, herbs and plum; structured, with already well controlled tannins and a long finish – ready to be enjoyed now or even better cellared for several years to be wowed even more later: Excellent

2. Damilano, Barolo “Cerequio” 2009 (red): a solid Barolo with a good quality to price ratio; it sported aromas of plum, violet and licorice, enhancing a structured and already smooth wine: Very Good

3. Vajra, Barolo “Bricco delle Viole” 2009 (red): one of my favorite Barolo’s, with a sensuous nose of violet, plum, carnation, raspberry jam, tobacco and cocoa going hand in hand with a structured, elegant, smooth wine, with astringent but well controlled tannins and a long finish: Excellent

4. Vajra, Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2010 (red): a great Barbera with fine aromas of rose, blackberry, dark cherry and licorice; structured and smooth: Very Good

(C) Lombardia

1. Bellavista, Franciacorta Gran Cuvée 2007: a very good Classic Method white sparkling wine with extremely fine bubbles and pleasant aromas of citrus, apple, pastry, white flowers and roasted hazelnut, a zippy acidity and pleasant minerality: Very Good

2. Contadi Castaldi, Franciacorta Satèn 2008: a solid Classic Method white sparkling wine with a fine perlage, a crisp personality and aromas of roasted hazelnut, toast, croissant, chestnut honey and pineapple: Very Good

3. Enrico Gatti, Franciacorta Brut 2007: another quality Classic Method white sparkling wine with a fine bouquet of peach, citrus, herbs, pastry and intense mineral hints: Good to Very Good

4. Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige S.A.: Ca’ del Bosco’s entry-level Classic Method white sparkling wine never disappoints, sporting aromas of apple, croissant, yeast, roasted hazelnut and a slightly briny touch: needless to say, the Annamaria Clementi is not (to know more, just wait for my overview of the 2014 Gambero Rosso event!) but certainly Good

(D) Veneto

1. Pieropan, Soave Classico “La Rocca” 2011 (white): a great white wine with aromas of Golden apple, vanilla, peach, almond and minerals, with a crisp acidity that counterbalances the wine’s smoothness and a long finish: Very, Very Good

2. Brigaldara, Amarone della Valpolicella “Case Vecie” 2008 (red): one word - wow! A gorgeous, garnet red Amarone with intense aromas of black cherry candy, roses, cigar box, ground coffee and minerals – an imposing structure which however has masterfully metabolized its impressive 16.5% ABV and kept its significant tannins perfectly at bay, delivering a masterfully balanced wine which is a true pleasure both for the nose and for the mouth: Excellent

3. Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella “Costasera” 2009 (red): a great rendition of the Costasera, with an intense bouquet of spirited cherries, raspberry candy, dark chocolate, coffee, licorice and balsamic hints, perfectly integrated ABV and smooth tannins: Very, Very Good

4. Musella, Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2008 (red): intense and peculiar aromas of menthol, rhubarb, licorice, spirited cherries and camphor in a pleasant Amarone with well integrated 16.5% ABV and tannins: Very Good

5. Zenato, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 (red): pleasant aromas of spirited blueberries, black cherry jam, cigar box, cocoa, black pepper and hints of licorice complement a very smooth wine, with well integrated ABV and a pleasant fruity feel in the mouth: Very Good

(E) Toscana

1. Castello di Monsanto, Chianti Classico Riserva “Il Poggio” 2009 (red): a solid single vineyard high-quality Chianti, with aromas of blackberry, black cherry, herbs, leather and black pepper, a good structure and supple tannins: Very Good

2. Podere Il Carnasciale, Caberlot 2010 (red): Caberlot (available in just 2,500 magnum-sized bottles a year) never stops wowing me – if only it were a tad more accessible… An intense, multi-layered, complex bouquet of blackberry, wild berries, tobacco, licorice, raspberry, black pepper, cocoa complements a wine that packs enough structure and acidity, coupled with silky smooth tannins and a long finish, for it to age for many years and impress even more: Excellent

(F) Marche

1. De Angelis, Anghelos 2011 (Montepulciano-based red blend): pleasant and intense aromas of plum, black cherry, tobacco and cocoa in a full-bodied wine with well integrated tannins: Good to Very Good

2. Marotti Campi, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Classico “Salmariano” 2010 (white): elegant aromas of peach, apricot, juicy golden apple and vanilla complete a great white wine with good acidity, smooth and a very long finish: Very, Very Good

3. Marotti Campi, Lacrima di Morro d’Alba Superiore “Orgiolo” 2011 (red): appealing and peculiar aromas of juniper, wild berries, wet soil, raspberry; structured and well balanced: Very Good

4. Velenosi, Offida Rosso “Ludi” 2009 (Montepulciano-based red blend): aromas of spirited cherries, raspberry, licorice, dark chocolate and balsamic hints in a full-bodied red with gentle tannins: Good to Very Good

(G) Umbria

1. Tabarrini, Adarmando 2011 (Trebbiano Spoletino-based white wine): a great, structured white wine with aromas of citrus, tangerine, herbs and minerals: Very Good

2. Tabarrini, Sagrantino di Montefalco “Campo alla Cerqua” 2009: one of two wonderful single-vineyard Sagrantino’s made by Tabarrini (the other one being the “Colle alle Macchie“) – this one is sure to impress, with a bouquet of violet, plum jam, licorice, dark chocolate and black pepper, complementing a full-bodied wine with plenty of structure and robust and yet supple tannins along with a long finish, a wine that will evolve and become even better with a few more years of cellaring: Very, Very Good

(H) Basilicata

1. Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture “La Firma” 2010 (red): aromas of cherry jam, tobacco, licorice, leather and herbs – full bodied, smooth, round, with well integrated tannins: Very Good

(I) Sicilia

1. Planeta, Noto Nero d’Avola “Santa Cecilia” 2008 (red): one of my favorite Nero d’Avola’s, with aromas of cherry, raspberry candy, licorice, cocoa, rhubarb and mineral hints; full-bodied, smooth and with supple tannins: Very Good

2. Planeta, Sicilia Fiano “Cometa” 2012 (white): yet another memorable vintage for this wonderful Fiano, exuding appealing aromas of peach, apricot, pineapple, citrus, herbs and minerals; structured, with a perfect balance between smoothness and acidity, and a long finish: Excellent

Posted in Red Wines, White Wines, Wine, Wine Reviews, Winevents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Wine Review: Masciarelli, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic” DOC 2008

Masciarelli, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo "Marina Cvetic" DOCThe white wine that we will review today is very special: it is a wine made from Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grapes by Masciarelli, an excellent quality producer based in the central Italy region of Abruzzo.

Some of you may be surprised that today we talk about and review a wine made from a grape variety that has had a pretty bad rep over the years as being too extensively grown to mass produce bland, nondescript and generally poor quality white wines.

But, today’s review is intended to let you know that such bad rep is mostly due to poor viticultural and winemaking choices that were made by producers who were only interested in volumes, not quality. There are howevever a few who, fortunately for us, did the right thing, planted carefully selected Trebbiano vines in locations that had the most appropriate terroir for those grapevines to thrive, reduced yields dramatically to maximize quality and made significant investments to make their wine in such a way that would underscore the potential of so bashed a variety.

Masciarelli is one of those selected few and this post, along with another one that is in the making and that will focus on another wine of theirs (this time, a red), is my way to tip my hat to them and their hard work, a remarkable example of a successful “made in Italy” story, one that they persistently and proudly pursued by resisting the temptation to go “the easy way” of grape variety standardization and instead investing on a challenging project. One that eventually paid off and realized their vision.

About the Grape

Throughout Italy, there are several white-berried grape varieties which include the word “Trebbiano” in their names (examples include Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano Giallo, Trebbiano Spoletino and Trebbiano Toscano), but interestingly DNA analysis has proved that, despite what their names could lead you to believe, they are mostly unrelated to one another. The first documented mention of Trebbiano dates back to 1303 in an Italian agricultural treatise where it is referred to as “Tribiana“; it is however not possible to tell which among the various Trebbiano varieties the author was referring to.

More specifically, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (which is the variety from which the wine that we are about to review is made) is a white-berried variety that has long been known in the Abruzzo region, in central Italy. Its origins are still unclear, and many believe that Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is identical to Bombino Bianco, a white-berried variety originating from Puglia. However, DNA analysis has suggested a possible genetic relationship with a different variety known as Trebbiano Spoletino. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is essentially only grown in the region of Abruzzo and, to a lesser extent, Molise, which altogether amounted to a mere 418 HA of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo vineyards in year 2000.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Appellation

The Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC appellation is one of the eight DOC appellations of Abruzzo (as at the date of this post). The appellation was created in 1972 and it encompasses an area adjacent to the towns of Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo. Its regulations require that the wines produced in this appellation be made of at least 85% of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Bombino Bianco and/or Trebbiano Toscano grapes, to which up to 15% of other permitted white-berried grapes may be blended.

Our Review

The wine that we are going to review today is Masciarelli, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic” DOC 2008. It retails in the US for about $50.

Marina Cvetic is both the name of the wife of the founder of the Masciarelli winery (Gianni Masciarelli) and the brand under which Masciarelli’s flagship line trades.

The Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic” was 14.5% ABV (a white that is not for the faint at heart!) and was made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grapes grown in Masciarelli’s San Silvestro and Ripa Teatina vineyards, near the town of Chieti, which measure 5 HA altogether and are located at an altitude above sea level of 1,280 ft (390 mt) the former and 820 ft (250 mt) the latter. On average, the vines are 50 years old.

The must was fermented in 100% new oak barrique casks for 15 to 30 days at 64-68 F (18-20 C). The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation and then aged for 22 months in barrique casks.

As usual, for my reviews I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured golden yellow and thick when swirled.

On the nose, the wine had an intense, complex and fine bouquet presenting layers after layers of delicate aromas, including orange blossoms, clementine, peach, herbs, honey, butter, roasted hazelnut and briny notes.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, warm, smooth; freshly acidic and tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of clementine, peach, butter, roasted hazelnut and plenty of minerality which was reminiscent of salt water. Those enticing flavors lingered in the mouth with delightful persistence.

Overall, the “Marina Cvetic” Trebbiano d’Abruzzo was an exciting sensory experience: a full-bodied, structured white with a wonderfully complex bouquet, appealing mouth flavors and unashamed minerality. A wine that was smooth, long and perfectly balanced despite its high ABV.

Rating: Outstanding and Recommended

Posted in White Wines, Wine, Wine Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments