Monthly Archives: September 2013

Wine Review: Coppo, Monferrato “Alterego” 2007 DOC

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.

Our overview of the wines in the Coppo range that are imported into the US continues on with the review of a wine that “on paper” had piqued my interest because of its unusual blend: enter the Alterego, a 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Barbera blend.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Coppo, Monferrato “Alterego” 2007 DOC ($35) was a good, pleasant to drink wine, a good match to red meat, game or meat-based pasta. Ideally, I wish its bouquet were a little more intense on the nose, but the aromas (if a little muted) are certainly pleasant. Also, it is a nicely balanced wine, where its ABV, acidity and tamed tannins exhibit an enjoyable equilibrium.

Rating: Good and Recommended Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grapes and the Appellation

1. Barbera: You may find all relevat information regarding Barbera as a grape variety on the “Barbera” entry of our Grape Variety Archive.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon: Regarding worldwide famous Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a black-berried variety that originates from the Gironde region in south-west France. The oldest documented reference to it (under the name “Petit Cabernet”) dates back to the second half of the XVIII century.

DNA profiling showed that Cabernet Sauvignon originated as a (probably spontaneous) cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. In the XX century, there happened two genetic mutations of Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia that produced in one case pinky bronzed berries (now known as Malian) and in the other case white berries (now known as Shalistin).

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes make deep colored, concentrated and tannic wines, apt for long-term aging. Beside its native Bordeaux region, where Cabernet Sauvignon plays a key role in Bordeaux blends, it is a variety that has been planted extensively around the world and that (along with Merlot and Chardonnay) has become the epitome of the international varieties.

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

3. Monferrato DOC: Finally, the appellation Monferrato DOC was created in 1994 and it stretches across a fairly large territory near the towns of Alessandria and Asti, in Italy’s Piemonte region. Monferrato DOC is a loosely regulated appellation as regards grape varieties, in that the wines may be made out of any of the grape varieties that applicable regulations permit to grow in the Piemonte region, with the only exception of aromatic varieties that are not allowed.

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Detailed Review

The wine we are going to review today, Coppo, Monferrato “Alterego” 2007 DOC, is the only red blend in the Coppo lineup: it has 14% ABV and retails in the US for about $35.

Alterego is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 40% Barbera grapes grown in the estate vineyards around the town of Canelli, in Piemonte’s Monferrato district. The wine is fermented for about 10 days in stainless steel vats, goes through malolactic fermentation and is aged in new French oak barrels for 12 months.

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, Alterego poured ruby red and viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was moderately intensemoderately complex and fine, with aromas of blackberry, plum, tobacco, cocoa and black pepper.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidictannic (with noticeable but well integrated tannins) and tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of wild berries, plum, dark chocolate and black pepper. It had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was ready (i.e., absolutely fine to drink right away, but probably even better if you let it rest a couple more years in your cellar).

Saint Emilion Chronicles #2: Collegiate Church & Cloisters

This is the second post in our series about our trip to Saint Emilion (in the Bordeaux wine region of France) and its beautiful surroundings. In case you missed it, you can find the first post (about the town of Saint Emilion) here.

On this post, we will briefly focus on a beautiful church-clositers complex in Saint Emilion: the Collegiate Church (Eglise Collégiale) and its cloisters.

The Collegiate Church is an imposing Romanesque building that was built between the XII and XV centuries and is considered one of the most impressive churches in the Gironde region.

Saint Emilion
: the cloister of the Eglise Collegiale

Saint Emilion: 
the stained glass windows of the Eglise Collegiale

Supposedly, Arnaud Guiraud de Cabanac gave impulse to start building the Collegiate Church in 1110, even if the church plans were repeatedly modified over time. While the nave was completed in the XII century, the remainder of the Collegiate Church blends together different styles from the XIII to the XVI century.

The facade and main portal of the Collegiate Church are in a beautiful, sober Romanesque style. In addition, a beautiful XIV century Gothic portal on the left flank of the church provides another entrance from Place Pioceau, on the northern side of the XIV century chancel that houses a magnificent listed organ built in 1892 by Gabriel Cavaillé-Colle and XV century carved stalls.

Saint Emilion: 
The cloister of the Eglise Collegiale

Saint Emilion: 
facade of the Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)

Inside the church, the Romanesque nave is adorned with nicely restored XII century wall paintings and amazing Gothic stained glass windows, while the statues of the Apostles on the tympanum were partly destroyed in the XVIII century during the French Revolution.

The Gothic cloisters, which impress the visitor due to their architectural elegance, were built on the southern side of the church during the XIII and XIV century, and remodeled during the XV and XVI century.

Saint Emilion: Statue in the Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)

The cloisters were built in the shape of a square, with each of the four covered walkways being 98.5 ft/30 mt long and 14.7 ft/4.5 mt wide: elegant arcades support the inner side of the four walkways, which encase a peaceful garden with a cross in the middle, symbolizing the Eden (or Paradise).

The Collegiate Church once hosted Augustinian canons who stayed in the monastery until the end of the French Revolution.

SourcesTravel France Online and Saint-Emilion.pro.

I hope that you enjoyed this second installment of our virtual trip to Saint Emilion… until the next chapter!

Wine Review: Planeta, Syrah Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007

Planeta, Syrah Sicilia Rosso IGTToday’s review is of a Sicilian varietal Syrah made by excellent Sicilian winemakers Planeta.

As usual, let’s first provide a brief overview of the Syrah grape variety.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I loved this Sicilian take of an international grape variety! PlanetaSyrah Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007 ($35) was a luscious red, with an elegant bouquet, interestingly devoid of those animal fur notes that Syrah from other geographic regions may exhibit. Despite its muscular ABV, the wine was wonderfully balanced and offered supple tannins counterbalancing its silky smoothness. Its rich, pleasant mouth flavors completed the picture.

Rating: Very Good and definitely Recommended Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

Syrah is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the northern Rhone region of France, where it was first mentioned in a document dating back to 1781 under the name “Sira de l’Hermitage“.

DNA analysis proved that Syrah is a natural cross between Mondeuse Blanche (a Savoie variety) and Dureza (an Ardeche variety) that probably took place in the Rhone-Alps region.

Syrah has historically been mostly grown in the Rhone Valley in France and in Australia under the name Shiraz, although recently its planting has become more widespread (as in the case of the Sicilian Syrah that we are going to review) as a result of an increasing popularity of its wines.

(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 Estate

Planeta’s Syrah is made out of grapes coming from the 42 HA Maroccoli vineyard situated at 450 mt/1,475 ft above sea level within Planeta’s Ulmo estate, located near the town of Sambuca di Sicilia (Agrigento), on the western coast of Sicily. The Maroccoli vineyard density is 5,000 vines/HA.

Ulmo is the first and the oldest among Planeta’s current estates: it became operational in 1995, along with its winery, and it encompasses some 93 HA of vineyards (including Maroccoli) where ChardonnayMerlot, Grecanico, Nero d’Avola and of course Syrah are grown in different crus.

Our Detailed Review

The PlanetaSyrah Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007 that I had was a red wine made from 100% Syrah grapes grown in the Maroccoli vineyard and had 14.5% ABV. It is available in the US where it retails for about $35.

The wine fermented in steel vats for 12 days at 25C/77F and aged 12 months in French oak barrique casks, 1/3 of which were new and the remaining 2/3 previously used ones. As you may know, the reason for using barrels that had already been used before is to limit the interference of the oak with the organoleptic profile of the wine, so that the tertiary aromas developed during the barrique aging period do not overwhelm but rather coherently complement the fruity secondary aromas developed by the wine in the fermentation phase.

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 poured ruby red with purple hints and viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was intensemoderately complex and fine, with aromas of black cherry, plum, tobacco, soil and leather.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was moderately acidictannic and tasty. It was full-bodied and perfectly balanced. Its mouth flavors were intense and fine, with notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, sweet tobacco and black pepper. Its tannins were supple and masterfully integrated. The wine had a long finish and its evolutionary state was in my view approaching its maturity, meaning the peak in terms of its potential (in other words, for best results enjoy it now or in the next year or so).

When Kidlandia meets Foodlandia – Part 1: Chicken bits and potatoes

Chicken bits with potatoes2 Servings

How do we get our kids to eat right? This is a billion dollar question. Well, let me tell you what I think: the secret lies in the parents’ cooking skills.

When it comes to food, Italian kids belong to a very fortunate category of human beings. I’m not talking about the quality/freshness of the products because it is indisputable that when God created my country, he was in a great mood. 😉 I’m talking about the care and, sometimes, the financial sacrifice with which most Italian families feed their kids.

Food and culinary tradition run in our veins and many Italians pride themselves in educating their kids’ palates pretty much since they can start eating solids so they can have a balanced and healthy diet. After all, we teach them to walk, read, write, function as decent human beings, don’t we? Well, eating is not any different and many Italian families (parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts) dedicate a lot of time to grocery shop and cook meals for their little ones.

Today’s recipe is my aunt Pia’s creation. A while ago, my daughter was making a fuss about eating some grilled chicken breast because, according to “her majesty”, it was too dry notwithstanding the dressing sauce on top of it. Now, I know children loooooove fried chicken and my daughter is not any different, but fried food can be unhealthy in the long run. So my aunt, wearing her superhero apron, came to the rescue and shared the following recipe with me. My daughter loves it and Stefano is always eager to eat any leftover. 🙂

Ingredients:

2 Chicken breasts
2 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
4 potatoes
2 cups, broth
salt

Directions:

Cut the chicken breasts and the potatoes into small bits. In a large non-stick skillet, pour the olive oil. Add the chicken bits and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are seared. Add the potato bits, some salt (to taste) and the broth. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until the broth evaporates and the chicken and potatoes are cooked and moist.

PS: When I happen to cook this dish for grown ups or older kids, I like to add a little twist. When the chicken bits are seared, I pour about 1/3 cup of dry white wine and I keep cooking the bits until the wine completely evaporates. Afterwards, I add the potatoes, the salt and the broth.

PPS: I’m trying to educate my daughter’s palate but… you know the saying “careful what you wish for”? She is becoming my most ferocious food critic, ready to “chop” me for the slightest of mistakes. I think I’m creating a monster!!! 😉

Chronicle of a French Wine Country Trip: Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion
: View of the town

Saint Emilion: the bell tower of the Monolithic ChurchFrancesca and I have recently spent a few days in France, at Saint Emilion, in the heart of one of the most renowned among the Bordeaux wine districts and appellations. There we have enjoyed the courteous hospitality of a fellow blogger (more on that later, on a dedicated post), the culture and the beauty of those places, a lot of good food and wine and of course the magic of the Bordeaux wine country and its multitude of Chateaux.

This post is the first in a series that will take you with us, if only virtually, to visit Saint Emilion and its surroundings and discover some of the attractions that such area has to offer.

Saint Emilion: The Monolithic Church and its bell tower

Saint Emilion: 
La Porte de la Cadene (the Door of the Chain)

We will start by showing you the town of Saint Emilion and telling you something about its rich history on this post, then on future posts we will show you one of its churches, we will talk about the wine country and the Saint Emilion wine classification system, we will take you to a beautiful nearby village and to a full-blown visit of our gracious host’s residence, we will make you visit a lively food market, we will take you food and wine shopping in Saint Emilion, and of course we will visit a few Chateaux and talk about their wines… Yes, it will be a fairly extensive trip, but don’t worry, we will take a break here and there with posts on different subjects, but we think it will be worth your time! 😉

Saint Emilion: 
La Maison du Vin and the bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Saint Emilion: The bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Now, without further ado let’s talk a bit about the town of Saint Emilion.

Saint Emilion is a beautiful, elegant small town located in the Libournais area, on the right bank of the Dordogne River, not far from Bordeaux. Saint Emilion’s long history goes back to the Roman times, and precisely to the IV century when the Roman ruler Decimus Magnus Ausonius (after whom the famous Chateau Ausone, one of the four Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” wineries, was named) erected a property there, where he eventually retired. Incidentally, it was the Romans who got the long-standing Saint Emilion wine tradition started by introducing viticulture to the region.

The beauty of the Saint Emilion landscape and its wine-making history have won the area UNESCO status of World Heritage Site for its being an “outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day”.

Saint Emilion: Les Grandes Murailles (the Big Wall) and the vineyards of Chateau Les Grandes Murailles

Saint Emilion: 
a "tertre" (steep alley) and a pastry shop

Saint Emilion is a town of steep alleys known as “tertres, winding narrow streets, pleasant squares dotted by bistros as well as several food and wine stores, beautiful Medieval buildings and ancient churches built in the yellowish local limestone, and hectares and hectares of lush vineyards.

Probably the focal point of the town revolves around the central Place de l’Eglise Monolithe: this square borrows its name from the homonymous Monolithic Church, the largest underground church in Europe, that was dug out of Saint Emilion’s limestone rock walls by Benedictine monks between the IX and the XII century. The Monolithic Church’s finely sculpted portal dates back to the XIV century and presents scenes inspired by the Last Judgment and the resurrection.

Saint Emilion: 
ancient buildings in town

Saint Emilion: detail of the Place de l'Eglise Monolithe and portal of the Monolithic ChurchUnderneath the Monolithic Church lie the Benedictine catacombs and the Hermitage, an underground cave where Saint Emilion himself (an VIII century Benidctine monk called Emilian, who became the town’s patron saint) is believed to have spent the last years of his life, from 750 to 767. There visitors can see an underground spring that was used for baptismal water, a bed and meditation seat both carved in rock, and graffiti reportedly dating back to the French Revolution. Above the Monolithic Church stands an imposing 53 mt/174 ft tall bell tower that was built between the XII and the XV century, while to the side of the church is the XIII century Chapelle de la Trinité (Trinity Chapel) hosting well preserved frescoes on the walls of its apse.

Saint Emilion: The Eglise Collegiale and the bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Saint Emilion: La Maison de la Cadene (House of the Chain) and la Porte de la Cadene (Door of the Chain)The inside of the Monolithic Church and the complex comprising the catacombs, the Hermitage and the Trinity Chapel can only be accessed and visited through a guided tour operated by the tourist office and, unfortunately, photography is not permitted anywhere within the complex – so here you will only be able to see images of the outside of the complex.

Other notable monuments in Saint Emilion are the Romanesque Eglise Collegiale (Collegiate Church) and its XIV century cloister (this will be the subject of another post), the complex of the Maison de la Cadene and the Porte de la Cadene (House of the Chain and Door of the Chain) located at the top of a steep tertre and dating back to the XVI century, and Les Grandes Murailles (the Big Wall) which are the last remains of what used to be a XIII century Benedictine monastery that collapsed for the most part and are now immersed in the vineyards of the homonymous Chateau Les Grandes Murailles, one of the 63 Grand Cru Classé wineries in the Saint Emilion wine classification.

Saint Emilion: 
elegant building in Rue des Ecoles

Saint Emilion: the bell tower of the Monolithic ChurchTypical of Saint Emilion are also several pastry shops selling two local specialties: the Macarons (delicious almond-based cookies) and the Canelé (small, chewy sweets with a caramelized sugar outside and a core of rum-infused custard).

Enough for today: I hope you enjoyed this first stop in our Saint Emilion trip and our general overview of the town – stay tuned for the next chapters of our chronicle! 🙂

Saint Emilion: Restaurant tables at Place de l'Eglise Monolithe

Wine Review: The Barbera Trilogy #3 – Coppo, Barbera d'Asti "Pomorosso" 2006 DOCG

Coppo, Barbera d'Asti "Pomorosso" DOCGFor the epilogue of our “Barbera Trilogy” series, I am going to readapt here my review of the Pomorosso that I published a while ago.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG ($60) to be one of the best Barbera’s that I have had so far, a wine that is a pleasure to drink and savor sip after sip – a perfect companion for a red meat dinner.

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended Outstanding – $$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellations

You may find all relevat information regarding Barbera as a grape variety and the four appellations in Piemonte where Barbera is the main grape variety on the “Barbera” entry of our Grape Variety Archive.

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG.

The Pomorosso is the flagship varietal Barbera in the Coppo offering (which, as we have seen in previous posts, includes two less structured, less expensive alternatives: L’Avvocata and Camp du Rouss).

It is definitely a complex Barbera: it is made out of 100% Barbera grapes grown in selected vineyards of the 56 HA Coppo estate located in the surroundings of the town of Canelli, near Asti (Piemonte). The Pomorosso 2006 had 13.5% ABV, was fermented and macerated in stainless steel vats for 12 days at 28-30C/82-86F, went through full malolactic fermentation and aged for 14 months in all new French oak barrique casks. In the U.S. it has a suggested retail price of $70, but its street price is generally around $55-60.

Let me say outright that the Pomorosso is a great, structured red wine, that is suitable for several years of aging (the 2006 vintage that I had was a symphony of aromas, flavors and balance). But let’s now move on to the technical wine tasting.

As usual, 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 2006 Pomorosso poured ruby red and viscous.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine with a sequence of aromas of violet, plums, blueberries, cherries, tobacco and chocolate.

In the mouth, the Pomorosso was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidic, tannic and tasty. It was a full-bodied, perfectly balanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, showing good correlation with its bouquet as well as a perfect integration of the oaky notes released by its barrique aging. Its tannins, although very discernible, were also equally gentle and supple, with their delicate astringency counterbalancing the wine’s lively acidity. The Pomorosso had a long finish, with its flavors pleasantly lingering in the mouth for a very long time. Its evolutionary state in my view was mature, meaning that, with 7 years of aging under its belt, it was at or approaching its peak in terms of quality, making me think that additional aging, while certainly possible, would not likely improve its quality any further.