Tag Archives: USA

Home is where the heart is

Heart-shaped patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Heart-shaped patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Today’s post is not about food or recipes. It is not about one of my silly stories either. Today’s post is about something important that recently happened to me.

You see that little blue book with the golden eagle on the cover? Yup, it is mine and the big news is… I’m proud to say that I’ve recently become an American citizen!

We have called the East Coast of the United States home for many years now and it has been a wonderful, caring and nurturing home to all of us. I’m very excited that I can now fully take part in the country’s political life by exercising my right to vote and give my contribution, no matter how small.

My family and most of my friends are very excited for me. A handful of friends who have never lived here asked me what all the fuss is about since there are so many other beautiful countries (including my native one) where one can live in.

Oh well, let me tell you in a few words what all the fuss is about.

I think that every country is beautiful in its own, unique way.  Every country has wonderful things to offer and each one has its own, peculiar problems and issues that need to be fixed. Italy is not an exception and neither is the US.

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

However, speaking of the US, the following are two of the most important reasons that, in my view, make this such a great country.

Firstly, this is a country where you feel and are truly free to be whoever and whatever you want to be without being judged or categorized. This is a country where freedom in terms of religious beliefs, sexual orientations and race are not just beautiful words on an historical piece of paper preserved behind a sheet of glass! Of course, this is a generalization because for starters the US is a huge country and your mileage may vary depending on where in the US you live. Also, there is no country on earth that is immune to intolerance and ignorance. Those are vicious diseases that afflict the entire humanity and it is up to any decent human being to give their contribution to contain them as much as possible. Let’s just say that, since we moved to the Eastern Coast of the US, we have been lucky enough to live in places and communities where human beings peacefully coexist and respect one another no matter where they come from, what they do for a living, what their religion or shade of skin is and regardless of whether they are straight or gay and – this – my friends, is a true blessing.

Secondly, the US is known as a land of opportunity. This is not just a promotional catchphrase. It is the sacrosanct truth. This is a country that values and fosters talent and skills above all and whose educational system and work environment are based on meritocracy and reward intelligent, honest and hard working individuals. If you are smart and willing to work hard and with integrity, the Star-Spangled Banner’s land will give you an opportunity and then it is up to you to seize it and make the best of it. Of course, this is once again a generalization, but I can talk only from experience and so far ours hasn’t proved me wrong.

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Now, bear with me a little longer, if you will, and let me give you a brief account of the oath ceremony, which is the last step in the process to become a United States citizen at the end of which a judge of the competent local court hands you your certificate of naturalization. It is a very beautiful and touching ceremony.

That morning Stefano, Her Majesty and I along with 55 other people and their respective families showed up in court in a state of excitement mixed with mild apprehension since we didn’t know exactly what to expect.

The court staff was professional and courteous and the “check-in” formalities were carried out in an organized way. Once we were all accounted for, the judge showed up and gave us a beautiful speech about this country which made me feel proud to be about to become one of its citizens. After reciting the pledge of allegiance and being sworn in, each of us was called and delivered their certificate of naturalization. The judge was cheerful and patient and at the end of the ceremony he took the time to pose with each family for multiple photographs.

During the ceremony, I kept looking around me and I saw people of I don’t even know how many nationalities. At the beginning, I thought I had absolutely nothing in common with most of them. However, by the end of the ceremony, I realized I was wrong. All the people in that court room had something in common with one another. Not just something, but a dream that was about to come true for all of us and our families at the very same time.

Later that morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee with a friend. She is relatively new to my life (even though letting new people into my world is not exactly my forte) and she had been supportive all the way – she is the one who gave me the beautiful white, red and blue flower bouquet to celebrate the outcome of my English/History interview that I previously published photographs of.

That morning she surprised me with the work of art that you see in the last photograph of this post. It’s a heart-shaped map representing the three places on earth that I love the most: Rome, my hometown, New York, where it all began, and Fairfield, the place I now call home. It was so unexpected. And so thoughtful that it left me speechless and, believe me, it doesn’t happen often. I love this present more than I can say and I will always treasure it – along with the heartwarming thought of the friend who gave it to me.

I wish you and your families a wonderful and happy holiday season.

Francesca Xx

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

Variety Show: Spotlight on Primitivo… Or Zinfandel?… Or Tribidrag?

StefanoToday’s grape in the limelight of our Variety Show is Primitivo, a black-berried grape variety that has sparked a long-lasting controversy as to whether it is the same variety as Zinfandel or a different one.

With the help of the precious and up-to-date scientific data from the brilliant tome Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012, this post intends to shed some light on this debate and provide an overview of the scientific evidence that settled it.

1. A Brief History of Primitivo

The earliest documented mention of Primitivo in Italy dates back to 1799 and can be found in a note of an amateur botanist from Puglia who called “Primativo” (from the Latin “primativus“, meaning “first to ripen”) a particularly early ripening grapevine that he found in his own vineyard.

2. How Zinfandel Made It To The USA

The introduction of Zinfandel to the United States has recently been proven to take place in the 1820’s when Long Island grape grower George Gibbs brought this variety to his nursery from the Schönbrunn imperial collection in Vienna, Austria. At the time of its introduction to the United States, it was an unnamed grape variety, but by 1829 it appeared in the catalog of another Long Island nursery under the name “Zinfardel” and was later referred to under several variations of that original name until 1860, when it was agreed that the variety should be officially called “Zinfandel”.

3. In Search of Truth: Are Primitivo and Zinfandel One and The Same?

In 1967 a plant pathologist from the US Department of Agriculture visited Bari, in Italy’s Puglia region, and he was struck by the similarities between Zinfandel and Italy’s Primitivo wines and grapevines, so much so that he brought Primitivo cuttings to the University of California at Davis for them to be analyzed and compared to Zinfandel. In 1975 Wade Wolfe, a PhD candidate at Davis, established that Primitivo and Zinfandel were one and the same variety.

This immediately prompted the “battle over Zinfandel“, with several Primitivo producers from Puglia who started selling their wines in the United States labeling them “Zinfandel”. This practice triggered a reaction by most Californian Zinfandel producers to defend their investment in the variety and resulted in a 1985 ruling by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“BATF”) that Zinfandel could not be used as a synonym of Primitivo.

Nonetheless, the identity between Zinfandel and Primitivo was later confirmed, in 1994, by DNA profiling conducted by Carole Meredith at UC Davis. As a result, in 1999 the European Union granted Italian Primitivo producers the right to use the name Zinfandel. BATF filed a complaint with the European Union against such ruling, but it proved unsuccessful. To date, no agreement between the US and the EU on this matter has been reached despite the scientific evidence.

4. The “Zinquest”: Where Did The Primitivo/Zinfandel Originate From?

Soon after proving the identity between Primitivo and Zinfandel, Carole Meredith at UC Davis connected in 1998 with Croatian scholars at the University of Zagreb (Croatia) to start what was referred to as the “Zinquest“, that is the quest to determine the origins of Primitivo/Zinfandel. After much research, the quest finally came to a successful end in 2001 when DNA profiling established that Zinfandel was identical to a Dalmatian grape variety locally known as Crljenak Kaštelanski (meaning “the red from Kaštela”).

Later on (in 2011), DNA analysis proved that Crljenak Kaštelanski was the same variety as a very old Croatian variety indigenous to the Dalmatia region and known as Tribidrag, whose first documented mentions date back to the XV century. As an interesting side note, the Croatian word Tribidrag has Greek origins and means “early ripening”, which perfectly matches the etymology of the word “Primitivo” in Puglia.

According to the rule of anteriority (whereby the oldest name used for a same grape variety takes precedence), Tribidrag should be considered as the prime name for the Crljenak Kaštelanski/Primitivo/Zinfandel variety.

(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)

5. Geographical Distribution of the Tribidrag/Crljenak Kaštelanski/Primitivo/Zinfandel Grape Variety

In terms of geographical distribution, Primitivo plantings in Italy in 2000 amounted to 7,951 HA, mostly in the Puglia region and particularly in its Salento district. Wines are generally fruity, structured and high in ABV. Notable appellations for Primitivo wines in the Puglia region include:

  • Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG (an appellation reserved to sweet, raisin wines made from 100% Primitivo grapes grown in a territory adjacent to the towns of Taranto and Brindisi)
  • Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC (an appellation reserved to wines made from 100% Primitivo grapes grown in a territory adjacent to the town of Bari)
  • Primitivo di Manduria DOC (an appellation reserved to wines made from 85% or more Primitivo grapes grown in a territory adjacent to the towns of Taranto and Brindisi)

Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag are fairly popular, respectively, in Croatia and Montenegro.

California is by far the place with the most Tribidrag/Zinfandel plantings, with 20,377 HA in 2008 (making it the second most planted red variety in California, after Cabernet Sauvignon). Zinfandel quality in California is uneven, although recently there has been an effort on the part of several producers to make quality wines, which tend to be big, bold and fruity.

Tribidrag/Zinfandel has also gained some popularity in Australia.

6. Recommended Primitivo/Zinfandel Producers

(1) Recommended producers of outstanding Italian Primitivo wines include, among others of course:

Feudi di San Marzano, Primitivo di Manduria “Sessantanni” DOC ($50)

Feudi di San Marzano, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale “11 Filari” DOCG (€15 for a 500 ml bottle – not yet available in the US)

Gianfranco Fino, Primitivo di Manduria “Es” DOC ($90)

Masseria Li Veli, “Montecoco” Puglia IGT ($21)

Pietraventosa, Gioia del Colle Primitivo Riserva DOC (€25 – not yet available in the US)

(2) Recommended producers of outstanding US Zinfandel wines include, among others of course:

Carlisle, Zinfandel Russian River Valley “Papera Ranch” ($46)

Ravenswood, Zinfandel Napa Valley “Dickerson” Single Vineyard ($37)

Robert Biale, Zinfandel Napa Valley “Stagecoach Vineyards – Biale Block” ($50)

Seghesio, Zinfandel Alexander Valley “Home Ranch” ($58)

Turley, Zinfandel Paso Robles “Dusi Vineyard” ($42)

Full Report On Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2015 – Part III (Southern Italy and Islands)

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2015

In this third and last chapter of my report on Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event, you will find my tasting notes for those producers from southern Italy and the two main islands (Sardinia and Sicily) that I enjoyed the most among those that I tasted at the event. It goes without saying that the list below is far from being complete and that there were many more very good wines at the event that are not listed on this post.

For more information about the Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event and my tasting notes for northern Italian producers, please refer to the first chapter of my report, while for my tasting notes for central Italian producers, please refer to the second chapter of my report.

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

1. CAMPANIA

Alois, Trebulanum 2011 ($N/A): an interesting, varietal Casavecchia red wine (a black-berried grape indigenous to Campania) with aromas of ripe cherry, Mediterranean brush, aromatic herbs and coffee, along with a smooth, tasty mouthfeel with supple tannins and flavors revolving around cherry and licorice. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Nanni Copè, Sabbie di Sopra il Bosco 2012 (~$55): this is one of my favorite producers and red wines from Campania, a 90% Pallagrello Nero blend – one of Campania’s indigenous varieties. Vintage 2012 confirms the great quality of this wine, with a pleasant bouquet of Mediterranean brush, vanilla, tart cherry, herbs and tobacco and a luscious mouthfeel with flavors of red fruit, cocoa and minerals, along with gentle tannins and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Pietracupa, Fiano di Avellino 2013 (~$25): a good Fiano, with nice aromas of citrus, tangerine, peach and aromatic herbs (thyme?) complemented by a smooth and tasty mouthfeel with moderate acidity and mineral notes. Good to Very Good and good value for money Good to Very Good – $$

2. BASILICATA

Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture “Il Repertorio” 2012 (~$20): a varietal Aglianico with an appealing although slightly muted bouquet of black cherry, cocoa, soil and mineral notes, coupled with a powerful mouthfeel of black cherry, licorice, coffee and rhubarb and muscular tannins. Certainly it is no match for its top of the line, delicious “sibling” known as “Il Sigillo”, but for a $20 Aglianico this delivers lots of bang for the buck. Good and very good value for money Good – $

3. CALABRIA

Librandi, Magno Megonio 2012 (~$22): a 100% Magliocco (a black-berried variety originating from Calabria) red wine from one of Calabria’s best producers, with aromas of cherry jam, Mediterranean brush, soil, barnyard notes and mineral hints, coupled with a pleasant mouthfeel of cherry, licorice and cocoa, good structure and noticeable but gentle tannins. Good and good value for money Good – $$

4. SARDEGNA

Cantina di Santadi, Carignano del Sulcis Superiore “Terre Brune” 2010 (~$57): Italy’s beautiful Sardinia island produces some outstanding wines, and yet most of them almost go unnoticed to the general public, especially outside of Italy. The Terre Brune is a perfect example: it is an elegant wine with a great bouquet of cherry, herbs, Mediterranean brush, juniper and balsamic notes, complementing a lusciously smooth mouthfeel echoing its aromatic palette. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Tenute Sella & Mosca, Alghero Rosso “Marchese di Villamarina” 2009 (~$55): all hail this Sardinian varietal rendition of ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon, offering a bouquet revolving around Mediterranean brush aromas, black cherry, blackcurrant, rose, licorice and cocoa, complementing a smoothly coherent mouthfeel, where its full body does not diminish the wine’s composed elegance and long finish. Spectacular and good value for money Spectacular – $$$

5. SICILIA

Cusumano, Sagana 2012 (~$36): this varietal Nero d’Avola has enticing aromas of black cherry and plum jam, licorice, rose and Mediterranean brush, coupled with a smooth mouthfeel where the substantial ABV is well integrated and balanced with its gentle tannins and refreshing acidity. Very Good Very Good – $$

Cusumano, Moscato dello Zucco 2010 (~$40 – 500 ml bottle): an excellent 100% Moscato Bianco sweet wine, with an appealing bouquet of dried apricot, acacia honey, sage, aromatic herbs and candied tangerine, together with a perfectly balanced mouthfeel where the wine’s acidity and tastiness are just the right counterpoint to its luscious sweetness. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Donnafugata, Passito di Pantelleria “Ben Ryé” 2012 (~$35 – 375 ml bottle): as regular readers may know by now, this is one of my absolute favorite sweet raisin wines and it never disappoints. The newly released 2012 vintage of this varietal Moscato d’Alessandria (AKA Zibibbo) wine is outstanding and captivating as always, with a sensuous bouquet of ripe apricot, honey, sugar candy and raisins, accompanied by a dreamlike matching mouthfeel of interminable length where acidity and sapidity masterfully contrast the addictive sweetness of this memorable wine. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Graci, Etna Rosso “Contrada Arcuria” 2012 ($N/A): along with a handful of other Sicilian quality producers, Graci is a testament to today’s renaissance of Sicilian wines and varieties, especially those indigenous grapes that grow on the volcanic soils of Mount Etna. The “Contrada Arcuria” is one such example: it is a varietal Nerello Mascalese (a Sicilian black-berried grape) from the Etna region that delivers a wow bouquet of red wild berries, licorice, aromatic herbs, Mediterranean brush and leather notes, coupled with a refined mouthfeel matching the wine’s aromatic profile. I would cellar it for a couple of years to fully tame its tannins and let it become entirely coherent. Very Good Very Good

Planeta, Nerello Mascalese “Eruzione 1614” 2012 (~$32): another noteworthy varietal Nerello Mascalese wine with intriguing aromas of sage, herbs, black cherry, cocoa, licorice and mineral notes, as well as a bold mouthfeel with a robust structure, high ABV and noticeable but refined tannins. It will benefit from a couple of years of cellaring before enjoying it. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

Tasca d’Almerita, Contea di Sclafani “Rosso del Conte” 2010 (~$60): a Bordeaux-style red blend based on Nero d’Avola with an appealing bouquet of blackberry, ripe black cherry, Mediterranean brush, dark chocolate and tobacco, along with an enticing mouthfeel of ripe cherry, cola and cocoa, silky tannins, noticeable sapidity and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Full Report On Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2015 – Part II (Central Italy)

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2015

In this second chapter of my report on Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event, you will find my tasting notes for those central Italian producers (loosely interpreted, as I am adding Liguria among them…) that I enjoyed the most among those that I tasted at the event. It goes without saying that the list below is far from being complete and that there were many more very good wines at the event that are not listed on this post.

For more information about the Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event and my tasting notes for northern Italian producers, please refer to the first chapter of my report that was published in the immediately preceding post.

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

1. LIGURIA

Cantine Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni Vermentino “Etichetta Nera” 2013 (~$30): a white wine from Liguria with a pleasant bouquet of tangerine, peach, Mediterranean brush and mineral notes complementing a smooth, matching mouthfeel. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$

Poggio dei Gorleri, Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato “Cycnus” 2013 (~$25): a very good varietal Pigato white wine (which DNA analysis has shown to be the same variety as Vermentino – check out our Grape Variety Archive for more information) with fine aromas of tangerine, freshly mowed grass, rosemary, marjoram and other aromatic herbs, as well as a freshly acidic, mineral mouthfeel revolving around citrus, graphite and other mineral notes. Very Good and a very good value for money Very Good – $$

2. TOSCANA

Castellare di Castellina, I Sodi di San Niccolò 2010 (~$60): an expressive 85/15 Sangiovese/Malvasia Nera red wine with an exciting bouquet of black cherry, violet, Mediterranean brush, forest floor, aromatic herbs and black pepper, and a structured, smooth and tasty mouthfeel reminiscent of black cherry, licorice, coffee, aromatic herbs and mineral notes. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Castello del Terriccio, Lupicaia 2010 (~$110): a top of the line Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot with slightly subdued aromas of red berries, rose, rosemary, Mediterranean brush, rhubarb and licorice, along with a full-bodied mouthfeel whose smoothness is well balanced by its sapidity, while its slightly astringent tannins show that the wine still needs time to evolve in bottle for a few years. Long finish. Very Good – with the potential to be Outstanding when fully mature Very Good – $$$$$

Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino, Do Ut Des 2011 (~$40): a pleasant Bordeaux-style “baby Supertuscan” with a bouquet of black cherry, licorice, black pepper, juniper and cocoa, complementing a full-bodied, super tasty mouthfeel trailing its aromatic palette and presenting subtly gentle tannins. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

I Luoghi, Bolgheri Superiore “Campo al Fico” 2010 ($N/A): a typical Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend made in Bolgheri with aromas of wild berries, wet soil, cocoa, underbrush, black pepper and balsamic notes, along with a structured mouthfeel characterized by smoothness and supple tannins. Very Good Very Good

La Lecciaia, Brunello di Montalcino “Vigna Manapetra” 2009 ($N/A): a good Brunello with pleasant aromas of cherry, red fruit candy, herbs, cocoa and tobacco, along with a mouthfeel revealing high ABV and noticeable but well integrated tannins. Very Good Very Good

Mastrojanni, Brunello di Montalcino “Vigna Loreto” 2009 (~$65): a delightfully complex Brunello with aromas of cherry, wild red berries, licorice, dark chocolate, underbrush and mineral notes, along with a structured mouthfeel revealing red fruit, coffee, dark chocolate and rhubarb and underscoring the wine’s smoothness, supple tannins and long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$$

Podere Il Carnasciale, Caberlot 2010 (~$275 – magnum format): year after year, this tiny, high-quality producer never ceases to impress me. Under the gentle and knowledgeable hands of the owner, Bettina Rogosky (a true lady, if you ask me), the mere 2.4 HA of Caberlot vineyards that are currently in production yield 3,000 bottles of Il Caberlot (their grand vin, that is made in magnum format only) and 6,000 bottles of Il Carnasciale (their second vin). Caberlot is a very rare, almost extinct variety (yes, Caberlot is in fact a grape variety that is believed to be a natural crossing between Cabernet Franc and Merlot – see our Grape Variety Archive for more information) that is only cultivated at Podere Il Carnasciale. Back to our tasting of Il Caberlot 2010: it was fabulous, with an intense bouquet of red berries, ash, burnt wood, incense, tobacco and a round, smooth mouthfeel with well integrated tannins and good acidity to ensure a long aging potential which will make this excellent wine mature and evolve even more. Spectacular Spectacular – $$$$$

Podere Orma, Orma 2011 (~$55): a Bordeaux-style blend with 50% Merlot and the rest equally divided between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, presenting a bouquet of cherry, red berries, soil, Mediterranean brush and black pepper, along with a matching, full-bodied mouthfeel, reminiscent of cherry, licorice and coffee where noticeable but well integrated tannins effectively counterbalance the wine’s robust ABV and silky smoothness. Very Good Very Good – $$$

Tenuta Sette Ponti, Crognolo 2012 (~$23): this 90% Sangiovese blend is a consistently solid performer. It had nice aromas of cherry, red berries, black pepper and herbs, complemented by an already pleasant mouthfeel with good acidity and noticeable tannins. It needs to rest for a few years in the bottle to become fully coherent and perform at its best. Good to Very Good and very good value for money for those who can wait Good to Very Good – $$

3. MARCHE

La Monacesca, Verdicchio di Matelica “Mirum” Riserva 2012 (~$30): a solid 100% Verdicchio with elegant, if just a bit subdued, aromas of citrus, passion fruit, Mediterranean brush, aromatic herbs, almond and mineral notes, along with a silky smooth, acidic and definitely mineral mouthfeel where the wine’s high ABV is totally integrated into its structure. Very Good Very Good – $$

Le Caniette, Piceno “Morellone” 2008 (~$26): an interesting Montepulciano/Sangiovese blend from the Marche region, with aromas of tart cherry, licorice, aromatic herbs and ground coffee complementing a powerful mouthfeel trailing the wine’s aromas and underscoring a dark chocolate note, showing plenty of structure and already well integrated tannins. Good to Very Good and good value for money Good to Very Good – $$

4. UMBRIA

Marchesi Antinori, Cervaro della Sala 2012 (~$45): as always, the Cervaro della Sala (a 90/10 Chardonnay/Grechetto blend) is delightful, with mesmerizing aromas of rosemary, Mediterranean brush, laurel, aromatic herbs, nettle, lime and hazelnut, complementing a mouthfeel where smoothness and acidity are in a perfect balance and linger in a long, dreamlike finish. Spectacular Spectacular – $$$

Tabarrini, Sagrantino di Montefalco “Campo alla Cerqua” 2010 (~$55): as always, a great Sagrantino from an excellent producer like Tabarrini, with a wonderful bouquet of plum, tart cherry, licorice, Mediterranean brush, wet soil, cocoa and incense, along with a powerful, muscular mouthfeel where the wine’s high ABV and quite astringent tannins underscore its young age and make it advisable to cellar it for a few years before enjoying it. Very Good Very Good – $$$

5. ABRUZZO

Tenuta Ulisse, Pecorino “Unico” 2014 (~$13): a very good 100% Pecorino (a white-berried variety originating from the Marche region) white wine with exciting aromas of grapefruit, tropical fruit, pineapple, nettle and mint, along with a vibrantly acidic mouthfeel reminiscent of grapefruit, nettle, mint and aromatic herbs. Outstanding and an insanely good value Outstanding – $

Tiberio, Pecorino 2013 (~$23): a quality Pecorino white wine with aromas of medlar, tangerine and face powder that go hand in hand with a very interesting mouthfeel of medlar, citrus and mineral notes on a pleasantly acidic and tasty structure. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

Valle Reale, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Vigna di Capestrano” 2012 (~$28): a solid Trebbiano, with aromas of lemon tree blossoms, citrus, pineapple, incense and aromatic herbs complementing a citrusy mouthfeel with zippy acidity. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$

6. LAZIO

Falesco, Montiano 2012 (~$39): a wonderful 100% Merlot from Lazio with lush aromas of plum, black cherry jam, blackberry, violet and licorice, along with a deliciously smooth mouthfeel of black cherry jam, cocoa, coffee and licorice, with silky tannins and a distinct sapidity. Outstanding and good value for money Outstanding – $$

Full Report On Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2015 – Part I (Northern Italy)

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2015

A couple of weeks ago was that time of the year yet again, when I got to participate (along with my good friend Anatoli, AKA Talk-A-Vino) in one of the most eagerly anticipated Italian wine events in New York City reserved to media and trade: Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC. As you may know, only those Italian wineries that are awarded the coveted “Tre Bicchieri” (i.e., three glasses) top ranking in the Gambero Rosso wine guide are invited to participate in the event.

This year 180 wineries were represented at the Tre Bicchieri event, just the same as last year, presenting some of their best wines to media and trade.

The organization of the event was okay, except the totally unintuitive (at least to me) order of the tasting tables and the lack of an index of the participating wineries that would group them by region. I realize that it is useful to group them by importer (the way the index is currently structured), but there should also be an index by region, so that if one looks for a specific winery and does not know who their importer is, does not get to flip through the entire booklet to find out which table they are at. I seriously hope the organizers will consider improving the event booklet to fix this annoyance.

In order to keep post size manageable, I have broken down my report into three chapters: Northern Italy, Central Italy and Southern Italy (including the islands). In this post you will find my tasting notes for my selection of the northern Italian producers.

As always for this kind of events, I am going to list below those wines that impressed me most among the many great ones that I got to taste, grouped by region. It goes without saying that the list below is far from being complete and that there were many more very good wines at the event that are not listed on this post.

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

1. TRENTINO

Ferrari, Trento Brut “Giulio Ferrari” Riserva del Fondatore 2004 (~$110): a wonderful Italian Classic Method vintage sparkler from the renown Trento DOC appellation. This top of the Ferrari line sparkling wine is a Blanc de Blancs made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and aged on the lees for 10 years(!) Even beside its rich golden hues and superfine perlage, this wine proves to be a true sensory pleasure that first entices you with a fabulous bouquet of fresh pastry, sugar candy, confetti (in the Italian sense of the traditional sugar-coated almond candy that newly weds offer their guests), vanilla, tangerine and white flowers, and then captivates you with its fresh acidity and tasty sapidity that wonderfully counterbalance its silky smoothness and creamy structure. Spectacular Spectacular – $$$$$

2. ALTO ADIGE

Cantina Tramin, Alto Adige Gewürztraminer “Nussbaumer” 2013 (~$32): it lures you in right at the onset with a wow bouquet of tropical fruit, passion fruit, tangerine, citrus, wisteria, face powder and briny notes complementing an equally exquisite mouthfeel that precisely replicates the wine’s aromatic profile and delivers vibrant acidity and sapidity masterfully counterbalanced by a creamy smoothness. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Elena Walch, Alto Adige Merlot “Kastelaz” Riserva 2011 (~$55): I love Elena Walch and her wines, although I have been trying hard to taste her Kermesse for years now only unsuccessfully. My quest goes on… I liked the Merlot Kastelaz that I tasted: it had nice aromas of blackberry, herbs and potpourri as well as a pleasant, round mouthfeel with flavors of blackberries, coffee and cocoa and silky tannins. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$$

Erste+Neue, Alto Adige “Anthos” Bianco Passito 2010 ($N/A): this delicious, golden sweet white wine is a blend of 50% Moscato Giallo and equal parts of Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Its aromas range from honey to freshly baked pastry to candied peach, ripe pineapple and orange blossoms, while its mouthfeel offers a brisk acidity and distinct sapidity to offset the wine’s sweetness. Very Good Very Good

Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva 2011 (~$30): an excellent Lagrein with a nice bouquet of blueberry, blackberry jam, red flowers, dark chocolate and wet soil coupled with a full-bodied but smooth mouthfeel trailing its aromatic palette and ending in a slightly peppery note. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” 2013 (~$34): a pleasant Northern Italian Sauvignon Blanc with an expressive bouquet of nettle, lime, grapefruit, herbaceous notes, boxwood, a touch of butter and mineral hints, as well as a great, coherent mouthfeel, where its high ABV and gentle smoothness are perfectly balanced by its intense sapidity and zippy acidity. You can read our full review of this wine on a previous post. Very Good Very Good – $$

3. FRIULI

Jermann, W… Dreams… 2012 (~$55): a classic, wonderful Jermann-style Chardonnay, with a bouquet of toasted almond, citrus, peach, freshly toast bread and a slight smokey note, along with a structured mouthfeel where the alcohol is well balanced by the wine’s sapidity. Very Good Very Good – $$$

Lis Neris, Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio “Gris” 2012 (~$40): a wonderful Pinot Grigio that reconciles you with a variety that unfortunately is at the core of so many bland, unexciting wines. This one immediately piques your interest with appealing aromas of tangerine, orange blossoms, citrus, aromatic herbs, gunpowder and minerals, and then totally wins you over with a delicious mouthfeel delivering a burst of minerality and juxtaposing a refreshing acidity with a silky smoothness. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Volpe Pasini, Colli Orientali del Friuli Sauvignon “Zuc di Volpe” 2013 (~$25): a great Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of boxwood, citrus, sage, lavender, aromatic herbs and mineral notes, complementing a refreshing mouthfeel that matches its aromatic profile and delights with vibrant acidity and sapidity. Outstanding and great value for money Outstanding – $$

4. PIEMONTE

Bel Colle, Barolo Monvigliero 2009 (~$65): a very promising Barolo, which is still in its youth, with fine aromas of cherry, coconut, vanilla and roses along with a full-bodied mouthfeel with quite astringent tannins that will require a few years of cellaring to smooth out. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$$$

Braida, Barbera d’Asti “Bricco dell’Uccellone” 2012 (~$65): an excellent quality Barbera, with a bouquet of black cherry, blackberry, licorice, cocoa and ground coffee, along with a full-bodied structure and robust ABV that is well balanced by well integrated tannins and sapidity. Long finish. Very Good Very Good – $$$$

Damilano, Barolo Brunate 2010 (~$65): a solid Barolo that was a little muted on the nose, with aromas of cherry, rose, forest floor, quinine and mineral notes, complementing a structured mouthfeel with flavors of cherry, extra dark chocolate, black pepper, aromatic herbs and quinine, along with muscular tannins that will need time to mellow and fully integrate, plus a long finish ending in a slightly bitter note. Still very young. Very Good, provided it is given adequate cellaring time Very Good – $$$$

Elvio Cogno, Barolo “Bricco Pernice” 2009 (~$65): for me one of the “wow” Barolo’s in the show, with a wonderful bouquet of cherry, cranberry, tobacco, potpourri and forest floor and an already very balanced mouthfeel evoking flavors of cherry, licorice, coffee, dark chocolate and notes of black pepper in a smooth, structured sip where the alcohol is well balanced by good acidity and soft tannins. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$$

Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Barolo Cannubi 2010 (~$60): pleasing, intense aromas of cherry, herbs and mineral notes, along with matching mouth flavors and slightly astringent tannins – still very young but definitely promising, needs time to mature. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$$

5. LOMBARDIA

Bellavista, Franciacorta Brut Cuvée Alma NV ($N/A): a very good Classic Method sparkling wine with fine bubbles and aromas of lime, lemon zest, croissant, petit four and white blossoms plus a citrusy mouthfeel characterized by zippy acidity and sapidity. Very Good Very Good

Contadi Castaldi, Franciacorta Zero 2010 ($N/A): another solid Classic Method sparkler with a fine perlage and a bouquet of freshly baked pastry, citrus, sugar candy, canestrelli (a typical Italian daisy flower-shaped cookie dusted with confectionery sugar) and mineral notes complementing a matching mouthfeel that is vibrant with lively acidity. Very Good Very Good

6. VENETO

Begali, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Vigneto Monte Ca’ Bianca” 2009 (~$50): a solid Amarone with a broad bouquet of cranberry, cherry, red fruit candy, rose, aromatic herbs, tobacco and incense, complementing a full-bodied mouthfeel trailing the wine’s aromas and showcasing muscular tannins, for which a few years of judicious cellaring would be advisable. Very Good Very Good – $$$

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Costasera” Riserva 2009 (~$40): the Costasera never lets down and the 2009 vintage reinforces the concept, delivering a great Amarone with aromas of tart cherry, underbrush, quinine, barnyard and balsamic notes, along with a powerful and yet well controlled and smooth mouthfeel reminiscent of tart cherry, coffee, cocoa and mineral notes, as well as a long finish. Cellar it and forget it for a few years for best results. Outstanding and good value for money Outstanding – $$

Tasting Notes from the Benvenuto Brunello 2015, NYC Event

Consorzio Brunello di MontalcinoLast week I had the opportunity to attend the Benvenuto Brunello USA 2015 event which was organized and sponsored by the Brunello di Montalcino Wine Consortium at the gorgeous location of Gotham Hall in New York City in order to unveil to the press and trade the 2010 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino wines made by 44 selected producers.

I definitely enjoyed attending the event and the related seminar about Montalcino and its exceptional 2010 vintage, despite a few problems marring the seminar – namely:

  1. The organizers failing to give preferential seating to those who had pre-registered (what is the point of pre-registering then?)
  2. The seminar starting 30 minutes late because of technical difficulties setting up the slideshow (setting it up ahead of time, perhaps?…)
  3. The seminar taking place on an open space overlooking the hall where the main walk around tasting was underway, which resulted in considerable background noise making it difficult for seminar attendees to listen to the speakers.

A Few Words About Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Benvenuto Brunello 2015 at Gotham Hall, NYC

Brunello di Montalcino is a very well-known, quality red wine made in Italy’s Tuscany region based on strict rules set forth in the regulations of the homonymous DOCG appellation. Brunello di Montalcino was established as a DOC appellation in 1966 and was upgraded to DOCG status in 1980.

Pursuant to the DOCG regulations, Brunello di Montalcino wines must be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes grown in the area of the town of Montalcino (in the Siena district) and must have a minimum aging of 24 months in oak barrels (72 months for Riserva wines) and 4 additional months of in bottle aging (6 months for Riserva wines). Nowadays, there are about 5,000 acres of Brunello di Montalcino vineyards.

For more information about Sangiovese, please check out our Grape Variety Archive

My Tasting Notes from the Seminar and the Walk Around Tasting

Without further ado, let’s move on to my tasting notes of my personal top ten Brunello’s among those that I tasted at the event (here is an explanation of our Rating System) – note that, of course, all these wines are very young and would all improve if tasted after a few years of cellaring:

1. Uccelliera, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: in a nutshell, outstanding to spectacular – best in show to me. Garnet and viscous in the glass, with an intense and exciting bouquet of cherry, cigar box, potpourri, cocoa, licorice, ground coffee and hints of barnyard. When tasted, it displayed a powerful mouthfeel suggesting high ABV and nice smoothness, counterbalanced by a lively acidity and slightly astringent, muscular tannins. The mouth flavors were intense and refined, reminiscent of cherry, coffee and extra dark chocolate (think like an 85% cocoa). A wine that, despite its very young age, is already so coherent, balanced and elegant – one can only imagine how wonderful it may become after a few more years of judicious cellaring. Rating: Outstanding+ Outstanding

2. Le Macioche, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: outstanding wine, with a very interesting and intense bouquet of wild red berries, cherry, nettle, mint, soil and mineral hints (granite?) and a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel with already supple tannins and intense flavors of mint, black cherry and licorice. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

3. Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino “Ugolaia” DOCG 2009: an outstanding single vineyard Brunello, with intense and pleasant aromas of tart cherry, leather, underbrush, moss, tobacco and barnyard notes, coupled with intense mouth flavors of cherry, licorice and chocolate and a long finish. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

Benvenuto Brunello 2015 at Gotham Hall, NYC4. La Poderina, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: very good, with an intense and moderately complex bouquet of cherry, red currant, leather and chocolate, as well as intense mouth flavors of cherry, raspberry, vanilla and chocolate, complementing a smooth mouthfeel with well controlled tannins and a long finish. Very enjoyable and expressive. Rating: Very Good Very Good

5. Val di Suga, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: very good and bold, with intense and moderately complex aromas of cherry, red fruit candy, roses in bloom, black pepper and slight hints of enamel, along with a powerful mouthfeel and young, astringent tannins ending in a slightly bitter note, with intense flavors of cherry, licorice, coffee and quinine, and a long finish. Rating: Very Good Very Good

6. Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: very good, with intense aromas of cranberry, violet, underbrush, black pepper and barnyard notes, and a powerful mouthfeel underscoring a high ABV and noticeable yet well controlled tannins, complemented by intense flavors of cherry, coffee and rhubarb. Rating: Very Good Very Good 

7. Banfi, Brunello di Montalcino “Poggio alle Mura” DOCG 2010: a solid Brunello made from a clonal selection of Banfi’s Sangiovese grapes with intense and moderately complex aromas of cherry, strawberry, tobacco and barnyard notes, complementing a pleasing, smooth mouthfeel with supple tannins and intense flavors cherry, chocolate and dark coffee. Still very young. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

8. Argiano, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: good to very good, with intense, moderately complex aromas slightly veered to the tertiaries, reminiscent of ground coffee, cocoa, cherry and tobacco, along with a smooth mouthfeel delivering intense flavors of cherry and licorice, and a long finish. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

9. Il Marroneto, Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna delle Grazie” DOCG 2010: a good, solid Brunello, with moderately intense aromas of ripe cherry, licorice, wet soil and coffee, as well as intense a smooth mouth flavors of cherry, dark chocolate and juniper, and a long finish. Very good despite the bouquet lacking a bit in intensity – its great mouthfeel makes up for it. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good 

10. Barbi, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010: good to very good, with intense and moderately complex aromas of cherry, cocoa, ground coffee, cigar box and camphor notes, and a smooth mouthfeel with supple tannins and intense flavors of cherry, dark chocolate, licorice, coffee and peppery notes. Good, still very young – needs time to become fully coherent. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good 

In wrapping things up with my account of the Benvenuto Brunello 2015 event, I want to add my tasting notes of an interesting sweet white wine that I got to taste at the Banfi stand:

Banfi, Moscadello di Montalcino Late Harvest “Florus” DOC 2012: this is a very interesting sweet white wine made in the Montalcino area from 100% Moscadello (or Moscato Bianco) grapes, that I had never tasted before. The one I tried was good to very good, with an intense and expressive bouquet of dried apricots, honey and orange blossoms, complemented by a sweet mouthfeel and just enough acidity and sapidity to counterbalance the sweetness. A very interesting tasting of a wine to be enjoyed young. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Wine Review: Coppo, Moscato d'Asti "Moncalvina" DOCG 2011… and the Moscato Craze

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.

Coppo, Moscato d'Asti "Moncalvina"The wine that we are going to review today is a sweet wine from Italy’s Piemonte region, namely Coppo, Moscato d’Asti “Moncalvina” DOCG 2011 ($16).

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Moncalvina was a very good Moscato, one that is easy to drink, pleasant in the mouth, with great bouquet and flavors, as well as a lively acidity that perfectly counterbalances the wine’s sweetness. Whether you desire to match it to an appropriate dessert (something simple, like shortbread cookies or panettone) or just want to hop on the “trendy Moscato” bandwagon and have it as a sweet-tasting aperitivo (you can read more about this below), either way the Moncalvina is the right wine for the job and will deliver very good quality for the price.

Rating: Very Good and Recommended Very Good – $

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

And yet, before getting to the actual review of this wine, Moscato gives me the right opportunity for a little digression…

About the Recent Popularity of Moscato in the US

Over the last couple of years Moscato has known a period of incredible popularity in the U.S., where in particular a younger crowd (45 and below) seems to have embraced it as a “cool” wine to drink in the warmer months, not only with dessert (the way Moscato was originally “conceived” in Italy) but also as a before dinner drink (“aperitivo“) or even as a wine to pair with a meal. Just to give you an idea of so massive a commercial success, in 2013 Moscato has been the third most-sold wine in the United States, according to Nielsen, achieving an astounding $625 million in sales, thus surpassing those of Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling and closely trailing Pinot Grigio’s.

This process of making Moscato a hip wine has been facilitated by a few popular hip hop singers like Lil’ Kim and Kanye West who mentioned Moscato in the lyrics of their songs. Moscato’s generally affordable prices and typical low-alcohol, sweetish taste profile were also contributing factors to the appeal that Moscato seems to have for younger people.

Although I just barely fit within what has been identified as the Moscato lovers age group, I personally go in the opposite direction. I realize that Moscato is a wine that has incredibly identified itself with its traditional territory in the Asti area in northern Italy’s region of Piemonte and that has garnered a certain recognition (especially in its sparkling version) as an inexpensive, low-alcohol dessert wine traditionally served with panettone or pandoro on New Year’s eve. I get that. However, I have to be honest, Moscato is not my cup of… wine.

I mean, my favorite sparkling wines are dry (and actually, to me the less residual sugar the better) and they have good structure and a complex bouquet/flavor profile, essentially they are Classic Method sparkling wines, be it quality Champagne, Franciacorta, Trento DOC, Cava or the like. On the other hand, the sweet wines I like are still, but with similar characteristics: structure and complex aromas/flavors, such as Sauternes, Tokaji or quality Italian Passito or Muffato wines.

Anyway, I realize that simpler, lighter desserts may call for simpler, fresher sweet wines such as Moscato. What I struggle with, though, is how can people enjoy drinking a sweet Moscato with a main course… (if you want to learn why the ISA advocates against matching a sweet wine with a savory dish, you may go back to my earlier post about the ISA wine pairing criteria).

Perhaps it is just that everyone’s tastebuds are different or… could it be that, beside the nod of celebrity singers, one of the reasons why Moscato made it big in the U.S. is the proclivity of a large part of the U.S. population to sweet beverages?

I mean, the data is pretty impressive: according to a study, two thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight and half of them is obese and one major source of the “new” calories in the U.S. diet is sweet beverages such as sodas. U.S soft drink consumption grew 135 percent between 1977 and 2001 and, while people often choose “diet” or “light” products to lose weight, research studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain.

Whatever the causes, the Moscato phenomenon seems to be here to stay, but let’s now get back on track and go on with our review of Coppo’s Moncalvina Moscato d’Asti!

About the Grape

Moscato Bianco (also known as Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains) is a very ancient white-berried grape variety that may originate from either Italy or Greece. The oldest mention on record dates back to 1304 in an Italian agricultural treatise under the Latin name “Muscatellus”, referring to a table grape grown near the Italian town of Bologna. Supposedly, the variety was indigenous to Greece and from there it was brought to Italy.

DNA profiling has shown that Moscato Bianco is the same variety as a number of Greek grapes, including Moschato Aspro, Moschato, Kerkyras and Moschato Mazas. Also, DNA parentage analysis demonstrated that Moscato Bianco has parent-offspring relationships with six other varieties: (i) Aleatico; (ii) Moscato Giallo; (iii) Moscato Rosa del Trentino; (iv) Moscato di Scanzo; (v) Muscat of Alexandria or Zibibbo; and (vi) Muscat Rouge de Madere. Five out of such six varieties originate from Italy, which could point to an Italian (instead of Greek) origin of Moscato Bianco. Without additional evidence, however, it is impossible to prove from which of such two countries it actually originated.

Moscato Bianco is an aromatic grape variety. It is widely grown in France and in Italy, where it is the only variety allowed by Piemonte’s “Asti DOCG” appellation, which comprises both Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti and encompasses a territory near the towns of Alessandria and Asti. Limited Moscato Bianco plantings also occur in the USA (California and Washington) and in Australia, where a mutation known as Brown Muscat (or Muscat a Petits Grains Rouges) is used to make Liqueur Muscat, a sweet, dark, fortified wine.

(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 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, Coppo, Moscato d’Asti “Moncalvina” DOCG 2011, was made from 100% Moscato Bianco grapes from the famed territory adjacent to the town of Canelli, near Asti. It was just 5% ABV and very slightly sparkling, and it fermented for a mere five days in stainless steel vats, where it also aged for one month, plus one additional month in bottle. The Moncalvina retails in the U.S. for about $16.

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 straw yellow and moderately viscous.

On the nose, the Moncalvina had intense, moderately complex and fine aromas of apricot, tangerine, orange blossoms, panettone (an Italian Christmas sweet bread), and candied orange peel.

In the mouth, the wine was sweet, with low ABV and smooth; it was acidic, moderately tasty; light-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine flavors of apricot, tangerine and orange peel, as well as a long finish. In terms of its life cycle, the wine was mature – meaning, drink now, don’t wait.

 

Who said routines are boring? Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf “en croute”

Hello there!

Long time no talk. I hope this finds you all well and enjoying this warm, glorious weather.

My house is finally empty (as in, no more guests!) and I was longing for this to happen. Don’t get me wrong: having family around is fantastic but, after a while, I really miss my routine schedule. Especially my mornings.

After Stefano leaves for work and Her Majesty is off to school, I treasure those precious morning hours when I reconcile myself with the rest of the world. Sipping my coffee, I take care of my house chores, I work on my professional and non-professional projects and I get ideas for new projects. All this in the silent company of Sofia. She never leaves my side but she has learned to be calm and quiet during those hours. It is amazing how she can be more in tune with me than most people I know. She knows what I need simply by instinct. 🙂

This meatloaf “en croute” has been on my mind for quite a while. I have tried a couple of different flavor combinations and the one that I’m sharing with you today is the one that we liked the most.

As often with food, this recipe is just a combination of ingredients that you can adjust and/or substitute so as to satisfy your palate’s liking. You can use different ground meat (lamb, pork, turkey) or different nuts and dried fruits, you can replace the speck with bacon, pancetta, salame or prosciutto and you can add those herbs that you cannot live without. Or you can simply go with your own meatloaf recipe. As always, ideas are meant to flow and in the end it is just a question of taste! 🙂

Meatloaf "en croute" (detail)

Meatloaf “en croute” (detail)

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 lb, ground veal
1/2 lb, ground beef
2 eggs
2 slices of speck, 1/4 inch thick, chopped
1/4 Cup, bleached hazelnuts
1/2 Cup, dried apricots, chopped
1/2 Cup, whole milk
2/3 slices, white bread
6 Tbsp, grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
2 yolks
1 sheet, pastry puff, thawed
Ground black pepper
Salt

Directions:

Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf “en croute”

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a bowl, place the bread and pour the milk (except for a couple of tablespoons that you will use later for the egg wash) and let it sit until the bread absorbs the milk.

In a large mixing bowl, put the meat, the eggs, the speck, the apricot, the hazelnut and the Parmesan cheese. Squeeze the bread in your hand in order to eliminate excess milk and add the bread into the mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and combine all the ingredients with your hands.

With your hands, form a loaf. Brush the loaf with the olive oil. Place some parchment paper on a baking pan and transfer the loaf on it.

Cook the meatloaf for about 25 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it cool.

In the meantime, on a lightly floured surface, lightly roll out the pastry puff sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk the yolks and 2 Tablespoons of milk.

Set the cool meatloaf on the pastry puff sheet lengthwise and wrap it with the dough. Cut the excess dough (do not discard it because you can use it for decoration) and seal the edges. Brush the pastry with the egg wash. Use the rest of the dough, if any, to decorate the top of the pastry and brush the decorations with the rest of the egg wash.

Cook for about 25 minutes or until golden/brown and crispy. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving it.

Looking forward to hearing from you! Xx

Meatloaf "en croute"

Meatloaf “en croute”

#chianticool: "Not Your Grandma's Chianti" – A Chianti Tasting in NYC

Chianti The Wine Logo

A few weeks ago I attended a seminar and wine tasting event organized by the Consorzio Vino Chianti (a producers’ consortium that has been promoting and controlling the quality of Chianti wine since 1927) in the posh context of the Beer Garden of the Standard Hotel in the always cool Meatpacking District in the City That Never Sleeps. As is often the case, I went with my wine blogger friend Anatoli AKA Talk-A-Vino: you can read his own take of this event on his blog.

Standard Hotel, NYC: The Beer Garden (courtesy of Standard Hotels)

Standard Hotel, NYC: The Beer Garden (courtesy of Standard Hotels)

Notions About Chianti

As I guess everybody knows, Chianti is a red wine that has been made in central Italy’s region of Tuscany for centuries (the first documented reference to Chianti wine dates back to 1398, and by the XVII century Chianti was already exported to England). Nowadays, Chianti is made in two different appellations: the smaller Chianti Classico DOCG and the larger Chianti DOCG. Both appellations were approved as DOC’s in 1967 and then upgraded to DOCG status in 1984.

The Chianti Classico DOCG appellation comprises a 70,000 HA territory adjacent to the cities of Florence and Siena, namely the area surrounding the towns of Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti and, partly, those of San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle. This territory was identified in 1932 as “the most ancient area where Chianti wine originated”. In the map below you can see the Chianti Classico DOCG territory colored in bright red (the purple-red striped area within the red area indicates the even smaller, original territory where Chianti was made in the period from 1716 to 1932).

The Chianti DOCG appellation comprises instead a larger territory near the cities of Arezzo, Florence, Pistoia, Pisa, Prato and Siena, which is the one contoured by the black line in the map below. The Chianti DOCG appellation also counts seven subzones (Chianti Colli Aretini; Chianti Colli Fiorentini; Chianti Colli Senesi; Chianti Colline Pisane; Chianti Montalbano; Chianti Montespertoli; and Chianti Rufina) that are color-coded as per the legend on the right side of the map.

Chianti Appellation Map

Chianti Appellation Map (courtesy of Consorzio Vino Chianti)

Chianti Classico "Black Rooster" LogoIn terms of winemaking, the Chianti Classico DOCG regulations require that wines be made from 80% or more Sangiovese grapes, which may be blended with other permitted black-berried varieties (including indigenous Canaiolo and Colorino as well as international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) up to a maximum of 20%.

Chianti Classico DOCG minimum aging requirements are as follows:

  • Base Chianti Classico wines may be released to the market not earlier than October 1 of the year following that of the vintage
  • Chianti Classico Riserva wines must age for a minimum of 24 months, at least 3 of which in bottle
  • Chianti Classico Gran Selezione wines must age for a minimum of 30 months, at least 3 of which in bottle

All Chianti Classico wines must bear the traditional black rooster (“Gallo Nero“) logo and must use cork as their closure system.

Chianti LogoChianti DOCG regulations require instead that wines be made from 70% or more Sangiovese grapes, which may be blended with permitted white-berried varieties up to a maximum of 10% and/or permitted black-berried varieties, provided that Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon shall not exceed 15%.

Wines from the subzone Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG shall be made from 75% or more Sangiovese grapes, which may be blended only with other black-berried varieties (no white-berried varieties allowed), provided that Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon shall not exceed 10%. To the left you can see the cool logo of Chianti DOCG wines.

The minimum aging requirements of Chianti DOCG wines are as follows:

  • Base Chianti wines may be released to the market not earlier than March 1 of the year following that of the vintage
  • Chianti Riserva wines are required to age for at least 24 months
  • “Riserva” wines from the subzones Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG or Chianti Rufina DOCG must age at least 6 out of the required 24 months in wood barrels
  • “Riserva” wines from the subzone Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG must age at least 8 out of the required 24 months in wood barrels plus 4 months in bottle

Chianti DOCG wines may be made according to the traditional “governo all’uso toscano” (literally, “handled the Tuscan way“) method, which entails a slow refermentation of the wine with the addition of slightly dried grapes of the permitted varieties.

The top three countries Chianti DOCG wines get exported to are Germany (32%), the USA (17%) and the UK (12%).

Chianti barrels (courtesy of Consorzio Vini Chianti)

Chianti barrels (courtesy of Consorzio Vini Chianti)

Chianti DOCG NYC 2014: The Seminar

At the Chianti DOCG seminar, six different 2010 Chianti Riserva’s were presented in a guided horizontal tasting: three base Chianti Riserva’s, and one each from the following three subzones: Chianti Rufina Riserva, Chianti Montalbano Riserva and Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva.

The Chianti Riserva wine that opened the tasting presented the opportunity for some interesting considerations. The wine was made from 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% white-berried Trebbiano grapes and had aged for 6 months in large barrels plus 20 months in barrique casks. The nose was vinous, with aromas of cherry, red berries and hints of licorice. In the mouth, the wine was decidedly veered toward the hardness side, with over the top acidity and gritty tannins, which threw it off balance ending up in an unsatisfactory final rating – at least to me.

The interesting point was an argument that ensued between an elderly gentleman who said that he loved the wine because it reminded him of the Chianti that he used to drink when he was young, in the traditional “fiasco” bottles, while a woman (with whom I wholeheartedly found myself in agreement) contended that the wine was actually pretty bad and totally unbalanced. This brief argument just proved to me how different and subjective tastes are, and how the assessment of a wine may reflect personal experiences.

The Consorzio Vino Chianti made the very good point that today’s Chianti is not your grandmother’s Chianti, alluding to the much better quality of most of present-day Chianti versus the “fiasco-bottled Chianti” of the old days. But that gentleman at the seminar proved that old-style Chianti may still surprisingly find a few admirers even in this day and age.

Fortunately for the rest of us at the seminar, the remaining wines were much better than the opening one. Among those six wines, the one that I personally liked best was the last one that was presented:

Castelvecchio, Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva “Vigna La Quercia” DOCG 2010 ($27). This is a 90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon single-vineyard wine with 14% ABV, that was aged for 12 months in new French oak barrique casks plus additional 12 months in bottle. The wine had a beautiful garnet color, with an intense bouquet of red cherries, red berries, black pepper, herbs, cocoa and hints of vanilla, offering a nice balance between secondary and tertiary aromas. In the mouth it was very smooth, with very well integrated tannins and well controlled ABV, definitely balanced and with a good structure. Its flavor profile was subtle and elegant, with intense flavors of red cherries and raspberries going hand in hand with dark chocolate notes and hints of coffee.

Rating: Very Good Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Cork Art (courtesy of Consorzio Vini Chianti)

Cork Art (courtesy of Consorzio Vini Chianti)

Chianti DOCG NYC 2014: The Walk Around

The walk around that concluded the event offered the opportunity to taste many more exciting Chianti’s. Here below you may find my tasting notes of those wines that impressed me most among those that I could try:

Corbucci, Chianti Riserva “Corbucci” DOCG 2009: 100% Sangiovese, aged 24 months in French oak barrique casks plus 6 months in bottle, with aromas of leather, tobacco, cherry and strawberry; smooth and balanced in the mouth, with supple tannins and a flavor profile of cherry, tobacco and cocoa – Very Good Very Good

La Cignozza, Chianti Riserva DOCG 2008: 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo, aged 24 months 50% in small French oak tonneau casks and 50% in large French oak barrels, with aromas of licorice, raspberry, red fruit candy and vanilla; smooth and structured in the mouth, with muscular but well integrated tannins ending up in a graceful balance – Very Good Very Good

Lanciola, Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva “Lanciola” DOCG 2011: 90% Sangiovese, with aromas of barnyard, soil, leather, cherry and sandalwood; silky smooth in the mouth, with already supple tannins, full-bodied with great finesse and a flavor profile of cherry and mineral notes – Very Good Very Good

Pieve De’ Pitti, Chianti Superiore “Cerretello” DOCG 2009 ($17): 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Malvasia Nera, aged 6 months in cement vats and 2 months in bottle, with aromas of red berries, raspberries, licorice, Mediterranean brush; perfectly smooth and masterfully balanced in the mouth – Very Good Very Good

Pieve De’ Pitti, Chianti Superiore “Cerretello” DOCG 2010 ($17): 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Malvasia Nera, aged 6 months in cement vats and 2 months in bottle, with aromas of strawberries, raspberries, red fruit candy, dark chocolate fudge and licorice; smooth in the mouth with supple tannins – Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Emanuela Tamburini, Chianti Riserva “Italo” DOCG 2010: 90% Sangiovese, aged 6 to 8 months in French oak barrique casks, with fruity aromas of violets, cherries and raspberries; ABV a little evident in the mouth, but supple tannins and a fresh flavor profile matching the secondary-dominated bouquet – Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Italy (courtesy of Consorzio Vini Chianti)

Italy (courtesy of Consorzio Vini Chianti)

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: Spectacular Spectacular 

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 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: Spectacular Spectacular

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 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: Spectacular Spectacular

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 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 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 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 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 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: Outstanding Outstanding

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: Spectacular Spectacular

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: Outstanding Outstanding

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 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 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 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: Spectacular Spectacular

(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 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: Outstanding Outstanding

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 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 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 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: Outstanding Outstanding

(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 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 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: Spectacular Spectacular