Monthly Archives: January 2013

Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2013: The Full Story

VinitalyAs mentioned on a previous post, Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2013 was held in New York on January 28 and I have had the opportunity to attend, with the added bonus of meeting in person Anatoli, the author of the excellent wine blog Talk-A-Vino, and doing the walk around together. Anatoli is a remarkable man with a deep and broad knowledge of wines of the world and it has been a real pleasure spending a day together enjoying the fair, sampling many good Italian wines and comparing notes. If you have never visited Anatoli’s blog, please make sure to make time to check it out and explore the wealth of quality information regarding wines and spirits that he has amassed there because it is really impressive. Also, if you are interested in reading more about this event from a different angle than mine, check out Anatoli’s three-post series on it: Vinitaly and Slow Wine Tastings – Part 1, Just Some Numbers, Vinitaly and Slow Wine Tastings – Part 2, Wine Seminars and Vinitaly and Slow Wine Tastings – Part 3, Wine, And More Wine.

Slow WineSo, you may be wondering, how was it after all? Let’s cut to the chase: I very much enjoyed my visit at Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2013 and I found the event to be well organized, with one very annoying exception that is the organization of the restricted-seating seminars focusing on specific wines.

According to the organizers’ Web site, one should have pre-registered on-line for every seminar he or she would be interested in and, provided that at the time of registration there were still seats available, a ticket would be issued to show at the entrance. Both Anatoli and I followed this process and successfully registered for two seminars, obtaining the respective admission tickets. Problem is that when we showed up with our tickets at the first seminar the person at the door tried to deny us access on the theory that the event was first come first served. This happened to a number of other people who had registered online and were being denied access as well. So, we got annoyed, pointed out the evident flaw in their system and eventually were let in, but the whole organization of the seminar was a huge flop.

Having said that, let’s take a quick look at some basic information about the event itself: the exhibitors’ area was divided into two zones: the larger one had tasting stations for the 78 wineries that were part of the Slow Wine portion of the event, while a smaller area was devoted to the Vinitaly part of the event with larger tables for 40 additional wineries as well as the representatives of 11 U.S. importers who had brought with them a selection of wines from 46 wineries that they represent. In both sections of the event many flagship bottles of the various represented wineries were available for tasting, generally coupled with a “second vin” and/or an “entry-level” wine. This worked out pretty well because in many cases it illustrated the various lines made by a certain winery and oftentimes showcased the very good quality/price ratio of certain second vins or entry-level wines even compared to the top-of-the-line wine(s) from the same producer.

Among the many very good wines that we got to sample at the fair during our wine tasting “marathon” (along with a few not-so-very-good ones), these are my personal top of the crop:

(A) PIEMONTE

  • Vajra, Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2008: this was my favorite Barolo among those I tried at the event. Super elegant, seducing aromas of lush red fruit and spices, with silky smooth tannins despite being still pretty young, and a very long finish. Spectacular Spectacular
  • Elvio Cogno, Barolo Ravera 2008: my second best among the Barolo’s: very different from Vajra’s, with a nice bouquet of red fruit, floral hints and tobacco; distinct but smooth tannins and plenty of structure. Very Good Very Good
  • Damilano, Barolo Cannubi 2008: third step of my personal podium for Barolo’s – complex in the nose with red fruit, spices and hints of soil, well defined tannins which can benefit from a few more years of aging and quite long finish. Very Good Very Good

(B) LIGURIA

  • VisAmoris, Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Verum 2011: without a doubt the best Pigato I have ever tasted so far – it undergoes a short phase of maceration on the skins in order to maximize the extraction of the aromas, which results in an intense and seducing bouquet of apple and herbs and a good balance in the mouth between its acidity and minerality on the one hand and its smoothness on the other. Outstanding Outstanding

(C) LOMBARDIA

  • Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta Cuvee’ Annamaria Clementi 2004: there is only one word for this Classic Method spumante – wow! Seven years on its lees for a wine that is sleek, elegant, refined, with a wonderful superfine perlage, a complex bouquet alluding to several fascinating aromas, like peach, honey, croissant, hazelnut, minerals, and a very long finish. Spectacular Spectacular – the only problem is… its price tag!
  • Ar.Pe.Pe., Valtellina Superiore Sassella Rocce Rosse Riserva 2001: together with Fay (who was not present at the event) this is one of my favorite producers of Valtellina Superiore (a varietal wine made of 100% Nebbiolo grapes, locally known as Chiavennasca), and the Rocce Rosse was outastanding, with fine aromas of cherries, spices and tobacco, very smooth tannins and good structure with a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

(D) VENETO

  • Trabucchi D’Illasi, Recioto della Valpolicella 2006: oh man, this is a truly outstanding sweet red wine made from the same base grapes of Amarone (Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella), perfect to be paired with chocolate or chocolate-based desserts – exquisite and intense bouquet of black fruit, black berries, licorice and vanilla, with a wonderful balance between sweetness and smooth tannins and a very long, seducing finish. Spectacular Spectacular
  • Trabucchi D’Illasi, Amarone della Valpolicella Cent’Anni Riserva 2004: outstanding Amarone, with a superb bouquet of red flowers, wild cherries, plum, spices and dark chocolate; in the mouth it is warm and balanced with a great smoothness complementing good acidity and noticeable but smooth tannins, and a long finish. Spectacular Spectacular
  • Pieropan, Soave Classico Calvarino 2010: a very good Soave made of a blend of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave grapes which literally hits you in the nose with an exhuberant minerality and aromas of apple, citrus and white flowers; in the mouth a lively acidity and distinct minerality are balanced by a good extent of smoothness. Very Good Very Good

(E) FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA

  • Le Vigne di Zamo’, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano Vigne Cinquant’anni 2010: wonderful Friulano with a pleasant and intense bouquet of citrus, apple, tropical fruit and minerals. In the mouth noticeable acidity and minerality countered by good smoothness. Spectacular Spectacular

(F) TOSCANA

  • Podere Il Carnasciale, Caberlot 2002: first off, a note of gratitude to fellow blogger and wine connoisseur Laissez Fare who introduced me to the fascinating world of Caberlot. Regarding our tasting, actually the good people of Il Carnasciale made available a vertical tasting of Caberlot from vintages 2009, 2008 and 2002 – all were very good, but to me 2002 was truly outstanding, which should not come as a surprise for a wine that needs aging to be at its best (incidentally, Caberlot is not only the name of the wine, but also that of the grape, a rare cross between Cabernet Franc and Merlot). The wine offered a wonderful bouquet with aromas of berries, spices, soil, tobacco and dark chocolate, silky smooth tannins in the mouth, plenty of structure and a long finish. Caberlot is only available in magnum format, in an extremely limited production and for a hefty price tag. Spectacular Spectacular

(G) UMBRIA

  • Tabarrini, Adarmando 2010: an excellent white wine 100% made out of Trebbiano Spoletino grapes, with a pleasant floral and fruity bouquet, with aromas of citrus and peach, good acidity and structure. Very Good Very Good
  • Tabarrini, Sagrantino di Montefalco Campo alla Cerqua 2008: intense aromas of red flowers, ripe plums, black pepper and licorice, noticeable tannins in the mouth that will benefit from more years of aging in the bottle and plenty of structure, with a long finish. Very Good Very Good
  • Arnaldo Caprai, Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 2007: my personal favorite interpretation of Sagrantino, with a complex bouquet of cherries, spices, dark chocolate and tobacco and then the quintessential sensory definition of the astringent mouth feel of tannins, with plenty of tannins that are not harsh but will be smoother with a few more years of aging and a very good smoothness to counterbalance them, and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

(H) MARCHE

  • Marotti Campi, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Salmariano 2009: nice bouquet of white flowers, peach, citrus and minerals; good acidity and a quite long finish. Very Good Very Good

(I) ABRUZZO

  • Cantina Frentana, Pecorino Donna Greta 2010: a very good wine made of a blend of indigenous white-berried Pecorino grapes and Chardonnay grapes, with aromas of white flowers, citrus and vanilla, lively acidity balanced by a good smoothness, and a quite long finish. Very Good Very Good

(J) BASILICATA

  • Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture Il Sigillo 2008: a wonderful Aglianico del Vulture, with a complex bouquet of plum, black berries, dark chocolate and tobacco; plenty of structure in the mouth, with smooth tannins countered by good smoothness, and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – in my view with a couple more years in the bottle it may become spectacular.

(K) SICILIA

  • Planeta, Noto Nero d’Avola Santa Cecilia 2008: if you have been following this blog for a while you know I love this winery, and the Santa Cecilia is one of my favorite red wines in their lineup – with fine aromas of ripe red fruit, plum, wild berries, dark chocolate, licorice and soil; in the mouth smooth tannins balanced by good smoothness and plenty of structure. Outstanding Outstanding
  • Planeta, Carricante 2011: very good white wine made out of 100% indigenous Carricante grapes, with an elegant bouquet of apple, citrus, honey and minerals; good acidity and noticeable minerality in the mouth balanced out by a good extent of smoothness. Outstanding Outstanding

Finally, one last note on my favorite seminar of the event: the Nino Negri Master Class, a vertical tasting of six vintages (2009, 2007, 2004, 2002, 2001 and 1997) of Nino Negri’s flagship wine, the Sforzato della Valtellina 5 Stelle Sfursat, a 100% Nebbiolo (AKA Chiavennasca) dry red wine from the mountainous region of Valtellina in Lombardia, made after a 3-month drying process of the grapes in small crates in ventilated premises to concentrate sugar and aromas due to the evaporation of the water present in the grapes, which leads to a 30% weight loss in the berries. This results in an extraordinary wine with plenty of structure and a jaw-dropping 15 to 16 degree ABV after regular alcoholic fermentation.

To me, the best vintage among those presented in the vertical tasting was 2001, a garnet red wine with hints of orange, with a phenomenal bouquet of ripe red fruit, spirited fruit, dark chocolate, resin, minerals, graphite. In the mouth, obviously warm, with very good smoothness balanced out by silky tannins, and finished off by plenty of structure and an endless finish. Spectacular Spectacular

Phew, that’s all! Apologies for the long post, but I hope it will tempt you to try out for yourselves some of these awesome wines. If you do, let me know how you like them.

Cheers!

Daddy's Sicilian-Style Stracotto

Rigatoni with Sicilian-style stracotto sauce4/6 Servings

I wish I could take credit for this recipe but…nope! Not even a teensy bit. This red, opulent dish comes straight from my dad’s childhood memories.

When he visited us for the holidays (yeah, he left but my mom is still here – Stefano, stop making that face!) he showed me how to make it and he shared his family story behind it. Well, that story was so long and full of details about my grand parents and about certain unkonwn-to-me grand aunts that it was a miracle I didn’t fall asleep. And don’t even get me started on describing my mother’s face during our story-telling session. 😉

Anyway, since today I feel very generous towards the human species (believe me, it does not happen often), I decided I would spare you the torture.

Let me just say that what I love about this dish, beside its richness, is the “2 courses in 1 deal”. When you make it, by going through one cooking process, you’ll end up with both the tomato sauce for a pasta course and a meat course. Don’t get me wrong. Cooking is great. However, if I can manage to cook a great meal in less time and have more time for my other passions (books, movies, myself ;-)), my first reaction is always “where should I sign”?

Now, let’s focus on the important stuff.

Sicilian-style stracotto

Ingredients:

3/4 of 1 cup, minced onion
5 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
about 11 oz, veal stew
about 13 oz, boneless pork chops
3 pork sausages (about 10 oz)
4 potatoes
1/2 cup, red wine
2 cans, San Marzano peeled tomatoes
1 Tbsp, tomato paste
4 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese (to be used only for the pasta course)
salt

Directions:

Cut the potatoes into medium-sized pieces and set aside. Cut the pork chops into stew-like pieces and set aside. With the help of a fork, make small holes into the sausages. Process the tomatoes through a food mill and set them aside.

In a large non-stick pot, put the olive oil, the onion, the veal stew, the pork chop pieces, the sausages and the potatoes and start to saute. When the meat is well sauteed, add the red wine and keep stirring until the wine evaporates. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, some salt (to taste) and keep cooking on a very low heat, stirring often, until the tomato sauce gets thick and is not watery anymore.

If you decide to serve pasta, remember to cook it al dente and to dust the top of each plate with the parmigiano cheese.

Buon Appetito! 🙂

The Super Sweet Blogging Award

Super Sweet Blogging AwardLast Christmas Eve, Fae of Fae’s Twist & Tango decided to play Santa and put something super sweet under our Christmas tree. 🙂 We want to thank Fae for passing on to us this lovely award. Fae is a very special lady of exotic origin who has been travelling the world since… forever! Her blog is much more than extraordinary recipes. She opens the door to new worlds taking her readers on a fascinating journey through amazing different cultures. You may want to check her blog out when you got a chance. I promise you won’t regret it! 🙂

The rules of the award are:

1 Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2 Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3 Answer the “Super Sweet” questions.
4 Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (12) blogs for the award, add a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
5 Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

The Super Sweet Questions are:

1. Cookies or Cake? Cookies

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate

3. What is your favorite sweet treat? Hazelnut dark chocolate

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? In the morning

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? If someone would give me a sweet nickname, I would suggest that he or she sign up for therapy sessions! 😉

My nominees are (in no particular order):

1. Sweet Precision because Heather was born with the baking gene.
2. lovely buns because temptation must be rewarded.
3, 4, 5 & 6. Tortore, The Greedy Frog, Dans Ta Kitchenette and Ma Cuisine et Vous because everybody talks about Italians but when it comes to baking, let’s be honest, French do it better 😉
7. Bam’s Kitchen because of that unique exotic twist Bobbi always manages to put in.
8. piesandeyes because he believes that food should look good in addition to taste good.
9. Maria Dernikos because her baking skills are amazing.
10. at350degrees because of Carissa’s “bake-ology”.
11. The pancake princess and the protein prince because Erika makes me crave sweets even if I do not have a sweet tooth.
12. apuginthekitchen because of her extraordinary creativity.

Congratulations to all the nominees – you are all very well deserving!

An Overview of the ISA Wine Tasting Protocol

StefanoOne of the key building blocks of the sommelier certification course offered by the Italian Sommelier Association (ISA) is their standardized wine tasting protocol. This is a protocol that has been devised over the years by the association with a view to uniforming wine evaluations and reviews as much as possible among ISA-member sommeliers through the use of a common procedure and a common vocabulary.

A few years ago I went through all of the three levels of the ISA sommelier certification course at the Milan chapter of ISA and I thoroughly enjoyed the great learning experience that such a course offered, so I hope that many of you will find this quick overview of the ISA wine tasting protocol an interesting read. Besides, the main reason why I want to introduce these concepts is that I intend to utilize a simplified version of this evaluation process in wine reviews that I plan on publishing in future posts on this blog.

An ISA-protocol wine tasting is divided into three main phases, as follows:

  • Visual Analysis
  • Scent Analysis
  • Taste-Scent Analysis

Each phase is divided into multiple steps, each of which needs to be addressed by the taster using the ISA standardized vocabulary and the ISA wine tasting sheet. For our purposes, we will not focus on each of the 116 wine tasting terms in the ISA vocabulary or this post would grow out of proportion, but the following overview should anyhow give you a pretty good idea of what the process entails. If you have doubts as to the meanings of certain of the wine terms used below, you may want to refer to our Wine Glossary.

(A) Visual Analysis

  1. Clarity: this is an assessment whether the wine looks clear or instead presents debris or insoluble particles (as it may happen in old wines or unfiltered wines) – standard term for red wines is “clear”, standard for still white wines is “crystal clear” and standard for quality sparkling white wines is “brilliant”
  2. Color: self-explanatory, based on codified color terms for each type of wine (e.g., for white wines: greenish yellow; straw yellow; golden yellow; amber yellow). To properly assess color, one should hold the glass tilted forward (i.e., away from you) at a 45° angle against a white backdrop and assess color by looking in the middle of oval made by the surface of the wine in the glass. After assessing color, one should focus on the top part of the rim made by the wine in the glass (where the wine is shallower) to assess whether there are any perceptible color variations or “hints“: for instance, for a structured red wine with a few years of aging, the color analysis could be “ruby red with garnet hints” or vice versa a red wine that is still fairly young could be “ruby red with purple hints”
  3. Viscosity: this step entails swirling the wine in the glass and observing how fluidly or viscously it rotates and then observing the shape of the “arches” and the velocity of the “tears” that the wine leaves on the inside of the glass – two indicators of the wine’s alcohol by volume (ABV), glycerol content and structure or body (the faster the wine to stop swirling after you stop rotating the glass and the slower the tears to fall, the more ABV/structure the wine will have). Viscosity is only assessed in still wines
  4. Effervescence: as opposed to viscosity, this is a quality that is only assessed in sparkling wines. Here the taster should assess three characteristics of the perlage of the wine: the number of bubbles (the more, the better); the grain of the bubbles (the finer, the better); and the persistence of the bubble chains in the glass (the longer they last, the better)

(B) Scent Analysis

  1. Intensity: here the taster swirls the wine in the glass once again and then smells its bouquet. This first step of this phase assesses how clearly perceptible the wine aromas are in the nose of the taster
  2. Complexity: here the taster should assess how many different aromas he or she can pick up from the wine through successive inhalations: the more perceptible scents, the more complex the bouquet of the wine
  3. Description of the Aromas: here the taster indicates what kind of aromas he/she felt (or thinks that he/she felt!) in the nose, like aromas of flowers, fruit, herbs, spices, animal, soil, tobacco, minerals, etc.
  4. Quality: this is an overall evaluation of the quality of the bouquet of the wine, based on the three previous steps

(C) Taste-Scent Analysis

This phase of the ISA wine tasting protocol requires a premise: this is (finally!) the moment when the taster gets to actually taste the wine in his/her mouth.

Before getting to evaluating its quality, the taster classifies the wine in light of its essential characteristics, which are divided into two macro-categories called “softness” and “hardness“. The former category comprises sweetness, alcohol by volume and smoothness, while the latter encompasses acidity, tannins and tastiness (see more about these terms below). This analysis is important because, depending on its outcome, the taster will later decide whether the wine is balanced or not. But let’s now get to the various steps of this phase:

(i) Softness:

  1. Sweetness: here the taster classifies the wine based on its residual sugar level: dry, off-dry, medium-dry, sweet…
  2. Alcohol: here the wine is classified based on the perception in the mouth of its ABV: a wine for which a high ABV is clearly perceptible (but not disturbing) is called “warm” because of the feeling of apparent “heat” that alcohol conveys in the mouth
  3. Smoothness: this quality of the wine is that sense of “roundness” or “silkiness” in the mouth that is generally more common to red wines than whites, although there are exceptions. It is mainly given by the glycerol levels present in the wine, as a result of the alcoholic fermentation process or the action of Bortytis Cinerea in botrytized wines

(ii) Hardness:

  1. Acidity: here the wine gets classified based on the extent of perceptible acids present in the wine. A wine with crisp acidity is called “fresh”. Good acidity levels are generally desirable in white wines and particularly so in Brut sparkling wines. One of the key indicators of a wine with good acidity is increased salivation in the mouth
  2. Tannicity: this assessment is made only for red wines, because white wines have negligible amounts of tannins (because the white winemaking process lacks the maceration phase that in the red winemaking process permits the extraction of tannins). Depending on the grape variety/ies that are used to make a wine, this will be more or less tannic
  3. Sapidity: here the taster assesses the minerality of the wine, that is the extent to which mineral compounds are clearly discernible in the mouth, in the form of a vaguely salty taste

(iii) Structure:

Body: this is an assessment of the structure or body of the wine, which is given by its dry extract and alcohol by volume: wines with a higher dry extract and ABV are called full-bodied

(iv) Assessment:

  1. Balance: this is a very important call that the taster is required to make in light of the aforesaid classifications. Generally, a wine is deemed balanced when its “softness” and “hardness” components balance each other out, but this is not a rule that is carved in stone and there are important exceptions. For instance, when tasting a white wine, it is commonly considered desirable that its “hardness” side have an edge over its “softness” side, while the opposite is often the case for structured red wines
  2. Intensity: as in the Scent Analysis phase, this is an assessment of how clearly perceptible the flavors of the wine are in the mouth of the taster
  3. Persistence or Finish: here the taster is called to classify the wine based on how long its flavors linger in his/her mouth after having swallowed a sip of wine. The finish is deemed long if the wine flavors are still perceptible after 7-10 seconds of swallowing
  4. Quality: here the taster assesses the quality of the wine flavors that he/she felt in the mouth: a quality judgment of “fine” implies that the flavors are (or include those) typical for the grape variety/ies of the wine and are pleasant in the mouth
  5. Evolutionary State orLife Cycle: here the taster classifies the wine based on its aging potential. A wine that is classified as “ready” means that it can be pleasantly drunk today but it would benefit from a few years of additional aging in order to achieve its full potential. By contrast, a wine is deemed “mature” when it is already deemed at its top and additional aging would make its quality degrade
  6. Harmony: this is the final, overall judgment about a wine, that is defined as a coherent synthesis of the three phases of the ISA wine tasting protocol resulting in a outstanding quality level. A wine that did well but not outstanding would be deemed “not quite harmonious”.

One final word regarding the recommended type of glass to perform a wine tasting exercise: it needs to be made of clear glass (ideally, a crystal glass), it needs to have a stem (that’s how one is supposed to hold the glass, by the stem), and it needs to have a bowl that is larger at the bottom (to allow wine to deposit when the color analysis is performed and to permit smooth swirls in the assessments of fluidity and bouquet) and smaller at the top (to concentrate aromas in the nose, thus facilitating bouquet assessment).

This is all: I hope you enjoyed this overview – stay tuned for a few wine reviews to come!

Winevent – Gambero Rosso's Tre Bicchieri USA Tour: February 7-15, 2013

Gambero Rosso's Tre Bicchieri USA Tour 2013It appears that a wave of Italian wine is about to wash the shores of the U.S.: beside the Vinitaly International/Slow Wine event that is scheduled for January 28 in New York (for more information and other dates/cities, see our previous Winevent post), Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri World Tour will make three stops in the U.S., as follows:

  • February 7: San Francisco, CA
  • February 12: Chicago, IL
  • February 15: New York, NY

This event is open to media, trade and “Italian wine collectors” (sic) only – links to register for any of the three locations above are available on Gambero Rosso’s Web site. Tre Bicchieri USA 2013 is an event that is not to be missed for those who qualify and are into Italian wine, as the organizers will showcase a selection of only those Italian wines and producers that have been awarded the coveted top “tre bicchieri” (i.e., three glasses) recognition by reputable Gambero Rosso wine guide.

Just to give you an idea,  in an imaginary tour of Italy from North to South, the list of the wines that won the prestigious tre bicchieri includes, limiting ourselves to just one wine per region and trying to avoid the most obvious among the “usual suspects”:

  • Northern Italy: Les Crêtes‘ Chardonnay Cuvée Bois (Valle d’Aosta); Cogno‘s Barolo Vigna Elena Riserva (Piemonte); Bio Vio‘s Riviera Ligure di Ponente Vermentino Aimone (Liguria); Berlucchi‘s Franciacorta Brut Cellarius (Lombardia); Ferrari‘s Trento Extra Brut Perlé Nero (Trentino); Muri Gries‘s Alto Adige Lagrein Abtei Muri Riserva (Alto Adige); Masi‘s Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Mazzano (Veneto); Vie di Romans‘s Isonzo Sauvignon Piere (Friuli); Chiarli‘s Lambrusco di Sorbara Del Fondatore (Emilia Romagna);
    *
  • Central Italy: Fonterutoli‘s Mix 36 (Toscana); Oasi degli Angeli‘s Kurni (Marche); Caprai‘s Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni (Umbria); Cataldi Madonna‘s Pecorino (Abruzzo);
    *
  • Southern Italy: Mastroberardino‘s Taurasi Radici (Campania); Basilisco‘s Aglianico del Vulture Basilisco (Basilicata); Planeta‘s Chardonnay (Sicilia); Argiolas‘s Turriga (Sardegna).

For the entire list of awarded wines, check out Gambero Rosso’s Web site.

Much like in the case of Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2013, we plan on attending the Gambero Rosso event in New York City and reporting on Flora’s Table thereafter.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara – Recommended Wine Pairing

Les Crêtes, VdA Chardonnay Cuvée Bois DOCThis wine pairing post for Francesca’s mouth-watering Spaghetti alla Carbonara has been long overdue – apologies if it took me so long, but my Italian spumante series in view of the end-of-year festivities kind of got in the way 🙂

Without further ado, let’s now get to it: picking up where we left off in response to a prophetic question from Chiara (the gracious and posh image consultant who authors the “effortless style” blog Kiarastyle) in the comment section of Francesca’s recipe post, my suggestions are to either pair it with a structured Chardonnay with some oak-aging, good acidity and minerality or go for a red wine with good acidity, gentle tannins and ideally some minerality, such as a Pinot Noir from the North-Eastern region of Alto Adige.

St. Michael-Eppan, A.A. Chardonnay Sanct Valentin DOCThere is not much to say that is not already widely known about the two grape varieties that I picked, since they are both international varieties (as opposed to grapes indigenous to Italy). However, something worth mentioning is that in regards to Chardonnay you will notice that my recommendations span pretty much across the entire Italian territory, literally from Valle d’Aosta to Sicily, while my Pinot Noir choices focus on one specific region, Alto Adige. This is because, while Chardonnay has been very successfully grown in different terroirs in North, Central and even Southern Italy, the same is not true for Pinot Noir, whose best results are attained in the region of Alto Adige first and foremost, and then in Lombardia and Valle d’Aosta. This is hardly a surprise considering how finicky a grape variety Pinot Noir is compared to the great versatility and adaptability of Chardonnay grapes.

Elena Walch, A.A. Beyond the Clouds DOCWith that said, let’s get down to the recommendations, starting from our mini-tour of Italy showcasing some of my all-time favorite Italian Chardonnays:

  • Les Crêtes, Valle d’Aosta Chardonnay Cuvée Bois DOC from Valle d’Aosta (100% Chardonnay; in my view a phenomenal wine with a wonderful bouquet of wildflowers, jasmine, pineapple and butter – hats off to the producer who invested the energy and resources necessary to achieve a density of 7,500 vines/HA in the vineyard used to create this magnificent wine)
    *
  • St Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Chardonnay Sanct Valentin DOC from Alto Adige (100% Chardonnay; with scents of Mirabelle plum, butter, vanilla and almond)
    *
    Castello della Sala, Bramito del Cervo Umbria IGT
  • Elena Walch, Alto Adige Beyond the Clouds DOC from Alto Adige (“predominantly” Chardonnay blended with other white grape varieties based on a proprietary recipe; with scents of peach, pineapple, almond, butter and vanilla)
    *
  • Jermann, W? Dreams Venezia Giulia IGT from Friuli Venezia Giulia (97% Chardonnay, 3% other grape varieties kept it a secret by the winery; with aromas of Mirabelle plum, citrus, vanilla and a smoky hint – a special note of merit to the producer who achieved a density of almost 8,000 vines/HA in the vineyards used to create this excellent wine)
    *
  • Tenute Folonari, La Pietra Tenute del Cabreo Toscana IGT from Toscana (100% Chardonnay; with scents of peach, butter, honey, hazelnut and flint)
    *
    Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT
  • Castello della Sala, Bramito del Cervo Umbria IGT from Umbria (100% Chardonnay; with fine aromas of wildflowers, pineapple, Mirabelle plum, butter, vanilla and hazelnut)
    *
  • Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT from Sicily (100% Chardonnay; with complex and elegant scents of wisteria, peach, apple, honey, butter, vanilla, hazelnut and chalk)

Finally, these are some of my favorite Italian Pinot Noirs for their quality to price ratio (note that all of the wines below are 100% Pinot Noir):

  • Elena Walch, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Ludwig DOC (with scents of rose, wild strawberry and plum)
    *
    Elena Walch, A.A. Pinot Noir Ludwig DOC
  • St Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Riserva DOC (with aromas of wild strawberry, raspberry and soil)
    *
  • Manincor, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mason DOC (with scents of wild strawberry, raspberry and cranberry)
    *
  • Hofstätter, Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mazon Riserva DOC (with aromas of wild strawberry, cherry and cranberry)
    *
  • Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Blauburgunder Abtei Muri Riserva DOC (with scents of wild strawberry, cranberry and plum)

That’s all for now – enjoy some good wine and as always let me know if you get to try any of these wines!

Muri Gries, A.A. Blauburgunder Abtei Muri Riserva DOC

Winevent – January 28, 2013: Vinitaly International & Slow Wine 2013 in NYC

VinitalyWe are happy to report some pretty exciting news for Italian wine lovers and those who would just like to know more about it first-hand: for the first time ever, 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) join forces to showcase an impressive selection of Italian wine labels and to offer American wine trade a broad array of events, including Italian wine tastings (some of which will apparently be conducted through an interactive iPad app – sounds pretty cool!), educational sessions as well as B2B and B2C events. In this context, Slow Food will also present the 2013 edition of its English-language Italian wine guide, Slow Wine.

Vinitaly International & Slow Wine 2013 USA will be held on January 28, 2013 in New York City at Three Sixty°, 10 Desbrosses Street (between Hudson & Greenwich). The program will include:

  • 12:00 noon: Opening press conference
  • 1:00 to 5:00 pm: Walk-around wine tasting open to trade and press
  • 6:30 to 9:00 pm: Wine tasting open to consumers

I am glad to report that Flora’s Table will participate in this event and will cover it on this blog, so if you plan on attending, make sure to let me know, but if you cannot make it to the Big Apple to take part in it, do not despair and just stay tuned: we will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about it! 😉

To register for the Vinitaly International NYC event, go to Vinitaly International’s Web site and for purchasing tickets to the Slow Food NYC event, check out Slow Food’s Web site. Lists of participating wineries are available here (Slow Food) and here (Vinitaly International).

Finally, a repeat of this joint event will be held on January 30, 2013 in Miami, FL, at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa, while Slow Wine USA 2013 will make one last stop on February 4, 2013 in San Francisco, CA, at the Terra Gallery: for more information, refer to Slow Food’s Web site and to Vinitaly International’s Save the Date card or Web site.

Slow Wine

Saffron "Milanese" Risotto

Francesca's Safron Risotto

2 Servings

Every time I make risotto for my American friends they look at me like I’m serving them some kind of magical concoction.  🙂  It is instead a very simple dish to make and these are the reasons why I decided to publish this recipe:

1. Once you master the making process of this risotto (which I personally consider to be the basic one) you will be able to make any risotto. You can unleash your imagination in terms of ingredients and be as creative as you can.

2. I’m very fond of this risotto. My mother used to make it for us when I was a child (although it belongs to the Milan cuisine tradition). During the time that I spent working and living in Milan, I think I ate tons of saffron risotto in restaurants and households. Nowadays, famous master chefs are reinventing this wonderful dish by adding ingredients or changing the process, making you believe that they are revealing you the secret of the Holy Grail (and, of course, asking you an outrageous amount of money for such revelation!) This is something that I personally condemn. What’s wrong about continuing to cook a dish the traditional way, when the original recipe has been perfect for centuries? Thank goodness, there are still old trattorie in Milan that go way back and still serve you the real thing, letting your palate experience something unique.

3. There is a legend about the creation of this dish that is so lovely and amusing that I think it is worth sharing. It was 1574 and the Duomo in Milan was being built. A group of Belgian glass makers, under the direction of their master, Valerio of Fianders, were working on the stain-glass windows representing episodes of the life of St. Elena. One of Valerio’s apprentices was known for his ability to make wonderful colors. His secret? He used to add some saffron to the color mixture creating amazing chromatic effects. On September 8, 1574 the wedding of the daughter of master Valerio was being celebrated. This apprentice (some say as a joke, some say as a gift to the bride) came up with the idea of adding some saffron to the risotto that was going to be served during the nuptial meal. The result? The yellow risotto was a hit among the guests and this classic of the Milan cuisine was created.

Now, I could keep going telling you about the history of rice, how and when rice arrived in Italy and how it was cultivated, but I think I’ll stop here because this post is getting longer than a chapter in a Tolstoy book 😉

Let me just tell you a couple of things before we get down to the recipe.

First, the kind of rice. The best kind of rice to make risotto is carnaroli rice (which along with arborio rice and vialone nano rice are the most common rice varieties that are used in making risotto). The best brand of carnaroli rice is called Acquerello. Easy to find? Not at all! Not even in Milan. I had to go to the “jewellers” (that’s what I call the very expensive grocery stores in Milan like Peck at Via Spadari) to buy the famous Acquerello round metallic box. Bottom line? I usually use the less expensive and easier to find arborio rice.

Second, the original recipe calls for beef marrow. Again, not easy to find… even in Italy. I used to order it from my butcher in advance. So if you happen to put your lucky hands on some beef marrow, just remember that you have to cut it off into small pieces and cook it along with the shallot before adding the rice.

Francesca's Safron RisottoIngredients:

1/2 shallot
1 and 3/4 of 1 Tbsp, butter
5.5 oz of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 and 1/2 cups of beef stock
1 sachet of powdered saffron
2 and 1/2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese
salt

Directions:

Finely mince the shallot. In a medium-size non-stick pot, put 1 Tbsp of butter and the minced shallot and cook, over low heat, until the shallot softens. Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. We say that we “toast” the rice. Pour the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add two ladles of beef stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. Bear in mind that the stock must be very hot, otherwise cold stock will prevent the rice from cooking. When the beef stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of hot stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock. About 9 minutes after the first addition of stock, separately melt the powdered saffron in a little stock and add it to the cooking rice.

Keep cooking, constantly stirring, and add the rest of the stock little by little until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente. This will take 18 to 20 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. When you are about to remove the pot from the heat, taste the rice and salt if necessary.

Remove the pot from the heat, add 3/4 of 1 Tbsp of butter and stir until the butter is completely melted. Then, add 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and stir until you obtain a creamy risotto – we say that the risotto must make “waves” 🙂

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Parmigiano cheese.

Just a couple of extra suggestions before I leave you.

You can replace the shallot with onion. The cooking process is exactly the same as described above.

If you are using saffron pistils as opposed to powdered saffron, put the pistils in some hot stock. With the help of a strainer, drain the stock and add it to the rice. Set the pistils aside. When the risotto is ready to be served, add the pistils on top of the plate as a garnishment.

Enjoy!