Today, class, we will be talking about things obscure. Yes, things obscure, but not in the whole entire world, of course, but in the world of wine.
In your opinion, if we use the word “obscure” in conjunction with the word “wine”, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? For starters, let’s think about the meaning of the word itself. Here is how New Oxford American Dictionary defines “obscure”:
Now that we are clear on the meaning, let’s go back to our original question: “obscure + wine” – is it good or bad?
Reading wine’s description, have you ever come across the words “obscure grapes”? I’m not talking about the stuff you read on the back label, as there you will rather find the words “indigenous grapes”, “traditional grapes”, or maybe, “local grapes”. But if are reading blogs, or any of the “peer reviews”, I’m sure you’ve encountered the “obscure grapes”. I get it – “obscure” often implies that we got something to hide in a bad way – but not in this case. Referring to the definition we just saw, “obscure” here simply means “not discovered or known about”. Need examples? How about Trepat, Bobal, Gros Manseng, Khikhvi – heard of those grapes?
My favorite part is that obscure often translates into pleasure – lots of pleasure for the oenophile. Unlike most of the other food and drinks humans consume, wine taste is largely perceived. We have expectations for how Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay should taste, and when we don’t find that taste while drinking one of the “well known” wines, we often get disappointed. But when presented with the “obscure bottle”, all those preconceived notions are largely thrown out of the window, and we take wine for what it actually is – which gives us a great chance to enjoy something we wouldn’t otherwise.
It is not only wine drinkers who get more pleasure from the obscure grapes – when using those little-known grapes, winemakers are also not bound by any “customer expectations”, which gives them more freedom to express themselves. From the personal experience, I found that more often than not, I truly enjoy those obscure wines, and quite honestly, I like hunting down those unknown wines and grapes because of the pure mystery in the glass.
By the same token, lesser known wine regions (read: obscure) have the same advantage for both oenophiles and winemakers. What do you expect when you see Czech Republic, Georgian Republic, Mallorca or Valle d’Aosta written on the bottle? Most likely, you wouldn’t know what to expect, and thus you would take the wine for what it is. However, when you drink Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Spanish Rioja, you have a set of expectations in your head, and you always are ready to say “ahh, this doesn’t taste anything like Napa Cab”. Presented with the Czech Pinot Noir or Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon, you have no choice but to try it and decide whether you like it or not. Same as in the case of the obscure grapes, winemakers get an opportunity to freely create without the need to comply with a given set of expectations.
What we need to keep in mind though that the concept of “obscure” is very personal. For someone who lives in the Republic of Georgia, Georgian wines are very far from obscure. For someone who grew up in Conca de Barberà region in Catalonia in Spain, Trepat might be a perfectly familiar grape. But looking at the big picture, all of us, wine lovers, have our own, personal obscure territories – and this is where we might discover great pleasure. What makes it even more interesting is that the more we learn about the wine world, the more we understand how still little we know. And so we can keep on that road, shedding the light on obscure and making it (if we are lucky) dear and familiar, one discovery at a time.
I wish you all, oenophiles, lots of pleasant encounters with obscure sides of the wine world – as this is where the pleasure is hiding. Cheers!
This post is an entry for the 27th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC30), with the theme of “Obscure”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany, Crisis, Choice, Variety, Pairing, Second Chance, New, Pleasure, Travel, Solitude, Bubbles, Smile, Winestory
Would anyone argue that holidays are better with Ferrari? Both of eponymous Italian hallmarks of quality would greatly enhance one’s holiday, but one of them – the car – is a bit less accessible to the general populace, so let’s talk about the one which is – sparkling wine from a beautiful region in the Italian Alps – Trento.
More than 100 years ago, Guido Ferrari recognized the potential of the green slopes to grow world-class Chardonnay. While Chardonnay is an undisputed star of the still white wine, its swan song might be delivered best with the bubbles. Champagne comes only from Champagne, but Méthode Champenoise is successfully used around the world to produce sparkling wines easily rivaling Champagne in quality.
This is what Guido Ferrari set out to do in 1902 – produce world-class sparkling wines – the task which he completed successfully. As Guido Ferrari had no direct heirs, in 1952 he sold the winery and vineyards to the Bruno Lunelli, a friend and wine merchant. Now in the third generation, Lunelli family proudly continues Ferrari traditions into the 21st century.
Earlier in the year, I had a virtual conversation with Marcello Lunelli, a winemaker at the Ferrari winery – you can find that post here. Then during summer I had an opportunity to meet, talk to and taste the wines together with Camilla Lunelli, Managing Partner at Ferrari, who visited New York on the occasion of attending The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards ceremony, where Ferrari was sponsoring The Art of Hospitality Award (it went to Madison Eleven restaurant in New York city). As we combined conversation with the tasting of the wines, I want to share here my brief notes about both the winery and the wines we tasted.
Today Ferrari is producing about 2 million bottles per year. They are working in close cooperation with the network of 500 growers and employ 8 agronomists who work literally around the clock to ensure the quality of the grapes. All Ferrari vineyards are certified organic, which is something not to be taken lightly – think about the work required to convince 500 growers to change their ways, to adapt Best Practices developed by Ferrari and get certified (it took most of the growers between 3 and 5 years to change). Talking about the vineyards, an interesting side note: Trento is a mountainous region, and all Ferrari vineyards are located on the slopes which provide for large temperature shifts between day and night, which is significant for the development of the Chardonnay grapes.
Italy is the biggest market for Ferrari sparkling wines. However, when I asked which market is the next big one after Italy, I got a surprising answer – it is Japan! (Yeah, I knew it is not the US, as Ferrari wines are hard to find in the US stores).
I also asked what would be an interesting food pairing for the Ferrari sparklers, and Camilla recommended Rosé sparkling wine with Pizza (yes, I can see it) and then bubbles with the BBQ, which is something I will need to try.
Okay, let’s get to the wines now, shall we?
NV Ferrari Brut Metodo Classico Trento DOC (SRP $25, 100% Chardonnay) – Delicious. Perfect acidity, lightly yeasty, refreshing, clear acidic finish.
2007 Ferrari Perlé Metodo Classico Trento DOC (SRP $38, 100% Chardonnay) – complex nose, minerality, complex palate with musk undertones, full bodied and refreshing
2009 Ferrari Perlé Metodo Classico Trento DOC (SRP $38, 100% Chardonnay) – we didn’t taste this wine with Camilla – I recently got a sample of 2009, so it was a good opportunity to include it here. On the nose, fine fizz, mostly closed nose with just a touch of an apple. The palate showed toasted bread notes, restrained, good acidity, tart, very clean and austere. Perfectly reminiscent of a good Champagne, however, too astringent for my personal enjoyment. I would definitely prefer 2007.
2008 Ferrari Perlé Rosé Metodo Classico Trento DOC (SRP $59, 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay) – Delicious nose, hint of strawberries, yeast, great concentration, complex, toasted bread, refreshing.
2008 Ferrari Perlé Nero Metodo Classico Trento DOC (SRP $79.99, 100% Pinot Nero) – great nose, plump, open, full-bodied, lots of fruit on the nose, fresh baguette, not just yeast or toasted bread, toasted caramel, butterscotch
2006 Ferrari Riserva Lunelli Metodo Classico Trento DOC (SRP $56, 100% Chardonnay) – the grapes for this wine come from the single area around Villa Margon. This wine is aged in neutral Austrian oak casks. Excellent, seriously complex nose, with a touch of tropical fruit; tremendous palate – roasted meat, super-complex, delicious.
2004 Ferrari Riserva del Fondatori Giulio Metodo Classico Trento DOC (SRP $120, 100% Chardonnay) – the grapes for this wine come from a single high altitude vineyard called Maso Panizza. The wine has the classic nose, great acidity, it just screams “classic vintage Champagne” all the way.
Here you are, my friends – a full range of beautiful sparkling wines, worthy of any celebration you will have. I wish they would be a bit easier to find in the US, but these are the wines worth seeking. Cheers!
Nope, no typo in that title. And no, I’m not losing it. Not yet anyway.
Yes, the title is purposefully misleading. But within a reason – and I’m not looking to gain any unjust benefit from the confusion.
As most of you know, Montepulciano happened to be the name of the indigenous Italian grape, popular in central regions of Abruzzo and Marche. Montepulciano is also the name of the small medieval town, right in the heart of Tuscany, where the grape called Sangiovese is a king. The wine produced around the town of Montepulciano, which dates back to the 14th century, is called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and to be called Vino Nobile the wine should contain at least 70% of Sangiovese grapes. What is also worth mentioning that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the very first DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in Italy, awarded in 1984 – the emphasis here is on Garantita, denoting highest quality Italian wines.
A picture worth thousand words, so here is an infographic which nicely lines up all the confusing Montepulciano:
Now, let’s go back to the main question, only let’s ask it in a less controversial way – do you prefer Montepulciano or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine? The answer to such a question requires some wine drinking, so let’s fight it off with maybe some of the very best examples of both – Masciarelli Marina Cvetić Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Masciarelli Tenute Agricole was established in 1978 by Gianni Masciarelli in San Martino, Chieti Abruzzo. In 1989, Giovanni married Marina Cvetic, who took over winemaking duties. Today Marina overseeing about 750 acres of estate vineyards, producing about 2.5 million bottles a year – of course, not only Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but many different wines – you can find more information here.
The wine we are tasting today, Masciarelli Marina Cvetić Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva, is a flagship wine, which won numerous accolades from the critics around the world, and it is definitely a beautiful example of how good Montepulciano wine can be.
Avignonesi estate was founded in 1974, and the Avignonesi family was instrumental in helping the regions to obtain DOCG status and promote Vino Nobile wines worldwide. From 2009, the estate, which comprise today 495 acres of vineyards in Montepulciano and Cortona appellations and produces about 750,000 bottles per year, is owned by Virginie Saverys. She works tirelessly to convert the estate to organic and biodynamic winemaking, and Avignonesi is expecting to get its organic certification in 2016. You can learn more about the estate and its wines here.
The wine we are drinking today is Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which goes way beyond the requirements of the DOCG and made from 100% Sangiovese sourced from 8 best vineyards of the Avignonesi estate. If you will look at the suggested price ($29), in conjunction with the quality, this wine would easily beat many of its famous Brunello neighbors. Many critics also concur, as the wine repeatedly gets high scores and makes to the various “Top” lists.
Here are my notes for these two wines:
2011 Masciarelli Marina Cvetić Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva (14% ABV, $28, 100% Montepulciano, 12/18months in oak barriques, 100% new)
C: dark garnet
N: cherries, tar, roasted meat, undertones of sage
P: sweet cherries, perfume, open, layered, clean, good balance, very approachable and ready to drink from the get go
V: 8/8+, sexy, luscious and delicious
2013 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (14% ABV, $29, 100% Sangiovese, 12 months French barriques, 6 months large Slavonian oak casks, 6+ months in the bottle)
C: brilliant ruby
N: herbs, sage, hint of black fruit, restrained
P: sweet and tart cherries, earthy, leather, touch of cherry pits, touch of tannins, good balance. Very long finish with fruit dominating.
V: 8. surprisingly ready to drink (unlike some Vino Nobile which I had before). Classic Italian wine all around, with finesse.
As you can tell, I really liked both wines, probably hedging a bit more towards Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – these are very well made wines, different and excellent in its own right – and by the way, both would perfectly brighten up your holidays :).
What do you think? Which Montepulciano would you prefer, not only from these two wines but in general? Cheers!
When it comes to the so-called “tableclothed” restaurants in the USA, Italian restaurants are the most popular category (Italian cuisine is the third most popular overall, as you can’t beat Chinese restaurants, present at least on every other block in our cities and towns). With such a popularity comes a question – how can you differentiate yourself? Every Italian restaurant can serve fried calamari, mozzarella sticks and penne alla vodka – and this is what people want, the traditional comfort food. But you want people to come back to your restaurant, so you want to keep the tradition, but make the dining experience memorable – how can this be done?
Talking about “how”, I have an example for you – TerraSole Cheese Wine Bar Ristorante in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The restaurant serves food which is unmistakably Italian, with heart and soul, but the word which comes to mind to describe it is elevated – from ingredients and preparation (for instance: 85% of the pasta is made at the restaurant, 15% is imported directly from Italy) to the presentation of all the dishes – I tried my best with the pictures below to give you an idea – the pictures might not do the justice to the food, so you might need to visit restaurant on your own.
I visited TerraSole few month back with the group of bloggers, with the torrential rain pouring outside (was well soaked by reaching inside from the parking), so I forgot to take any interior pictures which I like to start the post with – and thus let me just jump straight to the food. Well, no, the drinks first.
The restaurant offers a nice selection of the cocktails. We started with the cocktail called Chanel #6 (Kettel One vodka, Prosecco, Chambord, Pineapple juice) which was refreshing and not very sweet, something I always appreciate in the cocktail.
The restaurant owner, Pietro Polini, pre-selected the wines for our dinner, which I definitely appreciate. For the white, we had 2015 Cantina Terre del Barolo Roero Arneis, which was excellent, with a nice fuller body and touch of sweetness. I don’t drink Arneis all that often, but this wine was definitely a notch above any other Arneis wines I tried before. For the red, we had a few different wines, and 2015 Vecchie Terre Zensa Primitivo Puglia was my favorite – perfect balance, nice dark roasted berries, espresso, mint – an excellent wine overall (looks like the wine was imported directly from Italy as wine-searcher can’t find it anywhere in the USA).
Now, let’s talk about food. There were lots and lots of food. Imagine that proverbial Italian mother, making sure you will eat well – Pietro Polini played her role, making sure we will fully experience what TerraSole got to offer. Here is my usual warning for this type of posts – if you are hungry, please stop right here, or proceed at your own risk.
I tried to format all the food notes alongside the menu as it was presented to us. But even with such a huge menu, it still didn’t include all the dishes served. We actually started with Charcuterie, which is excellent at the TerraSole restaurant, and features lots of tasty options – I’m including two of the menu excerpts so you will see it for yourself:
I love the idea using cut up corks as a pointers to what we are eating. And everything which was on that Charcuterie board was delicious – creamy La Tur cheese, spectacular Humbold Fog, Duck Prosciutto and every other piece of cheese and meat.
After Charcuterie, the dinner proceeded with the selection of Antipasti:
Imported black truffle Burrata, imported Prosciutto San Daniele aged 16 months, organic tomatoes, roasted peppers, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved black truffle topped with truffle balsamic drizzle
INSALATA DI GRANCHIO
Salad of Alaskan King Crabmeat, red quinoa, fresh Fava beans, avocado, organic multicolored tomatoes
Sicilian Eggplant & Porcini veggie balls served with San Marzano tomato sauce and shaved Ricotta Salata
From this selection, Burrata was excellent, and I really liked the Polpette, which was unusual and tasty.
Next up – couple of salads:
INSALATA DI CAVOLETTI
Shaved miniature Brussels sprouts salad tossed with toasted hazelnuts, crispy imported Pancetta in a truffle Parmigiano vinaigrette with Westfield goat cheese croquettes
Grilled organic baby artisan romaine heart with creamy Parmigiano dressing, Parmigiano crisp & Grissini
Shaved Brussels sprouts salad had truffle vinaigrette, which translated into an incredible flavor – I didn’t know truffles would work so well with the brussels sprouts. And Caesar salad with grilled Romaine hearts was a pure standout, simply fantastic. I have to honestly admit – I tried to grill so Romaine hearts on my own, and failed – but this is definitely something worth mastering.
This is an Italian dinner, so it is time for pasta!
PAGLIA E FIENO CON CARNE MISTE E FUNGHI
Homemade yellow and green fettuccine with mixed braised meats and organic Japanese mini mushrooms
CAVATELLI CON SALSICCIA
Homemade Cavatelli infused with broccoli rabe, baked hot with and sweet sausage and San Marzano tomato sauce topped with whipped Ricotta
PASTA DI GRANO ARSO CAPRESE
Imported Grano Arso pasta made with “burnt” semolina grain, tossed with roasted organic eggplant, San Marzano cherry tomatoes, basil & imported truffle Burrata
Homemade fettuccine dish was nice and light, Cavatelli had an amazing flavor, excellent texture and a bit of the spicy kick – all three dishes were delicious.
And finally the main course – various types of grilled meats, seafood and chicken:
GRIGLIATA DI CARNE
Platter of grilled meats: lollipop rack of veal, lollipop rack of lamb, sliced skirt steak, duck breast and Luganica sausage, served with Shishito peppers and marble potatoes
GRIGLIATA DI PESCE
Grilled seafood platter: Branzino, head-on Maya prawns, calamari, King salmon, fresh Maine lobster finished with lemon, cold pressed EVOO, local farm vegetables
POLLETTO DELLO CHEF
Panko crusted organic chicken breast wrapped around Prosciutto, wild baby arugula & Truffle Burrata cheese, finished with natural chicken broth over truffle mashed Peruvian potatoes & sautéed baby spinach
Presentation, flavor and overall execution were perfect on all three main dishes – all three were simply a “wow”.
You don’t expect us to leave without the desert, don’t you?
Espresso was perfect (it is generally expected, but often not the case), and profiterole together with the chocolate liquor was a perfect finish for the delicious meal.
I really would like to thank Pietro Polini for the delicious meal. And for all of you, my friends, if you will happen to be any anywhere in a proximity of Ridgefield in Connecticut, and craving a delicious, creative Italian food, TerraSole is definitely the place to visit. Cheers!
3 Big Shop Ln
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Ph: (203) 438-5352
As some of you might know, I can never pass on visiting the local Trader Joe’s when traveling – as long as it offers wine (which seems to be the case so far in the most places I visit). Last week I was in Santa Clara in California, so the trip to the nearby Trader Joe’s was unavoidable.
Deciding on what wine to buy at Trader Joe’s is difficult. I always take price into account, but then there are lots of wines in the same, super-reasonable prices range of $5 -$8. The next option is the label – yes, I’m a sucker for creative labels, and then, of course, the region comes to play.
As I slowly walked along the wine shelves, the label of Jebediah Drinkwell’s caught my eye – it was strangely attractive – plus I like Meritage wines, so it was an easy decision. I picked up Trellis Merlot because it was a Merlot (and October is a Merlot month) – and I was really curious to see what $4.99 can buy you from Sonoma. Cecilia Beretta was the third bottle I got – wanted to go outside of California, and “Partially dried grapes” always sounds like a music to me.
Looking at the wines later on, the idea of #MerlotMe dedication came along – would all these wines be Merlot based? To my delight, in addition to the 100% Merlot from Sonoma, two other wines also had substantial Merlot content, so here you go my friends, a Merlot run at Trader Joe’s.
Here are my notes:
NV Jebediah Drinkwell’s Meritage Red Wine Paso Robles ($5.99, 37% Petite Verdot, 31% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec)
C: dark Ruby
N: touch of smoke, roasted meat,
P: soft fruit, blackberries, tobacco, good acidity, medium-long finish
V: 7+/8-, quite enjoyable
2014 Trellis Merlot Sonoma County (14.5% ABV, $4.99)
N: restrained, distant hint of cassis, herbs
P: soft, round, cassis, good acidity
V: 7+, excellent QPR
2014 Cecilia Beretta Soraie Veneto IGT (14% ABV, $7.99, 40% Merlot, 30% Corvina, 20% Cabernet, 10% Croatina, grapes dried for a few weeks before pressing)
C: dark garnet
N: touch of blueberry pie, quite restrained
P: touch of blueberries, tobacco, hint of dried fruit, good power but round, soft tannins, medium finish
V: 7+, will work well with food – pasta with some hearty tomato sauce would be perfect
As you can tell, it is pretty amazing what $18 can buy you at Trader Joe’s. Also, it is my second experience with non-vintage wine at Trader Joe’s, and I’m definitely impressed with the quality of that wine.
Do you buy wines at Trader Joe’s? Any interesting finds you care to share? Cheers!
History of the grapes is full of mistaken identity cases, survival fights, global dominance going nearly extinct – yes, these are the grapes I’m talking about, not people. There are also “lost and found” stories, as in the case of Sagrantino, the Italian grape from Umbria. Sagrantino was a very popular grape for more than 500 years – until it practically disappeared in the 1960s, and made almost miraculous comeback due to the effort of the few passionate winegrowers.
My first meaningful encounter with Sagrantino wines took place 3 years ago, when I participated in the virtual tasting of the wines from Montefalco – Sagrantino’s growing region in Umbria. I don’t want to repeat everything I learned about Sagrantino the last time, so please take a look here for some interesting fun facts about Sagrantino (for instance – did you know that Sagrantino has the highest polyphenol concentration among all commonly used red grapes?).
Two groups of red wines produced in Montefalco. One is Montefalco Rosso DOC, where it is required that the wine would have at least 70% of Sangiovese, up to 15% of Sagrantino and up to 15% of the other red grapes (however, these percentages are changing). The second one is Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, with the wines made out of 100% Sagrantino grapes. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG also includes production of the sweet Passito wines – as you would expect, after harvest, the grape bunches are left to dry on the mats for at least 2 month, before pressing and fermenting together with the skins. High tannin content helps to alleviate the sweetness of the wines.
Our tasting, very appropriately called “Fall in Montefalco”, was conducted in the virtual format, with the group of 9 winemakers presenting their wines remotely from Italy. Live Q&A discussion was accompanying the tasting via the Ustream channel (take a look at the live feed to the right).
Few interesting facts from this presentation: There are currently 700 hectares (1750 acres) of Sagrantino planted in Montefalco, and there are 70 wine producers in the region. Current production of Montefalco Sagrantino is about 1.3M bottles, and Montefalco Rosso is about 2.2M. Someone asked one of my favorite questions of all the producers in the studio – what is the oldest vintage of Sagrantino you have in your cellars? Going around the room, this is what I was able to capture (as usual, it is hard to follow presentation and chat with people at the same time) – the oldest vintage Custodia has in the cellar is 2003, Arnaldo Caprai still has 1979 Sagrantino; Tabarrini’s oldest is 1996 and then 1999.
Before I leave you with my tasting notes I can say that overall, the wines in the tasting showed nice improvement, comparing with the wines we were drinking 3 years ago – you will also see it in my ratings, which are also higher across the board. Also as you will see from the notes, I have a sweet tooth – and not afraid to show it – Passito was my favorite wine in the tasting. Don’t get me wrong – again, all the wines were excellent, and if I have to use one word common description, the word would be “elegant”.
Here are my tasting notes:
2013 Broccatelli Galli Montefalco Rosso DOC (13.5% ABV, $19, Sagrantino/Sangiovese blend)
C: dark Ruby
N: cherries, herbs, touch of minerality
P: bright tart cherry, leather, tobacco, cherry pit, medium body, easy to drink
V: 7+/8-, simple and nice, would work well with food
2013 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso (14% ABV, $21, 70% Sangiovese, 15% sagrantino, 15% Merlot)
C: dark garnet
N: beautiful, open, inviting, red fruit
P: warm, spicy, velvety, medium body, front tannins on the finish, leaves surprisingly light perception. Touch of characteristic leather.
V: 8/8+ (definitely 8+ on a second day, very round and elevated)
2012 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, $20)
C: Dark garnet
N: herbs, sage, touch of cherries, restrained
P: medium body, good acidity, leather, cherries and cherries pit, soft, polished, easy to drink, soft tannins, very round overall, medium finish
V: 8, was perfect PnP wine, delicious and makes you crave for more
2013 Tabarrini Boccatone Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, SRP $28)
C: dark garnet
N: intense, sweet plums and cherries, sandalwood, complex
P: complex flavors, lots going on, cherries, earth, nice tart, soft, supple, layered, spicy notes
V: 8/8+, will evolve with time
2011 Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $55)
C: dark garnet, practically black
N: ripe red fruit (restrained), baking spices
P: tart cherries, velvety, firm structure, full weight in the mouth, full bodied, very present, “Rutherford dust”, cherry pit mid palate
V: 8+, delicious powerful wine – if you like powerful wines
2006 Tenute Del Cerro Còlpertone Gold Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (15% ABV, $50)
C: garnet with brick hue
N: cherries, eucalyptus, oregano, intense, balsamic
P: round, layered, earthy, cherries, medium to long finish, powerful, excellent balance, another 10 years to evolve
V: 8/8+, delicious
2010 Tenute Lunelli Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (15% ABV, $35)
N: earthy, herbaceous, touch of cherries, medium intensity
P: round, fresh, open, cherries, tartness gets a bit in the way, but wine is very enjoyable from the first pour and sip. Long finish.
V: 8+, excellent
2010 Terre De la Custodia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $45)
C: bright garnet
N: barnyard, medium intensity, ripe plums, roasted meat
P: crushed berries, acidity, tannins jump in quickly, very enjoyable but needs time
V: 8/8+, delicious Italian wine, will open up in about 10 years…
2009 Antonelli Passito Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14% ABV, $49)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: dried fruit, figs, raisins, delicate – not overpowering
P: wow. And another wow. Dried fruit, but perfectly restrained. Cherry pit, tannins, acidity, tartness. Perfect balance, and very try finish.
V: 9, needs time, superbly delicious and enjoyable as it is, but will evolve amazingly…
That was an excellent tasting, I’m glad to be a part of the Fall in Montefalco.
What is your experience and opinion of Sagrantino wines? Cheers!
More than 3 years ago, an interesting tradition was born in the world of wine blogging (a brainchild of The Drunken Cyclist, with the help of the supporting cast of characters) – the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Every month or so, wine bloggers en mass subject themselves to the masochistic practice of taking a random word and creating a soulful connection from that word to the beloved world of wine – all of it on a tight deadline.
Writing a post for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (MWWC for short), I always want to put out a regular post, and then at the end, simply state “and by the way, this was written for the MWWC, ha”- just to show how easy it was. Of course, this practically never happens – like today, with the theme of our epistolary exercise been “Bubbles“, and my writing taking place during the very last hour (sigh).
When oenophile hears the word “bubbles”, the first reaction it triggers is “Champagne!”. It gives us such a pleasure to write about the world of “Sparklers” – the ingenuity of Dom Perignon, the resourcefulness of Widow Cliquot, the battles of I-was-the-first-to-make-my-wine-sparkle.
There are many other connections of the bubbles to the world of wines – think about bubbles you see on the surface of the juice during fermentation – those are some bubbles! Or think about simple, tiny bubbles of oxygen, making it through the cork and allowing the wines to age gently and gracefully – these bubbles are critical. And then there are maybe bubble issues for the wine collectors? Will that price of DRC or Petrus ever come down?
Yes, I will take my own, different course, and will not write about Champagne or Sparkling wines. For sure.
Do you believe me? Who said “no”? How did you guess?
Banal or not, but I have a good reason to write about sparkling wines – Prosecco, to be more precise. A few weeks ago, I was offered to review some Prosecco wines. At first, my reaction was “I’ll pass”. But reading the email more carefully, my interest piqued. I always thought of Prosecco wines made from 100% of grape called Glera (yes, there are few exceptions, like Bisol, but just a few). These three Prosecco wines were all blended – Processo DOC rules allow up to 15% of other grapes in the blend – and the blends were all unusual, so the intrigued brain said “why not”?
As we are talking about Prosecco, I need to share some fun facts with you – who doesn’t like statistics, right?
French Sparkling wine and then Champagne had been around for a bit less than 500 years. Prosecco’s history is only a bit longer than 100 years, and only in 1989 (27 years ago!) Prosecco made it for real outside of the Italy (here is the link to my post about it, in case you are interested in history). However, according to Nielsen report, Prosecco sales in US in 2015 grew by 36% (Champagne – 8%). In 2015, Italy produced its largest Prosecco crop ever with 467 million bottles – that is triple of only 7 years ago; out of this amount, 48 million bottles were exported to the US – and still US is only #3 importer of Prosecco behind UK and Germany.
Moving right along, let me decipher a cryptic title of this post for you (not that you cared much, right?).
Zonin family got into the wine business in 1821, almost 200 years ago. Now in the 7th generation, the family manages about 5,000 acres of vineyards, mostly in Italy. Zonin had been making Prosecco for the very long time, but considering the ever growing interest, they decided to offer a new line of Prosecco wines, called “Dress Code”, suitable for different mood and a company. The “Dress Code” colors include white, grey and black, so you can wear a different color every day. Of course, these are only colors of the bottles, nobody added squid ink to the wines… yet? Hmmm, note to self…
Here are the notes for the wines I tasted:
Zonin Prosecco White Edition Prosecco DOC (11% ABV, SRP $16.90, 91% Glera and 9% Pinot Bianco cuvée): simple overall. On the nose, touch of white fruit. Good creaminess on the palate, touch of white fruit, very restrained, good acidity, but again, overall is a very muted expression. 7/7+, Decent everyday glass of bubbly.
Zonin Prosecco Grey Edition Prosecco DOC (11% ABV, SRP $16.90, 87% Glera and 13% Pinot Grigio cuvée): white stone fruit on the nose, white flowers. Palate: light, creamy, effervescent, refreshing, distant hint of sweetness, round, good acidity. 8-, nice upgrade from the “white”.
Zonin Prosecco Black Edition Prosecco DOC (11% ABV, SRP $16.90, 90% Glera and 10% Pinot Noir cuvée): promising touch of fruit with lemon and rocky minerality on the nose. Perfect acidity, elegance, finesse on the palate, touch of white stone fruit, lime and noticeable nutmeg. Most elegant out of three, a “little black dress” if you will. 8/8+, one of the most elegant Prosecco I ever had.
So, what color are your bubbles? My favorite was black. Cheers!
This post is an entry for the 27th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC27), with the theme of “Bubbles”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany, Crisis, Choice, Variety, Pairing, Second Chance, New, Pleasure, Travel, Solitude
Of course I don’t know your mother, and of course I don’t know her wine preferences. But assuming a general motherly image, cue in a hot summer day, I would make a pretty safe bet that refreshing beverage in the glass in her hand is a white wine. Continuing playing it safe, I would expect that white wine to be very easy to drink, unoffensive and simple, so traditional Pinot Grigio (think Santa Margherita) would perfectly fit the bill.
Now, what do you think would happen if after crushing the grapes, the juice will be left in the contact with skins for, let’s say, 24 hours? Yes, of course Pinot Grigio is a white wine, at least typically it is. But to give you a little hint, take a look at the picture of the grapes – this are not random grapes, these are exactly the Pinot Grigio grapes – or as they are known throughout the most of the world, Pinot Gris. Gris here stays for “gray”, this is how we can perceive the color of these grapes.
With this little hint – what do you think now about that juice left in contact with the skins for 24 hours? If you said that you expect it to gain some color, you are absolutely right. Here is an example of an end result for you:
Isn’t it beautiful? The 24 hours of skin contact gave this wine this orange hue, which technically makes this wine a part of the “orange wines” craze. I don’t have an intention of getting into the “orange wine” debate, but I can tell you that it is not only the color which is different here. Before we talk about the taste of this 2014 Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato Venezia Giulia IGT (12.5% ABV, $18, 100% Pinot Grigio, stainless steel and barriques), let me give you a short explanation about the name of the wine and its color, from the winery’s web site: “Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato continues a tradition of the Republic of Venice, since “ramato,” or coppery, was the term that referred to Pinot Grigio in contracts. A special vinification practice led to the use of this term: the must remains in contact with the skins for 24 hours and this practice gives the wine a very distinctive coppery hue“.
It was not only the color which was different. The wine had a nose of intense honey, but the palate was dry and crisp – if anything, reminding a lot more of a great Provence Rosé with a hint of strawberries and an onion peel. An excellent and thought provoking wine, whether for the hot summer day or for any day when you crave a nice glass of wine. Drinkability: 8.
That’s all I have for you for today, my friends. White, Rosé, Orange, Red – enjoy whatever is in your glass and happy Independence Day for those in the USA. Cheers!
One of my favorite ways to start a conversation is to ask a trivia question, so here it is. We all take Prosecco for granted – if one wants to casually have a glass of wine with bubbles, Prosecco would handily beat any other sparkling wine as a top choice, no matter where in the world you are. Now, for the trivia part: do you know when Prosecco first appeared in London? I will give you few moments to ponder that question. Meanwhile, few basic facts: Prosecco hails from the hills of Veneto, where wines (still wines, it is) were produced for more than 500 years; Charmat-Martinotti method, used in the production of Prosecco, with the secondary fermentation taking place in a steel tank instead of the bottle (“secondary fermentation” is what produces those adorable bubbles), was first created in 1895. So when do you think Prosecco showed up in London?
The answer: 1989. And all due to the tenacity and passion. Bisol family had been producing the wine in Veneto for more than 20 generations (yes, I do call this a passion). When Gianluca Bisol approached his father and said that he wants to bring Prosecco to London, the father’s response was very quick (cue in Italian pronunciation and emotional hand gestures): “you are crazy!”. That didn’t stop Gianluca, and to London off he went. It appears that his father was almost right – selling unknown sparkling wine, door to door, in the downturn economic times, was not going swimmingly well, by any measure. Until a lucky coincidence (well, people would call it “luck”, but we all know that luck usually works best after applying lots and lots of hard, dedicated effort), when at one of the best restaurants in London, Gianluca met wine director who was not only Italian, but also born and raised in the same Veneto region, and was extremely happy to see his beloved Prosecco. As they like to say it in the books, the rest was history. Today, Prosecco outsells Champagne in UK 3 to 1. And annual production of Prosecco hit 540 million bottles in 2015. Just to finish with historical references, Prosecco made it to the US in 1992/1993 (in case you are wondering).
I had a pleasure of meeting Gianluca Bisol at lunch at Marta restaurant in the New York City, and we spend two hours talking, tasting wines and of course, eating tasty food (detailed account follows). This is where I heard the story of Prosecco concurring the UK, as well as many other interesting facts which all together can be summarized in one single word – passion. Passion for the land, vines and wines. Passion for the whole Veneto region. Passion for the traditions which are more than 20 generations strong. But also a passion for the not stopping, for continuing to innovate and to create – new wines and also new wineries.
Our tasting included 7 different wines, out of which 4 were Bisol wines, but 3 were from the winery called Maeli Colli Euganei, the winery which Gianluca helped to start in 2010. Actually the plan was that at the lunch, Gianluca will be joined by Elisa Dilavanzo, the owner of Maeli winery – unfortunately, Elisa got sick and had to stay behind, so Gianluca had a duty of representing both wineries – which he completed with flying honors, as you can imagine.
We started our tasting with 2014 Maeli Fior d’Arancio DOCG Sweet (6% ABV, SRP $27, Residual sugar 115 g/l, 100% Fior d’Arancia, a.k.a. Yellow Muscat) – nice sweetness, clean, minerality, beautiful sweet nose, bright white fruit, nice honey notes. The grapes for this wine come from volcanic soils, which gives it an interesting complexity, saving it from been “one singular note sweet bore”. It is not surprising that last year this wine was selected as “Best in Class” by Tom Stevenson in the UK in the sweet sparkling wines category. Another interesting fact is that in 2015, Maeli winery started Maeli Chef Cup competition, which will be now an annual event, where world-renown chefs compete to create the best dish pairing for Maeli Fior d’Arancia – if you are interested, here is the link detailing the 2015 competition.
Our next wine was NV Bisol Cartizze Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. Spumante Dry (11.5% ABV, SRP $42, Residual sugar 23 g/l, 100% Glera) – some sweetness on the nose, but body very restrained, creamy mouthfeel, delicious aftertaste, beautiful supple palate. The wine can age – Gianluca had an opportunity to taste 20 years old Bisol Cartizze wine – it retained bubbles, but obviously acquired aromas of more mature fruit. As you can see, this wine is designated as Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G – Cartizze is a single vineyard, 106 hectares (about 255 acres) in size , one of the best vineyards in Italy (most expensive for sure). 139 families own parcels of the Cartizze vineyard – Bisol family owns their parcel for 21 generations. The cost of land on Cartizze is $2.5M per hectare, or $1M per acre – not sure if anyone is selling though.
Time to eat something, right? The first two wines were paired with the selection of appetizers:
Suppli Cacio e Pepe (Risotto Croquettes, Pecorino, Black Pepper) – nice crust, tasty, works the best with the wine.
Bietole Ai Ferri (Plancha-seared Forono Beets, Ricotta, Hazelnuts) – good, nice flavor, good acidity, hazelnuts work well to complement the wines.
Nebrodini Arrostiti (Wood-fired Mushroom Salad, Kale, Mustard Greens, Thyme, Lemon) – nice, good flavor.
We continued our tasting with NV Bisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. Spumante Brut (11.5% ABV, SRP $25, Residual sugar 7.5 g/l, blend of Glera, Pinot Bianco and Verdiso). “Crede” is a “type of clay-laden soil with particular characteristics that greatly benefit the grapes”, according to the wine’s tech sheet. The wine had delicious nose, touch of fruit, fine mousse, perfect acidity, crisp, clean finish.
Now we go back to Maeli with our next wine, which was also the only still wine we had in the tasting. 2014 Maeli Colli Euganei Bianco Infinito ∞ Veneto IGT (12.4% ABV, SRP $24, Yellow Muscat 60%, Chardonnay 40%, aged 5 month in steel tanks, 3 month in the bottle) had nice aromatics, touch of lemon on the nose, vanilla, nice complexity on the palate. The name of this wine (infinito) comes from the accident – one of the workers called Elisa to inform her that one of the barrels needs attention, and when she asked which one, he said “infinito”. As she couldn’t understand what the worker was talking about, it appeared that the number “8” was written on the barrel at an angle, and so from there on the wine took the name “infinito”.
Now, the dishes which were paired with these two wines deserve their own commendation. You see, I rarely eat pizza. When I do, my absolute preference is that the pizza would have crisp, crunchy, literally paper-thin crust. This is exactly what I got at Marta – three pizzas, one better than the other (Funghi was my absolute favorite):
Stracciatella (House-made Stracciatella, Basil, Olio Verde) – perfect pairing. Delicious pizza – very thin crust.
Funghi (Fontina, Mozzarella, Hen of the Woods, Hedgehogs, Red Onion, Thyme) incredible, amazing flavor mushrooms and thyme. Great pairing with Bianco Infinito
Porri e Pancetta (Leeks, Bacon, Fontina, Scallion) – great flavor, very good pairing.
Last three wines were truly special and unique – but none of them are available in the US at the moment, unfortunately. 2015 Private Cartizze Zero Dosage Brut Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. (second fermentation in the bottle, 12 month on the lees) – first Classic Method sparkling wine from Cartizze, 2015 vintage was bottled 45 days ago, 2011 was the first year of production, 3000 bottles produced in 2015 – classic champagne, yeast, outstanding.
Then we had 2011 Maeli Colli Euganei Rosévento IGT Spumante (12% ABV, Residual sugar 6.9 g/l, 100% Pinot Nero, 36 months on the lees) – another Classic method sparkling wine, yeasty, classic Rosè champagne nose with strawberries, delicious!
The last wine was truly unique – NV Jeio noSO2 Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Brut (100% Glera) – this innovative wine was produced without any added sulphur dioxide (hence the name), made specially for the sensitive consumers. The wine is packaged in the clear bottle wrapped into the foil, to protect it from the sunlight (the wine we were tasting was brought by Gianluca directly from the winery, so it didn’t have any foil or labeling, except the small pieces of paper around the bottle’s neck. The wine had an amazing nose, floral with a touch of white fruit, very dry and again, floral on the palate – very unique compared to any sparkling wine I had before. Delicious – you need to try it for yourself (well, you might have to visit the winery for that).
Our last two dishes were Pollo Ubriaco (Chicken Breast, Charred Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Fresno Chili, Mint), perfectly executed, and Salmerino (Arctic Char, Crispy Potato Cake, Horseradish Crema) – delicious, potato cakes were outstanding ( I would eat the whole plate alone), and the fish was cooked perfectly.
That’s all I have for you, my friends – a wonderful encounter with passion, great people, unique wines and delicious food. Next time you are in a mood for some bubbles in your glass, Bisol and Maeli offer a great range, suitable for any palate and taste. And even if you are not craving pizza right now, go visit Marta in New York – I’m sure you will be happy. And by the way, feel free to ask your friends if they know when Prosecco was first sold in London – you might become a party star, at least for one night. Cheers!
at Martha Washington hotel
29 E 29th St
New York, NY 10016