Malvasia Puntinata is easily recognized by its lovely dots
My Top 9 of 2013
On Grapes and Grandfathers
Roèt Vendemmia 2013
Buon Vendemmia a tutti!
There are a lot of weeds in most of the organic vineyards in the Castelli Romani. This is because it was an extremely wet year and letting the grass and weeds grow helped the vines not get bogged down
Malvasia Puntinata: Base grape of almost all Castelli Romani whites
Roberto, the Ro of Roèt
One of the oldest ways to make wine…
A row of Bellone, it gives the Castelli wines softness.
p.s. Roèt is the combined efforts of ROberto and ETtore. Made from Laziale grapes that are grown organicially and fermented with the skins with indigenous yeasts. No sulphites added. This is a traditional farmer’s wine, a pure natural wine made made with nature and hardwork.
Back in a Few…
Beyond Rome: The Products of Lazio
3/5 of a whole
Last week I joined Hande, Irene and Theo for a fun evening of wine and oil tasting hosted by AIS. The theme for the evening was Lazio. As a Lazio food and wine aficionado I was looking forward to trying products from producers I had never tried before.
Most of the wine producers I was already familiar with, but there were a few surprises. I arrived late, so the event was already fueled by inebriated people. I think we spent more time talking than tasting, but it was a good time, and I got to taste olive oil from 2000+ year old olive trees.
I caught up with them by making the rounds of Frascati. No surprises on that account. Frascati is one of my favorite wines, but you know, been there done that. I still haven’t had a better Frascati than what is made by the cantina Castel de Paolis.
While many people flocked to the Casale del Giglio table, we decided to concentrate our efforts on the Cesanese grape and there were some wonderful surprises. Cesanese is a local grape that is native to Lazio. Most famous in Cesanese del Piglio, it is a grape that has a lot of potential. It does well in the volcanic soils of Lazio, has lovely dark fruit aromas and can be very expressive and complex. Some of the producers really know how to handle this native grape, and others failed by using way too much wood. I am not a fan of wines that have an offensive amount of oak. I like to get a sense of the grape, the terroir and the winemaker’s skills. I suppose you could say that overusing oak is an indication of lack of winemaking skills, but then again, many winemakers make a variety of products for different audiences. The international palate likes big, jammy fruit bomb with lots of sweet and spicy aromas from oak. New World style. Me? I like a wine with depth and layers. Oak should be like makeup. Minimal use to enhance beauty that is already there, not to cover up perceived flaws.
The event wasn’t a serious tasting. We had fun and had the opportunity to meet some producers that give me a sense of hope for the future of Lazio in the world of wine. I even met a neighbor that lives less about 500m away from me and where they make easy to drink wines and lovely olive oil. Funny that I walk by their property quite often and I’ve never said hello. I volunteered myself to help with the harvest at my favorite wine producers of the evening, Damiano Ciolli.
Though I have my disagreements with AIS and their method, I am happy that they host events like this. Having so many producers in one place rather than having to go out and search for them myself is really useful.
Did I mention I tasted olive oil made from trees that are over 2000 years old? Where am I?
Future Wine Lovers
Sometimes, only sometimes, we encounter young people that are extraordinary. These people give us old people hope for the future. In this case, my last group of wine students was so fantastic, smart and talented I wanted to cry when I said goodbye. As a group they were inquisitive about the overall culture of wine and its place in Italian culture in general. They studied, did awesome and creative projects and, in the end, I was the one learning from them. I’ve been a grumpy youth hater for far too long. I guess it is just disheartening that many college age students cannot put a sentence together, seem disinterested in the world around them, are plugged into their devices but tuned out of the world around them. Not so this group. They were articulate, funny, knowledgeable and open to new experiences. Their energy was infectious. These are the future wine lovers of America, and we as wine professionals need to embrace their curiosity, open ourselves to learning about innovative and new happenings in the wine world. They are coming out into the world with more wine knowledge than most 20-21 year olds; they’ve made the connection between wine and local culture, wine and health, wine and finance, and, their place in this world. My students met my colleagues and they were all impressed. As my friend Hande from Vino Roma said about one in particular, “That boy renowned my belief in the future – so good to know there are 21 yr. olds (well, at least one!) out there who are smart, athletic, artistically inclined & talented, well-behaved… and good looking 😉 The human kind shall persevere!” Indeed!In Frascati
If you guys are reading this, bless you all. You ALL have rehabilitated my faith in the future.
Wonderful fruity aromas
Tastes like Puglia
Mr. Champagne with the ladies
Wine Tasting in Rome
A guest of Ettore’s just posted this photo on his Facebook page, so I thought I would share. Not only do you learn about the fascinating world of Italian wine, you have fun while meeting fellow guests who share in an interest in wine. When in Rome, join us for a great night and drink wine like the Roman’s do!
Bibenda Day 2012
I haven’t had much time for wine tasting lately. I am studying for the Rome Guide Exam and it is more or less taking over my life. I’ve attended a few tastings with our ladies tasting group and, recently, Bibenda Day at the Hotel Cavalieri. I’ve posted about other tastings and events hosted by AIS on this blog, so I’ll spare you the details on what they are about. These tastings are a great way to taste a great amount of wine in one space and get to know the regions and producers you really like without having to travel 100s of kilometers.
This years 46th Bibenda Day was a 2 day celebration of the organization in Rome with 430 produces of wine and food from all over Italy. They also had special conference with winemakers in Italy and abroad. I signed up for two, but due to a transportation strike and a mistake on my part I could not attend the Valentini tasting. I did have the pleasure of not only taste some of the wines of Josko Gravner, I was able to spend two hours listening to him speak about his life, his approach to wine and his dear father. You can read in more detail here at Katie Parla’s blog
The Tasting Room
Some of the delicious food
Benanti pour-beautiful wines with tons of mineality and very lively
Benanti pour-beautiful wines with tons of mineality and very lively
Copper wines of great complexity and intensity
Breg 2005 (blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling)
Why this color? Even though they are made with “white” grapes he ferments with the skins which not only extracts color but tannins, which give these wines longevity. Conventional wines differ because red wines are fermented with the skins of dark grapes white wines are white because they are fermented without skins. The also extracts intense aromas and flavors.
When you go to an AIS tasting,don’t forget your suit.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a very special and exclusive tasting at the Roman headquarters for AIS at the Hotel Cavalieri on Monte Mario. I signed up last minute so I could join sommeliers-in-training and local food and wine guides Gina Tringali and Irene de Vette for a vertical tasting of Borgogno, a cantina that has been making very special Barolo since 1761. Our tasting went back to 1961, and I felt each year we went back in time the wines became stronger and more expressive. Vertical tastings like these are a great opportunity to get to know a particular cantina, but also give individuals the oppurtunity to taste back vintages that we might not otherwise have the opportunity to taste.
The lovely Gina Tringali and Irene de Vette
Me with Andrea Farinetti-He is so cute!
After a brief introduction by Franco Ricci, the young and talented Andrea Farinetti took the microphone and gave us a great explanation of the slow process of wine making at Borgogno. I couldn’t help but giggle. He looked about 12 and I was sure he had braces on. In my ageist attitude I was saying to myself, “What can this little chump possibly have to say of interest?” A lot, it turns out. We learned that Borgogno wines, with Andrea at the head, are Slow Wines. Though from 1996-2011 they used more conventional methods in wine making, such as selected yeasts, Andrea has made the cantina take a turn for the better. Starting with the 2012 vintage, they started to use only ambient yeast, they use concrete barrels, they are looking back to traditional Barolo wine making, and that is something I can get behind. Andrea is a truly exceptional man, and I am happy there are young people out there in the world of wine who are passionate about tradition, sustainability, and want to care for their inheritance in a careful manner.
Musky, chocolate, something green, forest aromas, mature red fruits, complex sweet aromas and spices like nutmeg, citrus, smokiness, pink roses, tobacco, chestnuts, cacao, candied fruits, over all a complex array of aromas ranging from fruits to spices. Its taste was ethereal. Dry and dynamic, bursting with flavor, still very fresh but mature, very well balanced, bitter citrus, long and smooth silky tannins, well integrated tannins, never ending fruity finish with a touch of salinity. Remarkable smooth but robust tannins. In the words of Paolo, “A Symphony.”
Borgogno Barolo Riserva 1961DOCG
A lovely brick red. Very evolved aromas of cherries and prunes, floral notes, salinity, tertiary aromas of menthol and balsamic notes, mint, camphor, juniper. Very delicate, like a pinot noir. No wood, fresh, honey aromas, almonds, dry red berries, something barnyard, like horse sweat (my favorite) It has surprisingly robust tannins, still very tactile and fresh, saline, warm and fruity. Excellent evolution for a wine that is over 50 years old. Wonderful.
Great Books on Wine
In the interests of keeping this blog going after a brief taco eating hiatus, I just wanted to share some of my favorite wine books that I think offer a lot for both the novice and expert
Let me say, however, that I think the only way to ever really get to know wine is to actually drink it. That being said, reading about wine from another’s perspective can really teach us a lot about what we do not already know and affirm what we do.
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil is the book I most often use for research or to look something up. It is kind of like an encyclopedia except it is divided into regions. The introduction is essential reading for the beginners as it has tons of information on everything from history to winemaking to wine culture itself. I find myself coming back to the introduction over and over again. This book has been particularly helpful for me when I am researching non Italian winemaking regions. Anyone who studies wine knows that Burgundy is the greatest and most difficult wine area to understand, and this book has made that journey slightly less difficult. This book is more for reference than a page turner. Useful for any wine library.
Great book for wine tasting basics
I do not even know where to begin with this book. It changed my life. It threw me a wine curveball. Alice Feiring faces the greatest enemy known to the world of wine and that is the industrialization/globalization and Parkerization of the world palate. This globalization in wine has made winemakers make Bordeaux style wines in places that they were never made before. She writes about authentic wines by weaving her own life experiences into a wonderful tale of mystery and intrigue. This is not a reference book but an experience. After I read this book I started doing my own research in wines. I knew what wines I enjoyed and which I didn’t, and I began to question what was actually in my wines and how they were made. This goes beyond the new fashion of organic grapes and biodynamic farming practices. Authentic wines are wines that are the definition of terroir driven wines. Wines I like. I want to know the winemaker, the land, and I want the wine to tell a story. Only, I wish I could tell a story as well as Ms. Feiring in The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization