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Bottles/Tuscany

Vintrospective is voted by Ville in Italia as 2014 Top 15 Italian Wine Blog

Do you think about the place where your bottle of Italian wine came from, who made it, how it was made?  If you stop to consider these things you will begin to taste the unique cultural message which Italian wine offers.  The wine will tell you about the land where it was created.  It will invite you to drink the traditions and histories of the people that made it. That is good wine.  It’s always been like this, more or less.

Some would have you believe that understanding Italian wine is a technical undertaking.  It’s not like that, believe me.  It is impossible to understand Italian wine without an awareness of the culture, people and place that created it.   Only after we have a sense of these things does the technical stuff add value.

That its wine regions are beautifully different, distinct and many is Italy’s strength and its difficulty.  Her dazzling array of wines will both charm and bewilder you.  I suggest one approach: get to know Italian wine by your own sensory perceptions and experiences: you will create a real, personal wine culture independent of the professional wine press.

Don’t worry;  the wines have their own way of deciding the itinerary for you…  Are you coming?

The Pumpkin Assault Is On

The pumpkin assault is on.

Pumpkin flavored coffee. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin hummus, for God’s sake.

In other words, the autumn / winter holiday season is in full swing.

Time-honored wine wisdom gives guidance for breaking out the big reds during cold weather months.
But, that’s not the only way to roll, friends.

Sparkling wines, particularly Prosecco, bring elegance and food-pairing versatility to a wide variety of holiday meals.

And guess what? Prosecco’s profile of apple, pear, and citrus pairs wonderfully with the season’s ubiquitous pumpkin flavors.

So gather your tarts, pies, cookies and crisps, friends. Let the pumpkin flavor flow. The season’s pumpkin-y delectables deserve to be enjoyed with some good Prosecco.

Prosecco Brut is dry, light, refreshing, the more modern, international of the Prosecco styles. The fruit-forward quality of this style will balance out the richness of most pumpkin-based desserts. It is also exceptional with most savory holiday dishes.

Extra Brut (Extra Dry) is a good complement to the natural sweetness of pecan and apple which often accompany pumpkin. Not as dry as Brut, Extra Brut Prosecco can balance out the sweeter desserts (generally speaking, your wine should match the sweetness profile of the dessert). It also pairs well with cheeses, pasta, seafood and meat, especially poultry.

The Dry style of Prosecco is sweetest of all and your best ticket for hot and spicy holiday dishes.

It’s no wonder Prosecco has become an increasingly popular pairing partner year-round, not just for holidays or special celebrations.

Note: Pictured wines received as samples.

For Those Who Haven’t Given Up On Great Barolo at a Reasonable Price

If ye are of sufficient faith to be holding your spend for great Barolo at an affordable price, then you would do well to navigate yourself in the direction of the nearest bottle of Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2013. One of the great young Barolo wines I’ve come across of late, Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2013 lives up to praise bestowed upon the 2013 Barolo vintage as one that will be remembered for wines of great finesse. Aromatic and textured, showing good depth, along with expected notes of tar and roses, finishing with graceful, silky tannins. The wine is pure pleasure even now. This is one that neither the Nebbiolo-curious nor Barolo junkies will want to miss.

*provided as sample

All Aboard: Ciù Ciù

The somewhat unfamiliar denominations of (Rosso) Piceno DOC and Marche IGT undoubtedly present a an upstream paddle in terms of consumer recognition for a couple memorable Italian wines I tasted recently.

The producer name Ciù Ciù – yep, like the train sound – on the other hand, may issue enough memory-provoking power to generate eons of consumer recall.

Ciù Ciù, a family run winery located in Italy’s Marche, works with indigenous red varieties Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Lacrima, as well as international grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Ciù Ciù also has a white wine catalog based on the likes of home team white grape varieties such as Passerina, Verdicchio, Pecorino, and Trebbiano, and a couple of the usual white international grape suspects. The estate’s red and white varieties also lend their particular respective talents to Ciù Ciù’s rose and sparkling bottlings.

Interestingly, Ciù Ciù’s press sheet indicates that winery is vegan certified. From the 2014 vintage, the press sheet states, their wines bear the Vegan logo on the back label, indicating that the wines are suitable for vegans. The certification warranties that during the entire production cycle no ingredients, agents, manufacturing related products, etc., of animal origin or tested on animals are used. Nor does the winery use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), according to the press sheet.

Ciù Ciù also carries an organic certification. Again, according to the press sheet, the “…protocol excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and rely on low yield per acre as well as on ripening curves to establish the right harvest time. Through a strong use of the “cold” technology, we manage to keep our grapes healthy and can avoid adding sulfites until the very end bottling process.”

The certifications are good stuff, providing the wines are, well, something to write about.

And they are.

I put a couple of bottles (note: received as samples) through their paces in a technical tasting and at table.

Ciù Ciù’s Bacchus, a bottling under the Piceno DOC, is simply joyous, full of harmony, and performs exceedingly well at table. A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, the wine is full-bodied enough for cheesy eggplant parmigiana, yet, the wine’s gentle tannins pair well with more delicate food plates as well. Bonus: it’s affordable. The kind of wine one wishes retail shops would make more broadly available.

The winery’s Oppidum, a deep, voluptuous red produced as Marche IGT Rosso, is lush with layers of ripe black cherry, herb, coffee, cigar smoke, and cocoa. Finishes with rich, sweet tannins and a savory lick of salty minerality. 100% Montepulciano, 30% of the wine is aged in barriques, 70% in 10 HL barrels.

Wine, Style, Fashion Collide Celebrating 20 Vintages of Falesco Montiano at Kiton NYC

As 2016 was sliding to a close, the elements of style, grace, elegance and good taste seemed nowhere to be found on the US national stage. Which is, in part, why raising a toast to honor the 20th vintage of Falesco’s flagship wine Montiano stood out in the moment.

The Cotarella family of Falesco winery and the Paone family of Kiton Bespoke Clothing, a master of the Italian art of fashion, joined forces to provide a vertical tasting of the famed wine at Kiton NYC, alongside Kiton’s immaculate designs. Yes, the wines gave good testimony to the fame and acclaim they have earned. But, we’ll get to that soon enough.

Indulge me, first, to note that the evening’s gracious hospitality and stylish presentations were not only perfect backdrops for the elegant expression of the Montiano wines. They also just happened to give a gentle reminder that civilized living, in some regard, is, well… a matter of good taste.

Interestingly, “civilized living” is one descriptor I might use to convey an impression of Falesco’s Montiano. Simply said, the wine is so elegantly done that one cannot help but reflect on civilized living when tasting it. Produced from 100% Merlot, Montiano was first released in 1993, a result of work done by Riccardo Cotarella, aka “Mr. Merlot”(Gambero Rosso), during the ‘80s. In their production zone in Italy’s Lazio, Montiano grapes reach a high level of ripeness which contributes to the wine’s fine balance. Grown on volcanic soil rich in rock, the grapes are sourced from an old, naturally low-yielding vineyard and undergo rigorous selection before undergoing stainless steel fermentation followed by aging in French barrique.

The evening’s wines – vintages 2001, 20015, 2010, 2013 – all showed great depth with gorgeous layers of ripe red fruit, notes of spice and cocoa. Sensual and refined, the wines were a pleasure to hold in the mouth.


I include several photos here because most folks can still use a dose of elegance, grace, style … and good taste … at the moment. I hope you enjoy them.





Hats off to Teuwen Communications NYC for a wonderful evening of wine, style, brilliant concept and great execution.

Three Attention-Grabbing Wines from Castello Gabiano

One of the most interesting wines that have come my way of late hails from one of Italy’s smallest DOCs. Indeed, some sources note Gabiano DOC as Italy’s smallest, in fact.

Castello Gabiano’s “A Matilde Giustiniani”, a wine dedicated to Princess Matilde Giustiniani, who last century restored the castle to its former glory, communicates with emotion and personality. The wine is 95% Barbera with 5% addition of Freisa, and speaks in a language of ripe dark berry fruit with notes of spice and baker’s chocolate. The wine is soft in the mouth, with impressively supple tannins and a finish that is in no hurry to leave you.

Gabiano’s Barbera d’Asti “La Braja”, perhaps a more typical Barbera, is a wine that brings enjoyment and interest to the dinner table on any given evening. The massively food friendly “La Braja” is produced from 100% Barbera grapes and is given refining time 60% in cement and 40% in big wood. La Braja showed notes of fresh red fruit with hints of spice and tobacco, and over the course of a couple evenings, never once lost its fine balance.

“Il Ruvo”, Gabiano’s Grignolino that is produced under the Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC, is an absolute gem. Made with 100% Grignolino, one of Italy’s excellent though less well-known native grape varieties, Il Ruvo is a lighter red that weighs in big with complex aromatics and flavor. It can be a great pairing for everything from blue fish to poultry to cured meats and cheeses, one reason that if I were headed out for a romantic picnic, I would be packing this bottle along in the picnic basket.
Not as widely available as an interested consumer might like, however, you can use winesearcher.com or similar to get a handle on where to locate these wines.

Note: wines provided as samples.

Stealing the New Year’s Eve Show: Sagrantino

A quick check of our local weather forecast feels as if mother nature will set the tone heading into New Year’s Eve weekend: “Accumulating snow across the high terrain…overspreading the region…”.

No complaints. Firewood is split and stacked. And anyway, I’m in the mood for a cozy winter night of celebration to welcome in 2017.

Top of mind, a warming, hearty menu full of savory rich flavors seems apropos and the wine should follow suit.

img_6503From the Montefalco region of Umbria in central Italy, the Sagrantino grape is not only indigenous to the area, but has a rather ancient record of growing there according to knowers of local tradition. The name Sagrantino, some believe, derives from the Italian sagra, meaning feast, a fact that resonates during the festive time of New Year celebrations. The variety produces a wine of the same name, known to be Italy’s most tannic wine and with a quality of tannin that is remarkably polished, a distinction making the wines of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (made with 100% Sagrantino grapes) truly unique.

Combining power and elegance, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wines show good complexity and sturdy tannins and have the stuffing to cut the richness of, say, a tender filet mignon, to create a harmonic blend of flavors. Pairing classic sides such as creamed spinach and truffle mashed potatoes with of a glass of Sagrantino will surely not disappoint.

img_6507To ring in the New Year with a proper toast of good bubbles is tradition, no doubt. But, for the main event at table – a decadent, celebratory menu featuring roasted meats with all the trimmings – Sagrantino’s power, elegance, and beautifully tannic personality will steal the show.

Broccatelli Galli Montefalco Sangrantino 2010

Loads of bramble-berry fruit, notes of savory herb, balanced spice, plenty of smooth, luxurious tannins to finish.

Note: Wine sample provided.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé

In some strange and decidedly unscientific way, there are two kinds of wine.

There are those wines that make you forget; streets you’ve walked down, dirty, wide or narrow, unique as they are, houses you’ve lived in and how you were rich or poor in them, stones you’ve thrown into the water as a barefoot child, what is real and what is false.

Then there are the wines that make you dream; visions of great cities and palaces, sailing routes across ancient seas, golden mosaics, secret passageways, the ruined and the glorious.

Every once and a while, you find a wine whose emotional impact makes you do both.

Ben Rye, Donnafugata, Jose Rallo

Such is the case with Ben Ryé, a naturally sweet white wine from the island of Pantelleria, produced by Donnafugata.

Named from Arabic for “Son of the Wind”, in reference to the constant wind sweeping Pantelleria’s grape clusters, Ben Ryé is produced from the native Italian wine grape known as Zibibbo or Moscato di Alessandria.

Grown in volcanic, mineral rich soil at altitudes between 20 and 400 meters, grapes are selected and hand-harvested into crates, and undergo a period of withering. Fermentation is carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel tank. Dried grapes, de-stemmed and hand-selected, are added to fresh must in batches. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 7 months followed by an additional 12 months in bottle.

I’ve been fortunate to experience Ben Ryé on many occasions, and recently, while in Verona at Vinitaly 2016, I had an opportunity to taste Ben Ryé poured by José Rallo of Donnafugata, with time for a photo as well.

Tasting Note:

Honeyed fig and apricot, orange peel, citrus, caramel and pistachio nut, Mediterranean scrub bush. Remarkably balanced, penetrating harmony and unique freshness. Insanely long finish. An excess of deliciousness.

Enjoy Ben Ryé with desserts like ricotta-filled cannoli or as an accompaniment to quiet time … reading, listening to music, falling in love … and certainly … to forgetting and dreaming 😉

Fattoria Fibbiano: A Star Rising

After a busy day at SLOW WINE 2016, I met up with wine producer Matteo Cantoni to settle back in a friend’s New York City apartment and taste some new vintages along with a new wine from his estate Fattoria Fibbiano, a rising star among wineries from the hills around Pisa.

“The only rule is that there are no rules”, explained Cantoni partway through the tasting about producing good wine.

fibbiano, cantoniRuminating on that bit of vino philosophy, I paused to again fill my nose with the scent of *Fonte delle Donne 2014, Fibbiano’s new white wine, striking in its aromatic complexity for a white wine from Tuscany – mineral, savory, saline, detailed, wafting scents of apple, marvelously fresh. The wine is produced from 50% Colombana, 50% Vermentino. Cantoni explains that the vine roots go deep into sandy soil enriched with sea shells conferring to the grapes body and aromatic complexity.

We tasted new vintages of Fibbiano’s reds, too, wines I admire and have written about before: the estate’s Le Pianette 2013 IGT, a 70/30 blend of Sangiovese and Colorino impressed with easy, elegant drinkability; Casalini 2013 Chianti Superiore, with its arousing bouquet, is a unique take on Sangiovese with an addition of 20% of Ciliegiolo, full in the mouth, delicious acidity; L’Aspetto 2012 IGT, 50/50 Sangiovese and Canaiolo, is energetic, deep, intense, yet smooth in the mouth and final tannins, remarkably fresh; red, rich and ripe, Fibbiano’s Ceppatella 2011 IGT is a 100 percent Sangiovese mouthful of warm velvet finishing with persistent recollections of cherry, leather and tobacco.

fibbiano fonte delle donneWe tasted more. Talked more. As the evening wore on, I slowly got my brain around what Cantoni meant by the “only rule is no rules” comment: mindless repetition of what was done last year doesn’t necessarily achieve good wine results this year. A producer needs to be open to finding the best way to meet the current vintage, to be in the ‘moment’ of that vintage, to work without being limited by formula.

I haven’t yet met Nicola Cantoni, Matteo’s brother and obviously talented winemaker at Fibbiano, but it will be fun to perhaps hear his take on that conversation at some point.

In any case, whatever the approach at Fibbiano, it is clearly on target as the wines are … astonishingly good.

*Fonte delle Donne is a great introduction to the area and to the estate. Planned availability, I’m told, is for early March in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

You can read more about Fibbiano and find more detailed tasting notes in my recent article Expressive Sangiovese from the Hills of Pisa.