Why Aren’t We Drinking More Cesanese?

Here we are at the weekend, and memory of the gorgeous IGT Rosso del Frusinate from Maria Ernesta Berucci enjoyed earlier in the week remains.

During technical tasting the wine impressed with its remarkable balance and great lift.

Afterward, tasted alongside charcuterie, young cheeses, and even fish baked with San Marzano tomatoes, capers, white wine and a generous dusting of za’atar, the wine showed great versatility, elevating every bite.

The delicate, heavenly balance Berucci achieved with this wine could be brutalized by any less talented producer applying a too heavy hand to the wood regime.

And so, Berucci sets an interesting benchmark with this wine.

I’m looking forward to tasting more from this producer.

Meanwhile, considering the excellent value for money represented here, I have to wonder: why aren’t we drinking more Cesanese?

Tasting Note:
Captivating, delicate perfume of fresh red cherries, flowers, and ever-so-subtle notes of spice. Flavorsome and nectar-like on the palate, the wine is lightly tannic, one reason it worked well with the fish.

Tavoleto: A Tuscan Chardonnay Speaks

It is true that my center of Italian wine gravity revolves around Italy’s native wine grapes. That is to say, I am typically not a great fan of Italian wines made with international grape varieties.

But, there are exceptions.

I was touched, if not a bit fascinated, by the wine known as Tavoleto (Toscana IGT), a small production 100% Chardonnay made by Campotondo, a producer working in the area of Tuscany’s Campiglia d’Orcia.

I appreciate this wine as much for what it isn’t, as for what it is. Tavoleto manages to avoid the usual clichés associated with Italian wines made from international grape varieties.

Enjoyably fat on the palate, Tavoleto’s fruit is in good measure in both aroma and flavor, backed by notes of ginger powder and white flowers. Light tannic friction against the wine’s creaminess gives massive sensation-appeal.

Indeed Tavoleto has a voice of its own and speaks with identity of the area, not an easy thing for a white wine, let alone one made with an international grape variety, to accomplish where surrounded by a bastion of traditional Tuscan red wine production.

The possibility that Tavoleto may point a new way forward, a new direction for the category, has indeed crossed my mind.

Roberto Di Filippo: Nature as Philosophy

I can’t help but to admire many of the wine producers I meet. They are often multi-talented renaissance men and women, gifted farmers, winemakers, naturalists and entrepreneurs. Their passion, dedication and love for what they do is staggering.

Winemaker Roberto Di Filippo is no exception.

Having made the choice to work organically/biodynamically, Di Filippo’s tradition of cultivation respects the balance between man and nature.

At a recent meetup with DiFilippo at Il Buco in NYC, I tasted a wonderful flight of his wines including those from his winery in Romania, la Sapata (who knew!). Standouts included the DiFilippo label Sagrantino and Trebbiano Spoletino wines, both of which I adored for their rich perfumes and flavors. From the producer’s la Sapata label, a tasting of Babeasca Neagra – a first for me – captured my attention with its harmonic, velvety palate.

Podere Albiano and Enrico Paolucci

The gorgeous bottle labels adorning Podere Albiano’s wines were created by Pienza painter-sculptor Enrico Paolucci. Albiano’s Ciriè and Trìbolo labels are based on Paolucci’s original artwork series of Val d’ Orcia and communicate the emotion of the Val d’ Orcia’s territory and wines. Albiano’s equally emotional Trìbolo, one of my Albiano favs, is made of 100% Sangiovese fermented in Slavonian oak vats. You can read about my visit to Orcia DOC here. Forgive the unfortunate mis-typing of “Albiano” in the article’s tasting note. To learn more about Enrico Paolucci click here.

Who created the gorgeous labels for Podere Albiano wines? Link in profile. #OrciaDOC

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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.