Piedmont: Braida “Montebruna” 2003


Piedmont: Braida “Montebruna” 2003

Montebruna: A hillside of vineyard land so loved that artists have written lyrical poetry of an encounter with the 100% Barbera wine called simply, beautifully, Montebruna.  In fact, the Montebruna bottle label is fashioned from words of the written poetry, for more on that see here:  http://www.braida.it/ita/montebruna.pdf .

The greatness of Giacomo Bologna, gifted winemaker and founder of Braida, lies at the heart of the Braida story.  Giacomo transformed Barbera production with a decision to mature Barbera in oak casks, a trend in Barbera production that continues today.

Sadly, Giacomo is gone now, but his work, his dream, is continued on by wife Anna and children Rafaella and Giuseppe.  We must also mention Braida Exports Manager Norbert Reinisch whom I’ve worked with on a few different
occasions, a wonderful person indeed, a former Austrian doctor whose passion for wine has led him both to Braida and Rafaella, his wife.

Montebruna is a lush wine, soft and “sexy” in the mouth, fragrant with fresh cherries and berries, and a long, almond toned finish.  A full bodied wine of great balance and class.  At this writing, the 2003 vintage is still drinking wonderfully.

The soil at Montebruna is a sandy, clay marl type with a south-southeast vineyard orientation at 250m altitude. Fermentation takes place in steel tubs over 2-3 weeks with pumping of must over the dregs.  Malolactic fermentation in wooden casks (6 months).  3 months fining in bottle.

Vintage Note:  Barbera especially benefitted in this vintage

Food pairing suggestions:  Risotto, polenta (especially with leek sauce) , agnolotti or gnocchi with sage & butter sauce, medium aged cheeses, onions stuffed with veal & breadcrumbs, hearty bread & cheese soup, classic “bagna cauda”

Italy, Recipe: Pasta with Broccoli Rapini


Italy, Recipe: Pasta with Broccoli Rapini

Take the stems off the broccoli rapini and boil for 8-10 minutes till soft.   Put your favorite pasta into boiling water.  Saute some garlic in good olive oil, drain the broccoli rapini, put in the oil / garlic, saute on low till the pasta is done or about 8 minutes.  Drain pasta, put into the broccoli rapini & oil, add some of the pasta cooking water, mix well.  Dress with grated pecorino cheese, maybe some red pepper flakes if you like them.

Spectacular with Vernaccia, Falanghina, Greco di Tufo

Italy, Recipe: Roast Pork with Rosemary & Garlic


Italy, Recipe: Roast Pork with Rosemary & Garlic

Pierce the meat the several places with a sharp knife and insert sprigs of rosemary and garlic.  Drizzle good olive oil over the top of the meat.  Slow roast in the oven at about 300 degrees till done.

Amazing with Chianti Classico, Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, Rosso di Montepulciano, or Super Tuscan.

Featured Producer: Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta

Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano 2006
Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano 2007

Eran d’ intorno violette e gigli
fra l’ erba verda, e vaghi fior novelli

Violets bloomed round about and lilies too
                In verdant grass and buds of every hue

                                                   ….ANGELO POLIZIANO, 1454-1494 *

Renaissance scholar and poet Angelo Poliziano, born in Montepulciano, is well known for having written exquisite prose with a great individuality of voice.  The wines of Montepulciano – Rosso di Montepulciano and Vino Nobile – like Poliziano, demonstrate a style and polish all their own, decidedly Tuscan, yet distinct from the wines of Chianti and Montalcino.

Both Rosso di Montepulciano  and Vino Nobile are made from predominately Prugnolo Gentile, a variety of Sangiovese local to Montepulciano, grown in the same area.  Of the two, Rosso di Montepulciano is the younger – 2 years aging for the Nobile versus 1 year for the Rosso – and is more expressively simple, being available for bottling the spring after harvest.

tenuta-gracciano-rossi-di-montepulcianoTenuta di Gracciano della Seta produces both Rosso di Montepulciano and Vino Nobile.  Vineyards lie at an altitude of about 300 meters with a southeasterly orientation and a loose clay and limestone soil.  The farm re-grafts its own vines to preserve their antique clone stock with the youngest vines being more than 20 years old.  4.5 hectares are dedicated to production of Rossi di Montepulciano. The estate ages its wines using a combination of French tonneaux and Slavonian oak.

Tasting Notes:

Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano 2006

Ruby colored and fresh, the Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano 2006 conveys with elegant simplicity scents of violet and cherry that continues on the palate and crescendo gently to finish.  Notes of licorice, menthol, rosemary, earth, leather, tobacco.  Medium body, solidly structured core.

Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano 2007

Medium ruby color with a perfume of red and black cherries, violets, with the black cherry introducing a slightly moodier feel in comparison to the 2006. On the palate, cherry, blackberry, subtle herb and menthol notes. Very well made, not overly complicated, but elegant and supple. Open bottle held up nicely over 2 days.

Food pairing suggestions:

Classic “pici”, pasta with red sauces, roast pork, roast chicken, rabbit, porcini mushrooms (especially stuffed and done on the grill), bruschetta, pizza

* translation by Lorna de’ Lucchi http://www.elfinspell.com/PolizianoPoem.html


Tuscany: Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva 2001

Azienda Agricola Casa Emma
Azienda Agricola Casa Emma

Tuscany: Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva 2001

“Chiaroscuro” is an art term relating to the effect of contrasting light and dark.  The Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 captures the idea perfectly, showing contrasting “chiaroscuro” light and dark flavors that give a dimension of wholeness and volume to the wine, and a character as elegant as the Toscana landscape.

Note:  To see an example of chiaroscuro, do an Image search on Google / Yahoo for “Giovanni Baglione, Sacred Love Versus Profane Love”.

Run by the Bucalossi family, the Casa Emma winery is located in the area of San Donato in Poggio.  The territory contains many hills in a somewhat rugged woodland.  Rain and snow characterize winter followed by a mild spring and a typical hot, dry Tuscan summer.

Interesting story: along with the universities of Florence and Modena,the family has created the Chianti Botanical Park – in Italian, Il Parco Botanico del Chianti – an area of 5 hectares dedicated to preserve and study flowers and trees of the Chianti zone. The park is open to the public for guided visits.  How cool is that?

The Casa Emma site, at 420 meters elevation, sees a slightly longer growing season which, along with aromatic influence from the black malvasia (5%) and typically scented sangiovese (95%), confers upong the wine an intoxicating perfume of Tuscan botanicals.  Of the 34 hectares land, 21 are under vineyard planting attributed primarily to Sangiovese, along with 3 hectares to Merlot and small swaths to Malvasia and Canaiolo.  Olive trees (3 hectares) and the Botanical Park (5 hectares) round out the rest of those 34 Casa Emma hectares.  Spurred Cordon is the growing system of choice at the estate.

Maturation takes place over 24 months in 500 litre French oak barrels, then 1 year of further refinement in bottle.

Sense of touch is one of this wine’s most provocative characteristics – sensual and soft in the mouth and on the finish.

Clearly a producer who cares about super grape quality.

Vintage Note: 2001, an outstanding year in Tuscany with wines generally maturing on the early side.

Food pairing suggestions:  roast / grilled meats (steak, pork loin, chicken if roasted), game meats ( I like wild boar, “cinghiale” in Italian, as well as duck, rabbit, quail, partridge),  Tuscan white beans with sausage sage and rosemary, pappardelle with meat sauce (with rabbit is exceptional),  pecorino toscano cheese, cured meats