Calabria: Statti Gaglioppo 2007

statti-gaglioppo-2007-thumb1Calabria:  Statti Gaglioppo 2007 IGT Calabria

Were you to have won your Olympic Games event, the Ancient Greeks would have rewarded you with gallons of Gaglioppo to refresh your body and mind.  But I am guessing we can introduce you to Gaglioppo with considerably less exertion.

It was the ancient Greeks who first brought the art of wine making to Calabria, naming the region “Enotria Tellus”, meaning Land of Wine.  Although Calabria has had a great running start, she has been somewhat unhurried to establish a strong regional wine industry.  Only the reds of the Cirò have been getting on the radar internationally or, for that matter, even in Italy.

Statti, a family winery run by brothers Alberto and Antonio, is setting out to begin changing that fact. The brothers have taken on the task of restoring the wines of Calabria to “…the prestige that they enjoyed in Ancient times, when our land was called Enotria and was the cradle of ancient wines.”   The Statti are of the mind that “good wine is made in the vineyard”.  Basing their entire redevelopment strategy on this philosopy, they appear committed to apply the resources and research, both in the vineyard and in the winery, necessary to achieve their objective.

Gaglioppo, the principle grape of Calabria, produces wines of casual sophistication, full bodied and low in tannins.  Gaglioppo should be enjoyed young (1-3 years).

The production zone of Lamezia Terme runs the west side of Calabria’s “instep” between Cantanzaro and the Tyrrhenian Sea.  The region is characteristically very warm encouraging ripened grapes and wines with good body and alchohol.

Vineyards are located around Setteventi, so colorfully named because of its strong sea breezes.  The effect on the microclimate is positive:  mildew and fungus are not happy with this condition.  Therefore, Statti is able to use environment friendly techniques in the vineyards.  Vineyard soil composition is stony and of medium texture. 

Traditional fermentation is carried out at controlled temperature (mid 70’s, farenheit).

Tasting Notes:

The Statti Gaglioppo 2007 shows a medium ruby color and vivid aromatics of ripe cherries and strawberries mingled with violets.  The palate is full bodied, plummy and jam-like, and appealingly fresh, with good acid and soft tannins that never get out of balance.

Food pairing suggestions: peppers and onions with or without sausage, grilled meats, pasta, eggplant parmigiana, pizza.  ** Try this wine cooled down a bit and paired with fish esp. swordfish with tomatoes and olives. Low in tannins, you can also enjoy this wine at a slightly cooler temperature with spicy Asian / Indian dishes.     $

Italy – Cultural Identity and Tradition

In your enthusiam to understand Italy you might desire a shortcut, a common theme, a unifying “national identity”, anything, to tie it all conveniently together for instantaneous consumption.  Don’t try.  That “Italy” does not exist.

Before a unified kingdom of Italy came into being in 1861, the territory was a medley of states each with its own separate and distinct history, traditions, social, economic, and cultural norms.  For many Italians, loyalty to ones local area is still the focus.

Borrowing on the concept from Christopher Duggan, in his good book “A Concise History of Italy”, one way to consider Italy is as a “geographical expression” of many different nations within one country rather than as a place with one collective national flavor.

The concept of local vs. national identity is reflected in the way most Italians themselves think about their cultural identity and tradition:  Italians identify first with their village.  And then – and in order of importance – the province, the region, and finally, country.  But, no matter what – in Italy, family always comes first !

Piedmont: Featured Producer – Icardi, A Piedmont Mosaic

Mosaic artists of infinite patience have long decorated interiors and architectural spaces throughout Italy.  Piecing together small bits of stone, “smalti” in Italian, mosaics tell of their ancient stories and perhaps envision future ones.  A mosaic of Piedmont varietal and terrior, the wines of Icardi reveal to us the past and remind us of the present with impeccable flavor and style.

Early during the 1960’s, while Beatles’ fans screamed and the space race heated up, Cav. Pierino reached a decision to vinify his grapes instead of selling them.  Here was laid the first stone, the first “smalti”, of a family philosophy that would build upon the idea of consistent research and a commitment to quality.

The Icardi enterprise is centered around Castiglione Tinella, a town located where the borderlands of two infamous Piemonte terriors, Langhe and Monferrato, coincide.  Within these municipalities 75 hectares of Icardi vineyards are spread out over different sites.  Organic and biodynamic farming practices are employed demonstrating a remarkable conscience for sustaining healthy land.  Quality, both in the vineyard and in the glass, remains the cornerstone of the Icardi mentality.

Today, Icardi heirs Claudio and Mariagrazia are the driving force behind Icardi wines.  Their working relationship shows the same harmony and balance as do their wines:  Claudio, an oenologist, concentrates on vineyard & cellar operations; Mariagrazia focuses attention upon trade and also works in the cellar.

Tasting Notes:

laurora2-thumbCortese l’Aurora 2007
The color of summer hay, this wine has enough body to balance cortese grapes’ crisp acidity.  Delicate hints of apples and flowers on the nose, satisfyingly dry with a twist of lemon on the finish.  Made of 100% manually harvested, guyot trained cortese from 35 year old vines at 280 meters altitude.  Fermentation carried out over 3 weeks in stainless steel.  The 2007 should be drinking well all the way through 2010.  Food pairing suggestions:  The perfect wine for assorted appetizers and first plates of pasta with butter and sage; chicken, turkey, or seafood salads; grilled vegetables.

rousori_sm1Dolcetto D’alba Rousori 2004
A kaleidoscope of reflective color in the glass, reddend glints of garnet and flecks of pomegranate.  Aromas of blackberry jam on toast, cherry pie.  Ripe tannins, moderate acidity, with a rich, velvety mouthfeel.  Almond and spice on the finish.  100% dolcetto, manually harvested, from 45 year old Guyot trained vines in calcareous soil at 300 meters altitude.  Fermentation carried out over 20 days in stainless steel.  Should be drinking well to 2010.  Food pairing suggestions:  this is one of those incredibly flexible wines that marry well with almost everything on the table, but especially with risotto, bagna cauda, pasta with meat sauce, soft cheeses,  stewed or grilled meats.

suridimu_smBarbera D’alba “Suri di Mu” 2005
A finely crafted nose of berry and spice wafts up from gorgeously ruby red molecules of goodness.  The fullness of the wine’s body immediately fills the mouth with a wave of balanced fruit and tannins.  Round, firmly structured with lots of character and style and an impeccably clean, fruity finish.  100% barbera from 50 year old vines hand harvested from the “Suri di Mu” vineyard.  Vinified with soft pressing and a long fermentation / maceration in contact with skins.  An 18 month rest in new barrique follows.  Should be drinking well till 2015-2018.  Food pairing suggestions:  this very versatile wine works well with pasta, cheese, hearty soups, but also try this wine with game birds, meat stuffed onions, hearty risotto, polenta casserole with pork & vegetable.

surisjvan_smSURISJVAN Nebbiolo Langhe 2003
This wine is to Barolo what Rosso di Montalcino is to Brunello.  But closer.  Expressive impressions of tar, cherries, pressed roses, and violets and that somewhat mysterious, elegant, soulful, melancholy perfume of good nebbiolo.  Traditional vinification of 100 % guyot trained nebbiolo grapes from south/southwest facing vineyards at 300 meters altitude.  Frequent pinch-downs and pump-ups.  Matured in new barrique for 18 months.  Named after Claudio’s son, SURISJVAN means “Evan’s Smile”.  SURISJVAN should drink well till 2012-2014.  Food pairing suggestions:  meat stews, braised beef, cheese fondu, roast lamb, pasta.

montubert_smBarbaresco “Montubert” 2004
For me, Barbarseco plays the seductive role to Barolo’s ethereal mystery.  Here is an excellent expression of a vivid, seductive Barbaresco with bright raspberry and blackberry fruit, jammy and rich, with an earthy, complex finish.  Fresh, floral perfume on the nose.  Firm tannins.  Maturation in new barrique for 30 months after having started life facing south/southwest at 280 meters in calcareous marn.  Guyot trained, manually harvested from 40 year old vines located in vineyards @ Montubert – Nieve.  Drinking well till 2012-2013.  Food pairing suggestions: Slow cooked red meats and game, hearty stews and casseroles, veal cutlets with stuffed with melted cheese, middle ripe cheeses.

parej_smBarolo “Parej” 1997
Permit me a digression in order to make a point:  We must begin in an unusual place – a 120 year old tobacco shop still in the original storefront across from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, where I sometimes stop to uncover large glass jars of pipe tobaccos and enjoy the rich aromas of cherry, wood, smoke, blackberry, to name a few.

The Point:  Barolo “Parej” is an impressionistic synonym for that heady experience.  Aromas of cherried tobacco, blackberry jam and spice wind their way out of the glass, following through to a palate full of clean and pure friut.  Tannins are so big and round you’d think they were wrapped around the autumn moon for shaping.  A long, soft, comtemplative finish that slowly, hauntingly fades away.  Enjoy till 2015 give or take a year.  100% nebbiolo grown in the calcareous marn of south facing vineyards at 380 meters.  Up to 36 months in new barrique.

Food pairing suggestions:  Roasted meats and game, Beef “Brasato al Barolo”,  truffled risotto, mature cheeses

Italy, Recipe: Comfort Food, Pasta e Fagioli

I am feeling like a little bit of comfort food today.  In my family that often means Pasta e Fagioli.  Most of you will know this dish of pasta and beans.  I have been eating pasta e fagioli all my life!

My grandfather often cooked pasta e fagioli for me when I was a young boy.  We’d eat it together using big spoons right out of the pot he cooked it in.  He told the same story every time:  how when his work crew would be gone for days at a time, they’d cook simple pasta e fagioli on a wood stove or fire to eat for their evening meal.

This simple meal has its origins in poverty but we never thought of it that way. There are endless local “styles” of pasta e fagioli, some with tomato sauce, some with broth only.  Today, you can find Pasta e Fagioli on the menu of upscale Italian restaurants.  My grandfather would be incredibly amused by this 😉

Here’s how to make it:

INGREDIENTS:

Dried beans (borlotti or cannellini), “short” pasta shapes or broken pieces of any pasta, ripe tomatoes or good canned roma tomatoes, celery, onion or garlic, olive oil, salt, paprika

PREPARATION:

If you are using dried beans, put them in a container and cover them with water.  Let them soak overnight or all day.  Then simmer them in salted water for about 90 minutes or until soft.

NOTE: For a quick version, substitute canned Pork & Beans or Vegetarian Baked Beans in place of the dried beans.

COOKING:

Saute in a a bit of olive oil some minced onion (or garlic).  Include some minced celery and / or carrot if you like, a pinch of salt, pinch of paprika.  After about 3 minutes, add the tomatoes. Let it all simmer for about 15 minute over a low heat.  Add the beans, blend, let it all simmer for another 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, boil / drain the pasta, add to the beans and tomatoes, mixing it all up to make it thicken and finish cooking for 3 or 4 minutes.  Serve with lots of grated Pecorino.

ANOTHER NOTE:  If you have any Sunday sauce left over, toss in 3 or 4 spoonfuls to enrich the pasta e fagioli even further (I often do this).  A spoonful of tomato paste will help to concentrate flavor a bit more if you like it that way.

Accompaniment:  For an extra treat, serve with sausages.

Wine pairing suggestions:  Enjoy pasta e fagioli with Vernaccia or a light, young Chianti.

Molise: Di Majo Norante “don Luigi” Montepulciano 2001

don-luigi-thumb  Di Majo Norante “don Luigi” Molise 2001 Montepulciano DOC

“A faint sun
that has come out on purpose from the fog
to send a shaft of light and give some breath…”

(from “Winter Sun” by Molisan poet EUGENIO CIRESE, Translated by Luigi Bonaffini.  Please see the super piece on Cirese @ http://home.att.net/~l.bonaffini/cirese.htm, authored by Giambattista Faralli)

The expressive wines of Alessio Di Majo, Di Mayo Norante winery, shine light upon what appears to be a promising future for wine production in the province of Molise.  If Di Majo is setting the benchmark, we can certainly expect great things to come from this region.

Combining innovation and “old fashioned methods”, Di Majo produces wines of unique character in an updated style that appeals to both modern and traditional taste preferences alike.  Di Majo Norante bottled its first vintage in 1968 and today produces approximately 600,000 bottles from 52 hectares. The estate gives special attention to clonal selection of native vines that thrive in the southern italian soil and uses only fertilizers of organic composition.

In a typically Italian tribute of respect and admiration, Di Majo’s “Don Luigi” is named after the patriarch of the estate.  The wine is made from best Montepulciano (90%) and Tintilia (10%).  Tintilia, a varietal confined mostly to Molise, is blended for its contribution to color and intensity (read: alcohol).

Vineyards lie in the area of Martarosa at an altitude 100 meters in a southeasterly orientation and are of calcareous clay soil composition.

Contact with skins is allowed for 20-25 days with fermentation carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and then it’s off to barrique (Allier / Troncais) for 12-18 months.

Tasting Notes:

The wine, is a deep ruby color, plush and soft in the mouth.  But make no mistake, don Luigi is no wallflower.  Big and rich, it shows ripe plum and berry fruit surrounded by cocoa, anise, smoke, and vanilla cloaked in very smooth, civilized tannins.  A great balance of strength with grace and sensuality, an incredibly interesting, delicious expression of Montepulciano.

Food:  Pasta “al forno” of all types, grilled meats, game, cheeses; also try this with lamb korma or masala

Sicily: Colosi Nero d’Avola 2007

Sicily:   Colosi Nero d’Avola 2007

Have you ever secretly wanted to fall in love with a gorgeously suave, dark Sicilian?

OK: I know one. But, first…

colosi-nero-davola-2007-11The Cantine Colosi farm is located on the island of Salina, one of seven islands of the Eoloian Archipelago arising from the Tyrrhenian Sea north-east of Sicily.  The archipelago is named for Aeolus, “Eolo” in Italian, son of Zeus, keeper of the four winds.

Have you seen the film “Il Postino” ?  The island of Salina was used as the movie setting of that wonderful film portraying poet Pablo Neruda.  Take some time to enjoy the film if you’ve not seen it !

That a calm, idyllic island be situated in a volcanic archipelago somehow sets a similarly enigmatic stage for – enter stage left – the refined, sophisticated Cantine Colosi Nero d’Avola with its origins in the rugged Sicilian landscape.

Well, I told you I knew a gorgeously suave, dark Sicilian:

Tasting Notes:

Dark and beautiful in the glass, the Cantine Colosi Nero d’Avola 2007 shows a full nose of cherries and wild berry fruit typical of Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most important red grape.  Nuances of cocoa , licorice, mint, herbs.  Enjoyably ripe and civilized tannins with a long, enduring finish.  Easy to drink now but will stand some cellaring as well.

For 3 generations the Colosi company has been working the Sicilian wine fields.  Oenologist Piero Colosi generally runs the show with the respected input of father Pietro Colosi.  Together they attend to all aspects of business and wine-making with a very “hands-on” approach.

The vineyards sourcing Nero d’Avola are south facing at an altitude of 750 feet.  Vines are trellised using vertical trellis methods in a limestone soil.  The wine is macerated on the skins for 7 days with temperature controlled alchoholic fermentation in stainless steel.  Malolactic fermentation is carried out stainless steel for 4 to 5 days.  Aged in stainless steel for 5 months, the wine sees no time in wood which is an anomoly of sorts, however, the outcome is not disappointing.

Food pairing suggestions:  red meats, game, aged cheeses, pasta with red sauces, pizza

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Veneto: Zenato Valpolicella Classico 2006

zenato-valpolicellaUtter the ancient words Vallis Polys Cellae.  Go ahead and try it.  They mean Valley of Many Cellars.  Feel V’s vibration, your lips touch for the “P”, your tongue upon the roof of your mouth for “L”.  Feel history in your mouth.

A simple act of speech provides an intriguing impression of the wine region we know today as Italy’s Valpolicella where the very human activity of making wine still today reveals a connection – as it does in all of Italy’s wine regions – to very ancient histories and traditions.

Produced from vineyards in the area of Verona, the Zenato Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2006 is made from hand harvested grapes, 85% corvina, 10% rondinella, and 5% sangiovese using traditional production methods.  The wine is later matured for 12 months in Slavonian oak barrels.

Tasting Notes:

Supple fragrances of almonds and violets compose a seductive nose while, in the mouth, the sense of touch is immediately aroused by this wine’s velvety structure.  Ruby red color, full, round, and dry on the palate, with berries framed in hints of bitter chocolate during the finish.  A classicly styled Valpolicella, delicious now, but can be cellared a few years as well.

As is the usual case, Corvina (80%) and Rondinella (10%) are part of this Valpolicella’s varietal makeup, with Sangiovese (10%) the less frequent contributor.  Vineyards are located in the “Classico” zone of the Sant’Ambrogio comune hills with a south-southeast aspect at an altitude of 250-300 meters.  Soil makeup is predominantly clay and chalk.  Vines, at an average 24 years old, are trained in guyot and pergola trentina at density of 3,000 vines/hectare. Manual harvesting takes place during the mid-third of October.

Food pairing suggestions: Ideal with all roast meats; egg pasta; sausage and polenta; fried or baked chicken liver; risotto w. minced pork, mature cheeses, salami

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