Feeling Optimistic

I am feeling… optimistic.

In a recent post I wrote of tech savvy Italian wine producers and their empowering use of social Internet to connect directly with lovers of Italian wine .

And I look on with great enthusiasm as the social wine and food network called VINIX continues to launch producers, merchants, bloggers, journalists, and appassionati into conversational orbit around wine and food.

Does it get much better?

Being already in a “social” state of mind, I dared to wonder how…if…wine’s merchant community might similarly be using Internet to reach out to potential customers in a way that could positively influence sales of Italian wine while serving to educate the consumer and delivering an improved buying experience.

Guess what? It does get better 😉

When I saw the Tesco Wine by the Case app for iPhone my eyes opened W I D E.

Wine Lovers: behold the world’s first interactive visual search / discovery application for wine:

Words that come to mind ? How about: Anytime. Anywhere. Everywhere.

Talk about reaching out to customers !!!

Wine lovers, the gauntlet has been laid down:

tech savvy producers of Italian wine who educate and mentor the consumer; a social wine and food network connecting us to an international community of passionate wine and food lovers; an interactive, merchant-driven innovation enabling discovery of wine online, access to wine’s background information and shopping…via iPhone !?!?!

I’m afraid the challenge is clear. We wine lovers, too, must improve our breed 😉
We, too, must do more to reach out…to Learn, to Share, to Communicate about wine.

Guess what?

I am still optimistic. Very.

Cantele Primitivo Salento 2007

Cantele Primitivo Salento 2007, IGT

I’ve been always fascinated with transformations.

How the Beatles got from Rubber Soul to The White Album.

The way my body is now more efficient pedaling the bike on last year’s 20 mile route.

cantele-primitivo-salento-2007The Cantele story tells of transformation, too: how a family from northern Italy finds their way to the Salento Peninsula in the late 1950’s, and in choosing it as a location for a new family project, becomes ready to adopt a new land.

And, out of that story, is born another transformation: how rustic Primitivo becomes the stunning expression of elegance that is Cantele Primitivo Salento 2007.

The Salento Peninsula stretches itself for more than a hundred kilometers to form Puglia’s southernmost point, a region where Primitivo flourishes and home to Cantele. The Cantele estate totals approximately 30 hectares and includes a new winery complex. Cantele specializes in Primitivo and Negromaro wines, with international varietals playing important roles in some Cantele bottlings.

Made from 100% Primitivo grapes, Cantele Primitivo Salento is fermented with skins for 5-7 days. The wine is then matured in barrique for 6 months.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Intense ruby color with pretty shades of rose and light purples. Immaculate black and red berries, mineral, plum, floral notes transfer well to palate. Cherry notes emerge as the wine opens up. An effortlessly elegant, focused fullness in the mouth. Beautifully balanced, soft tannins, and an easy, pleasant finish hinting of floral-spice incense.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: red meats, especially sausages or lamb; PASTA: lasagne or rigatoni with meat sauce; orecchiette with sausages and broccoli rapini; VEGETARIAN: baked penne with mushrooms and cheeses; baked rigatoni or lasagna with marina, mozzarella, herbs; eggplant parmigiana; orecchiette with broccoli rapini; CHEESES: pecorino, provolone, mozzarella, ricotta salata


The New Breed: Italy’s Tech Savvy Wine Producers

Through a beautiful constellation of a million words and image uploads, I’ve lately been observing a new breed of wine producer.

But, we should try to discuss it without giving creating a name for them. I wouldn’t want to marginalize the phenomenon with a label.

Let me tell you what I see:

a-new-breed-of-producerThis new breed of wine producer understands the spectacular moment in technological history that enables artisan producers and consumers to communicate directly and immediately via the social Internet.

And they understand the importance of that opportunity.

Via the social Internet, they become educators. They become coaches. They are our mentors and partners in a conversation about wine and food that reaches beyond geographical boundaries. They encourage us to understand their labor, the land’s character, their source of passion, the local traditions, how the wine is born.

The social Internet behaviors of this new breed of wine producer is helping to shape markets and to create a more intelligent, selective consumer capable of making better decisions at the wine shop.

Some especially honest, brave producers tell us how their wine is made and what is in their bottles. Bravo.

Fast becoming an online center of gravity for this new breed of producer is the wine and food social network called Vinix, www.vinix.it, where a large community of artisan producers, bloggers, journalists, merchants, and wine / food lovers come to meet, connect, and share.

I am prepared to offer fine examples 🙂

Luca Ferraro, of Bele Casel, who educates us about Colfòndo and how Prosecco is made, and brings us with him into the vineyard to prune Prosecco vines. (Vinix: Bele Casel)

Paolo Ghislandi of Cascina I Carpini, who passionately explains his “Vini d’Arte” or art wines, coaches us about the “symptoms and cures of Plonk”, and leads us into the bottling room for a look at that process. (Vinix: Cascina I Carpini)

There are many more like them.

And, like Luca and Paolo, many Italian wine producers are being social in both Italian and English languages. Vinix, too, offers English and Italian versions.

Are you ready?

Place your hands, please, on the computer keyboard. Launch browser and navigate. I encourage you to seek out such wine producers. Join the conversation. Be social. It’s a super opportunity to learn and to deepen your perspective about wine.

PS: You can find me, too, on Vinix 🙂 (Vinix: Joel Mack)

Crociani Vino Nobile Riserva 2001

Crociani Vino Nobile Riserva 2001, DOCG

Let’s begin with mental exercise:


                       o        r
                       n        c
                       o        i
                       b        a
                       i         n
                       l         i

ACROSS – Tuscan hill town where Prugnolo Gentile is the local name for Sangiovese

DOWN – Ancient, noble wine of Montepulciano

DOWN AGAIN – Montepulciano wine producer making Prugnolo Gentile wines of staggering beauty

crociani-vino-nobile-riserva-2001Yes, staggering beauty. Really. Wines like Crociani Vino Nobile Riserva 2001 should be required by the DOC/G to carry an additional label notation of “IBI”:

Intense Beauty Inside 🙂

But the Real Puzzle is this: how is it that wine this good is currently available in only five US States?

Located in the heart of the Vino Nobile production zone (read: Montepulciano), the 10 or so hectares of Crociani estate vineyards are planted primarily to Prugnolo Gentile, some Canaiolo Nero, and a small percentage of Mammolo and white varieties.

Crociani Vino Nobile Riserva 2001 is made from hand harvested grapes in the order of 75% Prugnolo, 15% Canaiolo, 10% Mammalo grown in medium textured soil.

Vinification / maceration are carried out over 18-22 days, the wine is then matured in wood for approximately 30 months followed by an additional 6 months in bottle.

As usual, I performed the technical tasting alone and away from the dinner table. You’ll see my notes below. But, I thought you might be interested in what a new generation of wine lovers had to say about this wine while finishing the open bottle at dinner. Their coments:

“Fantastic…one of the most memorable wines…”
“The wine’s nose…just blows me away…”
“Simply outstanding…”
“The epitome of Italian wine…”

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Gorgeous gemstone ruby color with early bricking at the edges. Scents of violets, cherries, eucalyptus, rosemary hover in a sensational perfumed cloud above the glass. A big, satin palate of black cherry with hints of milk chocolate finishes long, attended by spectacular refined tannins. Superb balance and structure.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: roasts of pork, veal, beef, lamb…pork or lamb are especially good when roasted with herbs like rosemary / sage; roast chicken, turkey, duck…consider wrapping a chicken with bacon or pancetta before roasting (not recommended with duck); PASTA: pappardelle with rabbit or duck ragu; rigatoni with sausage and caramelized vegtables served rosemary marina;VEGETARIAN: Seitan “steaks” with rosemary; rigatoni pasta with a rich ragu of herbs, diced eggplant, onion, celery and chevre (goat cheese); ravioli filled with chopped mushroom and ricotta cheese, served with marinara.


Bele Casel Prosecco Extra Dry

Watching Luca Ferraro prune vines, I was reminded of that intensely intimate connection between musician and instrument as he tunes before a performance.

A series of quick, on-the-fly adjustments, decisions, corrections …then, music can be made.

And I wanted to hear the music.

We drove the two hours to New York City to purchase Bele Casel’s Prosecco Extra Dry and, when tasting time came, this Prosecco was like Vivaldi in a glass.

The Montello / Colli Asolani area from which Bele Casel’s Prosecco Extra Dry gains its denomination is known for Prosecco with a bit more acidity and citrus tones, comparatively speaking, a typicity reflected nicely by this Bele Casel Prosecco.

I will usually include in a blog post some thoughts about a wine producer’s location, production practices, history, terroir, etc. But, Bele Casel’s Luca Ferraro will inform you better than can I via his extraordinary online effort. I recommend you navigate immediately to where you can meet Luca and experience something not to be found in the mainstream wine press:

Blog: www.belecasel.it
On Twitter: @belecasel
FaceBook: Bele Casel
Vinix: Bele Casel

Tasting Notes:

Color of light summer straw. Crisp and bright, with a perfume of pear, apple and citrus-floral overtones. Vibrant fine perlage and a wonderfully balanced palate that feels round, fat, and completely in tune. Finishes with an almond cream aftertaste and an intriguing sense of structure. A magnificent bottle of refreshing pleasure.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

In America, we too often think of Prosecco as just an aperitif or a wine for outdoor gatherings. Prosecco is certainly excellent on those occasions, but if you are not pairing good Prosecco with food, wow, you are missing out. Try Bele Casel’s Prosecco Extra Dry with:

Japanese “cut rolls”, especially those featuring caviar, avocado, creamed cheese, cucumber, eel, or crab; Mushroom or asparagus omelet; Capellini (angel hair pasta) with peas in a light cream sauce; Cold plate of mild cheeses and prosciutto di parma;
Delicately fried seafood and white fish – think super fresh Calamari; Risotto with shellfish; an unending array of Canapés; Room temperature grilled vegetables and vegetable salads; VEGETARIAN: lentil salad with cippolini onions and artichoke hearts; broiled tomato or mushroom stuffed with bread crumbs, butter, herbs. THIS WINE is great company to spicier Asian dishes… we totally loved it with spicy prawns.


Cantine Sant’Agata ‘Na Vota Ruchè 2007

Cantine Sant’Agata ‘Na Vota Ruchè 2007, DOC

Ruchè is one of those Italian wines that I’d like to see a lot more of when visiting wine shops.

It’s true that production of Ruchè is limited to just a small number of villages in Italy’s Piemonte. But, I have a feeling that the reason/s we don’t find Ruchè more widely available has more to do with things other than matters of small production.

[ If you thought that last comment was veiled criticism of capitalistic wine culture not working on behalf of the aficionado consumer … well, you may be onto something. ]

Made of minimum 90% Ruchè – Barbera and / or Brachetto are allowed up to 10% – Ruchè Castagnole Monferrato offers a unique and sophisticated red wine experience, wines of interesting complexity with intense, persistent aromatics, medium to full body and, oftentimes, a weightless quality one can find in good Barolo.

cantine-santagata-na-vota-ruche-2007I recently enjoyed a bottle of Cantine Sant’Agata ‘Na Vota Ruchè 2007, a producer whose Ruchè I’ve tasted before, however, this vintage I found particularly interesting:

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Garnet with traces of purple-orange chromatics. Cherries, violets, Asian spice…cardamom, five spice powder, black peppercorn. Warm in the mouth, the wine reveals good body and concentration in a weightless way that convinces you gravity is just conceptual. Soft tannins, delicately smooth on the finish.

Fermentation is carried out over 14-16 days with malolactic in stainless steel.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Generally speaking, you can pair Ruchè with rich meat dishes and stews, game, pasta with meat sauces. This wine’s Asian spice component makes it a great table partner for mild – medium spicy oriental / Indian dishes. And I would not hesitate to serve this wine with fresh water fish such as Trout. Superb with young – medium cheeses.

I enjoyed this wine with breaded pork chops served with a Miso / Barbaresco sauce, spaghettini with walnut-oriental basil pesto, stewed zucchini with butter, parsley and a pinch of cumin, followed by cheese plate.