The Grandi Marchi Experience: Symphonic

The Grandi Marchi – visionary winemakers from across Italy – are here today at Del Posto Restaurant in New York City to lead attendees through a seminar and guided wine tasting of some of Italy’s best terroirs.

Like the Philharmonic minutes before a concert, the “orchestra” Grandi Marchi, is tuning up.

As Grandi Marchi members take their seats, tasting glasses clink and jangle, papers rustle, polite chatter and excuse me’s whispered one after another.

Audience iPhone camera shutters clllick away.


What follows is to be an immensely informative seminar, with each producer/representative speaking with subject matter expert authority about their respective regions, production methods, and unique terroirs.

I won’t kid you – the tasting segment is ridiculously pleasant. And massively instructive. The elegance, vigor, joy and pleasure of Grandi Marchi wines is remarkable.

But, for anyone who is familiar with the Grandi Marchi – member names that include the likes of Gaja, Masi, and Antinori – icons of fine Italian wine – that much is not unexpected.

What has so impressed me at this Grandi Marchi tasting – more so than any single wine or producer – is that, as a group, the wines braid together 13 different appellations and 15 wineries in a way that speaks so vividly, so sonorously, of Italy’s rich and diverse wine tradition.

To put it another way, perhaps in musical terms, the Italian wine tradition is composed not of a single tone, but from many different tones which, as in good music, allow us to experience the symphony.

There are no short cuts to understanding Italian wine. There are, however, some very good places to begin the Sassicaiajourney. Grandi Marchi wines represent a point of departure that grant you exposure to a highly relevant cross-section of Italy’s most important grape varietals and regions, act as model reference points for what wines ought to be like within their respective categories, and help to communicate the cultural values and traditions that unite them.

For more information about the Grandi Marchi, I recommend you to follow the link to Grandi Marchi Institute of Fine Italian Wines.

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

For those of you pursuing an indie do-it-yourself wine education (Really, who else can do it for you?), you might like to take time to explore one of the great and most important grape varietals of Italy’s south, Aglianico.

You’ll probably notice pretty quickly two confounding things about Aglianico: a) that you won’t find it in every wine shop and, b) that when you do, you will likely encounter Aglianico wines from varied regions such as Campania, Sicily, Molise, Puglia, and Basilicata to name a few.

tenuta-del-portale-le-vigne-a-capanno-2009-1All the aforementioned regions produce noteworthy expressions of Aglianico and you must try them eventually. But, do yourself a favor: begin your exploration with Aglianico from Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture to be specific (takes its name from the region’s dormant volcano Monte Vulture), or from Campania’s Taurasi appellation (named for one of the production area communities), as those two expressions of Aglianico generally set the bar for important Aglianico reference points.

Brief geography: Basilicata is that part of the Italian peninsula that forms the ankle on the boot. You can locate that pretty easily. With only slightly more effort, to find the area for Taurasi, zero in on the Province of Avellino in Campania and you’ll have the place (Hey, don’t complain, I did say “brief” geography, remember? It is do-it-yourself, afterall). Separated by just 40 or so miles, the very common denominator relating the del Vulture and Taurasi production zones is the volcanic soil on which they are situated and in which Aglianico seems to thrive.

I can offer a thumbnail sketch of how the Vulture and Taurasi wines compare: well, actually, I hate doing this kind of broad brush thing, because there are always exceptions, but as you force me:

Aglianico del Vulture wines tend to be wines of complexity and detail, with dark and red fruit tones underlined by mineral character (volcanic, right?) and firm, often dusty tannins, while Taurasi – again, generally speaking – is perhaps the more structured of the two, also has the mineral thing going on, a wine that can show incredible depth and a finish that can go on forever. When cellared, Aglianico wines from either del Vulture or Taurasi areas will reward your patience.

Descriptors for wines from either zone could include red cherry, black cherry, plum, violets, smoke, meat, leather, vanilla, cocoa, menthol and tobacco, and no, that is not a definitive list. Foodie’s will appreciate that Aglianico’s naturally high acidity makes it a great food wine (and also balances alcohol levels that can be north of 14%).

Recommended, reasonable price points and pretty good trade distribution as far as I know:

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture
Tenuta Portale Le Vigne a Capanno Aglianico del Vulture
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina

Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

*** Red Wine of Stunning Quality & Value ***

Near Moody Street at Pine
100% Negromaro

Found June 21 2013

Has Sexy Black Label
Elegant Silver Letters
Reads: Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva 2009

Please Contact: Your Local Wine Shop

Miraculously, a red wine of stunning quality and value has been found unharmed. The bottle was discovered inside a local wine shop in excellent condition and is in good health 😉

cantele-salice-salentino-riserva-20091Certainly, I am not the first to “find” this bottle: the wine is a Tre Bicchieri winner (Gambero Rosso). But, neither shall I be the last. Wines that deliver this level of quality and value deserve to be talked about every day and put solidly on the buying radar of wine lovers new and old.

I’ll leave you a link below to an earlier post with more about Cantele. But, for now, more about this great Negromaro from Puglia:

Negromaro grapes grown in calcareous soil are de-stemmed and crushed. Maceration is carried out over 10 days. Fermentation using selected yeasts. After malolactic, the wine is aged between 6-12 months spent in 2nd / 3rd passage barriques.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Flavors of gorgeous, achingly ripe red and dark fruits, not at all cooked, really sing on a sensuous palate warmed by perfectly balanced alcohol. There is a sense of earthiness, yet in a very soft, polished way. Notes of milk chocolate, hint of herb. Good acidity keeps it all fresh. Love the sleek tannins. Hands down one of the best bargain bottles I have ever tasted.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Just the right level of acidity makes this Salice a great table wine. Recommend baked ziti; roasted or grilled meats, especially good with grilled lamb scented with rosemary; eggplant parmigiana; medium aged cheeses.

Related post: Cantele Primitivo Salento

Tormaresca Neprica 2011

I am a cat. Stealth is my weapon. And waiting. Wait. Wait. Wait. A precautionary approach to avoid pouncing too soon at the influence of marketing. Aware of my psychology, examining my behavior, I advance. Collect enough information to make a successful purchase decision. Short, quick movements, pounce, grab the bottle and head to checkout.

tormaresca-neprica-2011On a recent evening in the wine shop, hard-wired for the hunt, I stopped to sniff the air for a bargain bottle. Thought I saw something flutter on the bottle rack: Tomaresca Neprica 2011. Eyes locked on the prey, I come in for a closer look.

Glad I did.

Tomaresca Neprica 2011 is a wine offering astonishing quality for price (I paid ~ $10.00 in Massachusetts) and great testimony that southern Italy deserves your attention when seeking out interesting, delicious, inexpensive wines of character and personality.

A project of the Antinori family begun in 1998, Tormaresca vineyards are located in Italy’s Puglia region, the “heel” of the Italian boot. (NOTE, for readers not familiar with the Antinori family wine dynasty: so important are the Antinori to Italian wine history, tradition, etc., that your Italian wine journey might well begin there with a bit of research.)

Produced from a blend of Negromaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon (NePriCa), grapes are vinified separately in stainless steel. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is fined for eight months in steel tanks and four additional months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:
Balanced tones of bright red fruit and dark, black cherry surrounded by violet perfume. Plump on the palate, love the somewhat viscous mouth-feel. Black cherry notes take just a bit of prominence as the wine gets air, with additional dimension gained from emerging scents of savory herb. Tannins are soft and in just the right order so as to not interrupt the great way this wine feels on the palate. Finishes with good density of flavor and generous length.

Food Pairing Suggestions:
This wine is an obvious winner served with red meat and roasts. That said, after tasting several bottles with a wide variety of foods, Tomaresca Neprica is simply a great partner to just about every kind of dish I introduce it to: all manner of pasta / sauces; grilled or roasted sausages; mashed potatoes with mascarpone, greasy olive oil roasted potatoes; risotto; grilled vegetables and assorted crostini; eggplant parmigiana; chicken with black olives served on couscous; spaghetti with langostini in spicy red sauce; grilled fish; panino of boiled meats, au jus and spicy sauce … you get the idea 🙂


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


Feudi di San Gregorio “Ognissole” Primitivo di Manduria 2006

Feudi di San Gregorio “Ognissole” Primitivo di Manduria 2006

I sleep very far away from the land
Of Italy and my homeland, Taranto.
For me this is bitterer than death.
Such is the vain life of every nomad.
But the Muses loved me and for all
My misfortunes, in exchange they gave
Me the sweetness of honey.
Leonida’s name is not dead.
The gifts of the Muses will make it shine
Under any sun.

This elegant translation of *Ognissole by Leonidas da Taranto, lyrical poet from the 3rd century BC, is an poignant expression of antiquity in Puglia and how many suns have set over this land of Primitivo di Manduria.

feudi-primitivo-thumbThe Ognissole estate was born in 2000, having been established by the founders of southern Italian wine producer Feudi di San Gregorio. For those of you unfamiliar with Feudi, they have a remarkable portfolio of wines based on grape varieties indigenous to southern Italy. Feudi’s Ossignole group focuses attention upon the incredible potential of ancient local grape varieties to move Puglia ahead as a world class wine region.

Primitivo di Manduria is made from 100% Primitivo grapes in a zone of the same name found in the region of Puglia.  Style wise, Primitivo is generally dark colored and rich with a luscious sensation of ripe fruit. This is a wine that can age a few years but is best consumed young.

The Primitivo grapes for Feudi Ossignole are harvested from 20 acres of vineyards located on the Salento Peninsula in the commune of Manduria . Puglia is pretty flat and vineyard altitude is just 250 feet above sea level. Ognissole’s Primitivo vineyards include younger vines planted at high density and older 20 year old vines less densely planted in medium calcareous soil with a significant clay component.

Vines are Guyot trained and harvested by hand.  After soft pressing and controlled temperature maceration, the wine is matured 14 months in new French oak.

Tasting Notes:

This Primitivo di Manduria has a deep ruby red core with flecks of crimson and violet. Ripe black fruits, sweet vanilla, cloves and black pepper on the nose.  A plush, velvety mouthfeel, with plum jam, blackberry and raspberry, accented by sweet spice, chocolate and espresso bean. Fine tannins, minerality and a lingering finish that continue to echo of chocolate-ty fruit and espresso.

Food pairing suggestions:  Red meats, pastas and risotto with rich or spicy red sauces, eggplant parmigianno, game, casseroles, stews, cured meats, cheeses. Especially try this wine with stuffed lamb chops or pork chops, “Sunday sauce” with pepperoni added, green bean casserole cooked in red sauce and pepperoni.  Also try this wine with mildly spiced Asian or Indian dishes.

*Ognissole translation from the Feudi web