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.

Vigne Surrau: Winery Fusing Nature, Art, Hospitality

*Observations from a sponsored press trip to the region during September 2015

Travel is a bit like making love: you can read about it, but to receive the entire message, you’ll need to get personally involved.

Which is why I recently packed a bag and headed for Sardegna, destination Gallura, a region that sits on Sardegna’s northeast coast and the exclusive Costa Smerelda, famous for its exceptional wine, food, and fun.

On the road from Arzachena to Porto Cervo, I visited the Vigne Surrau winery and although Vigne Surrau does indeed produce some of the most uniquely delicious wines that will ever pass your lips, you don’t have to be a wine lover to appreciate a stop at the winery campus: Vigne Surrau is very much a destination in its own right.

Vigne Surrau Winery, Sunset

The architect-designed Vigne Surrau facility functions not only as a workplace but also as a meeting place that offers tourists and locals an opportunity to attend educational wine and cooking classes, tastings, art exhibitions, film showings, music concerts and professional conferences. Or to just sit, relax with friends and enjoy the stunningly beautiful landscape.

Vigne Surrau Winery, Tasting Room

The facility’s design is executed in a manner that provides visitors incredible transparency to everything that is going on, in or out of the space. Sitting in the tasting room, for example, one cannot help but experience a profound connection to the magnificent natural surroundings just outside.

Vigne Surrau Winery, Tasting Room

Permeating the Vigne Surrau experience is an overwhelming sense of the proprietor family’s genuine love for community, hospitality, and beauty.

Travel is an opportunity to hear a place speak in its own voice, experience an untranslated version of its smells, flavors, rhythms, understand the life of it. At Vigne Surrau, one finds an environment where “place” speaks without distortion.

Vigne Surrau Winery, Tasting Room

Visitors who appreciate beauty come year round from all over the world to the area of Costa Smerelda. Whether unwinding after a summer swim in the Mediterranean, relaxing with a good book during winter months, or enjoying an aperitivo with friends, a stop at Vigne Surrau is sure to prove both beautiful and inspiring.

And, oh, by the way … yes, here in Gallura, the ocean really is that emerald color.

A Visit to Vigne Surrau in Sardegna’s Gallura Region

*Observations from a sponsored press trip to the region during September 2015

First, there is the stone, the granite.

It commands the landscape.



It sinks into you, permeates consciousness, overseer of the primal bond between land and man.

vigne surrau granite2

On Sardegna’s northeast coast, in the area known as Gallura, granite hills play host to an especially profound expression of Vermentino known as Vermentino di Gallura. The region’s granite soils contribute to the wine’s complexity, body, minerality and beguiling perfume.

And, in Gallura, if you stand still just long enough, you will feel that the wind, too, is there with you.


Keeping the vines dry, preventing disease.

Its antediluvian whispers carry the subtle scent of Mediterranean Sea, a deliciously salty grace note that can be tasted in the region’s wines.

Stone. Wind. Sea.
Holy trinity in which Vermentino di Gallura finds it identity under the Sardinian sun.

Vermentino is grown widely in Sardegna and along Mediterranean coastlines. When cultivated in Gallura, however, Vermentino expresses itself in a truly exceptional manner. In fact, Vermentino di Gallura is the only of Sardegna’s wines designated DOCG status, a nomenclature at the top of Italy’s appellation hierarchy, and is surely one of Italy’s most important white wines.

vigne surrau winery1

Vigne Surrau, a young winery founded in 2004 located in the area of Porto Cervo / Arzachena, is producing high quality Vermentino di Gallura wines of massive personality and charisma, made in a clean, elegant, and balanced style. The winery owns over 40 hectares of vineyards and produces a stunning line of wines guided by innovative, forward thinking oenologist Mario Siddi, who interprets tradition in a way that links yesterday and today, and points toward a relevant tomorrow. I recently had the good fortune to taste the Vigne Surrau lineup while visiting at the winery. Let’s focus on the winery’s Vermentino wines here (I will cover their reds in a subsequent post):

Tasting Notes

Branu – An exceedingly splendid example of the sublime freshness and minerality that typify Vermentino di Gallura. Fermented in stainless steel, Branu is a wine of youthful personality, medium body, vitality on the palate, richly textured in the mouth. Vivid flavors and scents of ripe yellow fruit, florals, citrus, minerals, grace notes of salty mint. With fish, shellfish, first and main courses, or alone as an aperitif.

Sciala – Produced from the best grapes selected from Surrau valley’s finest vineyards. Rests on lees for several months. Focused peachy fruit set as background for more exotic notes of jasmine, ginger, sage, mint, saline, underlined with stony minerality, round and pleasingly fat in the mouth. A tremendously interesting wine, Sciala presents a more intense, structured side of Vermentino, with good longevity. The 2008 vintage which I tasted showed gorgeous notes of petrol reminiscent of cellared Riesling and gave good testimony to Vermentino di Gallura’s potential for aging.

Sciala Late Harvest – Made with the same grapes as Sciala, picked 10 days later. 50% of the must ferments in non-toasted French barrels, the other 50% in steel. Big bodied and voluptuous, this late harvest version of Sciala calls out with scents of peachy ripe yellow fruit, herb, delicate florals. Peach flavors transfer to a soft, seductively viscous palate to join tastes of tropical fruit, orange peel, flecked with delicious licks of seasalt. Wonderfully supple, complex, with great persistence.

Surrau Brut Millesmato – With many months spent on lees and a second fermentation in bottle, this 100% Vermentino is intense, complex, structured, in the most refined of ways. Fragrant scents of bread crust typical of “metodo classic” production intermingle with delicate notes of flowers, apple, and herb. Dry, with fine bubble perlage and delicious mineral acidity that enlivens an impeccably fresh palate. Elegant and aristocratic. Excellent with shellfish, first courses, or as an aperitif. But, be good to yourself: enjoy this wine with fresh oysters 

Sole di Surrau – So luminiscently golden honey is the color of this Passito di Vermentino that it seems to radiate light from inside to out. As a “Passito”, Sole di Surrau is produced from 100% Vermentino grapes dried open air on mats for one month after harvest. Intense, honeyed notes of caramel, hazelnut, candied orange peel, the wine rolls across the palate with gorgeous syrupy liquidity. Excellent with desserts, seasoned cheeses, or quiet time 🙂

Sardinia: Scenes from Sulcis, Wine, Food, Producers & Friends

NOTE: I traveled as a guest of Consorzio Carignano del Sulcis on an educational press trip to experience the Carignano wines of Sardegna’s Sulcis region.

The following is part of a series of planned posts featuring the region of Carignano del Sulcis, its producers and wines:

The entire time we drove through Sardinia’s Sulcis region, Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” played in my head, as if it were somehow the soundtrack for exploring the Sulcis territory, its famous Carignano wines, food and culture.

In gathering some trip photos to share, it seems fitting that you might experience it that way, too 🙂

* Song snippet from “Last Train Home”, a cut from the album “Still Life (Talking), by Pat Metheny Group, released 1987 by Geffen Records.