Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From Sharecroppers to Entrepreneurs. The Modern History of Italian Wine

From Sharecroppers to Entrepreneurs
The Modern History of Italian Wine

At a lunch last April in West Cork, Italian winemaker Elena Pantaleoni (La Stoppa) told me that farmers were , not so long ago, looked down on in Italy, that her farmer brother had to leave Italy for France to gain some respect in his chosen profession. I was just a few pages into The Modern History of Italian Wine (edited by Walter Filiputti) when I was reminded of that conversation in the Good Things in Skibbereen.

“The modern history of Italian wine, which began to take shape in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, is the finest page ever written by our agriculture.
It gave birth to the most important agrarian revolution, in a few years turning poor farmers into entrepreneurs whose bottles are now found worldwide. ‘Contadino’ (peasant/farmer) was a derogatory term, sometimes used offensively. Until the 1970s, it was very difficult for a farm/peasant boy in the Friuli countryside, for example, to marry outside of his social class.”

In those few transformative years, a new awareness of public health emerged and production processes, previously heedlessly helped by chemicals, was enhanced by the arrival of “cold technology, laying the groundwork for mechanical oenology or knowledge”

And then the US market took off for Italy, helped hugely by the Italians in the states, in their restaurants in general and by Robert Mondavi in particular. The fascinating book takes us through the decades that followed and “is a history of labour and creativity that is all Italian, something to be proud of”.
Other famous names emerged in Italy. And famous wines too, such as the “Super Tuscan” Tignanello, Sassicaia (100 points from Parker for 1985 vintage and another Super Tuscan), Castello Banfi’s Brunello (which established itself as “a symbol of Italian quality in the wider world”.

The US market was becoming increasingly important and “indeed began to drive the industry”. In the 1990s, Angelo Gaia, another leading figure in the renaissance, noted the change in America: “they were understanding our fine clean wines”.

There were many breakthroughs including the Masi’s innovative Ripasso method and Campofiorin, a Super Venetian and “the inspiration for a while series of wines". 

And then came the setback of the methanol scandal in 1986 when over twenty people died. But Italy acted quickly to tighten quality controls. And the renaissance continued, moving the industry ever further from chemistry towards sustainability.

And that progress is being marked on the landscape (on it and under it) by some amazing wineries, quite a few of them illustrated in the 400 page book. Most of us know the very spectacular wineries of Spain but they are matched in Italy. 

Just take a look at some of my favourites, the L’Ammiraglia in Tuscany, the Cantina Khamma and the Feudo di Mezzo (both in Sicily), the Petra in Tuscany, La Brunella in Piedmont, and Cantina Jermann di Ruttars in Friuli.

There are separate chapters on the 60s, 70, and each decade right up to the present. Here the winemakers who were prominent in each decade are mentioned. Just two hundred or so in all, so many will be disappointed but the editor says the book is dedicated “to all Italian vintners” and also to those not mentioned (who are asked to “please be understanding”).

Factors leading to the breakthrough in the 60s were the controversial introduction of the DOCs in 1962 and the abolition of sharecropping in 1964. Many sharecroppers left the countryside and the old vines (and many native varieties) were at risk. But many former sharecroppers became modern farmers and many entrepreneurs joined them in the vineyards.

Fontanafredda, many of whose wines are available here (Karwig Wines, for example), go back a bit further than the 60s and the estate was, in 1858, part of the heritage of King Vittorio Emanuele 11.  They were making excellent Barolo at least as far back as 1924. In recent times, “the property passed to another visionary, Oscar Farinetti, who revitalized its sale and the commercial image of this brand which today, with its 90 hectares and concessions, produces about 7.5 million bottles”.

In the early 70s, “we saw the beginning of the long process that would lead knowledgeable oenology to drive the chemistry away from the temple”. As Piero Antinori said: “Modern technology simply allows us to express our full potential”. Leonildo Pieropan figures prominently in this decade. In 1971, he produced the Soave Calvarino and in 1978, Soave La Rocca, aged in wood, “another revolution for his territory”.  Liberty Wines import the wines of Pieropan to Ireland.


The “mastery of oenological science” put the Italians in position to tackle global markets and, despite the methanol setback, they did so in style during the 80s. But Angela Piotti Velenosi first had to conquer her local area of the Marches and Piceno where only cooperative wineries and bulk wine reigned. 

Angela and her husband founded their winery in 1984 starting with just five hectares. Three decades later, the vineyards stretch to 105 hectares and produce 2.5 millions bottles, “of which a large share is exported to five continents”. Quite a lot it makes its way here to Ireland and Karwigs have quite a selection.

In the 1990s, Italian winemakers, who had mastered the technology, began to look at their vineyards “as the source of better quality. Viticulture took its place again at the centre of the wine system.” Italy was flying in world markets, Brunello di Montalcino “a symbol of this extraordinary success”.

The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are major players in the Italian wine industry yet one of the smallest producers is among those chosen to represent the 1990s. “One label, one wine and a success for twenty years”, the Galardi estate is on the slopes of..an extinct volcano. The four owners started to recover the old vineyards in 1991 and now produce, organically since 1997, some 33,000 bottles of IGT Roccamonfina Terra di Lavoro, a blend of Aglianico and a small percentage of Piedirosso, “the essence of the south”.

Sustainability was the model to follow as the new millennium dawned. Wine tourism too began to build and, speaking of building, famous architects designed inspiring wineries. And who do I see listed as one of the “representatives" of this decade? None other then Colutta (Friuli Venezia Giulia) whose owner Giorgio Colutta visited Cork last year.
Giorgio (right) in Cork last year.

Giorgio explained that he is not organic (that's easier to do in the warmer south!) but this former pharmacist has introduced environmentally sustainable cultivation techniques and is self sufficient with regard to energy consumption. His is a small company but has reached out around the world, especially to the Far East. Fortunately he is on the books of Wines Direct where you may purchase his amazing Pinot Grigio and the even more amazing Schioppettino. 

The Schioppettino grape variety is from the local area and has a history there dating back to at least the 13th century. Giorgio told me the name means “little bang”, the sound the grape makes when you pop a ripe one into your mouth!

The chapter on the current decade features Up and Coming winemakers and ideas. The future may be in the past if the exploits of father and son team, Pasquale and Umberto Ceratti, are anything to go by. In Calabria, they make “precious wine with ancient methods”.  Following these antique methods, they make a few thousand bottles of Greco di Bianco from a vine that came with the Greeks in the 8th century BC.
Elena Pantaleoni (front, 1st left), at lunch in Skibbereen

So back to Elena and her vineyard La Stoppa. Her family bought the old place in 1973, and revived the vineyards and the winery. Nowadays, using organic methods, La Stoppa specialises in the production of wines derived from the local varieties: Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, as well as from Barbera and Bonarda, in addition to the wines derived from the historically introduced varieties of French origin: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Semillon. Beautiful wines from a beautiful place and available here from Le Caveau. Just thought I'd get that in, even if the editors couldn't!

Divided into three parts (“The Renaissance of Italian Wine,” “Italian Wine. Innovation” and “The Geography of Italian Wine”), the book narrates a never-before-told, all-Italian story of hard work and creativity. It leads readers on a journey through the sun-drenched regions of Italy, a country that has dramatically revamped its wine-growing and vinification procedures since the 1970s. All in all, it is a marvellous book, full of detail and passion, and well illustrated too.

  • Just one criticism: While there are indices for winemakers and another for names, there is no overall index. If I want find Valtellina (which is mentioned at least three times), for example, I just have to go through the whole book. Why Valtellina? Well, we had an Italian night in the Farmgate in 2015 and the wines came from there as does Farmgate front-of-house Mirco! The Italians and their wines are everywhere - thankfully. 
  • The Modern History of Italian Wine is edited by Walter Filiputti and is published by Skira. It is available from Eason's (€58.80) and online from the publishers (€46.75).  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Three Classy Reds. Don't judge a book by the cover!

Three Classy Reds

Don't judge a book by the cover. The plain label on the Gamay could well lead you to believe this is a bottom shelf wine whereas it is anything but. Perhaps, especially if you bought bottom shelf Moroccan wines on French holidays years ago, you wouldn't be expecting a great deal from the Volubilia but it is a lovely surprise. And no surprise really with the Italian. You'd expect this to be good and it is very good indeed.


Clos du Tue-Boeuf Gamay 2015, Vin de France, 12%, €18.85 Le Caveau
Light red, fairly typical of the grape, is the colour of this natural beauty. The aromas are of strawberries and raspberries. On the vibrant palate, you'll find the same mix of fruit flavours, with a light tang of cider apples; it is light and fresh and smooth for sure, fine tannins and then a long finish.

The two Puzelat brothers, regarded, by Jamie Goode, as “natural wine royalty”, mature this for 4-6 months in large wooden vats. The organic grapes are bought in from trusted local winegrowers in the Loire. “The wines are quite unique, highly expressive of their terroir, authentic, filled with life and have a very strong personality.” That lively personality is very evident, pleasingly so, in this example and it is Very Highly Recommended. By the way, it is neither filtered nor fined, so do decant!


La Zouina Volubilia Classic Red, Morocco 2012, 13.5%, €22.95 Le Caveau

This is a relatively new French run chateau. Bordeaux know-how plus freedom to experiment has helped produce this excellent result from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Syrah, Mourvedre, and Tempranillo.

Colour is medium red. And the aromas include warm blackcurrant. It is medium bodied, smooth and fresh, well endowed with concentrated berry flavours, medium spice, fine tannins. It is well balanced with a long and juicy finish. A surprise from Africa and Very Highly Recommended.

Ascheri Coste & Bricco Barolo (DOCG) 2010, 14.5%, €47.00 (down to 30 in recent Fine Wine sale) O’Brien Wines

No surprise that this one was good as I had tasted it at the O’Brien Wine Fair in Cork. Nebbiolo is the grape here. Made from two select plots from Ascheri’s single vineyard, this is their top cuvée. 

The wine has spent 26 months in Slavonian barrels, six months in steel and a further nine in bottle before release. According to Grapes & Wines, Italian Nebbiolo ages better than those of California and Australia. And indeed the producers reckon this will last for 18 to 20 years if kept in a cool dark place.

I couldn't wait that long to tuck into this garnet coloured wine. Small red fruits feature in the aromas, also some herbal hints. It has a palate full of rich flavours, spice too and an acidity that helps put all in harmony. This elegant and inviting wine is Very Highly Recommended.


They, Ascheri, recommended matching it with hard mature cheese, pheasant, pigeon, roast lamb and beef, Mediterranean vegetables. I've tried and tested it here with Parmesan and Walnut crusted rack of lamb with roasted vegetables, the lamb bought at our local craft butchers, Davidson’s of Montenotte, Cork.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Love Red? Three of the Best.

Sainte Croix Magneric, Corbieres (AC) 2012, 14.5%, Mary Pawle Wines

Fruit, spice, and power feature in this well-balanced blend of Carignan (42%), Grenache (29) and Syrah (29). The vineyard, run by an English couple, Jon and Elizabeth Bowen, has been organic since 2008 and they recommend pairing it with anything from Spiced lamb tagine to Roast venison.

This is a dark, medium to full bodied, wine with ripe dark fruit aromas to match. That fruit, spice too, on the palate, concentrated, with outstanding freshness, tannins soft and ripe and no slacking off in the long aromatic finalé. Power and elegance in the one package and Very Highly Recommended.

We had another beauty from the same vineyard a month or so back. Check out Le Fournas here

Il Grigio da San Felice Gran Selezione Chianti Classico (DOCG) 2013, 13.5%, €34.95 (27.95 in recent sale) O’Brien’s Wines.

Made from “our finest Sangiovese (80%), enriched with other ancient indigenous varieties”, the result is a superbly complex wine of great elegance and concentration. Just 40,000 bottles are produced of this particular wine which has an ageing potential of 15 years. It has been aged for 24 months in mixed oak plus 8 months in bottle. 

Sangiovese, also known as Brunello and Bonarda, is a top red grape in Italy. Tuscany is its home but it is grown all over Italy, also in the US, Australia and Argentina.

Colour is medium red and the aromas feature ripe red fruit (strawberries, cherries). There is terrific concentration in this medium-bodied gem, spice too and a superb acidity to balance and it boasts a long dry and spicy finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Matches suggested are red meat, pasta and pizza. You could also do as I did and try it with cheese. I had Carrigaline, both the original and the smoked, and all got on very well together!

Jerome Quiot Cairanne Côtes du Rhone Villages (AC) 2014, 13.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

The family Quiot began their wine story in the Vaucluse when they acquired a few hectares there in 1748, so the nod to tradition is to be expected. This wine is made from the traditional grapes of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and old vines of Carignan. Old style vinification too in tanks and oak barrels.

Colour is a lovely ruby and there are raspberry and cherry in the aromas. On the palate, it is fruity for sure, spice also, a very good depth of flavour, nicely balanced; the tannins are close to smooth in this medium bodied wine and there is an excellent finish as well. It packs quite a punch for such a smooth wine and is Very Highly Recommended.




That noticeable acidity helps make it a good food wine, lamb, roasted meat and cheeses are recommend by the producers. I found it a terrific match with Moussaka, especially the version made using this recent recipe from Dublin's Tang Restaurant in association with Glenisk - see the details here.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Engaging Native Italian Trio

Engaging Italian Trio
All Natives!

Baglio Rosso Nero d’Avola, Terre Siciliane (IGP) 2014, 14%, €19.50 Le Caveau

This organic wine has undergone natural fermentation - without additional yeast - and is Highly Recommended. Colour is a very dark red, heading into black. Dark fruits and spice on the nose follow through to the palate, some savoury notes here too, plus excellent acidity. Fresh too, this fruity low intervention medium bodied wine is a delicious easy drinker.

Filippi “Castelcerino” Colli Scaligeri, Soave (DOC) 2014, 12.5%, €18.65 Le Caveau

This is quite an attractive wine, beginning with its medium gold colour. Aromas of fresh white fruit, hints of anise. White fruit flavours too, no shortage of minerality, elegant and fresh, quite smooth with a lingering finish, this light bodied biodynamic wine is Highly Recommended.

The main grape for Soave is Garganego, sometimes others are added. But not here. This is 100% Garganego, the fruit of 70 year old vines. It is also held on its lees for an extended period and they recommend pairing it with fish, salads, and light pasta dishes. An entry level wine but far from basic. Well worth a try.

Masi Campofiorin 2005 Rosso del Veronese (IGT), 13%, €17.50 (now at 14.95) for the 2008 version, Bradley’s Off Licence

An ageing potential of 10 to 15 years is flagged on the bottle, so I'm in pretty good time, I said to myself as I opened this gift from a friend. Colour is a ruby red and the aromas speak of warm ripe cherries. There follows a good concentration of cherries and berries, good acidity, very fine tannins and a decent finish. Highly Recommended.


This rich, smooth wine has spent 18 months in large oak barrels, is very approachable and versatile with food. It is made by re-passing (ripasso, sometimes also called double fermentation, is a method used to add more structure, body and flavour). The grapes used are Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, all native grapes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top Red Trio from SuperValu. Delicious Whites too.

Top Red Trio from SuperValu
The annual SuperValu Christmas showcase gets underway tomorrow, 24th of November, and here are three reds (from many) to watch out for. My top three consist of an Italian style Shiraz from Australia, a lovely food-friendly Sangiovese from Tuscany and a delicious Rioja to try with the red meats, leg of lamb in particular. Cheers!

Nugan Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz 2012 (Australia), 14.5%, €19.99 (15.00 from 24/11) SuperValu

The dried grape technique is borrowed from Italy. It is used mainly to increase concentration. Five days then in contact with the skins before going on to spend 12 months in French and US oak. It comes in a noticeably heavy bottle!

Darkly coloured (garnet), it is lighter towards the rim.  It has very inviting fruit aromas, cherry and plum. And the velvety palate is certainly concentrated, complex deep flavours (that cherry again), some spice too; quite intense; excellent acidity too and it has a long finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Castellani Arbos Sangiovese (IGT Tuscany) 2013, 13.5%, €12.99 (10.00 from 24th Nov) SuperValu
Vanilla is prominent in the aromas of this Highly Recommended medium red; darker fruits there too. On the palate, it is smooth and fruity (cherries and plums), drifts of spice too, plus that quintessential acidity (almost an ever-present in Italian wines), and fine sweet tannins make it a pleasure in the mouth and the dry finish ain't bad either. Great value.

The producers aim has been to use the best Sangiovese grapes “to produce a Tuscan red dominated by fruity and spice notes, typical of the grape”. This worthy effort may be enjoyed with red meats and pasta dishes.

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja (DOC) 2011, 14.5%, €22.99 (18.00 from 24th Nov) SuperValu
Vanilla for sure in the complex nose but fruit shines through as well in this dark cherry red. That excellent balance is also noted on the smooth palate, tannins close to fine, plus some spice too, fruit and wood are well integrated and then follows a long and juicy finish with the dark fruit and vanilla still in harmony. Highly Recommended.

Bodega Covila, a co-op in Alavesa, regard this, rightly I think, as a Premium wine. It is a limited edition, just 6,400 bottles. It has excellent acidity and should be a good match for roast leg of lamb (no mint sauce though!), a match to repel the December chill and reinforce the Christmas cheer.

All Right With SuperValu Whites

Coopers Creek Dillons Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough (New Zealand), 12.5%, €14.99 (12.00 from 3.11) SuperValu
Best enjoyed young and fresh, say Coopers. So let's get at this Dillons, part of their Select Vineyards series.  It is light gold in colour with white fruit aromas (gooseberry, lime and peach in the mix). A power of flavour on the intense palate, balanced by a delicious acidity. Young and fresh it comes with a reverberating finish. Not to be left on the shelf. Highly Recommended.

Abellio Albarino 2015 Rias Baixas (DO), 12.5%, €13.99 (10.00 from 24/11) Supervalu

Liked the colour of this immediately, an inviting medium gold. It is hand-harvested and ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. The medium intense aromas are of white fruit. It has a smooth character on the palate, intense fruit (pear, apple and peach) with refreshing minerality. It is zesty and well balanced and Highly Recommended.

Domaine Les Guignottes, Les Resses Montagny 1er Cru 2014, 13%, €24.99 (€20.00 from 24/11) SuperValu




Not too much to say about this - just go out and buy and enjoy! This classic Chardonnay has beautiful intense white fruit aromas, peach the most prominent. Colour is a bright gold and there are amazing fruit and nut flavours, some spice too. The acidity too is outstanding. Fresh, with  a gorgeous mouthfeel and a long finish. Very Highly Recommended. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Trio of White Alternatives

A Trio of White Alternatives


Landron La Louvetrie Muscadet Sevre et Maine (AP) 2015, 12%, €15.65 Wines Direct

This fresh tasting Muscadet is a long way from the many cheap ones consumed on half-forgotten Breton holidays. It has been rasied sur lie, is organic, biodynamic (vegan friendly). The grape used by the way is not called Muscadet (as many of us holidaymakers then thought) but the local Melon de Bourgogne. It is light bodied, dry, with medium to high acidity and they recommend using it with mussels, oysters and herb omelette.

You’ll note light gold with tints of green in the glass, yeasty aromas, a tingly mouthfeel with lively citrus fruit; rather elegant - the time on lees has helped. All in all, a pleasurable renewal of acquaintance with a wine I once (maybe more than once) had more than enough of. Highly Recommended.

Great for fish and shellfish they say but why not try it my way - with trout (both tinned and fresh, not at the same time!) from the marvellous Goatsbridge Farm in Kilkenny.

La Fonte Vermentino di Terrabianca Tuscany (IGT) 2015, 12.5%, €16.15 Karwig Wines



This is another fresh and fruity wine, on a par for quality with the Muscadet. Colour is a very light straw and the aromas are on the slight side. After the lightness of the aromas, the palate is a surprise and a very pleasant one at that, a smooth feel and then those fresh and concentrated fruit flavours (grapefruit, lemon), excellent acidity and a long finish as well. Reminds me of a good quality Sauvignon. Highly Recommended.

Casa Maria Verdejo, Castilla Y Leon (VDT) 2014, 12.5%, €10.45 Le Caveau

Steely pale yellow is the producer’s apt description of the colour. Aromas too are rather muted, suggestions of apple. On the palate though, it has much more going for it, fresh and dry and zesty with green fruit flavours and a good finish.



Agricola Castellana is a long standing and important coop and this Recommended wine is very approachable and food friendly. Ideal with a salad of Goatsbridge Farm trout, other fresh fish, shellfish. Try it too as an aperitif with olives. Besides, it will do well too with spicy sauces.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Madregale Duo. Not the same as madrigal!

A Madregale Duo
Not the same as madrigal!


Having a bit of fun with a pun here. Below, we have a look at two examples of Madregale wines, one white, one red. The Madrigal is a musical work. Maybe after a glass or two of the wine, you and your drinking partners might move on to a Madrigal!


Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied but that is not the case with this example by Monterverdi .  The number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six.

Back to the wines - don't think I'm up to a madrigal - which come from the award-winning Cantina Tollo, “one of the biggest and best co-operative wineries in the Abruzzo region” of Italy. These two are excellent simple quaffable wines and good value to boot.

Madregale Bianco 2015, Terre di Chieti (IGP), 12%, €11.05 Le Caveau
Light gold is the colour with tints of green. The white fruit aromas are of moderate intensity. There is a tingle on the palate as the fruit flavours roll in with a citrus-y overlay. It is lively and fresh and dry, all combined in a lingering finish. This simple well-made wine, obtained from a blend of Trebbiano and Chardonnay grapes, is an excellent house wine; fine too for parties and weddings and for everyday quaffing. Recommended.


Madregale Rosso 2015, Terre di Chieti (IGP), 12.5%, €11.05 Le Caveau
Another easy-drinking Madregale, ideal as a summer quaffer or with uncomplicated Italian dishes such as pizza or tomato based pasta. It is a well balanced blend of traditional local grapes Montepulciano and Sangiovese (sometimes Merlot).

Colour is purple and there is jammy red fruit in the aromas. Fresh and fruity with typical Italian acidity (they make their wine to go with food). Easy-drinking too - good company on the summer patio or even in a warm winter room. Recommended.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Superb French Chardonnay. And Meet Karwig’s Italians

A Superb French Chardonnay.
And Meet Karwig’s Italians


Château Martinolles Chardonnay Limoux (AOC) 2014, 13.5%, €19.65 Karwig Wines

A superb wine from an intriguing historical Languedoc area. The Saint-Hilaire monastery actually used to adjoin the property, and it was there in 1531, that the method for making sparkling wines was discovered.

The fruit, one hundred per cent Chardonnay, is hand-harvested from old vines and is aged for 9 months in oak barrels (one-third new and two-thirds aged), a mixture of French and American oak. It is light gold in colour and you should find white fruits (quince and particularly lime) in the aromas. It is very impressive on the palate, intense in flavour and with a balancing acidity, elegant with a long finalé. A very pleasant surprise indeed and Very Highly Recommended.



Selvapiana Chianti Rufina (DOCG) 2013, 13%, €23.50 Karwig Wines
This a bright ruby from the organic vineyards of Selvapiana. Ripe red fruits in the aromas. On the palate, it is vibrant, ripe and juicy, some spice too, tannins just about in play, a refreshing acidity. It is medium to full bodied, rather elegant, lively and long, rather moreish and Highly Recommended. Try it with pasta, steak and pork chops.


Rufina is one of the sub zones of Chianti. The usual advice is to buy your Chianti from Chianti Classico, the name given to wines from the original historic boundaries. But Wine Folly writes: Both Chianti Classico and Chianti Rufina are likely to be of higher quality, since they are made in smaller quantities from distinct historical areas. This Rufina certainly underlines that point.


Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino, Terre di Chieti (IGT) 2015, 13%, €16.70 Karwig Wines


Okay. I haven't lost my marbles! I am talking about a wine, not the famous sheep's cheese of Italy. The Pecorino grape is so called because a bunch resembles a sheep’s head. That’s the winery's story. Another is that the bunches are a favourite treat for the sheep. Wine-Searcher.com says: Pecorino cheese is, coincidentally, a surprisingly good food match for Pecorino wine.


Making wine from native vines is a “point of pride” for Caldora. This hilltop vineyard overlooks a beach (Lido Riccio); on the summer nights, the fresh sea breeze allows a thermal range “fundamental for the complex aromatic structure of the wine”.


Color is quite a light straw yellow. White fruit aromas, herbal hints too, even a slight whiff of liquorice; fresh and crisp, dry and minerally, with excellent acidity and a  persistent finish. Recommended.


Conte Loredan Gasparini Cabernet Sauvignon, Montello E Colli Asolani (DOC) 2014, 13%, €17.25, Karwig Wines.


Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted vine in the area of Montello, a small hill 30 miles north of Venice. Half of this is aged in big oak barrels, half in stainless steel.


The colour is purple, deep and dark and there are blackcurrant aromas with hints of herb. Straight away on the palate you'll notice its freshness, its fruit flavours and then that lovely acidity (food is a welcome accompaniment here!). Tannins are fine and the finish is lengthy. This warm and soft wine is Highly Recommended.




Wednesday, July 27, 2016

La Stoppa’s Elena Pantaleoni. I wish my wines to live for many years

La Stoppa’s Elena Pantaleoni
I wish my wines to live for many years


Elena Pantaleoni is part of the “Triple A” movement; you’ll see the sign on some of her wines. What's it all about? Mostly, it is against the standardisation of wines, the dumbing down, the loss of variety, of personality, of terroir, of local grapes, of character. Agriculturists, Artisans, Artists.


Essentially, it is Elena and her equivalents in Italy, in France, in Spain, in Portugal, wherever, who are up against Big Food, Big Drink. It is for nature. Natural Resistance is a film in which Elena had a leading part. And it is not just wine. The monopolising influences are everywhere, in all sectors. So wake up, get up, get out and support your local food and drink producer. Otherwise, some boring day in the future, breakfast will be Tablet 1, lunch Tablet 2, dinner Tablet 3; interchangeable. And your wine will be white or red. No variety.

Triple 'A': AGRICULTURISTS Only who cultivates directly the vineyard can build a fair relationship between man and grapevine, and obtain healthy and mature grapes through exclusively natural agronomical interventions. ARTISANS Artisanal methods and capabilities are required to carry out a viticultural and oenological productive process that does not modify the original structure of the grapes and of the wine. ARTISTS Solely the “artistic” sensibility of a producer, respectful of his own work and his own ideas, can give life to a great wine in which the characteristics of territory and vine are exalted.

Read, a little, more on the subject here.

La Stoppa Trebbiolo 2013 (Emilia rosso IGT), 13%, €19.95 Le Caveau

This certified organic natural red is a blend of Barbera (60%) and Bonarda (40%) and thereby hangs a tale.

For twenty years, La Stoppa estate had been growing mainly international grapes but, in 1996, Elena Pantaleoni and winemaker Giulio Armani decided to concentrate on the Italian grapes Barbera and Bonarda.

Elena: “I wish my wines to live for many years; so that when selected, they can be enjoyed for their colour, their taste and their bouquet.”

Colour here is a vibrant medium red. Aromas are fresh and  rather complex and include red and darker berries, vanilla hints, spice too. On the palate, it is light, fruity, simple, some spice too, a very refreshing acidity, lively, lovely and juicy; good on its own or with food. A wine for all seasons and Very Highly Recommended.

I met Elena for the first time at a recent lunch in Good Things in Skibbereen and she told me that they also make a frizzante version of the Trebbiolo, an everyday wine that, helped by its pleasant acidity, goes well with the local cuisine. The name Trebbiolo, she told us, comes from a local river valley.
Elena (1st left, 1st row) at lunch in Good Things, Skibbereen.

La Stoppa Malvasia Dolce Frizzante, Emilia (IGT) 2015, 7%, €18.95 Le Caveau.

And that same valley produces the fruit, the Malvasia di Candia, for this unusual moderately sweet bubbly wine. Unusual to me anyhow. Single fermentation is via the Charmat method (also used in Prosecco). Note that the ABV is just 7%.

Note too the beautiful golden colour. Not that many bubbles. It is frizzante, not spumante! Easy drinking (not a hint of cloying), moderately sweet, honey and fruity and a good finish. This lightly sparkling beauty is a must try, perhaps with a nougat by Miena, maybe with some poached/grilled fruit such as peaches. Recommended.






La Stoppa Ageno, Emilia (IGT) bianco 2011, 13.5%, €31.95 Le Caveau

The Malvasia pops up here again and is indeed the major component in the blend for this rather amazing orange wine. Ortrugo and Trebbiano, both white grapes, also contribute. The wine is called after the founder of La Stoppa Estate, a man from Genoa. It is produced using an old traditional winemaking method, where the grapes are macerated on their skins (indigenous yeast, no added sulphur) for up to a month, or more, to create an orange wine. It is rich in colour, tannic and complex.

That colour is quite amazing. In addition to the maceration, it also helps that Ortrugo tends to orange in any case. The aromas are complex. For a second or two, I thought I was on a cider as I detected an autumnal orchard mustiness.

For all the intense colour and complex aromas and initial sweetness, this rich and elegant wine is definitely dry with a tannic finish (you notice it as your lips dry!). Made in the traditional manner, aged for a year in large barrels and two years in bottle, it is unique and Very Highly Recommended.
"The first Ageno was first produced in 2002 so we do not have a long experience of this wine,” said Elena in Skibbereen and she recommended serving it at 15 degrees.

That unique quality is exactly what Elena wants for this wine, for all her wines. She spends a lot of time on the road selling her wines. She knows La Stoppa will makes its mark and succeed if it has a strong identity. She and winemaker Giulio have certainly achieved that with this trio.



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