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The Winefully Magazine

SUGAR CALLS SUGAR: WINE PAIRING WITH CHRISTMAS SWEETS.

Christmas holidays are unique because, for many, it is the right time to treat yourself to something special at the table. Special cured meats, maybe that caviar to be tasted once in a while, or a good handmade nougat as well as an artisan panettone. The world of Christmas sweets, in particular, is full of choice to close a lunch or dinner at home. Sometimes we tend to think that a Classic Champagne is perfect for both opening the meal and closing it with dessert pairing. That’s true just in case the chosen one has a certain amount of residual sugar. A demi-sec sparkling wine, for example, can work, because its sugars fluctuate between 33 and 50 grams per litre; as well as one sweet sparkling wine, where the threshold of 50 g/l is exceeded. Without going into the technicalities, it is enough to keep in mind a very simple quote: sweet calls sweet. It is not an absolute principle and there are many exceptions, for example when it comes to dark chocolate, but it’s a good basic rule. Not only to avoid unsuccessful pairings, but also not to waste a valuable bottle, perhaps that Champagne kept for months and months waiting for the right opportunity. It’s a typical holiday risk, and it doesn’t happen only with sparkling wines: we have a valuable bottle aside, we’ve been waiting for a long time the right opportunity to open it, and, driven by the enthusiasm of the Christmas spirit we make the wrong choice.
So, in order to avoid mistakes at the end of the meal, let’s remember to always indulge the presence of sugar with other sugar. Technically that’s what it’s called pairing by concordance. The rule does not concern sparkling wines only, but all sweet wines. Among them, in particular, there are the raisin wines, of which Italy is very rich at all latitudes, from Alto Adige to Pantelleria. These are wines made through the processing of grapes withered. The withering can take place on the plant, with a late harvesting process of over-ripening, or after harvesting the grapes, leaving the berries dehydrated for a certain period of time.
What is sought through the withering process is a greater concentration of aromas and sugars, which will be found, then, also in the glass after processing. For a good wine pairing with a dessert, choosing just any passito it is not enough. The structure of the cake we are going to eat, for example, is a key element to be taken into consideration. A Paradiso cake, for example, has a very different structure compared to a panforte, decidedly more important, since, among the ingredients, we have honey, almonds, candied fruits and various spices. If in the first case we can opt for a delicate wine, for example a Moscato d’Asti, in the second case the choice can go up a more structured product, such as a Vin Santo. Another point to be considered concerns the level of sweetness, so the amount of sugars present in the dessert recipe, because there is sweet and sweet. A yogurt plumcake, in in this sense, is very different from an apricot jam tart. In the first case a light sparkling wine from Malvasia grapes can be a good solution. In the second case you can opt for a raisin Zibibbo arriving from Sicily, where the warm climate facilitate the sweetness of the grapes and, consequently, the final product. Continuing with the factors to keep in mind when looking for the right match for a dessert, we can consider its aroma too. This can result from the aromatic herbs included in the recipe or from the intrinsic scent of one specific ingredient. An example can be that, unmistakable, of candies in panettone, characterized precisely by a marked aroma. In this case for the pairing, always in a logic of concordance, can be evaluated a wine of good intensity. Intensity, to be clear, is that parameter that describes in quantitative terms the strength of the scents expressed on the nose and on the palate. Different wines obtained from aromatic grapes typically have great intensity such as Moscato, Malvasia or Gewürztraminer. The latter is the basis of the passito Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten signed by the historic South Tyrolean company Hofstätter, ideal to combine with a good panettone. A Gewürztraminer from late harvest of great thickness, which takes its name from one of the prestigious cru from the estate vineyards. A key characteristic is its surprising freshness, decidedly above the average in the category of sweet wines, and essential to avoid weighing down the end of meals which at Christmas can already be challenging in themselves. The low alcohol content, around 7%, also helps outline a lean and elegant profile. Honey and aromatic herbs on the nose, apricots, pears and candied citrus fruits on the palate. The very long persistence characterizes this Gewürztraminer as the right choice to round off a Christmas lunch or dinner, with the idea of carrying the sweet flavour of the holidays with you for as long as possible.

SUGAR CALLS SUGAR: WINE PAIRING WITH CHRISTMAS SWEETS.

Christmas holidays are unique because, for many, it is the right time to treat yourself to something special at the table. Special cured meats, maybe that caviar to be tasted once in a while, or a good handmade nougat as well as an artisan panettone. The world of Christmas sweets, in particular, is full of choice to close a lunch or dinner at home. Sometimes we tend to think that a Classic Champagne is perfect for both opening the meal and closing it with dessert pairing. That’s true just in case the chosen one has a certain amount of residual sugar. A demi-sec sparkling wine, for example, can work, because its sugars fluctuate between 33 and 50 grams per litre; as well as one sweet sparkling wine, where the threshold of 50 g/l is exceeded. Without going into the technicalities, it is enough to keep in mind a very simple quote: sweet calls sweet. It is not an absolute principle and there are many exceptions, for example when it comes to dark chocolate, but it’s a good basic rule. Not only to avoid unsuccessful pairings, but also not to waste a valuable bottle, perhaps that Champagne kept for months and months waiting for the right opportunity. It’s a typical holiday risk, and it doesn’t happen only with sparkling wines: we have a valuable bottle aside, we’ve been waiting for a long time the right opportunity to open it, and, driven by the enthusiasm of the Christmas spirit we make the wrong choice.
So, in order to avoid mistakes at the end of the meal, let’s remember to always indulge the presence of sugar with other sugar. Technically that’s what it’s called pairing by concordance. The rule does not concern sparkling wines only, but all sweet wines. Among them, in particular, there are the raisin wines, of which Italy is very rich at all latitudes, from Alto Adige to Pantelleria. These are wines made through the processing of grapes withered. The withering can take place on the plant, with a late harvesting process of over-ripening, or after harvesting the grapes, leaving the berries dehydrated for a certain period of time.
What is sought through the withering process is a greater concentration of aromas and sugars, which will be found, then, also in the glass after processing. For a good wine pairing with a dessert, choosing just any passito it is not enough. The structure of the cake we are going to eat, for example, is a key element to be taken into consideration. A Paradiso cake, for example, has a very different structure compared to a panforte, decidedly more important, since, among the ingredients, we have honey, almonds, candied fruits and various spices. If in the first case we can opt for a delicate wine, for example a Moscato d’Asti, in the second case the choice can go up a more structured product, such as a Vin Santo. Another point to be considered concerns the level of sweetness, so the amount of sugars present in the dessert recipe, because there is sweet and sweet. A yogurt plumcake, in in this sense, is very different from an apricot jam tart. In the first case a light sparkling wine from Malvasia grapes can be a good solution. In the second case you can opt for a raisin Zibibbo arriving from Sicily, where the warm climate facilitate the sweetness of the grapes and, consequently, the final product. Continuing with the factors to keep in mind when looking for the right match for a dessert, we can consider its aroma too. This can result from the aromatic herbs included in the recipe or from the intrinsic scent of one specific ingredient. An example can be that, unmistakable, of candies in panettone, characterized precisely by a marked aroma. In this case for the pairing, always in a logic of concordance, can be evaluated a wine of good intensity. Intensity, to be clear, is that parameter that describes in quantitative terms the strength of the scents expressed on the nose and on the palate. Different wines obtained from aromatic grapes typically have great intensity such as Moscato, Malvasia or Gewürztraminer. The latter is the basis of the passito Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten signed by the historic South Tyrolean company Hofstätter, ideal to combine with a good panettone. A Gewürztraminer from late harvest of great thickness, which takes its name from one of the prestigious cru from the estate vineyards. A key characteristic is its surprising freshness, decidedly above the average in the category of sweet wines, and essential to avoid weighing down the end of meals which at Christmas can already be challenging in themselves. The low alcohol content, around 7%, also helps outline a lean and elegant profile. Honey and aromatic herbs on the nose, apricots, pears and candied citrus fruits on the palate. The very long persistence characterizes this Gewürztraminer as the right choice to round off a Christmas lunch or dinner, with the idea of carrying the sweet flavour of the holidays with you for as long as possible.

VERTICAL VITICULTURE: A JOURNEY AMONG THE HIGHEST VINEYARDS OF EUROPE

How high can you go in Europe with the cultivation of vines? The question is more actual than ever, given the effects of climate change and the increasingly frequent attempts to find a decisive answer in the altitude. There are several vineyards that claim to be the highest in the Old World. The purpose here is not much to decide the winner from the orographic point of view, or compile an exhaustive list, but rather to quote some of these cases, and outline some distinctive features that characterize the vineyards in quota and the wines that derive from there.

Southern Spain, with La Contraviesa mountains, looks like it managed to reach the highest altitudes. We are close to the National Park of Sierra Nevada, southeast of Granada, at an impressive 1.368 meters above sea level altitude, mitigated by warm winds from the Alboran Sea. Here Barranco Oscuro winery cultivates 10 hectares of land, a non-trivial extension for
such extreme conditions. Among the cultivated vines there are both a number of autochthonous and some international including Pinot Noir and Merlot.
In Italy’s South Tyrol, precisely in the upper Val Venosta, there is another place that competes with the just mentioned Spanish case. Here Calvenschlössl winery cares for several vineyards, including a very special. It’s called Marienberg, and it was the namesake Benedictine monastery to grant the land so that it could be cultivated. The incredible altitude where the Solaris vine grows is 1.340 meters above sea level, truly a breath from the title of the highest vineyard in Europe. It’s a place of incredible charm, where the millenary history of the Benedictine monastery merges with steep sceneries of dazzling beauty, with Lake Resia standing out with its crystal clear waters.

Again in Italy, but at a completely different latitude, viticulture flies again up to 1.300 meters above sea level. We are in Calabria, in Cava di Melis, a small town in the heart of the
Sila National Park, in the municipality of Longobucco. The winery is managed by Immacolata Pedace and cultivates various international vines including Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Viticulture at heights like this is often prohibitive: in this case, is made possible by a delicate intersection of factors, including the
presence of Lake Cecita, which with its influence acts as a mitigating element allowing to overcome the harsh and snowy winters during which temperatures reach even 20 degrees below zero.

Back to the north of the country, Valle D’Aosta is also known for the impressive altitudes of its viticulture. It’s at 1.210 meters, in the northwest part of the region, where the well-known Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle was born, produced with Prié Blanc grapes. One of the most representative wineries is the cooperative Cave Mont Blanc, today with about 80 members, each of them cultivating a small vineyard overlooking the Mont Blanc.
Back to Trentino now, and specifically to the Valle di Non, where we can find the very interesting Vin de la Neu, a winery led by Nicola Biasi, an internationally-known winemaker
famous for his ability to grow and lead different markets with several Italian wineries. More than ten years ago Nicola decided to plant over 800 meters of altitude the resistant variety Johanniter: 2013 is the year of the first harvest.

One of the most interesting traits of Vin de la Neu’s work is the experimentation that today, through science and knowledge, allows the production of wines at higher altitudes than the past. One of the fundamental building blocks that allows to achieve this goal is the study of resistant varieties, such as the Johanniter. The results they give from an agronomic point of view against fungal diseases (and not only) are truly extraordinary. This, of course, allows for a total absence of treatments in the vineyard, and therefore to carry on a viticulture that can be really defined as sustainable and respectful of the territory.

The result in the glass is tangible and unequivocal. Nicola’s wines are characterized by great purity and cleanliness, with an expressiveness that leaves its mark.
The 2017 vintage of Vin de la Neu, in particular, is characterized by rigor and freshness both coming from the mountain environment where it was born. Orange, pineapple and some pleasant herbaceous nuances join a range of scents typically belonging to the mineral range such as graphite. A mottling of tertiary perfumes is added on top, with nuances of hydrocarbons and iodine reverberations standing out clear. A tense sip, rich and perfectly centered contains the soul of an innovative project that makes harmony with the mountain environment its distinctive hallmark.

Georgia Dimitriou, the host of Le Mortelle estate

The oenologist of the Maremma estate Le Mortelle, property of Marchesi Antinori, takes us to the discovery of this splendid winery by talking about identity, terroir, architecture and sustainability, all perfectly integrated themes within one of the most important Italian wine families.

First of all, tell us a bit about ourselves, how you approached the world of wine and your indeed fascinating career path?

As fascinating as my path may seem today, I confess my approach to wine was almost accidental. I was studying agronomy in Athens, the city I come from, when I was struck by the magic of viticulture, as I call it: I was amazed by the fact that such a result could come out of a simple raw material such as grapes, complex and elegant as wine can be. The role of man in the center of this transformation intrigued me so much that I decided I wanted to absolutely do this job. So I left Greece to pursue this passion around the world. After my Masters in France I have worked in various wine regions such as Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Yarra Valley and Malborough before arriving in Tuscany exactly seven years ago.

Le Mortelle, like the other beautiful estates of Marchesi Antinori, presents an unique environmental context that, in addition to being of a special beauty, is also extremely peculiar with respect to the soil composition and exposure of the vineyards. Can describe it and explain to us the personality conferred to the wines of the estate?

The estate, surrounded by small hills that create a sort of amphitheater, is located in southern Tuscany, in Maremma, at a distance of about 7 km from the sea. It is precisely this proximity to the sea, together with the pedological characteristics, that makes Le Mortelle a unique place. Our soil, with an alluvial / marine origin, is rich in skeleton with high percentages of sand and some clay. The richness of skeleton on the surface tends to maintain heat and, together with the sand, allows for good drainage, limiting any water stress in summer. At the same time, the vines have an East-West exposure so to take the best out of the afternoon Mistral that helps mitigating the temperatures. These conditions favor a slow and optimal ripening especially for our late varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère, giving life to wines of great aromatic elegance and tannic finesse.

As Winefully we know Le Mortelle through the Poggio alle Nane and Ampio, two complex and structured reds that are ambassadors of the Estate: how can you describe them and what similarities (and differences) do we find in the two? 

To these two wines we dedicate the best plots of the estate and the greatest care during all stages of their production, starting with the operations in the vineyard.Poggio alle Nane is a wine conceived on a very elegant expression of Cabernet Franc: the aromatic complexity obtained from our best grapes of this variety, with notes of white pepper, blueberry and mint, combined with the dense tannic texture conferred by the Cabernet Sauvignon and the spicy and velvety character of Carménère, create a complex wine with a great aging potential. A wine that can offer immediate satisfaction but which reveals its character even more to those who have the patience to wait for some time. On the other hand, Ampio is a fully particular expression of Carménère. A variety of the same family as the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with which it shares many similarities, especially at the aromatic level, with shades of black currant and liquorice, often predominant. The Carménère, a grape of Bordeaux origin and now reference for Chilean wines, it is often considered a less elegant variety which, however, as I like to say, found its grace in our territory. The blend of Ampio, result of a deep knowledge of our vineyards, it has an identity more pronounced and strongly characterized by the variety. With a long agingin 100% new French oak, it presents a complex bouquet of great finesse, silky tannins and an extraordinary tasting persistence.

Marchesi Antinori has accustomed us to challenge with extraordinary wines that represent today’s Italian oenology in the world and that have often gone very far beyond the local denominations: this is the case of Poggio alle Nane and Ampio delle Mortelle. As a winemaker, what’s your call on present disciplinaries? 

Historically in Italy, as well as in other traditional wine countries, the disciplinaries have often contributed to the notoriety of the wines in the world and to the improvement of quality within wine-growing regions. Today, however, the strong competition from New World wines pushes even more to overcome the oenological frontiers and the case of the Supertuscans is more than ever current. In addition, Le Mortelle is part of a very young and at the same time very heterogeneous wine area made of 8,700 hectares of vineyards. The Maremma region presents undoubtedly a great enological potential but has yet to craft its identity. We as a winery do respect our territory by creating representative and identitarian wines of the highest level. This is our contribution to that goal. Having the flexibility to do this is just as important.

Le Mortelle, as well as being one of the most beautiful Italian estates from an aesthetic and architectural point of view, it is also at the forefront of cellar practices: underground structure, production process by gravity, maximum exploitation of environmental conditions are just some of the most interesting aspects. How is this complexity reflected in the wines of the estate? 

The care of the grapes and the quality of each grape is a fundamental value for the production of wines such as Poggio alle Nane and Ampio. At the same time we are lucky for being in a wine growing area where the grapes ripen to a level as to make wines extremely delicate. Therefore, all operations in the winery have the objective of optimizing the precision and minimize the stress conditions for the raw material. There vinification by gravity, the use of truncated cone tanks, extractions through pneumatic pressing, a deep underground barrel cellar are just some of the tools that guarantee a less traumatic processing of the grapes, preserving the varietal aromas and facilitating the extraction of silky tannins. This is the only way we can express the character of our territory best.

Today people talk about sustainability in the supply chain of wine and we know that this philosophy is a pillar of Marchesi Antinori’s business model: how is the sustainability matter managed in Le Mortelle and what is the winery giving back to the surrounding environment?

The construction project of the Le Mortelle winery was conceived since the beginning as an eco-sustainable project with innovative systems like that the phytodepuration of waste water, but also with simple mechanisms that they exploit gravity, natural light and the thermoregulation of the rock. Thus Le Mortelle places respect for the environment and places energy saving at the center of its attention. The principle of sustainability is therefore reflected in every step, starting from the vineyard and at all stages of production. For example, in the past 10 years we have invested in integrated protection against insects, with the use of pheromones and the introduction of predatory insects, in such a way as to lead to the abandonment of insecticides without compromising the quality of our wines. Sustainability is a healthy and environmentally friendly approach for Le Mortelle, in the best agricultural tradition, combined with research and technology.

Marchesi Antinori is one of the main wine realities for the Italian wine, both for the long history it has and for the enological heritage represented by its estates. What does it mean to be part of a company where there is a strong and consistent entrepreneurial vision as a whole but at the same time each estate has a clear and indisputable identity? How do you conjugate the singularity of a project with the overall vision?

I imagine it is possible because the goal is common and at the center of the corporate model: to produce quality wine. As trivial as it may seem, it is a goal that it is sometimes overlooked by companies. Wine cannot be seen like any other food product: is comes from agriculture, dependent on nature and hardly influenced by her. Precisely for this reason quality wine cannot be standardized and man becomes the key factor. The Antinori family and our CEO and Chief Oenologist Renzo Cotarella were born in wine and know this principle very well. For this reason they considered essential for each estate to have its own identity and autonomy, each with its own team.

Getting closer to the end of this fantastic chat we would like to pay a look to the future: Georgia what to expect (or hope to wait) next from Le Mortelle? 

I think the near future of Le Mortelle will be even greener. The Antinori family has always been convinced that respect for the environment must call for maximum attention and effort. For Le Mortelle the challenge is even more important because we are in an area of ​​great natural beauty, where much of the Coastal Maremma is bordered as a Natural Reserve. Therefore, in the next few years we would like to further decrease our consumption of energy thus increasing the use of renewable energy. We would like to raise the awareness of all our employees in this direction, because only by changing our mindset we can really make things better. There’s one thing I am sure about, that the respect for the environment and its biodiversity is important for both ethical and technical reasons: the more we work in harmony with our territory, the more we will be able to produce wines of great expression.

Georgia Dimitriou, the host of Le Mortelle estate

The power of label (and not only)

Let’s imagine a well-stocked shelf of wines or, alternatively, the web page of an e-shop that provides clear and easy navigation functionalities as well as the correct observation perspective: this is certainly a classic situation that each of us has experienced (with no doubt as you are in the Magazine section of Winefully!) and which has seen a series of dynamics come on stage such as to govern the choice of the own wine to buy.

The reasons behind the selection are mixed and many of them are linked to the intrinsic motivation to purchase: an occasion to celebrate, a present to make, a bottle to collect, a long-desired wine finally available, a label chosen because of a direct or indirect advice from a friend, from social media or international critics, the availability of certain bottle formats and finally also the price, either because it is linked to a certain budget in hand or because it is able to generate savings if compared to other buying opportunities. Which is the fil rouge that links, more or less intensively, the reasons mentioned, certainly not exhaustive of all the buying opportunities that we can experience?

Aesthetics, meaning the mediated perception through the senses of the characteristics of a product that, at the time of purchase, is unknown or only partially known.

There is no doubt that the ancient saying according to which “even the eye wants its part” applies very well to such purchasing situations, hence the key role of Marketing in creating a certain appeal in the product, the bottle of wine, so to motivate the buyer to select it jointly or separately from other variables that are part of the decision-making process.

However, not all the five senses are stimulated during the study phase in which the details of interest are captured: a closed bottle will hardly be able to stimulate the sense of smell unless the storage conditions of the purchase site are below standard and motivate us to walk away as soon as possible (see also the article “Premium bottles: how to store them properly” nor the taste; however, the stimuli towards hearing may be greater, especially if combined with the touch in handling a bottle and storing a series of information from its profile, from any writings imprinted on the glass or from the quality and grain of the label and capsule, where available.

We leave sight inevitably for last, as this is the sense that most conditions the choice of a wine when buying in person sharing other details with touch and hearing, and it is the only sense conditioning the purchase in case you opt for online platforms. In the world of wine, the strategic nature of the packaging of a bottle has long been clear: a lot is invested so that the product transmits the values ​​of the cellar, communicates clearly and immediately to the consumer, allows them to go beyond the information on front and back labels, provides details in line with current legislation, mentions the progressive number of the bottle in the case of limited editions or, last but not least, provides a message related to the positioning of the product at Marketing level.

Even the smallest detail counts and can really make a difference: objectively, has it ever happened to choose one or more wines being guided by our knowledge or references from third parties, but also by our instincts and visual preferences? How many times have we faced winking labels or creative packagings that generate curiosity and desire to learn more or simply elegant “dresses” perfectly in line with the reputation of a particular wine? And how many times have we dropped the purchase of wines unable to communicate or whose packaging wasn’t in line with that specific situation?

It has happened, it happens and it will keep happening as the consumer is more and more skilled and informed and there are many ways to provide information that in the past might not have been so relevant (or perhaps they were, but only for industry experts). The trend is common to all markets (not only for wine since also spirits or water or carbonated drinks are no less) but in our world the winery choices aimed at a greater focus on appearance and on the perception of the product from the customer (consumer or not) can be seen with greater clarity. This happens because the wine market is highly heterogeneous and characterized by a history often linked to single territories and wineries, often guardians of a tradition that many times comes from family and that market trends have no way of affecting (or at least they can’t afford at the moment).

Therefore, it will be always difficult and even limiting to compare wines which essence is contained within the glass and wines where the outer dress is essential to finalize the sale. Both have the need to meet the customer’s purchasing power but the ways they do so are radically different, activating in a diametrically opposite way the senses underlying the decision-making process as well as the emotions, sentiments and feelings that can characterize certain purchases. The selection of a wine is supported by internal and external decision-making elements. The former refer to the wine itself, its history, the winemaking and aging techniques, the vintage and the terroir. The latter, on the other hand, are attributable to the way in which the wine is presented, the label, the packaging, the price and other factors that contribute to wine presentation and description.

As it emerged in the study named “Neuromarketing meets the art of labeling” commissioned by UPM Raflatac to SenseCatch in 2018, it clearly emerges that, keeping out the price variable, it is the label with its design, the types of paper and finishes to influence the choice of a wine. As mentioned by the title, the subject was analyzed at scientific level using the research methodology of SenseCatch, which integrates neuroscience and consumer behavior to analyze the reasons behind the decision-making processes of the consumer in an objective and scientific way. The research work has been published in this book and in the scientific article “Neuromarketing Meets the Art of Labeling. How Papers and Finishing on Labels Affect Wine Buying Decisions” by the American Association of Wine Economics magazine.

Therefore, it is clear there are objective as well as subjective reasons behind certain purchasing choices that involve one or more senses in evaluating multiple alternatives that get gradually shortlisted to identify the product of highest interest.Aesthetics, understood as what pleases the eye so much as to create satisfaction for a purchase, then comes into play and leads us to lean towards certain options depending on whether the stimuli are more or less aligned with expectations.

The external appearance of a bottle of wine is key, with the label playing the most important role together with any external packaging that makes the product unique and immediately recognizable, as well as highly attractive. Even focusing only on the label, the real distinctive character of each wine, we would have a very broad spectrum of messages to be received and analyzed: hence the focus on the dynamics that push a buyer to select specific labels following specific stimuli linked to graphics, tactile perception or the mix of colors that distinguish the individual wines.

Depending on the specific needs underlying the purchasing process, each or all together can play a more or less decisive role, with highly heterogeneous results following a rational reasoning that is largely but, inevitably (and for us, luckily) also emotional.

The serendipity of Amarone and the myth of Giuseppe Quintarelli

Serendipity is that phenomenon that happens when, whilst looking for something, a person unexpectedly finds something else. The beauty is that the “other” is a real surprise, something that often has a greater value than what was originally pursued. In short, it is a lucky, unplanned discovery. Christopher Columbus discovering America while actually looking for the Indies is perhaps the most famous case of serendipity. Then there is the Tarte Tatin, born when the Tatin sisters forgot to put the base in the apple pie; the popsicle, accidentally invented by Frank Epperson forgetting a glass of soda in the cold; and penicillin, the result of Alexander Fleming’s incorrect disinfection of a specimen.

Amarone also seems to be a typical case of serendipity. The legend tells of a person named Adelino Lucchese, cellarman of the cooperative winery of Negrar, who in 1936 found a forgotten barrel of Recioto wine. In opening he realized that the sweet wine, continuing to ferment, became dry. He tried then to recover from the damage, without success. The cellar manager, warned of the problem, decided to taste that missed Recioto anyway and he was pleasantly surprised by the result obtained. The phrase he seemed to have addressed to the cellarman is “this is not amaro (bitter), but Amarone!”.

Thus was born the famous wine of Valpolicella, with first sales document dated back to 1938. Amarone was then distributed in all respects starting from 1953, immediately obtaining an excellent commercial response. In 1968 the first disciplinary was approved: the DOC certification was recognized for the wine. Its success continued to grow, especially abroad, and in 2010 the DOCG certification also arrived. Amarone is technically a dry passito with no or almost no residual sugar. The peculiarity of the production process lies precisely in the drying of the grapes, which leads to concentration and great expressive potential. The wine is produced with the historical grapes Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, to which it is possible to add both local grapes and other varieties. If we look at the path taken by this great wine, one star shines more than the others along its ascending parabola. It is the one of Giuseppe Quintarelli, the man who was able to bring Amarone to the highest quality levels, sanctioning its success and fame all over the world. The winery was founded by his father Silvio in Negrar at the beginning of the twentieth century. It will be Giuseppe, the youngest of the children, who will take it in hand in the 1950s, continuing the work started by his father. The company grew in compliance with traditional processing methods, enriched by some important evolutionary choices. In the 1980s, for example, other international varieties were added to traditional grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and still others such as Nebbiolo and Croatina. What hasn’t changed over the years is the tension towards uncompromising, absolute excellence.

Giuseppe Quintarelli was a simple and generous man, so selfless as to share all the secrets of his profession with Romano Dal Forno, shaping his successor. A great producer who died exactly ten years ago, in 2012, when his daughter Fiorenza took over the reins of the company together with her husband and children.Several labels, all of monumental importance. Among these, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico stands out as a real legendary bottle. Let’s talk about 2013. The vintage, from a climatic point of view, was ambivalent. In the first part, the plants suffered the effects of a difficult climate, with low temperatures and frequent rains. In the second part, from June onwards, the weather instead turned in the opposite direction, leading to the harvest of fruits with a great quality profile. It is in fact one of the best vintages for Amarone, which many producers have managed to translate into wines of extreme finesse. Quintarelli’s, in particular, shows a ruby ​​red dress of great intensity, immediately suggesting a lively and vibrant material. The nose opens with hints of potpourri and outlines a touch of dark notes that the palate makes more evident. The sip is regal, sumptuous, with jam fruit that leaves room first to iodized sensations, then to hints of cocoa bean and licorice tones. As in all major works, not only the oenological ones, it is in the finale that the masterpiece is confirmed.

– by Graziano Nani 09.03.2022

Fifteen years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Creative Director of Doing. Sommelier Ais, writes for Intravino and Vertigo Magazine, part of the Passione Gourmet network. On Instagram is #HellOfaWine, dedicated to wine excellences. His wine blog is gutin.it, he mixes stories and illustrations. He also loves cooking: he talks about chefs and wines of the heart with themed tastings.

Fine Wines between Investment and Collecting – Part Two

Some time ago, in our article “Fine Wines between Investment and Collecting 1″ we addressed a series of aspects related to the appeal of fine wines towards those who  do  not put the tasting of a wine, a vintage or a specific format necessarily at the top of their preferences but which, instead, prefer to focus on different aspects that always have as a common denominator the sought after, famous, limited wine in some ways also capable of becoming a speculative product.

As we have seen, the topic of fine wines presents a series of critical issues to consider and address before starting an own purchasing activity.

Once the preparatory process has been completed and the necessary resources have been made available, the most difficult question must be faced: where to start from?

The answers are several, perhaps even infinite: the wider the choice and the potential combinations, the more the need to apply a necessary pragmatism to the topic not to get caught up in the sprawling world of investment wine.

Although there is a series of tools to support those who approach this dimension with the idea of diversifying their investments, either implementing speculative maneuvers or for the purpose of genuine collectionism, these are not always accessible to everyone.  In fact, there are platforms dedicated to the sale of any type of wine, even fine, full carton or wooden case, in limited or large quantities, where daily sellers and buyers from all over the world do confront, mostly linked to the B2B world, in a context of costly barriers to the entry. Of course, you can certainly skip these and follow a simpler approach within everyone’s reach through the use of social networks or dedicated sites that allow comparison   between private and non-private individuals, also on the basis of individual bottles. In addition, it must be taken into account how the typical buying and selling dynamics of private individuals differ according to the purpose of the investment,  the  resources available, the risk appetite of the individual as well as  the personal feelings, preferences and considerations, own or made such by the comparison with third parties or by the publication of guides and scores of international critics, historically with a more than relevant role in influencing the choices of those who invest resources in wine.

Since the topic is quite complex and approachable from several positions according to the real needs of the buyer, we will try to simplify it as much as possible, focusing our attention on the most difficult question mentioned above and sharing our experience gained on the Italian and international market.

Inevitably this will lead to focusing attention on some wineries to the detriment of others, on whose proposal there is nothing to object and against which there is no foreclosure beyond a duty of synthesis to contain the scope of our content.

Starting from the Bel Paese and its countless excellent wine productions, we would  undoubtedly  suggest focusing attention on BBBA+, which is not a financial rating but only a quick acronym referred to “Brunello, Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarone” and that leaves the “+” to interpretation, today little subject to fantasy and more concretely linked to wines called in their first phase “Supertuscan” and that today, thanks to the efforts of many winemakers carried out in recent decades, are assorted as a global reference with regard to the Italian wine. Starting our analysis from this last category, how can we not mention the true national iconic wine, from which so much (everything?) began, the Sassicaia of Tenuta San Guido? Born in the sixties at the behest of Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, there is no vintage without a race to buy all the available bottle formats. Beyond a quality and a tasting experience at the highest levels, Sassicaia is perhaps the best known (and traded) Italian wine in the world, always at the top of international criticism and characterized by a constant growth of its valuations, even after a short time from the purchase (which is recommended at the time of annual release, typically between first and second quarter of each year).

Our dispassionate suggestion regarding Sassicaia: we recommend using only official purchase channels being also, and unfortunately, the Italian wine most prone to counterfeiting.

If San Guido made Bolgheri great, thanks to the precious assist of Giosuè Carducci and, first of all, of nature itself, particularly generous in this upper part of the Maremma, the alternation between two legendary families for Italian wine, Antinori and Frescobaldi, leads to two champions of Bolgheri, Masseto and Ornellaia, as close in terms of properties as different as philosophy, terroir, production style and positioning market.

Two iconic labels, never satisfied in conquering the hearts of collectors, enthusiasts and investors, that represent a safe haven for invested capital given the always high demand that characterizes them at every release on the market.

A boutade wants a wine whose name ends in “-aia” to be characterized by high quality and to be, in a nutshell, a sort of safe refuge: beyond the many other excellent, wines with the same ending, it is at Solaia from Antinori that you have to look after the equally noble wines from Bolgheri.

A wine with distinct characteristics, coming from a different territory such as Chianti Classico where the Tignanello Estate benefits from an exceptional terroir exploited to the best by the Antinori family in producing, from vineyards insistent on the same hill, two excellences such as, in fact, Solaia and Tignanello, labels of noble rank always strongly requested on the market and appreciated by international critics, sometimes even with the highest honors. We all know Tuscany is a forge of great wines, now coming from many territories demonstrating the vocation of this region and the great skills of winemakers. The  above list is undoubtedly reductive, not having left the deserved space to iconic wineries that over the years have carved out a very important role, we think of Montevertine, Fontodi, Bibi Graetz, Tenuta di Trinoro, Le Pupille, Castello di Ama, San Giusto a Rentennano, Castellare di Castellina, Le Macchiole, Petrolo, Isole e Olena, Tenuta di Biserno, Monteverro, Tua Rita, Ricasoli, Querciabella, just to name a few  that, with one and more wines, are recognized to have an international standing and appeal.

But we cannot talk about Tuscany without considering one of the most famous medieval villages in the world, that Montalcino which is characterized by being the capital of good drinking based on Sangiovese Grosso, or Brunello.

The topic here is undoubtedly vast and therefore complex: Brunello di Montalcino is a wine that from many years presents a quality standard at the highest, so much so that more and more wineries now symbolize the town within a healthy kaleidoscope made of tradition and innovation, of old and new generations who pass the baton setting new and increasingly ambitious goals.

Labels such as Biondi Santi, Casanova di Neri, Giodo, Poggio di Sotto, Fuligni, Siro Pacenti, Le Chiuse, Il Marroneto, Castiglion del Bosco, Salvioni, Livio Sassetti, Stella di Campalto, Gianni Brunelli, Pian dell’Orino, Le Potazzine, Castello di Romitorio, Le Ragnaie, Luce della Vite, Il Poggione and Case Basse di Soldera are  some of the today protagonists of the Ilcinese offer that, from vintage to vintage and from reserve to reserve, keep high the name of this wine capital among the thick ranks of pretenders to the coveted bottles. Although Tuscany plays a key role in offering an extreme variety of fine wines subject to continuous purchases and investments, another region can offer a truly wide choice within a piece of land between the municipalities of Barolo and Barbaresco is Piedmont.

Land of great wines the Langa, with a great tradition and characterized by a splendid evolution over the years, so as to propose today a varied offer that well symbolizes the mix between a well-rooted tradition and an accepted   reinterpretation of Nebbiolo, the reference grape over time flanked by the equally native Barbera and, sometimes, Freisa.

Being able to make an exhaustive a list of investment tips is a difficult task in the Langhe, where you can easily do wrong to many excellent producers with vineyards belonging to the same MGA and physically bordering those of more noble wineries given the fragmentation of the parcels especially in those particularly suitable areas (some examples: Asili, Pajè and  Rabajà in Barbaresco, Cannubi in Barolo, Rocche dell’Annunziata and Cerequio in La Morra, Villero and Bricco Boschis in Castiglione Falletto, Mosconi, and Bussia in Monforte d’Alba, Vignarionda and Falletto in Serralunga or Ravera in Novello).

The great variety and consequent fragmentation of the parcels also imply very limited productions in those vineyards where the only spoken language is the extreme quality and where yields are deliberately reduced to extract the maximum from every single berry.

A reference for this way of operating is certainly Giacomo Conterno, father of one of the most famous reserve wines in the world, the Monfortino, and able to produce unique masterpieces from his own crus of Arione, Francia and Cerretta.

It is not an understatement to say that there is a queue to have the wines of Conterno, perhaps it would be better to say that the row is double, if not triple considering the interest of the market towards all the wines of Conterno starting from his great Barbera d’Alba. The Langhe have experienced periods in which family generations have succeeded one after the other, often leaving their own  indelible imprint in the  history of the territory and the wine offer: this is the case of the Gaja winery, where the fourth generation led by Angelo has definitely changed the oenology of the Langhe through important innovations that have brought the entire production of this winery to the highest levels on global scale, so much so that it is continuously sought after and exchanged.

Every historical producer active between Barolo and Barbaresco is the guardian of the history and excellence of these lands, dedicated to quality wine known all over the world: mentioning one rather than another is an arduous challenge, having at your disposal a mix of true champions. Names such as Luciano Sandrone, Vietti, Bartolo Mascarello, Roberto Voerzio, Elio Grasso, Rinaldi, Paolo Scavino, Domenico Clerico, Giuseppe Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa, Aldo Conterno, Lorenzo Accomasso, Roagna, G.D. Vajra, Cavallotto, Pio Cesare, Burlotto or Borgogno are all wineries that, over the years, have produced extraordinary wines and that still today see a demand for their excellences exceed, and not a little, the offer, often more and more limited.

Plenty the merits among Piedmontese producers, while defects…well, maybe too much choice!

We conclude our roundup of the most representative wines of the boot with an area where two absolute champions are able to best tame a wine as important as Amarone della Valpolicella: Giuseppe Quintarelli and Romano Dal Forno. Historically the object of interest from collectors and also investors, these two producers, who over time have been joined by from other excellences that are increasingly taking ground on the market, remain well-representative alfieri of a heterogeneous, vast territory, where the mix of grapes and the techniques of drying and aging allow the creation of exceptional wines, not limited to Amarone only but also Valpolicella Superiore and Recioto.

As introduced at the beginning, the Italian territory is certainly complex and the very high average quality of the wine produced does not make it easy to summarize schematically what we believe are in some ways the national champions.

In fact, our narrative does not aspire to be exhaustive, indeed we expect to have left out noble names, which we trust they won’t blame us, and to have skipped many emerging areas of sure interest and potential.

However, we hope that the reader can benefit from our efforts confirming the perpetual willingness of the Winefully Team to always analyze and fully understand the needs and expectations of our clients.

ALTRE NEWS

Luciano Sandrone: born under Nebbiolo sign

In the most intense period of the year, during the harvest, Barbara Sandrone – daughter of Luciano – managed to dedicate some of her time to tell us the story of their cellar, which, even before being a beautiful business story, it is an intense affair of family and emotions. A story in which the love that binds the three generations today in the company finds a reflection and completion in the almost symbiotic relationship with the territory, from which six wines are born to interpret the tradition in a pure and passionate way.

Your father Luciano, the founder of the winery, has a beautiful personal story. I’d like to start from here, if you like.

Yes, of course, for us it is always a joy to tell how it all began because we do not come from a family tradition in wine. My grandfather was actually a carpenter and, at a certain point, he decided to move to Barolo to expand his business and – call it chance or fate – the new carpentry headquarters was next to the cellar of the great Giacomo Borgogno. My dad at the time was a young guy and was divided between these two worlds, with Mr. Giacomo who liked him and always repeated – in Piedmontese dialect of course – “Grow up quickly Luciano, because here is room for you”. In the end it really went like this: after joining, he started to work with him, absorbing all his teachings and observing all his gestures. A wonderful experience for my father that lasted until his military service, then on his return he became head cellarman for the Abbona and Scarzello families, owners of the Marchesi di Barolo winery in 1970. He was only twenty-four years old and remained there until to 1990. At what point in this journey did Luciano decide that he wanted to make his own wine, starting from scratch?

It happened towards the end of the seventies: my father began to have the desire to deal also with what happens before the cellar, in the vineyard. The wine quality, you know, comes from the vineyard and he wanted to understand that part of the process better. In 1977 he decided to purchase of the Cannubi Boschis vineyard, from which our first Barolo was born.

My father didn’t have any spaces or own tools because – as I told you – he didn’t come from a family of winemakers, so he started from scratch, using our garage because it was the best place available. Our company has grown in this simple way and in small steps: first with a few machines, a few tanks and sometimes second-hand tools; then over time we rented other garages to be able to expand a little and, finally, the project of the new cellar, which only arrived in 1998. It is still here in Barolo, right at the foot of the Cannubi hill and here we have gradually succeeded, to bring everything inside: from the tractors to the rooms where we age the wine.

I would like to ask you a question about your character which is ultimately reflected in your wines. You are certainly one of the reference names for Barolo, yet it seems that you have managed to keep that essential and simple garage spirit of the beginnings, how did you do it?

I do not know. There was no strategy, we just believed a lot, with our hearts and minds, in what we did and we wanted to remain a family, even if this meant setting limits. But that’s okay because we want to manage things in a certain way – ours – and we want to exercise control over all phases in the vineyard and in the cellar.

Don’t be in a hurry: this is something that our vineyards tell us first of all. If there is one thing that the Nebbiolo grape teaches, it is the art of patience and knowing how to wait. I would tell you that we have transposed these learnings from the vineyard to all aspects of our work. This is also one of the reasons because, after all, our wines are not that many, because we have chosen to be guided by native vines and tradition, without being in a hurry. Just think that our latest born, Barolo Vite Talin, had more or less thirty years of gestation before seeing the light.

Do you take care of the commercial side, right?

Yes, although I admit I don’t like speaking that way. I work together with a group of very smart women only, I want to say it because I think that female relational skills make the difference. It is essential for us to make distributors understand the complexity of certain choices we make, sometimes apparently uneconomical but consistent with our philosophy.

My uncle Luca, on the other hand, follows the vineyard with his team of eight people. With the arrival of the Le Corse vineyard in Monforte, which will become part of the Barolo Le Vigne from the 2019 vintage, we reached thirty hectares of land. I’m talking to you about this acquisition because we really care of it: the owner of the plot has always been in a relationship of esteem and collaboration with my father, when he chose to retire he wanted to sell it to us because he knew he was leaving the vineyard to someone with a certain thought and a certain way of working. For us it was a great satisfaction and also an honor. With the entry into the company of your sons, Alessia and Stefano, you are now at the third generation but it can be said that you are still today first a family and then a company. How much does this affect your way of making wine?

Being a family is an incredible strength. Obviously we never forget that we are a company but we are animated by a common feeling and also by a relationship that binds us and this I believe it allows to work with a very strong serenity and conviction.

On your site I noticed that you define wine by its very essence as “natural”, can you tell us more about how you work?

For us, our vineyards are like people, they are part of our family: we need to take care of them, be present, know how to listen to them, without bullying. I’ll give you the example of Nebbiolo grapes in Barolo and Valmaggiore: the variety is the same, but the soil, climate and water conditions are so different that we have to relate to them in equally different ways. It is on us the capacity to grasp the signs that the vine gives us and help it to complete its path. This requires care that resembles dedication, especially in the most delicate moments such as summer or those preceding the harvest. Luca at the end of August begins sampling by parcels because clearly, depending on the exposure, the times and methods of ripening change a lot and this determines a very complex harvest, in the sense that each plot, indeed each plot, is a story in itself. That’s why we have a lot of support people who need to be specialized but also passionate. Work in the vineyard is always hard and tiring and requires competence and sensitivity in equal parts.

You operate in all aspects in an organic fashion but you have no certification. Don’t you find it useful?

We do not define ourselves as organic, we have always worked our way but we do not need a label, because we know how we work. My family is rooted here, now there are my sons who work with us, we love these places, it would be absurd to violate this land that has given us so much by working badly, with disrespectful interventions.

You use indigenous yeasts and practice spontaneous fermentation, we can say that you have not chosen the easy way. The variables that come into play in doing so are much greater.

We’ve always worked this way, I can’t even tell you what it’s like to be different. Perhaps for this reason I feel less of the risks and complexities. It is also true that we are helped by the fact that we know our vineyards well and that the genetic heritage of our grapes is so unique that it must be preserved. Having said that, choosing to operate in this way requires obsessive, absolute attention. To give you an example, when we have to do the pumping over, during fermentation, people in the cellar stop their tasks for a few hours a day, because it takes a crazy cure and because these yeasts are alive and never behave in the same way. Also in this case, it takes competence but above all it is necessary to “feel” this work, to understand that we are dealing with something alive, pulsating. You are natural and organic but it seems that you are very little interested in the debate about natural wines and the trends it has triggered.

Honestly, we have always followed our own path, without trying to look like someone else. We have also often gone against the tide, for example, when in the nineties there were barriques everywhere and it seemed that everything had to be barricaded, my father always stubbornly used the tonneaux, sometimes making an incredible effort to find the barrels because there was not much supply. But we have always thought that wine must have its own personality, with respect to which wood is only a complement and for this reason we have always gone on like this. Maybe, in this way you run the risk of not being liked by everyone, but the is fair in a certain sense, it is only good that there are more voices and more roads possible. All debates are also welcome, but then it is important that everyone choose their own path with independence and consistency.

A little while ago you were talking about the harvest, at this moment (ed. Beginning of October) this year’s is still in progress. I am not asking you for a final rating because it is too early but a first impression of its progress.

In fact, I don’t like to talk about the harvest before it’s finished. Also for reasons of superstition! But I can say that we are very happy with what we have collected so far. The climatic trend of this year has always kept us in suspense, with the frosts in April and then the hailstorms in the summer. They were all quite violent phenomena but I must say that it went well and the grapes are healthy and beautiful. The harvest is good in quality and quantity.

On our shop you can find both Le Vigne and Aleste, two Barolos with a particular allure. Can you tell us their story?

Le Vigne has always been a special wine for us. The first awards came with Cannubi Boschis, but my father always had in his heart the idea of ​​a Barolo according to the tradition of final assembly of grapes from different plots. I like to describe it as a symphony of musical instruments that together fully express the territory: each vineyard is treated, harvested and vinified alone, respecting its characteristics and then, with progressive tastings and tests, the final composition is decided, capable of expressing the characteristics of the year and of the territory. Our imprint is there but it is in the background, to harmonize the individual voices into a whole. Aleste is actually the legendary Cannubi Boschis, that was renamed by your father at one point, dedicating it to your children (Ale and Ste). A generous passing of the generational baton that would have thrown any marketing consultant into panic. How did it go?

You let me talk about something that still emotions me because I remember very well when my father explained to us that he wanted to dedicate to the new generations – at the right time – the most precious thing he had: his first vineyard and his first wine. At first, Luca and I were a little confused because changing the name of the wine that everyone considers our symbol was a risk from a communicative point of view. The thing I thought it was right to do was to spend a lot of time around explaining this choice to our distributors in person: it was important for us that everyone understood that it was purely a choice of heart that did not involve the identity of the wine. Barolo has remained the same: a vigorous, direct, full wine, immediately ready, also due to the “more intense” ripening of the Cannubi Boschis vineyard, which is at a lower altitude than other vineyards, therefore in a slightly more warm climate.

Le Vigne, on the other hand, is more floral, softer, first it embraces you and then wins your attention. They are two complementary personalities.

Sibi et paucis what project is it and why did you not want to make a classic reserve?

It is a setting aside of our bottles that we have been making for about fifteen years. We started with a small amount and progressively increased it. The wines rest in a dedicated cellar for eight years, then for ten years in total (two in barrels and eight in the bottle) because it is a project created to enhance Nebbiolo’s ability to grow over time and designed for us and for those who want understand what a Barolo is after ten or twenty years. The reserve is already born in the vineyard, from plots that are dedicated to it without being “special” plots. Sibi et paucis is always our wine, simply kept aside, for us and for friends.

To conclude, how have you seen the Langa changes in recent decades.

This is a question, a question that is close to my heart: I have never liked the distinction between traditionalists and modernists, because I think we all have the same roots, without which we would not be here today. It is a distinction that I have always perceived as a communicative need, to explain in a simple, schematic way – sometimes too much – a complex territory like this.

More than two distinct poles, I would speak of evolution: in a story like ours it is normal that we go through different evolutionary moments, which however all arise from tradition. Today it seems to me that we have reached a point of balance between the different souls, between those who have experienced more and those who have not moved away from their origins. And this seems a great thing to me.

Editorial Board 4.01.2022

Vintage New Years Eve

What if for this year we let ourselves go to a bit of gastronomic nostalgia, choosing festive but pleasantly retro dishes for the New Year’s Eve dinner?

Here you are some ideas for a fish-based menu, full of flavors of yesteryear but always delicious, to be paired with “great occasion” wines and also – when appropriate – vintage. Let’s start off in a bubbly way with a nice aperitif bubble for a dip in the Eighties with a prawn cocktail accompanied by the sensual pink sauce and with the timeless salmon canapés, playing at the table on the shades of color that run between plate and glass. In this case, in fact, the ideal choice could be a pink bubble: Italian and cheeky – like the fresh and mineral Francesco I Franciacorta Rosé by Uberti  enlivened by notes of red fruit and pink grapefruit flanked by spicy nuances – or French and refined, like a label with a great personality like the vintage Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé, delicate and voluptuous at the same time.

In the second case, the same bottle – perhaps in a magnum format – can also prove to be ideal for pairing with a simple but sumptuous and very tasty first course, suitable for parties, such as spaghetti with lobster with the discreet presence of tomato.

On the other hand, a white bubble – which certainly wouldn’t disfigure even with the opening prawn cocktail – could be the ideal choice to accompany another great classic of vintage seventies and eighties cuisine, never completely out of fashion: penne with salmon. blend with vodka, loved both by Ugo Tognazzi and by the regulars of disco evenings on the Romagna Riviera and by anyone who can guess the right alchemy between smoked fish, (little) cream, tomato and Russian distillate.

In fact, the tomato, omitted from many subsequent recipes to the original, is used to balance the sweetness of the dish and to act as a trait-d’union with Vodka, a meeting sealed also in the Bloody Mary cocktail. The presence of the distillate – which serves above all to blend the salmon – could create some problems for the pairing but a lively and extremely elegant bubble like the Meraviglioso by Bellavista, a fifty-fifty blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with its twelve years aging in bottle, will keep you up to speed. Meraviglioso is the result of the assembly of six historic vintages of the Franciacorta company already used for the Riserva that bears the name of the founder Vittorio Moretti (1984, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2001 and 2002).

For the second course, the ideal is to keep it simple, focusing above all on the excellent quality of the raw material: a fish in a salt crust, savory and juicy, accompanied by an impeccable and voluptuous homemade mayonnaise will make everyone happy. Just like uncorking a great white wine like Testamatta Bianco by Bibi Graetz: fresh and equally savory, despite the abundance of aromas that refer to ripe and candied fruit (from dates to orange peel, quince and apricot ) and honey, it turns out to be perfectly balanced thanks to the iodized notes and, rather than anticipating the panettone, it seems to take you back to the summer months on the sea. If you want to surprise your guests with a little-known wine – and a grape variety – and instead of mayonnaise you want to serve a delicious Russian salad next to the fish (another great classic always very popular), you might decide to open another bottle before the passage to dessert and sweet wine.

Instead of going back to a refreshing bubble, in fact, the eclectic option may be to underline the opulence of the side dish with a glass of Vin de la Neu by Nicola Biasi: the Johanniter – a resistant variety that is well suited to cold temperatures and high altitudes, such as those of the plots in Val di Non owned by Biasi – gives life to a wine that smells of citrus fruits, tropical fruits, fresh grass and white flowers, which on the sip is surprising for its verticality and flavor but without giving up a certain enveloping also due to the aging in wooden barrel of almost a year and the long stay in the bottle.

To close the dinner in a classic way, the vintage choice could be an excellent and buttery handmade Pandoro with scents of vanilla, perhaps accompanied by a cream of zabaglione comme il faut. To be paired, a glass of the legendary Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice by Avignonesi: sweet but not cloying, with hints of dried fruit, honey and spices softened by a nice freshness and a fascinating persistence.

Waiting to leave with the countdown for the midnight toast, to accompany the cotechino with lentils and greet the new year that arrives with the most intelligent “bang”: that of a champagne cork! The choice of the bottle is yours … Santé!

– by Luciana Squadrilli 23.12.2021

Luciana Squadrilli is a professional journalist specializing in food and wine, she collaborates with Italian and foreign guides and magazines, telling the best side of Italy (and beyond). Editor of Food & Wine Italy and food editor of Lonely Planet Magazine Italy, she deals with pizza and oil with particular attention, she loves Champagne and is the author of several titles including La Buona Pizza (Giunti) and Pizza e Bolle (Edizioni Estemporanee).

Heroic viticulture, a closed dialogue between man and nature

When it speaks to heroic viticulture, the first thought goes to a romantic concept of growing grapes in extreme and almost prohibitive conditions. The interpretation itself is correct, however it is interesting to underline that the definition has more precise boundaries. In fact, there are four specific requirements and agricultural practice must meet at least one of these in order to speak of heroic viticulture.

The first, the one for which the definition is mainly known, concerns the land slopes, which must exceed 30%. This of course makes everything more difficult. For the man, first of all, who finds himself having to carry out various agricultural activities facing grueling climbs and descents. There is also a theme of mechanization, or rather non-mechanization, given that this type of slope makes it practically impossible to work with the machines that are generally used in “canonical” agricultural contexts. To this is added a further “heroic” factor, because in general the extensions of these vineyards are limited. So not only the difficulties and the fatigue multiply, but the production from the quantitative point of view is always small. It goes without saying that the work, strongly oriented towards high quality, only makes sense when we are talking about land with a very high vocation. The second requirement to be able to speak of heroic viticulture, is the fact that cultivation takes place on terraces, or steps. The Valtellina case is emblematic, one of the most cited when talking about the subject, where the terraces chisel the mountainside with a level of care and precision that is unique in the world. Masterpieces like these represent a real sublimation of the fragile balance between man and nature. While on the one hand the agri-food industry, supported by machines, in a certain sense represents the total domination of human beings, in contexts such as that of Valtellina a close and constant dialogue is staged. One takes, one gives, nothing is easy, and the efforts are enormous even to snatch the smallest patch of land from the rock.

Third requirement that enables the word “heroic”: altitude. The higher you go, the more complicated it is to make wine. However, there are particular situations where a mixture of factors including the vine variety, the ability of man and the territorial context make it possible to grow vines at considerable altitudes. In Val D’Aosta and Alto Adige it is not uncommon to find vineyards at 800, 900 and even above 1,000 meters, up to the 1,350 of the Marienberg Benedictine abbey, which ranks among the very few in Europe capable of reaching this high .

The last point highlights how heroic viticulture does not necessarily mean a mountainous context. The fourth requirement, in fact, speaks of “cultivation on small islands”. Like those of the Venice Lagoon, for example, where high water submerges the vines and the boat becomes the main means of transport during the harvest. Lands suspended between water and earth, where the roots of plants touch the salty water of the sea and their very life is constantly under discussion.

To stay on topic with the maritime context, there are cases in which the presence of the sea coexists with vertiginous slopes. For example, the vineyards where the famous Sciacchetrà is produced, a well-known passito produced in Liguria in the Cinque Terre area. Another striking case is that of the fjord of Furore, a veritable splinter of Northern Europe stuck in a decidedly Mediterranean context. In fact, we are talking about the Amalfi Coast, where in Furore the rock is furrowed by a deep crack covered with olive groves, lemon groves and vineyards. The symbolic reality of this incredible corner of Italy is that of Marisa Cuomo, who together with Andrea Ferraioli has led the company for over forty years. 10 hectares of land, 3.5 of which are owned, many of which are cultivated on the rocky walls overlooking the sea. Ginestra, Pepella, Tronto, Sciascinoso … are just some of the native varieties grown by the company. The cellar, dug into the rock, enjoys the correct temperature without the need for any control.

Fiorduva Bianco is the most representative wine of the company. Splendid blend of the three prefillossera grapes Fenile, Ginestra and Ripoli, it spends six months in small oak barrels. 2019 presents itself with a splendid golden yellow and an enveloping entrance that refers to the fleshy notes of apricot and mango. In the mouth it shows a progression that opens to light spiciness and hints of aromatic herbs. The finish is very long, punctuated by subtle iodized perceptions. It is precisely these, most of all, that recall the unique and extreme context in which this wine is born, the result of a very high profile viticulture that enhances places where nothing is taken for granted. In two words, heroic viticulture.7

– by Graziano Nani 23.11.2021

Fifteen years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Creative Director of Doing.Sommelier Ais, writes for Intravino and Vertigo Magazine, part of the Passione Gourmet network. His Instagram account, #HellOfaWine, is dedicated to wine excellences. His wine blog is , where he mixes stories and illustrations. He also loves cooking: he talks about chefs and wines of the heart with themed tastings.

Iconic dishes and combinations: Risotto alla Milanese

The persuasive and unmistakable scent of saffron, the creaminess of the butter creaming that wraps the rice grains, the umami richness given by the generous addition of Parmesan but also by the meat broth and, if desired, also the marrow enveloping fatness, which someone loves to add to end of cooking or off the heat, already cooked separately.

Risotto alla Milanese, or simply yellow saffron risotto, is a symbol of home cooking on great occasions due to its gustatory opulence anticipated by the golden color given by the spice, without adding gold leaf as it did in the early years’ 80 the Maestro Gualtiero Marchesi making it an icon also of the nouvelle vague of our local cuisine.

And if, according to legend, its origin would be linked to the Duomo of Milan – with the apprentice Zafferano, a great lover and user of the spice gold color, who in 1574 out of spite ends up also putting it in the rice prepared for the wedding of the daughter of the master Valerio di Fiandra, a Flemish artist called to create the magnificent stained glass windows -, the first mentions of the recipe (with rice, however boiled, and not yet cooked in broth) date back to 1300.

While one has to wait for the 800 to find preparations closest to that which has been codified and handed down to the present day, with rice flavored with fat, ox marrow, nutmeg, broth and grated cheese. Wine – a fundamental ingredient to degrease and give a slight acidity to the dish – appears only at the beginning of the twentieth century by Pellegrino Artusi, who proposes a variant of the recipe that uses white wine, appreciated by many. The yellow risotto preparation, more or less canonical, enters by right into the group of the great classics of Italian cuisine and requires careful preparation down to the smallest detail, starting with the choice of rice which should preferably be Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano, and from use of saffron in pistils. Just as much care, then, requires the choice of what to combine in the glass.

Whether it is the version with or without ossobuco, the most suitable choice is undoubtedly a red wine of fabric, sufficiently mature and full-bodied but with its own elegance, perhaps with a Nebbiolo base. For example, the intense character and velvety tannins of Gattinara Vigna Molsino di Nervi – whose name, in Piedmontese dialect, means “soft” – could perfectly accompany the “basic” version of the dish. Obtained from a vineyard set in a natural amphitheater at the foot of the Piedmontese Alps, it displays beautiful floral and red fruit notes on the nose with some spicy hints while in the mouth it is silky, very drinkable, with a fruity and incredibly savory finish.

The marrow presence could instead direct the choice to an equally iconic and enveloping label such as  Barolo Francia Giacomo Conterno’s, a true monument of Piedmontese elegance and charm. Its complexity is immediately perceived on the nose, with hints of small red fruits (some even find some hints of watermelon in them) accompanied by a mentholated and mineral profile. In the mouth it is powerful and elegant at the same time, very balanced, soft but with a savory and fresh finish that invites the next bite. The slightly out-of-the-ordinary alternative could be represented by a nice bubble, with the perlage pleasantly contrasting the creaminess and fatness of the risotto. In this case, however, the suggestion is to focus on a Blanc de Noirs or in any case on a wine with an important base of Pinot Noir.

You are certainly on the safe side by uncorking a bottle of Dom Pérignon Vintage 2010 in which freshness, minerality and enveloping blend, combined with a remarkable persistence. The result of a vintage made difficult by sudden rains, in which the mastery of the Maison has been able to preserve the characteristics of the pinot noir which here alongside the 50% chardonnay, is fresh on the nose – with notes of flowers and tropical fruit – but rich and intense on the palate that is caressed by spicy and peppery notes and a fascinating salty finish.

But it will also be fine to opt for a Franciacorta Docg such as the Vintage Collection Dosage Zéro Noir 2011 by Ca ‘del Bosco, Pinot Noir in purity with a very fine and persistent perlage and a full but very drinkable sip with flavors of aromatic herbs and spices and a note slightly smoky to complete the profile of tropical fruit and citrus.

– Luciana Squadrilli 16.11.2021

Luciana Squadrilli is a professional journalist specialized in food and wine, she collaborates with Italian and foreign guides and newspapers telling the best side of Italy (and not only). Editor of Food&Wine Italia and food editor of Lonely Planet Magazine Italia, she deals with pizza and oil with particular attention, loves Champagne and is the author of several titles including La Buona Pizza (Giunti) and Pizza and Bolle (Edizioni Estemporanee).

Fine wines between investment and collecting – Part One

Can we consider fine wines a sort of safe haven? It is a question that, sooner or later, all wine lovers ask themselves, especially by observing the trend of a market that, net of some small physiological slowdown, seems to have known no crisis for years. The answers, as always when faced with complex questions, are more than one. Let’s start by saying that fine wines are a form of investment but that the characteristics of the latter change a lot depending on the attitude of those who buy: there are those who have a purely “financial” approach and who buy, building a sort of investment portfolio – sometimes relying on real financial consultants specialized in the sector – and always keeping in mind the risk component that is typical of each operation of this type. It is a dynamic similar to that of other investment sectors, with, however, a differentiating element compared to all other markets: when you buy a fine wine, you buy an object of a certain economic value, with a very strong experiential allure, capable of mitigating the imponderable factors connected to an investment, which is always a bet after all. The “investment” wine, in fact, remains first of all an excellent wine product, which in the worst case scenario can be consumed, giving the owner (and his lucky diners) a probable memorable experience, able to compensate for any loss economic. Precious wine, therefore, from this point of view, is a type of investment that we could define as less “cold”, because it is in any case linked to a passion and a certain bon vivant taste.

Alongside this approach, in some ways also purely speculative, there is that of the collector, that is, of those who buy – with love and competence – with the idea of ​​building a cellar, dynamic and varied from the point of view of the references and their origin, where the great classics flank new names with good future potential. A collection, therefore, that acquires value over time and as a whole and designed for a personal purpose, without perhaps excluding the opportunity for a good sale at the right time. If these are the identikits of those who invest in wine, we can say that even fine wine has one.

There are, in fact, some parameters that determine its economic value: from vintages that have obtained high scores to special or “limited edition” editions, passing through the so-called special formats, such as magnum or double magnum with limited and numbered productions.

As for the labels, however, the great icons – such as the Premier Cru Classé of Bordeaux, the Grand Cru of Burgundy or our Barolo and Supertuscan – remain such and are almost unscratchable but, as the latest edition of the Liv ranking certifies -ex recently published, the panorama is constantly evolving with a great growth of Italian fine wines and a new generation of Californian wines but also German, Chilean and Australian wines that in the ranking – a true reference point for the secondary market – have obtained an excellent placement in 2021.

What determines these evolutions is not simply the normal qualitative growth of the cellars or the natural evolution of taste but also and above all the trend of international criticism: influential personalities such as James Suckling and Robert Parker, with their evaluations, have not only opened the way to new trends, but to all intents and purposes orient the market trend.

In Italy one of the most obvious examples is represented by the recent events in Montalcino, here in the last decade the serious and tenacious work of various companies to raise the quality level of their Brunello has paid off and has been awarded internationally, but we must not forget that without Suckling’s falling in love with the village and its most famous wine, probably some wineries, more or less known, would not have enjoyed the incredible visibility they have today. When it comes to fine wines, one cannot ignore the purchase channel: wine is “a living food” that must be treated with a series of precautions, because too many handovers and inaccurate logistics can damage its quality and value. For this reason, the best advice is always to buy directly from the cellar or from professionals who work by assignment and for this they understand the economic and oenological value of wine and are also adequately equipped to minimize risks. For the same reasons, the other fundamental element is storage: as we told you some time ago (link), the correct conservation of wine is a decisive step to keep it in excellent condition and to support all its evolutionary potential, both to be able to consume it and to be able to monetize your purchase. There are tricks to build a home cellar that is suitable for storage, but it must also be said that the domestic context, however well equipped, can rarely meet all the ideal storage conditions. Starting from this awareness, for example, our service on request and at no additional cost was born, to keep our customers’ bottles in optimal conditions, for as long as they want. Alongside the purchase and storage channel, there is a third essential factor for those who want to consider their collection of fine wines a financial investment: the sales channel. Selling privately implies the possibility of proposing more advantageous and attractive prices for those who buy but the limit is represented by the fact that one moves in an opaque area, where there are no well-defined rules and everything depends, in essence, on the seriousness of the two parties. in question and their ability to create mutual trust that allows negotiations. The best solution, therefore, is to look at specialized companies which, having access to the primary market, are not only always up to date on market trends and criticism, but also adopt policies that guarantee both seller and buyer.

These are the same professional realities that help to understand the right economic value of the bottle. The evaluation of a wine is something complex and to some extent uncertain because the price does the market – for example the aforementioned Liv-ex – but we are talking about a market used to working on so-called virgin lots (closed wooden cases and sealed) and not on individual bottles and always in compliance with the storage and logistics conditions we talked about a little while ago. The individual private seller, therefore, inevitably finds himself at a disadvantage if he decides to act independently, without the intervention of specialized companies who can guide the sale in the most appropriate and advantageous way. It is therefore always useful – if not necessary – to deal with realities with experience and negotiation and technical skills, to better set up the sale or simply to exchange some opinion on one’s private cellar, but also to understand the dynamics of a certainly more complex market. variegated and multifaceted than it may seem at first sight.

We conclude by referring you to the next article of the Winefully Magazine for our advice on wines, vintages and formats that we believe are best suited to a purchase or collection, with or without the purpose of a possible future resale.

Drengot: the Asprinio renaissance

Alberto Verde is a 42-year-old man with an indomitable spirit, proudly Campanian, who, in arguing the reasons for his unconditional love for the Campania, goes so far as to quote the French philosopher Régis Debray, who in his latest book (Against Venice, published a few months ago) defines Naples as «vitality incarnate. […] The least narcissistic city there is, the only one in Europe where the myth is encountered in the street, where the past is lived in the present».

From this love and a deep knowledge of the territory, an ambitious project was born for the rediscovery and enhancement of Asprinio, a native vine of Aversano with a unique story, which is intertwined with that of Anjou but also with that of champagne and Greco di Tufo and which testifies to the profound transformations (not always positive) experienced by the Campania region over the course of history. With its cellar, Drengot – in homage to the Norman count Rainulf Drengot, who founded Aversa in 1030 – today Alberto produces three excellent wines, based on Asprinio from the family’s over one hundred year old vineyards.

We met him before the summer break and asked him to tell us more about Drengot and his vision.

You started from a family vineyard with a long history, bringing about a small revolution in the territory of Cesa and around it. Can you tell us how your project was born and why did you choose to work only with Asprinio?

To tell how we got to Drengot I want to make a premise, which is important to me, regarding the territory in which we find ourselves.

The province of Caserta is one of the best in Italy for viticulture because it is extremely fertile – we are in the heart of what the ancients called Campania Felix – but its fertility has meant that, especially from the post-war period onwards, we focus on intensive cultivation, to make the most of the richness of the territory. Also because the food products of Caserta have no equal in Italy from a qualitative point of view and, therefore, have always been in great demand. I am not saying this out of partisanship, it is reality and it is demonstrated by the fact that even today most of the country’s agri-food industry comes here to buy raw materials and products and then resell them with their own label. What is the limit of this system, though? That this area, special from an agronomic point of view, very rich in biodiversity and with a long agri-food tradition, has become, over time, a land of contractors at the service of all companies in the country.

It was the fate of many areas of Southern Italy, following the economic boom and the parallel loss of the agricultural vocation of these areas. However, it seems that things are slowly changing, even if it will take time to see the results.

Yes, that’s right, the new generation agricultural entrepreneurs are trying to do a different job. For example, here in Aversano there are many farms that operate in organic farming and, above all, many companies are making their way that have chosen to enter large-scale distribution with their own brand and with a supporting positioning and communication strategy. We are trying to get out of the subcontractor logic to regain possession of our identity, also to be able to give the right value – economic and cultural – to our products, which are really of the highest quality, be it fruit, vegetables, wine or cheese. .

The most difficult thing is to reverse the perspective and remove all those prejudices that have accumulated over time and which, in most cases, are the result of a bad story of our lands and our history.

With Drengot you are trying to make your own contribution in wine terms, giving a new life to native varieties such as Asprinio. It seems that your project is animated by a certain fighting spirit.

Absolutely yes. When I started thinking about creating a project on the family lands, I didn’t have in mind to make wine but I was sure I wanted something to give back to this territory what it deserves, with a mixture of pride and a sense of redemption, for all that has been taken from us and the opportunities that have not been given to us.

The choice of Asprinio came along the way, there were two small but decisive episodes. The first was a long chat with a wine producer from Veneto, for which Asprinio is one of the best whites in Italy. For me it was a kind of enlightenment, which led me to reflect a lot, also because my family has always raised Asprinio, at least since 1800, but surely we could go even further back, wanting to do some research. And I myself grew up in the middle of the vineyards, together with my cousins ​​I spent all my summers as a child and little boy there. So, after this meeting, I took a tour of my grandfather’s old cellar and the vineyards and so I decided, immediately imagining it as a long-term project, at twenty – but also thirty – years old. I wanted to build something that could last over time and that really gave value to this land. Asprinio has characteristics that make it unique in the Italian wine scene. Can you tell us something more?

First of all we must say that it is a vine that has been bred here since ancient times and that defining territorial is little, because it grows only here and when I say “here” I mean the fifteen municipalities of Aversano, because if you already try to move the Asprinio of a few kilometers, let’s say in Caserta, no longer grows.

And let me also do a little historical excursus: in the eighteenth century, due to a pandemic in Naples and its surroundings, a local noble decided to move and isolate himself – we certainly did not invent the lockdown – in the castle of Tufo, bringing with him, among the various assets, including some Asprinio vines to be planted in the surrounding land. Now, one of the characteristics of this variety is that it develops in height, reaching and exceeding 15 meters, but in Tufo the vines were unable to grow and over time took on another physiognomy and other characteristics: the Greco di Tufo was born from evolution of those first Asprinio vines.

And it is precisely from the extraordinary height I was talking about that derives the peculiar structure of the Aversane trees: the vines of Asprinio grow intertwined – or “married” as we say – to the poplars that are used as supports, while the shoots are twisted with cables of galvanized iron, almost creating vegetable walls. It is another of those wonders that are only found here, so much so that the tree-lined has been recognized as an intangible heritage of the Campania Region.

Legend says that Asprinio was the first sparkling wine in history. How much is it true?

It’s all true! Simply because Asprinio has an acidity of ten tenths. There is no other grape that reaches these levels, so it can be said that a naturally sparkling wine is born from Asprinio. It is a natural sparkling wine in fact and when we say that the bubbles were born here, we say it because at the court of the Anjou only Asprinio was drunk, precisely because it was sparkling. All this is documented.

The first official document in which Asprinio is mentioned is dated 1495 and is a private agreement between a landowner and his settler but, as I told you, it has always been bred in aversano.

It is incredible how such a special wine has been so little valued, almost forgotten. I think it is a dynamic also connected to the contracting you were talking about earlier.

Yes, of course. In reality, at the local level we have never stopped consuming Asprinio but let’s say that it has always been the classic wine to be sold in bulk or to be produced and destined for private use and this because from the second post-war period up to the 1990s the bulk of production was destined for winery of Vecchia Romagna, which paid very well for the grapes for two uses: the grapes were used to obtain a sparkling base to be sold to French producers of champagne; with the marc, on the other hand, the famous brandy was obtained. So, for decades – until the closure of this winery – it was no longer profitable to produce one of our wines.

As for our farm, on the death of my grandfather (in 1990), my father took over its management, dedicating himself above all to the vineyard which is ancient, all our plants are about 200 years old. Drengot in its current physiognomy when it was born, then?

The first two vintages were 2015 and 2016, but in fact they were tests, we never thought of marketing them. In 2017 I rethought the whole structure, with a new working group that works very well and, thus, we arrived at a convincing formula: the launch on the wine market took place in 2018 and that of sparkling wine in 2019.

I had an “ultra-territorial” product in mind, working only and exclusively with Asprinio, for all the reasons I have already told you, and I wanted it to be a high quality product that would finally do justice to the great potential of this grape. I wanted to demonstrate, first of all to my countrymen, that that wine, which here traditionally called “the vinello”, could be an excellent wine, very pleasant and with good evolutionary potential. A high-end wine.

I chose the name Drengot to immediately declare the link with the territory. While our three references have names connected to local history: Terramasca means volcanic land, therefore it refers to the character of our lands, Scalillo is a tribute to the scale we use during the harvest and which has a particular tapered shape to allow manual harvesting on our alberate and, finally, Asprinium to fully celebrate our variety, with a reference to the Latin world, therefore to our roots.

Terramasca is your flagship reference, I would define it as a “noble” Charmat method because it matures for a year in steel, ages for eighteen months on the lees, then rests in the bottle for at least another six months. Considering, however, the naturally sparkling character of Asprinio, it comes naturally to me to ask you if you plan to produce a classic method as well.

In reality we are already working on it and I can tell you that, in the near future, Terramasca will be exclusively a classic method, I cannot be more precise because we want to take all the time we need to get a perfect bubble, which fully satisfies us. This grape deserves it!

Certainly, Terramasca will remain our excellence, but we will not completely abandon the Charmat. We will use it, in fact, for a new reference that is a little younger and no longer vintage and therefore more accessible in price. For me it is important, at this moment, to get the Asprinio to a wide audience, without of course lowering the quality. Your project is showing how far Asprinio can go. What impact has your approach had at the local level? How was it received?

What I brought here was above all a positive mentality: the product was there but was little considered, by us first. And for this reason, despite all the peculiarities of Asprinio, the wine has always been of low quality; what I chose to do, on the other hand, was to ennoble it to the maximum, setting up a high-level work group and showing everyone all the potential we have. And, in doing so, I positively surprised consumers but also other agricultural entrepreneurs. Let’s say that I managed to stir things up.

For me, personally, Drengot goes beyond business opportunities, it is a project that mainly concerns the territory in its entirety: I started from Asprinio to give new value to everything we have here. But I admit that there is a lot to do and that they are only at the beginning, with the complication that we find ourselves having to do the work of a consortium, which is not here.

I understand, also because to carry out certain discourses, institutions are needed and a vision of territorial marketing is also needed, which can only be entrusted to a single individual.

I must say that the Pro Loco here are doing a great support job. The inclusion of Asprinio among the Campanian intangible assets is due to their commitment. It is a very important recognition, not only on a symbolic level but also because it binds everyone to the protection of the vines and to a care of the territory that was not there before. The next step was also recently taken to obtain recognition by UNESCO.

There is starting to be a certain movement and a certain attention that was previously lacking and that concerns the Asprinio but also all our local products. I see, for example, an overall renaissance of the wine of Caserta, here there is a very long and precious tradition: we have many reds and many whites from splendid native grapes, they are little known but are finding new vigor, like Casavecchia, which is really optimal. It is good because, with time and work, a virtuous circle can be created for the whole territory.

As for me, I am very optimistic because I strongly believe in the quality of my product, I know that the history of Asprinio has a charm all its own and I am very determined to contribute to the rebirth of my land. It is only about giving time to time and working with tenacity.

Editorial Board 7.09.2021

Nicola Biasi: the importance of putting the terroir back at the centre of attention

Best young winemaker in Italy 2021 for Vinoway, awarded as Cult Oenologist for the Merano Wine Festival 2021 (the youngest ever to receive this award), in 2015 the Next in Wine award by Simonit & Sirch – in collaboration with the Italian Sommelier Foundation Bibenda – is a truly rich book of professional experiences, both as an oenologist within numerous companies, and as a consultant: this is the very (too) concise profile of Nicola Biasi, talented oenologist and winemaker who in this interview tells us how he was born his Vin de la Neu and what is the way, according to him, to achieve real sustainability.

Both as an in-house winemaker and as a consultant you have worked and still work in areas that are certainly suitable, one above all Montalcino. However, when it came to making your own wine, you chose a territory that was not noble and, apparently, also difficult (Ed. Coredo, Trentino). Why?

Because I think that the suitable areas are not only the “famous” ones and that we do not yet know all the potential of our territories. The most obvious example is precisely that of Montalcino: it is one of the historic Italian denominations but, in reality, it only started making wine seriously and focusing on Sangiovese only about forty years ago. The area is clearly suitable and evidently always has been, what has changed over time has been our gaze. This must be a lesson: we must continue to study because there are potentially territories capable of becoming the new Montalcino.

Of course, I’m not saying we can start raising vineyards all over the place. But we must put the territory at the center of our thoughts.

What do you mean? Isn’t that always the case, in your opinion?

Yes and no. For me the territory is more important than the grape variety, which must be a sort of medium to bring out the character of the place. It is an approach, I know, which overshadows the vine from the point of view of organoleptic expressiveness but which gives it a different kind of importance, because it makes it the tool capable of expressing a territory in the most complete way.

The Johanniter choice for your Vin de la Neu comes from these reflections, I guess.

Yes. I also took the risk of making a mistake but I was convinced that Johanniter was the best grape variety for Coredo. We are in Alta Val di Non, therefore a poor soil, which tends to produce very little and this already eliminated some choices because for some wines the “little” is not good, neither qualitatively nor quantitatively. At those altitudes, then, he had to be a white wine. And then, I wanted it to be able to last over time.

Putting all these factors together, I arrived at Johanniter, because it has the genes of Pinot Grigio and Riesling: on the one hand there is the former earliness, which I need in such a cold area, on the other there is the Riesling, important for the wine evolutionary potential.

Was the soil the family land?

It was the my grandparents home, once they returned to Italy from Australia and, for us, it has always been the place for holidays. We lived in Friuli at the time and the land has always been leased and obviously intended for apple cultivation. After five years working as an oenologist on the Allegrini estates in Tuscany, I wanted to make my own wine. I wanted to test myself and understand if and how good I was, doing everything by myself, without the structure of a large company behind me. It was quite natural to look at family land. I planted in 2012 and the first vintage was the following one. Returning to Johanniter, how much did the fact that it is a PIWI grape count in the choice?

A lot because in this way I have practically zeroed the treatments. It was the circle closing: making a wine of my own, in the garden of the house and moreover truly sustainable. Honestly, I was also very stimulated by the fact of trying to do something that no one had done there yet. Indeed, I chose the Johanniter when he still did not have the authorization, which only arrived in 2014.

Can we already venture an assessment of this first nine years? How is the vine doing?

First of all, I can deny many detractors of resistant grape varieties, who argue that after a few years PIWIs are no longer resistant to disease. For now my vines work perfectly agronomically and are resistant. Then I don’t know what will happen thirty years from now, but today it is.

Clearly, the vines with a few more years on their shoulders give different results, the wines are constantly improving, acquiring greater organoleptic depth over time. But immediately I had a very good response, because the vines, helped by the soil that makes them produce little, have always given high quality grapes.

Vin de la Neu is currently only one label. Would you like to experiment with other varieties?

I am really very satisfied with how the Johanniter behaves on that soil and, first of all, I would like to increase the production: from 1000 to 2000 bottles. In 2017 I planted again because the first vineyard was really small and in 2025 I will expand further, so I will reach about one hectare of vineyard and I will be able to grow the production. I do not exclude planting more to understand how another variety behaves, but at the same time I am sure that I will only make one label. Perhaps later, Vin de la Neu could become a blend: an evolution of this type might interest me.

But it is a project with such a strong and simple identity that I don’t want to distort it with other references. When we woke up on the morning of the first harvest – October 12, 2013 – and everything was covered in snow, I thought I had found my story. The wine is called Vin de la Neu for this reason.

With Vin de la Neu you wanted to make a white capable of aging, thanks also to the use of malolactic fermentation. In Italy for whites, after all, it is still not very widespread, why do you think?

There is mistrust of malolactic fermentation because it is always feared that it will weigh down the whites too much, deprive them of freshness. But it is a prejudice, if it is well done it gives stability to the wine and therefore, on the contrary, the aromas are preserved better. Maybe something is lost at the beginning but in perspective you have a white wine that can last a long time. In Italy, the aging whites are still too few and, since the evolutionary potential is fundamental to give value to a wine, I think we need to start making more of them.

Also to be able to really compare ourselves on a par with the French, going beyond the easy competition of the hectoliters produced or the total number of bottles sold.

The eternal rivalry between Italy and France …

Look, I don’t think the French are better than us at making wine, I think they are better at making wine in a way that is more suitable for making valuable wines. They have the mind peace and strength to work to make wines that last. They know how to wait. On this front, for me, we have to change, if we want it naturally.

Since sustainability is one of the keys to your project, I ask you what makes a sustainable farm?

Basically it is very simple: at the end of its cycle it has to pollute little. The paradox, at this moment, is that a company can be certified organic in all respects but still pollute too much.

Just looking at how many and which products are used does not say enough about a company’s good practices. I’ll give you a simple example: I can only use sulfur and copper but if I have to do more than 20 treatments and for each treatment I waste 200 or 300 liters of water, the environmental impact is enormous. Without considering the CO2 produced at each intervention. Sustainability must concern a company in its entirety: every production step, every single daily gesture.

And here we return to your interest in resistant varieties.

I am absolutely certain that resistant varieties today are the only concrete answer in viticulture. I say “today” because I do not exclude that in some time new things will be discovered but at present it is so.

This is why, at the end of July, a business network was born that brings together the companies that I follow as a consultant and that have chosen this path. The statute speaks of concrete sustainability, of resistant vines, but not only, because we must focus on sustainability and not on the means that are used to achieve this goal. Any initiative that tends to this end is welcome for us.

At this point it seems inevitable to me to ask you what you think about the definition of “natural wines”.

I don’t like the term because it divides the good from the bad in a somewhat manichean way: if you are natural, you are on the right side, otherwise you are a bandit. But things are a bit more complex than that.

Furthermore, I am of the opinion that the less you want to intervene, the more you have to know. And, instead, very often – obviously not always – those who are under the cap of the natural do not have these knowledge and resort to the somewhat romantic idea of ​​wine once upon a time, of the farmer’s wine.

Wine is thought to be subjective, but this is not the case. Or rather, there is personal taste but before that, to make a good product – and this applies to wine and everything else – there are objective parameters that come from competence and know-how. If a wine has a volatile that exceeds the legal thresholds or in any case that deviates the aromas of the wine, whether natural or not, it cannot be defined as good.

Let’s say that, as in organic food, perhaps natural is a big hat under which you can find a bit of everything.

There must be ethics in all the choices that a company makes, but these choices must be aimed at obtaining a good wine. If I choose organic or biodynamic, I have to do it not because it is an ideological flag but because it is the way of operating that allows me to make the best possible wine, in the territorial and environmental context in which I operate. This is a perspective on which I also compare a lot with the companies that I follow and that use resistant vines.

For me it makes no sense to put the choice of PIWI in front of everything, instead, we must start from the quality of the wine, which is the only thing, together with an ethical approach, that gives meaning to our work.

I guess that’s the reason when you talk about Vin de la Neu you talk very little about PIWI.

Yes, because I strongly believe in the potential of PIWI but I also believe that the only way to reach their diffusion is to make really good wines. We must convince consumers starting from the quality of the wine, it is only in this way that a change can be triggered, otherwise they will remain a nice niche, animated by sustainable values ​​but too small to make a difference.

At first I talked about your very rich curriculum. Do you want to tell us something about yourself?

I’m from Friuli and my father was an oenologist, so I grew up in the vineyard and in the cellar. After the oenology school, I decided to start working right away because I was in a hurry to start doing. After two harvests with Jermann, I started working with Patrizia Felluga, for Zuani, where only whites were made and I was the only employee. And there I was able to put my hand in all parts of the process, I needed it to understand, to really realize.

After five years from Zuani, I went to Australia, then once back I worked for a few months at the Castello di Fonterutoli and then I went to South Africa. Here Marilisa Allegrini called me to propose to run for Poggio San Polo. I could not refuse and, subsequently, I began to take care of Poggio al Tesoro as well.

I owe a lot to Marilisa but after a few years I needed to change again: first I planted the vineyard in Coredo and then in 2016 I decided to be a consultant, I liked the idea of ​​working on different territories at the same time. In 2021, in full pandemic, I created Nicola Biasi Consulting, a consulting company for companies that make wine. The goal is to be able to follow them at 360 degrees, collaborating with professionals with specific training.

The last question: are you also part of the Wine Research Team project. What do you do?

It is a business network commissioned by Riccardo Cotarella in 2012 and made up of forty companies that carry out research and experimentation in viticulture and oenology. It is a sort of hub between the university and companies. Let’s say that we try to find practical applications, experimenting on the territory, technically, what has been studied by universities or scientific research bodies. And the solutions we find are made available to member companies. It is a very beautiful job for me, very stimulating and which is giving us great satisfaction.

Four (pink) toasts for our summer

It is one of the market trends of recent years: finally – we say – pink bubbles are starting to have the success they deserve; of course, we are still very far from the large numbers of whites – which perhaps will remain unattainable – but gradually the rosé are coming out of the niche, attracting an ever greater number of admirers. One of the reasons for this new interest probably lies in its versatility: the panorama of pink bubbles, in fact, is so varied in character and expressiveness (and also in price ranges) that it is possible to find the right rosé for every circumstance. And thus abandoning once and for all the obsolete cliché of “women’s wine” and embracing the many facets of this wine kind, we discover that a sparkling rosé can be an excellent wine for any meal – fish but also meat, with the right combinations – and that in summer that seductive mix of structure and softness, in varying proportions depending on the case, can be a refreshing antidote to the sultry heat.

Calendar in hand, what more propitious moment than summer, to offer you four excellent bubbles to accompany your holidays? Uberti – Francesco I Franciacorta Rosé Brut.  It is Uberti’s rosé and is part of the line dedicated to Francis I, a tribute to the French king who – according to tradition – in the sixteenth century decided to support the production of sparkling wines, which until then were not very popular because they were considered “defective”.

It is a cuvée of Chardonnay (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) which, with its pleasant candy pink colour with orange highlights, expresses in pink the winery’s territorial Uberti’s family. The grapes are harvested manually, subjected to a rigorous selection, and then go through different vinification routes – the Pinot Noir, in fact, stops for a few days in contact with the skins – and finally be assembled. After the tirage, Francesco I Rosé spends a minimum of thirty months on the lees before disgorging and another six months in the bottle before being released to the public. The result is a fruity and very soft bubble, not devoid of freshness and minerality and, therefore, of a clean and balanced elegance, as always happens with Uberti wines.

We like it because: it is a versatile bubble, capable of intercepting contemporary taste without giving up its elegant and identity character. A rosé with an easy but not trivial drink, perfect for a carefree summer aperitif or to accompany an entire dinner overlooking the sea. Ferrari – Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore Rosé 2008. Presented at the end of 2020, the 2008 vintage of Giulio Ferrari Rosé is only the third released on the market of this reserve which is young by birth but already considered an Italian rosé bubbles icon. The Ferrari-style rosé enhances the mountain Pinot Noir, which constitutes 70% of the blend and which, thanks to the ten-year refinement on the lees, blends harmoniously with the Chardonnay, in an elegant and very fine synthesis of the best grapes destined for to the company’s reserves.

Salmon color with coppery reflections and a fine and persistent perlage, the 2008 vintage immediately transmits a vibrant intensity, thanks to its complex olfactory bouquet, in which citrus notes blend with the fruity notes of strawberry and tamarind, spicy hints and mineral notes of iodine and limestone. The taste is structured and powerful and at the same time long and balanced, guided by the red thread of freshness, which is the unmistakable style of the Ferrari house.

We like it because: for all those who love the freshness and minerality of mountain bubbles, but also the structure of rosé, Giulio Ferrari Rosé is almost the perfect bottle, the squaring of the circle that elegantly harmonizes these two worlds. A Trentodoc of great character, which can certainly be the brilliant companion for an entire fish-based dinner; our advice, however, is to be daring and be surprised by more unusual combinations. It will not disappoint you. Dom Pérignon – Rosé Vintage 2006. A myth within a myth, if that is possible. A great wine that comes from grapes coming from some of the most prestigious Grand Cru and Premier Cru of Champagne and that is produced, of course, only in the best vintages. The absolute protagonist, the Pinot Noir which, supported by the inevitable Chardonnay and partially vinified in red, gives this reserve the tannic structure that makes it unique.

More than ten years of aging on the lees ennoble this champagne, which the maison itself defined as “paradoxical” for the balance it manages to achieve between opposite poles: maturity and youth, essentiality and expressiveness.

Vincent Chaperon – Chef de Cave of Dom Pérignon since 2019, after many years spent alongside the great Richard Geoffroy – says about the Rosé and the 2006 vintage in particular: «It breaks the rules and certainly shows us a double soul: the tenacious, which comes out thanks to the surprising strength of the still red wine and the graceful and harmonious one that takes us back to the heart of Champagne production. Finding this balance is always a challenge. Making Rosé always throws us into a dangerous situation. Which only with tasting, after a long refinement in the bottle, is it averted “.

We like it because: how could we not like it? We are in the presence of a true masterpiece, which offers a very intense sensory experience. With shellfish and raw seafood it is pure sensuality but the best advice comes from Chaperon who suggests tasting the Rosé Vintage 2006 with an experimental and absolutely free spirit. It should not be forgotten that this champagne also has great aging potential, for those who will be able to wait. Perrier-Jouët – Belle Epoque Rosé 2007. 

It is a paradigm when it comes to rosé bubbles because of the harmony and expressiveness that are its distinctive feature and not by chance the Chef de Cave of Perrier-Jouët, Hervé Deschamps, defines «a delicate wine and at the same time rich and voluptuous; intense, generous and vigorous but also of great finesse». The Belle Epoque Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes from the most renowned Champagne crus, it ages for six years on the lees and is produced, as befits such a prestigious champagne, only in exceptional vintages.

With a very elegant antique pink color and a very fine and creamy perlage, it is a rosé with an extravagant personality, in which floral and fruity aromas are intertwined with citrus, spice and dried fruit notes. On the palate it is fresh and lively but also intense and creamy. Perfect expression of the refined style that has always characterized the Maison.

We like it because: even in this case the reverse would be impossible. Belle Epoque Rosé is a precious champagne that conveys the joyful and vital spirit of that Belle Epoque to which it owes its name and which, also for this reason, offers a sensual and expressive taste experience. It is one of those bottles that should never be missing in an ideal cellar.

And – surprisingly if you think about its complexity – it is a very versatile champagne and by virtue of this it can be the protagonist of different combinations, from the most classic to the most unexpected, which will only enhance that extravagant character we were talking about.

Editorial Board 10.08.2021

Special Ferrari bubbles

The Trento Doc perlage signed by the Lunelli family meets fish-based recipes that are perfect for the summer (and for the whole year).

A dinner on the terrace, an aperitif on the beach or by the pool, a lunch with the sea in the background. And again, good company and a menu based on fish, crustaceans and molluscs: this is what you need to create an ideal situation in these summer months, both in the city and on vacation. To complete it all, there is no shortage of very fresh “bubbles”, which accompany the courses and the conversation.

Diversified but united by great attention to quality (and the environment) and a stylistic figure focused on elegance, the Trentino production of  Cantine Ferrari – the more than 100-year-old company created by Giulio Ferrari and acquired in 1952 by Bruno Lunelli, today led by nephews Marcello, Matteo, Camilla and Alessandro – offers a labels range that allow you to uncork and toast throughout the meal, made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from the Trentino vineyards, according to the Trento DOC specification that follows the classic method. The Riserva Lunelli – Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut round and with a complex bouquet, among the latest born in Ferrari – is an excellent start to melt the ice and accompany some initial tasting, perhaps in a finger food version: from the classic and always delicious bread with butter and anchovies with the original “crostini” of crunchy carasau bread topped with a salad of mullet, celery and potatoes (or even with the savory bottarga, always blunted by potatoes).

The iodized but slightly sweet flavor of the mussels – steamed and flavored slightly with extra virgin olive oil, a little white wine and parsley, with at most a few lemon drops – is enhanced by the enveloping but very balanced and harmonious profile of the Gran Cuvée millesimata, as well as from its fine and persistent perlage, with floral and fruity scents balanced by spices and dried fruit. Available only in large sizes, it is a bottle to be opened with a (rightly) large company and also ideal for accompanying first courses with delicate crustacean-based sauces. Characterized by a vibrant nose of citrus and spicy notes and a sip that is both soft, fresh and mineral, Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore Rosé  , made with 70% Pinot Noir alongside the Chardonnay, is ideal to accompany both a crispy fried fish and a sumptuous “cuoccio” (capon fish or gallinella di mare) cooked in crazy water according to the ancient tradition of Campania fishermen. Cooked in an oven pan with oil, chopped garlic and tomatoes, covered with water and plenty of parsley at the end of cooking, it is a tasty but delicate dish whose marine flavor is enhanced to perfection by the elegance of the bubbles.

– Luciana Squadrilli 15.07.2021

Luciana Squadrilli is a professional journalist specialized in food and wine, she collaborates with Italian and foreign guides and newspapers telling the best side of Italy (and not only). Editor of Food&Wine Italia and food editor of Lonely Planet Magazine Italia, she deals with pizza and oil with particular attention, loves Champagne and is the author of several titles including La Buona Pizza (Giunti) and Pizza and Bolle (Edizioni Estemporanee).