Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Diary of a Sommelier Student- La Degustazione-Lessons 5-7

An update on the last month of my primo livello course with Ais.

The past month has been busy, but my Sommelier courses continue... and I continue to be in the front row.  As each week goes by, the challenge of attending a course such as this in Italian is becoming more evident.  In fact, I have been so engrossed in the material, that I haven't had a chance to take any pictures...It is a blast, however.  Here is what has been going on...

Lessons 5, 6 and 7 had to do with La Degustazione-the three parts to wine tasting.  The lessons were conducted by professional sommelier Lucia Pintore.

I missed lesson 5 (Vinitaly), inwhich she discussed the the Visual Analysis.  The visual examination is pretty brief.  It is here where the limpidity (limpidezza) of a wine is observed.  You need to look for any particles that may be present in the glass.  Color; a wide range of colors ranging from greenish yellow to amber for whites, to soft rosè to dark rosè for rosè wines, and purple red to orange red for reds.  Next, its consistency; where you note the level of ethyl alcohol in the wine.  You observe this when you pour, swirl the glass, and observe the tears that form on the inside of the glass.  Wines can be defined as flowing-scarcely consistent-quite consistent- and oily.  If it is a sparkling wine, you would also judge the effervescence  at this time.

Lesson 6-the Olfactory Analysis.
My favorite part of the three part exam.How often do you swirl a glass and inhale?  But, I soon learned, you have to inhale correctly.  Hold the glass at the base, inhale deeply.  Then rotate the glass slowly a few times to release the aromas.  Inhale at various intervals to not only note the aromas, but the different types. Here is where you note a wine's intensity, its complexity of aromas (the variety), the quality, and a description of its bouquet. Though this part of the exam is my favorite, it is not so easy.  You have to train your nose to recognize the different aromas.  Whether they are fruity, mineral, vegetable.  How to tell a mature cherry from a fresh one.  A dried violet to a fresh fragrant one....brain training necessary. 

Lesson 7-Olfactory-Taste Analysis
My most challenging of the three. Tasting a wine's sweetness was easy enough for me....but the pseudo-warm sensation?  This is caused by the alcohols present in a wine; so light, lightly warm, medium get the picture.  Softness-what you feel from the levels and combinations of poly-alcohols, sugars, and alcohols.  Sharp, scarcely soft, quite soft...Then a wine's acidity, tannicity, saltiness.  Structure-also known as the body of a wine and the wine's  balance were also discussed.  The highlight of this lesson was when we played il gioco del gusto.  Plastic cups were set in front of us filled with a) water and alcohol, b) water and glycerin, c) water and sugar, d) water and salt, e) water and tartaric acid, f) water and citric acid, and G) water and tannins.  We tasted each, then mixed them up. Example:  Tasting water with alcohol alone, you notice how the alcohol cleans your mouth, you can feel its warmth, its acidity.  Water and glycerin?  You feel body.  Put the two trials together, it is smoother, softer, and the warmth diminishes.  Pretty neat.

So I feel much more confident during our wine tastings at the end of each class.  In the past, I must admit, it was pretty much a guessing game.  Lucia Pintore did an excellent job breaking down the parts to the degustazione.

A quick list of the wines tasted during lesson 6 and 7 (I was absent for lesson 5)

Kellerei Kalter Caldaro 2008 DOC Gewurztraminer 13.5 %

Cardamone Colli di Salerno Reale IGT 2004

Per' E' Palummo 2009 Casa D'Ambra  12%

Carignano Del Sulcis Superiore Terre Brune 2003 14%

Until next time...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Orvieto and Florence-Art is not just in the Museums

Last week I was on the road-the annual 7th grade field trip, where my friend and co worker Kate and I took a group of 16 7th graders on a whirlwind tour of Orivieto and Florence.  I look forward to this trip each year because it is a time to travel, see great works of art close up, bond with the students on the endless bus ride to and from Florence, no sleep :-)

This year, Kate and I discovered three works of art outside of the museums and cathedrals;  Orvieto and Florence's restaurants and wine bars.  These were not your usual mass field trip with students-chicken cutlet and french fries-pizza-coca cola- stops.  These were restaurants with real tablecloths, linen napkins,...waiters.

Le Grotte del Funaro.  Via Ripa Serancia, 41 Orvieto.  This place was awesome!  A restaurant inside an ancient cave that was used by ropemakers (funaro)

Osteria dei Baroncelli, Via Chiasso dei Baroncelli, 1 Firenze.  Here the staff was excellent.  We had a great rissoto con funghi.  Frescoes and statues throughout the interior. 

Ristorante & Wine Bar dei Frescobaldi, Via de'Magazzini 2-4/R Firenze.  Yes, wine bar...even teachers need a break.  We had a half hour of free time so Kate tried three whites, I stuck with my reds.  What a great way to relax after a long day.

So, if you're in the area, you must stop here!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wine and the City 12-15 May 2010

4 days and more than 80 addresses in Naples for a new and glamorous stroll through the city, where the common thread is wine presented in unusual combinations such as Vino&Design, Vino&Arte, Vino&Gioielli, Vino&Moda, Vino&Cibo, Vino&Musica, Vino&Parole, Vino&Tarocchi, Vino&Coralli, Vino&Bellezza, Vino&.......
Enoteche, wine bars, restaurants, hotels and spas, art galleries, boutiques and jewelers will participate throughout the Via Chiaia, Vomero, and Centro Storico area.

For more info, look at the web site (in Italian-sorry) wine and the city.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

May 2010-Wine Month in My Campania

Campania has dedicated an entire month  to the wine world with events in historical locations, appointments in cantinas, and wine tastings. A month of exciting events  cross-linking wine, art, design and luxury. From the Isola Verde of Ischia to verde Irpinia, passing through the city of Naples and Caserta Palace, all the way to the archaeological site of Pompeii. A whirlwind schedule of events are planned to celebrate good wines from my Campania. The calendar, sponsored by the Assessorato all’Agricoltura di Regione Campania,  from 6 May to 8 June  stars i Consorzi di Tutela, the Strade del Vino, and the many associations involved in the promotion and enhancement of the winemaking world, including the Movimento Turismo del Vinoa and la delegazione campana Donne del Vino will close with a grand gala at Città del Gusto Napoli. The heart of Wine Month is VitignoItalia held in Naples, Castel dell 'Ovo, May 16 to 18 with over 300 wineries from across Italy on hand for a wine show, B2B meetings, tastings and workshops.

The Calendar:

May 6: Presentation of Cantine Aperte. Prepared by the Movimento Turismo del Vino della Campania.
La Feltrinelli, Piazza dei Martiri.

May 7 to 9: Ischia, Marathon del gusto. By the Strade del Vino Ischia

May 12 to 15: Wine & theCity
Naples, various locations.

May 14: I Vini dei Vulcani,  
National Library of Naples, Palazzo Reale
Organized by the Consortium Campi Flegrei.

May 16 to 18: VitignoItalia
Castel Ovo.

May 16 to 18: un Tuffo nel Vino, an art event organized by the Associazione ArteNapolidaMangiare.
Sala Posillipo di Castel dell’Ovo.

May 22 to 23: The diverse wines of Sannio. Organized  by Consorzio Tutela Vini Samnium.

8-15-22-29 May Salerno, “Tra vino e divino. Per chiese e castelli”. Presented by the Enoteca Provinciale di Salerno.

15-16 and May 22 to 23: Pompeii, The great night of wine. By the Strade del Vino Vesuvius.

May 24: BiodiVino, selection of organic wines from Campania

May 29: Caserta, Wines of the palace. Royal Palace of Caserta by the Consorzio di tutela dei vini Falerno, Asprinio e Galluccio.

29 and May 30: Cantine Aperte- Movimento Turismo di Vino in Campania. Saturday 29, prologue at the Castel dell 'Ovo, Sunday 30th-tour in the cellars of the five provinces.

5and 6June: Preview Irpinia. Edited by the Consorzio Tutela Vini d'Irpinia.

June 8: Sorsi di Luna , Città del Gusto Napoli . Event organized by the Donnel del Vino, Campania delegation.

WIne Month is organized by Assessorato regionale all’Agricoltura

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Antonio Papa-'Passione, Amore, Dolce, Cuore'

Wednesday, April 7th. The day before Vinitaly. Trudging through the construction site which would become the Campania Felix Pavilion I notice a familiar face…a familiar smile. It’s Antonio Papa.

Antonio Papa from Azienda Agricola Gennaro Papa….from Falciano del Massico in Caserta.

Antonio, who I met several months ago at a wine tasting with Angelo Di Costanza at Enoteca L’Arcante in Pozzouli. Antonio, who now, was waiting patiently for his stand to be completed so that he could get the show on the road. We exchanged greetings and I promised to stop by for a chat during the fair. I kept that promise the next morning…glad I did.

Three glasses, three wines and a little conversation.

A conversation that focused on the primitivo grape (Falerno biotype).100 % primitivo used to make his Falerno, an ancient wine dating back to the 4th century B.C. Nettare degli dei, nectar of the gods.

A conversation that concentrated on the territory, his territory, near the sea, the foothills of Massico, where the soil is clayey and stony. The vineyards are 100-120 meters above sea level. Vineyards close enough to the sea that you can sense the profumo del mare.

A conversation that focused on his wine…we tasted three.

Conclave-Rosso 2007, IGT 14%

The grapes for this wine are harvested in the middle of September, 15-18 day maceration period, 6 months in stainless steel vats, then a light passage in barriques. Here we have a dark, intense ruby red color. I could note fruity aromas of plum, cherry, mature fruit. Antonio pointed out il profumo del mare e montagne, sea and mountains.

Campantuono Falerno del Massico DOC 2006 15%

This wine spends a little over a year aging in barriques before passing another year in the bottle. Antonio likes to experiment and over the years he has learned that wine made with the primitivo grape must have at least 13.5% alcohol content. Sounds heavy, in fact this wine reaches 15%. Ma ‘chi beve primitivo lo sa’, he who drinks primitivo knows. That’s the way it is…Once again intense ruby red, mature fruit aromas… a little toastatura roasted spicy aromas from the barrique. I could see myself back home, in front of my fireplace enjoying a winter evening with a glass of this wine.

Fastignano 2003 IGT (vino dolce) 13 + 2%

Passione, amore, dolce, cuore…This is how Antonio described this one. Only a few bottles of this left, I was honored to have a glass. 50% spends a year in stainless steel, the rest in barriques. Aged 3 months in the bottle. The next production will be available in October. Warmth spread throughout as I drank, very smooth, beautiful. Cherries, plums, cinnamon, figs, sweet spices, Dry, full, potente. We both agreed that it wasn’t your typical ‘sweet wine’… in fact Antonio was confident that it could be served with a duck in an orange sauce, for example, or salamis, cheeses that are a little speziato, spicy. Or even a good cigar…

I enjoyed my visit with Antonio..I enjoyed listening to him speaking passionately about his territory, heritage, and wine…I enjoyed discussing the particulars of a Campania wine that I am not familiar with…I enjoyed seeing the spirit of Campania, my Campania, through his eyes…

Thanks, Antò…

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shopping and Spumante---What Else Could a Girl Ask For?

Saturday night.  Via Chiaia, Napoli.  A must for an evening stroll;  window shopping with the beautiful people.  Smack in the middle of this luxurious shopping pedestrian zone, you'll find TramontanoThe place for leather purses, wallets, and handbags.  The place for the belts, for shoes. And last Saturday night, the place for spumante.  Five of Campania's best;  Selim vino spumante brut- De Conciliis, Greco spumante-Fattoria La Rivolta, Cabrì spumante-I Favati, Malazè spumante extra dry-Cantine Babb, and Asprino spumante-I Borboni.  Five different spumanti, and like the selections of the new spring collection presented that evening, you could observe, try it out, and choose a favorite.  I did....

What a beautiful evening...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wine Tasting---in Ristorante!

I mentioned a few blogs ago that I had a golden opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the wine biz by helping out in the Terre del Principe stand at Vinitaly. So, between my own personal appointments for my blog, I assisted in countless meetings with importers, restaurateurs, journalists, and curious wine enthusiasts. Discussing the grapes; Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero, and Casavecchio. Discussing the wines; Fontanavigna, Le Serole, Rosato del Vulture (new), Castello delle Femmine, Ambruco, Centomoggia, and Vigna Piancastelli. Discussing the history of the grapes, the winery, the various vintages…After 2 days of a very hectic schedule, the opportunity came for another type of wine tasting. In ristorante!

Wine is meant to be enjoyed with a meal. So, in my opinion, the best way to degustare un vino is to have it, side by side, with a meal that is designed for that particular wine, that particular vintage. I had this chance at Vinitaly with Terre del Principe, Osteria Retro Gusto (see earlier blog) and about 10 international wine importers. ‘Meetings’ of this sort are important for a winery owner. This is the chance to present your wines to a finicky audience. Ten importers; from Singapore, Germany, U.S.A., and Norway plus their mediators from Greece, Italy and the US of A. A group of experts who taste wines from around the world, on a daily basis. An audience who, though looking for wines, may not be looking for your wine. You, over a casual dinner, have to convince them that your wine, your heart in a glass, is what they are missing in their portfolio…what they need…have to have.

Friday, April 9 around 9 pm. We arrived at Retro Gusto and began our evening.

The antipasto was a tris di prosciutti crudi: Prosciutto di Pol aged 36 months, Jamon Serrano Affumicato from Spain, and Jamon De Patanegra (!) aged 36 months from Spain. Paired with Fontanavigna 2008 (Pallagrello bianco). This wine is aged 6 months in stainless steel before bottled.

Afterwards, Le Serole 2007 and 2008 (Pallagrello Bianco…fermented in barrique, before placed in the bottle for 6 months). The same wine? No. It is important to let an importer try various vintages to see how the wine can improve with age.

Next menu item was our pasta-with a duck and cheese sauce. The pairing-Ambruco 2005 and 2007 (Pallagrello Nero). Six months in barrique, one year in the bottle.

Il secondo- carne salata (like a carpaccio, but thicker slices) served with Centomoggia 2005 and 2007. (Casavecchia).This wine also ages in barrique for 6 months before spending a year in the bottle. Followed by I formaggi. An international cheese plate; Toma di capra al muscadet (France) served with a strawberry marmalade, Piacentino Enness with saffron and pepper (Sicily), Tomino Piemontesse di mucca al tartufo served with a very spicy pear mustard, and verde di capra al passito served with honey. Paired with Manuela and Peppe’s pride and joy….Vigna Piancastelli 2004 and 2007. This wine is a cru, a blend of the best Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia grapes from Manuela’s vineyard (you know, the one she bought to show her devotion to Peppe). About 10 percent of the grapes are left on the vine until December; then Vigna Piancastelli spends a year in barrique and 2 years in a bottle before it is ready to come out and play.

Besides the food and wine, I really enjoyed listening to the comments made about the wines; poetry in motion. Walter, from Munich was particularly poetic. Le Serole was compared to light in a glass. Vasilis, our friend from Greece said that the wood practically caressed the wine. Vero….vero

I found it…my Campania white…it had been under my nose all the time.

Manuela and Peppe’s Le Serole 2008!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Can’t have Two without Three---My Search for My Campania White continues…

My quest for my Campania white at Vinitaly led me to Pavilion 7. To Feudi di San Gregorio. To my friend, Alessandro Palmieri. My first appointment on Friday, April 9th. A crucial one because I really needed wine tasting guidance to get me through the rest of the fair. I had to skip a sommelier lesson to get to Vinitaly on time, and Alessandro (Ale), besides being the area manager for Feudi, is also a professional sommelier. Perfect man for the job.

The big names in Campania whites are three- Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, and Greco di Tufo. As the wines were being poured, Ale began to discuss aromas…aromas in general, comparing the intensity to that of roses, from a single rose to a full bouquet. An excellent simile for aroma intensity. Complexity? A bouquet with roses, daisies, etc.

Three glasses in front of us. 2009 vintage. New labels designed by Massimo Vignelli.

a) Serrocielo 2009 Falanghina Sannio DOC

b) Cutizzi 2009 Greco di Tufo DOCG

c) Pietracalda 2009 Fiano di Avellino DOCG

Alessandro had a motive for the wines being served in this order. I was curious…

Falanghina, Ale explained, has a high level of intense aromas, the aromas arrive subito. So Falanghina…white fruit, apples, pears, white flowers, herbs. Intensità

Greco di Tufo, on the other hand, was not as intense, but more complex aromas. Greco di Tufo…less intense, but here we have aromatic herbs such as mint, thyme, green pears.

Let’s try the Fiano di Avellino…sweeter, fruity aromas, however this time yellow fruits like apricots, honey, aromas that evolve in time, nuts (classic of Avellino),

Time to taste.

Falanghina-freshness, piacere. We just taste the best grapes…no need to force the flavor of the grape. Only stainless steel vats, no time in wood.

Fiano di AVellino-smoother, rounder, dry. . Ha ancora a dare…In other words, Ale feels that a Fiano di Avellino will become smoother with a little time in respect to the other two whites on the table. It’s ready to drink now, but will explode with time.

Greco di Tufo-minerals…acidity…complex.

My favorite of this sitting…Falanghina: I was a little surprised because I am a Fiano Fan. Maybe it was aromas, maybe for the type of Falanghina, from Sannio, which I was beginning to note the differences between this grape and other Falanghina from Campi Flegrei or Irpinia.

Time to move on…

Around 5 in the afternoon, I was invited by American wine writer/photographer Tom Hyland to join him and fellow blogger Kyle Phillips to taste Mastroberardino’s new arrivals. Pavilion 6, E3. Couldn’t say no.

The big three were represented proudly here as well…Morabianca 2009 DOC Falanghina Irpinia, Radici 2009 DOCG Fiano di Avellino, and Nova Serra 2009 DOCG Greco di Tufo. I remembered my earlier lesson and was able to note on my own the particulars of these three whites. Here though, the Falanghina was a bit different as it is grown in a different part of Campania, different soil conditions…great to witness how these differences are expressed in a wine.

The white that I enjoyed at this sitting, however, was a new line getting its world premiere at this wine fair. Greco di Tufo 2002 Vintage. Only 3000 bottles of this white which was bottled in 2003 and left to rest until now….I’m getting to like Greco…

Saturday arrived. My last day at the fair and I was determined to get to Luigi Moio, to his Quintodecimo, to his whites. Luigi Moio, Professor Moio, is a grande wine maker in Campania. I was excited to taste his big three. I first tried Via Del Campo 2008 IGT Falanghina. Once again, my love affair with aromas played big here. I could even taste a little sweetness at the end which I soon learned was due to a later harvest. Next, Exultet 2008 DOCG Fiano di Avellino. I enjoyed the fruit flavors as well as the wine’s color. And speaking of color, Giallo D’arles 2008 DOCG Greco di Tufo…beautiful golden color. In fact, the wine is named after the beautiful colors of a Van Gogh painting…really getting to like Greco.

Have I found my white? Not sure…still looking…

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On the Road-Destination-Taurasi

No matter where I turn, my aglianico, in version Taurasi is popping up all over. Star of Città del Gusto’s recent wine lab and present at least 4 wine tastings that I attended at Vinitaly. Why? Taurasi , the wine and the town, is on a roll. From last fall’s inauguration of a Regional Enoteca smack in the middle of Taurasi’s central storico to ‘Andar per Taurasi’; the latest opportunity to know Taurasi up front and personal.

April 30 and May 1st Slow Food Irpinia Colline dell’Ufita e Taurasi will present two slow days in the Taurasi DOCG area. Visit wineries, taste local cooking, enjoy the architecture of an area that is ready to welcome you with open arms. An area nestled in Avellino with an altitude anywhere from 300-800 mt above sea level. Where the vinyards exist together in harmony with the boschi, woods. Where chestnuts and fruit such as peaches, nuts, cherries, and figs live side by side.

Shuttle buses will be ready and waiting at the Avellino-Rocchetta San’Antonio train stations to bring you to Taurasi. Throughout both days in Taurasi’s Castello, you may visit the Regional Enoteca and degustare wines from the area paired with food provided by Terra Madre Campania Slow food della Valle del Calore.

Wineries participating are:

Filadoro - Lapio
Antico Castello - S. Mango sul Calore
Boccella - Castelfranci
Perillo - Castelfranci
Di Prisco - Fontanarosa
La Molara - Luogosano
Tenuta Cavalier Pepe - Luogosano
Elmi - Montemarano
Il Cancelliere - Montemarano
Molettieri - Montemarano
Tecce - Paternopoli
Manimurci - Paternopoli
Terre dell’Angelo - S. Angelo all’Esca
Guastaferro - Taurasi
Antica Hirpinia - Taurasi
Antico Borgo - Taurasi
Caggiano - Taurasi
Gmg Vinicola Taurasi - Taurasi
Guerriero - Taurasi
Sella delle Spine - Taurasi
Barrasso - Taurasi
Russo - Taurasi
Caspariello - Taurasi
Contrade di Taurasi - Taurasi
Mier Vini - Taurasi
Cardinale - Taurasi
Latorella - Taurasi
I Capitani - Torre le Nocelle

For more info call:
338 5235251
380 9019050

or me at

I’m SO there.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wine Tastings at Vinitaly...Just Do It!

When you attend a wine fair, particularly one the magnitude of Vinitaly, you’ve gotta have a plan. It is impossible to get through the week if you don’t.. I was in search of something fresh…something to get me through the warm months of late spring and hot, dry summer… something from Campania.

Vinitaly gave me two ways to accomplish my mission.

One, I attended wine tasting one on ones with particular wineries that I was interested in such as Feudi di San Gregorio, Quintodecimo, Grotte Del Sole, and Mastroberadino.

Two, I attended several organized wine tastings. An organized wine tasting is pretty neat because they are based around a particular theme. You not only get to learn about the wine, but the territory and history of it as well. Finally, there is someone (a professional sommelier, journalist, or wine expert) who  leads you through it. A mini-lesson if you will. Vinitaly was full of them. I attended three in particular that I would like to devote this blog to.

So here we go, in chronological order:

1)  Bollicine-Made in Campania hosted by Paolo De Cristofaro (Gambero Rosso) and Antonio Del Franco (Ais Campania President).  Location, Campania Felix wine tasting hall, Campania Pavillion.  Date, 8 April, 1600 hrs. Ah.. a chance to try 5 bubblies from Campania and discuss with those in the know. Here we go...

Bollicine number 1. Fontanavecchia's Principe Lotario Brut, Aglianico del Taburno, Metodo Classico.  This offering ages for 30 months.  Its from Torrecusco in Campania's Benevento province, a fresh area, with chalky soil.  Here we noticed a rosato color, limpid, brilliant.  Aromas such as raspberry and other fresh pink friuts.  Fragrant. Extreme freshness and Paolo even added that it is not a mordi e fuggi wine, a hit and run. It has a nice structure.  Antonio Del Franco from Ais shared his suggestions for pairing this bollicine. He suggested pastas with vegetables, meats, and prosciutto.

Our next bubbly-a bollicine made with Fiano di Avellino from Villa Riano, Metedo Classico. Paolo felt that this was more a wine than a prosecco.  It maintains its freschezza, a stable acidity.  This will be excellent paired with soft fresh cheeses.

Feudi di San Gregorio is up next with their Dubl (Greco di Tufo) 2006.  Greco is a difficult grape to work with...this was fermented in legno and aged 30 months.  Here we experience aromas such as green apples and citrus fruits.  Antonio Del Franco advised a nice zuppa di patate with vegetables, a nice filo of extra virgin olive oil on top. 

Next on the block was my favorite bollicine of the afternoon:  Grotte del Sole's Asprino di Aversa Extra Brut...the only vintage blend in the bunch.  Mela annurca was an aroma that stood out here.  A nice dry bollicine easily paired with zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta cheeese, lightly fried....(mmmm)

(getting a little hungry at this point...)

Up  next, Cantine Astroni's Astro Brut (Falanghina)  Metodo Charmat. Floral fragrances, pear...easy to drink, delicate...a great apperitivo....

 2)  Piccolo e Bello: the rediscovered vines presented by Tommaso Luongo (Ais Napoli President). Location, vigna napoli, Campania Pavillion. Date, 8 April, 1700 hrs. Four wines were handpicked for this tasting. Notebook out, tape recorder set, I was ready…

The first wine was from Ischia, Forestera 2009 12 % from Pietratorcia. This is a young wine which gave off aromas such as thyme and lavender. As we tasted, Tommaso noted the flavors of fruit, those from pulpy yellow fruits such as peaches. Also a hint of almond.

Next up was a wine from Posillipo’s Azienda Agricole Varriale; Uva Rosa Rosato. This was a nice rosè with fresh floral and herb fragrances. It was pointed out to the group that this particular wine is made with a large variety of grapes to include Catalanesca, San Genella, Uva Rosa, Code di Volpe, Ceperella, and Aglianico…to name a few.

Third wine-one from Vesuvius-Cantine Olivella and their Katà 2009. Here the Catalensca grape meets us with fruit aromas; melons nespole…florals

Last, but certainly not least, Flavesco Rosè, Piedirosso Extra Dry (Metedo Charmat). We are in Vesuvius again, but this time with a pro secco. A nice balanced wine with nice strawberry aromas. My favorite of this wine tasting.

3)  Ischia Whites, hosted by Tommaso Luongo.  Location, vigna napoli, Campania Pavillion, 1400 hrs.
The best of Ischia...that due to a schedule mixup, I arrived a little late.  Peccato, because I love Ischia and was really looking forward to this one...I did taste all four wines which I'll mention here; a Biancolella from Casa D'ambra 2009 was the first. Tenuta Giardini Arimei's Biancolella 2008 next, which I'll borrow the technical info from the web site.

Third, Lefkò's by Cenatiempo DOC. Biancolella, Forastera, and other white grapes make up this nice white wine from the isola verde. Nice delicate floral aromas...

Our fourth wine was a passito.  Sygnum Epomeo Passito 2007 IGT from Cantine Antonio Mazzella.  My favorite of this tasting. Tommaso suggested that this would be excellent paired with a Neapolitan pastiera or cheeses.  Dense in the mouth ,then an immediate expansion.  Flavors and aromas of dried fruit, citrus jams, apricots,and peaches...quite nice.

I enjoyed this journey in search of my perfect Campania white...but it ain't over yet.  Stay tuned to the next couple of blogs...

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Campania Vigna Felix at Vinitaly---Troppo Bello...

Just back from Verona.  Back home in Campania.  I sit here reflecting on my Campania vigna felix that made, in my opinion, una bella figura, good impression, in Verona. My Campania vigna felix, a pavillion  with nearly 200 wineries represented.  My Campania vigna felix which I called home for 4 days.  A pavillion divided into neighborhoods, each province with its own vico.  Each province with its own personality.  Each province with its own...feeling. 

My Campania vigna felix where, as I walked around, I felt the warmth of the people who represent Napoli, Avellino, Caserta, Salerno, and Benevento.  Calore from friends such as Gaetano and Eva Bove from Tenuta San Francesco  who generously shared their wine and typical products such as salamis, mozzarella, and bread from Tramonti.  Antonio Papa, always there with a smile.  Nanni Copè's Giovanni, a gentleman with a great sense of humor.  The explosive personality of Bruno De Concillis who seemed to be everywhere.  It was great to see Vincenzo Di Meo from La Sibilla fresh back from Argentina.  It was great to see friends such as Emanuela Russo from Cantina Astroni, Paolo De Cristofaro and Lello De Franco from  Città del Gusto Napoli, Alessandro Barletta from Il Campanaro in Taurasi, and Pino Caggiano-Cantine Caggiano.  All under one roof. 

My Ais Napoli Sommelier team; Mr President Tommaso Luongo, Franco De Luca, Giusy Romano, Pino Savoia, and Massimo Florio to name a few.  A Campania wine bar set up in the middle of the pavillion.  A place to hang out, try wines, and enjoy great conversation.  It reminded me of a typical Italian piazza...

My Campania vigna felix where I had the honor of spending quality time with Manuela Piancastelli, Peppe Mancini, and his daughter Masilina from Terre del Principe who really made me feel part of the family.

My Campania vigna felix was also represented in other pavillions and I made sure I had the time to visit them as well.  My travelling buddy Luca Vicidomini from Tenuta Matilde Zasso, Alessandro Palmieri at Feudi di San Gregorio, Quintodecimo, Mastroberardino, and the entire Martusciello  gang from Grotte del Sole.

My Campania vigna felix hosted wine tastings which I will happily share in this blog in the days to come. 

My Campania vigna felix...troppo bello...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Retro Gusto-a 'Must see it to believe it' in Verona

At the end of the day at Vinitaly, when the stands shut down, the lights go off, the fun is not over.  It's's's time to go out and eat.  We found an excellent place.  How do I describe it?  It's a wine's an's a delicatessen...its an's Retro Gusto.  And it's amazing.

I couldn't wait to share the pictures...a blog on the menu soon.

Retro Gusto
Via Berni, 1
37122 verona
tel. 045 8002167

Friday, April 9, 2010

On the Road-Vinitaly here we come....

Over the past couple of weeks, my facebook home page has been flooded with news about THE wine fair in Verona- Vinitaly.  Giornalists with their take on what to try while there, wineries 'inviting' you to stop by their stands for assaggi.  Enough to get me real excited about the trip. Wednesday morning at O dark thirty, my friend, Luca Vicidomini (Tenta Matilde Zasso) picked me up to begin our journey to Verona.   Exhibitors need to arrive a day early to set up their stands. So, at 0530, that morning, we began our 7 1/2 hour drive.  I must admit that I wasn't much company at first.  The first 2 1/2 hours I slept.  (I hate long drives!!).  Once I did wake up, I looked out the window and enjoyed the view that Italia offered me that sunny morning.  I took advantage of the fact that I was in the car with a winery owner and bombarded him with questions about Campania wines, grapes, the different vineyards and vines that I saw along the way....I think he preferred me asleep. 

Then, at about 1245, we pulled into Verona and the Convention center. 

Friends told me that it would be. 


 I had no idea...

 I mentioned in an earlier blog that Vinitaly hosts around 4,000 exhibitors.  These stands need to be  constructed, cleaned, products put out, cleaned again, well. you get the picture.  I could not imagine what an undertaking it would be.  I've been to many fairs, but never the day before.  I have a new respect for the people in the wine biz.  Many of us who came from  Campania got up very early and packed our cars with cases of wine, glasses, and other equipment needed for the fair.  After hours in macchina only to arrive and find out that you could not do much because the stands weren't ready.  So, a lot of waiting around, hanging out, walking around, running into friends, meeting new ones, eating, get the picture. 

I will have the privilege this week to be helping out in Terre del Principe's stand with Manuela Piancastelli and Peppe Mancini.  What an honor, and an opportunity!.  Around 7 pm, we finally were able to begin to put some of the stand together, then call it a night.  Thursday will be a looong day.

Stay tuned

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Let’s Continue this Chiacchierata-Diary of a Sommelier Student

While preparing for my 4th sommelier class, I was a little overwhelmed with the subject matter. We would be learning about the grapeeverything about the grape. My textbook is in Italian, so you could imagine my struggle with the scientific terminology as vocabulary for the chemical composition of the uva jumped out at me in my second language. I spent a lot of time flipping through my Italian/English glossary and then on line to try to understand what exactly was being discussed. I even emailed our instructor, Francesco Martusciello before the lesson asking him to be gentle with us.

He was…In fact, at the beginning of class, Francesco, just off the train from a day trip to Florence, said up front that the topic for the lesson would be duro, rough. It is important for a sommelier, one who would be tasting wine and describing it, to understand the principal component of wine-the grape.

The lesson was divided into three sections-colore, aromi, gusto-color, aromas, and taste.

He explained that the color of a wine depends on the pigments in the grape, the grape's maturation, the maceration, and how long it has fermented.  He threw out words such as anthocyanins, a substance in red grapes that give it its bluish color.  He discussed a wine's intensity and tonality.

Here he got my attention.  The olfactory examination is my favorite part of a wine tasting. The primary aromas that we smell in a wine are due to what is present in the grape. Terpenes, for example give a wine the aroma of linalol and geraniol.  Pyrazines-a green pepper aroma, and  C-13 norisoprenoids which are responsible for the rose, apricot and raspberry fragrances. Secondary and tertiary aromas are from the fermentation process and the maturation process repectively.  Francesco explained why aging in a botte, barrel gives a wine aromas such as coffee, spices, and vanillia.  He showed us the Davis Wheel, which is a tool that breaks down every aroma imaginable.  He concluded this section with a discussion of the causes of defects in wine.  From oxidation to sulphery odors, to that corky aroma caused from a fungus...we absorbed it all.

Morbidezza, durezza, a wine's smoothness and its harshness is based, once again, on what is in the grape that produces it.  On the morbidezza side, Francesco explained that the level of alcohol, sugar, and polyalcohol are the key players.  A wine's durezza, however, depends on the acids, tannins, and salts.  These contribute to why a wine may have a salty, bitter, or fizzy taste.  More vocabulary, more technical terms....but, he hadn't lost me yet.

Francesco wrapped up his part of the lesson with discussing how a wine can 'go bad'....bad grapes, unsatisfactory sanitary conditions in the cantina, and an elevated fermentation temperature were just some of the reasons he gave.  He even mentioned that one evening he went out for a pizza with friends.  He ordered his Gragnano, which is a 'fizzy' red, composed of piedirosso, aglianico and sciascinoso for a minimum 60% and traditional vine varieties for the remaining 40%.  This wine should be served cool, but Francesco noticed that it was not cool, not warm, but hot.  He realized that the pizzeria stored the bottles on top of the pizza oven.  Ooops!

Time for the wine tasting. Two; a young red and one that has been aged in legno.

Morellino di Scansano DOC, 2008 13.5%-Fattoria Le Pupille  (Sangiovese, Alicante, Malvasia Nera)Visually- ruby color, limpid and quite flowing.  Aromas-quite intense, quite complex, very fine, fruity, spices.  Taste-dry, medium warm, smooth, quite fresh, quite tannic, quite sapid, quite balanced, quite intense.  Thin bodied, ready to drink and rounded.

Olpaio Val Di Al Cornia Suvereto, DOC , 2002 14% - Fratelli Muratori (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon)
Visual examination-garnet color, of substance; quick thick.  We noticed aromas which were intense, complex, fine, spices, and vanilla.  Taste-It was dry, warm, quite smooth (due to a higher level of acidity), tannic, sapid, and balanced.

La Pastiera - a Must for Easter

In Campania, la pastiera, is dessert that MUST be served during the Easter season.  Each paese, town, has their own version, and I'd like to pass on one from Avellino.  Flavia Pappalardo of Tenuta Montelaura prepares it this way. The Avellinese pastiera, particlarly hers, is different from the one prepared in Naples in three ways.
1) In Avellino, wheat takes precedence over all the other ingredients, giving this dessert a  'pizza rustica' quality.
2) She uses ricotta made with goat's milk instead of cow's milk. which gives it a stronger flavor.
3)A splash of Strega liqueur.

Here is the complete recipe:

Ingredients for a pastiera (
200 gr. of grano crudo (a 'raw wheat'-not easy to find in the  supermarket, which is equivalent to 600g of grano cotto which comes in a jar)
300 grams of wheat flour OO
350g sugar  
9 eggs 
500 gr of ricotta
½ liter of whole milk 
180 grams of lard 
1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon powder 
80 g mixed candied fruit
40 grams of orange blossom water 
1 glass of Strega liqueur
powdered sugar 
1 pinch of salt.

It 's better to soak the grano crudo at home instead of buying it in the jar , it gives the pastiera a stronger flavor. If you choose to use grano crudo, it must soak  in cold water for at least 10 days, and  the water must be changed every day. Afterwards, drain, place in a saucepan with the milk and the grated rind of lemon and let it cook until the milk has absorbed into the grain.  Let it cool. In the  meantime, prepare the pasta frolla with flour, 150 gr sugar , 3 egg yolks and 150g of lard, knead vigorously until mushy and homogenous, wrap in a sheet of plastic wrap and let rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Now you are ready to make the filling for the pastiera,  tso chop the candied fruit , pour into a bowl, combine the remaining sugar, orange blossom, ricotta,  Strega,  and a pinch of cinnamon. Start working by adding the 6 egg yolks, one at a time and finally the grano (now cotto). The last ingredient to be added are the egg whites with a pinch of salt.  Get the pasta frolla, roll it out to form a disk, then place it in a circular cake pan which has been greased with lard. Now add the filling that you prepared previously.
Put strips of dough on top and bake in the oven at 180 ° C for 1 hour. When it is golden brown remove it from the oven and let it cool (sprinkle with powdered sugar if you prefer).

If you are interested in other recipies, or are looking for a nice day trip about 45 minutes from Naples, check out


Thursday, April 1, 2010

E' Arrivata la Primavera----Spring at Ciao Vino

I stopped by Ciao Vino in Varcaturo, as I usually do a few times a week to 'see what's up', and I was taken aback by the makeover.  E' arrivata la primavera...Spring is here!  Easter gift baskets decorated in rich spring colors such as purple, green, and yellow beautifully displayed throughout the enoteca.  Also, a warm, sweet aroma of Cinzia Dalmonte's freshly baked pastiera napoletana, a 'must eat a slice or two'.  In fact I did...two. 

Stop by.  You won't be disappointed.  But hurry!

Enoteca Ciao Vino
Via Madonna del Pantano, 50
Varcaturo (NA)
081 509 0425