Sunday, April 22, 2012

Amazing Appetizers - L'Uovo Maritato con Cime di Rapa e Tartufo di Montagna by Chef Paolo Barrale - Marennà (Av)

A few weeks ago I had this amazing appetizer during a cooking class at Marennà.  Chef Paolo Barrale took simple ingredients to come up with a fantastic fusion of flavors.  Poached eggs will never be the same for me again. Here is the recipe.

'L'Uova Maritata/Poached "Married Egg" with Turnip Greens and Truffles

Ingredients for 4 people
4 eggs, 100 grams of ham, 30 g of parmigiano cheese, 2 bunches of turnip greens, 2 cloves garlic 1 red pepper, 1 black truffle , cubes of bread
for the broth: 1 chicken, 1 carrot, 1 stick of celery, 1 small white onion, 1 tomato, thyme, rosemary

Clean and gut the chicken, then  place it in a large pot. Peel the vegetables and set  aside. Cut the onion in half then brown in a frying pan.. Add the onion and vegetables to the chicken and cover with water. .Bring to a boil and skim off the foam, eliminating the impurities with a slotted spoon. .Simmer for at least 3 hours. Strain and add a slice of ham and 20 grams of parmigiano cheese to the broth. Set aside.
Clean the greens and blanch in a pot with salted water. Then sautè  in a pan with olive oil, garlic, and pepper. Conserve four for garnish.
Remove the garlic and blend using a hand blender . Set aside and keep warm. In a nonstick skillet  heat a little oil, then saute the bread cubes.
Boil water in a large pot and immerse the shelled eggs. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 min. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon, being careful not to break them.

In a shallow dish, place a teaspoon of the creamy turnip greens. Carefully  lay the poached egg on top. Add the turnip green flowers that you had conserved earlier on top. Complete by adding prosciutto ham, cubes of toasted bread, and a shaving or two of truffles.

Chef Barrale paired this dish with DUBL Aglianico, Spumante Metedo Classico.

Loc. Cerza Grossa 
83050 Sorbo Serpico (Av)
39 0825 986621

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday Night Wine Tasting - Quartum Store - Quarto (Na)

My Friday Night Wine Tasting series is back.  And for the Spring cycle, I have decided to focus on Campi Flegrei wineries in the Naples area.  Last Friday's choice was  Quartum Cantine di Criscio located in Quarto (Na).   When I first visited their Quartum Store a little over a month ago, I knew it would be the perfect place for a Fridayvisit.  After a tour of their winery, we were treated to their Asprinio Vino Spumante Metedo Charmat paired with mozarella di bufala DOP, ricotta, and various salamis. We tasted their Aglianico in two versions, a rosè and a full blooded red which spends 9 months in barrique and at least 4 months in the bottle.  Cheese with an organic marmalade from Casa Barone, bruschetta with olive oil from Azienda Agricola Meoli, and torroncini from La Provenzale played their part as well.  Besides having a comfortable space to wine taste, Quartum Store is just that...a store where you can shop not only for Quartum's wines, but products throughout Campania that they believe in.  
I noticed a really cool hand crafted key chain...I'll be back...

Quartum Store
Via Giorgio De Falco 17
Quarto (Na)

335 547 9716


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vineyard Hopping - Torrecuso (Bn) - Fattoria La Rivolta

April was shining brightly as I turned the curves on my way to Torrecuso, Benevento.  I was on my way to Fattoria La Rivoltafor an appointment with ownerPaolo Cotroneo. I was excited about my first Vineyard Hopping visit to Benevento and  I was eager  to learn about his territory, his winery, and his wines.  I wanted to walk the vineyards that have been in his family for generations.   Soaking in the spring sunshine while standing in the vineyards as Paolo  spoke about his winery’s history it was hard to listen.  It was  hard to listen withoutimagining how it must have been like when his grandfather ran the property that Fattoria Rivolta calls home . A large family hard at work managing 120 hectres of land.  A family with 8 children, dozens of grandchildren.  A family with vineyards growing several varieties of international grapes smack alongside Campanian favorites such as Falanghina and Aglianico.  Back then, Cotroneo shared with me, the vines were trained using the Bellussi system.  A system where the grapes are grown wheel spoke style overhead leaving plenty of space for growing vegetables underneath.  That was farm life then.  Get all you could out of the land.  But times change.  When his grandfather passed away, the land was split up and given to each of his 8 children, including Paolo's father.  Over time, two siblings decided to reuinite and continue the Cotroneoagricultural dream in this slice of Campania. 

Paolo continues the story as we walk through the vineyards, as the light primavera breeze skips through the valley.  A story of how he, a full time pharmacists from Naples, with a passion for wine decided to become a sommelier.  And how back in 1997, when he completed the course, decided to spend more time in Torrecuso. But changes had to be made...
Over time, he replanted 50 % of the 29 acres that Fattoria Rivolta uses for grape growing...he decided that the winery would stick to Campania's autochthonous or indigenous grapes; coda del volpe, fiano, greco, falanghina, piedirosso and aglianico. He pointed out as we walked through the soil full of clay and limestone the vines that are now trained using the cordon spur and Guyot system.  How his vineyards are certified organic and have been since 1998. 

We walked through the cantina...where the wine is made.  We talked about his whites...his reds.  But we talked briefly.  Probably because Cotroneo believes that his wine should talk.  He told me that wine is the only beverage that can speak...tell a story.  It will tell you about the harvest year,the weather, the territory.  It will tell you about the men and women who made the wine, their struggles, their challenges, their wine making philosophy. 
And after our time in the vineyard and in the cantina, it was time to hear what Fattoria La Rivolta's wine had to say...

In a comfortable living room at a comfortable table at the family'sBed and Breakfast Le Vignelocated on the property, Paolo began our style.

Paolo Cotroneo
He popped the cork on a Greco Spumante Metedo Charmat.  A sparkling wine that knew how to sparkle in my glass with numerous and persistent bubbles rising up to the surface of my glass. A distinct flavor thanks to the minerality of the territory and 6 months maturation with the yeasts. 
 I asked Cotreano his opinion on white wines in Campania, their ageing potential.  Our discussion led us to try our next two glasses of wine; Coda di Volpe Taburno DOP 2011 and 2010.  It was here where I was beginning to understand a little more about whites in Benevento, in Taburno.  And as I appreciated the aromas in each glass, it was that  minerality found in each sip thanks to the terrain that would help this wine to age well.

A bottle of Falanghina DOP was waiting.  I had seen the label before at a previous wine event in Naples, but I had never tasted a glass.  2011 was the vintage.  A vintage whose intense sweet aromas will be hard to forget, but who would want to.  Grande struttura, great structure, Cotroneo mentions...true.

The story telling continued with two more young 2011 vintages. Greco Taburno DOP andFianoTaburno DOP.  Then it as time for a dream, un sogno.  Paolo's dream.  Sogna di Rivolta IGT 2010- a blend of Campania.  Falanghina, Greco and Fiano.  Aromas in continuing evolution, structure, sapidity.  Storytelling.

Le Mongolfiere a San Bruno 2010 DOCG.  An Agllianico rosè with its own color, character, structure. The first DOCG Rosè. Its story was shared on the back label.  Memories of two hot air balloons (mongolfiere) that landed near the vineyards at harvest times.  Memories of picnics, friendships, and family...
We discussed how this wine could be served year round.  It wasn't  asummery rosè. It would be fine with fish with a light tomato sauce, white meats, pasta dishes. A perfect choice for a sommelier who wanted to satisfy the needs of the various menu choices of diners in a restaurant.

As the tasting continued, so did my curiosity. My curiosity to try a Piedirosso from Taburno.  Fattoria La Rivolta's Piedirosso Taburno DOP 2010.  Not many grow this grape or produce this wine in Taburno.  It has a low yield, not economically feasible for most. But its young color and aromas definitely make it a wine worth trying,  especially those who like their Campania reds young. 

But for those who want a little more body, structure, tannins? Aglianico del Taburno would be the answer.  And Fattoria La Rivolta has two storytellers in that area. My first glass was an Aglianico del Taburno DOC 2008.  A wine that demands attention with its dark ruby color, deep cherry aromas, warm, smooth, flavorful. This base Aglianico is aged in large wooden barrels for about 18 months, then spends at least 6 months in the bottle before heading out of the winery.  Unlike its cousin, Terra di Rivolta DOP 2008.  Its story talks about 18 months in barriques, and 18 months in the bottle. Cotroneo tells me that I am trying an anteprima, a premiere, since this wine will head out of Torrecuso later this year.   An anteprima that has already been rated the 14th on the list of the top 100 red wines in Italy. Terra di Rivolta is nicknamed by some their riservadue to its longer maturation period. Cotroneo feels that it is a a different expression of Aglianico. He continued, but once again it became hard to listen.  Hard to listen to Paolo talk about this intense Aglianico still maturing, still evolving in my glass without thinking about pairing it with a nice grilled steak on a warm sunny day.  Without hearing the laughter of family of friends of generations past.
It was hard, but I listened.  I listened and learned a lot of what his wines had to say.  A lot  about the harvest year,the weather, the territory.  About the men and women who made the wine, their struggles, their challenges, their wine making philosophy. 
And I learned that Benevento is yet another corner of Campania which merits a visit or two.

Fattoria La Rivolta
Contrada Rivolta
Torrecuso Benevento, Italy

30 0824 872921

Italian Version

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

6th Annual Disfida del Soffritto-Pasquetta with Slow Food

The 6th Annual Disfida del Soffritto put together by Slow Food Irpinia Colline dell'Ufita e Taurasi was held this year in Savigano Irpino on Pasquetta, Easter Monday.  I had a chance to sit at the judges table to help decide which soffritto recipe was the best among those participating in the contest.  There were 9 teams representing 9 different counties spread throughout Alta Irpinia as well as a group as well as a first; Casa Greta, a team representing a home for the disabled in Vallata (Av).
The judging began at lunchtime so those of us who arrived early took a twirl around the various stands for a light brunch.  Then it was time to get down to business. Ten dishes using the basic recipe...pork and/or pork innards and peppers.  Each team then gave it their personal touch according to local traditions and family recipes...

Savignano Irpino

Ariano Irpino



Casa Greta




Wine?  When in Irpinia, Aglianico is the grape of choice.  At my table we shared a few bottles of Campi Taurasini 2009 from Luigi Tecce, Di Prisco, and Mier Vini as well as Taurasi DOCG 2007 from Cantine Lonardo and a 2008 from Cantine Caggiano...

It wasn't easy to choose, but in the end, the winning teams were Flumeri, who won the judges vote, and Carife who won the popular vote...

Congratulations, and we'll see you next year!

Italian Version

Friday, April 6, 2012

Preparing for Pasqua - Cooking with Chef Paolo Barrale - Marennà (Av)

Pasqua, Easter, is approaching and on Wednesday evening, Chef Paolo Barrale of Michelin star restaurant Marennà  opened his kitchen to share a few recipes and tips on putting together a mouth watering pranzo.  
He began with what some might think of as a simple dish, a poached egg with with turnip greens and black truffles.  Simple ingredients packed with flavor, escpecially the homemade chicken broth made to accompany the dish.  Paired with Feudi di San Gregorio's DUBL Aglianico, spumante metedo classico.

Chef Barrale then showed us how how to prepare his primo piatto. He prepared pasta dough for ravioli and  then stuffed it with ricotta cheese.  The cooked ravioli was then  placed on a bed of creamy fava beans, a thinly sliced guanciale, bacon, and zabaglione.  The chef paired this plate with Campanaro 2010 DOC.
Paolo Barrale

For the second course, Barrale led us step by step as he and his staff prepared lamb loins.  Sautéed artichokes teamed   artichoke chips accompanied the dish.  Paired with Taurasi 2007 DOCG.
Chef Angelo Carannante

Dessert was his twist on a classic...the pastiera.  An easter pie that is on every table in Campania.  Barrale showed us how to prepare the suoffle version and set it nicely on top a vanilla sauce with orange marmelade.  A passito was paired with our final dish, Privilegio 2010, Irpinia Fiano Passito DOC.

Happy Easter!

Ristorante Marennà
Loc. Cerza Grossa
83050 Sorbo Serpico (Av)
39 0825 986621/66

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Taste of Vignaviva at Vinitaly

Wine maker Gennaro Reale
Last week was a busy one for Gruppo Vignaviva. It was  wine week in Veneto, and Gruppo Vignaviva, the brain child of winemakers Fortunato Sebastiano and Gennaro Reale.   Veneto gave them the perfect opportunity to showcase over a dozen of their wineries at Vinitaly, Vivit, ViniVeri, and VinNatur. Wineries from different territories who all shared a common belief.  Great wine begins with a great grape.  And if that grape is grown organically, even better.  Nearly all of Gruppo Vignaviva's wineries are certified organic.  Those who aren't are seriously considering it.
I made an appointment with a busy Gennaro Reale for 1230 ish  on Tuesday the 27th.  He had just arrived at Vinitaly after spending the morning nearby checking in on some Vignaviva's other wineries at ViniVeri just a half hour away.

We met in the Campania Pavillion and  headed straight to a brand new winery called Vigne Guadagno. 

 This was their first Vinitaly so Reale shared with me samples that the winery had brought with them straight from the stainless steel vats.  Their wines aren't ready to be bottled yet, he told me.  They need more time. Like a Fiano di Avellino 2011 from vineyards in Montefredane.  Vineyards that Reale felt would give this wine beautiful aromas and freshness.

Greco di Tufo 2011 from vineyards chosen for a fusion of freshness and minerality...Chianche and Tufo.  Falanghina Irpinia DOC 2011 spends a few hours with the grapeskins during maceration.  Two to three months maturing on the lees to produce an elegant wine.  We then tasted a very young Aglianico 2011 from vineyards in Montemarano and Paternopoli.  An Aglianico that sees only stainless steel, no wood.  A wine that Reale hopes will communicate what the vine and the wine has to say...

From this young winery, we moved on to winery with a few more harvests under its belt...Calafè.  Their first harvest was back in 2006.    Our first glass Reale poured me was a Greco di Tufo DOCG 2009. Product of a late harvest and 12 - 18 months maturing on the lees.  Product of owner Benito Petrillo belief in aging his wines for a long period before putting them on the market. So it was interesting to taste Calafè's Greco di Tufo DOCG 2006 immediately after.  To note and discuss differneces and similarities.  A naso di Riesling, Reale told me, meaning that he smelled aromas typical of Reisling.

 I didn't remember tasting a Taurasi from this winery during the premiere of the 2008 vintage a couple of months back.   That's because it's still maturing, Reale told me.  So he poured a glass of the their newly released 2006.  A glass of intense ruby red wine from vineyards in Paternopoli, Montemarano and Castelfranci.  A Taurasi that spends extra time in wood...2 years.  Big oak barrels, not small barriques.

Time to move on...

Since we had passed on to the reds, Reale decided to take me to taste Terre Irpine.  Aglianico Irpinia 2008 from vineyards in Castelfranci.  I was learning to note and appreciate how Irpinia's Aglianico can soften nicely with a long maturation period, and without time spent in wooden barrels.
Terre Irpine uses barrels only for their Taurasi, so we tried a few.Primo della Corte Aglianico which could be considered a little Taurasi thanks to 12 months in barriques.  We let our wines do what they want to do, Reale tells me.   Well, I was curious as to what their Taurasi DOCG 2006 wanted to do.  I believe this wine, and their Taurasi Riserva 2005 wanted to share with me a array of spectacular aromas, deep dark colors.  With a profound, dry,  asciutto taste...

I believe that this wine, along with all the wines I tasted that mid afternoon wanted to share their territories, their stories.  

I believe I needed another appointment with Reale, but not in Verona. 

In the the vineyards...

Italian Version

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Whites - Vinitaly with Mastroberardino

It was easy to make myself comfortable, make myself at home in the colorful corner of their stand in pavillion 6, E 3.  I found a seat alongside drawings by Piero Mastroberardino hanging on the wall.  I found a seat at a table alongside Mastroberdino's oenologist Massimo Di Renzo and agronomist Antonio Dente.  They were willing to spend some time with me that morning to talk about their whites...I was ready ready to listen, and taste.  I was curious about the new vintage and really eager to try some of the older ones.  So we began with vintage year 2011, in the bottle for just a short period before the fair.  Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio Bianco DOC, Falanghina Sannio DOC, Fiano di Avellino DOCG, and Greco Di Tufo DOCG.  All young wines with promise. We paused a moment to talk about the harvest year.  A good one for reds, I was told.  But they are very happy with ther whites as well.  I was told that the philosophy of the winery is not only to produce great wines, but to make their wines distinct... meaning a Greco di Tufo has to look, smell and taste like a Greco di Tufo.  A Fiano like a Fiano.  In addition, their crus need to stand out as crus.  Distinct from their classic line.  So we tasted...

Morabianca Falanghina Irpinia DOC 2011. Another Falanghina, but distinctive from the one I tried earlier.  The grapes here are from their vineyards in Mirabella Eclano (Av) with vines that are around 8 years old, so just entering into a phase where they will produce consistent grapes. The climatic conditions (in respect to Benevento) allow for a longer maturation period.  Here the harvest was held in mid October, nearly a month earlier than the Falanghina from Benevento.  Radici Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2011 with vineyards in St. Stefano, and not in Lapio as their Classic line Fiano. This Fiano, as well as the earlier one we tried shared aromas such as fruit, and toasted nuts. With the cru, I was able to go a little deeper when I placed my nose in the glass, floral aromas, a light light touch of honey.
Then it was time for Nova Serra Greco di Tufo DOCG 2011 from their vineyards in Montefusco.  Tasting this white as well as the others, I noticed and respected the differences in each wine.  That was probably the point.Point well taken.

Then it was time to move along, to taste some of the earlier vintages.  To examine how the colors, aromas, and taste identify differences in the vintages.  See how they are progressing.  We tried the following from their Vintage line - wines that were bottled that particular year, but held on to by Mastroberardino.  Fiano di Avellino 2006 and 2002, and their Greco di Tufo 2006. We tried More Maiorum Fiano di Avellino. Thier Fiano from their vineyards in Lapio which spend 6 months in French oak. 2008, 2002, and 1999.  So we sat, reflected, I took notes.  I remember clearly watching Di Renzo and Dente as they tasted.  Deep in thought as the tried each glass. I was curious what was going through their minds...the various harvests?  Earlier tastings?  Challenges and victories in the vineyards? In the cantina?  Almost as if they were watching one of their children grow up. Mature.

Silence.  And then a What are you doing tomorrow?  Would you like to try the reds?

Ok, I answered.  Ci vediamo domani...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Vineyard Hopping - Agnano (Na) - Az. Agricola Agnanum

I’m not sure I would have found the place if I didn’t run into winemaker Maurizio De Simone on the beaten path.  All I had to do was take the Agnano exit and turn right after the  roundabout.  A roundabout that I have been going around five times a week for the last 15 years or so on my way to work. I never imagined, however, that if I turned right and followed a dusty road I would find one of the most amazing vineyards I have seen in my life.
Raffaele Moccia and Maurizio De SImone
So there was De Simone, hanging signs to help lead me to Azienda Agricola Agnanum…Campi Flegrei’s little secret.  At the end of the road, De Simone introduced me to Raffaele Moccia, who along with his father Gennaro takes care of their vineyards that have been in the family since the 60s.  Vineyards that grow in sandy, dusty, dark grey volcanic soil 500 meters above sea level.  Falanghina and Piedirosso here…nothing else.  That is Campi Flegrei. 
Gennaro Moccia

Walking through the vineyards with Moccia was like a trip back in time.  Tradition is what this territory calls for, etched in the side of a hill.  Manual labor, everything by hand.  The hands of Raffaele and his father Gennaro.  His 82 year old father Gennaro who, though it was a Sunday, was hard at work in the vineyards.  Hard at work swinging a heavy hoe to rid the terrain of the weeds surrounding the vines.  Weeds that would take away from the nutrients in the soil needed for their grapes but would also serve nicely as compost to help them grow.  Grow as many of the vines have been doing since pre phylloxera times.  Some 100, no, 200, nearly 300 years old. Practically monuments that have withstood this practically lunar like terrain.  And will continue to stand. 

Raffaele took me two see two particular areas of his vineyard, the areas where he produces his 2 crus; Vigna Del Pino for his Falanghina and Vigna delle Volpi for his Piedirosso. Pino…why? There’s a pine tree overlooking the vineyard, overlooking the city.  And volpi means foxes.  Those same foxes that visit Moccia’s vineyards during harvest season.  The foxes that enter through a hole in a stone wall that separates Moccia’s property from the WWF Oasis of Astroni…the hunting grounds of royalty in the 15th century… Foxes that enter and pick grapes one by one for their enjoyment and not that of Moccia.  Moccia who waits patiently to harvest his grapes…often until late October, early November.  Grapes that turn to must that take their time to become Agnanum’s wine. 
It was time to visit the cantina, to taste Agnanum’s whites and reds and to have lunch.  A quick tour of the small winery… Moccia produces around 8,500 bottles a year. Late harvest as mentioned before…a year in stainless steel vats before bottling…no rush, tradition…

In Italia, wines are tasted with a meal, so Moccia led me into a wine tasting room DIY.  One that he carved out from the side of the hill.  One with a long table for guests and family…wine bottles on shelves on the wall with older vintages waiting to be shared.  Over in the corner, a barbecue was blazing, full of bruschetta that we added a bit of pancetta for flavor.  A little cheese and we were set with our appetizer paired with a Falanghina 2010 that bent the rules.  I would never have thought to pair it with this well aged in a grotto cheese full of flavor…but it held its own.  A quick glance at the barbecue and I noticed chickens and rabbit.  All raised by the family.  What? I didn’t mention that Raffaele raises rabbits as well? And that his rotisserie chicken stand is one of the most popular in Naples?  (well, another blog…)

Barbecued chicken and rabbit…prepared with Moccia’s seasoning, to be eaten with your hands and accompanied with a glass of his wine.  We played around a bit with the older vintages…Piedirosso 2003, 2007…Vigna Del Pino Falanghina 2003…Vigna delle Volpi 2003.  Each showing that Moccia and Campi Flegrei have something to say.  All it needs is someone who is ready to listen, and taste for that matter.

Raffaele Moccia and his father Gennaro are often referred to as heroes.  Heroes because every day (including Easter, Ferragosto, and Christmas) they are out in their vineyards. Rain or shine…producing wines that represent their philosophy, their dreams.  Heroes? Maybe…

But that day, the day I ran into winemaker Maurizio De Simone on that beaten path. That day he introduced me to Azienda Agricola Agnanum, 5 minutes from my daily drive into work…I saw two humble men whose hard work produces exciting results in the bottle, in the glass, and at the table…

via Vicinale abbadonata agli Astroni 3
80125 Napoli
39 081 230 35 07
Italian Version