Sunday, November 25, 2012

White Weekend...My BianchIrpinia 2012

So, Karen...how was BianchIrpinia? a friend asked a couple of days ago.  BianchIrpinia 2012, an event held last week, 15-18 November in Aiello del Sabato (Av) organized by i miei amici Diana Cataldo and Massimo Iannaccone of Miriade & Partners SRL.    Wine tastings, dinners, tours centered around Irpinia's white wines. A Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Coda di Volpe, and Falanghina full immersion.

Before I answered I thought about when my BianchiIrpinia began.  Friday, the 16th of November in the lobby of my hotel.  It was there where I met Diana for a quick chat as she handed me my press kit and quickly filled me in on what was going on and what I had missed.  An amazing tasting of Fiano di Avellino 2002 and an entire morning of Greco di Tufo.  I had some catching up to do!

I did my best :-)


I had 40 or so hours to catch up and my first stop was Cantine del Marzo in nearby Tufo for dinner.  Dinner in cantina, wine tasting with fellow wine writers, photographers and wine producers in casual environment.
What better way to catch up with Luigi Sarno, Cantina del Barone, than over a glass of the lastest vintage of his  Fiano di Avellino 928?  The last time I saw Sarno was in August in his cantina, a couple of weeks before this baby was ready for the bottle. Angel Muto, Cantine dell'Angelo was present as well.  I tasted the first bottled vintage of his 2011 Greco di Tufo from a vineyard that we visited together over a year ago in Tufo.  One that sits on top of an abandoned sulfur mine.  He also shared his 2009 over dinner for a mini vertical tasting along with a plate of pasta and cod. For the record, I did have seconds of the pasta and the wine...

 It was also an opportunity to visit Ferrante Di Somma in his historical location in Tufo, try his Donatus Fano di Avellino and Franciscus Greco di Tufo for the first time.  After dinner, before a grappa and caffe', Di Somma opened up some older vintages of Greco to see how they were doing...1983, 1986, 1990.   That doesn't happen everyday.   Milena Pepe, Tenuta Cavaler Pepe was there with two wines as well...her Bianco di Bellona Coda di Volpe 2011 which was paired with our sushi, yes, sushi, appetizer and her Brancato Fiano di Avellino.




The next evening I found myself in Santa Paolina at Cantina Bambinuto.  Hostess Marilena Aufiero along with Maura Sarno, Tenuta Sarno 1860, and Raffaele Troisi, Vadiaperti had an intense evening planned for our small little group of wine writers.  I made a mental note of the changes Aufiero has made since my last visit in January included enlarging the wine tasting area and the purchase of her own bottling machine.


First up- Troisi with hs Coda di Volpe...two promising editions of the latest vintage 2011, including one that I want to learn more about Torama Coda di Volpe- his first bottling of his cru from the family's vineyards in Pietradefusi (Av).  Sarno presented a mini vertical of her Fiano di Avellino from her winery which has only been bottling their own wines since 2009.  We tried the each vintage, 2011, 2010, and finally the 2009.  Verticals are excellent chances to see how a wine evolves with age, note the particulars of a particular vintage year, try to understand what will happen in the future.Like when we tasted 4 vintages of Cantina Bambinuto's Picoli Greco di Tufo...2011 all the way back to 2008.  The winery's cru from her vineyard in Picoli known for producing Greco grapes with high acidity.  Other 'off the program' opportunities included a glass of her Greco spumante metedo classico in progress.  It will be ready in another year ish...





The real work, though, was in the main dining room of Hotel La Locandina in Aiello del Sabato (Av).  I missed the Greco tasting but was prepared to try 38 Fiano di Avellino wines.  I was asked if I preferred to perform a blind tasting, or if I would like a list which allowed me to see which winery corresponded to each bottled snuggled in the little red numbered bag.

I went for the blind option...the only thing I knew, then, was the vintage.  Bottles 1- 25 were from harvest year 2011, 26 -36 were 2010 offerings, and 37-38 harvest year 2009.


I tasted, I paused,  I snacked on crackers. I walked around, I tasted and re-tasted   And re-tasted again.  I observed other wine writers...some with note pads, others laptops, tablets, and smartphones.  Some in silence, others quietly discussing their notes.
I had my notes as well.  Several wines stood out, others sparked my curiosity, some were the 'norm'.  After nearly three hours I  concluded that I was very impressed with the 2010 offerings.  I had a few favorites in the 2011 crowd and headed my way to the press table where the answer key was handed to me by Lello Del Franco. I found a names that I expected to make my BianchIrpinia list, which by the way, is not necessarily rating of the best  wines, but a rating of those that stood out for me and/or those that I want to learn more about....want to understand.  The familiars?  Picariello 2011 and Pietracupa 2011, Villa Diamante 2010.  The not so familiar?  Masseria Murata, Vigne Guadagno, Zampaglione Pierluigi....all 2010 vintages.


During a buffet lunch, I had the chance to try wines that I missed the day before...I headed straight for Greco and Coda di Volpe...Once again, Pietracupa, but Terredora, Mastroberardino, and Calafe'.







Back to the question posed by a friend a few days ago.  How was BianchIrpinia?  A wine tasting weekend that with each sip of wine tasted, another million questions/curiosities popped into my head.  A wine tasting weekend where I bumped into wineries that I've visited in the past and met ones who I've never had the pleasure.  A wine tasting weekend where future vineyard hopping appointments were made.
The only answer to that question is ...

My BianIrpinia is not over...

A presto, Irpinia...



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lunch with Chef Rosanna Marziale - Le Colonne (Ce)




There was a little unexpected excitement as I opened up Chef Marziale's menu last weekend at Le Colonne in Caserta.   What would I find inside? Would it be a dish that I tried when we met for the first time a few years ago?  Or maybe one that she had presented on a TV program that I had seen the night before?  Rosanna Marziale, chef, cook book author, and Campania's Mozzarella di Bufala World Ambassador.  What should I have expected?
Chef Rosanna Marziale
I mean, should I have expected a pre lunch specialties such as a sfogliatelle pastry stuffed with vegetables instead of the usual sweet filling?


Or to be handed an mp3 player with my first appetizer...biancadolio?  I pushed play and the storyteller ttook me on a journey, describing the dish...a small bite-sized ball of mozzarella stuffed with toasted cubes of bread (pane cafone).  
This gentle voice, complete with background music and the sound of crickets,   invited me to gently roll this treat through a valley of powdered tomato before popping it into my mouth...



Or the procession of dishes that arrived at my table...each starring Marziale's mozzarella...

Palla di mozzarella...a mozzarella ball stuffed with taglerini pasta, then breaded and fried..


or the dish that she chose for the Water Plate Contest.  Her ovomozzo...her mozzarella stuffed with a poached egg.  This served on top of a delicate acqua di riso and acqua di pomodorini del piennoli (rice and tomato water). 

After tasting this dish, I headed straight to the kitchen for a live demonstration on how she got the egg into the mozzarella...did I expect it to look so easy?  Marziale placed the mozzarella in the microwave for a little under a minute
...flattened it out
...carefully placed the egg inside and wrapped it up like a package...




But my mozzarella party was not over...more dishes were on their way to my table by the window...
Pizza al contrario... A pizza where Marziale used mozzarella as the pizza crust (after stuffing it with toasted bread) and then topped it with a sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes and basil...unexpected...
an open ravioli dish prepared with fresh shrimp, a shrimp bisque, with the ravioli pasta 'inside'...unexpected...

a clam soup topped with mozzarella was unexpected as well...
unexpected and delicious...each dish was.  
Like Marziale's homage to Japan. Her Tonkatsu with starring black pork from Caserta and mozzarella.  


and her veal, slowly cooked at a low then high temperature in balsamic vinegar.  On the side... unexpected serving of friarelli broccoli and  hazelnut ice cream...


No... didn't expect any of these specialties expertly prepared by Marziale.  

What do I remember most?  
Hmmm...Sitting down with Marziale after lunchwith some special desserts and a glass of tisane tea as we   discussed  her recipes, food and photography.




We discussed her family's other restaurant, Tenuta San Bartolomeo, a location popular for weddings and ceremonies.  I even promised to stop by  for an unprecedented butterfly exhibit that runs until the end of November.  We discussed the upcoming Giornate Gastronomiche Sorrentine which will be held in December in Sorrento where Rosanna and several other female chefs prepare the menu at a gala dinner held on the 1st.

A full plate, so to speak.  A lot going on.   Marziale smiled...she likes it that way.  Whether she's touring sharing Campania with an international audience or in one of her restaurants, she's doing what she loves.   

And that you can surely expect.

Italian Version

Viale  G. Douhet  N. 7
81100 Caserta
Tel. 0823 46 74 94


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Diary of a Sommelier Student - Punching Down in Paternopoli (Av)

Luigi Tecce

Rimontaggio....
 
The answer given to me by Luigi Tecce to my question "What are you doing up there?' while visiting him last weekend at his winery in Paternopoli in Irpinia.  I was a little disappointed that I missed harvesting his Aglianico grapes with him this year, memories of last year's harvest flashing through my mind.  This year in Irpinia, many wineries harvested 10-14 days earlier than usual.  But that disappointment turned to curiosity as I watched Tecce at work.  He was performing an operation which is crucial during the fermentation/maceration period of his Aglianico must.   
Remontage.  Pumping over.   Punching down.   

During red wine fermentation, the grape skins are in contact with the must absorbing elements such as tannins and rich color.  As sugar turns to alcohol, carbon dioxide is also produced pushing the grape skins up up up to the top of the stainless steel or wooden vat forming a cap. ( I remember reading about this in my level 1 sommelier course books)


Since the must needs that important contact with the skins and stems...a wine maker needs to pump the must from the bottom of the tank over the top....




or punch the cap down manually ensuring that the must can extract the  flavor, the body, and the color desired.



pumping....

punching....


by machine...


by hand...


Yeah, I missed the harvest...the vendemmia, but I did get an interesting look at what goes on afterwards in Luigi's cantina...