You are currently browsing the archive for the italy category.

Happy Birthday!
Correct – another year chalked up on the wall and none the taller (still stuck at 6’2.25″). This year an amazing birthday present arrived via the Zapatos, those lovable characters “from Queens” who appear in these stories from time to time. Gift certificate to an LIC wine institution in hand and with Hurricane Irene bearing down on NYC it was the perfect time to stock up on provisions. Scavengers had already picked up every last 24-pack of oversized water bottles in New York City but somehow they had forgotten the more important liquid provision.

Thanks to scavenger nearsightedness, Brunello came home with Exacto and me. Yes, THAT Brunello. As in Brunello di Montalcino, Italy’s first DOCG (translated from Italian as: (i) we know it’s from here – DOC – and (ii) it’s “pure awesomeness” – that’s what the G stands for in DOCG). And, Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese. Even a drop of a lesser grape disqualifies it from elated Brunello status.

Kardashians and Machiavellis

But wait, there’s more. Brunello di Montalcino is from Tuscany, that region of fame for something that no one remembers anymore. Like an Italian Kardashian, Tuscany attracts media attention and revels in the limelight. To be fair, Machiavelli (described by urban dictionary as “Awesome dude who lived in Italy a loong time ago”) is from Tuscany so that’s probably what got everyone in a tizzy at the beginning.

Italian and then some
Brunello di Montalcino happens to be pure Sangiovese, the grape that is more Italian than Marco Borriello and Sophia Loren (pre-gross phase). No grape is more planted in Italy than Sangiovese. Tuscany might be the heart of this grape (and of mawkish Eat, Pray, Love, Tuscan Sun) but it’s all over Italy like poorly-timed railroads. Sangiovese followed the Italian immigration wave into the new world and Argentina’s Mendoza boasts a pretty sizable amount of acreage devoted to Sangiovese. California too, some in Washington and some in Australia but it’s sorta fallen by the wayside in the New World, with the possible exception of Australia where growers are discussing an uptick in Sangio-interest.

Detail Up!
Brunello di Montalcino 2004 from Castello di Camigliano in Siena, Tuscany, Italy

View Larger Map

Dusty, dark nose, like walking into a cellar. Light body start that fills out to medium – black cherries and deep flavor with blueberries and slight sweetness at the end. Really excellent crescendo.

Random Googles:
* Brunello has a little lad, its fleece as white as snow. And everywhere that Brunello went, you better believe they serve Rosso di Montalcino (aka “Baby Brunello”). Baby Brunello is a DOC (notice no G – so potentially awesome, but not G-uaranteed awesome).
* Fierce debate rages over how many DOCGs there are, despite the fact that the Italian government could easily answer the question. 47 seems as good a number as any with Piedmont (12), Tuscany (8) and Veneto (6) leading the pack.
* Brunellogate shocked the wine world (pop. 2,000?) in 2008 with stories of OTHER grapes showing up in Brunello. Even the US government acted – a rare feat.

Tags: , , ,

Memory, all alone in the Mooooon-light
Certain wines take you back – to specific, memorable moments complete with cherubs, picnics and wooded vales. Barbera is that wine for me, except the cherubs are replaced by parking lots and the wooded vales were clear-cut for a strip mall. Welcome to Suburbia – Picnics still allowed.

As bleak as that sounds, the restaurant at the edge of the strip mall next to the flat expanse of concrete was excellent. Rosso Pizza – look it up if you’re ever in Santa Rosa, California. Consueldo, Exacto and I plopped down and immediately opened the menu (yes, the WINE menu – our priorities are straight) to decide what to order. We asked the waitress about a local wine with an English grandmother name “Barbera” and… it happened.

Rosso Waitress
Never before has a waitress verbally orgasmed in front of three unsuspecting guests at Rosso Pizza in Santa Rosa. Words like “God,” “unbelievable,” “sooooo good,” “THE BEST,” “love,” “amazing” spewed out between moans of ecstasy. Sitting in the strip mall next to the parking lot, we felt a little awkward being in public… and near children. Still, we ordered two.

Thanks to that energetic waitress, Barbera is forever seared into my mind. And it’s a good thing too as it’s the kind of wine that tickles the food fancy. Not too big and overpowering, seems to work with pretty much anything carb-related and fairly easy to find – this is Barbera.

Barbera’s Summer Home
Unbeknownst to this wino, Barbera shows up all over the place, not just in California pizza joints. Italian sailors couldn’t get enough of Barbera and took it with them wherever they landed. New World, meet Old Italians. Even though it’s original home is Piedmont, up in the northwest of Italy, the New World is Barbera’s summer home. Argentina received more than its fair share of Italians back in the 20th century immigration wave and, true to form, they had loads of Barbera (sadly, no more). Brazil, Australia, the US and Uruguay all received big influxes of Italians and all have grown Barbera with delight.

Grape Joys
One of the joys of the grape is that it produces lots of fruit. Plus, it can be harvested early so a late frost isn’t going to destroy your crop and leave you with nothing but water for the winter. To top it off, the tannins are on the lower side so it’s easy to drink young and with food. No waiting around for your unborn child’s college graduation on this wine – bottoms up!

Notes from the wine(s) ordered at Rosso kept it simple and could sum up what’s best in a food wine. “Cherry, violets, medium body with long finish and some spice – really excellent.” Should have added, “totally worth the public embarrassment. NSFW.”

Detail Up!
UNTI Barbera 2009 from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California (thanks for the image UNTI guys)

Random Googles
* Italian reds in three words: Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Barbera. Numbers #1, 2 and 3, in order of how much acreage Italians devote to the vines.
* They don’t make learning wines easy in Italy. Barbera synonyms include: Barbera Mercantile, Gaietto, Besgano, Ughetta and (my favorite) Barber a Raspo.
* Hanna-Barbera. Not hard to guess what language Hanna’s partner grew up speaking at home.

Tags: , , ,

Grape Controversy
Grape or no grape? There’s some controversy regarding Tai Rosso. Certain authorities argue that Tai Rosso is exactly the same as Grenache. Certain other authorities argue that it’s a relative of Grenache.

Style all its own
One thing they agree on is that the Tai Rosso style is completely different. You would never guess you’re drinking Grenache. This wine is a light, fruity wine that has more to do with a hot tub and a summer night than with Spanish guitars and heavy chorizo. Light, light and light are how you’d describe the wine – light color, light body, light taste on the tongue.

Outdoors with the Bears
This last weekend there were no hot tubs with the wine but nobody really cared. The Zapatos treated a select few to outdoorsy goodness, complete with black bears and (tame?) skinny dips. One of the afternoons involved hard-core chilling – in the sun, on the porch, with the grill – and Tai Rosso arrived to fill an unknown void.

Only in Italy… and Jersey
Finding Tai Rosso planted in the ground involves a long journey. Ticket to Rome, train to the northeast of Italy, obligatory Romeo & Juliet stop in Verona and then just east of Verona – Tai Rosso. For over 700 years, the grape’s been grown in the region. Fortunately, some importers in Jersey have made it much easier and the wine’s now available in that favorite state of the 50. So, save the flight money, rent the Romeo & Juliet movie (1968 Zeffirelli preferably) and grab that bottle off the nearest PATH exit.

Detail Up!
Tai Rosso Rezzadore 2009 by Colli Berici from Lonigo, Veneto Italy

Light red, chilled, taste of black cherries. Few tannins – excellent for the outdoors

Random Googles:
* Tai Rosso used to be called Tocai Rosso – then Hungary complained about the similarity to their famous wine and bam – Tai Rosso. No word from Thailand whether they will complain.
* Tai Rosso is one of the grapes that show up in the Italian DOC of Colli Berici, a wine region first recognized in 1973
* One of the Top 10 undiscovered wines of Northeastern Italy in 2011 (sidebar – pretty narrow criteria, no?)

Tags: , ,

Denali in Italy
Italy is my Mount McKinley. I know I’ll never climb it and won’t ever have the view from the top looking down across the rest of the North American molehills. Most of the time it’s not even possible to see the top (only 10% of visitors to Alaska actually see it), let alone think what it’d be like to stand at the top of it. But on rare days, the clouds part and you can see the top of the mountain, what its side looks like and start to imagine what a model of it would look like. Yes, my parents just got back from Alaska and have lots of stories to share – especially about Mt. McKinley/Denali.

Confused? Join the Club
Italy is exactly that intimidating and obfuscated. Somewhere out there experts on Italy’s wines must exist but I’ve never met anyone who dares to claim that they’re an expert on Italian wines. That’s just outrageous given the hundreds of grapes grown around the country. Provinces, territories, and little towns all seem to have their own type of wine and grape that’s just grown in that area.

Wikipedia talks about 350 “authorized” grapes used in Italy’s wines and estimates another 500 grapes are unauthorized. No doubt each of those grapes has a history and culture associated with it, and it’d be many lifetimes to really conquer all that knowledge. Two of NYC’s more famous chefs have written a book on it and lived a good amount of wine indulging so maybe they’re experts. Me though, I’m just happen to get a look at the mountain on a clear day once in awhile.

Puglia Pleasure Pour
Today’s glimpse of McKinely is Negroamaro, a dark grape that comes pretty much exclusively from Puglia, the heel of Italy. Negroamaro showed up at a tasting of Puglia wines last weekend with my friends the Zapatos and a recent NY friend transplant who hails from Puglia, but sadly I did not show up at that same tasting. Friday night firedrills got the better of me so the Zapatos & Co. got all the Puglia pleasure pours. To grieve the lost Friday, this bottle was later ordered with friends to commemorate the night of Puglia.

Yanks of Puglia
Turns out – Negroamaro is not just a Puglian wine, it’s a new grape to me, and one that only the Puglians make. (Puglians? Pugliers? Pugilists? No idea) Earthy, rustic, and unknown – those are the words that I turned up the most looking through the internets. Best I can tell, it’s only in Puglia that people grown this wine but they make a lot of it down there. Primitivo (Italy’s Zin) takes some of the vines but Negroamaro is the Yankees in Puglia, and Primitivo is at best the Mets. Not that it’s bankrupt and finally at a break-even .500 winning percentage or anything – it’s just that it’s not as prevalent as the ubiquitous Negroamaro hats that all the celebrities wear in Puglia.

Latin-Greek Lovefest
Negroamaro – translated, somewhat strangely, as “black-black.” Negro is straight-up black in pretty much all Latin languages and amaro is actually “bitter” but the wine’s not bitter at all. Strange right? Right, except that Puglia’s about one trireme ride (thanks Civ 1) from Greece and the Greek word for black is “maru.” Hnce, in a rare application of Latin-Greek knowledge, Negroamaro breaks down as “black-black.”

No photo from me – just the notes scribbled on the crackberry before the food arrived and the wine disappeared. Strong nose, tobacco – taste of raspberry and black cherry, long finish with some tannins, not overpowering. Squid ink – guaranteed to spill on white shirts.

Detail Up!
Rocca Bella 2009 IGT from Puglia, Italy for $8-12. Sadly, nobody on the web has talked about this wine and the producer has no pics so next best thing is this really good blog that hits the 2007 version.

Random Googles:
* Puglia Pride runs deep with this guy – check out his Top 10 Negroamaro list if you like your wines squiddy.
* Negroamaro doubles as an Italian rock band that’s gaining mainstream popularity. Any guess where they’re from?
* Salice Salentino is Puglia’s most famous wine they say, and it’s a blend with mostly Negroamaro. Good value wine too.

Tags: , ,

Third Grade is Tough
Sometimes it’s too easy. Last week you could have tricked me as easily as a second grader with 52 card pick-up or a third grader with the Pen 15 club. Maybe today’s kids are smarter (*shakes fist*) but back in the day, it was tough on the mean streets of suburban Michigan. You had to be ready.

Grape Confusion
But last week you could have tricked me. “What grape is in Prosecco?” Hmmmm… ummm… not really sure, maybe, some obscure Italian one? Bzzzz – wrong. Turns out Prosecco is made from… (wait for it)… Prosecco. Color me incredulous but wow, that’s just too easy.

Italy’s Bubbly
The Prosecco I thought I knew was this bubbly Italian wine that’s cheaper than Champagne, more straight-laced than Cava and loads up on the bite for winos (like me) who love the green apple tart. Prosecco’s the ultimate party gift – tasteful in every large gathering of humans (except the funeral). Even then, maybe you read the obituary with great pleasure. Sneak in a flask.

Señores Zapatos
Come last week though, it was birthday time. And the Señores Zapatos indulged, bringing with them a bottle of this obscure, never before known grape called — Prosecco. Sadly, we drank it almost before the sun left the balcony and another bottle is the one featured above.

Joan “Prosecco” Rivers
But about Prosecco and the fizzy, citrus-intense wine it produces. Up until 2009, you could go around calling the grape “Prosecco” to your hearts content and Europeans wouldn’t mind – they’d just think you were talking to yourself. Today, they mind. In 2009, Prosecco got a make-over in the Joan Rivers kinda way, going from a lovely classic figure to a mildly frightening Joker. Now, Europeans call it Glera, something more akin to paint thinner than a white grape that makes terrific bubbly wines.

Pen 15 Club
Fortunately, this blog isn’t subject to the whims of the EU or cosmetic beauty, and Prosecco still reigns as the name of the grape as it has since last Saturday when this wino discovered that the Pen 15 club is not an exclusive third grade club. In fact, 52% of the world at birth belongs to this “exclusive” club. Knowledge is power Reading Rainbow followers – Prosecco, Italy’s Pen 15 club.

Clean, crisp, green apples, white flowers – pretty much what you’re expecting when you head into a store looking for a Prosecco for your next wedding/birthday/Tuesday/Thanksgiving/quinceañera. Ok, don’t bring it to the quinceañera – even the kids know that uncle’s not cool.

Detail Up!
Dom Bertiol Prosecco from Treviso in Veneto, Italy

Google Randoms:
* Age Prosecco and shame yourself – this wine’s for drinking and drinking young.
* One bottle for $20 or two bottles for $10 – those are your choices when drinking Prosecco.
* Bellini? Mimosa? You’re drinking Prosecco. Only the chef gets champagne in her Mimosa. Nobody gets champagne in a Bellini – that one’s always Prosecco.

Tags: , , , ,

« Older entries