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The Wines of Italy
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The Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society of the Washington DC Area
Our list is not to be taken as an indication of sponsorship of any commercial enterprise, and is solely presented as information for those interested in Italian wines.
ItalianMade.com - WINES The official reference to the Wines of Italy: offers an extensive primer--on how to evaluate, select and serve wine.
Wines of Italy ...Laws, grapes, vintage chart, best wines.
Wine Spectator | Wine Basics | The Wines of Italy By Per-Henrik Mansson, Senior Editor.
Some of Italy's best wines ... have not had any sort of "appellation" or "denominazione," ... We find many wines of Italy to be extremely tannic ...
Wine bow presents . . . wines from Italy The wines, grappas and liquors represented come from eighteen of Italy’s twenty regions ...
The Wine News - Italy's Quintessential Wines ... sum up two decades of tasting experiences and assess Italy's quintessential wines from today's late-20th Century vantage
Italian wines today - a review of Italian wines; Italy's 20 regions follows a geographical pattern which divides the country into four sections..
Italian Wine Society La Compagnia di Bacco is a club of enthusiasts and experts that love wine, Italian cooking and its age-old culture.
Wines of Italy Fine wines from the Regions of Italy ( Sicily Sardinia. Calabria Puglia. Campania Abruzzo. Umbria Marche)
WINES - ITALY - The Major Regions - its Grapes and Wines. Tuscany. Sangiovese - Chianti, Brunello, Vino Nobli. Piedmont. Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Moscato, Barbera - Barolo, Barbaresco, Asti. Umbria. Trebbiano - Orvieto. Campania ...
Wine Tours in Italy:, walking, driving and bike wine tasting tours.
DiWineTaste - Italy a succinct summary of Italian wines, by region
Wine Linkups Other Wine Linkups. This is the Non-FRAMES version of my winelinks page.
Vini Italiani (parte 2)- The Wines of Italy (part 2) by the Italian Wine and Food Institute.Italy is the country that produces and exports more wine than any other country.
Wine Lovers Page / Favorite Wine Links - Italy and the rest of the world.
by John Fusciello
Welcome to the debut of "The Occasional Wine Column". Realizing that all of our members have an appreciation and knowledge of wine, and of Italian wine in particular, the purpose of this occasional column is more to refresh your recollection of what you are already aware of, reacquaint you with some old favorites, and perhaps pique your interest to explore the vast ocean of Italian wine available in the Metropolitan area. Those of our members who make their own wine are carrying on a tradition that is well worth continuing and hopefully will become more widespread. I, for one, do not have the patience for such an endeavor. So, for those of you with the patience to make your own wine, and those of you like me, on to "The Wines of Italy", available to all of us.
Bacchus by Caravaggio
While Chianti is an example of a wine whose name does not reflect its grapes, there are many wine names that identify the grapes used, e.g. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, etc. When you buy these wines you know you’re buying Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese or Trebbiano grapes. In addition, there are "proprietary" wine names. Proprietary names are given to the wine by the producer and the name is the property of the producer. The name usually has nothing to do with the grapes used to make the wine. The producer, Fattoria Felsina has named its Supertuscan Fontalloro, which is the name of the vineyard from which the grapes are selected for the wine. The wine itself is composed of 100% Sangiovese grape. As this trend toward the use of proprietary names has grown, more producers are using the back label to indicate the type and percentage of each varietal used in the wine. So check out the back label.
As I indicated earlier there is a vast ocean of Italian wine in the market, in all price ranges and all levels of quality. Many retailers regularly have wine available for tasting, giving you an opportunity to taste before you buy. Take advantage of those occasions. You are the best judge of the wines you enjoy, so try as many different ones as often as you can and give your palate a treat. Bevi e Godi i vini d’Italia.
Disclaimer: John is the Maryland Representative for Vinifera Distributing of Maryland, Inc., a subsidiary of Vinifer Imports. Ltd. Vinifera does not import or distribute any wine from Molise or Abruzzo. It does import and distribute the wines of Fattoria Felsina. In the event you have any questions or suggestions for future columns, you can email John at firstname.lastname@example.org
by John Fusciello
Although other regions of Italy are more noted for their wine production than Abruzzo and Molise, both of these regions have made huge strides in recent years in the quantity and quality of their wines. The most widely cultivated grape in Abruzzo is Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, with the second most cultivated being Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. There are three DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) zones in Abruzzo: Controguerra in the province of Teramo; Montepulciano di Abruzzo which includes the provinces of L’Aquila, Chieti, Pescara, and Teramo and Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo also in the provinces of L’Aquila, Chieti, Pescara and Teramo. The DOC sets the rules of production by which the producer must comply in order that the DOC designation can appear on the bottle. (Again, there will be a future column devoted to the DOC designation.) La Vendemmia by the Abruzzese painter Annunziata Scipione
Although Abruzzesi producers have in the past been known for bulk or jug wines, there are several premium Abruzzesi producers available in the Metropolitan area, namely Ciccio Zaccagnini, Edoardo Valentini, Bruno Nicodemi & Gianni Mascarelli. Several of the wines of Valentini and Mascarelli have been awarded the Tre Bicchieri by the Gambero Rosso of Italy. Tre Bicchieri is recognized as the highest award for excellence for winemaking in Italy. All of the producers noted above make quality wines in all price ranges.
Although Molise does not have nearly as much production as Abruzzo (330,000 hectoliters compared to 4,000,000 for Abruzzo), its grape cultivation is more varied, its average yields per hectare are much smaller, and in most cases its wines are more concentrated. There are three DOC zones in Molise: Biferno, Molise, and Pentro di Isernia. The grapes cultivated in Molise include Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Moscato and several other varietals. There is only one producer of note from Molise that I am aware of whose wines are available in Maryland and it is a producer of Tre Bicchieri rank, with wine in a broad price range. The producer is Di Majo Norante.
If you are interested in seeking out wines from Abruzzo or Molise, all retailers in all jurisdictions have a list of all wines available in their state and the origin of the wine, so just ask.
by John Fusciello
Having earlier discussed the wines of our home regions of Abruzzo and Molise, it is time we wander to a region whose wines I’m sure all of you have tasted at some time or another. Tuscany!! Tuscany has been and continues to be one of Italy’s most dynamic producers of premium wines. It was earlier noted for the straw-covered flasks of Chianti that was the cliché for Italian wine. Be assured that the Chianti produced today has relieved Italy of that stereotype. The relentless progress toward quality has been highlighted by the virtual elimination of white wine grapes from the current Chianti. The most commonly used white grapes are trebbiano and malvasia. Of course the principal grape used in Chianti has always been sangiovese; many quality producers make their Chianti with 100% sangiovese.
Chianti is produced in eight zones, all of which are DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita). They are: Chianti Classico, which was awarded its own zone in 1996; Chianti DOCG and its sub-zones of Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Colli Senesi; Chianti Montalbano, Chianti Rufina, and Chianti dell’ Etruria Centrale.
Chianti DOCG Sub-Zones
Chianti Colli Aretini
Chianti Colli Fiorentini
Chianti Colli Senesi
Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale
Chianti Classico DOCG
In 1996 Chianti Classico was recognized as its own appellation, and the requirements for production became more stringent. The amount of sangiovese was increased from 75% to 80% and white grape use was reduced to 6% and can no longer be used starting with the 2006 vintage. The producers can use any type of red grape, whether local varieties such as canaiolo, or international such as merlot and cabernet sauvignon to a maximum of 20%. The traditional producers tend toward the canaiolo and the most progressive are into the merlot and cabernet and aging in small French barriques.
In addition to the changes noted above relating to the making of the wine, there were also upgrades that occurred in the vineyard relating to the number of vines per hectare, the yield per vine and the total yield of grapes per hectare. These numbers were all changed to reduce the amount of grapes harvested in order to get a more concentrated and lush wine.
There are numerous excellent producers of Chianti Classico available in every wine shop and restaurant in the local area. Some of particular note are Isole e Olena, Rocca della Macie, Fattoria Felsina, Castello di Brolio, and Tenuta Fontodi.
It was Cosimo III who first defined the Chianti Zone in 1716. All the subsequent changes and improvements were taken to protect the name of Chianti Classico, and to have the Classico region accepted internationally as one the most famous, celebrated and respected production areas of the world. And so it has become.
After years of continuous wars, around the beginning of the 13th century, the leaders of the city-states of Florence and Siena decided to take steps to define their respective borders and areas of influence. They determined that one horseman from each state would start out at cockcrow, and the place they met would be the boundary between the two states.
For the making of the cockcrow, the Sienese selected a robust, well fed and well cared for white bird. The Florentines, on the other hand, practically starved their black rooster. Being hungry and ill cared-for, the Florentine cockerel started crowing very early. The Florentine rider set out well before dawn and met the Sienese at Fonterutoli, only 15 kilometers from the walls of Siena.
As a consequence, a large part of what is now Chianti passed to the control of the Florentine City State. The Black Rooster became the symbol of the Chianti Region as far back as the 14th century. In 1924 a group of Chianti Classico producers started what is now known as the Consorzio del Marchio Storico-Chianti Classico and of course has as its symbol the Black Rooster. All members of the consortium can display the Rooster on its bottles. It is often said that perception is reality, and so it seems that Legends also become Reality.
Disclaimer: John represents Vinifera Distributing of Maryland, Inc., which is a subsidiary of Vinifera Imports, Ltd. Vinifera Distributing is the sole distributor of Castello Farnetella, Fattoria Felsina and Tenuta Fontodi in Maryland. Vinifera Imports Ltd. is the exclusive U.S. importer of these wines.
by John P. Fusciello
This column will be a departure from my earlier attempts at this process. I have recently had the opportunity to visit with the producer of our Sicilian wines, Firriato di Paceco located in Trapani, Sicily. The trip was a whirlwind five-day, four-night trip that was both exhausting and exhilarating. I believe you will find this column to be more personal, while at the same time, informative.
We got off to an exhausting start, thanks to a very early drive from my Maryland home to Dulles to catch a connecting flight to NY; a delayed departure from NY and finally a five-hour strike by the air traffic controllers in Rome. Door to door, from my home to the Crystal Hotel in Trapani, the trip to Sicily took about forty-four hours. But hey, those are the perils of travel.
After a gracious welcome by the hotel’s staff and a quick shower, we were taken to dinner at about 10:00PM Sicily time. A glass of wine and a good meal do a wonderful job of correcting a traveler’s internal clock The trip was about to improve considerably from this point forward.
The restaurant, P & G, was just down the street from the hotel. It is a small trattoria with seating for about 30 diners. The cooking goes on behind a glass partition in full view of the diners. The owner, Beppe, sits at the cash register surveying his restaurant. He sees all and knows all. He is also very warm and friendly and, of course, knows our host very well. The P & G is so homey that it seems unlikely that credit cards are accepted.
The meal began with antipasto, of course, and the wine that was served was Altavilla della Corte’03, a white wine that is 100% Grillo. Firriato is one of the first producers in the export market to use Grillo as a stand-alone wine and has occasionally blended it with Chardonnay. This version of 100% grillo is superior.
The Grillo grape is native to the western portion of Sicily and is said to have been brought there by the Phoenicians. Grillo is also a primary grape used to make Marsala, the sweet wine often used for cooking. In Sicily it is the dessert wine of choice. When used in Marsala, Grillo is harvested much later so that the sugar in the grape becomes more concentrated and better used in a sweet wine. To further concentrate the sugar, the grapes are dried on straw mats for a period of time.
The Altavilla della Corte has a brilliant golden color with a complex aroma of almonds, apples and white flowers with hints of herbs. It is medium-bodied and lush. It matched perfectly with the array of antipasto that included paper-thin tuna carpaccio; sautéed fresh boneless sardines; fried fresh artichoke hearts; fresh capanata, and bruschetto. Trapani is the center of the Tuna and Swordfish industry in Sicily, which explains why the tuna carpaccio was extraordinary. You will find both tuna and swordfish served in all their variation throughout the area.
The primo piatto was a creamy risotto with finely chopped artichoke hearts and pepperchini flakes. It was paired with a Sant’Agostino Baglio Soria Bianco’02, a blend of 70% Catarrato and Chardonnay 30%. Catarrato is also a native grape of Sicily and is more widely grown than Grillo. You find it in Central and Western Sicily. This version is blended with Chardonnay and is barrique(small oak barrels of 225ltr.) aged for a short period. It is a bright gold color and is a full-bodied white wine that has aromas of vanilla, peaches and nectarines and a long lasting flavor.
Throughout the evening, Beppe made sure that each of us was enjoying ourselves with the serving of each course. He came and spoke to each of us individually with a combination of Italian, English and hand motions. He was always ready to refill your plate. Sounds like family!
The pasta course was homemade fusilli with a sauce of local extra virgin olive oil; pine nuts; raisins; buttered brown bread crumbs, and chopped asparagus. Tomatoes were not used in the sauce because they are not native to Sicily, and this was to be an authentic Sicilian dinner. The fusilli was complemented with Firriato Chiaramonte Nero d’ Avola’02. (Chiaramonte is the IL GRAND PRIX 2005 winner Wine of the Year and appears on the cover of the IL Mio Vino Almanacoco 2005 issue.)It is 100 % Nero d’ Avola that is barrel aged for a short period. It is a deep, dark red wine with plenty of dark fruit aromas and flavor. It is an easy drinking wine that is well rounded, not very acidic and goes very well with non-tomato dishes.
The main course was perfectly broiled swordfish steak drizzled with olive oil. Simple but delicious! Nothing got in the way of the flavor of this freshly caught fish. What further brought out the flavor was Harmonium’01, the Nero d’ Avola that is barrique aged for 18 months and was awarded Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) by the Gambero Rosso. This is a bright red ruby wine that has aromas of black licorice. It is silky smooth, rich and has flavors of dark berries and licorice. What a wine!!
While trying to get comfortable by taking my belt down a notch, the restaurant staff started serving platters of sliced oranges that were sprinkled with lemon juice and then dusted with finely ground espresso beans. I figured this was the perfect ending to our feast. A light and fresh dessert! At about this time, I saw that the chef was still working in the kitchen, and he seemed to be shaping something into patties and then deep-frying them. For an instant, I guessed he was preparing something for the morning breakfast, but boy, was I wrong. He came out with platters of those patties, which turned out to be pouches of fried cassata cream. These pastries were unbelievably rich tasting, but light at the same time. The cream was flecked with tiny pieces of pine nuts and dried fruit and if nothing else, required another belt adjustment.
The wine served with this multi-course dessert was Firriato Camelot 01, a Bordeaux style blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. This wine is aged in small French barriques for about 18 months. This type of blend is not usually served with dessert, but this wine is super-ripe, rich and dense. It has the aromas and flavors of dark berry fruit and licorice and perfectly matched the desserts.
After some hearty farewell hugs and continental kissing with the cash register guardian, the waiters and magician chef, we stumbled back to our hotel stuffed and groggy. It was now about 1:00AM Sicily time, 7:00AM in Maryland, meaning no real sleep in about 48 hours. I had not spoken to my wife, Lucille, in all that time. Now, to try to call home using my international calling card. Never happened!! I finally decided to call direct and bite the bullet of hotel and other surcharges on an international call. Lucille was happy to hear I was alive, but hinting she was still not overjoyed by my being in Sicily while she was sitting at home.
Our first evening was behind us, and needless to say, I was asleep as my head hit the pillow!
Note: Although the balance of the trip involved similar extended gastronomic delights, the menu, locale and atmosphere varied and may be of interest and the subject of future columns as will our visit to the wine cellar and vineyards of Firriato. So, to be continued.
Disclaimer: John represents Vinifera Distributing of Maryland, Inc. a division of Vinifera Imports Ltd. which is the exclusive importer and distributor of Firriato wines in the United States.