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Rimessa Roscioli Wine Club Notes | 7 | Tier 1 Reds

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ROSSO DI CONTRADA 2014, MARABINO


Grape:100% Nero d’Avola
Region: Noto (Sicily)
Pairings:red tuna fish that is seared or aged, grilled meats and vegetables.
Drink by: now until 2020
Notes: biodynamic, indigenous yeasts, aged for 12 months in 60hl French oak, 14-year old vines 60,000 bottles
Description: Sometimes a genius isn’t easy to spot at first sight. You might not expect them to be 34 years old, always laughing, joking and wanting to have a good time. And with no family wine tradition to have learned from, it’s even more impressive. Meet Pierpaolo Messina of Marabino in Noto. In the scorching heat of the summer, we arrived for a visit with him. Upon opening the car doors, you immediately noticed the refreshing breezes which accompanied the sun-drenched sky. Along with the sound of birds filling the air, this place began more to feel like a little paradise. Being biodynamic for him is more than planting with the biodynamic calendar based on planetary and lunar cycles – he uses solar energy, recycles the water he uses for winemaking on his property which attracts birds, insects and animals and even plants all sorts of various fruit trees on his property – all which create and balance his ecosystem, and help him to not need to use pesticides and herbicides on the vines. And all of this is reflected in the balance of Noto Rosso. The best part – drink up without worrying about a headache or hangover – this wine is not made with any chemicals or sulfites!

Summed up perfectly by a strangely poetic friend of mine…’this wine is an oxymoron…it’s like a stinky perfume, it has a rough elegance about it, it’s soft and hard at the same time, and I have a repulsive attraction for it, exactly how I feel about Sicilians’. A small masterpiece by an unsuspecting genius.


 
 

ROSSO DI MONTEFALCO 2015, RAINA



Grape: 70% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 15% Sagrantino
Region: Montefalco (Umbria)
Pairings: red meat, salami, pork, venison
Drink by:  best now thru 2022
Notes:  open up a couple hours early, biodynamic farming, 10 hectares, 24 months in Large Oak Barrels (20 HL), 6 months in stainless steel, 6 months in the bottle, non-filtered or fined, manual harvest
Description:  Francesco Mariani, a young winemaker, decided to bring his own philosophy and desire to make a natural wine to the region of Montefalco, at the same time maintaining tradition.  Wines from this area are often full bodied and tannic so they need their time to open up.  Merlot helps to soften the edges of the more tannic Sagrantino and acidity of the Sangiovese.  It is a structured wine, made in an extreme natural and clean way, showing off the territory of the region.

“Our goal is to offer natural wines, which reflect the terroir but remain personal, are clean, intact and characterized by elegance and drinkability. We do not want to make wines just to taste but to drink”...Francesco Mariani

(video is discussing a white grape Trebbiano that they make but you can at least meet the winemaker and learn about another grape)


 
 

BARDOLINO 2017, MONTI DEI ROARI



Grape: Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone
Region: Garda (Veneto)
Pairings:  Tortellini, light meat dishes
Drink by: now
Notes:  Biodynamic, not filtered, no added sulfites, aged in cement eggs, 20-40 year old vines, 5,000 bottles
Description: Wine tasting is not a race. It is not a matter of finding the best…no winner or loser. No jury can determine for you at a photo finish, which will be the best or the winner. And the best for what?  What is wine without you and your friends sharing an experience together?  And what was wine meant for?

Keeping it in the cellar, waiting for the perfect moment that will never come. A label to show to your friends? Wine, please don’t forget, is sometimes just about drinking them, and now. It’s not all about Barolo, Super-Tuscans and 100 point Parkers… Wine is also about simple light moments. Not fruit juice with alcohol, but that complex simplicity that you have in those bottles, that fulfills your palate with meaningful, light thoughts. Sometimes a wine can be fruity and easy drinking without being ‘cheesy’ – and that is what this Bardolino is about. Small little strawberries with a nice salty finish. With Paul Giamatti I would call this wine ‘quaffable’, if this didn’t sound insulting, because it’s more than that. It’s the essence of a winery that makes straight and honest wines with no fake stories, no selected yeasts, no fertilizers, no sulfites…just grapes and soil. Drink it now meanwhile you are reading this, on a soft late afternoon, when the weather is not too cold or warm, and the sun is balancing a fresh autumn breeze and your friends are with you. No need to discuss the wine, it will soon become part of the group…one of those quiet friends that you can rely on.




 
 

TOSCANA ROSSO 'TRONCONE' 2015, LE RAGNAIE



Grape:  100% Sangiovese Grosso
Region: Siena (Tuscany)
Pairings roasted and grilled lamb and pork, good quality salami and hams, aged cheeses
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes: certified organic, 2 weeks of skin contact, 12 months in Slavonian oak and 6 in concrete, 12,000 bottles produced
Description: Sadly, it's almost an anomaly to find a 'good' quality wine in this region (don't believe us? Take it from Adamo from Contucci).  Most is coming from a forested area or the valley floor which is not ideal, nor was never included in some of the original 76 hectares in 1963 (current size is some 2400+ hectares).  And whether or not you believe in the idea of global warming, being at the highest point of Montalcino where it's cooler helps in these warm years where the valley floor suffers.  Maybe I'm partial to his wines since he has an American wife, or maybe it's just that everything tastes great when you're perched up on a hill with breathtaking panoramas and sipping 'under the Tuscan sun'... Or maybe it's Ricardo's love for Burgundy which inspires his style - elegant, powerful, complex and persistent on the palate, maybe not over-oaking his wines like most are to cover over bad wine, or maybe his various and complex terroirs (now even including a vineyard on the famous Montosoli cru) are what make his wines so beautiful but regardless, this bright and lively expression of Sangiovese will not disappoint.


 
 

ETNA ROSSO 'A RINA' 2016, GIROLAMO RUSSO



Grape: Nerello Mascalese (small amount of Nerello Cappuccio)
Region: Randazzo - Etna (Sicily)
Pairings:  Steak, aged red tuna fish, fried anchovies or fish and chips, or salted cod or mackerel.
Drink by: now until 2024
Notes: 3700 bottles, organically cultivated, 15 year old oak barrique barrels
Description: Winemakers...the biggest liars in the world (well possibly right after sommeliers). A big circle of lies. The soil, the terroir, the efforts, the traditions, struggling against nature and marketing. Here are some tips to recognize a lying winemaker.

• To us, the most important thing is defending tradition.
• We don't care about marketing.
• I make wine for myself, not for the market

Everything is a logo nowadays, even the non-logo (biodynamic, natural, etc). If you have something to sell, you are a liar. BUT...sometimes I like to believe, I need to believe, that there is something true in all of this. This is how Guiseppe Russo presented himself:

• I didn't care about wine when I was younger.
• Countryside and farming represented suffering to me.
• Most of what is said about Etna is bullshit.
• 'No please, don't ask me to speak about the minerality in the Etna wines'
• The more I do this job the less I know how to do it...
...and other anti-marketing statements. And at the end, when I taste Russo wines, at the moment they are simply the best of all the Etna wines. A beautiful balance between 'minerality' (whatever that means) and fruit, power and elegance, complexity and drinkability, deep yet quaffable. Yes, I know, Guiseppe doesn't have a fairytale to tell...no passionate family tradition, but they don't care: the volcano, the 90 year old plants, the unique micro-climate, the 900 year old history...they just don't care about marketing, about journalist expectations, because they were there before us and will be after us. Drink it with venison and a berry or wild forest fruit reduction, facing a mountain.

 
 

SUCIAJA 2015, LA COLOMBERA



Grape: 100% Nibiò (Dolcetto)
Region: Tortona (Piedmont) 
Pairings: prime rib, steak, red meat
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes:  3600 bottles produced, organic farming (not certified), 12-15 day maceration, 9 months in barrique and 
Description: Do you know those kind of people who are always smiling, who seem happy in a contagious way? In Italian, we say solare, from sole - sun, sunny. Not in a goofy or hypocritical way but really happy in their smile, their eyes.  My girlfriend is like this. I told her yesterday. We met at my tasting 3 years ago and I was literally shocked by her simple smile, not fake, not nervous, but natural - so Californian I would say (actually Santa Barbara). It's the same as some wines which make you feel happy from the very first sip. Beyond the alcohol content, I’m talking about wines that are able to be deep and easy drinking, complex and soft at the same time.
And when you meet Elisa, from la Colombera, it's kind of the same experience. As though you knew her for a long time. The happy and welcoming sister you never had. No matter the climate, she smiles because there’s nothing too serious about wine even if her wine is seriously a masterpiece.

Nibiò grapes offer spicy notes with fruity and delicate floral touches. Pepper, vanilla and tobacco blend with red fruit.  Perfect in winter to warm up the belly and for a nice hearty meal.

 
 

EVO Oil from Caieta, is made of an olive type called Itrana, same as Zangrilli. And is from a village called Itri, in between Naples and Lazio. Caieta EVO Oil has a more strong but soft flavour and creamy texture. It's better paired with meat dishes and Buffalo Mozarella.

 

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Rimessa Roscioli Wine Club Notes | 7 | Tier 1

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LAMBRUSCO 'SANT AGATA', PALTRINIERI


Grape: 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara
Region: Sorbara, Modena (Emilia Romagna)
Pairings: a perfect aperitive, meaning pairs with nearly anything, and great with parmigiano or mortadella.  
Drink by: best now, up to 2020
Notes: from historic 'area of the Christ' aka Sant'Agata, 2 days of maceration, fermentation in autoclaves (Charmat-ansestral)
Description:  What is the first thing you think of when someone says Lambrusco?  Let me guess...those good old underage drinking days in high school or college with bad memories, or super sweet wines that hurt your teeth, or the name Riunite?

Forget everything you associate this word with.  This wine might just open your mind to a new world of what Lambrusco can and should be.  The name Sant'Agata is given to this wine because it comes from a historic growing area 'Il Cristo' where loose, silty and potassium rich soil is the ideal condition for the grape.  Lambrusco di Sorbara is found in small quantities but the quality is exceptional (if we can acquire enough of it one day, maybe we'll add his Le Clisse or Radice labels which are out of this world delicious).

Don't judge this wine by it's bright pink color - I know it looks like we dropped a watermelon jolly rancher in it the glass but on the palate it is nothing like that.  Crispy and light with wild forest berries, it is quite versatile as an aperitivo or drank as we did with a nice pasta bolognese, some quality parmigiano and balsamic vinegar from Modena, and gnocco fritto (but you might have to be in Sorbara to find those goodies).


 
 

ROERO ARNEIS 2017, PALLADINO



Grape: 100% Arneis
Region:  Roero (Piemonte)
Pairings:  fresh goat cheese, pesto, fish, white meats.
Drink by: now, or by 2022
Notes: 0.6 hectares, stainless steel used, manual harvest
Description:  Roero.  You've certainly never heard of it for nebbiolo, even though it's merely a hop over the Tanaro River from Barolo, but lightyears away in quality for nebbiolo - and yet, it's so, so close. And Arneis? Ever heard of this white grape of Piemonte, that is mainly known for reds?  Roero was possibly more famous for truffles and peaches, and this old grape was nearly extinct after WWII.  Finally producers in the region are seeing the beauty again in this centuries-old grape.

Palladino...you may know their Barolo (and if you don't, you should).  Veronica and Alessandro are two of the nicest people, winning awards for everything they make.  This wine is beautiful in the summer - it's crisp, delicately perfumed with tropical fruits and white flowers with very subtle almond notes and a nice dose of minerality on the palate.


 
 

BARDOLINO 2017, MONTI DEI ROARI



Grape: Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone
Region: Garda (Veneto)
Pairings:  Tortellini, light meat dishes
Drink by: now
Notes:  Biodynamic, not filtered, no added sulfites, aged in cement eggs, 20-40 year old vines, 5,000 bottles
Description: Wine tasting is not a race. It is not a matter of finding the best…no winner or loser. No jury can determine for you at a photo finish, which will be the best or the winner. And the best for what?  What is wine without you and your friends sharing an experience together?  And what was wine meant for?

Keeping it in the cellar, waiting for the perfect moment that will never come. A label to show to your friends? Wine, please don’t forget, is sometimes just about drinking them, and now. It’s not all about Barolo, Super-Tuscans and 100 point Parkers… Wine is also about simple light moments. Not fruit juice with alcohol, but that complex simplicity that you have in those bottles, that fulfills your palate with meaningful, light thoughts. Sometimes a wine can be fruity and easy drinking without being ‘cheesy’ – and that is what this Bardolino is about. Small little strawberries with a nice salty finish. With Paul Giamatti I would call this wine ‘quaffable’, if this didn’t sound insulting, because it’s more than that. It’s the essence of a winery that makes straight and honest wines with no fake stories, no selected yeasts, no fertilizers, no sulfites…just grapes and soil. Drink it now meanwhile you are reading this, on a soft late afternoon, when the weather is not too cold or warm, and the sun is balancing a fresh autumn breeze and your friends are with you. No need to discuss the wine, it will soon become part of the group…one of those quiet friends that you can rely on.




 
 

TOSCANA ROSSO 'TRONCONE' 2015, LE RAGNAIE



Grape:  100% Sangiovese Grosso
Region: Siena (Tuscany)
Pairings roasted and grilled lamb and pork, good quality salami and hams, aged cheeses
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes: certified organic, 2 weeks of skin contact, 12 months in Slavonian oak and 6 in concrete, 12,000 bottles produced
Description: Sadly, it's almost an anomaly to find a 'good' quality wine in this region (don't believe us? Take it from Adamo from Contucci).  Most is coming from a forested area or the valley floor which is not ideal, nor was never included in some of the original 76 hectares in 1963 (current size is some 2400+ hectares).  And whether or not you believe in the idea of global warming, being at the highest point of Montalcino where it's cooler helps in these warm years where the valley floor suffers.  Maybe I'm partial to his wines since he has an American wife, or maybe it's just that everything tastes great when you're perched up on a hill with breathtaking panoramas and sipping 'under the Tuscan sun'... Or maybe it's Ricardo's love for Burgundy which inspires his style - elegant, powerful, complex and persistent on the palate, maybe not over-oaking his wines like most are to cover over bad wine, or maybe his various and complex terroirs (now even including a vineyard on the famous Montosoli cru) are what make his wines so beautiful but regardless, this bright and lively expression of Sangiovese will not disappoint.


 
 

ETNA ROSSO 'A RINA' 2016, GIROLAMO RUSSO



Grape: Nerello Mascalese (small amount of Nerello Cappuccio)
Region: Randazzo - Etna (Sicily)
Pairings:  Steak, aged red tuna fish, fried anchovies or fish and chips, or salted cod or mackerel.
Drink by: now until 2024
Notes: 3700 bottles, organically cultivated, 15 year old oak barrique barrels
Description: Winemakers...the biggest liars in the world (well possibly right after sommeliers). A big circle of lies. The soil, the terroir, the efforts, the traditions, struggling against nature and marketing. Here are some tips to recognize a lying winemaker.

• To us, the most important thing is defending tradition.
• We don't care about marketing.
• I make wine for myself, not for the market

Everything is a logo nowadays, even the non-logo (biodynamic, natural, etc). If you have something to sell, you are a liar. BUT...sometimes I like to believe, I need to believe, that there is something true in all of this. This is how Guiseppe Russo presented himself:

• I didn't care about wine when I was younger.
• Countryside and farming represented suffering to me.
• Most of what is said about Etna is bullshit.
• 'No please, don't ask me to speak about the minerality in the Etna wines'
• The more I do this job the less I know how to do it...
...and other anti-marketing statements. And at the end, when I taste Russo wines, at the moment they are simply the best of all the Etna wines. A beautiful balance between 'minerality' (whatever that means) and fruit, power and elegance, complexity and drinkability, deep yet quaffable. Yes, I know, Guiseppe doesn't have a fairytale to tell...no passionate family tradition, but they don't care: the volcano, the 90 year old plants, the unique micro-climate, the 900 year old history...they just don't care about marketing, about journalist expectations, because they were there before us and will be after us. Drink it with venison and a berry or wild forest fruit reduction, facing a mountain.

 
 

SUCIAJA 2015, LA COLOMBERA



Grape: 100% Nibiò (Dolcetto)
Region: Tortona (Piedmont) 
Pairings: prime rib, steak, red meat
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes:  3600 bottles produced, organic farming (not certified), 12-15 day maceration, 9 months in barrique and 
Description: Do you know those kind of people who are always smiling, who seem happy in a contagious way? In Italian, we say solare, from sole - sun, sunny. Not in a goofy or hypocritical way but really happy in their smile, their eyes.  My girlfriend is like this. I told her yesterday. We met at my tasting 3 years ago and I was literally shocked by her simple smile, not fake, not nervous, but natural - so Californian I would say (actually Santa Barbara). It's the same as some wines which make you feel happy from the very first sip. Beyond the alcohol content, I’m talking about wines that are able to be deep and easy drinking, complex and soft at the same time.
And when you meet Elisa, from la Colombera, it's kind of the same experience. As though you knew her for a long time. The happy and welcoming sister you never had. No matter the climate, she smiles because there’s nothing too serious about wine even if her wine is seriously a masterpiece.

Nibiò grapes offer spicy notes with fruity and delicate floral touches. Pepper, vanilla and tobacco blend with red fruit.  Perfect in winter to warm up the belly and for a nice hearty meal.

 
 

EVO Oil from Caieta, is made of an olive type called Itrana, same as Zangrilli. And is from a village called Itri, in between Naples and Lazio. Caieta EVO Oil has a more strong but soft flavour and creamy texture. It's better paired with meat dishes and Buffalo Mozarella.

 

Can't visit Rome?

WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Italian Wine Club and bring Italy to you wherever you are.


Not in Rome?

WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Wine Club in Rome and bring Italy home to you wherever you are.


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Rimessa Roscioli Wine Club Notes | 7 | Tier 2

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PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE SUR LIE, CASA COSTE PIENE


Grape: Glera
Region: Valdobbiadene (Veneto)
Pairings: a perfect aperitive, meaning pairs with nearly anything
Drink by: best now, up to 2020
Notes: natural and spontaneous secondary fermentation in the bottle, 250-400m above sea level in hilly and clay terrain, no pesticides or herbicides used, maximum respect for land and tradition.
Description:  My first thoughts upon reaching the massive Prosecco zone stretching across the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia: what a sad place to make wine? Even the vineyards look despondent and dismal. This pancake flat, cornfield laden area with vineyards butted up beside them was like a somber and depressing depiction from David Foster Wallace's Illinois State Fair essay about the Midwest.

But then, we reached this special little area, the Valdobbiadene hills, where again the stereotypical panoramas of Italian hills pervade.  You'll find Loris Follador there.  From his character, he seems to me like the last guy that would be making an overproduced, cheesy and overly sweet beverage (aka 99% of Prosecco), and he's not.  One of the very few, he's making his in the traditional style on the lees with the fermentation happening in the bottle with no disgorgement, and from vines that are up to 100 years old.

Sure, it's not a Krug Clos du Mesnil but it's highly quaffable, refreshing and certainly not your typical Prosecco which might be confused with the wines of Asti.  Pair it with friends, holidays or New Year's Eve!


 
 

TIMORASSO ' IL MONTINO' 2015, LA COLOMBERA



Grape: 100% Timorasso
Region:  Colli Tortonesi (Piemonte)
Pairings:  white meat like chicken, fish, risotto, or pairs well as an aperitivo
Drink by: now, or by 2024
Notes: organic farming (non-certified), most prized wine they make, stainless and bottle aging, 
Description:  Do you know those kind of people who are always smiling, who seem happy in a contagious way? In Italian, we say solare, from sole - sun, sunny. Not in a goofy or hypocritical way but really happy in their smile, their eyes.  My girlfriend is like this. I told her yesterday. We met at my tasting 3 years ago and I was literally shocked by her simple smile, not fake, not nervous, but natural - so Californian I would say (actually Santa Barbara). It's the same as some wines which make you feel happy from the very first sip. Beyond the alcohol content, I’m talking about wines that are able to be deep and easy drinking, complex and soft at the same time.
And when you meet Elisa, from la Colombera, it's kind of the same experience. As though you knew her for a long time. The happy and welcoming sister you never had. No matter the climate, she smiles because there’s nothing too serious about wine even if her wine is seriously a masterpiece.  This wine is a perfect balance of minerality and fruit with light floral notes.


 
 

PINTO NERO XX 2016, ANSITZ-DORNACH



Grape: 100% Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir)
Region: Trentino Alto Adige 
Pairings:  meat dishes, or dishes made with mushrooms and speck, lamb, strong gamey dishes and venison
Drink by: now until 2028
Notes: certified organic, biodynamic, only indigenous yeasts, delicate and longer maceration, 22 months in French oak, maximum respect for the land
Description: 'I don't think we're in Kansas anymore'...was basically how I felt in this area as German was the main language yet we are in Italy.  It's a cultural mish-mosh having traded hands some 15+ times in a few hundred years.  Brush up on your German or Ladin, not your Italian, if you plan to visit.  You'll find street signs in German first and you'll be eating kraut, schnitzel and strudel (from the abundant local apple tradition on the Adige valley floor).

'I have done away with the superfluous, in every sense of my life', says Patrick.  And what was left is what you see today.  A biodynamic/organic vineyard, a full ecosystem from Noah's arc, 3 dogs, and family more or less remains.

Patrick takes biodynamic to a new level.  For him, it' not just a style of winemaking where he buys the necessary preparations (he makes them himself) to put the certification on his bottle, but a way to know himself.  Every part of what he works with builds a deeper understanding and appreciation of who he is.  Working with plants, vines and a bountiful garden. Working with cows, sheep, chickens, breeding them, connecting with them, and ultimately slaughtering them.  All these layers help him to understand what it is to be human and to better be intimate with his life, purpose and nature.


 
 

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2013, LE REGNAIE



Grape:  100% Sangiovese Grosso
Region: Montalcino (Tuscany)
Pairings:  savory dishes like stews, bone steak, game, roasted and grilled lamb, good quality salami and hams, aged cheeses
Drink bynow until 2030, patience pays off 
Notes: highest vines in Montalcino, certified organic farming, cement casks, no added yeast, 3 week maceration, 25hl Slavonian oak for 3 years, 26 avg. age vines
Description:  Simply said, one of the best Brunello di Montalcino made and enjoyed by everyone we pour it for.

Sadly, it's almost an anomaly to find a 'good' Brunello (don't believe us? Take it from Adamo from Contucci).  Most is coming from a forested area or the valley floor which is not ideal, nor was never included in the original 76 hectares (current size is some 2400+ hectares) in 1963.  And whether or not you believe in the idea of global warming, being at the highest point of Montalcino where it's cooler helps in these warm years where the valley floor suffers.  Maybe I'm partial to his wines since he has an American wife, or maybe it's just that everything tastes great when you're perched up on a hill with breathtaking panoramas and sipping 'under the Tuscan sun'... Or maybe it's Ricardo's love for Burgundy which inspires his style - elegant, powerful, complex and persistent on the palate, maybe not over-oaking his wines like most are to cover over bad wine, or maybe his various and complex terroirs (now even including a vineyard on the famous Montosoli cru) are what make his wines so beautiful but regardless, treat this wine with care and enjoy in a few more years if you can, with a nice t-bone steak or nestled up on a cold winter day by a fireplace with someone you love.


 
 

NERO DI TROIA RISERVA 'ARMENTARIO' 2012, CARPENTIERE



Grape:  100% Nero di Troia
Region: Castel del Monte (Puglia)
Pairings: red meat dishes
Drink by: now until 2021
Notes: indigenous yeasts, manually harvested, fermentation in steel and 24 months aging in large Slavonian oak for 2 years.
Description: Simply said, we make wines based on terroir, not based on market demands, even though the market rewards artificial wines. Tradition, heritage and terroir is what this wine is based on. A family vineyard that he continues to care for, as this land has been around for thousands of years and will be for possibly thousands more, and preserving and maintaining that heritage while he is there is the most important thing. This wine could possibly be called feminine on the nose, as it reminded me of roaming through the rose gardens in Rome, smelling all the 1100 varieties of roses planted there. The terroir of this region also gives the wine a unique minerality, and you'll likely pick up the bitter honey aromas as you come back to it. Just like a rose, this wine needs time to open up. Give it some time before you judge it, but I think you will find this to be one of the most unique wines in terms of its aromas and palate. Not just a 'girly' wine...this wine has a nice grip and depth to it as well.

 
 

BAROLO VIGNA LAZZIARASCO 2014, GUIDO PORRO



Grape: 100% Nebbiolo
Region: Serralunga d'Alba, Barolo (Piedmont) cru Lazzarito
Pairings: prime rib, steak, red meat
Drink by: 2030, patience pays off
Notes:  No added yeast, average vine age is 45 years, 15-20 day maceration, 3 years in large Slavonian oak 
Description: How do you describe Guido Porro?  There is nothing wild or out of the norm that he is doing that I can show off to you.  He's not some crazy guy with stories about giving a liter of wine to the cows everyday...   He is a 4th generation winemaker, following the traditions of his family and heritage of the region and somehow that is enough.  He lets the terroir speak in his wines, making his various cru wines in the same way and watching how different they can be based on their exposure and soils.  In a fast-paced world where we often bounce from one shiny thing to the next, the Porro's have stayed put, and this was it often takes for wine regions to develop an important heritage and deeper understanding of their land and region.

This wine has spicy notes, hints of dried red fruits with notes of vanilla and licorice, and is possibly the bigger wine of the crus they make having more exposure to the sun. 2014 was a challenging year for just about everyone, so be cautious to judge them on a single wine.  This vintage may not have quite the lasting power of others, but Serralunga d'Alba is known for full bodied wines with limestone-clay rich soils which can be held for a few years for more pleasure.

 
 

EVO Oil from Caieta, is made of an olive type called Itrana, same as Zangrilli. And is from a village called Itri, in between Naples and Lazio. Caieta EVO Oil has a more strong but soft flavour and creamy texture. It's better paired with meat dishes and Buffalo Mozarella.

 

Can't visit Rome?

WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Italian Wine Club and bring Italy to you wherever you are.


Not in Rome?

WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Wine Club in Rome and bring Italy home to you wherever you are.


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Our Roman Wine Guide – From Ancient Rome to Today

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“Wine prepares the heart for love, unless you take too much.”

Ovid, Roman poet, (43 BC – 17 AD)

Rome has a long, deep-rooted relationship with wine. From ancient Rome to the present day, wine has always been an inseparable part of its culture. Wine is one of the main elements that defines the image of the eternal city to the outer world: ancient ruins everywhere - and not just behind closed gates- a seemingly infinite number of catholic churches (St. Peter’s Basilica might ring a bell) and, most importantly of course, pizza, pasta and wine, yay! And when you are sitting on a sunny terrace and sipping on a glass (or a bottle) of wine next to a historic fountain, you cannot escape the integrated contrast as well as the strong harmony between then and now, whilst your mind might drift off to wondering what life was like when Julius Caesar was still ruling this city. Well, that is an experience you would really have to… Experience! But let us at least shed some light on the Roman wines and the difference between our modern Roman wine culture and the ancient one.


 
 

Wine in Ancient Rome


"Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis – Good wine gladdens a person’s heart”

Latin proverb

The cradle of human civilization equals the cradle of wine: ancient Mesopotamia. From there, mankind spread around the world, and consequently, so did wine. The objective of the Phoenicians and the Greeks to increase and develop their Mediterranean trade market by, for example, planting vines on foreign soil to have its production closer to their prospective clients, kick-started a flourishing viticulture in Italy. Afterwards, when Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in the first century B.C., the Romans introduced the domesticated grapevine in France and Germany, planting the proverbial (grape)seed that blossomed into what are nowadays prestigious wine regions in both countries. For both the Greek and the Roman civilizations, wine was deeply connected to religion: the Greeks worshipped Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility, to the Romans his name was Bacchus.

But the wine culture in times of the Roman Empire was much different than the one we have today. Due to the absence of modern technology, and therefore the absence of, for example, the fridge, glass wine bottles, mechanically produced cork stops, etc., keeping a wine in good shape was a whole different ball game. Back then, wine had a more similar character to our modern day Beaujolais Nouveau: it was young and fruity and, without the means of keeping the wine in good conditions for a considerable amount of time, would generally expire within a year. Not only that, but our modern perception that a respectable wine can be made exclusively from grapes, without adding any other ingredients into the mix, wasn’t as strong as it is fixed in our minds now. Actually, adding other elements to the wine, like tree resin, could prolong its lifespan. So this was a method that the Romans would use to age their wines, before being introduced to the oak barrel by invading France (who used the barrels to store beer). By the way, if you are curious as to what such a resinated wine would taste like, you could for fun open a bottle of Retsina, a Greek wine still traditionally made with resin. It will undoubtedly be an interesting and educational experience, let’s leave it at that…

Wine consumption was initially reserved for the wealthier echelons of society. It was the Romans who started considering it a more ‘democratic’ beverage, and not just exclusively a luxury product for a privileged minority. However, there was another objective to this democratization of wine: during the Roman Republic, slaves would receive a ration of 5 liters of wine per week. This was not for their pleasure or enjoyment, but it was deemed as a way to provide energy and strength and believed to keep the slaves healthy. And, of course, the slaves were undoubtedly provided the lowest quality of wine available.

There were in fact already distinctions in place for different levels of quality. Experts similar to our modern day sommeliers would determine the quality of the amphorae of wine. Territory and soil started to play an important role in wine culture, and a classification system was created, similar (though not as elaborate) to the French ‘Cru’ system. The most prestigious and celebrated wine back in the days was the Falerno, from the Campania region in southern Italy. The reputation and high price of a Falerno wine effectively made it the most exclusive wine in the Roman Empire, so much that it could also be used as currency to buy slaves. One way to measure social status was by the amount of Falerno present in a household. Wine might have become available to all, but the finest ones remained exclusively accessible to the wealthiest classes.

During the early years of the Roman Republic, women were forbidden to drink wine, and the ‘ius osculi’ law allowed men to kill their spouses if they would detect alcohol on their breath through a kiss. As the Empire expanded and became wealthier, the level of tolerance, especially within the middle and upper classes, grew considerably, until finally the law disappeared completely. There was now more time and money for vices and entertainment, where wine was a constant presence. This was, after all, the golden age of Rome, and wine was on the table of every Roman household.

The legacy and importance of ancient Rome in the wine world is still felt today. Their traditional winemaking techniques still reflect on current vinification methods, and certain grape varieties that proliferated in those eras, are still cultivated to this day or even making a comeback.


 
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Wine today


“Wine is a perfect cure for heaviness and sorrow.”

Seneca, Roman playwright and philosopher, (4 BC – 65 AD)

In most of the charming, traditional ‘Trattorie’ and ‘Osterie’ scattered throughout the city, it’s hard to come by a table that doesn’t proudly display a bottle of wine, or a carafe of (surprisingly good, comparatively!) table wine. This fun, unpretentious attitude that Romans have always traditionally maintained with wine, will never vanish and it still greatly contributes to the classic Roman image of a colorful, somewhat chaotic, yet fun, romantic city. However, this down-to-earth attitude towards wine also produced the more negative effect of a market accustomed to drinking low-quality mass-produced wine, with very little consideration for quality.

Only in recent years, in part due to the efforts of small producers from the surrounding areas who focus on quality rather than quantity, but also because of the growing curiosity towards wine from today’s younger generation, Romans have finally started to get in touch with the idea of drinking quality wine. Many classic establishments are also starting to understand the importance of providing quality wines to accompany the traditional local cuisine, as opposed to the bland fare that was the standard for years. It is now easy to walk into a wine bar or restaurant in Rome, and choose from a large variety of good quality wines, Roman, Italian or even international, by the bottle or by the glass.

By the way, here are a couple of insider tips: if you’re interested in ordering a bottle of wine in a Roman restaurant or bar, ask for ‘la carta dei vini’, or, if you just wish to order wine by the ‘bicchiere’, glass, you will have to check the ‘mescita’ list (often found at the beginning of that same wine list or on a black board). The wine will most likely be served in elegant wine glasses, far removed from the traditional small stemless water glasses that you might still catch your eye in vintage Italian movies and photos. This might seem like a small detail, but it is symbolic of the changes that are taking place between Romans and their relationship with wine culture. Romans are unpretentious by nature, and while this can be an appealing trait, they are known to be suspicious of change. Any option that varies from the standard or ‘traditional’ way, takes time to be viewed favorably, but once they jump on board, Romans will always do things with pride and passion.

Rome today is a truly exhilarating place to be when it comes to tasting wine, from a local Cesanese to a prestigious Barolo, or from a fancy Champagne to a nerdy natural wine, the choice is yours!


 
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Grapes and Wines of Rome


“It warms the blood, adds luster to the eyes, and wine and love have ever been allies.”

Ovid, Roman poet, (43 BC-17 AD)

In Lazio, there are three DOCG wines and 27 DOC wines in total, but if we focus on the province of Rome, there are two DOCG wines, and eighteen DOCs. Unfortunately, the quality of many of these is not always of the highest level, and we would recommend most of them only if you are curious to experience wines that have been consumed at Roman taverns for hundreds of years, without seeking anything too exciting or complex. They usually are very simple and nondescript wines. The two DOCGs, Cannellino di Frascati and Frascati Superiore, come from the Castelli area, on the outskirts of the capital. It is an area known mainly for its white wines, in fact, the white Frascati wine was the first white wine ever in Italy to gain a DOC status in 1966. The predominant grapes that are used in the Frascati blend are the Malvasia del Lazio, Bombino, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia di Candia, Greco, and Bellone (also called Arciprete or Cacchione). After many years of underwhelming wines, we are pleased to mention that there are finally a few young talented producers that are trying to elevate the quality and reputation of the area. In particular, we would like to suggest the wines of Cantina Ribelà and Marco Colicchio. Both young producers make wines that are the antithesis of the mass-produced, industrial low-quality wines that still dominate the Castelli scene. Also worth mentioning are the Marco Carpineti biological wines from the Cori area, where the main local varieties are the white Bellone and the red Nero Buono grapes.


 
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Cesanese, the grape, and the wine


"It has become quite a common proverb that in wine there is truth - In Vino Veritas."

Pliny the Elder, Roman officer and encyclopedist, (23-79 AD)

The main excitement for the wine world in the proximity of Rome is currently coming from an area of three little hill top towns about an hour drive south east of Rome (when traffic isn’t too ‘Roman’ that is!), near the Apennine mountains: Piglio, Olevano Romano and Affile, who make up for the domain of the red Cesanese grape variety and wine. The name Cesanese derives from a small town just south of Rome called Cesano.

There are two main Cesanese varieties: Cesanese Comune and Cesanese d’Affile. Instead of being different biotypes of the same grape, they are actually two different grape varieties sharing the same name. The Cesanese Comune can be found scattered all over Lazio, although predominantly in the south, whereas the Cesanese d’Affile, with much smaller berries, is native to the area around the three hilltop towns mentioned above (but with Affile being one of them, you might have already guessed that). The Cesanese d’Affile is considered the higher quality grape, but it also prefers to grow at a higher altitude, like the little towns in the hills leading up to the central Italian mountain rig. Both Cesanese varieties have trouble ripening, although the Comune is somewhat less demanding and easier to work with, and therefore the more common one, hence its name.  

There is one DOCG, Cesanese di Piglio, and two DOC wines, Cesanese di Olevano Romano and Cesanese d’Affile made from Cesanese in this area. And yes, that means that there is both a DOC called Cesanese d’Affile and a grape variety called Cesanese d’Affile, which is also used in the other DOC(G)s. Why keep it simple, right? The DOC(G)s are obviously named after the historic towns around which they predominantly grow, although they include some other neighboring little towns too.

Like all wines from Lazio, Cesanese has to fight for a better reputation after historically being produced as a low quality ‘nobody cares’ wine. But recently, the more quality focused dry red Cesanese wines produced by driven young producers from much reduced yields, are a real contender for the Italian wine hall of forces-to-be-reckoned-with. A good Cesanese wine is elegantly rustic, with a slightly spicy and earthy backbone, though excelling in aromatic fruitiness (like ripe red cherries for example), whilst not being too tannic or dark. When in Rome, it is the perfect wine to pair with our traditional Roman pasta dishes, after all: what grows together, goes together. Try out some of our recommendations below, you won’t be disappointed!


 
 

Our recommendations in the Cesanese area



Azienda Agricola Migrante

Originally a truck driver, Lorenzo Fanfarillo converted to winemaking at his wife’s small family estate in the hills surrounding Olevano Romano in 2000 (first vintage 2003). As a first generation self-taught winemaker, his open-minded approach and plenty of TLC in the vineyard result in four mono varietal Cesanese wines with a truly unique expression of this grape. His two unoaked versions are the pleasantly fruity Terre Olibani and the more complex Consilium, aged in used oak barrels is the softer Sigillum, and only made in specific years is his sweet late harvest vintage Olevano label. His late ripening Cesanese grapes give an earthy, woody (not to be confused with oaked) backbone to his wines, which requires them to age in the bottle for a few years before they reach their right expression. Don’t worry, Lorenzo does the aging for us and only releases his vintages after years of maturation at the winery. Just give the wine some time to breathe after opening a bottle, to let it come to its senses after its extensive beauty sleep, and you cannot be but pleasantly surprised by these wonderfully complex Cesanese wines.

Mario Macciocca

Mario’s grandparents bought a small plot of land near the town of Piglio in 1946, just after WWII, and planted it with grapes. It’s from them that Mario learned the trade and with his natural philosophy towards winemaking, he is producing some real local gems. He’s got a line of all natural wines (so unfiltered, no sulfites added and fermented with natural yeasts) called Monocromo: white, orange, rosé and red. Plus some traditional-bordering-on-natural interpretations of the white Passerina grape variety and of course the Cesanese. Two unique things you can find in his vineyard: the ruins of an ancient Roman well, once used by the legions stationed down in the valley, and an unique and unregistered grape variant called Nostrano. His Terra Rossa wine might name Cesanese as the only grape, as unregistered varieties aren’t allowed on the bottle, but it’s a beautiful blend with a grape growing only in his vineyard. Mario Macciocca’s wines are positively interesting and educational, whether you’re a fan of natural wines or not.  

Cantine Riccardi Reale

Lorella Reale and Piero Riccardi form a true power couple in the Olevano Romano area, working completely biodynamic and taking advantage of the 2 different soils than form a visible natural division in their family vineyard. One soil is of a red volcanic composition, the other part is made up by white sandstone, giving the Cesanese grapes both a completely different character. Their entry level Collepazzo wine is a blend from grapes from both soils, while the Càlitro is made from grapes that grow on the white soil, and Neccio is produced from the Cesanese that grows on the red volcanic soil. The wines are sophisticated and high quality. If you are curious about the impact of different soils on a wine, these wines are not to be missed. They also produce a charismatic rosé (Cesanese), and they recently introduced a new orange wine, a blend from Malvasia and Riesling grapes.

Azienda Agricola Alberto Giacobbe

The Alberto Giacobbe vineyards are located on both of the two main Cesanese areas of production. In order to distinguish the wines from these areas, he bottles two of his red wines under different names - the DOCG Piglio wine is called Lepanto, and the DOC Olevano is called Giacobbe, both 100% Cesanese di Affile grapes. The winery was founded in 1939, and since 2008 Alberto has taken over wine production. His wines display an appealing unpretentiousness and fruitiness, that makes them very food friendly. They pair especially well with straightforward Roman dishes such as pasta cacio e pepe and amatriciana.

Azienda Vitivinicola Ciolli

Damiano Ciolli is one of the most celebrated Cesanese producers. A fourth generation winemaker based in Olevano Romano, he only produces two wines, both made from 100% Cesanese Di Affile grapes. Cirsum is the flagship wine, a complex and structured wine that displays cherry and raspberry notes, with tobacco-like undertones. It is surely one of the most impressive and elegant Cesanese wines available on the market. Their second wine, Silene, is the lighter, more floral wine of the two, but it still packs a punch of flavor and remarkable length.


“No poems can please for long or live that are written by water drinkers.”

Horace, Roman philosopher (65-8 BC)

Andrew Mecoli & Marloes Fransen


 

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Our Natural Wine Guide

In Articles by Marloes FransenLeave a Comment

Natural wine vineyards
 

Everything you wanted to know about natural wines




What is natural wine?

One of the simplest definitions of a natural wine is: nothing added, nothing taken away.

Although there is no legal definition of how a natural wine is made, there are a few principles that consistently abide to the basic idea that wine should be made in the vineyard, not the cellar: no added chemicals, no added sulfites (or just the bare minimal amount), no temperature control during fermentation, no added yeast, no fining or filtration, and no pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard.

By reducing the winemaker’s intervention to a minimum, what is left in the glass should be the purest expression of the grapes and the soil, not a manufactured product built scientifically to appeal to the mainstream palate. This often results in wines that can be cloudy and rustic in appearance, and that may display very earthy and funky aromas on the nose.

While these traits may be off-putting to some, it is precisely this raw and direct approach that is particularly appealing to natural wine aficionados. The idea that each bottle may differ from the next, and that the bottles are not coming off an assembly line, is attracting consumers that are tired of the fake nature of mass produced products.

Getting to know about the winemaker’s philosophy, is a fundamental value that is impossible to find in mass produced products.

 
Beautiful natural wine grown in Italy
 

Fermentation with natural yeasts

Regarding wine, fermentation is the process of the microorganism yeast converting the natural sugars in the sweet grape juice (called “must”) into alcohol (and the byproduct carbon dioxide).

This is usually a carefully controlled part of the vinification process where the winemaker adds a calculated amount of a selected strain of yeast (either natural of synthetic). This way, the duration of the fermentation process and the impact of the yeast on the flavor of the wine are in the hands of the winemaker rather than nature.

With natural wines, its philosophy desires quite the opposite and the objective is to let nature have the upper hand in creating the wine. Therefore, no selected and measured out quantity of yeast is added to the must, but the winemaker rather lets the natural yeast (that forms a thin matte-like layer on the outside of the skins of the grapes) take care of the fermentation by itself.

That usually means it takes longer for fermentation to start, and it takes longer for the fermentation process to be completed, sometimes up to several months instead of a few weeks! The yeast, which in natural wines is not filtered out before the wine is being bottled, also adds another flavor dimension to the wine, which in some natural wines is more present than in others.

Barnyard vs. ‘Clean’ aromas

One of the main debates in the wine world when talking about natural wines is that they are too often flawed, and that leaving the wine develop on its own devices may lead to the exposure of defects that the wine industry has been solving throughout the years with the aid of technological advances and research.

While there may sometimes be a tendency in natural wine supporters to justify wines that are objectively flawed, it is the imperfections that are admittedly fundamental to the idea that no wine can ever be exactly identical from one year to the next, and in some cases, from one bottle to the next. The imperfections give the wine character. The infamous barnyard smell, for example, is one of the main elements of discussion.

Because natural wines are fermented by its own wild yeasts, which are not filtered out of the wine after the fermentation is finished, there is often something characteristically different about the aromas (and therefore taste) of natural wines, often described as ‘Barnyard’.

The barnyard smell is particularly referencing to the animal ‘products’ that can be found on the floor of a barnyard, if you know what we mean. This personality trait is created by a kind of wild yeast called Brettanomyces, or Brett, for short. And although Brett affecting the aromas of a wine is not per definition a bad thing - in fact, it can give a wine a certain rustic funk appreciated by natural wine lovers – too much barnyard in a wine will make it smell, err, somewhat unappealing!

Is it true that drinking natural wines reduces the risk of getting a hangover?

Many natural wine consumers are drawn to the lower impact these wines have on our organism, compared to wines that are treated with chemical additives and undergo industrial processes.

The low-intervention process of natural winemaking often leads to wines that contain lower alcohol levels, barely any sulfites (although every wine will always contain a small quantity of natural sulfites) and that are light and easy to drink.

Although it is not scientifically proven, most natural wine advocates are firm believers that due to this lighter profile, the risks of getting a hangover and other negative side effects, are greatly reduced.

While there might be some truth to this theory, it is still advisable to always drink in moderation if you want to make sure you won’t have a bad headache in the morning.

 
natural wine - nothing added
 

Natural Wines in Italy

The natural wine movement in Italy is in constant expansion, and it is becoming more common throughout the country for restaurants to include a natural wine selection to their wine lists.

Major cities like Rome and Milan have a considerable amount of wine bars and shops with extensive natural wine options, or in some cases exclusively dedicated to this world.

During the week of the most important wine fair in Italy, Vinitaly, that is held annually in Verona, two alternative events focused on natural wines take place: ViniVeri in Cerea and the Vinnatur event at Villa Favorita. These events are proving to be so popular that many wine lovers bypass the main fairgrounds completely and choose only to attend these.

The Vinnatur organization is led by a trailblazer of the Italian natural wine world, Angiolino Maule. He is a winegrower from the Soave area in Veneto, and has been at the forefront of the Italian natural wine movement for many years.

In an effort to establish common ground and regulations within the winemakers of his organization, in 2018 he established a charter outlining the main principles and regulations that all winemakers must follow in order to be part of Vinnatur.

The staples of natural winemaking such as low sulfite levels, hand picking of the grapes, and no added chemicals, were all included.

Natural wines worldwide

This sort of charter was also created in other countries due to the lack of any official, government-recognized set of regulations. Among the associations worldwide that serve this purpose a few of the main ones are:

A great way to get familiar with the wines from these different organizations is to attend the numerous natural wine events that are organized throughout the year in most major cities. For a very reasonable fee, it is possible to taste directly from the producer’s hands, and in the meantime personally learn about their background and ideals.

What is the difference between natural wines and organic, biological or biodynamic wines?

Biological and organic wines are certified labels and the winemaker has to comply with the rules and regulations set by the organization that certifies the wines. It is a kind of membership that the winemaker subscribes to and pays a fee for.

The standards for producing a biological wine are slightly milder than for organic wines, with the latter strictly forbidding the use of any synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in the vineyard or the addition of sulfites to the wines (with the exception of Europe and Canada, where the level of sulfites cannot exceed 100 parts per million (ppm) for red wines and 150 ppm for white wines).

Biodynamic wines are also certified, but they take it even further than organic wines, not just setting rules that are science related, but also adopting regulations related to a certain wine making philosophy established by the Austrian academic and philosopher Rudolph Steiner in the late 20s which connects the yearly agricultural cycle of a vineyard to the lunar cycle and the position of the sun and the planets in a spiritual way.

The superior quality of a biodynamic wine compared to an organic wine cannot be proven scientifically, but rather spiritually the way the philosophy of religion can have a positive effect on people.



Natural wines mostly live outside all of the established borders of organic, biological and biodynamic winemaking. Natural winemakers often also choose to purposely not abide by the rules of their official regional and government-certified denominations, in order to produce wines that do not follow the common traits that are officially recognized as typical of these areas.

While official area recognition is still an important factor that can add value and prestige to a wine, these producers choose to prioritize what they consider more true and honest to the grape and soil. Growing interest in the natural wine movement is proving that there is a large amount of wine consumers that seem to agree with this idea.



Our recommendations

Italian winemakers traditionally work as close to nature as possible and believe that the representation of the local terroir and character of the grape itself should be the most important aspects of a wine, not human interference.

The craft and art of winemaking has usually been passed on from generation to generation, dating back to a time where modern technology was not yet available. And although some modern equipment has been introduced in the wineries nowadays, these traditional producers never took such a scientific approach to winemaking as many new world wineries do. That being said, natural winemaking is a completely different philosophy, and one that has recently gained much popularity in the world, including Italy.

Here are a few picks from our personal list of favorite Italian natural wine producers. Please note that we are only highlighting a few of the innumerable great wineries that are currently available on the market.

Frank Cornelissen

The rose’ wine Susucaru, from producer Frank Cornelissen, has been gaining popularity in the wine world due to the support and enthusiasm of US rapper/TV gourmet personality, Action Bronson.

Admittedly, this is a rather refreshing twist on the usual big-money, big-champagne imagery usually associated with the hip hop world. In this case, the rapper is definitely onto something special.

Cornelissen, a Belgian living on Mount Etna in Sicily, was inspired to start making wine by a trip to Georgia, where he tasted the amphora-aged, traditional orange wines of the area. With no experience in winemaking, he bought land in Sicily, on the Etna volcano, started making wine, and rapidly became one of the most respected (and controversial) producers in the wine world.

A firm advocate of no-intervention winemaking procedures and letting nature run its course, his wines initially tended to be very unstable and inconsistent from bottle to bottle, but after years of experience and fine-tuning, his wines now have reached a beautiful balance between the more wild and rustic elements, and a sharp, focused elegance.

The refreshing and easy to drink Susucaru and Contadino wines, together with his numerous single vineyard bottlings, such as his Munjebel line and the rich and powerful Magma, are currently some of the most sought after bottles by wine lovers worldwide.

Emidio Pepe

Abruzzo had always been known as a region where wine was produced based on quantity, not quality. For this reason, when estate owner Emidio Pepe decided in 1964 to stop selling grapes destined for mass produced, low-quality wine, and started making low-yield wines following groundbreaking strict biodynamic procedures, most of his fellow wine producers and vineyard owners thought that he had lost his mind.

Pepe’s gamble paid off well, and he is now one of the most legendary and respected producers of the natural wine world. The longevity of his Montepulciano red wines, and his Trebbiano whites, have been impressing even the most jaded wine lovers throughout the years.

His wines are funky and complex, and sometimes they tend to give in to their more earthy and wild side. This makes them in some cases somewhat difficult to fully appreciate, especially to wine drinkers with little experience with natural wines.

But if you are lucky enough to open an aged Pepe Montepulciano from a good vintage, or one of his lean, crisp and acidic Pecorino or Trebbiano white wines, the rewards will be great!

Paolo Bea

The Paolo Bea winery is located right on the outskirts of the small town of Montefalco, Umbria, famous for its highly structured and tannic Sagrantino wine. The estate has been in the Bea family since the 1500s, and is nowadays at the forefront of the natural wine movement.

Montefalco wines are known for their dark fruit and powerful profile, usually highlighting strength over elegance. Bea has somehow managed to tame the wild and rustic Sagrantino grape, known to be of the most tannic grape varieties in the world, into a more refined and subtle version.

One of his top bottlings, the Pagliaro, is a truly remarkable interpretation of a Sagrantino wine. If left to age for at least five years, it begins to lose some of its impenetrable, though characteristics so commonly found in a Montefalco wine, and displays a more herbal and floral profile.

Sagrantino was traditionally vinified as a sweet red wine, and that tradition continues today in the form of the Sagrantino Passito. If you get the chance, don’t pass up the opportunity of tasting Paolo Bea’s deeply concentrated but not overly sweet version.

Other notable natural wine favorites, from north to south:

  • Cascina degli Ulivi, Piemonte

  • Bressan, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

  • La Biancara, Veneto

  • Podere Pradarolo, Emilia-Romagna

  • I Botri di Ghiaccioforte, Toscana

  • Ca’ Sciampagne, Marche

  • Le Coste, Lazio

  • Cantina Giardino, Campania

  • ‘A Vita, Calabria

  • Natalino Del Prete, Puglia

  • Vino di Anna, Sicilia




Our natural wine guide is lovingly written by Andrew Mecoli & Marloes Fransen

 
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18 hours in Florence

In An American in Rome by Lindsay GabbardLeave a Comment

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Birthplace of the Renaissance, and a city still radiating with some of the most important art, architecture, and sculptures of our time, it would be a shame to miss it.  So, in the slight event you only find yourself for a single day, I will share my quick 18 hours so you can perhaps make the most of it.


I'm going to start with this - skip the multinational shopping which you can do back home when you bore of a routine life or the youthfulness and cool modern architecture around you, and take a moment to reflect on the magnitude of what was happening in the world some 500 years ago.  You are in a city that was blossoming at that time with the rebirth of the beauty of the Classical era, when humanism was influencing artists and everything around them.  And skip the over-hyped leather markets, laden with fake products and purses that look more 'made-in-China' than 'Made in Italy', as so many proclaim.  Ok, I'll digress.

Most likely you'll be arriving in the afternoon and need to grab something quick and easy off the train.  Da Nerbone is just a few minutes walk, on the bottom floor of the Mercato Centrale, where you will likely find a line if at peak hours, of people eager to get the minestrone, lampredotto sandwich, bollito or ribollita - all the best traditional goodies of Florentine cuisine.  For those not daring enough to do the lampredotto, upstairs in the Mercato Centrale, will find you a plethora of other Italian options from croissants and pastries for breakfast, bruschetta, pizza, pasta, a wine bar and more...

Such a short time may not give you the ability to visit the famous Uffizi Gallery (but with a few days there, do not miss it), and the cupola was fully booked for 2 days when we arrived, but we climbed the bell tower of the Duomo for a quick workout to get our highs from a place still reminiscent of what it was 500+ years ago.  If you can, I might opt for the cage-less views you get from Brunelleschi's cupola though, allowing you to be enchanted by the frescoes of Vasari and Zuccari.

If you can rent the same Airbnb as we did, do it!  The building is from the 13th century and will require several flights of stairs, but what you'll find that awaits you is nothing short of jaw-dropping magic.  Literally 360 degree breathtaking views from one of the highest balconies in Florence let you overlook the Duomo, Basilica Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio and Accademia.  A rooftop terrace like this warrants the planning on one person's part to splurge on a great bottle of Champagne (I might suggest Krug) and a stop by a local salumeria to get some nice deli items as an aperitivo.  Our added bonus - a rising full moon to admire meanwhile sipping on top of the world, watching the city fall dark leaving only the most prestigious sites fully illuminated.  (if that's booked, this one won't disappoint either)

Night will fall and you may be forced to drop down into the real world of ants below.  Recommended as the best Fiorentina in Florence was Perseus, which won't leave your typical meat lover hungry or dissatisfied but with a sad wine list of commercial Tuscan wines, we left 3/4 of a bottle to our neighbors to enjoy and began walking home, only to stumble into Gastronomia Galanti, home of one of  Italy's Best Sommelier (and one of the most humble and nice people I might add).  We perused the cellar full of vintage wines of Burgundy, Bordeaux and toyed with the idea of splurging on a second bottle of Krug 2002 for the terrace and left with an old bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee instead.

For your breakfast needs, there's a super swanky place called La Ménagère. And while the decor seems straight out of the hottest spot in NYC and the croissants were better than 90% of what you'll find in the average bar,  the espresso fell short in my books (Mercato Centrale is a safe choice if needed if you're picky).

That's it.  Stay tuned for the whirlwind trip and enjoy Firenze!

 

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Our Barolo Wine Guide

In Articles by Marloes Fransen1 Comment

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Tasting and Buying the Best Red of Italy. So, what is Barolo wine?


If you look up Barolo [baˈrolo/bəˈrəʊləʊ] in the dictionary, you will find: a dry red wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. True, it is indeed a dry red wine and it does come from a little town called Barolo, in the northern Piedmont region of Italy. However, there is so much more to a Barolo than it just being a red wine, as it did not get its nickname “the King of Italian wines” for nothing (but be careful not to mention that to some of the proud Brunello producers in Montalcino)!

Initially, Barolo actually used to be produced as a sweet red wine instead of a dry one. That changed in the mid nineteen century, but there are different versions regarding this shift in style.

One version claims that presumably count Camillo Benso di Cavour, in an effort to improve the quality of the wine, invited a French oenologist named Louis Oudart who effectively created the dry version of Barolo, much like we drink it today.

This dry version of the wine proved to be much appreciated by the aristocracy of Piedmont, leading to its catchphrase: “Barolo, the wine of kings, the king of wines”. However, this version of the facts has recently been disputed by some wine historians who claim that Cavour had in fact sought the help of Italian oenologist Paolo Francesco Staglieno rather than the Frenchman.

Another version tells the story that the creator of dry Barolo is Juliette Colbert de Maulevrier, la “Marchesa del Barolo”. When her husband Marchese Carlo Tancredi Falletti di Barolo died, she inherited the Falletti family vineyards. Her palate had been honed by the austere wines consumed by French nobility, therefore she did not admire the sweet wines from Barolo. In order to adjust the wine to her taste, she called Louis Oudart (yes, he definitely played a part!) that applied his knowledge and experience to forge the wine into the dry version.

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The Nebbiolo grape

The magical Barolo wines are made from a single grape variety, namely the Nebbiolo grape. Nebbiolo derives from the Latin word nebbia, “fog”, either because the blooming grapes seem to be wrapped in a delicate blanket of fog, or because the rolling hills of Piedmont, especially during sunrise in the chilly fall mornings (Nebbiolo is a late ripening grape), are often covered by a thick blanket of fog.

The Nebbiolo grape, although having a big name, has a small home. Only a few viticultural regions in the north of Italy (predominantly Piedmont, but also Valle d’Aosta and Lombardy) have a century long history of producing prestigious wines from this grape variety.

Sure, Nebbiolo vines have been planted elsewhere in the world, especially as of late, but the wines authentic and highly praised character is a creation of the grapes’ adaptation to its environment over the centuries and very unforgiving towards being planted elsewhere, never producing wines with a comparable elegance and complexity as the ones from its own northern Italian soil.

Throughout history, caused by cultivation and evolution, we were able distinguish thirty different Nebbiolo biotypes, of which the most important ones always have been identified as: Nebbiolo Michet (considered the best), Nebbiolo Lampia (most dependable), Nebbiolo Bolla (limited because of its supposedly poor quality) and Nebbiolo Rosé (lightest but most aromatic).

By extensive research it has been discovered that all Nebbiolo biotypes are morphed from only two different genotypes: Nebbiolo Lampia and Nebbiolo Rosé, with the Nebbiolo Lampia being considered the true Nebbiolo grape and the Nebbiolo Rosé now recognized as an independent grape variety.

In fact, the Nebbiolo Michet is derived from the Nebbiolo Lampia through being affected by a virus. Since technology and science kicked in, cloning and clonal selection have had a major effect on the development of Nebbiolo wines, especially when in the ‘80s dark and heavy reds became the benchmark for quality wines.

These characteristics were the complete opposite of Nebbiolo’s natural light colored wines and its elegant complexity of terroir reflecting aromas and cloning of the grapes was used to create a more fashionable (but may we say questionable) end result.



In the glass

So to connect the dots with the Nebbiolo wines from Barolo, they are generally considered to be powerful and highly tannic wines, but in reality the true core element that makes them among the most critically acclaimed wines of the world is the complex refinement with which these wines can express the character of this little hilltop town in Piedmont in the glass.

The best Barolos typically display fresh balsamic and floral elements, with black licorice, mint and eucalyptus notes.

All of this in harmony with the earthy and austere, tar-like characteristics that are there to remind us of the native soil and territory, and that are some of the main appealing factors to traditionalist producers and consumers.

The weightless power and aromatic complexity found in some of the most traditional and age-worthy Barolo wines can possibly only be compared to similar qualities found in great Pinot Noirs from Burgundy.

The Nebbiolo grape, much like Pinot Noir, is not intrinsically a muscular and powerful grape, and it’s important to note that many Nebbiolo-based wines display garnet and orange hues, and some of its best expressions are usually medium to medium-light bodied, not dark and impenetrable.


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Barolo’s territory

The territory where Barolo is produced is comprised of the following areas in the Langhe, an area to the south and east of the river Tanaro in the province of Cuneo: Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Cherasco, Diano, Grinzane Cavour, la Morra, Novello, Roddi, Serralunga, Verduno.

It is safe to say that there are very few wines in Italy that can claim a tighter connection to their territory and history than Barolo. This is, after all, the home of legendary ‘crus’ such as Bussia, Francia, Vigna Rionda, Parafada, and Monprivato.

The mention of different vineyards is dictated by the multiple soil and microclimate characteristics of the region, and the wines can be very distinct from one another.

For example, the soil of the celebrated Cannubi vineyard is predominantly sandy clay, while the Vigna Rionda in the Serralunga D’Alba commune is mainly marl and limestone. The former are generally round and fruity, while the latter are more austere and are well known for their great aging potential.

In order to allow wine producers the possibility to specify and highlight the area of origin directly on the wine label, in 2009 the Italian government allowed the geographic mention of the vineyard and area of production. This denomination is called ‘Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive’, or MGA.

The MGA system shares some similarities with the Burgundy wine classification system, but without the hierarchical levels that are allowed there, such as Grand Cru, 1er Cru, etc. It is only there as a geographic marker, not a quality one.

Traditionalists vs modernists

Barolo may only be released after 38 months of aging, of which 18 must be in wood containers. For the Riserva denomination, the wine must age at least 62 months.

However, it is the excessive use of oak that has proven to be perilous to the true nature of Barolo, especially in the hands of producers overeager to appeal to the whims and trends of the international palate.

At the end of the 80s a younger generation of winemakers, known as Barolo Boys help put the area on the world wine map, but partially compromised the traditional Barolo style by altering the winemaking and aging processes. In order to extract less tannins, maceration times were shortened. Aging was no longer carried out in large 1200 liter barrels known as ‘botti grandi’, but in small 225 liter ‘barriques’.

The smaller barrels were introduced to tame the more aggressive and sharp aspects of the wine, and to provide a soft mouthfeel and fruity flavors that proved to be very popular with mainstream audiences.

This also meant that it was no longer necessary to wait 10 or more years before the wine was ready to drink.

While all Barolo producers did arguably benefit from the success of this new international profile and widespread interest, (and the relative increase in prices, of course) some older winemakers felt that many producers were selling their soul to the devil.

Famously, the traditional producer and local legend Bartolo Mascarello, responded to the new trend by releasing a label with the line, ‘No Barrique – No Berlusconi’. Aside from the pointed jab clearly directed to the notorious Italian businessman-turned-politician, the deeper connotation was that tradition should never be compromised in the name of business or market trends.

Other producers sided with him, such as Giacosa and Conterno, and judging by the current value of their wines and the worldwide acclaim consistently bestowed on them, it is safe to say that they chose correctly by sticking to their ideals and traditions.

It is practically impossible to buy a bottle of 2010 Monfortino by Conterno for less than €800. The good news is that there are many affordable options, and it is possible to find some great Barolo for the price of €50, or sometimes even less.


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Our recommendations

It can be tricky to navigate and choose between the different vintages, styles, and price ranges, but here are a few classics that never fail to impress:

Giacomo Conterno - Riserva Monfortino

This specific Barolo wine is only produced in exceptional vintages and ages for seven years in ‘botti grandi’. It is made exclusively from grapes from their Francia vineyard. Monfortino was created as one of the first great Barolo wines that was meant to improve with age, not as a simple young wine to accompany your everyday meal at the family table. And while this is now the case for most Barolo wines, the Conterno family was the first to create a ‘Barolo Extra’ at the beginning of the 1920s, followed by the creation of the name Monfortino in 1924. It is now one of the most sought wines of the area, and its elegance and longevity are legendary amongst wine lovers enamored with Barolo and the Nebbiolo grape.

Giuseppe Mascarello – Monprivato

Monprivato is a historic vineyard that has been mentioned in documents dating as far back as 1666. In 1985 it was classified as one of only eleven historic vineyards in the Barolo area. The wines coming from this vineyard are medium bodied, yet deceptive in their lightness, transparency, and light-brick hued edges. All it takes is one sip to experience the explosive complexity of this wine. Licorice, menthol, and orange, a fresh floral bouquet and killer acidity right to the last drop. A special bottling called Monprivato Ca d’Morissio is made only in exceptional vintages, it ages no less than six years and is from a special selection of grapes from the Monprivato vineyard.

Bruno Giacosa – Le Rocche del Falletto

Giacosa is a legend in Barolo and the neighboring town of Barbaresco. The first single vineyard bottling of Piedmont was in fact credited to Bruno Giacosa himself: the 1964 Barbaresco Santo Stefano from Neive. A true perfectionist, he would only bottle wines in vintages that he deemed worthy of either his white labels or the more prestigious red labels. The Barolo Riserva Rocche del Falletto is a traditional style Barolo with enough weight and concentration to consistently impress and deliver throughout the years. Earthy, yet rich and fruity, this is classic Barolo that will be rewarding to ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ palates alike.

Aldo Conterno – Granbussia

The Riserva Granbussia is the creation of Giacomo Conterno’s son, Aldo. Made from a selection of grapes from three vineyards, Romirasco, Cicala, and Colonnello, the blend is altered every year based on the specific nuances of the vintage. Not as austere and uncompromising as the Monfortino, this is nonetheless regarded as one of the most important expressions of Barolo. It is interesting to note that Aldo Conterno produced Granbussia only eight times between 1971 and 1994, making this one of the most coveted wines of the region.



Giuseppe Rinaldi – Brunate Giuseppe

Rinaldi was one of the true outsiders among Barolo producers. His rigid and traditionalist stance in combination with his critique towards producers that were willing to compromise their style to please the market, didn’t always gain him a lot of friends, but his wines are here to tell us the full story. He believed that wine is first of all produced in the vineyard, not in the cellar, and therefore he used no chemicals or herbicides, only natural fertilizers, and added only a minimum amount of sulfites to the wine. The Brunate reflects its maker’s personality and ideals. It is a wine that might not be easy to love for casual wine drinkers, for it openly displays the pros and cons of the vintage, but will prove to be unique and special to anyone ready to approach it with an open mind. It is not necessarily only about elegance and refinement, as much as an expression of the natural qualities of the grape, the soil, and the climate.

Massolino – Vigna Rionda

The Vigna Rionda vineyard, in the Serralunga area, is famous for its powerful, yet refined, wines. Due to its special microclimate, hot summer afternoons are balanced by cool evenings that provide the necessary thermal excursion that is key to creating complex and structured wines. Massolino is only one of a small group of producers that makes a single vineyard bottling from Vigna Rionda, and it is undoubtedly the top bottling of their selection. In good vintages, it is an ideal example of the remarkable balance and complexity that Barolo wines can achieve, and a benchmark for producers from the area.

Palladino - Parafada

Parafada is yet another renowned vineyard in the Serralunga d'Alba area, from which Palladino produces one of its purest expressions. Enticing aromas of rose, violet, tangerine and licorice, are all displayed to stunning effect. The color is ruby red with garnet reflections, while the mouthfeel is full-bodied and concentrated. The Palladino Parafada is an austere and refined interpretation of the soil and climate, displaying great balance between tannins and acidity.




Rimessa Roscioli's Barolo Wine Guide by Andrew Mecoli & Marloes Fransen

 

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WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Italian Wine Club and bring Italy to you wherever you are.


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The Best Wine Bar in Rome, period.

In Articles by Lindsay Gabbard3 Comments

 
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The Rimessa Roscioli Wine Tasting


Some 10 years ago, a little speak-easy style 'Rimessa' (mistranslated often by Google as 'boatshed', meaning more garage or warehouse in proper Italian) was born from a simple concept - to create a unique wine bar where friends and others could gather and laugh, and share food, wine and stories together, as if they were in the comfort of being nestled around their own dining table.

And from this day forward, marked early by the visit of the famous and deeply missed Anthony Bourdain, the top quality gastronomy and wine selections of Rimessa Roscioli have attracted and made lasting impressions on everyday wine lovers who only know wine as red or white, to collectors, connoisseurs, and renowned food and wine critics. Just one quick look at the TripAdvisor reviews, and you'll understand how this place has made for the most memorable night of travelers from all around the world. It certainly did for me.

August 28th, 2015 - 'Your tasting has been booked - we'll look forward to seeing you soon.'

Little did I know how that email would change my entire life path.

When I walked into Rimessa Roscioli, it was like getting respectfully smothered with a big Italian hug - hugged by the floor-to-ceiling wine stacked walls, the introductions of guests from around the world who became like friends as the social lubricant started to loosen us all up, hugged by the smiles and passion of the sommelier and service person who welcomed me, my olfactory senses dancing from the savory smells of prosciutto, guanciale, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pesto and aromas of all we were about to sip, savor and experience.

Immediately I understood - this is not your typical wine tasting. Laughter, interaction and storytelling made this anything but a boring lecture. And the hierarchy of guests describing wine was leveled when a 7-year-old perfectly described the smells of her parent's wine more creatively than a master sommelier. Here, you learn that YOU are the expert of your palate, and that numbers, scores and prices are irrelevant when it comes how you may enjoy a wine.

The focus is on pairing to enjoy the wines the way Italians do - as a singular experience - not as two. Your taste buds will embark on a trip throughout Italy, from Etna to Barolo, tasting buffalo mozzarella and burrata made fresh that morning, to spicy N'duja, prosciutto from San Daniele or Monti Nebrodi, and traditional local plates of pasta like Cacio e Pepe and Amatriciana, finishing with a homemade tiramisu which is as perfectly light, whipped and lifting as the name describes - tiramisu translates to 'lift me up'. Every wine, a symphony - every food, a poetry.

And for the few who wish to continue this cultural journey, the night will ensue long after it finishes, with sharing stories of memorable bottles drank, places traveled to, recent books read, to current political events around the world. I stumbled out around 2 in the morning, drunk of laughter, memories, and awe of how much more than an alcoholic fruit juice that wine could be.

I say 'our' guests now, as this place has become me, or I have become it. The Rimessa showed me that La Dolce Vita is built from passion, culture, richness, and authenticity and caused me to take a detour from the monotonous Santa Barbara life and be put outside my comfort zone. And now, for 3 years I've been one of the hosts here who can say I have truly found my dream job at the finest wine bar in Rome. I'm beyond grateful to travel all throughout Italy for our Wine Club, collecting winemaker's stories - learning their history, heritage and philosophy - which I'll pass along to you, bringing you right to the land that birthed the wine you'll be sipping. I'll even share secret spots and recommend local restaurants and wineries in the cities you're visiting.

To me, you could even say this is one of the top wine bars in the world just by looking at the 15 pages of historical tastings that only a handful or two of wine bars in the world could even offer to guests (and not at the exorbitant costs that you might see in New York City) - verticals of Krug Clos du Mesnil, Bordeaux and Burgundy focused tastings of 10-14 vintage labels, to remakes of Bottle Shock and the Barolo Boys 20 years later, and Taste the Legends offered nightly with selections of some of these wines. But no matter what your experience level is, you are welcome as if you were a guest in my home and I hope you will be moved by one of our many experiences offered here.

If you have been moved by this place in the way I have, I'd love to hear about your experience in our comments.  Or just come visit us to experience it for yourself... Ciao!

 

Can't visit Rome?

WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Italian Wine Club and bring Italy to you wherever you are.


Not in Rome?

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Adventures for the Wine Club – Campania

In An American in Rome by Lindsay GabbardLeave a Comment

 

If I had to guess what you think of if I say the name Campania, your initial thoughts might revolve around the prized mozzarella di bufala or margherita pizza, or the beauty and charm of Capri or the Amalfi Coast, maybe Mount Vesuvius or Pompeii. But just outside of those areas, a rough countryside sharply contrasts the aforementioned beauty of the region - and for those willing to risk a bit, the chance to be shockingly taken by surprise by some special gems nestled like needles in a haystack awaits you.

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The road out of Rome will lead you into some beautiful bucolic scenes, but at some point, I noticed that we had departed from the picturesque scenes of Under the Tuscan Sun and My House in Umbria. I have my issues with the garbage problem in Rome, but this was another world, and not just relating to trash. The canvas here, painted and tainted by the infamous Camorra is depicted by houses reminiscent of those on 5 and 6-mile in Detroit that make 8-mile look like Santa Barbara, and these dilapidated, impoverished areas had me questioning if I'd be the victim of a car theft or a witness to a drive-by shooting. Some of it was just plain depressing, destitute of any historical charm and resembling really cheap and poor imitations of the American culture.

A stark contrast lies in what was named in Ancient Rome as 'Campania felix', translating to 'fertile or happy countryside' and the issues that have marred and stained this paradoxical land. The highly destructive eruptions of Vesuvius, yet ironically productive in terms of fertility, have paved the way for centuries for what should be a prosperous and bountiful land. To my utter disappointment, I learned that just slightly to the west of our travels south, you'll find what's known as the infamous 'Triangle of Death' or the 'Land of Fires' - composed of the municipalities of Acerra, Nola and Marigliano - which is known to contain the largest illegal waste dump in all of Europe, containing everything from nuclear waste, dioxins, and hazardous materials, and all of which is exposed in Roberto Saviano's book and movie Gomorrah for those who haven't seen it. This illegal dumping has yielded billions for the mafia at the cost of health and lives. Animals in the area have been diagnosed with lethal cancers, dioxins have been discovered in the mozzarella di bufala, and children's lives have been lost to everything from leukemia to brain cancers. It's a known fact that the life expectancy in this area is 2 years less than the rest of Italy, and this area is sharply higher in mortality rates from a plethora of cancers and health issues relating to the pollution released by fires set to the hazardous materials and for that which has seeped into the local farmland and water sources.

Basta! - enough doom and gloom. Let's focus on the gems that we're discovered amidst this notoriously corrupted area, which opened my mind to the possibilities of what can be for those few willing to put centuries of heritage over the notorious corruption.

They call him Nanni Copè

Our first stop with Giovanni Ascione, behind a gated entrance, had me saying thanks up above (ok, it's not that bad, but it's not great either). Nanni Copè, a childhood nickname, was given to the winery he acquired in 2007, and his vineyard Vigna Sopra il Bosco has become a true labor of love and passion. Maximum respect is given to the 30-year old plants of Pallagrello Nero, Aglianico and Casavecchia here - biodynamic treatments are used, pesticides and herbicides are strictly prohibited, plants are registered one by one, and grapes harvested over several weeks to ensure proper maturation. A few steps over to Vigna Scarrupata, and you'll be shocked to see the girth of these near 150-year old Casavecchia vines, which also find there way into the blends of Nanni Cope.

Giovanni recently has added a white to his portfolio which was our first barrel sampling, made from local varietals Pallagrello Bianco and Asprinio. It was unbelievable how sapid and delicious these wines were right out of the barrel - mouth-puckering, refreshing acidity gives way to a nice balance of lemon and fruit. The reds, no difference in terms of excellence - full and deep without being concentrated and a perfect equilibrium of velvety tannins and fruit. Production is a mere 7,500 bottles, but this is one you want to get your hands on. Deluxe Wine Club members will be the lucky recipient of a bottle in this summer's shipment. Tasting in this garagiste's cellar, the world seemed bright and bountiful, as one should expect from this area.

Ditch the famous Eat, Pray, Love pizzeria

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No winemaker visit is complete without a convivial lunch involved, but instead of your typical charcuterie spread at the property, Giovanni insisted that we travel about 25 minutes away to Caserta for the 'best pizza he's ever had in his life'. How do you say no? Back through the Camorra ravaged roughness to find ourselves at I Masanielli Pizzeria of Francesco Martucci. God bless the fact that you can eat an entire pizza in Italy without shame, and this is mainly because quality and delicateness is favored to the bulk and quantity you often find in the pizza in the US. La Margherita, light as a feather, was shamelessly devoured in seconds - this is an absolute MUST. We ordered 4 pizzas for the 3 of us and like magic, they were GONE. Superior in quality to the famous Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples (featured in Eat, Pray, Love), and for those willing to sacrifice scenery for flavor, you won't be let down.

Depths and Heights - I Borboni

camp2Driving further south, about 20km north of Napoli, deeper in the Campania countryside, we were about to discover yet another gem - I Borboni. I'll be honest, this was a blind selection that we made for the wine club on the recommendation of Giovanni Ascione, but knowing now, Giovanni is batting 1000 with local recommendations. We were greeted by one of the owners, the 23-years young Nicola Numeroso, who escorted us on a 40-meter plunge into a cellar built into the local tuff that they discovered below their home a while back, which acts as the perfect womb for a balanced fermentation and vinification to bring these babies to life. The cellar was really quite a treat to see and to understand that it could be more or less a labyrinth making a sort of underground Naples - there are tons of these in the area and many closed off - but we were praying it wasn't all show, and a no-go on the wines. After, we tasted - and WOW - what a beautiful expression of this nearly forgotten grape Asprinio! Dry, nice fruit on the nose and palate and beautifully refreshing (as the name lends - aspro means sour in Italian - and this has a wonderful mouth-puckering freshness). A refreshing change to the conventional and obvious Italian sparkler, Prosecco.

And no winemaker video would be complete without a vineyard tour - this one was few kilometers down the road, and had you saying 'oooooh la Madonna'! I couldn't believe my eyes - 45' tall vineyard rows, 'married' between poplar trees! I had never seen something so massive before. But harvest?? How on earth is it done? This is the insane part.

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Each year a few talented and brave souls risk their lives at harvest, as winds can be quite dangerous if not monitored well. For this, an ear is always kept on the ladder, as vibrations can be quickly sensed from wind picking up. Each ladder weighs in at nearly 100 kilos has to be custom created for its worker - one even dates back to 500 years old! This allows for maximum stability as the user braces their knee and foot between pegs. Grapes are collected with both hands-free, placed into chestnut baskets and lowered by rope to the ground.

Asprinio's origins could date to as far back as the Etruscans or Greeks. Regardless, this lesser-known, local grape runs the risk of extinction to the more common Falanghina, Fiano, and Greco di Tufo. I don't have enough experience to understand how it typically tastes, but it doesn't appear to have the greatest reputation - but in speaking for this wine, I can say that our Wine Club members are in for a new and palate-shocking experience with sparkling wines. If you aren't experiencing this wine in Campania, head straight to Eataly, or your local Italian market, and find some fresh-made mozzarella for the perfect territorial accompaniment to this brut spumante and drink in reverence while you contemplate the joy that derives from one of the most difficult harvests from vines 45 feet in the sky.

Better yet, if you want to understand this 'Toto, I don't think we're in Napa anymore' vineyard, just watch the video to see the full story of a family dedicated to preserving tradition and heritage.

This wine scouting trip was far from your stereotypical Italian Riviera, seaside holiday, but I left with a new found appreciation for those who have maintained a high level of integrity and heritage in a region where much is downright disparaged by the destruction of the Camorra. This led me to ponder - how many magical experiences we never have because were only willing to stay in the obvious and beautiful areas? How much do we miss out on staying on the safe and easy path? For those worried about Campania, don't be (perhaps don't plan a picnic in the 'Triangle of Death'). You're likely traveling to Naples or the Amalfi Coast and if you consider Houston, TX an acceptable city to visit, know that Naples ranks better on the crime index.

 

Can't visit Rome?

WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Italian Wine Club and bring Italy to you wherever you are.


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WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

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Marche and Abruzzo – Adventures for the Wine Club

In An American in Rome, Articles by Lindsay GabbardLeave a Comment

 

For those of you who love travel and appreciate the more off the beaten path and non-touristy experiences, I have decided to chronicle my cultural and culinary adventures around Italy as we search for all the special selections for our wine club members. The blog posts will feature wineries visited, short restaurant reviews, places and sights worth visiting and local traditions.

Our most recent trip in April found us in Abruzzo and the Marche, for a quiet and relaxing stay, with beaches nearly all to ourselves.

Work first, play later - whatever, it's all the same.

It might be the mastery of life - when work becomes play and play expands your knowledge at work. Traveling around to vineyards and discovering new wines is certainly a joyful part of this job. And drinking expensive and important wines to celebrate or to enjoy on a holiday aids to increase our understanding and knowledge of these wines for the high end tastings we do with collectors who like to discuss big names in wine serves as a nice excuse to splurge from time to time. (I'll spare you the stresses of the job, but assure you they do exist).

First up were two winery visits - De Fermo in Abruzzo and Valter Mattoni in the Marche. Wine club members will be getting a more detailed story about these producers but in short I can tell you that the wines of De Fermo were some of the most unique wines of the territory, with an reverberating undertone of Valentini in them. Anyone who knows the revered and distinct wines of Valentini can appreciate how this wine can stand proud on its own when up against even Grand Cru white Burgundies. Biodynamic, non filtered, non clarified, no temperature control, all indigenous yeasts (aka as natural as it gets), all the wines we tasted - Launegild, Le Cince, De Fermo and Prologo - were pure, provoking and persistent and excellent expressions of their natural philosophy.

Over to Valter Mattoni, nicknamed 'la Roccia' or the Rock, and you can immediately feel the raw integrity, passion and grit in this motorcycle-loving, antique-collecting, charismatic and comical farmer in the Marche. Often wines tend to resemble their owners, and these wines - Trebbien, Cose Cose, Rossobordò and Arshura - capture all the essence of Valter's spirit. Even if they don't fall into a category of 'biodynamic' or 'organic', these wines are made as naturally as possible with spontaneous fermentations, without temperature control, and minimal intervention. It's an honor to put both of these producers into our curated wine selections for the Summer quarter's shipment.

Moscioli - don't dare call them cozze!

Off to the Marche, Sirolo specifically, to indulge in the pink sands and delicacies of the seas. Here the local, non-breeding, spontaneously reproducing moscioli - locals may get offended if you call them cozze or simply mussels - are the protected specialty of the sea, growing on reefs in small quantities and only in the area of Pietralacorce (Ancona) and Sirolo. Locals typically will just savor them steamed with a dash of parsley and garlic, or for the true connoisseur, like Alessandro, literally hand-picked fresh out of the sea (possibly illegal), opened meanwhile I was paddling our kayak against the current, after an hour at the quaint, nestled away beach of Le Due Sorrelle - a quaint beach worth paddleboarding or kayaking to. So what makes them different? They are firmer and taste stronger, sea-like, and persistent on the palate. A highly localized treat available in only a couple of villages or the local fish market in Ancona.

Another dining experience that didn't disappoint was Il Clandestino in Portonovo. Owning up to its name, this clandestine location is tucked away on the beach, reminiscent of Moodshadows in Mailbu, CA, just instead on the quiet Mediterranean. Ask for a sample of their infused olive oils which feature flavors like bbq, mint and lemon - the bbq oil couldn't be a more perfect synthesis of Italian and American cuisine.

Fine dining and worth it

For those seeking something more formal than a hand-picked lunch on a kayak, a 2-star Michelin dining experience in Senigallia, Uliassi will have your taste buds swimming in a sea of heaven. We opted for the Uliassi Lab tasting menu featuring the specialties of the Mediterranean and struggled to select which Champagne to drink between a Cristal 2009 and a Fleury Sonate N.9. We splurged on the Cristal, but as it began to feel heavy, Alessandro had the idea to share the remaining bit with our neighbors and play a game with the Sonate to see which one our palate preferred - as they palate doesn't lie. Returning the favor, our neighbors offered some of their Jacques Selosse, and in 3 Little Bears style, we had Cristal with a round opulence out of the gates but slightly too heavy and fatiguing over time, Fleury Sonate N.9 much more pure in its fruit, but possibly lacking something for me in grandness (still a well-crafted Champagne) and Selosse that somehow won that night for me personally with its purity, elegance and balance. It was a really fun experiment to see which one your palate keeps returning to - try it with your California Cabernet against an Etna or Barolo.

The culinary creations will fascinate for their freshness, authenticity and creativity. The welcome dish - a fois gras 'hazelnut' wafer, 'olive' with raw meat with an almond inside, and crunchy toast with salted anchovy and truffle, accompanied by a Kirr Royal shot - a play on well known snack foods, gets the evening going. From there you will be dazzled by everything from the sweet red shrimp, homemade bread selections with oyster butter, to carpaccio of langoustine and amberjack done alla puttanesca and more. For the brave, Benvenuti al mare offers guests the chance to lap up a bowl of broth synthesizing all the flavors of the sea - salt, iodine, kelp, oysters, clams. An elegant culinary experience not to be missed if you want to understand what the creme de la creme of the Mediterranean Sea can be.

Some Champagnes are worlds apart. Others, distant universes.

Life's not so bad when you're the lucky beneficiary of a birthday gift that Alessandro decided to splurge on - a 1998 Krug Clos du Mesnil. Three days passed as we waited for this liability in our mini-fridge to call our names, but nothing - we just didn't want to drink it, waste it.  Finally on the last night, there was no way we were not going back to Rome with that bottle and we would essentially 'force' ourselves to drink it. In a perfect unsophisticated manner, we grab picnic goodies and head to the beach for a moonlit, relaxed and romantic evening sipping under the stars. We found the only salumeria open in the village, grabbed whatever we could which amounted to truffle potato chips, some provolone, salami, bread and headed with the Bose speaker to the beach, found a table cloth to cover a plastic beach table and set up shop directly in front of a sea all for us.

Upon the first inhale, you knew this was going to be different from the complexity on the nose. Then a sip of this ethereal delight found me speechless - inside I was vibrating, outside I showed goosebumps. No description I can give you will give you even a a sliver of this magical, ineffable experience. Ironically, with zero desire to drink, we shamefully finished it too fast. And '98 isn't even considered the best vintage in Champagne. This Champagne really is another universe when compared to the others we drank that weekend, and for true wine collectors or enthusiasts, I would strongly recommend pairing this bottle with a special loved one or moment to be remembered. Savor this gift of the Gods slowly - the best sip by far was the last.

For me, the joy in wine has been experiencing the unexpected and being provoked, which often leave me in a moment of sheer wonder and even reverence. And these moments that leave you in awe stay with you forever, and help make this bizarre and sometimes non-sense life seem worth the wild ride.

 

Can't visit Rome?

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Not in Rome?

WE'LL BRING ITALY TO YOU.

Be part of the finest Wine Club in Rome and bring Italy home to you wherever you are.


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