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Discover with us  the magic of Italian wine heritage


krater-wineOenotria, “land of vines”, this was how the ancient Greeks called  Italy. Its variety of landscapes and climates, from the Alps to the shores of Sicily through  chains of hills, mountains and volcanoes, offers an astonishing range of grape varieties that have been cultivated for thousands of years  in their terroirs.

mappa-x1 vectorized

Under the Romans,  vines were planted throughout the Empire, grapegrowing and winemaking techniques became more advanced, the varietals that best matched soil and climate were selected to improve  quality.

The concept of vintage already existed, as the ancient books report that the fabled Opimiam wine of 121 B.C., an excellent vintage of Falernum, was aged and drunk decades later. 

This red thread that leads to modern times was never cut, though invasions, wars and fights split the country into city states, duchies, kingdoms along two thousand years of entangled events . 

Enjoy a glass of History!


PostHeaderIcon From the Merano Wine Festival

 THE WHITES

folla alla Kurshaal

I’ve always been in love with the white wines of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, a region at the far east of Italy. There are many fine indigenous varieties with a distinctive flavour, and passionate winegrowers devoted to their terroirs.

Like Hilde Petrussa, a refined lady who makes Richenza, a perfect example of the distinctiveness of Friuli wines. It is a blend of old native varietals : Malvasia Istriana, Tocai Friulano, Picolit, plus a touch of Riesling.

vigna petrussaEach variety is left to dry for 40 days and then fermented in small oak barriques, then the wine is aged for 18 

hilde petrussa

months in wood and six in the bottle. My nose smelled  apricots, peach, banana and vanilla, my palate was filled with a velvety sensation and aromas of ripe fruit. Long lingering! When I heard the price…such quality for so little money! Definitely a bargain.

Having started with rich Richenza, I couldn’t appreciate anymore the Friulano, which is lighter and fresher, surely well made. Next time  I’ll  start  with this one, and have a go at the Schioppettino, a local red varietal, a clone of Ribolla Nera.

I moved from the northern far east to the southern east, in Crotone, at the lower side of the tongue of the boot of Italy. Romantic Roberto Ceraudo has been one of the first winegrowers to believe in organic farming, not at all a fashionable choice in such a troubled corner of the complicated Deep South. I credit him for the courage to pursue his dreams in spite of the reckless ambience. His wines are labelled and certified organic, and the man behind them is dynamic and in harmony with Nature.

ceraudoIn Val di Neto (IGP) the local varieties are Mantonico and Greco Bianco for the whites, and Gaglioppo for the rosé and the reds, both there since the Greeks colonised this part of Italy in the VII A.C.

Petelia is a white blend, fresh and fruity, ideal to match fish. Grisara is made with an indigenous varietal called Pecorello, very floral, green apple, sweet spices. Imyr is a Chardonnay, and even if I’m not fond of these International varieties cultivated all over the world, this is not a predictable Chardonnay. The smell is intense of yellow flowers, the body and glicerine of the variety is all there, it's sapid and somewhat salty, maybe because of the near seaside. But my favourite is Grayasusi, a rosé made from red varietal Gaglioppo in two versions, one that ages 6 months in oak barriques and one which is kept only in stainless steel, which I prefer because I am not fond of wooden aromas, and this smells only flowers and berries. Perfect with my rissoles of vegetables or anchovies. These wines too have an amazing ratio quality-price.

At the top of the Kursaal there is a platform where all the “ EXTREMIS” have their stall.

folla alla Kurshaal

They are extreme wines because made in odd conditions or laborious soils, or in tiny quantities from rare varietals, sometimes all of these things together. Some call them "vins de garage" or "wines with a soul".

Scala Fenicia (Phoenician stairway) from the Island of Capri is one of them. The name comes from the panoramic path that takes you from the port to Anacapri, along which a tiny terraced vineyard is cultivated organically with local grapes Greco, Biancolella and Falanghina. Only stainless steel and some months in the bottle for this white wine, that smells of broom and citrus just as when you climb the stairway to the Caprese heaven (a stunning scenery, I assure you).

Then there is Marisa Cuomo, whose Fiorduva is certainly one of the best Italian white wines,  made on the steep spectacular coast of Furore, a village between Amalfi and Positano (many of the pictures on this site comes from that paradisiacal vineyard).  It’s a blend of local, ungrafted varietals grown on a gorge overlooking the sea, where a furious wind (it’s not by chance the place is named Furore) makes treatments unnecessary. An always smiling Marisa has to do a great deal of  labour up and down, that’s all. Her wine could be used as a perfume of yellow wild flowers, citrus grove and thyme. The iodized minerality certainly comes from the maritime air that blows into the gorge.

Even if I know them very well, I can’t overlook  the gorgeous wines of Cantine Terlano, and especially Lunare Gewurztraminer, that gives me strong tactile emotions and a wide range of perfumes , balanced by a pleasant acidity in a way that makes it perfect. Another famous wine of this Kellerei is the Weissburgunder (pinot bianco), a white that can age beautifully, very complex and mineral and long lingering. But Rocco is the one and only expert of Terlano, so I better move on to some reds. No, not yet…he drags me to taste some bubbles, starting from Franciacorta, a Brut Cabochon of Monte Rossa, intense of toasted bread, honey, candy and exotic fruit, powerful and long. Then we meet mister Contato, of cantine Provenza, and we taste his Lugana Prestige from the southern shores of Lake Garda. Delicate and salty, smells of citrus and green apple, with an acidity that cleans your palate when you eat fish. An ideal match to spaghetti alle vongole.

Let me tell you about Champagne Encry, from a 2,5 ha vineyard placed between those of  Krug and Salon, in Mesnil-sur-Oger, classified as 100% Grand Cru Blanc des Blancs. It’s a wonderful champagne terroir, a champagne made directly by the winegrowers who own the land e decide the harvest and the blend. They are called “recoltant-manipulant”, RM: instead of selling the grapes to the big brand names, they have tiny vineyards where they make a non-stereotyped champagne, more terroir-led. I didn’t know all this when I tasted it among many other champagnes, surrounded by dozens of people crazy for the bubbles. I just said to Rocco that this Encry had something special to it, it was different and I preferred it to the others. The zero-dosage Champagne Encry tasted austere like all the non-dosé wines, light and yet savoury , mineral, with aromas of freshly baked bread and grapefruit. Then Rocco told me that Encry was very special also because it’s the only champagne owned by Italians. A unique case !

ILKHALID KAKIMZHANOV  di Arba Wine

Among the foreigners , I came across the only wine from Kazakhstan. It surprised me, because this country always gave me the idea of icy steppes, but it would seem that there is at least an area with a climate suitable to wine growing. I leafed through the brochure of Arba Wine - that I intended to read carefully later- as I am intrigued by the nations in the middle of Asia, where the Silk Road used to connect the Mediterranean to China. The vineyards of Karakemer are near Almaty, the ancient capital of Kazakhstan, in an amazing place where Nature seems the absolute monarch : a vast valley surrounded by wild mountains, the higher ones snow-capped. At the times of the Soviet Union, there was a wine “sovkhoz”, where Russian scientists had decided to plant local and International varieties. Of course their target was quantity rather than quality, as wine was intended to serve all Russian people. Let’s not forget that in the seventies Russia was the third in the world for wine production. Then, when the Berlin wall was pulled down and the Soviet Republics became indipendent, winegrowing was abandoned almost everywhere.


Mr. Kakimzhanov pours his Riesling in my glass, explaining that his father had decided to invest in the vineyards of Karakemer, resuming winegrowing to aim at absolute quality. So he sought the help of the most important consultants in the world, Mario Fregoni, president of OIV (Organization International de la Vigne et du Vin) and Donato Lanati, researcher and oenologist also member of OIV, to plan the resurrection of the vines, many of which had indeed resisted without any care for 20 years and now have roots that lay 12 meters deep. From one of these comes the Kazakh Riesling, from a “soviet”old selection of a German clone : it’s loaded with aromas of white flowers and honey, silky, with a mineral note.

Then it’s the turn of Gewurztraminer, and even this Kazakh version is rich in perfumes and body, savory and long. But I want to taste the local varieties, and, though Arba Wines makes Saperavi and Rkatziteli, they didn’t bring it over. That old inferiority complex, I comment, toward the French varietals. It seems that one necessarily has to make a wine with these varietals to be accepted by the International market. Mr. Kakimzhanov agrees, confessing that, on the contrary, the experts value the indigenous varieties much more also because they are ungrafted. Phylloxera cannot resist the low winter temperatures of Karakemer, so those ungrafted, indigenous vines that had been neglected for years but resisted, now could last even a hundred years and, as it’s known, the oldest the vine the better the wine. The winery will focus on them in the near future.

speck purIn the vineyard grass and wild flowers are free to grow to ensure biodiversity and enrich the soil, and very few treatments are made, only in very restricted areas. The night breeze from the mountains makes the summer temperature swing a great deal, thus delaying ripening and preserving aromas. Well, what else, I’m intrigued, I would go there right away, if it wasn’t so far! Next time , bring along the wines made with your local varietals, I suggest, we are curious and eager to taste them over here!

Rocco and I drag Mr. Kakimzhanov away from his stall, just a few minutes, to taste another wine made with the help of Donato Lanati, the fabulous Petrucci of Podere Forte. What an inspiring cultural exchange! The power of wine!

I’ll tell you later…..after something to eat at the ground floor, in the tempting delicatessen store named Pur. Could you resist it?

 

 
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