A taste of Aleatico grape

 

Aleatico is an ancien grape variety appreciated by Romans, although its origin is not clear. DNA profiling has shown a relation with Moscato Bianco and some genetic relation with Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, Sangiovese and Gaglioppo, but genetic is a complicated game and as the last three grapes have little in common the relation seems quite improbable.  Vigorous with good tolerance to drought, it prefers well ventilated sites and Bolsena Lake, in Lazio region, seams to suit perfectly its necessities.

Andrea Occhipinti belongs to a new generation of producers devoted to Aleatico grape. His vines are sloping along the side of the volcanic lake in a breath taking scenery, the soil is dark rich of minerals, all the vines come from an ancient vineyard and were propagated through selection massale, Andrea has now his own private nursery. The spontaneous fermentation takes place in small cement tanks to control the temperature, no oak is used and stainless steel is only for storage prior bottling. All the wines remain on lees and undertake malolactic fermentation. Fining and clarification are avoided, only a gross filtration is applied before bottling.

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Alea Viva 2014 was my favourite taste. 100% Aleatico grape purple transparent with floral scents, red roses and black berry juice dominates the nose with hints of dark spices. The wine is dynamic with crisp acidity and soft tannins, the floral and fruity character remarks the palate leaving that pleasant feeling of “I want some more”.

Impressive Alea Rosa 2015, 100% Aleatico with 24 hours maceration to provide an attractive light pink colour, the floral flavours are the main dominant: rose, lili and violet with fresh fruits scents. Linear  and well balance, the gentle tannins and crisp acidity offer a pleasant drink to be served chilled.

WP_20160801_014Antonella Pacchiarotti hosts her guests in the historical town of Grotte di Castro, very impressive the underground cellar and the winemaking cellar. Since 2009 Antonella has dedicated her time to Aleatico grape: a tradition learned from the family, but without specific studies. The three and half hectares of land are dedicated to the local Aleatico: there is a lot of experimentation going on and the line of wines has jet to find a clear direction.

Impressive Antonella enthusiasm: a woman full of bubbles and energy, however the wine is missing her input and from one bottle to the next there is little continuity. I would personally reduce the line and let the territory and grape variety express more. Too often the choices in the winery were emerging from the glass, leaving aside the true soul of Aleatico grape.

Antonella has energy to spare and I am sure she will be able to find a true identity soon.

Podernuovo località Palazzone

Attention to details like a precious stone counts very much at Podernuovo winery. The Bulgari family (the famous jewellery company) has been here since the early 2000, dedicating their passion to a territory not far from Siena. Impeccable vines dominate the scenery the “potatura dolce” taught through Simonit and Sirch “Potatori d’uva” school, is an effective pruning style that allow the plant to develop without imparting dramatic cuts subject to future trunk diseases (Esca here does not exist). Heavy clay (the famous “Crete Senesi”) characterises the soil, precise attention on when and how to work the soil is necessary, inter-row management is crucial to aeriate the soil, minerals are not always available and addition of nitrogen, iron and cobalt sometimes is essential. They do not combat problems they try to prevent the problem. “Induttori di difesa” are used to build up the natural immune system of the plant to strengthen  natural defences. The grapes this year look healthy and promise a good harvest.

The winery  is a master piece of architecture: modern, spacious with the latest technologies. Geothermic energy is utilised to provide energy for the entire building. Experimenting recently has moved the team to vinify in terracotta anfora made locally by Sirio Anfore. Open fermenters are used through spontaneous fermentation and natural yeasts.

And the wines? There is space to grow.

Sotirio 2010 100% Sangiovese revels notes of mature fruits, dark spice and tobacco, but the tannins are dusty and the finish is slightly bitter.

Argirio 2013 mainly Cabernet Franc with 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon is much more harmonious although the alcohol stand out at the nose with piercing pungency (15%). Powerful, rich, opulent but I can’t stop noticing the slight bitterness on the finish.

Terra 2012 is a blend of many grapes including Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Merlot is considered their entry level label,  however I think the opposite: mature fruits, dark cherries and sweet vanilla anticipate a full extractive wine, mouth filling and rich. Out of all the other wines is the one that leave a fond memory.

All through the wine tasting  I feel the estate still searching for its own identity, I am lacking a sense of place and vibrancy, all the potentials are there to offer a great product, however it is just a matter of time, try and errors..after all there is only one harvest per year!

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Stage 1 passed. My Masters of Wine journey

It has been a tough year for me. It took me a while to get the gist of the MW (Masters of wine) program and from the beginning I was panicking. I had to re-programed myself, my preview studying had helped me to become a good wine taster and, of course, to orientate myself through the wine making world. However the MW studying has nothing to do with Sommelier courses: the Sommelier describes, the MW analyses. The difference is huge and not always straightforward. When you describe wine is all about flavours, taste, aromas..when you analyze wine those flavours, taste and aromas must be connected to a place, a wine style, a grape variety and to vinification techniques. Everything stated has to be justified within all the various aspects of winemaking. It is a complex game and requires a very high standard of knowledge, together of course to wine tasting skill. The program is tough, you are constantly criticised and asked to give more. All through the year I felt million times  I wanted to leave, I felt I could not take the pressure anymore. I spent hours over books and lot of money in blind tasting. The program is not made for weak people it demands strong personality. Your self-confidence is constantly dashed, head down and nothing glamour about yourself, there is so much you need to know!

June came very quickly and that panic mood never left me from the day I enrolled, but surprise on the day of the exam (6th June 2016) I felt somehow relax, all the tension built was finally coming to an end. 12 wines were given in 2 hours and 15 minutes; I shifted through them quickly and start writing. All the wines felt familiar apart from number 5. My feeling was: “I know what they are” and I went with my gut impressions. When a week later the wines were released I had 11 wines right, a part of course for number 5! I was right to trust my inner soul. Theory was less straightforward after the morning tasting we had to write 2 essays in 2 hours. One question is compulsory, the second question offers multiple choices. Structure is crucial and on stage 1, I believe, it is what counts most. I delivered a good structure for both, but lacked worldwide examples and of course grammar, silly spelling mistakes, (which I am probably making now too). Italy and France were coming to my mind, the rest of the world was somehow no there. Getting the right example, to fit perfectly with theory, is difficult and right now on  my main agenda.

Anyway last week (18th July) the exam results were delivered and with tears of joy I was admitted to stage 2. I passed what felt a giant monster only a few weeks before. I made through the next stage and the challenge continues. Stage 2 is the big “Himalaya”, is the core exam to move after to the final stage of the program. It has been such a relief to pass, it has given me that little bit of confidence to continue into this amazing journey. Only the one within the program can fully understand the effort, the fatigue, the psychological and physical work. I am a fighter and a worrier and will not give up. Stage 2  I am ready to take my next challenge.

Etna wine: the island within the island

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Sicily is my place of birth​, the Mediterranean sea my deep roots! Etna, however, is a unique area where vines have been thrived for centuries and wine making has been part of everyday life for generations. Etna pulses with vital energies, smoking away in the back ground, through lavish vegetation and biodiversity careful kept. Hundreds of years old vines are dotted in between cactus, wild fennel, rosemary and sage shaped by time into living sculptures. The air is crisp, the light intense, this is the land of Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Carricante the varieties use for Etna Rosso and Etna Bianco Doc. If I have to think of a wine that resembles its habitat for sure this is the place where I will look: intense minerals, deep fruits, floral notes, balsamic and spicy, an orchestra of flavours measured superbly. A wines capable of ageing gracefully thanks to the high acidity and the powerful tannin, integrated into the structure harmoniously. A place where a little bit of my heart was left!

Burgundy: where wine begins!

R. Conti

I presume this must be the most famous and visited vineyard in the world, a place of cult for the wine lover! Domaine de la Romaneé Conti appears in all its sober and pure elegance, a small sign hardly visible: nobility and class don’t need to shout!

I was blessed with fantastic whether, during my visit last May: blue sky, pleasant temperature and a strong cold wind, a true remind that here the vines have to struggle everyday with tough conditions. It was a great bonus the good whether it made me understand a very fundamental aspect of this area, the key that make this wine so special. Of course the univocity of the soil, the knowledge passed by through generations, the perfect grape varieties almost only made to grow here, but most of all the LIGHT, the quality of the light, so intense, so luminous, so vibrant, sharp, edgy, clean and pure, like the wine that you drink. The light is something special, the intensity and the power of its irradiation has a magical touch that can only be beneficial to the plants and to our soul.

La Cote d’Or, this unique stretch of land, is a combination of many little details that over centuries have been put together, have been master by human, have been transformed into wine. This is what Burgundy has left to me.

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Grechetto from Sergio Mottura

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We are not exactly in Umbria but very closed to it! Sergio Mottura, organic grower and winemaker from Civiletta D’Agliano near Viterbo in Lazio, is known for a unique clone of Grechetto, which takes his name. Grechetto is an important grape variety for Orvieto Classico blend: thick skin rich of bloom, early flowering, mid-late ripening. It offers wines of great texture, famous for the nutty finish and the ability to last in time. I personally adore Grechetto: it’s unique, deep, away from the stereotype aromas, it is a good mediator of the soil, full of character frankly similar to none.

My journey to Champagne

Valle della marna view

For people like me dedicated to wine a journey to the Champagne region in France is something that you need to do..in fact if you don’t like wine there is no much point to go there!! Compare to other places I have been, Champagne is the less appealing in terms of scenery and things to do…but if we talk about quality there are no other places in world like this! I truly admit, I will never get tired of Champagne, seats well with almost anything: all those tiny bubbles manage to put a smile on my face and the allure surrounding its name is something beyond anything else I have never came across.

Champagne is a symbol, champagne is a status, it is a name in no needs of presentation, one word is enough to let the imagination travel..never a wine has been so powerful…

Lungarotti winery, Torgiano, Umbria

 

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This impressive winery near Perugia represents the innovation of wine production in Umbria. Me and a group of friends had the opportunity to spend the morning with the wine maker Vincenzo and Teresa, who together the sister Chiara, runs the entire estate. A female management,which includes no only the winery in Torgiano, but a winery in Montefalco, a production of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a stunning resort with a beauty spa and a highly reputed restaurant “Le tre vasselle”.
Committed to put Umbria on the world map of wine making, they relentlessly support cultural aspects of this industry with the Lungarotti’s Foundation. A wine museum and an olive oil museum have been created to trace ancient historical traditions. Outstanding their cru Vigna Monticchio, Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, the fist wine to be recognised as a DOCG in Umbria in 1983.

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Vermentino Noir

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I have recently discover an almost forgotten variety called Vermentino Nero, a true hidden  jewel from Tuscany and Liguria, in an area call Lunigiana. In the glass it is transparent, like Pinot Noir, the nose is deep very mineral, with a clear and distinctive graphite flavour,  fresh berries, violet and pansies. The palate is smooth, sapid, fresh with a good texture, the tannin is well integrated with all the main wine’s components. The Dna is not clear jet, but it is belived to be a mutation of the most popular Vermentino Bianco.