PROSECCO COL FONDO 'CREDAMORA', MALIBRAN
Grape: 100% Glera
Region: Valdobbiadene-Conegliano (Veneto)
Pairings: a perfect aperitive, meaning pairs with nearly anything
Drink by: now until 2019
Notes: secondary fermentation in the bottle, non-filtered, no disgorgement.
Description: (At minute 2.24 of this video, everything is explained). I’m not talking about what Maurizio says. I’m talking about what happens in the background when Maurizio’s father, 85 years old, after a hard day of work in the vineyards comes to calm his thirst. In France they call them Vin de Soif, wines to drink. I believe that this Credamora is more than that, but surely that fact that you can drink it as easily as water is a good starting point.
I know that I've said many times that prosecco is the worst wine of Italy. 320 million bottles (and maybe more) produced without any respect of quality and what a wine should be. A cheap fruit juice with alcohol most of the time not even made with grapes but only chemical residues and artificial aromas. So, I’ll stay on my point, don’t drink prosecco. But there are few wineries and more than that few special places where Prosecco is more than an industrial and cheesy bubbly wine. The hills of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano are even more suggestive than Chianti. Soft and quite, far away from the Mid-West style flat vineyards where the industrial Prosecco is made.
Quality producers? There aren't more than 10-15 and Malibran is one of them.
Col Fondo means with yeast sediment, as the Prosecco used to be done 50-60 years ago. And only recently it's getting trendy again, but Malibran never stopped doing it. A natural fermentation, with it’s own sediments, crispy and refreshing, tight and fruity. The complex simplicity of a wine able to surprise you, with soft natural bubbles, a Vin de Soif, a wine to drink, on as summer-winter day, after a hard day of work or on a lazy Sunday. Pair it with everything, doesn’t really matter. A good Prosecco is something so unique that can go with any pairings.
SALINA BIANCO 2017 MALVASIA SECCA, CARAVAGLIO
Grape: 90% Malvasia bianca from Lipari, 10% other indigenous grapes
Region: Salina (Sicily)
Pairings: fresh goat cheese, grilled fish, scallops, and most seafood.
Drink by: now or within 2 years
Notes: organic farming, volcanic/sandy soils, indigenous yeasts
Description: Oh my goodness - the Aeolian Islands. Are you planning your honeymoon? Looking for the right place to celebrate your 10 year anniversary or a break-up?
This small group of volcanic islands facing Mount Etna are more than magical. Black soil of lively volcanos, with thermal muds and lava flows and vines and fruit trees and capers and all the possible aromatic herbs. And quietness (at least in June) and the color of water that looks like a beautiful impressionist painting. The blue of the sea and darkness of the volcanic soil and I’ll stop here because I don’t want to sound like the cheesy Sicilian version of Under the Tuscan sun.
I was there with my beloved Lindsay a few months ago and I still have in my eyes and my nose all the aromas and the colors. Our only visit to a winery was Nino Caravaglio to both his vineyards, on Lipari and Salina. Lipari is the main island, with the bigger village, still really small. A suggestive middle age castle and a small dock surrounded by fish markets and nice little restaurants. The seaside is amazing, nice beaches with a crystalline water. Is that all? Actually, if you’re not into wine, yes. But if you’re lucky as I am, you’ll discover another hidden Lipari and a Salina. The coast of the Mediterranean, especially in Sicily and nearby was not a safe place. Pirates and Saracens forced the locals to stay in the inner part of the island where some of the best vineyards still remain. What you see in the video is the beautiful natural amphitheater that protects from the strong wind the plants. A soil that is beyond fertile. Non-grafted 200 year old plants. Grape varieties like Corinto Nero (maybe next wine club) that only exist here and nowhere else in the world.
That day, in the beautiful hidden garden I felt like Sam Neil when he arrives in Jurassic Park. I couldn’t believe that here and now, in this fancy Cabs Sauv, Chards and oaky world could exist a place like this.
Later on that day at Signum (an amazing Michelin restaurant facing the sea in Salina) we tried this new wine Occhio di Terra Salina bianco.
Do I sound over the top if I say this is the best white wine I’ve tried in the last 3 years? It was Lindsay, myself and the son of Kermit Lynch (one of the greatest wine importers from US) and we had an amazing time, drinking Champagne and Salina Bianco, facing the Mediterranean Sea, smelling notes of candy oranges, dry apricots, bitter honey, smokey volcanic soil and rosemary and lemon and herbs and all the Sicilian island's flavors in one glass.
But what really shocks you about this wine is the after taste, which you would expect to be sweet but isn’t. Crispy, salty, marine, refreshing, a tinge of smokiness. An endless experience of pure local pleasure.
SCHIAVA (VERNATSCH) 'SANKT ANNA' 2016, IN DER EBEN
Grape: 100% Schiava (Vernatsch)
Region: Alto Adige
Pairings: meat dishes, or dishes made with mushrooms and speck
Drink by: now until 2022
Notes: biodynamic, indigenous yeasts, 24 months in wood and 6 in bottle, non-filtered, maximum respect for the land
Description: Arriving in the Alto Adige, I could have easily mistaken that I was in another country across the Alps. The street signs are first in German, and second in Italian. The architecture is chalet-like for all the shops, and the restaurants there smell of wurtstel, apple strudel, and speck. And while many can speak Italian, you know by their pronunciation and simple, formal speaking that it's not their first language.
The Alto Adige with a heritage of nearly 3,000 years of winemaking has been called home by various peoples throughout the centuries . To briefly introduce you to this area, it was initially inhabited by Latins in the Roman times, but saw heavy Germanic settlement from the Renaissance to the 1900s. It became territory of the Hapsburgs (Austria) in 1803, then after a defeat became part of Bavaria (Germany) under Napoleon, had a short moment of French rule before Napoleon would be defeated in 1815 and it would return to Austria. Then during WWII, Italians we able to occupy and annex the area which Mussolini would control with heavy Italianization. Later in 1943, the Italians would sign a pact with the Allies which put again in German control, which would end with the end of the Nazi regime and put it back in the hands of Italy. I'll digress there but it's technically more complex.
As you can imagine, no one agrees on anything here, and finally, it was decided to allow both languages in the area. It's an area with racial discrimination, where many don't feel they belong to the 'Italian' culture and nearly half don't even wish to be Italian. The grape, Schiava, or as many may call it Vernatsch (the German translation) is the dominant red grape in this predominantly white wine area planted much to Sauvignon, Gwertztraminer, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. The vineyards of In der Eben were only planted to this grape until Urban took it over from his parents and planted a handful of other local varieties. He's a young guy with a world of dreams ahead of him, trying to make quality, age-worthy wines in his region. He continues to improve nearly 30 years of organic winemaking with biodynamic practices even in a region where some switch away from organics because they say 'it's simply too difficult'. In my opinion, he's one you'll want to watch and pay attention to in this area.
Schiava, or Vernatsch, is usually a fresh easy wine. Nice, fruity and earthy someone called it, wrongly I think, the light Pinot Noir. You would never expect from a light Pinot Noir to age for more than 20-30 years (I tried once a Schiava Scxhleier 1976 that was more lively than most of the Oregon Pinot Noir). That said, we chose In der Eben over more than 200 different producers of Schiava from Alto Adige to demonstrate that this grape variety can give you wines that are not simply light Pinot Noir. Fruit and cherries and wild strawberries in the 2015, with a palate that is metallic, refreshing and deep. A wine that is almost 4 years old and taste like a baby.
Vineyards, as Urban says in the video, are 60-70 years old (the cellar is more than 700 years old), and you can feel it, taste it, especially with the Riserva Sanct Anne. The Riserva 2012 for a wine could perfectly stay beside a big Barolo in a blind taste (and the price is also in that range).
ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2016, PIETROSO
Grape: 100% Sangiovese grosso (same grape as used in their Brunello)
Region: Montalcino (Tuscany)
Pairings: savory dishes like stews, roasted and grilled lamb, steak, grilled mushrooms, good quality salami and hams, medium aged cheeses.
Drink by: now until 2023
Notes: 2 week maceration, manual harvest, 12 months in 30hl Slavonian oak plus 6 months in bottle, non-filtered.
Description: I'll never forget when Alessandro and I went to Benvenuto Brunello, a huge wine fair with some 200 producers in the area present. I often default to Alessandro's knowledge of winemakers at these chaotic events to navigate through the drunk mess of crowds, but this time I was often split up from him so I tried dozens on my own.
At the end, looking at my notes, 4 of my 5 favorites were from vineyards on a special cru called the Montosoli Hill, and Pietroso one of them (keep in mind, I only learned that they were all located there after I tried them). There is definitely something unique and magical about this historic and prestigious hill which made a lasting impression on my palate - a longer rooted history for quality which unfortunately metathesized from 76 hectares in 1963 to nearly 2,400 hectares today, a special cool and dry microclimate and geology of soils mainly from marl with little clay, which lend themselves to the elegant soul of Brunello here, making them a world apart from wines found lower in the valley and from the huge producers in the area whose wines made me immediately sneeze, likely heavy with sulfites.
If you get a chance, go visit Pietroso where you can do a tasting in a floor to ceiling glass windowed room at 500m of elevation, which cantilevers over the vineyards of Montalcino below, tasting their wines with aromas of fresh red fruits, a touch of vanilla, beautiful acidity and structure which will allow for several more years of aging of the Rosso or another decade more with the Brunello.
CHIANTI CLASSICO 'ARGENINA' 2015, IL PALAZZINO
Grape: Sangiovese with tiny blend of other indigenous grapes
Region: Monti in Chianti (Tuscany)
Pairings: pasta dishes, medium-aged cheeses, pork dishes and cured meats.
Drink by: now until 2021
Notes: certified organic, indigenous yeasts, extreme minimum of sulfites added, 25,000 bottles produced
Description: I really like Edoardo and Alessandro Sderci, I like their vineyards, their simple winemaking approach, and how a father and a son can work perfectly together without arguing and fighting (that's what it looks like). It makes me want to have a child and run a winery together.
Their wines again represent Tuscany in all it's simplicity, without, the perfect shapes of the perfect hills without Cabs and Merlot, without the stupid suffix Super in front of the region.
Think you wish you had a Brunello or Vino Nobile to drink? In our tastings, Argenina is preferred often to a Brunello beside it. It's easy to understand without being boring, full bodied with a refreshing acidity that doesn't make it heavy. You sense the clean fruit in this wine and sense the openness in it which resembles the openness of their land.
DOLCETTO D'ALBA 2016, CASCINA MORASSINO
Grape: 100% Dolcetto
Region: Alba (Piedmont)
Pairings: cold cuts with strong garlic and pepper, sausage and mushroom pasta
Notes: stainless steel, 20 year old avg. vineyards.
Description: I can’t really tell you at the end if Roberto Bianco is a good winemaker, nor could I about Palladino, Sobrero, Conterno, Rinaldi. All of them - nice people, who make great wines, but what if they are just lucky. Lucky to have vineyards in one of the most distinctive wine regions in the world.
At minute 1.23 you can see the famous blue marl (Marna Blu). That’s the secret. All you have to do, if you’re a winemaker with a vineyard with that soil, is to stay behind the wine, as a tutor, as a supporting actor. Henry Jayer used to say: the less I do, the better my wine. He meant: the less I struggle with barrels, fancy machines, roto-macerators, selected yeasts, heavy fertilizations (Napa Valley wines, in synthesis), the better my wine is. In which sense better? Better in the sense that the soil, the climate, the place, the grape variety the soul of the wine come out. And that’s what I want from a wine, to tell a local story, to reveal a unique local flavor, to be different. And that’s what you should like about this wine club. Because if you don’t, if you’re looking for predictable flavors, for those wines that constantly repeat the same game, play the same music with notes of oak, too much fruit extraction, predetermined flavors from scientifically selected yeast, well it might just be better to cancel your subscription, because you’re wasting your time and money.
So, that’s the big conflict - to drink a wine which is easy, soft and average, but absolutely anonymous, or a wine that is unique, complex and with a strong personality but unpleasant and disturbing?
In the ‘90s in Barolo and Barbaresco there were two parties: The modern ones: lots of small new oak barrels, fruity, soft flavors, sometimes illegal blends, modern technology, and the traditionalists: old big barrels, hard tannins, high acidity, no fruit. But in between this conflict there were wineries like Cascina Morassino. His vineyards are 100mt from the Barbaresco village and as I said he’s been lucky enough to have spots on the top of the hill. Lots of light and sun, dry and windy. Wines there are fruity and mineral, modern and traditional at the same time. This is one of the few Barbaresco that can be drank both when young and old.
The Dolcetto is apparently a simple every day wine. But when your vineyards are in Barbaresco, on light white soil, the result is a beautiful refreshing drinking experience. Have it as a second aperitif.
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