Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Italian Grapeness

Italy bifar has the richest variety of individual wine styles, local climates, and, most importantly indigiounes grape varities in the world. Her wines have a vivacousness all her own. The Greeks the proliferaters of the vine called italy "Oenotria"-the land of Wine-Spreading the vines initially into Southern Italy. Thier is little of Italy that is not wine country.

So, when did Italian wine start to sizzle? ...Some think around the 1990's for one thing it was one of the best vintages of the last century. But, it was more than that, it was the changes the winemakers had been making in the cellar and vineyards. That's not to say that amazing wine was not made before the 1990's. But, this is when some atribute Italy, making it's mark into modern winemaking. The post-World War ll farmer entreprenuer gave way to a son or daughter, often fresh out of enology school who transformed the property into a modern winery.

In terms of geogrphy, Italy can;t help but produce good wine in great variety, if slopes and sunshine, and temperature climate are the essentials. Italy's vast amont of grape variety and regions can make even the most informed of wine geeks tremble. So, lets focus on one region.


I think there is not enought written or spoken about this regionI It is hot and sexy! full of heratage and some of the most amazing wine in the world.Certainly one of my favorites. Piedmonte lies in the Northewest of Itlay. The Piemontese food and wines are as inseperable as those of Burgundy. They are strong, rich and individual like Italy her self.

Piedmonte littarelly means (at the foot of the mountains) in this case we mean the Alps. These spectacular mountains all but incircle this hilly region. Almost all vineyards are on slopes and face in a slightly different aspect and altitude. Giving each vine it's own personality. Dotted with in these vineyards are planted Peach trees and hazel that produce the local chocolate which Piedmonte is famous for Nutella. If you've never had a Nutella crepe or just plane Nutella, please run out and get some!

What makes this region so facinating? Well it is home to one of Itlays Noble grapes Nebbiolo. This haunting grape has no rivals as the finest grape of northern Itlay. It makes mellow fragrant wines and depending on what village it calls home it takes on it's own personality. Of course the most famous Nebbiolo reciedes in the towns of Barolo and Barbaresco. The name Nebbiolo comes from the mist (Nebbia in Italian) that forms during harvest. Most of the rest of Piedmonte's wines are named after the grape from which they are produced and then add the district name.


Ok, so, let's break this down a little. Barolo and Barbaresco known respectably as the King and Queen of Piedmonte are produced from Nebbiolo. These two towns have an annual average production of about ten thousand bottles. Not alot! So guess what happens to the price. Bingo $$$$. Thier is also Nebbiolo grown in the Langhe (lingua) meaninng tongue it's a long shaped area in the northwest region. Here the price of the wine is more affordable.I mentioned before most of the other wines use the name of the grape on the lable and attach the name of the town from which it lives. Why? Italins are very proud people and want everyone to know where the wine comes from. Not to mention this helps to understand what you are getting in the bottle.We have three main red grapes in Piedmonte. Barbera thought to be native to Piedmonte this is the most planted and durable grape of the region. Dolcetto ( little sweet one) reffering to it's ripe taste.


Cortese considered native to Piedmonte. Arneis records of this grape date back to 1400. Initially used to blend in to other wines. As of late it has become increasing popular. Moscato responsible for sweet sparkling white wine. Braguetto native red used for sweet sparkling wines.

Towns of note
We mentioned that towns are important because they help us figure out what to expect.
These are the key towns of the area. Alba, Asti, Barolo, Barberasco, Gavi, Aqui, Lange

Label Talk
Remember towns tell us the style of the wine. Each town due to it's soil ( terrior) effects the grape characterisctic and therefor ultimately the wine.


$Dolcetto D' Alba...(The grape followed by the town) Typically will show..Violets, black fruit and feminine.
$$Dolcetto D' Dogliani..This area is concidired prime realistate for Dolcetto... Inky, earthy, full body and expansive. Hot Stuff.
$Barbera D' Asti..Light-Medium body, Dry berry fruit, Fresh bright acidity
$Barbera S Alba..Medium body, Ripe berry fruit, supple
$Nebbiolo D Alba..Light- Perfume Meduim body dry cherries, plums
$Langhe Nebbiolo...Perfume of Violets Med-light body, spicey, sweet fruit.
$$$$Barolo..(Masculine)DarkViolets, Leather, Cinnamon, earth, Profound
$$$$Barbaresco..(Feminine) Lighter Delicate floral nose, spice, raspberry, Elegant


Gavi (Grape Cortese)..Aromatic, white flowers, Peaches, Crisp
Roero Arneis..Ripe fruit, good minerality
Moscato d Asti..(Dessert Sparkling Wine)..Jasmine on the nose, Sweet with beautiful tingly bubbles.
Bracheto d Aqui..(Red Dessert Sparkling Wine)..Aroma of Rose petals, ripe straberries, bubbles that dance on the palate.delite full sweetness and good minerality. YUMMY!!

Hold Up

Couple of important things to add to label talk. You'll note that on Italian wines you will see a ring (pink in color) arounfd the neck.This is ment to indicate quality...DOCG..being the highest quality..followed by DOC. Although politics allways get in the way. Just be aware of this ring but, don't allways bet on it.

What to Eat






cream sauces





Tomatoes sauces
















Osso Buco


Same as Barolo


Tomato sauces

Gavi d Gavi

Shell Fish


Vegetarian Dishes

Roero Arneis
Cream Sauces
Shell Fish
Vegetarian Dishes

Moscato d Asti
Custard desserts
Fruit based desserts

Braghetto d Aqui

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Indigenous Grape Series Spain

Spain's Indigenous grapes. This is a passion for me. Often times the public believes there are only five different grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc. This is what the marketing machine makes us believe; however, there are numerous grapes that are indigenous to Spain, all of which bring with them a history of flavour and aroma all their own. Let's discover some.

Tempranillo. Found mostly in Rioja and Ribeira del Duero, the tempranillo grape is known as Spains "Noble Grape"and can only be found in Spain!!! The name Tempranillo is a diminutive of the Spanish word temprano ( early), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most other Spanish reds.

Rioja takes on a lighter personality in it's Jovens and Crianzas due to it's thin skin. It develops an amazing cigar box aroma with cinnamon and earthy leathery notes on the palate that only this grape can possess. While in a Reserva and Gran Reserva it is often blended in minor percentages with two other indigenous grapes: Graciano (grown only in Rioja) and Mazuelo ( aka Carinena in two other regions which we will discover later on) which add finesse and ageing capability.Here the bouquet takes on a smokey aspect, scorched earth and sweet kirsch liquer. During the time of the Catholic Monarchs Riojas were the wines of celebratory banquets in every noble house throughout Spain. Wines of the nobility.

Ribera Del Duero takes on a different name known as Tinta del Pais or Tinta de Toro .The light and air here have a brightness about them, as do the wines. These are concentrated reds of intense colour and fruit-quite different in style from it's counterpart in Rioja just 60 miles away. As a result these wines have a bold bright character to them. As in Rioja, the wines of Ribera del Duero are classified as Joven..(packed with fruit and mouthwatering crispness), Crianza..(vanilla , spice and earthiness). In excellent years the wines may aspire to Reserva status showing complex fruit, richness, length and maturity. Gran Reserva are rare but exceptional. Vega Sicilia provided the initial proof that great wine could be made here. The estate was initially planted in the 1860s, however, the area really did not pop until 1990. Most of the wine here is red with a modest amount of Rosado and No white wines.

Label Talk

Here are some pointers to better understand a Spanish wine label.
Wines are classified by how long they have spent in Oak barrels.

$ Joven.. NO time in oak. Young, fresh, and fruity. Intended for immediate consumption

$$ Crianza.. Aged 6-12 months in oak and 1 year in bottle, then to market. Will exhibit complex flavours. Vanilla, spice...
$$$ Reserva.. Aged1 year in oak 1 year in bottle to market after 3 years. Extended length, richness, and Leathery notes.
$$$$$ Gran Reserva..Only produced in outstanding vintages. Rare..2 years oak 2 years bottle to market after 5 years. Wines of great distinction exhibiting earth, scorched gravel, and cedar.

What to eat

lamb, Pot Roast
Roast Pork, Beef Wellington
Hamburger, Prime Rib
Steak, Meat Loaf
Grilled Tuna, Grilled Salmon
Veal, Lasagna

Ribera del Duero

Cornish Hen, Duck
Wild Boar, Venison
Stews, Brisket