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Terlano sets the bar high in the Italian Dolomites
In Italy, “wine cooperative” can be a pejorative, synonymous with grape-buying collectives that produce oceans of basic wine destined for supermarkets.
Northeastern Italy’s Alto Adige is an exception, known for co-ops that produce wines as good as those from top independent winemakers. Here, on the edge of the Dolomites, just six miles northwest of the regional capital, Bolzano, Cantina Terlano produces some of Italy’s most prized—and most historic—white wines.
How good? Since it began exporting its wines in the mid-1990s, this cooperative has released 73 wines that scored 90 points or higher in Wine Spectator's blind tastings. Something special seems to happen to white grapes—particularly Pinot Bianco—grown in the quartz-rich volcanic soils (known as red porphyry) at up to 3,000 feet in the hills above sleepy Terlano (pop. 4,200).
“It’s a different culture here,” says enologist Klaus Gasser, 48, who has been the winery’s public face for 20 years. He is maneuvering a four-wheel-drive up steep, narrow roads flanked by terraced vineyards and tidy, white stucco Tyrolean farmhouses. “It’s a little bit more organized. It’s the German spirit of taking care of the land.”
Indeed, the Alto Adige, or South Tyrol, was annexed by Italy from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918....read the full blog at winespectator.com
The battle over who controls an elite wine name
“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s tragic-romantic heroine Juliet lamented, mournfully questioning the Verona family feuds that kept her from her Romeo.
Now, centuries later, the families of Verona are embroiled in another drama over a name: Amarone della Valpolicella.
The conflict began in 2009, when 12 longtime Amarone producers, led by Masi patriarch Sandro Boscaini, banded together to create a new elite confederation called Amarone Families (Famiglie Dell’Amarone d’Arte).
The Amarone Families—Allegrini, Begali, Brigaldara, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Masi, Musella, Speri, Tedeschi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Tommasi, Venturini and Zenato—signed a manifesto calling for voluntary higher production standards and creating a hologram sticker to identify their wines.
Prisoners in the big house serve top Italian wines and fine food!
Massimo Sestito knows how to put together a compelling Italian wine lineup.
As maitre d’ of one of Milan’s newest and trendiest restaurants, InGalera, he has carefully curated an 80-label list that is sprinkled with 90-plus-point gems and spans from Sicily and Calabria up to Barolo and Friuli and most everywhere in between.
How a hard-charging New Yorker helps drive Italian wine
When Stevie Kim dines out on her home turf in Italy, she shuns wine lists. She prefers to let restaurant owners surprise her.
"I try different wines everywhere I go," says Kim. "For me, wine is something fun—it's not so serious."
Kim is nonetheless a serious force in Italian wine as managing director of Vinitaly International, a global promotional vehicle for the country. When the 50th edition of Vinitaly—one of the world's largest wine fairs—opens on April 10 in Verona, it will bear the stamp of more than six years of her modernizing efforts.
Just how did an Asian-American woman who grew up in New York end up as a leading promoter of Italy's vino?
"It helps that I'm not Italian and that I'm not a wine expert," says Kim, a tiny woman with a long black mane that flies about as she shifts from type-A New Yorker English to expressive and fluent Italian, complete with hand gestures....read the full blog at Wine Spectator
An Italian winemaker expresses the tradition of....where was that?
Elena Pantaleoni has spent most of her life in the middle of nowhere.
Her family’s La Stoppa estate, which she took over 25 years ago, nestles in the hills around the city of Piacenza on the western edge of Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. It’s a gorgeous rolling countryside of vineyards, dairy farms and wheat fields. From the estate’s 15th-century lookout tower, you can see clear north to the snowcapped Alps and south to the Apennine Mountains.
“Even in Italy, most people don’t know where it is,” says Pantaleoni of the area, which is closer to the Mediterranean port of Genoa and the business center of Milan than to Emilia-Romagna’s own regional capital of Bologna.
Obscurity is magnified by complexity. The small Colli Piacentini DOC produces 16 different wine types—including reds, whites, rosatos, frizzante and sweet wines—from international varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to the Barbera-dominated blend with a name that sounds something like an Italian insult: Gutturnio.
A Provence jewel in the hills of Nice
Joseph Sergi is an unlikely producer of high-end wine in an unlikely place.
Sergi’s first career was as an auto body repair technician in Nice, France. He later ran a brasserie outside town with his in-laws. Then in 1993, when he was 30, Sergi and his father-in-law bought a small 1950s-era wine label and a 5-acre vineyard in the only AOC located within a city limits—Bellet, in the hills of France’s fifth-largest city, Nice.
The idea was to make a little wine for the restaurant and the local market. But things didn’t work out that small.
What began as a sideline quickly became a passion for Sergi, who sold the restaurant and worked as an intern in Burgundy.
Could this cheerful Italian red be the next Beaujolais Villages?
More than 15 years ago, Matilde Poggi's wines were unanimously rejected by American importers.
Remembering a conversation with California-based importer Oliver McCrum, Poggi says, "He told me, 'The wine is good, but the consumer is not ready for it.'"
The problem? The wine was Bardolino—Valpolicella's lighter, fruitier cousin, which had a poor reputation in Italy and was largely unknown abroad.
Today, the fortunes of Poggi and her Le Fraghe wines have changed. Not only have her wines gathered acclaim in Italy, they have been imported for 10 years by McCrum, now one of Le Fraghe's eight U.S. importers. What's different? Says Poggi, "In the United States, they started selling wines that were easier-drinking."
For a little more than 30 years, Poggi, 53, has been one of a small group of producers striving to make high-quality Bardolino in the hills west of the Valpolicella appellation and east of Lake Garda.
Celestino Gaspari is standing in the entry of his architecturally avant-garde winery, dug into a centuries-old sandstone quarry outside Verona, in northeastern Italy. He greets me with these words: "I am not a normal man. I don't like to live easy."
At 53, Gaspari is certifiably not "normal." He is a rare perfectionist who is both a devout adherent to tradition and a restless experimenter.
"I start one project and, just before I am finished, I start another," he explains.His Zymè wine label, founded in his home garage in 1999, is regarded as a regional leader of quality and innovation, with two divergent lines of wines: One with staunchly traditional Valpolicellas and Amarones and another featuring peripatetic experiments and cult wines from unusual combinations of local and international wine grapes.
"I don't want to repeat the same things others do," laughs Gaspari, a smallish, compact man with graying hair and lively blue eyes. "I am a protagonist to myself...read the full blog at winespectator.com
This new year is momentous for me: I'm starting it in my new home of Verona, Italy. A couple of months ago, my wife and I moved from the south of France, where we had lived nearly 15 years.
Why? Why not? Doesn't everyone want to live in Italy? Despite its problems, Italy has some of the world's most beautiful places, my favorite cuisines, a very agreeable lifestyle and an ever-dynamic wine scene.
Verona, a city of 250,000 straddling the Adige River, isn't as cosmopolitan as Milan, but it is in the modern North. Importantly, things tend to work here. The trash gets picked up. The place has a civilized feel, typified by the sometimes-dapper men and the often-elegant women riding bicycles along cobblestone streets in which most cars are banned.
Verona is also heart-stoppingly beautiful—laced with Roman vestiges, including its impressive 1st-century Roman arena, along with well-preserved medieval and Renaissance palaces, towers and churches.
Our first dinner invitation came through family friends.
As a young enology student less than a decade ago, Christian Zago learned that most Prosecco was akin to beer.
"They taught us that common Prosecco was something you drank and then pissed out," laughs Zago, 29, at his family's 91-year-old Ca' dei Zago winery in the hamlet of San Pietro di Barbossa.
His blue eyes widening, Zago counters that, within the gorgeous sloping hills of Valdobbiadene in the Prosecco Superiore zone, "We have some fantastic terroirs. The problem is that, to the public, it is all Prosecco."
Prosecco's image is changing, if slowly. And in a very short time of only five vintages, Zago has established himself as an important producer of what is known as traditional col fondo Prosecco.
See the Video Trailer for PALMENTO on You Tube....
Robert reads from and discusses Palmento at McNally Jackson books in NY Sept. 2010.
Robert on radio