The Collio Problem: Too much of a good thing

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Northeastern Italy's Collio has a problem. A problem that, on its face, many wine regions would love to have: Too many grapes do well here.

Its terraced, hilly vineyards, which hug the Slovenian border, produce unique white wines from a long list of varieties—from international grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay to local stars Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, the backbone of many "orange wines."

And that's only the dry white wines. The area also produces a range of reds, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Cabernet Franc, along with a sweet white from Picolit.

The trouble is, with such a wealth of grapes and varied winemaker styles, it's been near-impossible to define the region to the world.

An offer he couldn't refuse

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How a famed Tuscan enologist was lured to Tuscany

Paolo Caciorgna, the acclaimed Tuscan enologist who makes wines for stellar estates like Montalcino's Altesino and La Serena as well as for music stars Sting and Andrea Bocelli, never planned to make wine on Sicily's Mount Etna.

But 15 years ago, longtime friend and American importer Marco de Grazia invited Caciorgna to his newly founded Tenute delle Terre Nere on the volcano's north-facing slopes.

That was at the very beginning of the renaissance of Etna's once-forgotten vineyards—a rebirth that has since made it one of Italy's hottest wine areas. 

An Independent Streak

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Corsicans are known as an independent lot. As individual as some of the French island's terroirs.

"In Corsican, we have an expression: A terre e fatta a palmi," says Yves Leccia, a key figure in the renaissance of Corsica's Patrimonio appellation over the past 37 years. "It means everywhere you put your hand down, the earth changes."

Leccia is standing in his prized E Croce vineyard, in which a layer of chalky limestone soil covers schistic bedrock. The vineyard—like his Partinelone vineyard a couple of hundred yards away—nestles in a cirque surrounded by rocky peaks. Between two humpbacked ridges to the west, you can glimpse the turquoise Mediterranean waters of the Gulf of St.-Florent. A dry wind from the west—known locally as the libeccioventilates the vineyards on a clear sunny morning.

For the Love of Corsica

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Nearly 40 years ago, Antoine Arena stunned his family by announcing he was quitting law school on the French mainland to return home to their vineyards on Corsica.

“When I told my father I was quitting my studies to make wine, he didn’t talk to me for three months,” says Arena. “It was a [point of] shame for him.”

Arena’s father, who sold wine in bulk to Corsican bars and restaurants, wanted his son to escape to a more secure life than viticulture in the Patrimonio appellation, carved into a hilly northern corner of the island.

Calabrian High Style

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When many of his peers in southern Italy were abandoning family farms and vineyards, Roberto Ceraudo went the other direction.

The son of a grain merchant, Ceraudo grew up in the Calabrian countryside and dreamed of having his own land. In 1973, he borrowed money to buy an abandoned 100-acre estate in Strongoli, in the hills above the Ionian coast, just south of the Cirò wine appellation.

Ceraudo then set to work—planting vineyards in the chalky clay soils, reclaiming centuries-old olive groves, renovating a 400-year-old farmhouse and excavating a lake fed by well water.

Calabria Rocks!

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Is Cirò Italy's next big wine?

Cirò is the kind of wine place I want to root for.

This ancient Calabrian wine region in sun-baked southern Italy offers a gorgeous countryside of ancient olive trees and undulating vineyards planted with a unique and often-misunderstood red grape—Gaglioppo. What's more, a new generation of winemakers is working to turn Cirò from a backwater to an appellation worthy of our attention.

"It's a moment of foment," says 40-year-old enologist and local producer Cataldo Calabretta, walking through a freshly plowed clay-limestone hillside vineyard.

Into the Clouds with Elena Walch

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When she first developed big ideas about wine, Elena Walch knew nothing about winemaking. She was reared in Milan, studied in Venice, and then set up her own architectural practice in Bolzano, the capital of Northern Italy's Alto Adige.

Then in 1985, at 35, she was hired to oversee restoration of a 17th-century Austrian Hapsburg hunting castle surrounded by 50 acres of gorgeous, steeply sloping vineyards. The castle and vineyard owner was Werner Walch, who ran his family's historic Wilhelm Walch winery in Termeno.

Before the project was completed, she and Werner fell for each other, and they were soon married. Then things got really interesting when she turned her attention to the vineyards.

Mining Gewürztraminer for Greatness

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An Italian co-op takes a misunderstood grape to new heights—aging it in an abandoned silver mineTermeno is a Tyrolean wine dream.

This postcard-perfect town, commonly known by its old Austrian name, Tramin (pop. 3,400), is a collection of traditional Alpine houses and cobblestone streets that rise up from the Adige river valley in far northeastern Italy. Steep terraced vineyards climb 1,000 feet to conifer forests at the edge of the Dolomite mountains.  

About 60 miles south of the Austrian border, Tramin/Termeno is believed to have lent its name to Gewürztraminer, an aromatic variety often ignored in the U.S. because of the bad rep created by cloyingly sweet German versions that flooded the States decades ago.

Ultimate Tapas in Spanish Wine Country

I love Spanish food—particularly in Spain.

It starts with incredible food products including melt-in-mouth sweet pata negra hams, meaty Cantabrian anchovies, crunchy quick-fried chipirones (baby squid) and aromatic green olive oils.  

Then comes the festive presentation—particularly in tapas places where you can share lots of small, artful plates and then gesture to a neighbor's food and say, "We'll have some of that!"

There is an irresistible excitement to point-and-choose dining—even if you don't always know what you're eating.

The Man Behind Spain's Mythic Vega Sicilia

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Wine Spectator June 30, 2017

By Robert Camuto 

Pablo Álvarez is a patient man.

In 1999, Álvarez discovered that faulty corks had tainted some wines at Bodegas Vega Sicilia, the iconic Spanish winery his family purchased in 1982. He recalled the wine, at a cost of millions of euros, and then began planting cork trees on the property. They now cover 75 acres; decades from now, they may supply corks for the estate's wine.

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