Letter from Europe: Talking vino and Parmigiano with Italy's maestro modernist chef

Photo Per-Anders Jorgensen

If there were a Nobel Prize for Parmigiano cheese, Massimo Bottura would certainly be its first laureate.

For more than 20 years, Bottura, Italy's most acclaimed modern chef, has worked to perfect a signature dish founded on the belief that this famous aged cheese made near his native Modena wasn't getting the respect it deserved.

"Why did we only use this incredible cheese—this symbol of our land—just to grate on pasta?" The 50-year-old Bottura, clad in chef's jacket and jeans, is nearly shouting.

That's a good question, and his Five Ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano in Different Textures and Temperatures is an even better response....Read more at the Wine Spectator. 


Letter From Europe: Après-Yquem: Not Down for the Count

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Ten years ago, when the board of Château d'Yquem fired him, president and former owner Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces was expected to fade into the Sauternes sunset.

Instead, Lur Saluces picked himself up off the mat. The 80-year-old aristocrat continues making great Sauternes a few miles away at his Château de Fargues. Here, since 2005, he has produced seven wines in the outstanding range or better by Wine Spectator. The most recently released,2009 (97 points), sold for $170.

Not bad for a man who doesn't even consider himself a winemaker.

"Here, we are farmer-poets," said Lur Saluces, flashing a boyish, gap-toothed smile as he greeted visitors in a tweed jacket and tie.

...Read more at the Wine Spectator...

Letter From Europe: The Son Rises at Biondi-Santi

The 2013 vintage was tough for all of Montalcino, Tuscany's premier wine region. But for Jacopo Biondi Santi, it was a moment of truth.

It was the first harvest at his family's legendary estate following the death of his father, Franco Biondi Santi, this past spring at the age of 91.

"I have been harvesting here since I was eight years old, first with grandfather, then with my father," Jacopo, 63, said in his office over the winery. "This was the first time I did it alone."  ...Read more at the Wine Spectator. 

Letter from Europe: My new blog for the Wine Spectator

This week my new twice-monthly blog called Letter from Europe made its debut at the Wine Spectator. My first post called "The Human Face of Wine" begins:

"There are lots of reasons to love wine, but for me the most important reason is people..."

if you are familiar with my books and work you know this is who I am. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to roam the continent (mostly Italy and France) and relate the human stories from the wine world. There will be some great ones coming up very soon, so stay tuned. I hope you'll join the conversation. 

You can read the first blog on the Wine Spectator site here

Robert Camuto

Touring Champagne


The home of great bubbly ups its game

By Robert Camuto (and Alison Napjus) -- Wine Spectator Dec. 15, 2013

Few products in history have been more associated with the good life, glamour and celebration than Champagne. Yet in modern times, even as the sparkling wine boomed, the Champagne region itself—one of France's most historic and bucolic wine countries—remained a sleepy backwater.

Up until recently, locals in Champagne didn't pay much attention to creating a travel experience worthy of the name. With the eponymous bubbly easily traveling the planet, the thinking seemed to be, why show off Champagne wine country?

That approach has taken a dramatic turn. In the past decade, the quality of Champagne as a destination has risen with a wave of hotel renovations and new vineyard accommodations, an influx of creative chefs, the area's first Champagne bars and more opportunity to tour Champagne houses large and small. A high-speed train line put the regional capital of Reims a mere 45 minutes from Paris.

Wachau Pioneers


The leaders of an Austrian wine renaissance coax stunning whites from stony hillsides

By Robert Camuto-- Wine Spectator Nov. 15, 2013

The Wachau Valley is a 23-mile visual feast of tidy medieval villages, hilltop castle ruins and dense conifer forests, all set amid dramatically steep vineyards whose terraced slopes cling to the riverbanks of the winding Danube.

Despite more than a thousand years as a winemaking center, the Wachau has only seen its wines burst into the ranks of the world's great whites in the past 20 years, with aromatic Rieslings and food-friendly Grüner Veltliners.

Stateside, Austrian wine has become a tiny but fast-growing niche, with wine lovers, merchants and sommeliers increasingly turning to Wachau whites.

Reign of Terroir


At 31 and on the cusp of her tenth vintage, Sicily’s revolutionary winemaker Arianna Occhipinti has redefined the image of the modern vintner by returning to the island’s native roots. 

By Robert Camuto-- la Cucina Italiana  November, 2013

Southern Maestros


The Mastroberardino family helped spark a quality revolution in the high hills of Campania

By Robert Camuto-- Wine Spectator Oct. 31, 2013

Mount Vesuvius looms over the vine-rich landscape of southern Italy's Campania region as a blessing and a curse. Violent eruptions from the volcano have periodically wreaked destruction on the countryside, including most famously the Roman city of Pompeii in A.D. 79. Yet the soils that issue from its lava and ash have helped create the uniqueterroir for the region's greatest reds, made from the late-ripening Aglianico grape, as well as some of its most flavorful whites.

Ferrari in High Gear: The great Italian sparkler you don't know

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By Robert Camuto--Wine Spectator March 31, 2013

You may never have heard of Italy's most significant sparkling wine. In fact, the name Ferrari may evoke images of fast cars rather than Cantine Ferrari, the winery at the edge of the northeastern city of Trento, surrounded by Alpine foothills planted with high-altitude vineyards of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

At 110 years old, Ferrari is Italy's largest, oldest and most celebrated producer in the Champagne style. In the past century it has grown from a boutique label started by a local agronomist to a pioneering, family-owned producer of about 375,000 cases, including vintage wines comparable to some of the most prestigious and more expensive names in Champagne.

Yet almost all of Ferrari's product has stayed in Italy.

Italy's Champion

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By Robert Camuto - Wine Spectator  April 30, 2013

Oscar Farinetti, an Italian entrepreneur and the founder of Eataly, has created a worldwide chain of high-end temples to Italian food. But he's hungry for more.

In just six years, this son of a Piedmont pasta maker has built an epicurean empire. From its base in Turin, Eataly has expanded across Italy to New York and Tokyo, with 20 locations opened and 17 more on the drawing board. The Eataly format resembles a foodie-fantasy of an Italian village, complete with restaurants, cafés and market stalls. In each location, chefs and winemakers share their expertise in workshops and seminars.

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