Monthly Archives: February 2017

VINO 2017, Learning About Italy’s Great Wines: Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola

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Maurizio Forte, Director of ICE, NY at VINO 2017 (photo Carole Di Tosti)

Last Monday (February 6, 2017) at NYC’s Spring Studios was an exceptional day for Vino 2017. Along with an extensive walk-around tasting of over 100 exhibitors from all the provinces of Italy, there was also a panel discussion about how the Americans love Italian wines and the growing market for Italian wines especially in larger cities. There were also three workshops illuminating Rare Grapes and Wines of Italy, Italy’s love of Rosato wines and a favorite of mine investigating Barolos and Barbarescos.

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Francesco Genuardi NY Italian Consul General (photo Carole Di Tosti)

After opening remarks from Maurizio Forte who introduced Francesco Genuardi of the Italian Consul General of New York, there was a discussion revolving around the research presented about Italian Wines’ intersection with the American palate. The panel was filled with wine notaries which included the Italian Trade Commission President, Michele Scannavini), Stevie Kim, Managing Director Vinitaly International, John Gillespie CEO of Wine Opinions, Leena Baran, Senior Manager, Import Wine Buying, Total Wine & More and Joe Campanale, Proprietor, Annona Wines. The panel was moderated by David Lynch.

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(L to R): John Gillespie, Stevie Kim, Michele Scannavini, Joe Campanale

What is always fascinating to me is the extent to which Italian wines are known and not known by Americans who find the pronunciation and complexity of grape varietals difficult to master. Because there are so many Italian grape varietals (550), and their wines which feature them, Americans are not familiar with many great Italian wines and those winemakers that produce them.

One of the benefits of the walk around tasting is to become better acquainted with Italian producers from all the wine regions in Italy. Considering that the country is a mecca for grape growing and wine making, each region has its winemakers. And because wine has been an indelible part of the Italian culture back to Roman and Estruscan times and even with the wine making monks of the Catholic church, wine is the drink not only of the gods, but of most of Italy’s citizens, and Europeans who have wine daily with dinner.

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Walk around tasting at Spring Studios, VINO 2017 (photo Carole Di Tosti)

At the walk around tasting in between the learning sessions, I familiarized myself with wines that I enjoyed but wanted to try from different producers in the Piedmont region of Italy. The Piedmont is in the north-west section bordering France and Switzerland at the foot of the Alps. The best-known wines from the region include Barolo and Barbaresco. which are made from the Nebbiolo grape. I stopped at Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola and tasted the wines of this producer happy to converse with Barbara Audasso who is the salesperson for the winery and Gian Luca, her brother, who is the winemaker.

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Wines I tasted from Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola at VINO 2017 (photo Carole Di Tosti)

Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola is located in the village of Grinzane Cavour, near Alba in the Langhe hills of Piedmont. Grinzane Cavour is one of the only villages in this monumental wine growing area where Barolo can be produced. In the 18th century, during the reign of Emmanuel II, most of the land around the Grinzane Castle belonged to count Camillo Benso of Cavour. He is venerated because he was one of the political architects of the Unification of Italy. Afterward he was the Mayor of the area for 17 years and then his estate was sold to local farmers, some of whom were the ancestors of the Audassos.

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Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2015

The Audassos evolved the winery from 1980 involving the family and over the years extending their acquisitions which have been replanted using the clones that flourish in the soil of the region. The vines are hand cared for and bio-dynamic. Only organic fertilizers are used and any diseases which may attack the vines are controlled by the use of natural copper and sulphur-based products. With manual thinning of the bunches, the yield is controlled to produce an exceptional ripening of the grapes.

Le Ginestre offers both red and white wines, however, I was interested in the reds and these are the ones that I enjoyed most. The first was the Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2015. After the fermentation the wine stays in stainless steel until the following spring, when it is bottled for release in June. It is a limpid garnet red, with purplish highlights. It is fragrant and piquant on the nose with fruity notes of cherry and blackberry. It is smooth and round with a long, satisfying finish. A highly drinkable wine, it may be enjoyed with pasta or red meats.

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Barbera d’Alba DOC Le Ginestre 2014. The 2015 is not pictured.

The next wine, the Barbera d’Alba DOC Le Ginestre 2014 and 2015 are from the barbera grapes. I learned that the wine varied between years because of the modifications in the temperature and the fact that there was more rain from one year to the next. After the fermentation the wine matures in French oak for a year, then it is aged several months in the bottle before its release.

This wine is a vivid garnet red, with slight purplish tones, not as clear as the Dolcetto d’Alba. The nose has hints of coco and roses and slight hints of mild tobacco. The palate is balanced with a spicy finish. The Barbera d’Alba DOC Le Ginestre is best enjoyed with food, for example red meats, veal, roasts, steak or lamb. It also would do well with sharp cheeses and salumi and herbed focaccia.img_6081

Barbara Audasso and Gian Luca Audasso from Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola at VINO 2017

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Barolo DOCG “Sottocastello di Novello” 2011 (photo Carole Di Tosti)

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Barbara Audasso with the Barolo DOCG “Sottocastello di Novello” 2011

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Barolo DOCG “SOTTOCASTELLO di Novello” 2012 (photo Carole Di Tosti)

There is fermentation in steel before the wine is transferred to oak by the end of the year. It matures in the oak for at least two years prior to bottling, which takes place a year before the wine is released.

This wine is a bright ruby red. The nose has hints of vanilla, cinnamon and liquorice. It is full bodied and rich on the palate and one notes the structure and smoothness. The finish is spicy and long with very few tannins. Because of its structure and rich polyphenols this wine has a long cellar life and its beauty is that it continues to develop and evolve. I would enjoy both the 2012 and 2011 Barolo DOCG “Sottocastello di Novello” with pasta dishes and red meats, especially steak and grilled red meat, or even roast beef. It would also go well with sharp cheeses like Grana Padano, wild boar salumi or spicy-cayenne soppressata  and herbed breads. I enjoyed my time tasting the wines of Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola from the Pietmont. For more information, you can reach Barbara Audasso at info@leginestre.com. To specifically check out their offerings and read up on the winery, you may CLICK HERE.

One actually has to study and taste the wines to see how fabulous they are. Vino 2017 provides a great opportunity to know and understand wines not typically familiar to Americans unless they are adventuresome which twenty-forty somethings are increasingly becoming. However, all ages can enjoy learning about Italian wines which are becoming more accessible to Americans once they overcome their unfamiliarity with the abstruse names of wines and their numerous grape varietals.

Photo credit: Carole Di Tosti

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Slow Wine 2017, an Incredible Tasting

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Eataly is a superior setting for wine tastings like Slow Wine 2017 (photo Carole Di Tosti)

Every year Slow Wine which is a welcome offshoot of Slow Food features wine producers on tour from the West to East Coast, from San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington, Austin, Texas, ending in New York City. All of the wines featured at the tastings are either certified organic or biodynamic with an emphasis on clean, quality, affordable wines that are cultivated without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and are nurtured with attention to the phases of the moon and farming and wine making techniques that are both ancient and modern. This year’s Slow Wine tasting was in a perfect setting: Eataly downtown on Liberty Street in New York City.

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Lucas Lanci took us on a tour.

Slow Wine which produces a a guide for food as well, identifies producers taking into consideration the life of the cultivators, their vineyards and their wine production. There is a breakdown of excellence according to three categories: the snail, the bottle and the coin.

The Snail identifies a cellar that has distinguished itself through its “interpretation of sensorial, territorial, environmental and personal values” in accord with the Slow Food philosophy (clean, of quality).

The Bottle is given to cellars that show “a consistently excellent quality throughout the range of wines presented.

The Coin indicates good value for the quality of the wine.

Federico, Caparsa, Tucany, Chianti wines,

Slow Wine 2017: Federico, of Caparsa, shows where the winery is in Tuscany; the winery and villa are rustic and beautiful for a relaxing holiday (photo Carole Di Tosti)

For the three categories of wines, there are the epitome of the “Slow Wines.” These wines uniquely manifest fine sensory elements and reflect the personality of their terroir, their history and their environment. The”Great Wines” are singular in their exquisite sensory qualities. The “Everyday Wines” are those that are drinkable with food or alone and demonstrate a measurable price which bestows good value.

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Caparsa wines from Tuscany, 2017 Slow Wine Tasting at Eataly (photo Carole Di Tosti)

At the 2017 tasting there were too many wonderful wines and so little time to get to them all without passing out. However, this year a few tours were offered by the Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences). For two tours, I and a small group of educators and press followed Lucas Lanci as he introduced us to sterling producers.

Iuli, Rossore 2013, Slow Wine Tasting 2017, Eataly

Representative of Iuli holding a bottle of Rossore 2013, with a “Slow Wine” designation at 2017 Slow Wine Tasting at Eataly (photo Carole Di Tosti)

On the first tour, the producers had distributors/importers. On the second, the producers were looking for distribution and importers to collaborate with. We tasted some interesting wines, some extremely memorable, others not to my palate. But then I favor red wines and the whites have to pop with a memorable palate and nose.

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Eataly wine centerpiece, 2017 Slow Wine Tasting (photo Carole Di Tosti)

Carparsa is one of those small but memorable producers. Located in Tuscany, they produce 25,000 bottles a year on 30 acres. They are certified organic and have achieved a Snail signification and are identified as a “Slow Wine,” indicating that the nose, palate and color  reflect the personality of their terroir, their history and their environment.Their importer is Artisan Wines, Inc.

There were three wines for tasting, all of them made from 100% sangiovese grapes, all of them Chianti Classico. The Caparsino Riserva 2012 was the superior wine receiving the “Slow Wine” designation because it fulfills the classic wine of the Mountains of Chianti expressing the terroir of the region with its rich fruit, mellowness and distinguishing spices and herbs. The Chianti Classico Doccio a Matteo Riserva 2012 is ready now, but it will be more full bodied in 2018. Like all the Chianti Classicos it is an intense purple color. The tannins are strong and crisp and the long finish indicates spiciness on the palate. The Doccio a Matteo Riserva 2007 carries the same expression of the other wines, all of which are best with pasta dishes and appetizers like salumi and strong cheeses.

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Cantine del Notaio at 2017 Slow Wine, L’Atto 2014 (photo Carole Di Tosti)

Carparsa Azienda Agricola also boasts a bed and breakfast where one may stay for a “farm holiday” in the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany’s vineyards in the Chianti region. There you may relax, tour the winery and learn about the 600-year-old cellars and the wine making which is a family concern headed up by Paolo Cianferoni. You may also take a trip to Siena which is in Tuscany and worth the visit.

One wine that I thought was exceptional was from a smaller producer.  Iuli from Cerrina Monferrato in the Piedmont region has a production of 40,000 bottles. Thirty-four acres are under production and the cultivation is certified organic. This producer had a wonderful purple red wine constructed from Barbera grapes that I really enjoyed. Rossore 2013 gave a palate of full bodied fruit, little hint of tannins and chocolate and tobacco savors. It is designated with a Snail and identified for excellence as a “Slow Wine.” Check out this wine at Indie Wineries or Natural Wine Company in Colorado.

Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2012, L'Atto 2014, 2017 Slow Wine, Eataly

Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2012 and L’Atto 2014 at 2017 Slow Wine, Eataly (photo Carole Di Tosti)

Cantine del Notaio in Basilicata, Italy is a larger producer (360,000 bottles) on 74 acres. It has a Snail designation and its vineyards and wine making are certified organic and biodynamic. We were told that Gerardo Giuratabocchetti is practically obsessive about the Aglianico del Vulture.. The vineyards have been passed down through his family for generations. Of the three wines for tasting. I enjoyed the Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2012, designated “Slow Wine,” and L’Atto 2014. Both are deep reds with firm structure, berry fruit and luscious mouth feel with a satisfying finish, great with pastas, cheeses, salumi and meats. There is a cantina for tastings and tours of the winery as tourists and guests tell of great stories about the area and the wine making. The importer is Vinifera Imports.

2017 Slow Wine always is an enjoyable tasting. It is a pleasure to know that the producers are concerned about the environment, about clean food and wine not poisoning the individuals who buy and enjoy their products.

FOR MORE ABOUT WINE PRODUCERS AT THE 2017 SLOW WINE TASTING AT EATALY DOWNTOWN, SEE THIS ARTICLE ON BLOGCRITICS CLICK HERE.

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