Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...

1.28.2011

Anniversary, and Off to Italy!


At this time last year, DoBianchi and I headed off to California to get married. Our first year together as husband and wife has been joyful and full of excitement about our future. Now we are embarking on another adventure, to the Veneto and Friuli. I'll meet some of Jeremy's old friends and see bits of his life as a student, but we'll also see an old friend of mine from high school. Italian Wine Guy will even be joining us for a bit! What a treat!

On the agenda: Quintarelli, Angiolino Maule, some Prosecco colfondo, Venice for anniversary dinner, Giampaolo Venica, and a place I've always wanted to visit--Trieste.

There's more to it than that, but you'll have to stay tuned! DoBianchi will certainly be blogging and, depending on our WiFi access, I might be blogging too.

Happy Anniversary, 2B! I am thrilled to have such a fun travel partner, I couldn't have been luckier than to have found you. I look forward to a lifetime of adventure by your side.

Now let's go!

1.23.2011

Galluccio DOC

Galluccio is one of those DOCs that doesn't get much attention, and doesn't do much to garner any either. According to this text, there are grumblings of a new DOC for the long-forgotten grape varieties, Pallagrello (nero and bianco) and Casavecchia. They are currently produced under the Terre del Volturno IGT. This could definitely create some interest.

The two Pallagrello varieties were favored by the Bourbons, but were all but wiped out by phylloxera. Casavecchia, however, has much more ancient origins with possible connections to the Oscans. The legend goes that an old vine was found in the ruins of a garden with an unusually large trunk. Cuttings were taken (or maybe even seeds), and the variety was reborn. There is a lot of information out there about these historic varieties, but this is the short version, and is based on the stories that I heard back in 2004 when I was introduced to these wines while living in Ischia

And if the producers can keep themselves from tarting up the end product with barrique to make them "important," we might actually be able to enjoy them.

Text below adapted from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

Recognized as a DOC in 8/4/97

Production Zone: includes the townships of Conca della Campania, Galluccio, Mignano Monte Lungo, Rocca d'Evandro and Tora e Piccilli, all in the province of Caserta.

Yield: Whites, 12 tons per hectare; Reds, 11 tons per hectare

Aging Potential: Whites and Rose, about 1 year; Reds, 1-2 years.

Grape Varieties: WHITE: Falanghina, min 70%, alcohol min 11%; ROSSO: Aglianico min 70%, alcohol min 11.5%; ROSATO: same as rosso but with a min alcohol of 11%

Other types: Riserva, must have a minimum of 12% alcohol with at least 24 months of aging

Galluccio, set in the hills of the volcanic Roccamonfina, is the newest appellation in the province of Caserta. This region, though for now unremarkable, has the potential to make good wine. In recent years some pioneering wineries in the the province are looking to reclaim land for vineyard sites that had long gone to ruin. There is also a movement to reclaim and cultivate some ancient grape varieties like Pallagrello (nero and bianco) and Casavecchia in limited production, and to create a new DOC for them.**

**VERY exciting, in my opinion.

Labels: , , , , ,

12.27.2010

Happy Holidays from the Parzens

Here's a slide show that my DoBianchi put together with a Christmas song** that he wrote (very creative, this guy :). In this video, there are the highlights of our first year together as a family. What a year it's been! I can say without a doubt, that marrying my Jeremy P was the highlight of my life thus far. As we begin our journey together, I can't imagine being any happier, but I know that we have a very hopeful future that we're looking forward to living with immense joy and anticipation.

Our lives have been enriched by new relationships, and deepening connections with those already existing. We are so very blessed and have not forgotten that for one moment.

You see, there's no one else in this world who could have given me the life that I felt I was meant to live, but Jeremy Parzen. I love you! With you it's one adventure after the next, and I cannot wait to hold your hand for another year.

Happy new year, everyone!

And...action!



**I just dare you to try not to have that song in your head all day. You can't help it, can you?

11.29.2010

Falanghina

Pronunciation: fa-lahn-GEE-na (That's a hard "G.")

This is probably the white wine that was most ubiquitous in my Ischia-Napoli world. It's what came in carafes as the house wines, and it's what could also be found in an average to fancy bottle. A cold condensation on a hand-painted pitcher of Falanghina next to a hot pizza, screaming of basil, milk, and tomatoes would melt that Summer sun right out the sky.

Living most of the time in Ischia, Falanghina was still the go-to white. I say this because Biancolella and Forastera are the varieties indigenous to the island, but the island just isn't that big. Not big enough to quench the thirsty, fish-eating masses anyway.

So here we are back in Texas, and my heart calls out for the real thing. My DoBianchi brought home a shiny white ball of Mozzarella di Bufala and a bottle of Cantine del Taburno Falanghina, but, alas, I am still searching for an unoaked/unmalo-ed/non-acidified yet certified stateside version. I won't give up. I can survive on the fumes of my memories just a little longer.

Until I find it, don't cry for me Falanghina, the truth is you never left me.

Text below adapted from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, vitigni, enografia, e grastronomia regionale, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

Alternative Names: Fallanghina, Falanghina verace, Uva Falerna, Falerno Veronese, and Biancuzita

Historical Notes: This grape variety has ancient origins and was probably cultivated in Sannio going back to the Roman Era. The first documentation of this variety, however, is from 1825, even though it was frequently confused with other grapes.

Production Zone:
Falanghina is most widely produced in Campania. It finds its best expression in the area of Falerno del Massico, the island of Procida, Campi Flegrei, and Sannio.

Characteristics: average to small leaves that are smooth and wedge-shaped and usually have 3 lobes, sometimes 5, with green veins and red streaks; The clusters are compact and cylindrical with one small wing. The berries are round and covered in bloom. The skins are thick with a yellow-gray hue.

Ripening: second half of September

Productivity: average

Vigor: good

Wine made from Falanghina has a straw-yellow color, tending toward golden with an intense and fruity nose. It usually has softer acid and a pleasant, persistent finish.

Labels: , , , ,

11.18.2010

Falerno del Massico DOC

The legend** goes that Bacchus descended one day in disguise upon the slopes of Mount Massico where he met a poor and simple farmer of the surname Falerno. He did not hesitate to offer his unexpected guest the best from his pantry. Moved by the farmer's generosity, Bacchus transformed his cup of milk into wine. Falerno drank deeply and fell into a long sleep. Upon his awakening, his land was covered in blooming vineyards.

The first Falerno del Massico was made with Falanghina and was historically praised by the likes of Pliny, who declared it the best wine of his day. Others such as Virgil, Cicero, and Catullus held the wine in high regard as did the Czar of Russia and Gustav of Sweden.



Text below adapted from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

Recognized as DOC 1/3/89

Production Zone: includes the townships of Carinola, Cellole, Falciano del Massico, Mondragone and Sessa Aurunca, all in the province of Caserta.

Yield: max 10 tons per hectare

Aging Potential:
whites 1-2 years, reds 5-6 years

Grape Varieties: WHITE Falanghina, 100%; minimum alcohol 11%
RED Aglianico 60-80%, Piedirosso 20-40%, Primitivo and/or Barbera max 20%, minimum alcohol 12.5, minimum AGING 14 months;
The wine can also have a varietal declaration only for Primitivo. In this case, it must be written on the label and the blend must be a minimum of 85% Primitivo with a maximum of 15% Aglianico, Piedirosso, and/or Barbera, minimum alcohol 13%, minimum AGING 14 months.

Other Types
Riserva: For Rosso and Primitivo, minimum alcohol 12.5%; must age for 26 months
Vecchio: can be used interchangeably with "Riserva," but only for Primitivo.

In Falerno del Massico, which is close to the dormant Roccamonfina volcano and the solid calcerous terrain of Mount Massico, there is a movement toward softer wines. This is true of the white and red based on Primitivo.

If properly vinified, Falerno del Massico rosso can be soft and structured with a complex aroma. These qualities make it particularly suited for meat dishes and aged cheeses.

Wine made primarily from Primitivo is highly structured as well, but extremely extracted and high in alcohol. This makes the wines perfect pairings for roasted meats, as well as meats prepared with sauces.

The whites are lighter and more acidic and are perfect with pasta and tomatoes, as well as other simple and aromatic dishes.

**Something fun I found whilst poking around the internets. I had to share it.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

11.15.2010

Asprinio


Just an additional note on the history of the grape...as stated below, it is widely believed to come from the Pinot or Greco family, but some sources conclude otherwise. Some maintain that it comes from a wild native variety domesticated by the Etruscans living in Capua (a city in the province of Caserta). It has similar etymological origins as some of the primitive Lambruscos (Aspro and Cruet) and was cultivated in the same way (vines trained to live supports such as trees, in the case of Asprinio, poplar trees) as many of the Lambruscos from the Po River Valley. So there.

Text below adapted from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, vitigni, enografia, e grastronomia regionale, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

Photo borrowed from YoungandFoodish.com (there's another great story about the alberata aversana, please click!)

Alternative Names: Olivese, Ragusano, Ragusano Bianco, Asprino, Uva Asprina

Historical Notes: Asprinio is an ancient grape variety that is believed to come from the Pinot or Greco family

Cultivation Zone: widely planted in the province of Caserta where excellent results are achieved, especially if the vines are trained ad alberata.**

Characteristics: average to small leaf that is smooth with 5 lobes; light green in color; Grape bunches are average in size, compact, long and conical, can produce or not produce wings. The grapes are on the larger side of average with a grey-green color and have an abundant bloom coating.

Ripening: end of September to beginning of October

Productivity: highly productive

Vigor: excellent

**Please click here to see the previous post which explains in greater detail what this type of vine training is.

Labels: , ,

11.13.2010

Aversa DOC

Aversa is one of the two places in Italy most famous for its Mozzarella di Bufala (Caserta is the other). And don't I know it. I ate my weight in the precious stuff during my time living between Ischia and Naples. There is absolutely nothing that can compare to a so-fresh-it's-warm ball of true water buffalo mozzarella oozing with milk. The milk of said beast is particularly high in fat, which means it is particularly delicious. No imitator can be tolerated after being ruined on the real thing. (Don't even try, upscale grocery store!)

Neapolitans are so proud (SO. PROUD.) to call this one of their many regional gifts to the world. A slice the size of a ham steak is but a snack, incapable of adding girth to the thighs of anyone and in fact, is nothing less than a nutritional miracle. Just ask any mamma italiana.

"A taste is worth more than 1000 words." Sure is.

Mozzarella in Carrozza (mozzarella in a carriage) is the name of a dish prepared like this: put a generous slice of fresh mozzarella between two slices of bread, dip it in flour and egg, then pan-fry. One can only imagine the crunch which gives way to the soft, fragrant and gooey interior. Mamma mia! And it just begs for a simple glass of high-acid, Aversa DOC. Enjoy.

Text below adapted from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al.,
Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.


Recognized as DOC 8/12/93

Production Zone: includes the townships of Aversa, Carinaro, Casal di Principe, Casaluce, Casapesanna, Cesa, Frignano, Gricignano di Aversa, Lusciano, Orta di Atella, Parete, San Cipriano d'Aversa, San Marcellino, Sant'Arpino, Succivo, Teverola, Trentola-Ducenta, Villa di Briano e Villa Literno, all in the province of Caserta; Giuliano in Campania, Qualiano e Sant'Antimo in the province of Naples

Yield: max 12 tons per hectare

Grape Variety: Asprinio, min 85%

Minimum alcohol: 10.5%

Aging potential: on average, 1 year

Other types
Spumante: made with 100% Asprinio with a minimum alcohol of 11%. In the case of vineyards trained using the "alberata aversana" style of vine training (an environmental and cultural contribution of the appellation), the yield cannot exceed 4 kilograms of grapes/sq meter of wall and 240 kg of grapes per plant, with a maximum number 50 plants per hectare
Alberata or Vigneti ad alberata: wines made in the Aversa appellation using grapes obtained from vineyards planted using the alberata aversana method must include Alberata or Vigneti ad Alberata on the label.
Also, Asprinio can precede the name of the appellation on the label, for example, Asprinio di Aversa DOC

The production area, which includes 22 townships in what used to be Liburia,** is identified by its Asprinio vineyards trained to poplar trees, which act as stakes or supports for the vines. This method of pruning creates large green walls that can reach up to 15 meters [roughly 45 ft] in height. This white grape variety, by name, reveals its distinction among other grapes--its intense acidity. If great care isn't taken in the vineyards and the winery, the acidity can become too aggressive.

The problem with most producers of this wine is that they source their grapes from growers and are therefore unable to intervene in the vineyards to help improve the quality of the end product.

This unique style vine training is of Etruscan origin. Although it is striking to behold, pruning is extremely difficult at the tops of the plants.

One producer of note is using canopy pruning, with more plants per hectare and lower grape yields. The result is a wine that, perhaps, doesn't reflect the tipicity of the grape variety in that the wine is less acidic. (In the debate over typicity vs. defect we risk a never-ending argument...) Without a doubt though, the wine is more enjoyable because it's softer. It is in this vein that the producer is aging some if his wine in 7, 10, and 15 hL oak barrels for 1 year. [Here we go again with the barriques!]

Although only humble results are obtained using the Charmat method, sparkling wine made from Asprinio is delightful as an aperitif. Still wine from the appellation pairs well with seafood salad, fish dishes, pizzas, calzones, and the famous mozzarella in carozza. [See intro]

Asprinio is also used in the production of passito (dried-grape wine) in the appellation Terre al Volturno IGT.

**Liburia is the ancient name for the area known today as Terra di Lavoro (Southern Lazio and Northern Campania). The Latin name is derived from the word Leborini who were an ancient tribe that inhabited the area. The modern name, Terra di Lavoro means "land of work."

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

11.07.2010

Irpinia DOC

As long as I lived in Campania, I was always intrigued by the areas of Irpinia and Sannio. They are rich with an ancient history of Oscans, Samnites, and Hirpini that I find fascinating. The mountains of Irpinia, set with pine trees and chestnuts are ones that I hope to have to opportunity to explore in depth sometime in the future with my DoBianchi.

Text below adapted from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

DOC recognized 9/13/05

Production Zone: includes all areas adequate for grape growing in the province of Avellino.
Subzone: Campi Taurasini: includes all areas in the townships of Taurasi, Bonito, Castelfranci, Castelvetere sul Calore, Fontanarosa, Lapio, Luogosano, Mirabella Eclano, Montefalcione, Montemarano, Montemiletto, Paternopoli, Pietradifusi, Sant'Angelo all'Esca, San Magno sul Calore, Torre le Nocelle, Venticano, Gesualdo, Villamaina, Torella dei Lombardi, Grottaminarda, Melito Irpino, Nusco, and Chiusano San Domenico

Grape Varieties
WHITE: Greco 40-50%, Fiano 40-50%, others permitted up to 20%
[Varieties permitted on label are as follows]: (min 85%) Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco
Other types: Passito from Greco and Fiano with a minimum of 7 months aging and alcohol at 12.5%; Classic method** Spumante using Fiano and Greco with a min alcohol of 11.5% is released after 20 months from October 1st of the most recent harvest year.
RED: Aglianico min 70%, others permitted up to 30%
[Varieties permitted on label are as follows]: (min 85%) Aglianico, Sciascinoso, Piedirosso
SUBZONE
Campi Taurasini: min 85% Aglianico
Other types: Rosato and novello (same as rosso); Passito and fortified made from a min 85% Aglianico, with a minimum of 7 months and 11 months aging, respectively

Aging Potential: whites 1-2 years; rosato, spumante, and novello 1 year; reds, passitos, and fortified 2-5 years

Campania has been awarded with a new DOC, the 17th in the region and the only DOC in the province of Avellino. Irpinia has always been a land rich in vineyards. The appellation is divided by the Apennine mountain range that runs from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Adratic Sea. Its land possesses a unique, mineral-rich volcanic soil. Because of this, and the climate which varies from one zone to the next, from its origins this appellation has been capable of producing the great wines long exalted by historians and poets alike.

Irpinia DOC, beyond having the task of raising awareness of the viticultural value of the appellation, also serves as an umbrella DOC for the three already recognized DOCGs of Taurasi, Greco di Tufo, and Fiano di Avellino.

__________

**Classic/Traditional Method (Metodo Classico, in Italian) or Methode Champenoise is the process by which fermented wine is placed in a bottle with added yeasts and sugar to induce a second fermentation. As the wine ferments, carbon dioxide is created. It is dissolved throughout the bottle and escapes, creating bubbles when the bottle is opened. This is quite labor intensive and results in a wine with much more complexity than one created using the Charmat Method (wherin 2nd fermentation takes place in large vats).

Labels: , , , , , ,

11.06.2010

Aglianico

Text below translated from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, vitigni, enografia, e grastronomia regionale, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

Alternative names:
Aglianicone, Guanico, Gesualdo, Uva Aglianica, Ellenico, Uva Nera
Clones: Femmina, Mascolino, San Severino, Zerpuloso

Aglianico is relatively homogenous but two basic families exist, one grown in the Taurasi area and the other grown in the area of Aglianico del Vulture. [Pronounced VOOL'-too-ray]

Historical notes:
this grape variety originated in Magna Grecia, where it was already widely planted. The name is a corruption of ellenikon in Hellenic, which became Aglianico.**[!]

Cultivation Zone: Basilicata, Campania; Some is found in Apulia and Molise as well.

Characteristics: The leaf is smooth with 5 lobes that are opaque and dark green. The bunches are medium-sized, compact, cylindrical and coned. The grapes are round with thick skin. They have an intense blue color and a thick coating of bloom.***

Ripening: late, October 15th-November 10th

Productivity: abundant and consistent

Vigor: good

Aglianico produces wine with a ruby color with hints of garnet. With age, it tends toward brick red. The nose is intense with pronounced aromas of cherry preserves, plums, almonds, violets, spices, and suede. The flavor is rich and tannic, given to good structure and a very long finish.

_______________

**If you missed it before, here's Jeremy P's research on the real origins of the grape name. Debunking happening daily over at DoBianchi!

***Bloom (pruina in Italian, in case you were curious) is the powdery substance on the skin of a grape. It contains protective waxes, bacteria, and yeast cells that are native to the vineyard. This substance is also found on the skin of blueberries.


Labels: , , , , , , ,

11.04.2010

Taurasi DOCG

Even though I lived in Campania for nearly four and a half years, I didn't get to drink a ton of Taurasi. It was relatively expensive and I lived a pauper-ish existence. I'm sure that I've had more than even your average Northern Italian, but still, I am far from an expert. I did drink lots of Aglianico (Sannio DOC, Irpinia DOC, Taburno DOC, many IGTs) and Piedirosso though, but we'll get to that soon.

Here's what my DoBianchi said about the origins of the name Taurasi:
Btw, the toponym Taurasi is believed to be derived from the pre-Roman (probably Etruscan) taur[o] meaning mountain. One of the earliest documents mentioning the ancient village of Taurasi dates back to the 14th-century and there is also a mention inscribed in the sarcophagus of Scipio Barbatus (died 280 B.C.E.). The village sits above the valley of the Calore river at 398 meters a.s.l., hence the name.

That's so hot.

Text below translated from: Del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

DOCG recognized 3/11/93


Production Zone: including the townships of (only the the hilly areas with adequate sun exposure, and with the absolute exclusion of humid valley floors and shaded portions of land) Bonito, Castelfranci, Castelvetere sul Calore, Fontanarosa, Lapio, Luogosano, Mirabella Eclano, Montefalcione, Montemarano, Montemiletto, Paternopoli, Pietradefusi, Sant'Angelo all'Esca, San Mango sul Calore, Taurasi, Torre le Nocelle and Venticano, all in the province of Avellino.

Yield: Max 10 tons per hectare

Grape Variety: Aglianico**, min 85% [It does not list others permitted for the balance, but with a little research I've found that any non-aromatic red variety "permitted and recommended by the province of Avellino" is allowed. I imagine that there is Piedirosso, Barbera, maybe some Sciascinoso and probably others, but it can be 100% Aglianico.]

Minimum alcohol: 12%

Required Aging: minimum 37 months

Aging potential: on average 8-10 years***

Other types: Reserve--with a minimum alcohol content of 12.5% and required aging of 49 months

Excellent wine production in this area is a result of the perfect balance between climate, grape variety, and volcanic soil. Low yields and high-density planting along with attention in the vineyards and use of barrel aging guarantee a high-quality product. Most importantly, there are some emergent winemakers who, with a great deal of professionalism, are exploiting the great potential of Aglianico in this appellation.

The color of Taurasi, when released, is an intense garnet with a nose rich in red fruit preserves, black pepper, liquorice, minerality, and tobacco. Very structured with a long finish, this wine is dry and balanced with pronounced tannins. Taurasi goes well with grilled meats and roasts as along with wild game. It is particularly suited for wild boar and aged cheeses.
__________

In my next post I will translate the entry for aglianico from volume 2A of this series. This book lists all of the grape varieties of Italy alphabetically, with an informative entry on each. Woohoo!

**PLEASE read DoBianchi's scholarly post on the origins of the name "aglianico." Very interesting stuff. That's my man!


***I know that many a Taurasi out there can gracefully age for much longer. I believe that the authors of this book are referring to an average example of the wine and its very average potential. I am but a translator.

Labels: , , , , , ,

11.03.2010

Greco di Tufo DOCG

Greco di Tufo is one of my fave whites from Southern Italy. It's fresh and zesty with minerality, which equals, in my book, absolutely delightful wine. Unfortunately, it's hard to find clean wines from Campania, at least in Texas. Maybe that will change. A girl can dream.

Text below translated from: del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

Recognized as a DOCG 7/18/03

image taken from http://caudium.myblog.it

Production Zone:
including the townships of Altavilla Irpina, Chianche, Prato di Principato Ultra, Montefusco, Ptruro Irpino, Santa Paolina, Tufo and Torioni, all in the province of Avellino

Yield: max 10 tons per hectare

Grape Varieties:
greco; coda di volpe is allowed up to 15%

Minimum alcohol: 11.5%

Aging Potential: within 1-3 years

The production zone for Greco di Tufo is in the heart of Irpinia.** In this region one finds sulfur mines, tufo quarries, and a land of vineyards alternating with forests.

Greco di Tufo is an appellation that is constantly improving with more modern techniques in the vineyard and in the winery. A bit of time spent in barrique will can also make this a wine of great potential.***

A young Greco di Tufo pairs well with raw shellfish, baked fish, dried pasta with vegetable sauces, spaghetti with squid ink or shellfish, and flavorful side dishes such as eggplants and broccoli raab (HAY!). When the wine is more mature and rich in personality, it can be paired with grilled mackerel, fish stew, and generally more elaborate dishes. The spumante, made in the Martinotti (Charmat) method, is also very pleasant, aromatic, and interesting.

**The name of the region, Irpinia, is taken from hirpus, the Oscan word for wolf. The Oscans were from Umbria and their language was the language of Southern Italy under the Roman republic. I pretty much ripped this from Wikipedia, so if you find this history as fascinating as I do, just mosey on over to the site to dig deeper. Or just ask my DoBianchi, he probably already has a doctorate in it.

***You must know that this was difficult to translate. I mean, as in gritting my teeth over the woodiness of it all. I, in no way support beating greco over the head with barrique and malolactic fermentation, but we all know that it is a trend in Italia (that NOT all follow!) to make a wine "important" by aging it in wood. You can see old rant here. I hope the trend will pass. Until then, I will.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

11.02.2010

Fiano di Avellino DOCG

Before I get into the translation, I just want to mention that I don't like Italian tasting notes. I feel a blog post coming on, but I'll save that for later so that you don't accuse me of editorializing when I said that I wouldn't. Because the descriptors in the text do not convey the complexity of a good Fiano di Avellino, I have to add that I always found an intriguing herbaceous note in the wine reminding me of the pine forests that surround the area. In addition to citrus, there is typically a pronounced minerality. They can also be slightly nutty at times, but only the special ones. Just like us.

Text below translated from: del Canuto, Francesco et al., Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.

Recognized as a DOCG 8/5/03


Photo from newsposi.it

Production Zone: including the townships of Aiello del Sabato, Atripalda, Avellino, Candida, Capriglia Irpina, Cesinali, Contrada, Forino, Grottolella, Lapio, Manocalzati, Montefredane, Mercogliano, Montefalcione, Monforte Irpino, Ospedaletto d'Alpinolo, Parolise, Pratola Serra, Salza Irpina, San Michele di Serino, San Potito Ultra, Santa Lucia di Serino, Sant'Angelo a Scala, Santo Stefano del Sole, Sorbo Serpico and Summonte, all in the province of Avellino.

Yield: max 10 tons per hectare

Grape Varieties: fiano; also permitted up to 15%: greco bianco, coda di volpe, and/or trebbiano toscano

Minimum alcohol: 11.5%

Aging Potential: 1-4 years

Mention of APIANUM is permitted on the label as a reference to the origins of the grape name.**

Fiano di Avellino, taken from the eponymous grape variety, is one of the most distinguished wines of Campania. With time, the wine acquires depth and softness. Fiano is pale in color with an intense nose of fruit. Its balanced notes of citrus and acidity pair well with dishes such as spaghetti with fresh anchovies, grilled fish, seafood stew, baked fish, pizza, and calzones.

Some producers are late-harvesting as well as creating passitos, some are even using grapes affected with botrytis. These are still rare, but very interesting.

Sparkling wines made from Fiano using the Martinotti (Charmat) method are pleasant and zippy, and are perfect as an aperitif.

**It is commonly believed that the original name for Fiano was Apianum, derived from Vitis Apiana, which was a reference to the high sugar level of the grapes and the bees' attraction to them. (Ape, pronounced "AH-pay" is the Italian word for bee, derived from the Latin "Apis.")
Vitigni d'Italia disputes this, claiming that the actual origin of the word is from Appiano which was a variety of apple grown in Apia (now Lapia) near Avellino. B'oh!

Labels: , , , ,

11.01.2010

Campania


Just a quick preface: When I begin each region, there will be a map (click on the map to get a better view) with an introduction listing red/white varieties commonly found, plus a list of DOCGs, DOCs, and IGTs. I will do straight translations without (but no promises) editorializing. Just the facts, signora.

Then, I will probably dedicate one post per appellation within the region. It should be straightforward. Here we begin with Campania because I lived there. I am not following the order of the book, but will stick to and finish a region once begun. Here we go! Now it's time to let my inner nerd wear its headgear in public.


Grape Varieties Suited for Cultivation in Campania

White grapes (among the most widely cultivated)
:
falanghina, malvasia bianca di Candia, trebbiano Toscano, coda di volpe bianca, greco, asprinio bianco, biancolella, and malvasia bianca. Others: bellone, bombino bianco, chardonnay, fenile, forastera, ginestra, guarnaccia, montonico bianco, moscato bianco, pallagrello bianco, pepella, pinot bianco, riesling, riesling italico, ripolo, san lunardo, sylvaner verde, veltliner, and verdeca.
Grey**/Pink Grapes: pinot grigio and traminer aromatico
Red grapes (among the most widely cultivated): aglianico, barbera, sangiovese, piedirosso, montepulciano, merlot, greco nero, primitivo, and ciliegiolo. Others: aglianicone, aleatico, cabernet sauvignon, casavecchia, cesanese comune, lambrusco maestri, malvasia nera, pallagrello nero, pinot nero, sciascinoso, tronto, and uva di troia

The Wines of Campania

DOCG: Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Taurasi
DOC: Aglianico del Taburno and Taburno, Aversa, Campi Flegrei, Capri, Castel San Lorenzo, Cilento, Costa d'Amalfi, Falerno del Massico, Galluccio, Guardia Sanframondi or Guardiolo, Irpinia, Ischia, Penisola Sorrentina, Sannio, Sant'Agata de' Goti or Sant'Agata dei Goti, Solopaca, Vesuvio
IGT: Beneventano, Campania, Colli di Salerno, Dugenta, Epomeo, Paestum, Pompeiano, Roccamonfina, Terre di Volturno

Del Canuto, Francesco et al.,
Il vino italiano, panorama vitivinicolo attraverso le denominazioni di origine, Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (Bertani & C.), Milano, 2010 (2002), fourth edition.


**In Italian, as well as other romance languages, red grapes can be referred to as black. So it is common to refer to "in between" grapes as grey as well as pink. For example, pinot grigio/gris (grey pinot) is named as such because its grapes have a brownish-pink skin.

Labels: , , , ,

10.30.2010

Coming Up Next


Il Vino Italiano: An Overview of Vineyards and Wine Through its Appellations (volume 2A)
Il Vino Italiano: Grape Varieties, Wine Descriptors, and Regional Gastronomy (volume 2B)


I have waited some time for these two books. My husband bought them for me for my birthday and I squealed like a 'tween when I opened the box from Italy.

These are the texts that accompany the 2nd level of the AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) certification course. I took the first level in Naples in October and November of 2006, which were to be immediately followed by the 2nd course in December. In true Italian fashion, however, it was delayed. They started it up just as I was going home to Texas for my yearly extended visit in March, so I never got to finish.

I made a friend in the class, Lucia, who owned a "prodotti tipici" (local products) shop on the main street in Ischia Porto. She continued on with the course and upon my return, let me borrow the two books for a couple of months. What I discovered was a valuable reference source of all(-ish**) of the DOCGs, DOCs, and IGTs of Italy. Within each region's section was a complete list its appellations with all of the rules governing them (production zone, max yield, varieties, etc) along with a blurb about the wine. This was volume 2B.

2A had a list of all of the common grape varieties, their production zones, synonyms, historical notes and characteristics.

Fascinating, right...?

I surrendered the books to their proper owner, finished the Summer and Fall in Ischia, and returned home to Texas for good. (This is the part where I eventually met the DoBianchi of my dreams. He is practically an encyclopedia himself, wrapped in a casing of handsome, but I am determined to find something between these bindings that he doesn't know.)

I searched for the books in Italy, America, and the great wide Internets. The AIS site did not even have them for sale! Nor did anyone else for that matter.

Then one day this September, I decided I wouldn't let my grapeless search discourage me. I sat down and finally found them!! Jeremy P ordered them from an online Italian bookstore and here we are. (Jeremy is the brave one here, as I fear for the safe arrival of anything shipped from an Italian website.)

Did I mention that the entire course is in Italiano? Why wouldn't it be? But that's not a problem. I am going to translate it (mostly) for you because I NEED A PROJECT! And it will help me scour the rust off of my Italian.

So here starts my series. This is not for the easily bored, nor overly-critical. I just hope to spread the cheer that I experience by having access to this kind of information.

Buona lettura!

**So, calling any list of Italian DOCs and DOCGs "complete" can be a dubious declaration. The fact that different sources site different appellations and new ones come out all of the time lend to the confusion. To save the day, our friend, the Italian Wine Guy, has taken it as his duty to research and publish the most up-to-date and comprehensive list out there. Thanks Alfonso! That being said, the book that I am translating is in its fourth edition and was published this year (2010). Please see IWG's site for the latest news.

Labels: , , , , , ,

5.08.2010

3 Dishes, 5 Meals, 1Crock-Pot


I've always loved to cook. I find myself at home in the kitchen, but being a newlywed (another excuse to post a wedding pic!) with a well-stocked army of cookware has brought this whole domestic thing to another level.

Before I moved to Italy, I used to enjoy making a weekly menu with inspiration from my 5 food magazine subscriptions. (I pared them down to two--Fine Cooking and Cook's Illustrated.) I would plan the meals, usually 3, make a list, and go to the grocery store Sunday afternoons. It worked well, as I only really needed one other trip mid-week to replenish milk/wine supply. I saved money and had everything I needed when I got home from slaving over a hot 5th grade classroom all day.

The 3 meals with subsequent leftovers stretched the whole week and provided for a couple of lunches--to break the sandwich monotony.

Once living in Italy, starting in June 2003, I would make daily trips to the vegetable stand, bakery, and salumeria. Everything was incredibly fresh and bread went stale wonderfully quickly so it was the custom there to 'do the shopping' every morning.

Coming home after 4 and a half years presented some challenges with a hint of culture shock, so some adjustment was necessary. I've spent the last year and a half with my now husband shopping and meal-planning all willy-nilly. Dinner is decided sometime during the course of the day, with an after-work trip to the store for one meal resulting in a $50 hemorrhage.

Now that we're married, live under one roof, and have a much less chaotic existence, I decided it was time to get back to having a practical kitchen--well-planned, functional, and economic.

Here's where the Crock-Pot comes in. I thought it would be fun to have one week revolve around this timeless appliance, and really see what it was made of. Best of all, every evening, returning from a long work day just before 7, I had very little prep and dinner was on the table by 7:30.
Here's how it went...

Sunday, stock the pantry, make the Pork Chops:



You might have seen my last post about the pork chops (along with the in-serious-need-of-a-good-food-stylist pic) which were Sunday night's meal (no left-overs). It was perfect for a weekend day because it required a bit more pre-Crock cooking. No hurry, lazy Sunday indulgence with a hint of Law and Order.

Monday: Spicy Chicken Stew


I snagged this recipe from MyRecipes.com...click here to see it. This was a throw-everything-in-the-pot-and-close-the-lid type of dish. Satisfying, delicious, and healthy, it filled the house with a warm glow. It was very inexpensive too because I used a pack of chicken thighs. Being slow-braised for so long, the dark-meat-phobic wouldn't even tell the diff. After work, all I did was shred the chicken right in pot, chop some cilantro, and away we ate.

Tuesday: Spicy Chicken Stew Redux

Coming home close to 7, I took the stew from the fridge, added a little more broth into the saucepan and reheated. I washed and spun the head of lettuce from Sunday shopping, dressed half and left the other in the spinner. (The salad spinner, by the way, is a great storage environment for already cut and washed lettuce. It does take up a some room in the fridge but in mine, it's worth every bit of this valuable real-estate. Even delicate lettuce will stay fresh for right around 4 days. All that's left to do is dress--great time-saver.) Before bed, I put a pound of white beans to soak for the next morning.

Wednesday: Beans!



I love white beans and dark greens.** I could eat my weight in them. Whether it's chicory (only Italy, definitely can't find chicory in Texas), scarola (escarole), or kale, I'm all over it. It's so healthy and feels quite indulgent. I used the method found in Michele Scicolone's awesome cookbook, The Italian Slow Cooker. Just cover soaked beans in abundant water, add a bay-leaf, and cook on low for 6-7 hours. This took me 5 minutes in the morning before heading out the door. When I came home, I washed the escarole and sauteed it with some whole cloves of garlic while warming the beans in chicken broth. I only used a little bit of the cooking liquid because it was unsalted. These beans are a blank canvas and can be sassed up at will. When the escarole was cooked, I added it to beans and plated with a grinding of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Again, I dressed the salad, set the table and we sat down to veggie nirvana. This dish is the ultimate comfort food and you will never know that it's so healthy.

Thursday: Beans and Escarole Encore

You get the routine by now, right? I reheated the beans with little broth like before. This time unfortunately, I totally pigged out on the escarole the night before so there was just a tiny bit left. I mixed in what was left, sliced up a few carrots to add to the last bit of lettuce, dressed and dinner was served.

I have to tell you that I thought I knew a creamy bean from a mealy one, but apparently I was wrong. These beans had the silkiest texture that I have ever experienced. All of that long, slow cooking really makes the difference. I was shopping at the regular grocery store where they didn't have cannellini beans (?), so I bought regular old white ones with no resulting complaints from the happy hubby department. (Not that he ever complains!)

There you have it, one very long post. My DoBianchi's been traveling so much and working so hard that our little routine has been knocked a bit off-kilter. But we'll get it back, he'll be home with me, and it will be delicious.

**A note on the greens: You might have a hard time finding escarole if you live outside of an urban area, so I would use kale. I don't love the super curly kind, I find it kind of bland. My favorite is the 'Lacinto Kale' with its long, black-green leaves. I make it like I make all other leafy greens, with a generous pour of olive oil heated in a pan with a couple of whole cloves of garlic. Tilt the pan so the cloves are bathing and bubbling in the oil. Throw the greens into the hot pan and quickly cover (it will hiss and spit, but it makes it taste better). Let this drama go on for a couple of minutes , stir and salt, and let the greens cook on medium-low until they're done. This takes a little longer with kale, a little less with broccoli rabe. Escarole takes a while to expel all of its water, but give it it's time, the flavor concentrates if you wilt it down right.

3.22.2010

Newlywed Couple Thoroughly Enjoying Registry Gifts (Austin, TX)

As DoBianchi and I settle into our married life and adorable little house, we are absolutely in love with every single wedding gift we have received so far. Case in point: Crock Pot (thank you Uncle Ray and Aunt Gladys).

I suffered a slight scare the first time I used it. There was a faint electrical burning smell/smoke that almost sent me into post-registrum depression, but it went away and all is well. Crock Pot and I are getting along swimmingly now! I took one of my fave braised dishes and translated it to the slow cooker. (If you must now, I am an unabashedly enthusiastic braiser.)

I know it ain't much to look at, but it sure tastes good--just ask mah man. Since you can't discern brown from beige here, I'll tell you what it is: pork chops smothered with cabbage. I've been making chicken smothered with cabbage (pretty sure it was a recipe from Marcella Hazan) for quite a few years now, so changing one meat for another is simply a matter of mood.

And who doesn't love a pork chop? I don't not.

Here's what you do:
*Take four pork chops (in the four-pack they only had loin chops, center-cut or rib chops work just fine too) and brown 'em up good in the All-Clad 3 qt braise pan that yo' mamma and daddy gave you for Christmas. Place them in the bottom of the slow cooker.
*Take half of an onion, sliced, and brown slightly in the same pan. Add a couple of cloves of garlic when the onions are almost done. (You can throw everything in the pot raw, but your laziness will translate in the finished dish as a sigh of mediocrity :)
*Transfer onion/garlic to Crock Pot in a layer over chops.
*Deglaze the pan with a hit of white wine (in my case, whatever is left over from a week's worth of working in wine biz), enough to cover the pan. Scrape up yummy bits and let it reduce. Add about 3/4 cup of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Pour over contents of Pot. You don't want too much liquid because the cabbage will contribute to the juices.
*Add 1/2 head of chopped cabbage (you can throw in a whole head too if you like) on top of everything.
*Lower the hatch and let it ride on High for 4 hours (3 will work too, if you have less time), or around 6-7 on Low.

What you will witness when you open the lid is quite unattractive to behold (see photo above) but SO so good. All that's left to do is open a rich rose'...we love the Campirosa by Illuminati. It's a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Cerasuolo** DOC and shows lots of strawberry, cherry, raspberry and a surprising hint of lemon zest. There's still an ephemeral spritz in the '08 that balances the sweet caramelized cabbage and earthy pork perfectly. It's available around Austin, for sure at Mandola's, and surely elsewhere.

Buon appetito!

**Cerasuolo comes from the ancient Italian word ceraso, the same word that gives us ciliegia (cherry). It indicates the cherry-like nature of something.

Labels: , , , , , ,

3.16.2010

(Definitely Not) Any Given Sunday: Our honeymoon visit with Giacosa

As you all know by now, I went off and married my DoBianchi. We have so many things in common, but one of these is our passion for Italian wine. Luckily, Jeremy has a friend/collaborator named Franco Ziliani who not only shares this passion, but writes about it famously.

So strong is the wine geek factor between us, that we chose not to go off to some beautiful beach and laze around on our honeymoon, no no, we headed to the snow-white hills of the Langa (Piemonte: Barolo, Barbaresco). We also went to Montalcino, Bologna, and Rome, but those posts will come eventually.

Sunday morning, married one week, Feb 7 at 10:00 am: Appointment at Giacosa.


Franco met us downstairs at our B&B, Cascine delle Rose (Beautiful! Will post about this place soon) and off we drove to the village of Barolo.

Well, off we drove after a 30 minute effort to get Franco's car out of the snow...just look at my man and his braccio d'intellettuale! ;)

We were greeted by Giacosa's enologist Giorgio Lavagna, who said, "Bruno is here too, Bruna is in England." (Insert inner *squeal*) Jeremy and I shot each other an OMG glance as we followed Franco and Giorgio into the tasting room.

For detailed tasting notes of the loveliness that followed, please see Jeremy's comprehensive post here. I was on photography duty, Jeremy was on tasting notes duty. Tasting notes part 2 can be found here. Ever the fabulous writer my man is! If you are a fan of Giacosa you simply must take time to read both.


I have to say that I haven't seen such a beautiful parade of wines before me as I saw in those two days in Piemonte. That morning I smelled graphite, truffles, underbrush, tar, cherries, and flowers, all in an endless competition to jump first from the glass. Every one showing different manifestations of the land through Nebbiolo. What a display of the victory of nurture over nature! Environment influencing the predetermined genetic profile...there was Barolo and there was Barbaresco, different crus within each and different vintages....unique personalities, all of them. This is terroir at it's most compelling.

Bruno confessed that his fave Barbaresco was that of Asili. As we tasted the '07, he said, "Hm, you can smell Asili in this wine." Would I had so many encounters with this cru as to be able to find it under all of that complexity! Maybe one day.


As we finished the tasting, Giorgio invited us to lunch. Bruno sat stoically until we bid him farewell, when he said. "You are a lovely bride! I wish you many good things and much happiness." Thank you Bruno!

You shared your Sunday morning with us, thanks to Franco, and we will not forget.


We caravaned toward Alba and as we arrived at Enoclub, Giorgio said to the hostess, "Reservation for four, Giacosa."

Right this way.

2.27.2010

Breaking News: Una Vera Pizza Napoletana spotted on Congress! And a tall glass of Piedirosso...

This is cause for a celebration as far as I'm concerned. Last night, in the company of my DoBianchi, Julio, and wife Lauren, I managed to warm my heart by the fire of Quattro Gatti's beautiful wood-burning oven. (Click here for his take on the evening.)

I'm here to tell you that real Napoletana pizza (La Vera Pizza Napoletana) finally found its way to Austin and I could not be happier. I've now tasted 3 of the offerings and the crust is consistently tender but chewy, the toppings appropriately light for the foundation, and the mozzarella provides coverage at intervals, just like in Naples.

This is the Quattro Stagioni, or Four Seasons--DoBianchi's pick. IWG, you're going to love it!

The texture of the crust is, I think, the most important component in creating an authentic pizza. This is also the most difficult thing to find in the market 'round here. They got it right, alright.

Mine was the Montanara--a pizza "bianca" (no salsa) with fontina, prosciutto, arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano.

The prices on the wine list are more than fair, and if you want to pair that perfect pizza with another indigenous export, try the Mastroberardino Lacyrma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC**. While the debate rages on about whether or not Italians pair wines or beer with pizza, I'll steal away and stick my nose in this glass of Vesuvio. It's 100% Piedirosso (Per'e'palummo in local dialect) and thankfully vinified with no oak to mask its freshness.

*Wine Digression*

The first time I smelled this wine at a trade tasting, I was immediately yanked back to Campania via sensory recall. I smelled that trademark pepper that dances about with whimsical bursts of strawberry and raspberry, against a background of something savory that I can never quite put my finger on, but it's ALWAYS there in this varietal. In my four and a half years between Naples and Ischia, Piedirosso was always around, and never disappointed me. This is the first time that I've seen such an authentic version, this side of the Atlantic and OMG, you have to try it. I feel a blog post comin' on about the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC, but the star of this post is Quattro Gatti's pizza, so stay tuned.

Owner Gianfranco Mastrangelo has done a mitzvah (as my DoBianchi would say) by showing the huddled masses of Austin what it's about. And it's about time.

L-R: The Pizzaiolo, server, and owner Gianfranco Mastrangelo.
Quattro Gatti
908 Congress Ave
Austin, Tx 78701

**In the DOC rosso, there's also an allowance for Sciascinoso and up to 20% of Aglianico. Will post with geekish enthusiasm on this DOC (as well as the bianco) soon.

Labels: , , , , ,

2.13.2010

Wedding Pics by the Nichols!



My DoBianchi and I are back from a dreamy two weeks of wedding and honeymoon...returning to find some of the amazing photography of my friend Jennifer and her husband CJ. You might remember them from our engagement shoot, they are an immensely talented husband and wife photography team.

Jenn is an old friend, so she would have been invited anyway, but we are so proud and pleased to have had our most precious memories recorded by the likes of these two.

We will have more details, photos, honeymoon stories, etc coming up, but while we're catching up and trying to recalibrate our internal clocks, please enjoy not only our shoot but also the rest of the work displayed on their blog.

Just a sneaky peak...but you can click here to see more...

Thanks again Jenn and Ceej! WOW :)

1.27.2010

Here we go!

Jeremy P and I are leaving today for our wedding weekend. It has been so much fun being engaged, and now we're on to another adventure! We will be joined in La Jolla by family and friends, then we'll leave for Italy early next week.

I never could have imagined when I left Italy two years ago, that the next time I came back would be on my honeymoon! How things have changed since December 2007.

To my sweet DoBianchi: thank you for appearing out of blogspace, and taking me into a new life, I love you :)