Lusenti’s Bianca Regina 2010

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I went to Venice yesterday. Had a delicious lunch at Estro (highly recommended, by the way!) and then decided to see if I could retrace my steps to a cute, little wine bar that I stumbled across in December.

Fortunately, my trusty nose / ability to find wine / sense of direction is pretty good and, even though I didn’t remember the name or address, I was able to find my way back to the Cantina Arnaldi (also totally worth the visit.)

Andrea at Cantina Arnaldi, Venezia

Andrea of the Cantina Arnaldi, Venezia

I actually had a secret agenda – I wanted to bring a bottle of something a little different back for my boyfriend, “A”. I asked Andrea at Arnaldi (pictured above) for a suggestion… and it turns out to have been spot on. It’s one of the most interesting wines I’ve drunk recently.


LUSENTI (Colli Piacentini DOC, Emilia) Bianca Regina 2010 Malvasia di Candia Aromatica (13.5%)

Lusenti is an organic winery and part of the VinNatur association but one that I didn’t know of before. They’re located near Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna, set in a unique micro-climate between the Po river and the Apennine mountains.

Once harvested, the grapes are left for three or four days for a skin-contact maceration at controlled temperatures.

I’m actually a pretty mean girlfriend because, once I got home, I put some aluminium foil around the bottle and poured a glass for “A” to taste blind.

On first impressions, it smells sweet: lots of ripe apricot, honey, quince and fresh nutmeg. “A” got it straight away, “Malvasia!”

With a traffic-light amber colour, the wine’s vintage was harder to guess. It’s clearly relatively mature because the juice is completely in place but there’s no hint of oxidation. Timeless.

What I found particularly enjoyable about this wine is the gustatory sensations. Despite the sweet nose, the wine is almost completely bone dry. It seduces you in phases: starting with fleshy fruits and almonds, moving through tannins, acidity and mentholated freshness and finishing on a slight bitterness, very typical of skin-contact wines. Lipsmackingly moreish!


Tasted: 13th March 2017

Price: €€

Rating: ****


Lusenti website and Facebook

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Getting Ready for Vinitaly and the Natural Wine Tastings 2017

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Sometime in early April every year, the city of Verona and the surrounding areas come alive for one week.

You see, it’s our annual appointment with Vinitaly, the largest wine exhibition in the world… and exclusively dedicated to Italian wines.

As I sit here, in my rural ‘office’, a helicopter has just flown by heading towards the city of Romeo and Juilet and reminded me of the frentic energy that always accompanies this event. (9 – 12th April, 9.30am – 6pm.)

Photo: Paola Giagulli

Photo: Paola Giagulli (April 2016)

If you are in the wine industry and looking for the classic trade show experience, you can amuse yourself for at least a couple of days amongst the dozen pavillons and the countless stands. You’ll find all the regions of Italy represented from Alto-Adige and Basilicata to Umbria and the Veneto.

As evening entertainment, you have various events organised under the umbrella of “Vinitaly and the City“.

 

To be honest though, I have only once managed to get into central Verona and participate in the Vinitaly and the City events.

My days look more like this:
– 7.30am: I hit the road. Parking around the Expo is always a nightmare and traffic is often at a standstill. If I leave early enough, I will miss the worst of it.
– 9am: The fair is not yet open, but there is a café by the entrance where I’ll have a cappuccino with a fellow sommelier.
– For the best part of the day, I’ll be juggling between giving a helping hand to the winemakers with whom I work whilst also tasting wines for my own pleasure. You may remember from previous years (2015 (1 and 2) and 2016 (1 and 2)) that I have enjoyed the Young To Young tastings.
– I try to leave the Fair before the main rush so normally I’ll get to the restaurant for dinner with a few minutes to spare. There’s nothing like a cold beer after a whole day of wine tastings!
– I’ll have dinner just outside Verona with one of my winemakers and his importers… until about 10.30pm, when it’s time for me to gate-crash another dinner with another winemaker!
– Needless to say, by 1am, I’m ready for my bed!

If, like me, you’re into organic, low-intervention wine, you should not miss out on the unofficial parallel tastings.

The VinNatur Association are hosting 170 natural wine producers from 9 countries in a stunning location (see featured photo) closer to Vicenza called “Villa Favorita.” (8, 9, 10th April 2017, 10am – 6pm.)

A little further south of Verona, in the town of Cerea, Vini Veri hold a smaller tasting – of approximately 100 producers. (7, 8, 9th April, 10am – 6pm.)

In 2016, a third parallel tasting popped up, organised by Meteri. They cleverly decided to shake up the programme by scheduling their event in the late afternoon and evening. 40 winemakers at “Notturno.” (9, 10th April, 4pm – 1am.)

By now, you’ll probably understand why I described the “Vinitaly week” as frenetic! Repeat my schedule for a full five days and you’ll understand why they call this work!

Six Great Summer Wines

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I don’t know about you, but here in my little corner of the world, the sun has finally come out!

I was in Piedmont last week, planting Timorasso barbatelle in Stefano Bellotti’s vineyards. Hot, sweaty work at the best of times, but even worse in 30 degree heat and at 600m above sea level!

 

We would leave the cascina at 7am and not return until at least 7pm when we were panting, sweaty and desperate for a glass of wine.

Here are six summer wines that I tasted at the Villa Favorita (VinNatur) tasting back in March. They are all perfect for picnics, aperitifs or simply by themselves to quench your thirst.

 


ETNELLA Soc. Agr. La Presa (Sicily) “Kaos” Etna Bianco IGT 2013 Carricante-Cataratto with some Coda di Volpe, Minnella, Inzolia (12.5%.)

There’s a ton of smacking minerality on this wine, made at over 750 metres above sea level, near Passopiscaro on Mount Etna.

It’s a simple wine; one year in steel then 6 months to rest in the bottle before arriving on the market. I loved the combination of that intense volcanicity with a touch of sweet, ripe fruit.

FILIPPI (Veneto) “Castelcerino” Soave DOC Colli Scaligeri 2013 Garganega (12.5%) 

Castelcerino is the highest village in the Soave appellation and these vineyards are around 400 metres above sea level on volcanic (basalt) soil. For what this wine lacks in its immediate aroma, it easily makes up with its mouthfeel. An explosion of delicate floral characters (white tea) which transform into conference pears and rich slightly-mulled apples. A very stylish, elegant wine; the finish is marked by a gentle acidity. Persistent.

CANTINA MARGO (Umbria) “Fiero” Bianco Umbria IGT 2013 Trebbiano-Grechetto (12%)

Carlo Tabarrini is a young winemaker working in a thankless area on the Italian penisula. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts, no fining, no filtering, no added sulfites, just lots and lots of great wine. This one in particular has a pleasant tangerine colour. It is made from old vines of Trebbiano and Grechetto, a few days of skin-maceration in open vats without temperature control, then aging in damigiana.

There’s plenty of fruit characters (apples, melon and orange peel) alongside some herbal and medicinal aromas. Dangerously drinkable.

BOSCO FALCONERIA (Sicily) “Catarratto” IGT Terre Siciliane 2013 Catarratto (12.5%)

There seems to be a heavy slant towards southern Italy today because here comes another Sicilian wine in this summer collection of whites. This time, however, the wine comes from Palermo, on the other side of the island from Etna. There’s no denying that Sicilian wines make great thirst-quenchers if you’re outside in the sunshine. This wine merits a place in this list for its grassy and herbal bouquet. It’s immediately accessible and pleasing. The equivalent of a fresh summer breeze with a clean citrus edge. In short, it’s summer in a glass!

DVA DUBY (Czech Republic) “Ex Monte Lapis” 2012 Saint Laurent (11.6%)

The Dva Duby (means Two Oaks) winery is a small winery based in Dolni Kounice, Czech Republic. For centuries it has been a renowned winemaking town, especially for its red wines. The aim is simple – to preserve as much of the unique terroir of Dolni Kounice as possible and to produce wines with great aging potential. No herbicides, pesticides are used and even copper was banned on the estate. From their minimal six hectares of vines, they make an average of 10,000 bottles a year. St Laurent is a highly aromatic grape and being the only red wine on this list, it’s my dark horse. Definitely worth buying if you can get your hands on it!

 

QUARTICELLO (Emilia) “Despina” Malvasia Emilia IGT Frizzante 2013 Malvasia Aromatica di Candia (11.5%)

Quarticello are mainly known for their Lambrusco but this Malvasia was a very pleasant surprise. A deliciously refreshing wine that could easily be confused for a lime-soda! If you typically avoid Malvasia at this time of year thinking that it will be too sweetly aromatic, you have nothing to fear with this wine. It packs a mean punch of lime, grapefruit and orange blossom. The salinity on the finish (bone dry, by the way) was absolutely delicious.

Six Surprising Red Wines from the VinNatur Villa Favorita Tasting 2015

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I’ve done it countless times in France. In the UK too, but it’s not quite the same. This was my first time at a natural wine tasting in Italy.

There is a queue for the navetta which shuttles back and forth between the field where I left my car and the place where the tasting is being held. Eventually, I am able to squeeze myself into a seat, which happens to be slap bang in the middle of a group of wildly gesticulating sommeliers from Puglia. The accent from this region is very distinctive; they speak as if they have a large stone in their mouth, but with none of the gravitas of Demosthenes. Needless to say, I don’t understand a word. The minibus climbs up the steep driveway to the majestic Villa Favorita.

I step off the bus and am unexpectedly gripped by a moment of self-doubt. What the hell am I doing here? Why? Do I actually know anybody inside? This sudden isolation halts me as if I’ve just turned to walk head on into an icy gale.

However, my feet keep going and as I approach the steps leading to the Villa’s colonnaded entrance, I run into a winemaker I know. Giusto Occhipinti. “Ciao!” 

I smile and, reassured, I step inside.


Here are my six top discoveries (of red wines) from “The Tasting Room” at Villa Favorita 2015.

IL CANCELLIERE (Campania) “Gioviano” Irpinia DOC 2010 Aglianico (13.5%)

Aglianico is a hugely underrated grape variety. Bursting with aromas and acidity, this wine does not disappoint. A deep plum red colour, the bouquet explodes out of the glass as I swirl. Plenty of cooked, stewed fruit and berries. Oak aging has helped soften the tannins. The palate continues rich, balanced and finishes with a tangy acidity.

MARTILDE (Lombardy) “Il Gigante” IGT 2011 Croatina

This is an extravagant wine. Nothing like anything I’ve tasted before. It’s far more fleshy than some Lambruscos which might otherwise come to mind. It’s sweet, aromatic, tannic, acidic and bubbly, all at the same time. I don’t know where to start describing such complexity. Because of the residual sugar, most people would probably consider this a dessert wine. It doesn’t have to be though. There’s such incredible concentration of fruit. It drinks like a cabaret dancer: colourful and full of energy. You could fall in love with this wine. I think I just might have done.

CASTELLO DI STEFANAGO (Lombardy) “Campo Castagna” Oltrepo Pavese DOC 2011 Pinot Noir (13%)

Antonio and Giacomo Baruffaldi make a racy wine. At first, the subdued fruit notes on the nose don’t capture your imagination but in the mouth, the wine comes into its own. It’s all perfectly harmonious. The tannins give a pleasant, soft, delicate finish.

RICCARDI REALE (Lazio) “Calitro” Cesanese di Olevano Romano DOC 2013 Cesanese (15%)

This tiny winery of 3 hectares, not too far from Rome, makes stylish, classic wines. I had the pleasure of sitting across from Piero and Lorella at the winemakers’ dinner on Saturday night. This, the most aromatic, is my favourite of their range. With notes of spice, meat, game, the wine falls perfectly on the right side of being “animal.” It’s a full-bodied wine and perfectly ripe for a whole range of food pairings.

NATALINO DEL PRETE (Puglia) “Nataly” Salento IGT 2014 Primitivo (14%)

A totally unpretentious wine – it’s straight-up, lip-smackingly good Primitivo. Heavily pigmented. Juicy. Cherry and very ripe blackberries on the nose; black pepper and cloves come secondary. Lovely length. A suave wine. I wrote in my increasingly indecipherable – and therefore utterly superfluous – tasting notes, “I do really quite like this one.”

CASA RAIA (Tuscany) “Bevilo” Toscana IGT 2013 Sangiovese Grosso, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (14.5%)

Sangiovese Grosso is the noble strain of this most Tuscan of varietals that is most commonly used for Brunello. However, I was assured that the Bevilo is positionned at a more affordable price point than your average Brunello. Pierre-Jean is a native Frenchman (from Nice, if my memory is correct) who moved to Italy with his wife Kalyna. They took over and renovated the farm and its two hectares, which are situated one kilometre away from Montalcino’s mediaeval fortress. On the nose, this wine reminded me of Bonne Maman’s raspberry jam. The texture of this wine is particularly notable. It may be a super-tuscan blend, but it’s totally approachable. “Bevi lo” in Italian means “drink it” and, according to the old Tuscan tradition, the next line of this expression is “wine makes you sing!”