After Piemonte, now time for some Nebbiolo delle Alpi at Mamete Prevostini

A few weeks ago it was time for my yearly trip to my beloved Valtellina (to see my Nonna), with this year a little detour via Trieste (to visit my dear zia Livia) and a pitstop in Franciacorta (near Brescia).  As I got accompanied by my dad and stepbrother, this year’s trip was a more gastronomical version 🙂 . Nevertheless with whom I’m travelling, a yearly returning event is me visiting a new vineyard in Valtellina. With new I don’t necessarily mean one that doesn’t exist very long… but rather just one I haven’t been at before. This year I finally managed to visit the winery of Mamete Prevostini. I say finally, because unlike all the other wineries in Valtellina that are located between Tirano and Sondrio (roughly spoken), their winery is quit outside of the Sondrio area near the very charming little village of Chiavenna and not too far from the Como lake.  The area still falls under Sondrio jurisdiction and it technically speaking just at the other side of the mountain (in a matter of speaking), but is just quit the drive to get there.

The fact it was so ‘far’ from the others intrigued me for a long time… Maybe it was also the trigger for wanting to visit them… that, and the fact they make extrodinary wines. During previous trips it wasn’t easy to fit a visit in my trip, so this year I build my trip around the visit and make everything fit around it 🙂 .

An interesting finding (but then again that is the reason why one visits a winery :-)) was to find out that it all actually started with their restaurant and next to that they were making  a small wine production for own use to  eventually become major winemaker in Valtellina.  This story immediately made me think about the one I heard a few months ago at Gaja (funny enough also producers of Nebbiolo wines) where they also started with an ‘osteria’ that eventually grew into a major winery (and even around the same period in time). The only difference being that Gaja’s guests were mostly people wanting to cross the river, at Mamete is was to cross a mountain 🙂 .

If you are ever in the neighborhood I do recommend  you stopping at Mamete Prevostini!! For their wines obviously, but also for their restaurant Crotasc (located next to the winery).  The meal we had there was without doubt and exaggerating AMAZING. Dishes made with top quality ingredients (prepared how they should be),  very friendly and competent staff and a very nice wine selection (Next to their own wines they also have a very nice selection of both top wines from their colleague winemakers in Valtellina, but also from the rest of Italy).  Combine all of the above mentioned with a cozy authentic location (old and new interior design styles combined) and you have a winner (or at least for me)!! Maybe I should plan my next trip to Valtellina around a stop at this restaurant 😉 . The dishes on the pictures below might seem regular, but I can say for a fact I could have licked my plates clean. All accompanied by a very nice 2015 Sommarovina (Valtellina Superiore) with on the nose herb/balsamic aromas combined with a firm palate of dried black cherry and I might even say mocha.

Techically speaking the history of Mamete Prevostini started around the 1960’s, but it wasn’t until the moment Mamete took over the torch in the late 1980’s from his father that the way of winemaking started to change. It must be said that this was the case in many wineries in Valtellina, as before they opted quantity over quality… luckily thanks to people like Mamete (and some of his colleagues) they started understanding ‘Quality’ was the way to go 🙂 .

Mamete’s arrival brought many innovations both in the cultivation of vineyards and in winemaking. With a very recent highlight or better latest innovation, in 2013,  their CasaClima Wine Cellar. CasaClima basically stands for sustainability and eco-friendly . At Mamete Prevositi they see it as their responsibility towards the future and it’s new generations to treat nature with respect and try to pollute as little as possible.

The CasaClima is not open for public, so you can only visit their historical cellar… but is also very charming to visit, especially if you have the lovely Daniela showing you around 🙂

Mamete’s vineyards are spread over 2 area’s (or that’s how you could see it). The first and smaller area is close to their historic winery in Mese or better in Piuro. At this vineyard they cultivate the Gewurztraminer and Riesling grapes for their Passito. All the other grapes are cultivated in vineyards spread between Sondrio/ Montagna In Valtellina and Tirano. This is also why they decided to build their new wine cellar closer to where all the grapes are, to avoid stressing the grapes but also to pollute less by avoiding use of all trucks driving for the vineyard to the historical winery.  Which all fits in their vision of trying to be very ecological.  95% of grapes they grow are obviously Nebbiolo (or Chiavennasca as they call it in Valtellina), the remaining 5 procent are Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Rieseling, Traminer, Pinot Bianco and Incrocio Manzoni for the few white wines they make.

Something I cannot say enough (and I repeat myself) is that next time you drink, buy or want to drink or buy a wine from Valtellina and are wondering why they have a ‘higher’ price… you must actually ‘Google’ the words ‘Valtellina vineyards’ and take a look at the pictures that are presented. Unlike in many other wine producing areas, for winegrowers in Valtellina it’s not possible to use machines to do the grape picking for them… ALL IS DONE MANUALLY  ( for the whole 6000ha of land in Valtellina where grapes are grown). And all of this is even before all of the work in the cellar has to get done. Respect!!  In case Googling is not your thing, feast your eyes on below pictures.

The wines Mamete Prevostini produces all have a very distinct and unique character . I would say a mix of elegance, finesse, power, for a great interpretation of Nebbiolo in Valtellina.  Lucky us for beeing able to try them all 🙂 🙂 under the  expert guidance of Daniela. FYI Daniela has only recently joined the Mamete team, after finishing her studies (not in wine). Although she has only been working here a short period of time (and even in wine in general), I must say she sounds like a real pro who has been in wine for many years (but I guess that’s what happens when you do something with passion).

Starting with the young wines, to the classics, through the cru’s and reserves to finish with an apotheosis aka their Sfurzat wines!! What a tasting 🙂  Even when you taste their young wines you feel the potential they have… so you can imagine how it was to taste the big guns. If I would have to pick a favort I would go for the ‘Valtellina Superiore Riserva’ that in my opinion had everything I like in a red wine: well balanced palate alongside fine-grained tannins and bright acidity!! Real beauty.

I would be a big liar if I would say the Sforzat wines (Corte di Cama and Albareda) didn’t do me anything as they are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I was astonished  by the freshness they still have in them. I mean it are wines that have been ‘aging’ for almost 3 years.  Very delicate aromas and concentrated palate. But if you really want to know if I’m right or not… only 1 thing to do… or maybe 2:  to either traval to Valtellina or find out where they sell these beautiful wines close to where you are living and by it 🙂 🙂

I could keep talking, but one has to stop somewhere…

Cheers!!

 

A morning with Gaia Gaja

The second winery I visited during my summer holiday in Piemonte was as legendary as the first, but just in a different period in history. I was fortunate enough to visit the Gaja winery in Barbaresco and even had Gaia Gaja herself as host for the morning. I was also very happy to be able to visit this winery as normally they don’t open their doors to easily for visits… but if they do open them it is the family itself who shows you around the winery.

For my readers who wouldn’t know Gaja, Gaja is a vineyard that bottle it first wines for sales in the late 1930’s,  the winery itself got found in 1859. But at that time their main focus was on the tavern they had and they wines they produced were served at their own tavern. Their tavern used to be very popular with people who had to cross the Tànaro river . While they were waiting for the boat they all stopped at the Gaja family’s tavern. At this time, with all the money the Gaja family made, they bought pieces of land around their tavern and slowly their focus started to switch to wine making. Someone who understood at quite an early stage they should invest in quality and not quantity (as most wineries at that time would focus on quantity) was Giovanni Gaja ‘s mother. She was also the person to suggest to set high prices to manifest the prestige of the product.

It wasn’t until the arrival of Angelo Gaja (son of Giovanni Gaja) that the winery would write history and lots of vineyards in Italy that would follow him. Angelo Gaja, who besides this Enological degrees (that he obtained at the Institute in Alba and at the University of Montpellier in France), also holds a degree in economics . At his arrival at the family vineyard it wouldn’t take long before the first disputes between Angelo and his father would rise up… basically because Giovanni wanted to stick to traditions and wanted to keep making wines how they used to, Angelo saw it different and wanted to experiment (with respect for tradition) and try new things.  Lucky for us Angelo didn’t care too much about his father’s opinion and continued experimenting 🙂 . A few of the revolutions under Angelo Gaja were the ‘green harvest’ (removal of immature grape bunches, while they are still green induces the vine to put all its energy into developing the remaining grapes), single vineyard production,  introducing malolactic fermentation, use of French barriques, bringing in thermo-controllable fermentation equipment and French grape varieties (carbernet-sauvignon, chardonnay; sauvignon blanc), and eventually grand cru prices.  Angelo was at that time a modernist in a traditional region. In the beginning he got lots of critiques for his ways of working, but soon those critiques would have to take back their words and many other wineries  (even many famous wineries across Italy) would start following Angelo’s way of working, because of the exceptional results. The awards Angelo got with his winery from Wine Spectator and Decanter (to name a few) only made his status become greater!! Their 1985 Barbaresco’s were and are still seen as one of the finest wines of Italy. Next to the Piemonte vineyards they also have vineyards in Tuscany and since recently in Sicily.

Although Angelo is still alive and kicking, today it are his 2 daughters (Gaia and Rossana) and son (Giovanni – he joined last year) that are leading the company. Technically he is retired (he never officalised it 🙂 ), but you’ll still find him almost every day at one of their wineries from early in the morning until late in the evening (I can imagine it is very difficult to leave your baby eventhough you know it is in good hands).  So it is now up to them to continue writing history… after my morning with Gaia I’m sure they have a clear view on the future and know where they are headed 🙂 .

Before I continue I must also say that I find it remarkable that Gaja is probably one of the only wineries I know that doesn’t have a website and that even though they don’t advertise in any way their wine is always almost sold out 🙂 . incredible!

During my visit of the winery I also found out (and I honestly didn’t know it before) a big difference between ‘regions’  Langhe and Roero. From the window at Gaja I saw the two regions get split  the ‘Tànaro’ river. Gaja is at the Langhe side.  At the Langhe side wineries will only cultivate grapes and hazelnuts (that they sell mostly to their neighbor Ferrero). At the other side of the river  (Roero) they cultivate everything, because the soils allows to grow more. I found that fascinating (or maybe I’m just impressed quickly 😉 🙂 )

I must also admit that Gaja has a very beautiful/stylish winery!!

I could lie, but I know you won’t believe me anyway. Eventhough it seemed a bit early to already start tasting wine, one never says no to a tasting of top level wines 🙂 especially in company of a very interesting person like Gaia Gaja.

The lineup for my tasting:  2015 Barbaresco; 2014 Sperss; 1999 Sorì San Lorenzo and a 2010 Alteni di Brassica.

The first wine, the Barbaresco, is the wine it all started with a few generations ago and therefore also very important of the Gaja family. The stress in making this wine for the Gaja family lays in the fact that grapes come from 14 different partials of land that differ in types of soil, etc..  I found the wine extremely complex and refined at the same time… I was told that in 2015 (but I honestly can’t remember it myself after a mild winter temperatures rose in July and August. The vines responded well and that results in an incredible wine full of intense aromas and lovely energetic fruit with hinds crunchy red cherry. On the palate, there is power with a great depth, concentration and density of fruit, with many layers of red cherry, blueberry, red plum and piquant, chalky natural grape tannins (those last ones were only found with a little help 🙂 )

I remember me at some point asking Gaia (not sure if it was with this wine) if their wines are intended to be drunk immediately or if they are best to wrest for a while (because they are known for their ageing potential). She told me that the wines are ready to drunk and do not necessarily need to age. As the moment they decide to bottle their wines and sell them means the wines (according to them) are ready to be drunk..; and when you immediately drink it you taste the wine how the winemakers made the wine and want him to be for you. She did tell me that it does sound like and other marketing trick, but it isn’t. But if one wants to age their wines, no problem… they can age a long long time.

Up to the Barolo aka Sperss (it was noon somewhere in the world). Gaia told me that 2014 was a very wet year and they had a late harvest. She said that at the end of august the grapes weren’t ripe yet. And yet this is one of Gaia’s favorite wines. The reason it is, is because it has great tannins, beautiful color and very rich wine.. all thanks to the Indian summer  after the wet summer. It is a full bodied wine with amazing structure and softness. I mean with that you would think this wine would be much more ‘aggressive’, but it wasn’t. Again the beautiful fruity elements and minerals.

My personal favorite of the wines I tasted was the Langhe Nebbiolo or better their famous Sorì San Lorenzo. At the nose I noticed a woody scent (like when you put out a fireplace) . Like most Gaja wines, the  San Lorenzo is a dark ruby. Deep, powerful, and structured that Finishes with very fine, sweet tannins and outstanding persistence. A wine that only gets better when getting more air. Although it is already a quit older wine, it still has lots of youth in it.

Last but not least the 2010 Sauvignon-Blanc. On the nose (and even the palate) you get an immediate exotic vibe… lots of exotic fruits. A very rich wine. For my personal taste maybe a bit too exotic, but I’m sure if paired well the wine will come out fabulous.

It was very nice to have the opportunity and privilege to visit this vineyard and on top of that meet the lovely Gaia.  Up to the next wine trip 🙂

Barolo of Barolo in Barolo made by the Marchesi di Barolo … it won’t get more Barolo than this

When I left home this morning I felt the summer was over (no doubt about that). So being able to write about my summer holiday (that seems soooo long ago) does bring a bit of sunshine back inside the home and an instant feeling of happiness.  This summer it was the first summer we had to take during the school holidays . “Nothing special’ you might think, but it seems that if you don’t start booking your holiday a year in advance, finding free rooms is a true quest. So I decided to look for regions that are less touristy, but that still match with everything I have on my checklist. A region like this is Piemonte. The region is as beautiful as Tuscany, is a gastronomical Walhalla (with it truffles, wines, etc…), has many beautiful cities and villages to visit and you can get around in this region without the lots of traffic you that you would find in Tuscany or the South of France.  It is not my first visit to the region, but every time I come here I fall in love with it again… especially when you drive through Alba and you can smell when they are roasting the hazelnuts (mixed with chocolate smells) at the Ferrero factory (yes, where the Nutella is made (amongst other things)).

The accommodation we stayed at is definitely a tip I want to share with you. We stayed at  QB apartments in Montelupo Albese (just outside of Alba). Apartments/studios with an incredible view over the hills of Langhe and its beautiful vineyards and all the comfort one needs designed by host  himself who also happens to be an architect. On top of that you get the peace and quiet (maybe when my children were there a bit less 🙂 ).  We chose an apartment as we liked to have the possibility to be able to cook ourselves as with small children it isn’t always ideal  going to restaurants. Not that we didn’t go out for eating, but having the choice was very practical.

Going on holiday with small children does change a thing or two in things you can do (which is logical and I don’t mind adapting myself)… but when you are in one of THE most famous wine regions in the world, NOT visiting a vineyard is not an option. Luckily I have a wonderful wife who understands all of this (and I do all the holiday planning 😉 ) and I was able to visit 2 vineyards during our holidays in Piemonte. As I could only visit 2 I wanted to make sure the once I would visit were very good ones. And so they were as I was fortunate enough to visit Marchesi di Barolo and the one and only Gaja. Both very well-known wineries, but both with a different view (and price range).

At Marchesi di Barolo it was the lovely Lucrenzia who showed me around this historical winery. The cellars of Marchesi di Barolo are located in the heart of the village of Barolo, with views over the beautiful castle of Marquis Falletti. The world-famous wine Barolo is not only a ‘symbol’ of this region, but of the entire wine country of Italy. The Nebbiolo grapes for the Barolo Tradizione come exclusively from the best vineyards of Barolo, Monforte, Castiglion Falletto and La Morra. These vineyards are all located on the hills south of the city of Alba.

Me personally I know Marchesi di Barolo from the time my dad had his restaurant, as back then he used to sell (one of my favorite MdB wines) the Cannubi by Marchesi di Barolo.

I don’t know if you guys are history lovers? I am one for sure!! I really enjoyed listening to Lucrenzia (who was telling it to me with that much passion I started thinking it was her winery) who took me on a magical path through history.  I was surprised that they still had so many old wines, including a bottle of 1895!! I was also surprised to hear that (Just like I had heard at Bouchard a few years ago) at Marchesi di Barolo, every 20years they check all the old wines and see if they are still drinkable. If they are they get a new cork and can wrest some more. I was also told that sometimes for very special occasions they still open some of those old bottles for the public. I was however disappointed to find out my visit wasn’t one of those special occasions 🙂 🙂 (just kidding).

Something very charming to see was the special flip book they made to explain the history of Marchesi.

One of the most intriguing old bottles I have seen during my visit , were the ones hidden in a book cover from during WWII (1943).  I don’t know if you can see it well on the picture below, but the bottles were actually flat. The fact they were flat was also a big reason why the bottles are still there today and survived the war… otherwise the Nazi’s would have drunk them 🙂

Although the history lesson I received was very interesting, the moment we all wait for is the tasting of the wines (but we’ll never admit that 😉 . It  is always a privilege to be able to taste wines where they are produced. Especially in such a bright room (with signatures on all the walls of everybody who visited )as at Machesi (and in good company)

First wine on the list was the Gavi di Gavi. Gavi an Italian dry white wine produced from the Cortese (a variety known for its high acidity and its ability to maintain good freshness even if produced in a very warm environment) grape that is cultivated in the restricted area of the Province of Alessandria. Gavi is a wine crafted from grapes sourced from rocky marl soils and has more weight and presence than perhaps typical for the area, but not at the cost of the delicately framed floral and mineral notes that characterize this style. Bright and tangy fruit with lemon/lime notes and I might say a snap of grapefruit. I would call this wine an ‘all man’s friend’, as I cannot imagine anybody not liking this wine 🙂

As a little in-between I was served a ‘cocktail’ made with Moscati d’ Asti, lime, mint and ice cubes. I can honestly say it was a very refreshing cocktail  with a ‘mojito’ vibe to it. It has also already found its way to my home in Belgium 🙂

Now some serious business, the red’s. Although the region has some very nice white’s, the reds are the reason we come 😉 The first red to taste was a 2016 Barbera d’Alba ‘Peiragal’. From a commercially point of view Barbera today is one of the most import grape varieties in the area, however, the variety is not as old as some other varieties from Piemonte … Barbera has for a longtime been seen as a “less important” wine in comparison with the Barolo. BUT it now found its rightful place at the top. In terms of taste, you type Barbera the easiest in comparison with Nebbiolo. Barbera always has a rather deep color, very high acidity and moderate tannin, while Nebbiolo is just the opposite on these three levels.  The “typical” style of Barbera has, however, been changed considerably in recent years by some producers by using certain wine making techniques. Often it is said the Barbera is female and Barolo Male 🙂 Not sure why that is actually, maybe because of its tempting fruitiness acidity?  (it is also said it is the Merlot of Italy). As for the Peiragal (I sometimes get carried away) for me it is a warm, robust and full, ruby red wine with aromas of berries, hazelnut and hints of vanilla (not too much of the last).

Up to the 2013 Barbaresco  ‘Serragrilli’ that was one of my favorites of the tasting (if I can be picky, because the other ones were also fabulous). Probably because of the fact the Barbaresco is made 100% out of Nebbiolo grapes it is often compared with its nearby brother ‘Barolo’. But they both have different soils, different history and different rules of making the wine (in many ways also due to the difference in soil they grow on).   So basically they share the same grape and that’s it 😉 but in case you are very curious, this link might help to clarify a thing or two 🙂  BTW, the best way to actually know the difference is just tasting both next to each other (like I did at Marchesi). A solid, to the point wine, that opens with aromas ‘new leather’ (I know, but it really did), black cherry and a hint of oak-driven spice. On the palate I noticed dried black cherry, anise and a slightly bitter note. But what made it a winner for me was silky tannins, characterized by a long and fresh finish. A warm and full-bodied feeling in the mouth . Beauty!!

Now time for the Barolo di Barolo 🙂 😉 Not an official term, but hey, I’m drinking Barolo of Barolo in Barolo made by the Marchesi di Barolo … it won’t get more Barolo than this!

I tasted 3 of Marchesi’s 2013 Barolo’s:  Barolo (Classic), Sarmassa and my beloved Cannubi.  3 wines made with the same grape, in ways similar but yet so different. Putting these 3 next to each other is the best example of when wines are cultivated in the same ways and produced in the same ways that the fact they come from a different soil makes them completely different!! Incredible.

It already starts at the nose with the Cannubi being tight and focused with aromas of wild berry, red rose. Whereas the Sarmassa gives more black-skinned fruit, coffee/toasty, dark spice and  even balsamic notes and the “Barolo Tradizione” that is somehow ‘softer’ with the red-fruits but still the hints of coffee. All 3 with an incredible finish, but maybe all 3 might need some extra time …but nevertheless very drinkable now and a pleasure for the taste buds and the palate.

Thank you very much Lucrenzia for this fantastic visit!!

 

Quality without compromise

A few days ago the time had finally arrived that I would have a meal at the 2 Michelin star restaurant De Pastorale. I had always figured the restaurant was quit far from my home, but it seemed it was only 3km from my home… oops 🙂 A few days ago I was here to discover the wines from organic &bio dynamic Tuscan winery Podere Forte.  Organic/bio dynamic wines don’t also float my boat many of them have a special taste in them that I just don’t like… luckily there are wineries like Podere Forte that could be used as a benchmark any day for how organic/bio dynamic wines should be like!! Podere forte was founded in 1997 as an act of love from Pasquale Forte. When Pasquale was visiting the area of Castiglione d’Orcia he fell hopelessly in love with it 🙂  and I can’t blame him as the area is breath taking! I visit the area 8 or 9  years ago with my wife where we stayed at the old San Simeone convent (that was transformed in B&B) that unfortunately closed its doors a while ago.

Pasquale Forte is a good example of a self-made man (that kept/keeps his feet on the ground). Pasquale was born in Calabria as youngest of 9 children. Pasquale already learned very early in life what hard working was on his parent’s farm. When his parents died, as tradition imposes it, the farm went to oldest son. Due to a gambling problem of Pasquale’s oldest brother the farm had to be sold and Pasquale set sail to the North of Italy to look for work.  In a garage in the small centre of Orsenigo, in Brianza area, not far from the Como lake  he started his own company (Eldor Corporation) specialized in consumer electronics, developing high tension transformers for radio and television sets.  Today 46 years the company has over 3000 employees, offices all over the world and is supplier of all big car companies. But still with all of this success Pasquale still had an interrupted dream…having a farm and making wine, olive oil, etc… I know many of you are thinking it is another fortunate/ famous person who just wants to have a vineyard in Tuscany,  but has no clue what he is doing with an end product basically ‘sucks’. Pasquale is exactly the opposite as he knows 100% what he is doing and he is doing it with the same love, drive for perfection, determination, and passion and philosophy like when he started Eldor ‘Quality without compromise’(in this case with full respect with nature).

Tuscany is known by everbody for its wonderful wine regions like Montalcino or the Chianti region, but instead of buying a property in one of these ‘famous’ regions Pasquale just followed his heart and chose an abandoned place between Montalcino and Montepluciano in the Orcia Valley (Unesco world heritage list) with a hundred-year history behind it and where wine making wasn’t done (or almost not done).  He saw it a bit as a challenge to put this place on the map as new wine region. On the 300ha of land Podere Forte owns only 21 are cultivated with vineyards, 23 are full of olive trees and the remaining part exists of forests, pastures, gardens and grazing areas for the Cinta Senese and Chianina cattle they have. The winery only produces 3 types of wine (technically 4 as they are been experimenting for 20 years to make the perfect white wine (a Greco di tufo), but they don’t want to sell it until it is perfect)  and next to that they have many other organic biodynamic products like honey, olive oil, flour, cured meats, etc…

At Podere Forte nothing is left to chance and everything contributes to create a self-sufficient, wholesome ecosystem. Biodynamic agriculture is a complex concept to explain, but basically it is creating products that are fundamentally balanced and respectful of every living creature in the course of its production cycle… Pasquale obviously doesn’t to this all by himself. As Pasquale is a perfectionist  who wants to do the best job possible he called in the help of “earth scientists” Lydia and Claude Bourguignon, world experts in the preparation of viticultural soil. Lydia and Claude analysed parcel by parcel (nothing happens at the estate without their blessing 🙂 ) to know which type of grapes would be best on which parcel!! Talking about a torough investigation.  The estate grows Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. You can take their philosophy ‘Quality without compromise’ almost literally as they spend over 1000 hours per hectare of land (which is enormous as most others spend around 300hours).

So after having heard all of this and much more interesting things about the vineyards I was very excited to try their wines !! Before I continue I must also add that the dishes Bart De Poorter and his team at De Pastorale made to match the wines were perfect!!! Incredible pairings!!

We started with their ‘entry level’ wine, their 2015 Petruccino that they also like to refer to as the ‘premier cru’ (85% sangiovese, 15% merlot). The wine has a ruby red color, in the nose floral notes of violets and fruity aromas of wild strawberry or maybe even cherry. When tasting you notice a lot of red ripe fruit, with a pleasant acidity, soft tannins and long-lasting elegant aftertaste. What did surprise me that the wine has a 15% alcohol percentage , you really don’t notice it as the wine is so elegant and went wonderfully with the chianina!! (the wine also already found its way to my own private cellar).

If I was already so impressed by the ‘entry level’ wine, god knows what their ‘grand cru’ Petrucci would be like. Just like with the Petruccino, in the Petrucci  you notice it is a strong wine, but in the end it still stays so elegant. From the Petrucci we were served 2 difference vintages, the 2008 and the 2013 (both 100% sangiovese).  The 2013 was brilliant ruby red, intense nose of cherries and raspberries, floral notes of violet and rosehip, on the palate cinnamon, vanilla and a hint of black pepper with a mineral finish. Now the 2008 was a bit stronger, but it had the same fresh/mineral finish like the 2013.  Basically it was the 2013 but with a bit (even more)body…

For the main dish we left the ‘Sangiovese’ for what it is and headed towards Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot blends that go under the name Guardiavigna. We were served 3 different vintages from the Guardiavigna the 2007, 2008 and 2013.  All 3 beautiful wines, but what was funny to discover was that from 2007 onwards the percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Franc replaced each other. The Merlot was initially the main grape, but in the most recent wines it is the Cabernet Franc that is on the main stage 🙂  . So they replaced the red fruitiness for the balance and elegance that Cabernet France brings to blends.  Add to that Petit verdot for tannins, extra colour and flavours and you have a winner 🙂  I’m more fan of Sangiovese wines like the Petrucci of Petruccino, but the Guardiavigna wasn’t at all punishment to drink 🙂 .  On the contrary, a true celebration to drink it!  It was interesting to taste this evolution from both they blends as the bottle type as that also changed during this period…

As our friends from Podere Forte don’t have a dessert wine yet, the sommelier came with a beauty he still had in his cellar to match the Jerusalem artichoke dessert (yes, you are reading it correctly, Jerusalem artichoke).  He surprised us with a 2004 Scheurebe by Koehler-Ruprecht.  Scheurebe is (as you probably know) a white-wine grape, one of Germany’s most successful new grape breeds. It is a cross between Riesling and Silvaner that are often aged to create sweet or dessert wines just like the wine we were served.  Very nice floral notes, rosted spice and candied orange slices.  Less sweet than expected on the palate, lots of citrus, without being lemony, more candied oranges, plus a hint of old oak, dried grasses and herbs, thanks to the moderate acidity keeps the gentle acidity against it and is harmonious, albeit a little quiet. Excellent as a companion for the Artichoke dessert.

A wonderful and very interesting evening. I learned lots of new things about Biodynamic/organic winemaking. A new wine trip presents itself 🙂

A sip of the Sicilian sun in the heart of Brussels

I’m sitting here in the sun thinking that is has been waaaay to long since my last blog post…. Although technically speaking I’ve still been writing, but for the Belgian Sommelier Association and next to that I am very busy co-organizing the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition that will  be hosted in Antwerp in 2019 (seems far away, but I assure you that it isn’t 🙂 ).  I’ve also been busy as I became dad for the 2nd time and I can say for a fact that that doesn’t make organising your days easier 🙂

Even though I didn’t write too much for my blog anymore I did get to know many wonderful the last months. Last week for example I got to taste some top Sicilian wines made by the Planeta winery . Unlike many other wineries of this size that have been making wines for centuries Planeta only started making wines in the 90’s…  The Planeta family (from Spanish origin) has been in agriculture since 1585… the current generation is already the 17th generation in agriculture in Sicily. The Planeta winery story started in the Menfi/Sambuca region (South West of Sicily)  where 2 generations  bundled their forces or better Alessio, Santi and their uncle Diego Planeta (and eventually also Diego’s daughter Francesca)  with a little helping hand of oenologist Carlo Corino.

It might seem easy to make wines in a place like Sicily (or any southern wine regions) because of its constant sunshine, but that sunshine also has its disadvantages… lots of sun often translates into high sugars and basically also high alcohol percentage. Unfortunately this was also the reputation southern wines had for many years  high alcohol and not  easy to drink… BUT thanks to modern techniques and knowhow  we are able to harmonize and control all of this much better resulting in some magnificent wines.  Already from the start our friends from Planeta were determined to plant both local and international types of grape and it was an immediate success as in 1995 they were honored by many famous wine journalists/critics with their Chardonnay (that had been in wooden barrels).

Today 27 years later they have 6 wineries  (around 400ha) spread over Sicily  : Ulmo at Sambuca di Sicilia, Dispensa at Menfi, Dorilli at Vittoria, Buonivini at Noto, Feudo di Mezzo on Etna and finally La Baronia at Capo Milazzo.  It also seems they keep growing both in quality as quantity

Tasting the Planeta wines under the Sicilian sun would have been perfection, but tasting them in the heart of Brussels at restaurant Bocconi did get close (thanks to the warm and great people at my table obviously). The lunch also wouldn’t have been the same without the great care of host/sommelier Jean- François who clearly knows what he’s doing!! During the lunch I was fortunate enough to sit next to Alessio Planeta who spoke with lots of passion about his wines and the beautiful island of Sicliy.

When you think of Silicy you think red wine, but for me their whites are as impressive.  It speaks for itself that one should always go crescendo, but if the first wine you get already is of such level that you don’t know it is possible to even go higher… but apparently it can ;-). The first wines we were served were the 2015 Cometa  that already has a cult status since his first edition and 2015 Eruzione Carricante 1614. The Cometa is fresh acidic, has a terrific savoury length and is a very stylish and wine that can convince everybody. What I think everybody would like about this wine is its aromatic notes of citrus and tropical fruit with some hinds of white peach and the fact that it doesn’t dissapoint when taking the first sip (on the contrary). If you like Rieseling style wines, I’m sure you’ll like the Eruzione 1614 as it contains 10% of Rieseling (90% Carricante) . A palate of fresh apricote and green apples with energizing minerals… again a wonderful easy to drink wine.

The previous wines were great, but the absolute star of the lunch was the 2014 Didacus which means Diego in Latin (referring to Diego Planeta who has been very important to the re-birth of the Sicilian wines). The Didacus was actually created as a ‘celebration’ wine for the 20 th anniversary of the first Chardonnay they made in 1994.  Although the price of this wine is quit high, it is majestic and very classy  wine that has everything I love:  full bodied, complex and yet very fresh with a magnificant finish that lasts forever :-)…I think that is all thanks to the old vines that are from 1985… It is a wine that can easily stand next to the best Burgundy Chardonnay’s. I hope you will get a chance to taste it some day, but as there are only few bottles this might become a very tricky quest.

After the wonderful whites it was time to discover some reds with a first in line the 2015 Mamertino (60% Nero d’avola 40% Nocera) followed by the 2007 and 2011 Santa Cicilia and as last but definitely not least the 2014 Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese that for me together with the Didacus were the stars of the lunch (it will also not surprise you that I now have a few bottles of the Eruzione in my personal cellar).  The Marmetino has an elegant floral nose with hinds of roses and prunes  with refined tannines and velvety soft finish.

From the Santa Cicilia Alessio wanted us to put 2 different years next to each other, the 2007 and the 2011. I must say that I was very surprised how full of life the 2007 was. When you tast the wine you notice black fruit notes mixing on a minerally frame as bright acidity and spice drive the fruit-filled finish. Although I must also admit that when I tasted both wines they for some reason made me think of candy or cassis… If i would have to compare both I’d say the 2001 is a bit more bitter with hinds of chocolate and spices… My preference went to the 2007, but that’s a matter of personal taste.

They kept the best for last 🙂 the 2014 red Eruzione!! This wine is one with a LOT of potentional and can easily stay a few more years in your cellar. Light ruby Pinot Noir-like color. What I liked about this wine was the very gentle handling of tannins, which, with Nerello Mascalese, can easily get a bit rustic round the edges. Delicate Pinot Noir-like flavours, red fruits but needs more concentration and fatness on the palate… it basically found its way to my cellar at home 😉

Great wines,  but also great food!! Feast your eyes on some of the treats we were served

I think next time I defintely need to try these wines in the Sicilian sun (I think another wine trip is presenting itself 🙂 🙂 ) Thank you very much Alessio for this wonderful lunch!

For all my Belgian readers in case you want more info on Planeta wines please contact Young Charly. For all my non-Belgian readers, please contact Planeta to help you to get in contact with your local salesman .

Heavenly delights white truffles and Barolo wine

That I’m a fan of the Nebbiolo grape is clear by now I think? For the last few posts I’ve been talking to you about the Valtellina variant. This time however  I’ll be talking about its more famous brother from the neighboring region Piemonte  (Alba/Asti). I know it seemed that I don’t like Alba/Asti  or Barolo variant, but I do without any doubt like them. It is just that as my roots are in Vatellina it has a special place in my heart… but I wouldn’t call drinking a Barolo a big sacrifice 😉 It is just like Luciano Taliano (owner of the Montaribaldi vineyard) said during the meal we had a couple of days ago at Spiga d’oro:  he is fan of all his wines, but the Barbaresco is the apple of his eye… why? Because his family roots are in Barbaresco….

montaribaldi

The older a Nebbiolo wine get the “easier” it gets to recognize them, because as they age the wines take on a ‘brick-orange’ shade at the rim of the glass. I know it might sound strange but you should just try it once putting an older Nebbiolo wine next to for example an older Sangiovese wine… The difference in color couldn’t be bigger. Next to its ‘characteristic’ color the Nebbiolo wine comes with fragrances of violets, tar, wild herbs, cherries, raspberries, truffles and tobacco. The most ideal location is at an elevation between 150 and 300 meter. What is special about the nebbiolo grape is that it usually only gets harvested in October, sometimes even at towards the end of the month. This is ‘special’ if you know most grapes in other regions get picked at the end of august or the latest at the end of September… then again the climate and hours of sun during the year obviously decides this … I know the Nebbiolo grape might seem like an easy grape to grow, but it isn’t as it does not adapt particularly well to various vineyard soil types. It prefers soils with high concentration of calcareous marl.

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Just like in many other regions there are multiple approaches on making wine, a ‘traditional’ way and a ‘modern’ way. Both have their pro’s and contra’s. A contra of the traditional way or at least how it used to be done many years ago was the ‘lack’ of taking hygiene in consideration that would lead to the a bacterial infection and in the end development of off flavors and potential wine faults that would require at least 24 hours decanting to alleviate . Nowadays winemaking for both traditionalists and modernists include strict hygiene controls and the use of some modern winemaking equipment… so if you no worries anymore 🙂

The most famous wines from Piemonte made with the Nebbiolo grape are without doubt Barolo and Barbaresco. The way to distinguish the 2 wines was very well described by Giorgia Tontodonati from the Montaribaldi vineyard. Barbaresco is the ‘queen’ elegant, ‘softer’ and aromatic, Barolo is the ‘King’ very complex and strong.

I’ve already had the pleasure to have travelled many times to Piemonte to discover the many wonderful things this region has to offer. Next to their wonderful wines they  also have a very refined cuisine with evergreens like ravioli del plin, Tajarin al sugo, vitel tonné (vitello tonnato), Agnolotti, carne cruda alla piemontese, etc… BUT the other world famous trademark product of the of Piemonte is the one and only white truffle! Earlier this week all these wonderful things got combined at one of my preferred Italian restaurants in Belgium Spiga d’oro by my dear friend Franco Di Taranto… As tip of the iceberg he had invited Luciano Taliano from the Montaribaldi winery and trifolau Ezio who brought white truffles he had found the day before… only when in Alba itself you’ll get them on the day itself 🙂 To describe the evening in 1 word “Mythical”!! As I’m not really the man who sticks to one word (sorry for that)  I’ll tell you more about this wonderful evening that made me feel in Piemonte all over again!!

truffles-and-wine-2

Montaribaldi is a quite young vineyard as the brothers Roberto and Luciano Taliano only opened it around 1994. Technically speaking the vineyard already existed earlier, but in 1994 as after he acquired the vineyards from his father Guiseppe aka ‘Pino’ who had founded it in 1968. The vineyard was named Montaribaldi after the old Roman roads that link the winery to the vineyards. Luciano’s goal was and still is to create a diverse selection of holdings that highlights the different wines of the region.

montaribaldi-family

What I think is the reason for success of Montaribaldi wines is the accurate selection of grapes (the wine gets made on the land) and careful vinification. They also are very fortunate to have vines located in between the ones from their renowned neighbor Angelo Gaja. After having tasted their wines I can only come to the following conclusion their balance, length, intensity and concentration of flavors are all right how they supposed to be! Combine these wines with a meal by Franco and you have a feast… We were served the following menu with paired wines:

my-table

A secret celery and truffle salad ‘Arte e Querce’ prepared by Ezio’s wife Clelia. The salad got served with a 2015 Roero Arneis (white). I never saw a man so proud!! You could really tell truffles are Ezio’s passion as he was flaking it so proudly… very endearing to see 🙂

Celery truffle saladRoero Arneis

ezio

Vitel Tonné & Carne cruda a l’Albese con tartufo bianco paired with a 2012 Barbera

Barbera Vitel tonné

Robbilo tre latte with blac truffle, leek from Cervere, pears, beetroot and cugnamust from Nebbiolo. This dish got paired with a refreshing 2010 Langhe

RobbioloLanghe

“Cocotte” (cheese fondu) from Fontina cheese with fennel sausage and white truffle flakes. Served with 2 Barbaresco’s from different pieces of land aka Palazzina and Sori. Both wines were from 2011.

Barbaresco Cocotte

The main course of the evening was venison with a Barolo reduction with white truffle that got paired with the wine everybody was looking forward to drink the 2012 Barolo.

Main course SVI

Barolo

To end our meal we got served a chocolate dessert together with a Moscato d’asti. We did also get some white truffle flakes on our chocolate dessert, I didn’t refuse it but if it wouldn’t have been there the dessert would have equally been good 🙂

dessert

For me when you prepare a dish with truffles, it should be the truffles playing the main role!! Here again the key word ‘simplicity’ is important to make sure the truffle gets the justice it supposed to get. That’s exactly what my dear friend Franco did. My first words after my meal (and you can check with the people at my table) were “I feel like going to Piemonte now”!! So I guess a trip to Piemonte won’t be far off 😉 😉

I’m not sure why I always have to say which wine I prefer as I like all of them and I don’t want you guys to think that because I prefer one over the other it means the other wines were bad… as they weren’t  🙂  But just to keep everybody happy I admit that the Barbaresco’s charmed me most with on the first place the Sori. On the nose sweet and penetrating notes of licorice and chocolate, firmer and more sustained on the palate but with the roundness and solidity of a high quality extraction. Maybe the fact Luciano talked with so much love about it had an influence ooooooooor that Giorgia compared it with a queen 😉 😉 who knows?! One thing is for sure once again I’ll need to expand my wine cellar and definitely have another winetrip to Piemonte 🙂

the-event-team

Many thanks to Franco,  Aline, Toni, Luciano, Giorgia, Ezio and his wife for making this an unforgettable evening (and of course also my table guests 🙂 )

For more info on Montaribaldi wines in Belgium please contact SVI.

Hidden treasures: wines from Valtellina: Rivetti e Lauro

I know it has been a while, but I finally made it to continue my story about my visit to my preferred wine region and 2 wineries . Like I mentioned in my first blogpost about this trip with my dad , Valtellina is a a wine region that is very underestimated and sadly even unknown to many people. As this is a region that lays very close to my heart I want to promote it as much as I can 🙂

rivetti_lauro

The first vineyard I visited during my stay was Rivetti & Lauro  a rather new winery as they only exist since 2010.  If I have to be completely honest it was a Belgian friend of mine who brought this vineyard to my attention 🙂 🙂 He told me I absolutely had to try their wines as they were spectacular. Who am I not to do as I’m told. Now that I’ve tried them I do agree with my friend and I can also speak for my dad as he bought 3 boxes of wine 🙂 .  What intrigued me most about this winery was its location in Tirano. It intrigued me as I always thought all of the wineries (Nino Negri, Nero, Sandro Fay, Bettini, etc…)in Valtellina were or had to be located near/right around Sondrio (or Chiuro  to be more specific). So it was something I wanted explore and  know more about.

Valtellina - cartina denominazioni d'origine

Just for the record, I am not a professional sommelier yet 🙂 I’m learning every day and I prefer learning everything by visiting and trying and I have some incredible people guiding me towards the estates that are worth visiting.

Rivetti & Lauro is a story about friends that shared a passion for many years and decided to take their passion to the next level. It was 2010 Alberto Rivetti and Dino Lauro opened the doors of their winery “Rivetti & Lauro”. Dino Lauro with over 20years experience in wine business at Nino Negri and 2 years at Salis. Alberto Rivetti on the other hand comes from the world of Coffee but also has a very good business background. They did also get a little help from former friends/ colleagues to realize their dream Catia, Emanuele and Pietro (that also have a long experience in winemaking).

lauro_-rivetti

As base location Rivetti & Lauro  found a very beautiful unique location and are settled  in the historical cellars of Torelli’s Palace. Palazzo Torelli is a 16th century castle from Count Luigi Torelli who was an important personality of the valley and in Italian history. They also still have a beautiful old wine press in their cellar!! FYI they did remodel and renovate the cellar first 🙂

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Did you know that Valtellina is the largest terraced wine-growing area in the Italian mountains? It is!  This basically means lots and lots of manual labor during the harvest as every grape has to be picked by hand. On top of that it is also a place where Nebbiolo is grown (or in this region better known as Chiavennasca), a grape kind that is the synonym for noble and extraordinary quality. As we all know a great wine is made on the vineyards…the human only helps it a bit, but without the good ingredients the human goes nowhere 🙂 The showpiece wine or top of the top would be the Sforzato which is the Valtellina variant of Amarone (with different grapes that is) as they also use the grape drying technique like they do in the Valpolicella wine region. So now you also know why I’m such a big fan of those 2 regions…

vines

What distinguishes Rivetti & Lauro from other vineyards in the area is that they are experimenting by growing new grape kinds and assembling them with the traditional Nebbiolo. I know that for lots it is like swearing in church, but I must say that it resulted in some very nice assemblies. The Rivetti & Lauro winery is also one of the smaller ones in Valtellina with a production of around 25000 bottles of wine that after vinification in small stainless steel tanks they get refined in French oak barrels. I always find it very courageous to open a new winery and trying to do their own thing and experiment and basically let a new wind blow through this wine region.

Rivetti & Lauro have 8 different types of wine( 7 red and 1 white). Wines going from the full-bodied pride of Valtellina the Sforzato  and Sassella (both 100%Nebbiolo) to the “experimental”  wines like the Cormelo’ a Nebbiolo and Merlot blend (basically the Valtellina variant of the Super Tuscans 😉 ) or the Satama’ a Nebbiolo – Shiraz blend.  One of my personal favorites from Rivetti & Lauro is the UI’ a Nebbiolo in purezza (100% Nebbiolo) that aged for 24months in steel and wooden barrels.  The UI’ balances both complexity and refinement  perfectly and is a real pleasure to drink!! I noticed intense aroma of raisins mixes with the spices, hazelnut with tannins and acidity typical of wines from long vitality.

ui-rivetti-e-lauro

Although my biggest love of this wine region and my all time favorite will always be and stay the Sforzato/ Sfurzat!!! One of the most beautiful wines around if you ask me. If you would ever have the chance every year the wine region holds a Sforzato tasting from and with all the wine makers from the region… I call it paradise!!

It was a pleasure to have met this wonderful winery and its wonderful people!! Up to the next 🙂