Italian road trip 2016: all good things come to end

We might be on our way to visit the last vineyard, but that doesn’t make it less worth it!! The last vineyard we would visit on white wine Saturday and even from our trip was Sandro de Bruno at the eastern side of Verona. As we arrived a bit early at our destination we decided to already check-in at our B&B (named La Dolce vita :-)) Once we arrived we also found out it was the perfect spot to stop after lunch and have a little siesta before visiting our last vineyard. I guess the picture below gives you an idea about oasis of piece we arrived at. Another great news fact, we still had some room left in the trunk of our car for more wine 🙂 🙂

Il paradiso

Not that we were stressed, but you would be surprised how tiring visiting and tasting can get. I can definitely recommend the B&B as they also have a very nice breakfast and very friendly hosts. The B&B was also only 1km away from the Sandro de Bruno vineyard, so we had all the time in the world as it would only take us a minute to get there for our visit.

Sandro de Bruno

The Sandro de Bruno winery saw the daylight in the year 2000, so you would think it is a young winery. It’s not! In reality the winery is already making wine  since 1930 or better current owner Sandro’s dad and his dad’s 2 brothers were making wine since 1930… Sandro changed the name of the winery  in the year 2000(when he took over and after buying the parts of his uncles) as a tribute to his dad into ‘Sandro de Bruno’ which comes from Sandro ‘son of’ Bruno… it is as simple as that 🙂

Sandro de Bruno produces different kinds of wine, but 2 of them are their trademark wines (I think that’s the best way to call them) : the Soave and the Durello. Let’s first start with the Durello (or Durella how the grape is actually called) a DOC wine, meaning the Durello can only come from a specific area in this case from the area between the provinces of Verona and Vicenza (DOCG would mean it would need to come from a specific town or more specified area and only from that place like chianti or Barolo, or Amarone, etc…). The Durello/Durella grape is a strong  autochthonic grape variety. Strong because it is said to be disease resistant and grows best on a soil composed of lime and clay of volcanic origin. Indeed volcanic origin… I was surprised to find out that the area we were at has a volcanic origin… I didn’t know the area used to be volcanic. Another remarkable characteristic of the grape is the thick and leathery skin (may be the reason for it name as ‘duro’ means hard in Italian). What I’ve learned from tasting other wines that come from volcanic areas is that they have lots of minerality in them. For the Durello this isn’t any different. Something fascinating is that there are around 500 growers growing the grape variety but only I0 of them actually bottle the wine of which Sandro de Bruno is 1. Because of its high level of acidity the grape is 99% used to make spumante wines.  At the nose you notice lots of white flowers and minerality. It combines nature and freshness and its character lends itself good to be paired with seafood I think 🙂 I’ll have it a try at home… according to Sandro it pairs great with codfish alla Vicentina.

Durello

At our visit we did see Sandro, but as he and his wife had to go to Genova it was Andrea (who was about our age) who showed us around the winery. At all vineyards we were received with open arms, at Sandro de Bruno it at some point felt like we were just having a drink with a friend at a bar or so 🙂 It felt so relaxed!!

Sandro de Bruno Sandro de Bruno 2 Sandro de Bruno 3 Sandro de Bruno4

Soave as I mentioned is their 2nd most important wine.  For me Soave has always been around, but never got the attention it deserved.  Soave was produced in a medium-bodied style that was often compared to Chardonnay, except with a distinct bitter almond note. In most cases people in that case chose a bottle of chardonnay over one of Soave  or at least this until the end of the 90’s as since the 21st century trends have been turning and now Soave is the new Pinot Grigio in the US 🙂 Basically a wine everybody wants to drink + it must be said that producers like Sandro de Bruno and others in the region have worked very hard to make the opinions turn!!  The main grape variety that has to be present in Soave wine is Garganega , but can be blend with Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay. The Garganega grape also lends itself well to produce sweet recioto (who knows maybe they could even make a White Amarone if they let it ferment more 🙂 ) wines that have the potential to improve with bottle age for a decade or more.  Garganega can make classic white wines, both complex and satisfying!  Sandro de Bruno has 2 kinds of Soave, a regular (DOC) and a superiore (DOCG). Although I like both, I have a slight preference for the superiore, maybe because it has been in wooden barrels and therefore has more body, whereas the DOC Soave only saw stainless steel thanks… Let me say it like this, the DOC would be perfect as apero in your garden, the DOCG Superiore is more appropriate with food. as it has a broader aroma and complexity (and again the nice minerality)… and is rounder (good with white meat).  It are definitely very good wines with a very good price/quality ratio!! Also the bottles I bought at the vineyard are already finished… so I guess I like them

Soave superiore

What I find amazing is that on every bottle of Sandro de Bruno, is that all info on the wine can be found on the back label. Info like best served with which dishes, the best temperature to serve it, which grapes used, etc… basically a simplified technical sheet :-).  Also every bottle is numbered, although I don’t remember why that was 😦 nevertheless the content in the bottle is nectar of the Gods!!

Thanks Andrea for the tour and Sandro for making such great wines!! Hope to see you soon. In case you would have questions regarding the wine, you can contact Sandro de Bruno or for Belgium you can check with Alex from The Vine.  Sad enough our trip ended after this visit…but they gave us a wonderful dinner advise that was maybe the best from our whole trip!! if you would ever be in the neighborhood do stop at il Convivio!!!! A true  hidden treasure!! I also know the bottle you see on the picture (and that we had) from during our meal isn’t one from Sandro de Bruno, but as we had already been tasting their wines whole afternoon I was also keen on finding out which other great wines they had in the area…

Il convivio

I can’t wait for the next wine trip with my buddy Carlos!! Always a pleasure to travel with him…. Although I’m now first travelling with my lovely wife and baby girl to Friuli!

Italian road trip 2016: at the home of the Friars

Our trip had already been unbelievable… we had visited some great vineyards we, had some great food and had been very lucky with the weather as well 🙂 Travelling when the sun shines makes a trip much nicer. As if we ordered it, the sun was heating and more present on white wine Saturday than it was the other days!  So visiting a vineyard a stone’s throw away from the Garda lake was perfect, add great white wine to that and you have a perfect holiday 🙂 Coincidentally the vineyard we were visiting that morning had lots of great white wines 🙂 LUCKY US 😉

Ca dei Frati near Garda lake

When you visit a vineyard you always have some wines you prefer over others. It doesn’t mean those wines you don’t like are bad, they are just not how you prefer your wines to be…  If I tell you that we took home at least 1 bottle from every wine in the assortment from the Ca’ dei Frati vineyard…what does that tell you? Yes, in first place that our character or intention to buy less wine was out of the window. Also that my car has a big trunk, but also that all wines we tasted were our thing :-). For both of us (Carlos and me), so I consider this something quite rare 🙂

Ca’ dei Frati is as I mentioned before only a stone’s throw away from the Garda lake or from a town called Sirmione (I always remember Sirmione as the Garda Lake town with the Castle :-)) . That first bottle of Frati by ca dei Frati I had a few years ago at the Pazzo winebar with my dad left a big impression with us… ever since that day I had put the Ca’ dei Frati vineyard on my ‘to-do’ list if I was ever in the neighborhood… now, a few years later that moment had finally come. It was the Stefano (husband of the founder’s daughter and responsible for export) who showed us around the estate accompanied by his 2 year old son who insisted to come along 🙂 he reminded me a lot of my sweet little baby girl as they share the same big appetite 🙂 FYI, I know that you might say she inherited that from her dad, but at that age I was a very bad eater! It was only at the age of 12 when going to the chef school the tide had turned and I never looked back 😉

Ca dei Frati estate 1 Ca dei Frati estate 2 Ca dei Frati estate 4

I’m wondering off here… back to Ca’ dei Frati. You might have guessed the winery has something to do with ‘Friars’? You have guessed correctly as the winery used to be ‘Casa dei Frati’ or Home of the Friars in English. In documents from the 18th century the Del Cere Family (who owns the property since 1939) has found there is told that the home that is now the Ca’ dei Frati vineyard already had a wine cellar back then and that it was owned by Friars. It was only in 1939 that the wine estate was founded by Felice Dal Cero, the current owner’s grandfather who left the company to his son Pietro around 1969.  It was Pietro who actually made the Ca’ dei Frati estate world famous and expanded from 12ha to over 100ha 🙂 So you could definitely speak about an expansion and growth.  Since 2012 after Pietro’s passing away it are his 2 sons and daughter (and their families)that carry on the family tradition and legacy. The estate also keeps growing and modernizing…

Ca dei Frati estate 9 Ca dei Frati estate 8

Ca dei Frati estate 7

Ca dei Frati estate 6 Ca dei Frati estate 5 Ca dei Frati estate 3

Unlike lots of people might think, the vineyard is located in the Italian region Lomardy and not Veneto… but I admit it’s a close call is they are really at the border of both regions.  The vineyards themselves are among the best in the region (as the estate was on the first in the area), on limestone silt soils at the southern part of the Garda lake rich in mineral salts which help the fruit to reach high levels of ripeness. It really gives beautiful wines as a result.

90% of the wine production at Ca’ dei frati is white wines with exception of 2 red wines and 2 rosé wines. The story behind 1 of the 2 reds is special because it is a tribute to Pietro! Not just any wine, an Amarone. Yes, An Amarone! The Amarone gets cultivated (as it is dictated by the DOCG and with the allowed grapes:  Corvina, Corvinone, rondinella and Croatina) in the Valpolicella area. In reality it was Pietro’s project to go back to his ‘radici’ (roots –  as het originates from the Valpolicella region where his grandfather was a winemaker), unfortunately didn’t make it to see his ‘baby’ grow and meet the world. This is why the family decided to finish this wine and make it as a tribute. A success I might add (beautiful product)! The Pietro Dal Cero Amarone had quit the rest before it was sold (2008 it the first edition of this wine that is currently sold) 24months in a barrel, 12months in stainless steel  and 24months in its bottle. Patience is again the keyword here…

Amarone Pietre del cero

For the white wines their most well-known wine is without any doubt the Lugana.  Lugana is made with the Turbiano grape (aka Trebbiano di Lugana) which is  the essential ingredient for white wines in the region.  According to regulations a Lugana can only be names Lugana when it at least holts 90% of the Turbiano grape. They are characterized by their freshness , fruit concentration, underlying floral and spice notes, and delicate acidity.  Or basically a pleasure for the nose and taste buds.  Ca’ dei Frati has 2 different Lugana wines: Frati and Brolettino. FYI The Brolettino was in 2014 in the list of 50 best wines from Decanter. The only difference between the 2 is that one (Frati) was only in stainless steel and the other (Brolettino) stayed 10months in barriques and 3 more months on bottle.  I wouldn’t really see one is better, as they both have different characteristics, both very rich wines.  On the nose there were intense aromas of lime, white flowers, almonds and green apple… at taste there are the nice minerals and the green apples 🙂 FYI, it was actually the Frati I had that night at Pazzo and also the first bottle I opened when I came home from this trip 🙂 .

Frati

When looking at the grapes used in their other wines,  both the still as the sparkling, I noticed Ca’ dei Frati also uses Sangiovese and Barbera grapes in their wines… this is the second time on this trip I learn that in Veneto and Lombardy these grapes  are used to blend.  They obviously do enrich the wines. The Sangiovese is used for the other red wine from the Ca’ dei Frati estate  (Ronchedone), but more surprisingly also for the Rosé wines (from which 1 is still and the other sparkling). For the Rosa dei Frati and the Cuvée which is the rosé sparkling wine they blend Sangiovese with Barbera, Groppello and Marzemino . The first thing that came to mind when having a taste of this wine “this would be something for my wife” :-)… how dare she tell me I only think of myself during my winetrips :-)Rosa dei Frati has notes of  green apple, wild cherry and white almond. In the mouth it immediately shows authority… it keeps it fresh and delicate thanks to a pleasant acidity that points out the carefree ease of drinking 🙂  but at the same time robust and capable of being elected the versatile star of the table!! Need I say more? Basically a bottle that can become everybody’s friend 😉 (the same goes for the Cuvée by the way that adds a bubble 🙂 🙂 (I know to much smiley’s, but that’s the way it is)

Rosé ca dei Frati

Again a very unforgettable experience where we learned a lot and can’t wait to visit the vineyards again when their renovations are finished as they were already very impressive now that they were not finished yet.

Up to the last vineyard of our trip 😦 Up to our friends of Sandro de Bruno

For more information or to purchase Ca’dei Frati wines in Belgium please contact Non solo vino. For other countries please check with the wine estate itself.

Italian road trip 2016: exploring Dante Alighieri’s legacy

After a good night of rest and a large breakfast we were ready to set sail to one of my favorite wine regions in Italy aka Valpolicella located just outside the city of Verona. First stop Azienda Agricola Masi aka the trigger for me coming on this winetrip. You might have already noticed I have a slight preference for full bodied wines that are still easy to drink. Well this is exactly how I would describe the Masi wines (or maybe even the Valpolicella wines in general). Before I continue talking about the estate I will first tell you a bit more about the Valpolicella region.

Masi Logo

The Valpolicella region is located as I mentioned before just outside of the city of Verona and even more important right next to Garda lake and close to the Adriatic sea. Why do I say “more important”, I say it because the proximity of the lake and sea have a very big impact on the climate (mild continental climate) and therefore also on the winemaking in the region.  There are 3 main grape varieties used to make Valpolicella wines: Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella. Some vineyards might add other variaties like Corvinone, Rossignola, Negrara, Barbera and even Sangiovese (that you mostly known from Tuscan Wines), but it will always be in combo with (at least 1 )the 3 mentioned before. The most well known wine of the region is the Amarone which is considered one of the 3 great Italian wines next to Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

Valpolicella region Valpolicella by amaronetours

What I find funny is that Amarone is yet another example like lots of other great things (Tarte Tatin, etc…) in this world Amarone was also discovered by mistake. The story goes that many many years ago people in the Valpolicella region had left Recioto wine (sweet dessert wine) untouched for a longer period of time which resulted in a longer fermentation and in new wine that we know today as Amarone 🙂 Obviously the Amarone we drink now is much more refined as the ones from back then, but the basic principales for making the Amarone stayed the same… One thing you can say is that the winemakers of the Amarone are patient people as the process for making it takes a lot of time… (an important keyword in good winemaking – time/patience) but they get rewarded with a very unique and wonderful product. To make the Amarone, the grapes are put on wooden shelves or bins (in case of Masi after lots of studies and tests they have discovered that for their way of working bamboo bins seemed best)  and are left to dry naturally for x months (I think the minimum period was 3 months) which will make that the ‘juices’ and ‘flavors’ left in the grapes are much stronger/intense.  In the next step they will gently press the grapes to get the best juices out. If they wouldn’t do it gently the bitter flavor of the stalks would come into the wine. Finally the ‘grape juice’ is put to wrest mostly in Veronese barrels (that are bigger then the regular/ traditional barrique/barrel and specific for the Valpolicella region) to become the perfect Amarone. (FYI, this is it explained in a few words, otherwise my blogposts would become a book 🙂 )

Passimento 1 Passimento 2 Passimento 3 Aging 1

As they only pressed the grapes gently, there is still juice left in the grapes… this is how the Ripasso/Ripassa gets born. They basically press the left over juice out of the grapes and make another wine out of it… you can call it a ‘Amarone light’ :-).  This is where the Masi story starts to detaching itself from the other wineries (around 1964) after years also making Ripasso wine, to Masi it somehow felt like when you use a teabag for a second cup of tea… it will be good, but it could be better… + they also noticed that many wineries in the area with the aim of quantity instead of quality and therefor a more “negative” vibe came over the Ripasso (Although it must be said there obviously also some great Ripasso/a wines circling around). This made them think that they could lift the Ripasso up by adding ‘fresh’ grape juice (that had lesser time on the wooden shelves ) and this is how the Campofiorin or THE showpiece (after the Amarone) of Masi Agricola was born.

Campofiorin

What I like about the Campofiorin (and about the better Ripasso’s) is (I’ll be honest) first of all the price/quality ratio… you get a wonderful full bodied wine for a affordable price + a wine that most people will like for sure… whereas the Amarone does require a bigger budget and is a more complex wine . Don’t get me wrong I love Amarone and I do have some great bottles in my personal collection, but let’s say I won’t open it for everybody 🙂 (only for people who appreciate a refined product like Amarone). Do also try to taste the Campofiorin Riserva or better the Brolo Campofionin Oro, which is an even a more refined version of the campofiorin.

Brolo

The Masi estate also re-discovered/introduced a grape variety that had almost disappeared entirely out of the Verona area. I’m talking about the Oseleta grape which means ‘little bird’ in the local Veronese dialect. The name actually refers to small grapes that ripen late in the season and are often still hanging after the vine has lost its leaves. Lots of years the grape variaty was seen as non important grape due to it low yields (because of being such a small grape). What the Oseleta does in the wines where it is added, it give it more backbone and creates more tannic structure, minerality and dark berry notes. This is in very big contrast with the other grape kinds in the Valpolicella wines like Corvina that are light, more gentle and have low tannins. FYI they added the Oseleta to the Campofiorin Riserva, the Toar and the Riserva di costasera (Amarone Riserva). In the Private collection of Masi they also have a wine 100% Oseleta grapes, the Osar (which mean ‘to dare’ in dialect). In contrast with the other wines in this case the grapes are not dried, but harvested later… it has a beautiful perfume of black plum, berries and cherry, with a subtle spiciness 🙂

Oseleta

The re-discovery of this grape variety might been luck, but at the other side it’s not! Masi is a company that with lots of respect for the past also always looks forward and wants to innovate. Masi created half way the 1980’s a specific department for it called the ‘Masi Technical Group’. The Technical group is basically a team of experts dedicated to quality control, research, technical analysis and experimentation of everything that has to do with wine to in the end create new/better wines (also think/work more ecological). This also the reason of Masi’s high quality products (going from the ‘intro’ wine to their Amarone riserva’s). It has also come this far that the Masi Technical group now also does consultancy to help out other wineries to improve their wine making process.

Gruppo Technico

You might have noticed that there are quite a few names linked to the Masi wine estate, the most famous will the name Serego Alighieri. Unlike other big colleague wine estates, Masi doesn’t buy other wineries, they collaborate with other wineries. Mostly in other wine regions like cantine Conti Bossi in Trento (Spumante)…with as exception the neighboring estate Serego Alighieri. Most of the wineries are smaller wineries of which Masi believes that have great potential and are a very good added value. Most of those wineries want to grow and innovate, but don’t always have the possibilities to make this happen. What Masi offers them is the use of the Technical Group which basically means the Masi expertise. In return Masi gets a new high quality wine assortment in their gamma (FYI, the wineries keep their name on all bottles, there is only a small mention of Masi). In the case of the Serego Alighieri might seem strange as the estate is literally right next to Masi. This collaboration started over a talk between Sandro Bosciani (CEO of Masi) and the Serego Alighieri family who’s estate  (still family owned) already exists since the 13th century and was the residence of the one and only Dante Alighieri ( the most famous Italian poet). As you can imagine knowing the estate is already in this area since the 13th century, is has some of the best and most unique piece of land with coincidentally vines on them :-). These vines or the wine made from its grapes was only for own/personal use and not for sale. To make a long story short, Masi was interested in the great vineyard locations and Serego Alighieri to make their wines better and maybe even start selling them… the rest of the collaboration is history. I do recommend you if you ever have the chance to visit the winery and castle of Serego Alighieri… like a walk through history.

Serego Alighieri Serego Alighieri 2 Serego Alighieri 3 Serego Alighieri 4 Serego Alighieri 5 The Serego Alighieri Villa

A very interesting project of Masi is their winemaking project in the Argentina (Mendoza). They describe it as “Argentinean Nature, Venetian Style” 🙂 After research Masi had discovered that the Mendoza region (Tupungato to be more precise) has the perfect climatic and conditions  to do the “appassimento” technique used to make the Amarone. I can say for a fact that it lead to some great wines like the Passo Doble as intro wine(although Intro wine is maybe a understatement) and the Corbec as the Argentinian Amarone if you will. The Corbec (as the name might reveal) is a mix of the Corvina (70%)and Malbec (30%) grapes or as I would call it a wonderful marriage. Bursting with aromas of raspberry  and roasted cherries …  a deep and mysterious wine are the first that come to mind. You do feel the wonderful balance of structure and body, with well rounded tannins but smooth like butter. Definitely one of my favorite Masi project wines :-).

Corbec

To get a clear view on how the Masi wines are all in the same line (crescendo that is) we had a wine tasting of their wines starting with their “base” wine the Bonacosta that has a lot of character for intro wine. The reason they wanted me to taste the whole range is because you don’t always get the chance to do this… We continued with my beloved Campofiorin wines that are the best of two worlds if you ask me (I’m also pretty sure Carlos agreed)… we ended with what is sometimes called ‘vino di meditazione’ (meditation wine) a wine that requires silence because it is just that good aka Amarone Costasera and Amarone Riserva

Masi Tasting Masi Tasting 2

I could keep talking about Masi (or about their collaborations) as there is still so much to tell, but one has to stop somewhere. Also this way you have a reason to visit the vineyard 🙂 (to find out more) I know it also seems like I’m always very positive when I write my articles, but I only write about things I like… I’m also all about the people behind a winery (or restaurants, etc…). When there is a good connection between me and the people (especially after visiting the vineyard) and if they have a wonderful product I am the biggest ambassador they can imagine :-)…and I guess by the size of this article you can say I’m a big Masi fan 🙂

MASI 7 MASI 6 MASI 5 MASI 4  MASI 2 MASI 1

I know I might be repeating myself, but what I like about the Masi wines that no matter if you drink younger or very old vintages… the red wire in all the wines is the freshness of full bodied wine! Once again we couldn’t resist ourselves from taking some souvenirs for our wives 😉 😉 or was it just 1 for them 10 for us 🙂 as their biggest will for sure be having us back by their side… and when we’re happy they’re happy right?

In case you would want more information about Masi wines you can check their website. For my Belgian readers you can contact Young Charly.

Up to the next stop in my Italian winetrip…Guiseppe Quintarelli

Italian roadtrip 2016: 1st stop and already beyond the clouds

It had already been almost a year since my last wine trip, so it was about time to do another one. My idea to do one again actually came during a meal with Raffaele Bosciani from Masi who said he hoped I would pass by one day… let’s call it the trigger 🙂 The only problem I still had was to convince or better find the perfect time to tell my wife I was going on a wine trip… AND Then it happened, as if the gods were favorable to me my wife told me she was thinking of going on a weekend with her sister 🙂 🙂 In the time she was still thinking I had already planned 2 trips 🙂 (one wine trip with by buddy Carlos and one with my daughter to visit my grandparents in Italy). Deciding which vineyards to visit was quite difficult as I wanted to visit lots of them, but I must say I had my mind made up pretty quickly. This wine trip brought us to 3 different Italian regions, we started in Alto Adige with a visit to the Elena Walch vineyard. We continued our trip in Veneto with visiting Masi and Guiseppe Quintarelli (and surprise stops at Farina and Bulgioni). To finally end our trip on what we called white wine Saturday at Ca dei Frati in Lombardy and Sandro de Bruno in Veneto again (Soave).

Route trip

What I love about travelling to Italy, is the fact that no matter where you go or how big the vineyard is they still receive you as you are part of the family.. I guess that’s the southern hospitality…

On the road

After a looooong drive we finally arrived in a little town of Termeno that is a few kilometers from Bolzano and from the Austrian border. What you notice when you are in this region is the Austrian influence in the housing, but also the fact that I think around 80% of the people speak German as first language (but all of them also speak very good Italian). We also couldn’t have imagined a better way to start our trip/holiday then in Termeno, we started it with a wonderful lunch at  Ansitz Romani outside in the open air with a nice bottle of Pinot Bianco from the Elena Walch estate… to already get familiar with the vineyard we were about to visit after the lunch  😉 FYI believe it or not, but the picture of the wine was taken with a smart phone camera (Huawei P9 –  with Leica lens)

Pinot Bianco Elena Walch

Ansitz Romani

Normally it was Julia Walch who would be showing us around, but unfortunately she had to travel abroad… but she had found good substitutes, her mother aka Elena Walch herself 🙂 and Lena a lovely young lady (oenology student) who was doing a internship at the vineyard and who I can say was very passionate about wines.

Elena Walch and daughters

Azienda vinicola Elena Walch was only founded in 1985 but the Walch Family already makes wine under the the name Wilhelm Walch that make ‘table wine’( or everyday wine or however you prefer calling it) since 1869 but it was not until Elena’s husband took over the family estate that he together with his wife Elena (who until then was architect) decided to start making next to the Wilhelm range of wines also wines of a higher quality or better ‘Cru’ wines from the grapes of their best parcels which they would make under the name Elena Walch. Eventhough Elena stopped working as an architect in 1985  when they founded the Elena Walch estate, you can clearly see that once an architect – always an architect 🙂 you see the influence of an architect in the newest part of the estate (the buildings that is) . You just know these are details only an architect would think of (I know Elena didn’t design it herself, but I’m sure she influenced it) like special lightning, the shapes of everything, etc…

It also seems like the next generation is getting ready to take over the torch as both daughters of Elena Walch recently joined the family estate and work in the Marketing department and took over most of the travelling from their parents.  When I asked Elena if it was difficult to work together with her daughters she said: “It is not difficult, but you do notice the difference with a regular employee. When you tell a regular employee something he’ll just do it. My daughters on the other hand 🙂 :-)”  But was very happy they were around and helping and continuing the business.

Elena Walche Estate 1 Elena Walche Estate2 Elena Walche Estate3 Elena Walche Estate4 Elena Walche Estate5 Elena Walche Estate6

The vineyard does use the most modern techniques and machinery , but they do still try to respect tradition. This you mainly see in the older part of the vineyard. What I personally love is the big decorated barrels… something they only back in the day as nowadays making the decorating  would cost too much

Elena Walche Estate 7  Elena Walche Estate 9 Elena Walche Estate 10 Elena Walche Estate 11 Elena Walche Estate 13

The philosophy of the estate is dedicated to its ‘terroir’. They have the idea that wines must be the expression of the grounds, climate and even of the cultivation in the vineyard that like mentioned gets done according to the most modern techniques and to principles of sustainability. The two main territories (where the grapes grow)  of the Elena Walch estate are Castel Ringberg (the ‘regular’ top wines. In France they would call it premier cru) and Kastelaz (the absolute top or Grand Cru) that today have a surface of almost 55 Ha. Where other estates in the region might mix grapes from multiple territories, at Elena Walch they handle the grapes separate (something similar like they do at the Bollinger Champagne estate).

Castel Ringberg that was once owned by the Hapsburg dynasty is located on mostly steep chalky soil, but with some sandy and loamy parts (basically a quit unique combination as mostly it is one of the 3). Because of the diversity of soil  it allows the estates to be very flexible and grow a very wide range of grape variaties: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagrein, Schiava. Again something very unique. I was really surprised about the amount of varieties as I thought in the mountains (even-though the Elena Walch vineyards are only up to 400m altitude above sea level) were very difficult and only a few grape varieties were strong enough to grow here… but that’s why I like to visit vineyards as you always learn news things you don’t always learn in books 😉

Castel Ringberg

What makes Kastelaz more special for Elena Walch or maybe even for the whole region is the southern location of it that creates micro-climatic conditions. Most other pieces of land in Alto Adige follow the valley and therefore get less sunshine. In difference with Ringberg, at Kastelaz there are only 3 grape varieties grown Gewürztraminer, Merlot and Pinot Bianco. This is due first of all because the soil here is chalk with raw rock like granite which isn’t the ideal soil for grapes, only a few can survive in these conditions

Kastelaz

It is of course all nice to know that they separate all of this, but how does it reflect in the glass.  Well we obviously didn’t try all the wines they have as that is I believe 31 different wines. From the wines we did try you can actually draw a line or find a red wire in all the wines (and it seems that most guides like Robert Parker, Gambero Rosso and Wine spectator agree on this when I read their comments about the wines they tasted). The Elena Walch wines are full bodied yet very elegant with a harmonious acidity where needed and a long length/finish (that I personally like a lot) and on top of all that every wine (because of its grape variety and location where it came from) adds that own specific mark on the identity.  Every taster we were served asked for more… I mean even the heavier red wines had that fresh part in them and want you to have more 🙂

Just FYI another piece of modern architecture at the estate is the Bistrot where we tasted the wines… not to speak about the view

Elena Walch Bistrot

One of our favorites (and I do think I speak for myself as for Carlos who joined me during this trip) was the Castel Ringberg Sauvignon with its fresh nose of minerals and green apples that definitely do not disappoint once you taste!! You’d be surprised how often a wine has a wonderful nose, but when you taste it its not what you hoped for… but in this case the taste was everything you’d hoped it to be 🙂 that’s also why we brought a box home :-). I do realize I can buy all those wines here in Belgium or anywhere else in the world for that matter…but you just get caught up in that moment that you just have to have it then and there 🙂 🙂 (a feeling we had quit a few times during this trip 🙂

Sauvignon

Another wine that got our immediate attention was the Pinot Nero ‘Ludwig’ Aged for 14 months in half new oak and half old oak, its power is discreetly brought to the surface by subtle tannins and lively acidity. Perfumed, complex, elegant, it is drinkable now, but I guess a bit of aging wouldn’t hurt… so we’ll have to try not to touch those bottles we brought back home 😦

Pinot Nero Ludwig

I can say for a fact that we couldn’t have imagined a better first day! A great lunch (with great wine), being around lovely beautiful ladies a whole afternoon (I don’t remember seeing to many men working at Elena Walch‘s estate) and finishing the day with a good piece of meat and some great red wine at the Schwarz Adler 🙂 What more do we need?? We also slept like babies as it had been a very very long day.

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Next stop VERONA!!!

In case you would want more information on Elena Walch wines or where to buy them in Belgium you can contact Young Charly. For the rest of the world you can check the Elena Walch website or contact the Elena Walch estate directly

Just the two of us

Tuscany seems to be a very popular topic lately. It is funny that ever since I said I don’t like going to Tuscany because it is always too busy, I’ve been more in Tuscany than ever before and the same goes for the wines and food :-). You might have noticed it on my instagram or facebook, a few weeks ago I was having my summer holidays in Tuscany, or to be more precise in Terricciola.  The big difference between my holidays now and the ones from the previous years is that now we are not 2, but 3 🙂 which results that we can still go to restaurants, but not the same kind… if it weren’t for the fact we asked my daughter’s grandmothers to join us the second week of our holiday that is. This way my wife and I were able to have a day or at least one evening for just us 2… a date night if you will 🙂 For this date I already had the perfect restaurant in mind, Del Duca in Volterra, When I was here 2 years ago I didn’t manage to eat here. The first time I saw the restaurant while walking through the narrow medieval streets of Volterra the restaurant already attracted me!! This was even before meeting the owner/chef Genuino and daughter Claudia (who is host and sommelier in the restaurant) who are the most charming people you’ll meet.

Claudia and Genuino

Del Duca serves refined Italian dishes using as much local products as possible and preferably home-made products. Their home-made products go from hams, cheeses, bread, etc… it is stuff like this that separates a cook from a chef for me. Next to the refined food, the second reason to visit Del Duca would be for its exquisite wine list (if you go, ask to see their beautiful wine cellar) with lots of unknown treasures on it!! As I knew they also make their own wine on their estate ‘Podere Marcampo’ (about which I’ll talk in a next blogpost) this seemed like the perfect occasion to taste some of them… this all after a nice glass of Prosecco Rustico by Nino Franco to start what turned out to be a wonderful night out with my beautiful/charming wife whom I love soooo much!! (Scoring points)

Rustico by Nino Franco

Like always there were so many things on the menu that tickled my fantasy, but it were the ravioli with wild boar filling and potato/saffron sauce that did it the most. I must admit that I found it a strange kind of sauce with a potato sauce, but it worked out and was in balance with the strong flavor of the wild boar and saffron. My wife’s eye fell on the vegetable souffle with Tuscan ham. As wine we had the Marcampo which is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Sangiovese that didn’t overpower our dishes, but rather a harmonization.

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Marcampo

We continued with in my case with a piece of red chianina meat (filet) with a Chianti/port sauce that like you probably can imagine needs a strong wine next to it like the Giusto Alle Balze that is a 100% Merlot wine. As Merlot lover here again the wine was a win. My wife stuffed guinea fowl with a bacon crust and she continued with the Marcampo wine.

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Giusto alle Balze

Just like every meal, this one had to be ended in beauty! According to my wife the chocolate mousse with caramel fudge on top of it was THE BEST she had ever had… now (few weeks after it) I sometimes still hear here asking for it in her sleep 🙂 . I took the puff pastry filled with custard (Calories don’t frighten me 😉 ) that just needed a nice dessert wine like Moscato di Pantelleria from the  Salvatore Murana estate (sweet, but not to sweet).

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Moscato di Pantelleria

A night to remember sums it all up I think. I wouldn’t have changed anything: nice location, great food and great company… Very satisfied and more in love then ever my wife and I set sail back to reality and to our lovely daughter 😉 and look forward to hopefully once again enjoy another delightful meal at Enoteca Del Duca

Del Duca

Having liked their wines and me being so close to their vineyard AND liking Claudia and her family so much I just had to visit their vineyard!! More in one of my next posts

Enoteca Del Duca

Address: Via di Castello, 2, 56048 Volterra PI, Italy

Website: www.enoteca-delduca-ristorante.it

Phone n°: +39 0588 81510

Refined mountain food

The connection between mountains and food doesn’t lead to the thought of refined food (and surely not ‘light’ food), but it is possible! As you might know, my family in Italy comes from beautiful Valtellina (North of Lombardy) located in the heart of the Italian Alps close to the Swiss border. It is also nice to know that even after 31 years I travel here, my family always succeeds in letting us discover great new places in the area… thanks to my zia Loredana and Barbara this year’s discovery was restaurant Fracia. Ristorante Fracia thanks its name because of its location in the middle of the Nino Negri Fracia vines. As the vines are located in the altitude you can imagine the beautiful panoramic views you have up there. The moment arrived at the entrance of this restaurant, I already had a feeling it would be good (see picture below)

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Ristorante Fracia will prove to you mountain food can be lighter and more refined than you think! What ristorante Fracia tries to do is serve dishes most people in the mountains wouldn’t be eating every day and serves a few traditional dishes with a twist. The red wire between all dishes is the use of fresh ingredients, homemade products and if possible most of them local! FYI me and my dad enjoyed our meal so much we returned the day after we had our family lunch. So I guess we liked it 🙂

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A dish on the menu and you should try when you are in Valtellina is Pizzoccheri (slightly heavy) that also happens to be one of my favourites. I didn’t have at Fracia as I already had it at my aunt Barbara’s place, but if it is as good as the other dishes you’re safe. As we ate there 2 days in a row I think we tried almost all the dishes on the menu :-). Feast your eyes on the dishes we had…

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Although all dishes might look simple, but if you want to prepare them in the correct way it is more difficult than you might think! Our compliments to chef Luca Cantoni as he did a really good job  of making us an even bigger fan of the region than we already were. The biggest surprise was definitely the fresh tuna, I liked  the fact that  Chef Luca combined this non mountain product with local ingredients like the the finferli mushrooms . BTW the tuna itself was cooked with perfection!! Damn, this is the reason why I don’t write as many blogposts anymore as I used too…I always become sooooo hungry when I write blogposts like this (especially seeing the pictures) with a result I will go out to eat more and my intent to eat less is all out of the window 😉 😉 Aaah well you only live once right?!

The cherry on the cake are the wines they have at ristorante Fracia (or in Valtellina in general). I don’t want to seem too patriotic, but the wines from Valtellina are in my top 3 of favourite wines (with as preferred the Sfurzat). Something many people don’t know is that the grapes used for the wines here are the Nebbiolo grapes. These are the same grapes used for the Barolo wine, only in Valtellina they call the grapes chiavennasca (just a synonym). For me the Sassella or Sfurzat is in my eyes a better price/quality product to buy than a Barolo as Barolo tends to be very expensive (what doens’t mean I don’t like them, as I do a lot!! Just a bit pricy from time to time if you want a good one). It is a fact that the other wines (from other Italian regions or Champagnes) on the winelist are also great, but I’m of the opinion it is always better to taste the local products… So go for a nice Sassella or Sfurzat (or a Sfurzat 5 Stelle, which is basically the top of the bill). We had the Sfurzat 🙂 just FYI 😉

I do hope you guys one day find the time to travel to Valtellina and enjoy the best this region has to offer of which Fracia is definitely one!! (Let me know if you want a few more) If I would be living in Valtellina Fracia would be what Pazzo is for me in Antwerp (somewhere I tend to be a lot).

Ristorante Fracia:

Address: Località Fracia – 23036 Teglio (SO), Italy

Phone n°: +39 0342 482671

 

Roadtrip with my dad: the non- vineyard part

Finally you might say 🙂  I think or no I’m actually sure Tuscany is the most talked and written about region in Italy… writing something new would therefore indeed be difficult, but this doesn’t mean we cannot share our experience! Does it? This trip to Tuscany wasn’t the first trip, I’ve already crossed it quite a few times.  The thing I don’t like about traveling to Tuscany is the amount of tourists  (just double the amount of people you’re imagining). That’s why I prefer traveling to the regions around Tuscany that are more or less the same when it comes to landscapes. BUT there for some cities  you just have to go to Tuscany to see… you can’t get around it!! Like Siena, Firenze, etc… Most of the cities we went to this time I already visited in the past, but when the occasion presents itself are to be revisited…This time our trip guided us to Firenze, Lucca, Pisa, Volterra and San Gimignano. I’ve never been a Firenze fan though (I have the same feeling about Paris). I know it has beautiful buildings and all, but for some reason the city doesn’t float my boat :-). Or maybe it is because it is soooo busy?? I remember being there once with school and everybody was telling me about how long they had to wait in line to see “Davide” (can be found in Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze)… the thing that I’ve been wondering ever since is how I managed to get in and out in just a few minutes??? (I think walked in via the backdoor… I can’t find an other explanation .) For people who want to see Davide and don’t want to wait in line, outside there is a replica. (Not sure what Ignace was trying to grab on the picture below 😉 )

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What does float my boat is visiting small picturesque towns like Volterra, Lucca and San Gimignano (or in southern Tuscany Pitigliano, Saturnia,…) that even-though they aren’t as big or well known as for example Firenze,  to my opinion are as magnificent! First of all they are less touristy, feel very cozy and mostly have amazing panorama’s as they are 9/10 located on top of a hill. The only “disadvantage” about them being on top of a hill is that there are not “flat” streets… but hey, this means we’ll have to spend less time at the gym ;-).

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Pisa is maybe the city in Tuscany where I have to most mixed feelings as besides the square where you have the leaning tower and the Duomo it stops… unless I overlooked things the few times I was there? Again the buildings are beautiful and you always wonder how they managed to build it??!! OK, it official now you guys think I’m a barbarian 😦 Of course when you are in the neighborhood a quick visit won’t hurt 😉 because although there nothing else to see (to my opinion) you have to have seen the real leaning tower…

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I like seeing old buildings, get thrown back in history and walk around, and I don’t want to seem like a barbarian, but a good trip isn’t a good trip without some good food and wine…I do realize that I said I wouldn’t be talking about wine anymore, but hey that’s the way  the cookie crumbles 😉 My preference always goes to asking local people where I should be eating/drinking… the more typical we can eat the better (I mean I’m not travelling to Tuscany to eat Pesto Genovese or Mexican food…) AND the nr 1 thing to avoid is the so called “tourist traps”!!!  In this case it was Guiseppe Cantoni (from Fattoria Fibbiano) who was the source of gastronomical information in the area.

This lead us to some wonderful eateries that were exactly what greedy me and my partners in crime needed :-). Already from the moment we left home Carlos was “whining” about his quest to eatthe famous “bistecca alla fiorentina” (like a T-bone steak) during this trip… His request was my demand…so we went for a search of a good Fiorentina… Result of the search Osteria La Gattaiola. When you see an Italian “mama”  in the kitchen you just know the food will be great… what I found out in this restaurant is that there are more people like my dad… I mean with the same extreme energy and always joking around (comparable with Roberto Benigni in La vita e bella)… that was a loooooot of energy in 1 room 🙂 🙂 As if the 1,2kg Bistecca fiorentina wasn’t enough food for one night, we also needed to have a “small” antipasto just to get the appetite going… (FYI, I ate something lighter O:) )

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Our table for the night

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Another restaurant I definitely would like to mention is ristorante La vallata… where besides there very nice typical Tuscany dishes prepared only with local ingredients (mostly from their own yard including the meat as they grow most animals themselves) and in a refined way .They also serve pizza’s… but not your average pizza…  pizza normally isn’t really to call special and yet at La vallata they manage to make it something special to also only using local ingredients to top the pizza’s like with dried duck ham, or Pecorino, pears, honey and Gorgonzola… or ‘Carpaccio di Chianina Rucola e Spolverata di Cacio di Pienza’ (all pizza’s)… I think we liked the restaurant as we went there twice in 5 days :-). They also have a very nice wine list also here only local producers (they also have Andrea Boccelli’s wine on the list) or own production with a very nice Nero Puro.

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A few other places to try:

Enoteca Del Duca in Volterra: very good for refined Italian/Tuscan food

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Il latini in Firenze : just fun to eat here… no fancy or special food, hams hanging around and eventhough there is a menu you’ll have to eat what they tell you to 😉 Also they do have a nice wine selection, but standard they open a Fiasco of wine…(unless you specify you don’t want it)

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L’osteria di Gianni Brunelli in Siena: good food with a great wine selection.

I really had a great trip and I would like to thank everybody who helped making it so wonderful!!! Traveling with the right people is always great 🙂 After trips like this I really wonder why I’m still living in Belgium and working with SAP:-) ???

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Roadtrip with my dad: Abbazia Monte Oliveto

The last vineyard we did on our trip was Abbazia Monte Oliveto, which is just like Castello d’albola a vineyard of the Zonin group. Unlike most of the other vineyard the Zonin Family has, this is a much smaller estate where only produce 3 types of wine, 2 white ones and 1 red. I know I said Castello d’albola was beautiful, but although Abbazia monte Oliveto is much smaller it sure is a hidden treasure. At the front you have a view on the only a stone throw away charming mediaeval town San Gimignano (where I once met Danny Devitto 🙂 ) . And on the other side a spectacular view on beautiful typical Tuscany hills… I wouldn’t mind waking up with a view like this every morning (which would even be possible as they have 7 rooms )

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When I mention San Gimignano and wine in one sentence a few bells should start to ring. San Gimignano is famous (besides from being a charming but unfortunately very touristy little town right up a hill) for its white wines also known as Vernaccia di San Gimignano. What is typical about the Vernaccia di San Gimignano is its slightly more acidity than in usual white wines and maybe a bit of bitter aftertaste … this makes that it is not always an everyman’s friend. A Vernaccia di San Gimignano should also be drunk fairly young. Like for many wines also for the Vernaccia di San Gimignano there are also rules for making this type of wine. It must contain 90% Vernaccia grapes, with up to 10% other non aromatic approved white varieties. In addition for a “Riserva” the rules say it must have a minimum of twelve months of aging. BTW the reason I always stress out it is a “Vernaccia di San Gimignao” is because there are also other varieties of Vernaccia but that are a totally different thing: Vernaccia di Oristano (from Sardinia – sherry-like) and Vernaccia di Serrapetrona (from Le Marche – sparkeling red wine)….

Back to the “Abbey” which would be the English word for Abbazia. Abbazia Monte Oliveto is as I mentioned a rather small estate, with “only” 18hectares of land of which not all of it being covered by vines. Small is maybe not the right word as I’ve been told there are around 170 winemakers in San Gimignano and I’m sure the San Gimignano premises isn’t infinite 🙂 :-). I personally couldn’t have imagined a more relaxing afternoon than at Abbazia Monte Oliveto! Not that I was stressed or uncomfortable at the other ones, but not sure what made me (and my partners in crime) even more relaxed here?? Maybe it was the view over the hills in combination with tasting the nice wine and good company? Who knows… Abbazia Monte Oliveto only has 3 wines of which 2 are Vernaccia, Gentilesca and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano both made from 100% Vernaccia grapes with the biggest difference in the winemaking the Gentilesca being made from grapes from older vines… Their 3rd wine is a ‘Sangiovese in purezza’, so a red wine called Fusaia. From the 2 Vernaccia’s I’m not sure which one I preferred, but to me the Gentilesca seemed to be the “pure” one and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano the “fruitier” one.

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The longer we were sitting there the better the wine became… I didn’t feel like standing up to go “home” (Hotel that is) anymore… I’m sure you know that feeling that you’re so comfortable that moving is out of the question?? Well that’s the feeling we had. I think Carlos was even in trance 🙂 (Although I definitely think it was the wine, hahaha) But can you blame him with such a view??

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2 wines that I was also happy to taste on top of the Abbazia Monte Oliveto, were the wines from Podere San Cristoforo (no, no because it has my name in it) or as I call it “Lorenzo Zonin’s babies”… But I’ll talk about them more in detail another time, because I’ve been talking quit a lot about wines the last few posts). Ok, maybe just this, normally I don’t talk about the etiquette (I normally only focus what is on the inside), but for this one I just have to make an exception as it was entirely covered with Braille “writing” besides normal words… very special ! Obviously the bottle content was also of my liking…

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Moral of my Abbazia Monte Oliveto story, definitely a place to visit and wines to try.

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To be continued… (I promise no more wine talk 😉 )

Roadtrip with my dad: Castello d’albola

During our Tuscany trip we crossed and driven on lots of beautiful country roads, which is definitely one the reasons one should visit Tuscany (or Umbria, Lazio, or any other region in Italy)… if you miss this you’ve missed part of the Tuscany vibe to my opinion. One of the most beautiful and relaxing drives (it felt a bit like being in one of those car commercials) ,even as the driver during this trip, was towards the next vineyard we were about to visit, Castello d’albola one of the Zonin group vineyards. Arriving at Castello d’albola is as magical as driving on the roads to get there… As new as Fattoria Fibbiano was as old is Castello d’albola as it already originates from the 15th century, but only got bought by the Zonin Family in 1979. (if you want to know more about the history) The estate covers around 900 hectares of land or 900 football fields 🙂  of which 150 have vineyards on them and the rest is mostly covered with olive threes which gives you the most beautiful panoramic views. Maybe some pictures help you to convince how beautiful it is up there?? (Admitted the sunny weather made it even better)

Castello d'albola estate

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What I forgot to mention is that Castello d’albola is located just out of the “downtown” of Radda in Chianti one of the few towns where the production of Chianti is allowed. Maybe the first question I should ask you is what do you actually know about Chianti besides it being from Tuscany? When I say Chianti I’m not talking about the “Fiasco”, but about the Chianti Classico and Superiore. The Chianti Classico (can be recognised with the black rooster label on the bottle) and Chiant Superiore can only be produced with grapes from in Castellina in Chianti (SI), Gaiole in Chianti (SI), Greve in Chianti (FI) and Radda in Chianti (SI) and a few little towns on their borders also called sub-zones (for the Superiore grapes cannot come from the border towns). On top of the limitations on the “grape areas” there are also strict rules on the kinds of grapes that can be used to make the wine and aging rules (just like you would have rules for making Champagne, Barolo,…). A Chianti can only be called Chianti when a minimum of 80% of Sangiovese grapes are used to make the wine and if mixed with other grapes (so the remaining 20%), these grapes have to be on the list of allowed grapes like Canaiolo for example. The reason why some winemakers will be mixing Sangiovese with othere grapes is to soften the wines as the Sangiovese grape is a very strong grape with lots of tannins… The aging time must be a minimum of 7 months. I could go on talking about Chianti, but maybe this would bore you and it would take me too much off track about the actual trip 🙂

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I do want to add one more thing. Although most wine estates will like making Chianti wine out of respect for tradition, but most estates will mostly also be making a (super) Toscana IGT where the rules are less strict and a winemaker can let himself go and be creative and show how good he actually is…

It was nice walking around the Castello d’albola’s vineyard as you can feel the history it carries around, somehow it feels like you are going back in time (but then with modern lightning and other features as a bonus) and as like it was meant to be a few motorbikes from 1915 (so from during WO I) were standing on the parking of the estate (they were from other people visiting the vineyard) … so the historical feel was even bigger. It is just unbelievable how thick the walls are from historical buildings like Castello d’albola and how isolating they are (how the keep the right temperature inside). Castello d’albola is worth the visit when you’re visit Tuscany.

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Castello d’albola produces between 500 000 and 800 000 bottles a year (depending on the weather conditions that would influence the harvest (amount)). Part of wines ages in the old cellars, but most of the wine ages in the in 1991newly build warehouse (although I’m not sure it is the right name for it as it is more than that) which has all the modern facilities a winemaker should have to make good wine 🙂

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Like all visits the best part is always the tasting of the finished product where lots of people have worked hard and long for… If only already out of respect for the ones who made it 😉 and combine this tasting with some good local salami, ham and/or cheese and you’ve got an Italian feast (my opinion, I don’t need much to be happy)

I always say my beautiful fiancée has an expensive taste, but I have to plead guilty as well as for some reason I always seem to like the most expensive wines during a tasting 🙂 🙂 (without knowing the price upfront) … FYI it is not that I didn’t/ don’t like the other wines, but the taste wants what the taste wants 😉 From the Castello d’albola gamma my preferred wines were the Acciaiolo, Il Solatio and Le Ellere as they were of a stronger character and had a fuller body with I think the strongest the Il Solatio which is 100% sangiovese aka “Sangiovese in purezza” (which in English would mean pure Sangiovese). I already feel that my home wine assortment increasing.

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The absolute star of the tasting of the wines of the Castello d’albola vineyard was I think their Vin Santo which was one of the best I’ve ever tasted (and I just can’t get enough of the cantucci cookies you dip in that wine). It was sweet, but not too sweet or sticky in the mouth.

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We now set sail to the Abbazia Monte Oliveto wine estate of which you will read more in my next blogpost. After that I’ll stop talking about wine and tell more about other things to do in Tuscany 🙂 (although that mostly also involves eating and drinking 😉

Roadtrip with my dad: Fattoria Fibbiano

As you probably read in my blogpost about Fattoria Fibbiano’s winetasting I had a while ago at restaurant Pazzo (my blogpost) that what astonished / intrigued me is the fact they only use original Tuscan grapes like Sangiovese,  Canaiolo , Colombana, Colorino and Malvasia , so no Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon gets used…. So you can imagine why I definitely wanted to visit this vineyard?! During the wine tasting with Matteo I already thought he was speaking with lots of passion about their wines, but his brother Nicola (who I met during this trip) who makes the wines even surpasses this level of passion and also transmits this passion to the ones he talks to 🙂 (in this case my dad, our 2 partners in crime joining us on this trip and me).

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Nicola

You know what makes Italy, Italy? The hospitality! No matter whom you visit or how long, they’ll always bring out their best food and drinks to make you feel welcome… AND I let them 😉 😉 no really I just love it. At Fattoria Fibbiano this wasn’t any different as we immediately felt very welcome!!

Even though Fattoria Fibbiano only exists for 20 years they have already achieved a lot if you ask me. I think their biggest strength is the fact it is a family business and every member of the family has its particular task Matteo (the oldest brother) does the sales all over the world, Nicola makes the wine, Giuseppe (the father) helps out Nicola and the wives (lovely ladies I must add!)take care of the Agriturismo (6 apartments) and will try to make your stay most enjoyable. Maybe before I continue talking about the vineyard I should indicate where it is located. Fattoria Fibbiano is in Terricciola a little village 40km from Pisa.

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I must admit I found it a pity I couldn’t sleep at their agriturismo as it looked really nice (the great weather also chipped in)… but nevertheless I felt home and btw I’ll be back anyway in the future 😉 (Don’t get me wrong I also like the place we ended up sleeping)

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Something I didn’t mention yet is that Fattoria Fibbiano is that for making the wines only treat their soils with organic, non-chemical substances. Something that also surprised me was that most of the work on the vineyard is still done manually with the most important reason to keep a good overview of everything that lives/happens in the vineyard… a machine can be quick and as good as it wants, but the human feel/ look is something that cannot be replaced if you want to make a high quality product. Nicola follows the progress from the vineyard daily from the moment it starts blooming until the actual grape picking. The difference between wanting to make quality wine from big quantity wine already starts with grape selection in the vineyards… with this I mean that the winemakers won’t leave all the grapes(bunches) on the branches, during the year they will be cutting away those bunches that are too much on a branch. This will give the remaining grapes the higher quality… basically if you would have 7 bunches or a branch, the branch will have to nourish all 7 bunches… if you cut away a few bunches, the remaining bunches will get nourished more/better = higher quality grape. Don’t worry I won’t get too technical. Something I can never get my head around when I’m visiting a places where there now are vineyards ( or desert) millions of years ago used to be sea (although maybe if the global warming continues one day I’ll get to see it again) and still up to today you can find shells in the soil… I’m saying this a where Fattoria Fibbiano’s vineyards are located it used to be sea and you still see shells laying around…

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What I think makes wine making fun for the winemakers, is that they can experiment with it in the case of Fattoria Fibbiano they use different barrels, they use obviously wooden barrels, stainless steel tanks and cemented tanks. Depending on the type of wine they’ll be making they will leave the wine for a particular period in the mentioned types of barrels… but if you would leave the same wine other periods in different types of barrels the result will be totally different 🙂 great, right? Obviously when making wines there are some rules to take into account. It was to hear Nicola speak with so much passion on his vision on winemaking and what way he liked to make wine… One thing I’m sure of is that a winemaker needs lots of patience and know-how as it seems simple, but I’m sure it isn’t if you want to do it in a proper way. He was now even experimenting on making an own Rosé sparkling wine… hopefully I’ll be able to taste it one day

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I’m not sure what it was, but I found their cellar very light and as they are only for 20 years the cellar also looks very new 🙂 … Visiting the cellar is all very nice, but to my opinion it was getting a bit dry … it was time for some tasting that got even better with a slice of homemade salami and a local cheese… or as we call it ‘la dolce vita’ 😉

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I could describe all their wines, but I won’t as I think the only way to know how they taste is by tasting them 🙂 . How a wine tastes changes from where, when and for which occasion you drink it… I wouldn’t be able to indicate my favourite wine as they all have their specific taste and thing I like about them, although I must admit like the Fonte delle donne, l’Aspetto and Casalini a lot… The most ‘special’ wine (and I also mentioned it in my previous blogpost) is their rosé wine aka Sofia made 100% from the Sangiovese grape (that normally only gets used to make strong red wines like a Brunello di Montalcino, …) so if you want to impress friends with a special rosé… this is the one. What all Fattoria Fibbiano’s wines have in common is that they are easy to drink! This is also how the family describes their wines and it is also the product they want… their most complex wine would be the Ceppatella…. I know, it is probably due to the fact I’m greedy that I’m not able to choose a favourite one 🙂

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As if all of this wasn’t hospitable enough, we were asked to join the family table for dinner prepared by the ladies of the house (who are we to refuse)… and they have outdone themselves (BTW, when staying at the Agriturismo if wanted you can also eat there… just FYI). Feast your eyes on the meal they had prepared for us (or the shortened version of it).

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I had a wonderful day under the Tuscany sun and was ready to continue our trip! (but I’ll be back as our dear friend Arnold said 😉 but with my beautiful fiancée as I’m sure she’d love it here ). To be continued…..