Page 1

Drinking Wisely & Well FALL 2014

A publication of It’s A Winederful Life

Italy’s Greatest Treasures

INSIDE:  Italy’s Greatest Treasures  Umbria: A Heart of Green  Going Green in Italy’s Green Heart  Small, but Sweet  Where Etruscans Used to Tread  Rock of Flowers  Blazing a Trail in Torgiano  Courting Franciacorta  Liquid Gold

Italy’s Greatest Treasures I

taly wasn’t called Enotria – land of the trained vine – by the Greeks for nothing. Home to more than 1,000 grape varieties, nearly anywhere you look, viticulture truly thrives. Consequently, Italy is known for a wealth of wines from north to south, east to west and almost everywhere in between. And, with deeply embedded roots, the vine has taken hold of the Italian culture – appearing throughout time in art, religion and life in general. Similarly, Italy’s culture has flourished in many ways and has developed a reputation for many other treasures – from product design and fashion to other pleasures of the palate – cheeses, meats and vinegar. In fact, as I was reminded by Chiara Lungarotti, it is no accident that the words culture and cultivation share the same etymological root. Our recent trip to Italy took us to Lazio, Umbria, Emilia-Romana and Lombardia, inclusive of Rome and Milan, in pursuit of wine, gastronomy, art and fashion, often intersecting all at once. Whether enjoying a cappuccino at breakfast, browsing for a new handbag, entering a museum or church, stopping for gelato or simply sipping a glass of Lambrusco at the end of the day, with each encounter, the mundane was repeatedly elevated to the sublime, suffusing our trip with color and life. 


Drink Wisely & Well

UMBRIA: A Heart of Green



t all started on a rainy day in March. Our usual Wine Media Guild lunch, held at Felidia restaurant in New York, hosted a tasting of wines from Italy’s Umbria region – notably Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Representatives from the individual wineries were scattered around the room and I had the good fortune to share a table with Francesca Morici. Unfortunately, Lamberto Spacchetti, Francesca’s husband (and winemaker for Colle Ciocco) had had to immediately return to Italy upon arrival in New York due to a death in the family, but Francesca stood in his stead admirably. Seizing the opportunity to practice my nascent Italian language skills, I began to speak with Francesca. We cliqued right away and by the end of lunch, she was strongly encouraging me to visit her in Montefalco.

pseudo-promise to visit estate 2014 (summer 2014), and the taste of their Passito still on my lips. A correspondence ensued and I was soon referring to Francesca as my Italian pen pal. By December, the next Italian travel opportunity presented itself (not that I needed much of an excuse to visit Italy) and I wrote to Francesca to let her know we would be Italy-bound in September 2014 – only a month later than promised. She welcomed our impending visit with open arms and planning commenced in earnest. Thus, on a September morning, with a slight drizzle bidding us farewell from Roma, we headed north-east to Italy’s heartland – Umbria. 

As tempting as the offer was, my travel plans at the time had me visiting Sicily, Campania and Puglia and the addition of a fourth region was simply impossible. Instead, I left with the

Drink Wisely & Well

All about Umbria While Tuscany usually gets all of the acclaim for central Italy, its neighbor, Umbria is equally deserving of attention. Home to several DOC and DOCG designations, the quality-minded region produces a wide array of wines as well as olives and truffles. Umbria is often referred to as “il cuor verde d'Italia” (the green heart of Italy) based on a poem by Giosuè Carducci. Sitting in the center of Italy, this region is the only Italian region without any coastal land, but certainly doesn’t lack for beauty. Dotted with wine towns Orvieto, Montefalco, Torgiano and others, the region is known for its wonderful wines, but is also well regarded for its rich, religious history especially that concerning St. Francis of Assisi. And, in fact, the two histories are often intertwined. The walled town of Montefalco is situated somewhat in the middle of the region and was initially called Corrcorone, but its name was changed by Frederico II due to his passion for falconry. Today, the town’s high end restaurant bears the original name. Grapes have been cultivated for centuries within the area, especially the variety of Sagrantino, the name for which comes from the word “sacrum.” Historically, a passito (dried grape)-style, sweet wine was produced from Sagrantino by the Franciscan monks and used for mass. Thankfully, the monks’ devotion to their sacred wine kept the vines safe and secure behind the monastery walls, which were impenetrable to the phylloxera louse. And, it was from the monks that future vintners could obtain these vines in their quest to plant them post-phylloxera. Although the sweet wine was highly prized, this challenging grape, which Chiara Lungarotti has described as a wild horse, noting that it is difficult to domesticate, resisted initial efforts to be crafted into a quality, dry style until the 1970s (see next page). Finally, in 1979, the Sagrantino di Montefalco denomination was awarded and was then promoted to DOCG status in 1992. Wines within the Montefalco Rosso DOC are a blend of Sangiovese (60-70%), Sagrantino (10-15%) and other red varieties, while the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG is produced entirely of Sagrantino and is aged for a minimum of 30 months, of which at least 12 months is in wood. In this manner, the Montefalco Rosso is generally the fresher, fruitier wine capable of being drunk young, while the Sagrantino di Montefalco is more ageworthy, usually requiring a few years of bottle age before it is ready to drink. 

Fresco of Montefalco by Benozzo Gozzoli, reproduced from the Colle Ciocco brochure 6

Arnaldo Caprai: Going Green in Italy’s Green Heart Although wine has been produced within Umbria for centuries, its reputation for high quality wine didn’t develop until more recently. Specifically, the region owes much of its current popularity to W ine Enthusiast magazine’s 2012 European Winery of the Year: Arnaldo Caprai. In 1971, Arnaldo Caprai, founder of one of Italy’s leading textile companies, purchased an estate in the region and planted Sagrantino, a minor grape variety at the time, but indigenous to the area. The grape was most commonly associated with its use by the Franciscan monks who crafted a sweet wine for use in religious observance.

social, political and environmental impact before they are implemented. In this regard, an agricultural machine was adapted to capture the chemicals used to protect the vines from mildew, and recycle them, thereby ensuring that the spray is used solely on the leaves and not dripping down into the soil. Further, while machine harvesting might be a reasonable option, the winery has chosen to continue to hand harvest its grapes to preserve employment opportunities for local workers.

Given the family’s textile connection, their textile and viticultural endeavors have been woven together. In 1992, Arnaldo Caprai With an ambitious aim, Arnaldo set out to make an historic wine Gruppo Tessile was joined by the creation of Cruciani by Luca with the production of a dry Sagrantino, but his first trials were- Caprai. This new company focuses on cashmere and lace, most n’t very good. When Arnaldo’s son, Marco, joined the winery as recently launching a subsidiary line Cruciani C in 2011. Specialmanager in 1988, he began to work with the University of Milan izing in crocheted bracelets, made of macramé lace, the concept – a partnership that still continues to this day. This project foof Cruciani C is to bring lace to a modern (and younger) audicused on the need to truly understand the Sagrantino grape, par- ence. ticularly its structure and tannins. After 15 years of intensive study of the grape’s genetics, they were able to identify the three These multi-colored bracelets have become quite popular and the best clones, which they then patented and planted. Ultimately, company has capitalized on this trend to raise money for various producing high quality Sagrantino dry wines and fulfilling Arcauses. A bracelet sporting a heart and grapes was designed to naldo’s dream. support Montefalco’s museum and the return of a letter, which documents Benozzo Gozzoli (fresco painter)’s love for MonteCurrently, Arnaldo Caprai has 136 planted hectares planted to falco. Also, a bracelet with green circles acknowkedges Caprai’s vines of which 40 hectares are dedicated to Sagrantino, planted commitment to the environment and its Sustainability Project, on the best sites, especially hill tops. Sangiovese, Cannaiolo and Montefalco 2015: The New Green Revolution.  other grapes fill out the remaining acreage. A specially designated vineyard is planted to 20 different varieties from which the best grapes are selected each vintage and then made into the winery’s Cuvée Secrete, first produced in 2012. Fermented in barrique and aged for six months in oak, this dry white offers spice, apple, lanolin, almond and a slightly woody note on both the nose and palate, with a very long finish. Other whites include Grecante, a 100% Grechetto bearing the Colli Martani DOC, which was fresh, clean and distinctly mineral in character, as well as Montefalco Bianco, which blends Grechetto, Trebbiano Toscana and Fiano for a fuller-bodied expression with apple and nectarine. Caprai produces a trio of Montefalco Rossos –Montefalco Rosso, the single-vineyard Vigna Flaminia Maremmana Montefalco Rosso and Montefalco Rosso Riserva –the latter of which was my favorite with its intense, concentrated nose of plum, spice, cherries, and wood, but needing time to develop due its tight tannins (we tasted the 2008). Of the two Montefalco Sagrantinos, the Collepiano was more elegant, while the 25 Anni was more powerful, but both were rich, intense and complex with a range of aromas and flavors including plum, prune, floral, spice and tobacco leaf. With cocoa, cherry and floral notes, the Sagrantino Montefalco Passito was a lovely way to end our meal with Marco Caprai. Among the winery’s other viticultural endeavors has been its emphasis on sustainability. In 2008, Arnaldo Caprai launched its Sustainability Project, Montefalco 2015: The New Green Revolution. Eschewing the more limited nature of organic viticulture, instead, the adopted protocols are evaluated for their collective

Drink Wisely & Well


Colle Ciocco: Small, but Sweet Lamberto’s family has been growing grapes and olives for over 200 years, but the present winery wasn’t established until his father, Settimio Spacchetti, founded Colle Ciocco in 1935.

Today, Lamberto (and his brother Eliseo) oversee eight hectares dedicated to both local and non-local varieties and another nine hectares planted to olive trees, many of which are over 100 years old. His dedication to olives includes the cultivation of three different types of olives – Moraiolo, Frantoio and Leccino –and the production of three different cold-pressed extra virgin olive oils: a floral, a fruity and a gentle style. Although Lamberto’s wife, Francesca, refers to herself as “just a housewife,” she usually joins Lamberto in his endeavors – at least when needed such as her pinch hitting for him in New York or accompanying him to ProWein. Her family is equally enmeshed with Montefalco – dating back for decades if not centuries.

I only hope my Italian translation was up to the challenge as I shared this newfound knowledge with my husband. Here, Florentine Benozzo Gozzoli painted an incredible fresco cycle of St. Francis of Assisi (the town itself located about 35 minutes away) that were remarkable for their time and continue to provide everlasting beauty. Treated as members of their family, the museum visit was followed by a traditional lunch, inclusive of a typical dish of pasta in Sagrantino wine sauce, served in their home and accompanied by a tasting of Lamberto’s wines. But, while Colle Ciocco is small in production volume (only 44,000 bottles), it is well regarded. Head to the top restaurant in town –Coccorone – and Lamberto’s olive oil graces the table and his wine is in good company on the list. And, when attending one of the big trade tastings, i.e. VinItaly, it is reported that fellow producer Marco Caprai will come sniffing out the remains of Lamberto’s Passito at the end of day. Beyond olive oil and his Passito, Lamberto produces two dry white wines – Clarignano Umbria Bianco and Tempestivo Umbria Bianco (both of which are IGT Umbria). The Clarignano brings together Viognier, Grechetto and Chardonnay and is produced entirely in stainless steel to preserve the fresh almond, citrus and mineral notes. He is the only one growing Viognier in Montefalco, planted because he is less enamored with the indigenous Grechetto and was intrigued by the aromas and flavors that Viognier would bring. The Tempestivo is produced with 100% Trebbiano Spoletino, which is the local clone of Trebbiano. This wine was rich and round, and broad on the palate, with more intense fruit character, mainly pear. Lamberto’s Montefalco Rosso 2009 showed plum and wet leaves with moderate tannins, while the Sagrantino from the 2007 vintage was deeper, richer and more intense with brighter fruit. His much admired Passito is simply beautiful, not syrupy at all, with a nice tannic grip, plum and raisins and long length.

Their joint passion and devotion to Montefalco are overt and infectious. A casual mention on my itinerary regarding a desire to visit the local museum (formerly the church of San Francesco) was met with dogged determination to get us there before closing and with detailed explanation of each artwork in rapid Italian.

Lamberto also produces Grappa di Sagrantino using a traditional copper still and was very smooth with lots of floral notes. A second version of the grappa is aged in wood, which not only adds color, but a bit of depth on the palate. After being the recipients of such gracious hospitality, it was hard to leave, but we knew we must bid them a sweet farewell.

Drink Wisely & Well


Decugnano dei Barbi: Where Etruscans Used to Tread Situated west of Montefalco, Orvieto has always been linked with wine. Lured by the fortified nature of the area’s volcanic rock, the Etruscan civilization, which was the first to make wine, established Orvieto as a holy city in the 8th century BCE. Here, the Etruscans developed a threetiered system using gravity to move the pressed grape juice from the highest level, via terracotta pipes, for fermentation on a second level and then onto a third, lower level for aging. In the 3 rd century BCE, the Romans conquered the Etruscans and continued their traditional system for winemaking. Today, approximately 1,000 caves still exist in the region.

Extending Orvieto’s holy status, the town served as the summer residence of the Pope and, later, was his permanent residence during the sacking of Rome in 1527. The Decugnano estate is a part of this lengthy wine history with a document dated from 1212 testifying to the production of wine on the property. More recently, the Barbi family, originally from Brescia, purchased the land in 1973 and today, Enzo Barbi, a member of the 3 rd generation, runs the estate. The 35 acre estate is home to a special microclimate sustaining a high diurnal shift from day to night, maintaining good acidity and fruit in the grapes. The volcanic soil also contains some clay and sedimentary rock, as evidenced by marine fossils. Half of the property is planted to grapes with a 50%-50% split among red and white varieties. Red grapes include Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir, the latter of which is used for the production of Metodo Classico (Traditional Method) sparkling wine. Whites include Grechetto, Procanico, Verdello, Chardonnay, Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. Harvest is carried out both by hand and machine.

The Decugnano Brut 2007, a blend of Verdello, Procanico and Chardonnay, is Metodo Classico with seven years on the lees yielding notes of toast, yeast and slight apple, along with a very elegant mousse and good acidity. Il Bianco 2011, a dry white with the Orvieto DOC, is made from Grechetto, Procanico and Vermentino, offering almond and mineral aromas, medium acidity, a very waxy undercurrent, and mineral and pear notes on the broad palate. Il Rosso 2011 Umbria IGT brings together one-third each of Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Syrah, the latter of which spends 12 months in oak. The result is aromas of slight oak, smoke, black cherry, blackberry, with firm, but ripe, tannins, black cherry fruit and a hint of leather. ď‚™

Drink Wisely & Well

Roccafiore: Todi’s Rock of Flowers CATALONIA Can DO IT!

Midway between Montelfalco and Orvieto, Todi is said to have been built by Hecules, but more historically accurate accounts place its founding with the Umbri tribe of Italic people in the 87th century BC. Home to the Todi DOC, the town is an anchor for several wineries, including Roccafiore.

months in large Slavonian oak, followed by two to three months in bottle before release. Almonds, floral and pear notes greet the nose. With medium+ acidity and a full body, the palate displays slight wood, with peach and Asian pear, culminating in long length and seems quite capable of aging.

Owner Leonardo Baccerelli was in the energy business before he got into the wine industry, which might explain the field of solar arrays just adjacent to the winery. In 2000, he decided to launch a wine project and hired an enologist, Hartmann Donà, from Northeastern Italy, to assist him in this goal. By 2005, the first wine was produced.

The flagship red, Provo d’Autore 2011, which roughly translates to Try of the Artist, was my favorite. A blend of Sagrantino, Montepulciano and Sangiovese, with 24 months in barrique, the wine is layered and complex with cocoa, dusty, but ripe tannins, spice, cherries, dark red fruit and very long length. It was not surprising to see why this wine was sold out and required us to find a bottle in Todi instead of being able to purchase one at the winery.

Leonardo is joined in this venture by his son, Luca, both of whom are dedicated to the environment. In keeping with this vision, Roccafiore is now certified organic, biofuels are used in the tractors and power for the winery is entirely generated onsite. The estate also boasts a resort hotel with a spa and restaurant, the latter of which emphasizes zero-kilometer cuisine. Aside from grapes, Roccafiore is home to olive orchards, producing its own olive oil, and Cinta Senese pigs, from which it produces its own salami. The 30 acres are planted to local varieties such as Grechetto di Todi, Trebbiano Spoletino, Muscat, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Sagrantino and annual production is 90,000 bottles. The flagship white, Fiorfiore 2012 bears the Todi Grechetto DOC and is produced entirely from 100% Grechetto di Todi grapes from the estate’s oldest vines. The wine spends 12


Despite growing Sagrantino grapes on their own estate, the Baccarelli’s wanted to produce Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG and have consequently partnered with Fratelli Pardi to do so. Following a short maceration, their wine is aged in a combination of barrique and barrels for 15 months. It had softer tannins that others we tasted, with a freshness most likely due to the limited time on the skins, along with full body and long length. While Montefalco has its Sagrantino Passito, Roccafiore has created its own special dessert wine: Collina d’Oro 2012, which translates as Hill of Gold. Made from Moscato Gialla grapes, which are picked in September and dried until February, only 2.000 bottles are produced of this IGT Umbria Passito. Copper in color, the wine offered honey, spice and orange marmalade. Although admittedly intense and rich, its acidity balances the sweetness beautifully. 

Drink Wisely & Well

Blazing a Trail An hour north of Montefalco, the town of Torgiano bears the name of Umbria’s second DOCG wine. Not far from Umbria’s capital of Perugia, it was here that Giorgio Lungarotti founded his eponymous winery in 1962. Like the Caprai family, the Lungarotti family was another dynasty focused on bringing quality back to the region. In fact, Giorgio was among the first to export his wines out of the country, focusing on the United States market as early as the 1970s. Giorgio’s first passion was Rubesco, a wine initially without a denomination since the Torgiano DOC was not granted until 1968. Named by his wife, Maria Grazia, for the Italian word rubescere – meaning to blush – the wine set the stage for the progress and success that was to come. In 1987, Giorgio and Maria Grazia set up the Lungarotti Foundation, which went on to establish the highly regarded Museo del Vino (wine museum) and Olive and Oil Museum, both of which are located in Torgiano. Today, at 88 years young, Maria Grazia still manages the affairs of the foundation. Since 1999, her daughter Chiara Lungarotti has served as CEO while daughter Theresa Severini runs Marketing and grandson, Francesco (Theresa’son), is Export Manager. As part of their continued quest to be good neighbors and stewards of the environment, in 2004, the winery


in Torgiano

began producing electricity with vineyard biomass and by 2015 they will be autonomous in their electricity production. Why biomass and not other ecological means of energy generation? Well, Chiara has thought long and hard about this decision and was concerned about the longevity of solar panels, wondering what she would do with them when they ultimately failed. The idea of clogging up landfills with spent solar arrays was less than satisfactory. Unfortunately, there is insufficient wind in the area, so windmills were not a reliable option. Hence, the choice to use biomass. We kicked off the tasting with their Pinot Grigio 2013. This variety was introduced to the area by Giorgio in the 1970s, where it has adapted well to the steep, alluvial soils. It was bright with a clean, crisp palate, displaying citrus and pear notes. Torre di Giano 2012, meaning Tower of Janus (another name courtesy of Maria Grazia) is a blend of Trebbiano Spoletino, Grechetto and Vermentino. This dry white wine has freshness and minerality with honey, floral and a slight vegetal note, along with high acidity and long length.

Rubesco 2011 Rosso di Torgiano DOC was the first wine of the region and is still an important part of Lungarotti’s production. The wine spends one year in French oak and 15 months in bottle before release. It showed bright red fruit, with an undercurrent of damp earth, ripe tannins, spice and mouthwatering acidity. The jewel in Lungarotti’s crown is their Rubesco Riserva 2007, Vigna Monticchio, a single vineyard Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG. Torgiano’s elevation to DOCG status came in 1990, but was retroactive to the 1983 vintage. A 70% Sangiovese - 30% Canaiolo blend, the wine spends one year in oak with an additional four years of bottle age before release. This complex wine offered up smoke, oak, cherries, darker red fruit and spice, displaying both restrained power and an elegance. Referred to as a Super Umbrian for its use of non-traditional varieties, Giorgio Lungarotti first created San Giorgio in 1977. The name honors the feast day of Saint George (April 23), which is still celebrated today with bonfires in the vineyards of Torgiano. This blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon is very intense, with dark berries, chocolate covered cherries, firm tannins and a full body (2005 tasted).

Drink Wisely & Well

Although Lungarotti is very well entrenched in Torgiano, more recently the family has decided to also make its mark in Montefalco, establishing a winery in the other DOCG, built completely underground. The Rosso di Montefalco 2011 is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Sagrantino, which spent 12 months in barrique and six months in bottle before release. Aromas and flavors of ripe, bright dark black and red fruit dominate, along with good acidity and medium+ body. Meanwhile, the Sagrantino di Montefalco 2009 is aged for 12 months in barrique, followed by 20 months of bottle age. Along with the usual red and black fruit, the wine offered up notes of black pepper and tobacco, as well as extremely firm, but ripe, tannins. Beyond the wineries and museums, the family runs a 5-star resort, Le Tre Vasselle, which is nestled within the walls of Torgiano. They also produce DOP Umbria olive oil from Frantoio, Leccino and Moraiolo olives, made into two styles: one from olives picked later in the season (November-December) when they are much riper and thus milder and another from green, stronger olives picked in October-November, which is much spicier on the palate. Among the larger wineries in the region, Lungarotti employs 100 people, maintains 250 hectares and produces 2.5 million bottles annually, which are exported to 46 countries. Given its size, only 10% of the estate is hand harvested. ď‚™


Courting Franciacorta


birthday celebration in Milan called for a festive and foodie-approved restaurant, so we took the metro out to Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, a Relais et Chateaux property, which also boasts two Michelin stars and a fifty year history as one of Milan’s finest eateries. After being promptly seated, we were immediately asked if we wished to start off our evening with an aperitivo – Champagne perhaps, he questioned? I looked at him inquisitively. Champagne? I countered, of course not; this is Italy, bring on the Franciacorta! In doing so, I managed to score some points with our host/sommelier and, when we later saw the higher prices of the Champagne compared to the Franciacorta, I scored points with the husband, too. We were duly rewarded with a glass of the Ca’ del Bosco that had spent 14 years on the lees and was made especially for the restaurant. If you are not familiar with Franciacorta, it is not surprising. This Metodo Classico sparkling wine hails from the Lombardia region of Italy, just north of Milan, but only a tiny fraction is exported. Most of that is attributable to the small size of the production and the remainder is due to home demand. An amphitheater created during the glacial period, the region is rich in stones, with its morainic hills. The viticultural history of the region dates back centuries and was mentioned by both Pliny the Elder and Virgil. Less ancient, the name possibly stems from the Cluniac monks who inhabited the area during the 11th century and lived in a tax-free district. By 1277, the name became Franzacurta.

Drink Wisely & Well



ur visit to the region included stops at four producers and the further opportunity to taste additional wines with lunches and dinners. Montenisa Montenisa represents Antinori’s foray into Franciacorta. In 1999, the Antinori family came to Callino, situated in the heart of the region and one of the best towns for Franciacorta, They purchased the historic estate with its beautiful palazzo from Conte Maggi in the hope of producing great Franciacorta. Dating to the second half of the 15th century, the estate was named for the hill that backs up to the property. Today, there are 60 hectares behind the estate planted to Chardonnay (70%), Pinot Bianco (20%) and Pinot Noir (10%) with a total production of 360,000 bottles each year. During our visit, we tasted the Cuvée Special Brut, Satèn 2009 and the Rosé. Made from a special selection of grapes, the Cuvée Special Brut is predominantly Chardonnay, with just a splash of Pinot Bianco, and is fermented entirely in stainless steel. With its fine perlage, the wine was fresh with pear, grapefruit and yeast, as well as elegance and very long length. Ten percent of the grapes for the Satèn were fermented in barrique, which added depth and richness to the wine, along with floral,

Lantieri de Paratico The noble Lantieri de Paratico family traces its roots to the year 930 CE, with a family tree filled with engineers, mathematicians and authors. The suffix “de Paratico” bears evidence of the family’s long association with the village of the same name, which is where they ultimately built their castle in the 11 th century. Among the castle’s many guests, the Lantieri’s gave hospitality to the poet Dante Alighieri who is said to have taken refuge at the castle during which time he wrote some of Purgatory. But, despite their heritage in Paratico, the Lantieri family eventually moved to Capriolo, establishing its viticultural tradition and reputation as early as the 16th century and, eventually, the modern winery that exists today. Currently managed by Fabio and Patrizia Lantieri, the family’s coat of arms is prominently displayed on the entrance to the winery and proudly declares their long legacy. Their Extra Brut is produced solely with grapes fermented in stainless steel (90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir) and spends 24 months in contact with the lees before disgorgement. Very fresh, with minerality, citrus and a slight herbaceous note on the palate, it had nice structure, elegance and long length. The Satèn possess only four atmospheres of pressure and has some barrique contact in the base wine before it spends 30 months on the lees. Slightly earthy and complex, with a more intense, richer nose than the Extra Brut. The Riserva 2008 Origines has 60 months of lees contact and is without any dosage, yielding very toasty, caramel and brioche notes, with full body, richness, spice and nut flavors on the palate. Cavalleri The Cavalleri family has long been associated with the region, having produced still, red wine here since the 15th century. The present day winery dates to 1968, when Gian Paolo and Giovanni Cavalleri, a father and son team, established their eponymous winery in the hills of Erbusco. Although they previously sold their wine in bulk, in the 1970s, they decided to produce their own wine and crafted their first Franciacorta in 1979. Today, Giovanni’s daughters, Maria and Giulia, as well as grandchildren, Francesco and Diletta, are actively involved in the operations.

peach and bready notes. The Rosé, made from 100% Pinot Noir (only 25% is required by DOCG regulations) had beautiful color, slight structure, with berries, yeast and floral aromas, culminating with a hint of sweet jam in the long finish.

Drink Wisely & Well

Their location in Erbusco benefits from the wind off Lake Iseo along with good diurnal shifts between day and night temperatures, which help to preserve acidity in the grapes. The 45 hectares are primarily planted to Chardonnay with just a small amount of Pinot Noir. Since 2013, the estate has been organic and will be certified in another year. Annual production is at 250,000 bottles, of which 170,000 are Franciacorta. Yields are deliberately kept low, with only 45-50% of the press juice going into the Franciacorta; the remainder is used in the production of still wine. The current Blanc de Blancs Brut is 100% Chardonnay, with 80% from 2011 and the remainder from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. The wine has a very fresh nose, displaying high acid and minerality on the angular and precise palate. The Satèn had 40% of its base wine fermented in barriques and spent 40 months on the lees. It offered lemon, lemon curd with slight honey and was slightly more structured than the Blanc de Blancs. The 50% Pinot Noir-50% Chardonnay Rosé underwent 12 hours of skin contact, resulting in a pale, onion skin color. It had just a hint of red fruit, along with a creamy character and some depth on the palate. My favorite of the Cavalleri line-up was their Collezione Grand Cru 2007, which Diletta noted was an excellent vintage. With 48 months on the lees and only 4 g/l of dosage, the wine was toasty, yeasty, rich and elegant with long length and a clean finish. Villa Not just home to vineyards and a winery, Villa might be said to contain a whole village. In fact, a medieval town adjacent to the estate has been fully restored and now serves as holiday rentals, complete with a pool and playground. But, despite the expansive complex, wine is certainly not an afterthought. In 1960, Alessandro Bianchi decided to rescue the abandoned town and estate and began to produce wine, making his first Franciacorta in 1978. Villa only produces vintage-dated wines, which consequently must contain a minimum of 85% of the stated year. The winery has undertaken a project with the University of Florence to cultivate a selected yeast from its cellar, which is thought to add floral notes to the wines. The Satèn 2010 spent three years on the lees. It displayed aromas of apple, mineral and citrus and was very rich on the fullbodied palate. Emozione Brut 2010 is an historical wine for Villa, having first been produced in


1978 and also has no barrique influence. Similarly aged for three years, it was lighter on the nose and palate, but with slightly more elegance than the Satèn. Rosé Boké Brut 2010, named for a mineral in the sea with the same color of the wine, offered notes of under ripe berries, nectarine, slight yeast and earth, with long length. A demi-sec rosé is also produced, but is not permitted to carry the Franciacorta DOCG. Le Quattro Terre We also enjoyed wines from Le Quattro Terre with dinner in their restaurant and, in particular, were enamored with their Rosé 2010, a 40% Pinot Noir, 60% Chardonnay blend, with its notes of berries and toast.

Drink Wisely & Well

Production by the numbers 2013 Year established Producers Bottles Hectares Grape Plantings Chardonnay Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier Pinot Bianco

Champagne* 1936 300 houses 349,000,000 33,573

Franciacorta# 1967 108 cantine 13,000,000 2,800

30% 38% 32% N/A

82% 14% N/A 4%

*Champagne Bureau #Consorzio per la tutela del Franciacorta

Diament Pas DosĂŠ 2007 was made from grapes sourced from a particular cru on the top of the hill and is produced in limited quantity (only 10,000 bottles annually). It has 30% of its base wine fermented in barrel and spends five years on the lees. The result is an intense nose of yeast, bread and toast, which repeat on the palate and are joined by citrus. It showed an overall elegance. The Riserva Selezione 2005 is only produced in good years and is even more limited in quantity (only 5,000 bottles). The 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir base wine spends six months in barrique before secondary


fermentation and is aged for seven years on the lees. As a consequence, the wine is very structured with brioche and toasty notes that linger throughout the long length. ď‚™

Franciacorta Styles PERMITTED GRAPE VARIETIES (unless other wise noted): Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and up to a maximum of 50% Pinot Bianco Non-Vintage (NV)  Must be aged in contact with the lees for a minimum of 18 months Satèn  A special category unique to Franciacorta, the Satèn style was designated in 2008; wines are produced with a slightly lower pressure (4-5 instead of 6 atmospheres of pressure).  Must be produced exclusively with white grapes of which Pinot Bianco may constitute a maximum of 50%  Must be aged in contact with the lees for a minimum of 24 months Rosé NV  Must be aged in contact with the lees for a minimum of 24 months  Must contain a minimum of 25% Pinot Noir Vintage  Must be aged in contact with the lees for a minimum of 30 months Riserva  Must be aged in contact with the lees for a minimum of 60 months

Drink Wisely & Well




$60+, the diminutive glass bottle is among the most expensive items to grace my table. And, with the cacophony of confusing, if not misleading, labels out there, it is probably one of the most misunderstood products out there. Its full and legal name is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO and its lengthy and exacting production makes it worth of its long name and hefty price tag. In Modena, there are approximately 50 producers, which together produce a total of only 40,000 bottles annually. On a relatively unassuming street, not too far from downtown Modena, a lovely house has been home to the Barbieri family first as a summer residence and then, for the past 120 years as an acetaia (vinegar loft). Acetaia di Giorgio welcomes visitors, which have included President Barak Obama. Today, tours are frequently led by Marcello Castelli, but admittedly, he married into this balsamic producing family. His wife, Carlotta, is the daughter of Giorgio and Giovanna Barbieri. Like many producers, they are tiny and artisanal, owning 450 barrels, which yield a scant 2,000 bottles (3 ounces) annually. Given the extreme discrepancy between this product and commercial vinegar, it is important to note the differences. Specifically, commercial vinegar may be produced from any grape variety and from wine vinegar. It can be made in any place and producers may legally add sugar and caramel for flavoring and color. These products are aged for a maximum of three months before they are off to market and on to the shelf. Meanwhile, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO is much more restrictive in how it can be made. First, the vinegar is limited to grape juice (not wine) and only the Lambrusco and Trebbiano grape varieties may be used and only if they are grown within the delimited geographic area. The Barbieri family uses a 50%-50% blend of Trebbiano and Lambrusco and chooses to practice organic viticulture, although it is not required. The harvest takes place in September, at which point the grapes are pressed into must (grape juice) and then placed into large wooden barrels (225 L), which are the mother barrels. Here, the mother (vinegar yeast and bacteria) begins the natural process of converting the must into vinegar over a span of two to three years. Unlike with other vinegars, alcoholic fermentation must be avoided at all costs. Once this step is complete, the must is cooked over several hours, which concentrates it into a thicker liquid. This cooked must is transferred to smaller (60L) barrels, which are kept in the attic of the house, to capitalize on the heat, which encourages further evaporation. A collection of five to six barrels is called a battery and is made up of different sized barrels (ranging from 60L to 20L) and different types of wood. While oak, cherry, mulberry, juniper, ash and chestnut barrels are all permitted, only wood sourced from local forests is allowed. The barrels are open on top to permit evaporation, with a linen cloth placed over the opening to avoid dust and bugs (neither of which are pleasant on the palate).

Drink Wisely & Well

Generally, the vinegar is rotated through several different types of wood to give it a complex set of aromas and flavors, moving from a larger barrel to a smaller one as it oxidizes, evaporates and progresses through the battery. However, producers may choose to age their vinegar in a specific type of wood to express the distinct characteristics of a given kind of wood. For example, vinegar aged solely in cherry is often sweeter, while those aged solely in juniper have fresh, herbaceous notes. Each year, a small portion of the last barrel is withdrawn to bottle it for sale. This barrel is then refilled/topped off with vinegar from the preceding, slightly larger barrel, which is topped off similarly from a still larger barrel, much like the solera system in Jerez’s sherry production. With strict controls enforced by the Consorzio, the vinegar extracted from the last barrel of the battery is brought to the Consorztio so that a commission of master tasters may taste and score the product. If the score is sufficient, the Consorzio will bottle the successful vinegar; producers are prohibited from bottling their own product as a way to further ensure production control and quality. If the commission’s tasting score is insufficient, the vinegar will be returned to the producer for additional aging. Within the PDO, there are two distinct products based solely on aging. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is aged for a minimum of 12 years (sporting a white capsule) while Extra Vecchio (Extra Old) is aged for a minimum of 25 years (donning a gold capsule). It is believed that no further development takes place beyond 50 years of aging. Accordingly, prod-


ucts making claims at this and other more advanced anniversaries are not likely true PDO products. Within these two age categories, vinegars may be further distinguished by barrel maturation as noted previously. Admittedly, I didn’t have a fully developed vocabulary to truly describe the various types of vinegar we tasted, but I did my best to capture their differences in my notes. I was surprised by the diversity and detected subtle differences between the two age categories as well as among the different wood regimes. It’s certainly not the condiment to splash over your salad, but carefully drizzled over meat (particularly the Juniper version) or even ice cream (the lengthy concentration intensifies their sweetness), one’s palate is richly rewarded. 

Drink Wisely & Well

All content and images, copyright Š 2014 Tracy Ellen Kamens. All rights reserved. | contactme (at)

Front cover: Montenisa’s Estate in Franciacorta; Back Cover: Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como k


Drinking Wisely and Well: Italy's Greatest Treasures issue  

Coverage of Umbria, Franciacorta and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Drinking Wisely and Well: Italy's Greatest Treasures issue  

Coverage of Umbria, Franciacorta and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena