Thursday, September 20, 2018

Tasting Italian Wine in New York



with Best Selling Italian Cookbook Author

Daniel Bellino  Zwicke


    Just did a barrage of four important Italian Wine Tastings in the past 2 weeks, with the much anticipated Chianti-Brunello Masters of Italian Wine tasting and culminating Friday with the most important New York Italian Wine Event of the year,
Tre Bicchieri. As always I pick up the nice looking pamphlets and brochures on most tables. They look nice with beautiful pictures of Tuscany, Tuscan Wine Estates, Vineyards in Sicily, Sardinia, and all over the Italian peninsular. What's not to like? What doesn't look beautiful? It's Italy for Gods sake! Arguably the most beautiful country on Planet Earth. And it's Italian Wine, food, Castles, Villas, this that and every other thing. And there's info in those things, the pamphlets and brochures.
    Yes I have picked up hundreds over the years, intending to read through them, picking up facts and knowledge about the wines and the estates they come from. And I do read them. But what the percentage? Fifteen 20%? about that I guess. And yes I look at the pictures. Hey they are worth a thousand words. And yes they are. They, the brochures sit around my place, just clutter after a while, and eventually, on one house cleaning or another, many of them get thrown out, never being read. Se La Vie! It is Life.
So as I look at a small pile of them that I've acquired in these last two weeks, I have made a pledge. I'm gonna read them. Maybe not all, but most and more of them anyway. Heck, I think I'll even write about them. His this little piece.
    Ok, so here we go. Grattamacco. I'm starting with the simple. This is just a pamphlet. Not a brochure, not pretty pictures, this is just one piece of paper. Real simple, but I read it as I met with the owner Claudio Tipa at the resent Tre Bicchieri. Yes a three glass winner, and a number of times. And this wine is one of the most outstanding Super Tuscans of them all. I've never been that much into it. Yes knowing about so many Italian Wines, working with them, tasting, drinking, selling, this that and every other thing for years. There is not one person who knows it all, and I know more than most. But I do not know everything. So I delve into this one. A good friend of mine who is a true Italian Wine Afficianado absolutely adors this wine, and is always talking about it. His name is Pat and he is absolutely spot on in his Love and enthusiasm for this wine Grattamacco. Taking a sip of the Grattamacco that Claudio poured for me, I liked it instantly. And as he spoke of the wine and how it is made, he perked my interest even more. Grattamacco and its estate is Organic. And the way that it is made by Claudio's wine-maker Maurizio Castelli, is truly amazing. The wine is made in small French Oak Barrels by hand. The grapes are pressed and the must (juice) is put into the small barrels with the skins and punched down by hand. Amazing. Anyway, all this Claudio told me at the table, hey what info did I get from the pamphlet.
    Well, i did get most of my info on Grattamacco as I smoke at the table with Claudio, but everything was so interesting that I had to take and read the pamphlet. So what did I learn. Well, that the estate is 25 acres and that Claudio also makes olive oil. That Grattamacco has won 3 glasses, Tre Bicchieri 7 times as well as getting 90 point scores from Robert parker seven times as well. Also that this vintage of Grattamacco 2007 is made of 20% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 60 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Reading the pamphlet I learned the name of the wine-maker, that I have already stated is Maurizio Castelli.
     Another Great wine at the tasting was the Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche 2006. Phenomenal and one of my Top3 Favorites of the day. Well some info that I got from the Ratti brochure was that the estate was founded in 1965 with the purchase of a small plot of land in the "Historical" Marcenasco zone, close to the Abbey of Annunziata.
    The brochure states that the owners and wine-makers of Renato Ratti produce a range of wines with respect for the territory and time honored wine-making techniques combined with some modern innovation. The Renato Ratti wine estate makes Dolcetto, Sauvignon Blanc, Nebbiolo D'Alb, and 3 renowned Barolo Crus in Marcenasco, Conca, and the previously mentioned Rocche.
   The Renato Ratti brochure was quite nice, packing lots of infor into a very small piece that include a bit of text, pictures of the winery, vineyards, owners, wine labels of all their wines, and best of all the the "Cartadel Barolo" di Renato Ratti which is a famous map that Renato Ratti drew of the Barolo Wine Zone and its Famed Vineyards. Really wonderful and a must have for any serious Italian Wine Geek. Bravo Renato Ratti!
Third item on my list is the beautiful brochure of "Donnafugata" from my good friends Jose and Antonio Rallo. The Rallo Family is a lovely family who goes First Class all the way, from their vineyards to the winery's, the vines, the fruit, the wine-making, to the packing of beautiful bottles of wine with great labels, and yes right down to a First Class Brochure as well. Yes, the Rallo's are and go First Class from beginning to end.
   So the brochure. Well it starts with beautiful color cover of paintings that symbolize Donnafugata the wines and the estate and the Rallo Family as well. The Donnafugate brochure is 40 pages long, filled with text, paintings, maps, and pictures of the Rallo's and Donnafugata, the vineyards, the Wines, the People.
    The first thing i found out by reading the brochure and not just merely looking through it is that the word Donnafugata means "Woman in Flight." Nice. Ok, now down to the wines.       First I have to talk about the Donnafugata benchmark premier wine, Donnafugata "Mille Una Notte," or 1001 Nights. Mille una Notte, is a wine I've loved for years made of about 95% Nero d'Avola, Sicily's premier Red Grape and 5% other varieties which may include Cabernet Sauvignon and Nerello Mascallese. This wine is what I like to call "A BIG BAD BOY," meaning it is big and full bodied with tons of ripe fruit flavors, what they would call in California, a "Fruit Bomb," but a restrained fruit bomb, big and bold, but not overly concentrated, but just right. The "Mille Una Notte" is amongst Sicily's Most Famous wines along with the two most famous in the renowned "Rosso del Conti" from Giuseppe Tasca and "Duca Enrico," with the Cerausolo di Vittoria Planeta.
   Anyway, back to the brochure as all this info, I was told personally from Antonio Rallo, other than the meaning of Donnafugata.
What I learned was some things about another Donnafuagta wine of high esteem, the Passito di Pantelleria "Ben Rye" from the Rallo's property on the island of Pantelleria, renowned as having the World's Caper's along with one of the World's Great Desert Wines in the Passito di Pantelleria.
    In the brochure, it states that the "Ben Rye" is made of Zibbio grapes. That I knew. What I didn't know is that not all the grapes are dried as i had previously thought. First, there is a harvest of "Zibibbo" grapes that takes place within the last 2 weeks of August. These grapes are put on grapes to dry in the Sun for 3-4 weeks. OK, I knew that, but I had thought all the grapes were dried before I read the brochure. In September a second harvest takes place. The Zibibbo grapes are pressed and the must (grape juice) is placed in a vat with the to ferment with the dried grapes for about a month and a half till November. The result is something I know not from the brochure but from the numerous times I pleasured in the drinking of this "Nectar of the Gods," Ben Rye. The wine is lush with aromas and tastes of Honeysuckle, Peach, and Ripe Apricots. Drinking it, borders on Orgasmic. What else can I say. It's rare and wonderful pleasure, but obtainable, none the less. Treat yourself some day. Treat some friends. i highly recommend it.


by Daniel Bellino Zwicke



with Author Daniel Bellino-Zwicke




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