New website on the horizon…

Dear Thirsty Explorers of the internet,

Veni Vidi Vino Italy has been a wonderfully fun project over the years, as I lived and worked in Italy and as I progressed through my wine studies with the WSET.  I hope that you learned along the way and enjoyed what this website had to offer!

But it seems that the geographic limitations of a site entirely dedicated to Italian vino are well, limiting, and so the time has come to expand.

So please join me at where we will continue to explore not only the wines of the Italian peninsula but also the rest of the delicious and immense world of wine, history, business, and culture.


Aubrie Talarico

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The Italian Connection: Beaujolais Crus & Ancient Rome

lawrence OP Santa CostanzaThe end of November is here and with it our tables are being adorned with French Beaujolais.  This ritualistic gulping down of Beaujolais is for good reason – not only is the freshly harvested and vinified Nouveau released on the 3rd Thursday of November but these and the other Beaujolais crew/Crus are floral and berry-driven wines which partner extremely well with fall foods from roasted turkey or duck to vegetable plates with butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

This southern Burgundy wine region has an (ancient) Italian connection that many folks don’t know about:  Beaujolais was once part of an important ancient Roman trade route where Romans also planted vines – especially on the hills that are now the modern Cru of Morgon and Brouilly.  In fact six of the ten Beaujolais Cru sites (=the best subregions of this area) are actually named for ancient Romans:

  • Juliénasnamed after Julius Caesar.
  • Saint Amour– named after a Roman soldier (who according to legend converted to Christianity to escape execution).
  • Fleurienamed after the Roman general Floricum.
  • Regnienamed after a Gallo-Roman nobleman named Reginus.
  • Côte de Brouilly/Brouillynamed after Roman lieutenant Brulius.

*The remaining Crus (Chenas, Morgon, Chiroubles & Moulin-à-Vent) are however NOT named for any ancient Roman.

Following the Romans, the Benedictine monks – originally from Cassino, halfway between Rome and Naples – planted and harvested grapevines in the region from the 7th century well into the medieval period.  Monasteries were actually of fundamental wine importance in medieval Europe.  Though viticulture certainly would have survived without them (despite some exaggerations that suggest wine would have been all but gone) they definitely had the economics, stability, land, and man-power that enabled (large-scale) wine production for many centuries through the so-called Dark Ages.

20151117_112305Quite a lot has changed since ancient Roman and Benedictine vineyards were planted in the area however.  While there’s a fun historical connection between Beaujolais and (ancient/medieval) Italy, it’s important to note that the wines of the area’s past are wildly different than those the French region makes today.  Grapes, taste, and vinification techniques have unsurprisingly changed over time.  Wines of southern Burgundy’s past may have been combinations of Pinot Noir, Aligoté, Chardonnay, and Gamay – with ancient wines being diluted with water and even flavoured with herbs, honey, and raisins.  In Beaujolais today the dominant grape is undeniably Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc (a specific Gamay clone).  The shifting of grapes around Burgundy – with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay taking precedence in the northern areas and Gamay moving to the southern Beaujolais area – has in part been due to certain historical figures’ preferences.  For example in the 14th century the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Bold, formally banned Gamay from being planted in the Burgundy area thereby pushing its plantings south to the Beaujolais region.  As luck would have it however, Gamay actually grows much better in the granitic soils that characterize the Beaujolais hillsides!

Who might like Beaujolais wines?
Fans of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Valdeguié, Cinsault, and other fruity (but not sugary sweet) reds.  The Nouveau edition of Beaujolais are typically so light and fruity they can even stand to be chilled.  Other Beaujolais AC and Villages appellations are a bit less banana and bubble-gummy and more complex.  Wines from any of the Crus are lush, full-bodied, and mineral-driven reds with red fruits and fresh floral flavours and aromas.

Fans of Beaujolais Nouveau should check out Italy’s many Novello options or look for northern Italian wines like Schiava or Lagrein.

Aubrie Talarico

Posted in Grapes: Black, Historical Stuff, Holidays, Red Wines | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasty Note: Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco 2010

cascina_barbarescoThe Wine: Cascina Roccalini – Barbaresco
Vintage (=year): 2010
Producer: Roccalini
Classified: DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)
I Paid: ~$46
Grape: 100% Nebbiolo
Region/Location: Cuneo, Piedmont, Italy
A.B.V (Alcohol by Volume): 14.5%
Aged: 20 months in large format (21 hectoliter) oak casks – more traditional approach than producers using small barrique
Drink: Now-2030

My Tasting Notes:   Dried roses, violets, and crushed cherries on the nose entangled in leather and toast notes.  Bright, lively, and definitely tannic (from the grapes though, not from the wood) – this high acid, high alcohol wine is balanced but could use a food partner and some time to relax.

The Verdict:  This is a textbook example of an elegant but powerful Nebbiolo/Barbaresco wine of Piedmont.  It’s worth noting that their traditional use of large format wood casks renders a full-bodied red that is not overtly “oaky” – the fruit is the starring character here.  It’s a bit softer and with more finesse than a traditional-style Barolo from 2010 would be drinking right now – this is delicious, approachable, and ridiculously affordable for the caliber wine it is.

Great for:  Fans of Barolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Brunello, and Burgundian Pinot Noir.

Food Pairing Ideas:  Dishes with truffles and mushrooms (risottos, pastas), dishes with wild game, duck, pheasant, steak tartar or other crudo meats like cured hams, braised beef, and stuffed pastas like ravioli with walnuts and ricotta/gorgonzola.

Read more about this producer at Indie Wineries: Roccalini

Aubrie Talarico

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Italian Wine Regions: Abruzzo

477px-Abruzzo_in_ItalyAbruzzo [say it: ah-BRUT-zo], on the east coast of central Italy, is a region full of color:  the deep blue of the Adriatic sea, the grey of the mountains and castles from centuries past, greens of the national parks, and the fuschia, white, and golds of the oleanders and ginestre trees scattered across the landscape.  Its winemaking history stretches at least as far back as the Etruscans in the 6th century BC, though the amount of production has varied over time as populations grew and declined – not uncommon for the Italian peninsula.

abruzzo_posterThe majority of the grapes grown and wines produced were quite different in antiquity compared to today with one major exception: Montepulciano.  Today Montepulciano (unrelated to the Tuscan city and wine Rosso di Montepulciano or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, both made from Sangiovese) along with Trebbiano  make up nearly 90% of the region’s wines.  But the dominance of these two grapes only happened relatively recently.  Written records from the 18th century describe grape varieties as being complex and varied, including the likes of Lacrima, Zibibbo (=Muscat of Alexandria), and Moscatello (=muscat or moscato).  The European phylloxera (=vine-destroying louse) epidemic of the late 19th century is likely to blame for the reduction of grape varieties used in the region today.

Abruzzo makes about 40 million cases of wine per year, thanks to ideal terroir, viticultural practices, and the high annual yields they are permitted to produce.  Most (~80%) of wines are produced by co-op wineries – a strategy that helped and continues to help make winemaking a financially viable option despite post world war economic struggles.  The principal wines are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (troubling enough NOT always made from Trebbiano), and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (a full-bodied dry rose’).  Small plantings and wine production of the nearly forgotten varieties like Moscatello, Pecorino, and Passerina are also starting to pop up – though they are still in the minority of Abruzzese wines.

"Gran sasso italia". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

“Gran sasso italia”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – wikimedia

Geography: Abruzzo’s landscape features an ample amount of coast (~133km/~83miles) with its bays, coves and cliffs.  The region finds itself snugly between the Adriatic sea and the jagged Apennines mountains – among them is the famous Gran Sasso, the highest peak of the mountain range at 2,912 meters/9,553 feet above sea level. Besides the Gran Sasso there are other noteworthy mountains like La Maiella (~2,795 meters/9,169 feet above sea level) and Gorzano (~2,455 meters/8,054 feet above sea level). There are four major rivers that cut across the region: the Vomano, the Pescara, the Atemo, and the Sangro. There are also many rich national parks, including the large Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo which covers about 50,000 hectares (~123,000 acres) of land.  The best areas of red wine production are said to be the territory called Colline Teramane – near the northern city of Teramo.

abruzzoTerroir: Abruzzo provides its vines with an abundance of sunshine during the growing season and plenty of rain annually to support plant life – especially important since most DOC/DOCG appellations are expressly forbidden from irrigating grapevines.  Soils vary between ferrous clay, calcareous clay, and limestone – with the best sites being less fertile, a typical and desirable characteristic in vineyard sites around the world.  Inland has a more continental climate (with hot summers and very cold winters) while closer to the coast a maritime climate means less severe seasonal temperature ranges, warming breezes from the Adriatic (providing both heat as well as ventilation to protect grapes against fungal diseases).  High altitude plantings take advantage of the cooling effects of both mountain winds and the altitude itself, helping to create an ideal mesoclimate that’s not too hot, cool, or wet for the vines.  Vines are often trained in the pergola fashion

638px-Map_of_region_of_Abruzzo,_Italy,_with_provinces-it.svgMain Provinces and their Wines/Regions:
*Note that some DOC/Gs are permitted to be made in multiple provinces

  • Teramo: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Controguerra, Colonnella
  • L’Aquila: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Chieti: Villamagna, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Terre Tollesi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Ortona, Lanciano, Ripa Teatina
  • Pescara: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Collecorvino, Rosciano, Bolognano

Permitted & Key Regional Grape Friends:

  • Trebbiano Toscano (white)
  • Trebbiano Abruzzese -aka Bombino Bianco (wh)
  • Regina (wh)
  • Chardonnay (wh) – of French origins but found in Italy as well, often the base for sparkling wines
  • Cococciola (wh)
  • Manzoni Bianco (wh)
  • Malvasia Bianca di Candia (wh) – commonly found in Lazio white wines
  • Regina dei Vigneti (wh) – literally means “Queen of vineyards”
  • Grechetto (wh)
  • Malvasia Bianca Lunga (wh)
  • Barbera Bianca (wh)
  • Biancame (wh)
  • Falangina (wh)
  • Garganega (wh) – famously part of the Soave wines of Veneto
  • Greco (wh)
  • Malvasia del Lazio (wh)
  • Montonico Bianco (wh)
  • Moscato Bianco (wh)
  • Mostosa (wh)
  • Passerina (wh) – commonly found in nearby Marche as well
  • Pecorino (wh) – grape that makes up popular Pecorino wines
  • Pinot Bianco (wh) – aka Pinot Blanc, more typically found in northern regions like Alto Adige or Lombardia
  • Riesling/Riesling Renano (wh) – noble German grape
  • Riesling Italico (wh) – aka Welschriesling, confusingly not related to the Riesling mentioned above
  • Sauvignon (wh) – aka Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sylvaner Verde (wh)
  • Tocai Friulano (wh) – usually simply “Friulano” without the troubling “Tocai”
  • Veltliner (wh)
  • Verdicchio Bianco (wh)
  • Vermentino (wh) – more known for being featured in Sardinian wines
  • Pinot Grigio (grey) – aka Pinot Gris, more commonly found in the northern regions
  • Traminer Aromatico (g) – aka Gewurztraminer, more commonly seen in the northern regions in dry or off-dry wines
  • Montepulciano (black) – famous indigenous grape of this region
  • Sangiovese (b) – more associated with Tuscan reds but is often found in blends of Umbria and Abruzzo
  • Merlot (b) – French variety that is among the most planted black grape varieties in all of Italy!
  • Aglianico (b) – hearty black grape more associated with red wines in Campania and Basilicata
  • Barbera (b) – black variety that makes up many wines in Piedmont
  • Cabernet Franc (b) – French variety
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (b) – noble French variety
  • Canaiolo Nero (b)
  • Ciliegiolo (b) – common blending partner in Chianti wines
  • Dolcetto (b) – Piedmont variety
  • Gaglioppo (b)
  • Maiolica (b)
  • Malbech (b) – aka Malbec
  • Marzemino (b) – more often associated with northern region red wines
  • Nebbiolo (b) – noble variety of Piedmont
  • Pinot Nero (b) – aka Pinot Noir, noble French grape often used in northern reds and sparkling wines
  • Primitivo (b) – of Puglian fame
  • Refosco (b)
  • Syrah (b) – Rhone variety that finds itself in Italy usually in Tuscan or Sicilian blends

The Better Known Wines:
Wines from this area are often regionally and/or varietally labelled, for example Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (grape + region) or Ortona (region).

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC/G– $-$$, undeniably the region’s major star, this wine is typically Montepulciano-dominate but may have other varieties blended in like Sangiovese.  They are usually described as “rustic”, darkly colored, tannic, and full of dark fruit (plum, cherry) and spicy flavours. Entry level wines are cheaper and easier partners for pasta, pizza, and salumi while bigger (and more expensive) aged/reserva versions can compliment steaks, roasts, and hamburgers.

2014-04-04 19.29.42Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC – $-$$, robust and dry rose wines made from the Montepulciano grape (either entirely or minimum 85%).  They are usually meaty and full-bodied with fruity and spicy notes, so they can handle savoury meat sauces quite easily while still having enough pretty red fruit character to partner with appetizers like cheese plates, pastas without tomato sauces (e.g. pecorino romano cheese, butter+sage, or alfredo) and fish plates.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC – $-$$, a confusingly named white for sure, because as it turns out the wine may not contain Trebbiano at all!  Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (or Trebbiano Abruzzese) is actually a grape called Bombino Bianco.  Wines labeled “Trebbiano d’Abruzzo” therefore might be entirely Bombino Bianco, or a blend that contains a small portion of Trebbiano Toscano.  Trebbiano d’Abruzzo wines tend to be easy-drinking whites with high acidity and citrus and almond notes.  They can be sometimes pretty underwhleming so look for versions labeled as Superiore for a more substantial wine experience.

Abruzzo DOC – $-$$, this regional appellation was created in 2010 to incorporate Passerina and Pecorino in particular.  Other than whites made from Pecorino or Passerina, Abruzzo DOCs might be whites made from other permitted varieties (see list above), reds, sparkling, and dessert wines.

DOCG Wines of Abruzzo to Date:2014-02-05 20.18.06

  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane – red

DOC Wines of Abruzzo to Date:

  • Abruzzo – red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo – rose
  • Controguerra – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – red
  • Ortona – white, red
  • Terre Tollesi/Tullum – white, red, novello, sparkling, passito
  • Trebbiano d’Abruzzo – white
  • Villamagna – red

IGT Wines of Abruzzo to Date:

  • Colli Aprutini – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Colli del Sangro – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Colline Frentane – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Colline Pescaresi – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Colline Teatine – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Del Vastese/Histonium – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Terre Aquilane – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito
  • Terre di Chieti – novello, red, white, sparkling, passito

Aubrie Talarico

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Italian Wine & Halloween Candy Pairing!

PovegliaHalloween and candy isn’t just for kids.  Why not spice up your candy with some Italian vino?  Below are some pairings that are sure to satisfy (and hopefully not spook) your candy and wine cravings!


skittles moscato

Skittles: Moscato d’Asti (e.g. Vietti, Piemonte).  Semi-bubbly and medium-sweet, the grapey, floral, and richness of this Piedmont wine will bring out the best in your fun-sized bag of Skittles.



butterfingerButterfinger: an Umbrian barrel-aged white (e.g.“Orzalume” Grechetto Sauvignon Umbria IGT – Castello di Corbara).  This fragrant, oaky and buttery blend from Umbria has the right stuff (=acidity, body, creamy characteristics) to go along with a classic Butterfinger.


Snickers:  Sweet Marsala (e.g. NV Vergine 20 Anni Riserva Grillo – Cantine Rallo, Sicily).  A fortified wine, this Marsala is rich with caramel, marmalade, dried fruit, and maple syrup flavours.  Snickers has met its (Sicilian) match!


sweet tartsSweet Tarts/ Nerds: Prosecco (e.g. Ceradello, Veneto). This organic Prosecco from the Veneto provides a light, fruity, slightly sweet and refreshing partner to the likes of Nerds and Sweet Tarts.



raisinsRaisins: Passito, (e.g. Antonelli Passito Sagrantino di Montefalco, Umbria).  Sweet, complex, full of prunes, dried dark fruit, and sugar-glazed raisins – this very serious dessert wine would be a great way to make the best out of the dreaded box of raisin “treat” in your candy bag.


kitkat_mmsKit Kat/ M&M’s: Rosso di Montepulciano (e.g. Gracciano della Seta, Tuscany).  Sangiovese-based Rosso di Montepulciano boasts rustic berry, orange peel, high acidity and firm tannin.  Should be bold enough to dance with those chocolate notes and refreshing enough to cleanse away those candy-shell and wafer remnants. 


jollyranchersJolly Ranchers:  Lambrusco – Grasparossa (e.g. Le Tenute Bocciolo – Medici Ermete, Emilia-Romagna).  Wash down a Jolly Rancher with this Lambrusco- fizzy, slightly sweet, and featuring berry and cherry soda flavours.



twixTwix: Recioto della Valpolicella Classico (e.g. Stefano Accordini “Acinatico”, Veneto).  Rich, on the sweet side, and filled with notes of dark chocolate, prunes, and baking spices – Twix will do quite well with this bold wine from the Veneto.


almondjoyAlmond Joy: Gewurztraminer (e.g. Elena Walch Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige). Bring out the tropical aspects of this candy with this rich, full-bodied white driven by exotic spices and fruit flavours. 


Aubrie Talarico

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Franciacorta’s Renaissance: Acari + Danesi & SoloUva

Giovanni + Nico (from their own website

Giovanni + Nico (from their own website

Franciacorta, a celebrated sparkling wine/region of Lombardia, has recently been given a chance to make a radical shift.  But unlike scenarios where a revamp or major production change comes about due to quality problems or a slump in market interest, this one is entirely due to Giovanni Arcari, Nico Danesi and Andrea Rudelli’s passion for their wine, the region, and an important word in the wine world: terroir.

Franciacorta is simultaneously a region in Lombardia, a wine, and an (evolving) method of production.  The first bottle-fermented Italian bubbly to achieve the highest quality appellation DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), its wines are highly esteemed domestically and drawing increasing attention abroad.  Wines are composed of Chardonnay and/or Pinot Nero (=Pinot Noir) and can also have up to 50% Pinot Bianco (=Pinot Blanc) in the blend.  Traditionally, and exclusively until rather recently, they have followed the Metodo Classico, or sometimes called “Champagne method” of secondary bottle fermentation:

Metodo Classico or the Champagne Method of secondary fermentation:  The liqueur de tirage (=a mixture of wine, yeast, and sucrose- traditionally* in the form of cane or beet sugar) is added to a special bottle with a base wine (=a wine or blend of wines that is typically lower in alcohol and still, which in areas like Champagne can be composed of wines from multiple vintages).  This special bottle is sealed and the wine starts to ferment a second time, raising the alcohol level and absorbing all of the CO2 that normally escapes during the fermentation process.  That trapped CO2 is responsible for those delicious and desirable bubbles the modern drinker has grown to know and love.  Once yeasts have consumed all of the sugars present in the bottle, they die and fermentation stops.  Most producers of this style allow the wines to rest in that same bottle on the sediments for anywhere from a few months to a few years before eventually disgorging (=removing the sediment) and re-bottling/corking for release to the consumer.  This contact with the lees during and after secondary fermentation are responsible for the texture and bready and biscuity notes associated with Champagne and other bottle fermented wines.

The Trouble with Terroir & Imported Sugar:  For at least 50 years Franciacorta producers have mimicked the Champagne production process, including adding imported sugar for the secondary fermentation’s necessary liqueur de tirage.  This troubled Giovanni, Nico, and Andrea because utilizing Brazilian or any other foreign (=non-grape/non-Franciacortan) sugar in the process seemed to them to compromise the wine’s sense of identity – its very terroir (=unique characteristics and sense of place) becomes masked.  Giovanni explained to me that by making a wine like this “you taste the method and not the wine”.  Further, Champagne is a region with often unaccommodating weather to grapes, making it difficult for them to properly ripen and making sugar levels in grapes at harvest a wild card most vintages.  Champagne’s method of sparkling wine production is therefore custom designed for their specific climate and needs.  “In our region we don’t have the same problem with harvesting fully ripe grapes….so there isn’t any need for adding [foreign] sugar” Giovanni explained.  Inspired to find a new and more appropriate way for Franciacorta, Giovanni and Nico began experimenting in 2002 with their own grapes and wine.

Myself + Giovanni Acari + Soon-to-be-drank Franciacorta

Myself + Giovanni Acari + Soon-to-be-drank Franciacorta

A Terr(oir)ific Result:  By 2008, after several years of trial, error, and fine-tuning, they were at last able to share the (fermented) fruits of their labor.  The new method that they created sounds misleadingly simple:  the grapes’ sugar levels are closely monitored for 40+ days leading up until harvest, ensuring that they harvest fully ripened grapes.  This already departs from the traditional method where grapes are harvested early and before fully ripening – something which is often necessary in Champagne but rarely in Italy.  A precise amount of the grape must (=unfermented sugar-rich juice from the freshly harvested and crushed/pressed grapes) is removed and frozen for later when it is used as their all natural liqueur de tirage, added to their single-vintage base wine in the bottle for the secondary, bubble-creating, fermentation.  And voilàa stunning Italian sparkling wine made using only its own natural grape sugars.  The result is a wine that doesn’t taste like it is an Italian wine dressing up in Champagne clothing….rather it tastes like nothing else except Franciacorta.  It’s a less heavy and very elegant sparkling whose notes of bread and biscuit do not upstage the magnificent fruit aromas and flavors that rightfully remain the star of the show.  What’s more, Giovanni and Nico chose to give their trademarked method away for free- other producers in Franciacorta are able to use their same method as they please…something which Giovanni and Nico hope and dream they will all do!

The Wines:  Acari + Danesi as well as SoloUva is available now on the international market (including in the USA).  Depending on state/local taxes, bottles should retail for around $30-40 USD, making this an affordable luxury for any occasion from graduation to everyday dinner.  While every wine will be from a single vintage, the blend’s proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco vary according to each harvest and style, as does the period of ageing.  To date they haven’t included Pinot Nero in a blend. Look for:

  • Dosaggio Zero: a dry, bright fruit-driven sparkling named for the fact that no dosage/dosaggio (=mix of sugar and wine added to bottles before release) is added at all.
  • Satèn: 100% white grapes only (Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco), ageing varies by vintage but Satèn styles are typically apple, lemon, brioche beauties to savor.
  • SoloUva:  the masterpiece of winemaker Andrea Rudelli and Giovanni Acari, this is a Franciacorta Brut made entirely of Chardonnay grapes and entirely from the harvested grapes’ sugars – hence the name “only grape”.


For updates and amazing photographs, follow their TerraUomoCielo blog or for those of you less fluent in Italian, check out Indie Wineries: Acari + Danesi. For info on where to buy this stunning stuff in New England, check out The Wine Bros.

Aubrie Talarico

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A Grape By Any Other Name: Trebbiano & Ugni Blanc

321px-Ugni_blanc_raisin*A Grape By Any Other Name posts are about exploring different grape varieties known by other names or nicknames, both inside and outside of Italy.

Trebbiano:  Ci sono tantissimi Trebbiani.  There are tons of “Trebbiano” out there.  To those unversed in the Trebbiano family tree, it might be about as confusing as the 17 different yet same-named Aureliano Buendias from the epic novel 100 Years of Solitude.  To make matters worse, some grapes called “Trebbiano” aren’t even of the Trebbiano family!  Don’t fret, it’s easier to understand than it may initially appear.

Trebbiano, AKA Ugni Blanc in France, is one of the most common varieties planted around Italy and in some parts of France.  Pliny the Elder spoke of it in the 1st century AD as Vinum Trebulanum, marking the earliest mention of the grape in written records. In Italy it’s synonymous with crisp, clean, citrusy (and sometimes lackluster) white wines.  In France it’s synonymous with Cognac.  Trebbiano is permitted in some 80 DOC/G wines around the Italian Peninsula, more than any other Italian grape variety.  It’s often used as a blending partner due partly to the ease of growing it (it’s particularly frost resistant) and the refreshingly high acidity it can add to a dry or even dessert wine.

 Trebbiano has many names, variations, and misnomers:

  • Domestically (=in Italy):  Trebbiano Toscano (=both the most bland and planted of the bunch), Trebbiano di Romagna, Trebbiano Giallo, Trebbiano Romagnolo, Procanico
  • Internationally (=everywhere else): Ugni Blanc (France, South America, South Africa), Tália (Portugal)


  • Trebbiano di Soave= Verdicchio
  • Trebbiano di Lugana= Verdicchio, aka Turbiana
  • Trebbiano d’Abruzzo= Bombino Bianco

Why so many names and misnomers?

Partly for linguistic differences and partly because this old variety has mutated into different sub-varieties over time, with the Umbrian Procanico being arguably one of the highest quality versions out there.  As for the erroneously named Trebbianos that are in fact not Trebbiano nor even related, we must consider that precise DNA mapping of grape varieties is a relatively modern ability and endeavor.  In the past if something looked like a Trebbiano, and walked like a Trebbiano, why not assume it actually was one?  Further, grapes sometimes were named after geographical features nearby, like the Trebbia river in Emilia-Romagna.

Some Italian Wines with Trebbiano:

Orvieto Classico (Umbria) – Simple, easy-drinking, lemon, apple, white blossom.  Typically inexpensive and a good alternative to Pinot Grigio for less experienced Italian white wine drinkers. 

Frascati Superiore (Lazio) – Light, inexpensive white wine composed of a number of indigenous grapes from the Rome area.  “Superiore” on the label indicates grapes of a higher quality and should translate into a wine with better balance and richness than its non-superiore counterparts. 

Soave Classico (Veneto) – An appellation that has previously suffered from over-production and over-expansion but some very nice examples featuring smaller percentages of Trebbiano Toscano can be found still, especially in the “Classico” areas. 

Vin Santo (Tuscany) – A renowned Tuscan dessert wine perfect for dipping almondy biscotti in after dinner.  It’s been around since at least the middle ages, produced with dried grapes and barrel ageing.  Trebbiano is often among the grapes used in this blend.


Aubrie Talarico

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What Wine Pairs with Slayer and Vivaldi? Pairing Music & Wine

Cantina Muzic, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Cantina Muzic, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

The relationship between food and wine and the benefits of pairing them correctly is a well versed topic.  Food and wine are meant to compliment each other, work together, each making the other more enjoyable.  But have you ever thought about pairing what you drink with what you are listening to?

Tuscan Wine School, Florence

Tuscan Wine School, Florence

When I started formally studying wine, I was struck by an important aspect of wine-tasting that I had never before considered: the ambiance of where you drink.  The brightness, colors, smells, temperature, and sounds all very much contribute to how you taste, interpret, perceive and even enjoy (or not) wine.   Would you enjoy your favourite wine equally in any and every setting?  In the spirit of Sam-I-Am’s green eggs and ham: would you drink it here or there, indoors next to a roaring fireplace, in a plastic chair on a sun-bleached beach, in the rain, or on a train?  Studies suggest that you would not have the same wine experience in all of these different situations, despite the fact that it’s the same vino in your glass. Even something as seemingly subtle as lighting is proven to have dramatic effects on taste and perception, (“Ambient Lighting Modifies the Flavor of Wine”, Journal of Sensory Studies. Volume 24, Issue 6, p 797–832, December 2009.) meaning that tasting the same glass of wine in a dim room versus and well lit room actually has a measurable effect on us.  The atmosphere around your glass is much more important than previously thought.  This is the reason why a wine classroom looks nothing like a swanky wine bar.  Though a velvety, romantic, candlelit wine bar is a great place for a date or a relaxing drink, it might not be the best place to seriously explore what’s in your glass….and it has everything to do with all of the elements surrounding the wine as much as the wine itself.

Pairing your music and your wine is therefore an interesting exercise with two senses we don’t often consciously unite: hearing and taste.  It turns out that sound is among the important senses in wine-tasting (and taste in general) too. Take a stroll through scientific journal articles on the subject and you’ll find that this is a well studied (albeit not completely understood) topic, covering not only wine and taste perception and preferences but also coffee, whiskey, and food. According to one particular study, there is even a connection between musical pitch and specific instruments and how we interpret tastes (Crisinel A-S & Spence C. 2010)!

How might we pair wine and music?  In the absence of equipment to scientifically match pitches, instruments, and flavors I feel like the easiest solution is to match personalities.  Every wine (and beer/cocktail for that matter), like music, composers, or bands, has a unique story, place, and character.

I’ll give you an example of a mismatch with beer to illustrate how this might work:  Imagine drinking a can of Coors Light while listening to Mozart’s Requiem in D minor or Chopin’s Ballade No. 1.  Seems weird, right?  With no intended offense to Coors, I’d argue that the reason this pairing feels wrong is due to the immense difference in the characteristics/personality of the music and this specific beer.  The simple and mass-produced personality of a can of Coors just cannot compliment such rich, complex, unique, and intense music.  Now imagine listening to those same pieces of music while sipping a Trappist Westvleteren 12 – one of the most complex and special beers in the world.  Works much better, doesn’t it?  No fancy attire necessary!

So which wines goes best with Slayer, Vivaldi, or Otis Redding?  Read on as I serve up some Italian and non-Italian pairing suggestions!

"Bottiglia e calice di franciacorta" by Nautinut

“Bottiglia e calice di franciacorta” by Nautinut

Contemporary Hip Hop/ R&B, or Opera  –
Franciacorta, a prestigious bubbly wine from Lombardia.  Widely considered the Champagne of Italy, it’s definitely an appropriate companion to the likes of Usher, Pharrell, Missy Elliott, or Jay-Z due to its combo of premium price, glamour, class, decadence, and celebratory spirit.  Why it works with opera relates not only to the luxurious character of both opera and this wine but also to its sense of place: Milan, renowned for its opera scene.
Non-Italian pairing= Champagne, the renowned French sparkling symbol of luxury, class, and indulgence.

Metal, Goth, Industrial
Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, wine from the Campania region.  This wine comes in both red or white variations, and grows on the slopes of Vesuvius.  This is the very same volcano responsible for nearly wiping ou20150312_172455_Gesler Stt this entire area’s population in 79 AD, including Pompeii.  That dark little factoid I feel makes it quite perfect to pair with Bauhaus, Siouxsie, Swans, and especially Einstürzende Neubauten.  The legend behind this wine is that as Lucifer fell from heaven into the underworld (which perhaps he entered via the volcano), he grabbed onto the sky and ripped it.  When Jesus saw the descent of this falling angel-turned-devil and torn sky, he wept, and where his tears fell grew the vines responsible for this wine.  Lacryma Christi literally means “Tears of Christ”.  For this reason, I feel it would pair well with Slayer, Iron Maiden, Bethlehem, and Lamb of God.
Non-Italian pairing= Madiran of France, an inky, nearly “black”, extremely tannic wine full of flavors of leather and black fruit.  I feel this cup of darkness and earthy tones would accompany of the aforementioned music quite well.

Motown, Soul, Funk- anima
“Anima” by Marramiero, OR a beautifully balanced Chianti from the heart of Tuscany by Querciabella.   Anima literally means “soul” or “spirit” and is a delightful and lively white wine from the Pescara area of Abruzzo.  Querciabella is a biodynamic vineyard, meaning they grow their grapes with great focus on earthly and astrological harmony giving the necessary life force to the vines.  Plus, Tuscany is in many ways considered the “heart” of Italy, linguistically, viticulturally, and artistically.  Both are definitely wines to help put some rhythm in your step to the likes of Otis, The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, James Brown, and Sam Cooke.
Non-Italian pairing= A biodynamic Savennieres by Joly’s  Coulée de Serrant.  Nicolas Joly is the modern French godfather of biodynamic viticulture.  His Chenin Blanc based wines of the Loire Valley are as impressive as they are soulful.

1974_Bolla_AmaroneProgressive rock, 70’s rock, Arena Rock –
Amarone della Valpolicella, of the Veneto region.  Amarone is a hearty and powerful red wine made with raisined Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes giving an alcoholic boost and concentrated flavors.  What wine could better accompany all those pyrotechnics, power ballads, and complete lack of subtly than this costly and made-to-impress red wine??
Non-Italian pairing= California Zinfandel from Howell Mountain.  Dense, tannic, bold, concentrated, complex, and maybe even a bit of a show-off – this red is also a perfect companion to some Rush, Aerosmith, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, or Styx.

Pop, Electro –
Prosecco.  This sparkling wine from the Northeastern part of Italy is full of fun bubbles and made to be a light and easy companion to a pre-dinner/post-work aperitivo.  The refreshing and approachable nature of this wine makes it the perfect pairing with pop or electro.  It’s an affordable glass-filler for that makeshift dance party in your apartment to Kap Bambino, Depeche Mode, The Cure, NKOTB, Madonna, Britney and whoever your secret guilty pop pleasures might be.
Non-Italian pairing= NV sparkling from Argentina, New Mexico, or South Africa.  These offer inexpensive and smile-inducing bubbly solutions that tend to be friendly to most palates and easy enough on the stomach to allow some bouncing around any living room or dance floor.

Experimental, Post-Hardcore, Free Jazz-
Arboreus Umbria IGT – Trebbiano Spoletino by Umbrian vintner Paolo BeaetichettaTrebbiano06This Italian orange wine is created in a seemingly unconventional manner (fermentation with white grapes’ skins following ageing on skins and lees, and no added SO2).  The result is a carefully constructed and unique throwback to wines of antiquity, and though it may seem odd to modern wine-drinkers this more natural approach and experimentation in vinification is taking us back to our roots.  I can think of no better “unconventional” wine or style to pair with Fugazi, Sun Ra, James Chance and the Contortions, The Ex, John Cage, Cecil Taylor, and even some post-punk like Sonic Youth.
Non-Italian pairing= Oyster River’s “Morphos” sparkling wine from the state of Maine.  This lightly bubbly bubbly is a symphony of unusual:  unusual methods (=spontaneous fermentation, no filtering, no additives, etc), unusual grapes (=French-American hybrids), and unusual cultivation tools (=a horse!).  This is a coherent and brave new wine experience fit for any experimental or post-hardcore musical companion.

 Aubrie Talarico

Sources and/or articles or material worth checking out:

On why music changes what (we think) we taste, Charles Spence and Ophelia Deroy, Iperception v.4(2); 2013 PMC3677333 Crisinel A.-S., Cosser S., King S., Jones R., Petrie J., Spence C.

A bittersweet symphony: Systematically modulating the taste of food by changing the sonic properties of the soundtrack playing in the background. Food Quality and Preference. 2012;24:201–204. doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2011.08.009 Crisinel A.-S., Spence C.

As bitter as a trombone: Synesthetic correspondences in non-synesthetes between tastes and flavors and musical instruments and notes. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. 2010b;72:1994–2002. doi: 10.3758/APP.72.7.1994.

The Tasting Experience: Our Five Senses and Some of the Ways They Influence Each Other, Lily Kubota

Wines and Spirits: Understanding Style and Quality, Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Revised Edition 2011

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Leonardo da Vinci’s Truly Old Vines

lastsupperLeonardo da Vinci’s fresco The Last Supper, located on the refectory wall of the Milanese church Santa Maria delle Grazie, is among one of the most easily recognized works of Italian art.  But did you know that payment for it was a vineyard in the center of Milan


Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan (circa 1495)

The fresco, like most other projects of this nature, was commissioned by a wealthy patron: Ludovico “Il Moro” Sforza, the Duke of Milan.  Although monetary compensation for art supplies was still commonplace, cash payment for the actual job was seen as sort of trashy or impolite.  For this reason it became more common during the late 15th century for material goods (read: silk, property, horses, etc) to be given instead – hence why Ludovico drafted up legal paperwork for a donation of a vineyard to the very noble Leonardo.  Leonardo’s family had a history with making wine, so space for vines in his new city of residence was an appropriate gift to the Tuscan artist.  What’s more the vineyard was part of Ludovico’s new palace gardens – quite an honor!  None of them could possibly have known what misfortune the fresco, vines, and people involved were to have after the paint dried.

The first (literal) stroke of bad luck of them all involves the “fresco” itself.  Though it’s a celebrated masterpiece in terms of its dramatic narrative and subtle illusionism, this work of art proved to be in many ways a technical failure.  Leonardo’s experimental painting technique differed from traditional fresco and meant that it started to deteriorate even before it was finished.  This ineffective dry plaster technique combined with centuries of neglect and poor treatments resulted in it being a mere faded shadow of what he must have originally envisioned.  In 1499 (just two years after the fresco was completed) Milan was invaded and taken over by the French, causing Leonardo to leave the city and his vines.  Ludovico was promptly imprisoned, where he remained until his death in 1508.  When Leonardo returned to Milan to work for the new French rulers some years after the invasion, his vineyard was given back to him unharmed.  Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519, but not before drawing up a will which left the vines to Andrea Salai (a longtime student and apprentice) and Giovanbattista Villani (a loyal servant).  Over the years the vineyard passed through the hands of many different owners.  It was eventually destroyed during World War II and abandoned.

leonardomalvasiaFive hundred years later the land where Leonardo da Vinci planted vines is still part of the palace’s walled garden in central Milan.  The project to resurrect Leonardo’s vineyard seems to be going swimmingly thanks to the efforts of folks at the University of Milan, geneticists, oenologists, and the family who own the property today.  Researchers were able to discover what grape variety Leonardo had planted 5 centuries ago from surviving remnants of the roots and plants still underground:  Malvasia di Candia – a common white variety and found today in many white wines in Lazio!

The gardens with the replanted vines will be open to the public in May of 2015, coinciding with the start of Expo 2015, uncoincidentally hosted by Milan.


Aubrie Talarico

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A Grape By Any Other Name: Traminer Aromatico & Gewurztraminer

Photograph by Jean Trimbach

Photograph by Jean Trimbach

*A Grape By Any Other Name posts are about exploring different grape varieties known by other names or nicknames, both inside and outside of Italy.

Traminer Aromatico gets its name from the grape Traminer (named after the village of Tramin in Tyrol/Alto Adige).  As the name might suggest, it’s a more “aromatic” mutation of the Traminer grape.  This unique pink-skinned grape is classified as a “grey” grape – meaning it’s somewhere in between a black and white grape varietal.  It’s wines are opulent and intense with a fuller body than might be typical for a lot of other white wines.  Common aromas are exotic lychee, roses, honeysuckle, baking spices, ginger, pear, and sometimes seemingly unusual descriptors like “old lady perfume”.  It can make dry, medium-sweet wines, and rich dessert wines. Italian Traminer Aromatico wines tend to be on the drier side and almost “hoppy” in flavors and aromas.

 Traminer Aromatico has lots of synonyms.

  • Domestically (=in Italy):  Gewurztraminer/Gewürztraminer.  The choice to label the bottle with one of these German or French synonyms might be in part to appeal to the international market because folks are more likely to recognize this wine by a non-Italian name.
  • Internationally (=everywhere else): Gewurztraminer (France/Alsace); Gewürztraminer (Germany, Austria, USA); Tramini (Hungary); Traminac (Slovenia); Drumin, Pinat Cervena, or Liwora (Czech Republic, Slovakia); Rusa (Romania); Mala Dinka (Bulgaria)

Why so many names?
A lot of different areas of Europe (and even as far east as Russia and Ukraine) cultivate and vinify this grape.  The variation in languages is primarily what accounts for the differing names, especially when you consider that a lot of its names literally mean the same thing.  For example, Traminer Aromatico means “Aromatic Traminer” while Gewürztraminer means “Spiced” or “Perfumed” Traminer.

Further, some countries/regions might not differentiate between Traminer and any mutated relative such as Traminer Aromatico/Gewürztraminer.

Some Wines with Traminer Aromatico/Gewürztraminer:

Alsace- Gewurztraminer (France), $-$$$, among some of the most famous examples of this grape Alsatian Gewurztraminers tend to be off-dry, full bodied, with exotic aromas and sometimes savory notes.  Less complex wines offer inexpensive but good value wines.  Grand Cru wines (there are 51) or Vieilles Vignes (=old vines) will cost more but offer a more intense and ageworthy wine.  Also used for sweet wines, look for Vendange Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN for short).

Traminer Aromatico/Gewürztraminer (Italy), $-$$, typically found in Italy’s northeastern regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Alto Adige, these are some of the driest examples of this grape around.  Dry versions are full bodied, deeper colored, and have exotic pear-meets-hops aromas.  Off-dry examples tend to be more complex and offer more exotic fruit flavors. Traminer Aromatico is however decreasingly planted due to its larger success and recognition abroad.

Oregon/Washington State Gewürztraminer (USA), $-$$, America’s Pacific Northwest has in recent years started to gain worldwide attention for some amazing wines.  Riesling is still planted much more then Gewürztraminer, however there are some pretty successful examples of wines that resemble in some ways the Alsatian examples.  

Aubrie Talarico

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