Falling in Love with Franciacorta DOCG

Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta DOCG Wines

Ricci Curbastro Guided Wine Tasting Seminar: History, Area, and Wines

If you haven’t had an opportunity to try Franciacorta, know that there are many reasons to do so. Once you’ve had just a few sips, I can almost guarantee that you’ll fall in love and possibly make this style of wine you’re preferred choice of bubbly. Today’s blog post is solely dedicated to the wine presented at the Ricci Curbastro guided wine tasting seminar.

Yes, I’ll mention the suggested pairings at the end and possibly in a future post. However, today I’ll recap the one hour, World Wine Web Masterclass seminar led by wine expert, Lyn Farmer and featuring Riccardo and Gualberto Ricci Curbastro of Ricci Curbastro Farm Estate Winery. A group of about twenty-five guests including lucky me, had a chance to learn about the history, vineyards and wines.

Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta DOCG

What is Franciacorta?

Franciacorta is a small wine-producing area in Lombardy, Italy and is also a style of high-quality sparkling wine made using the Traditional Method or when speaking about Champagne, Méthode Champenoise. Now is not the time to compare ‘apples and oranges,’ because Franciacorta has its own unique identity, so let’s first dive into some history.

Riccardo Ricci Curbastro and Gualberto Ricci Curbastro Sr.

Franciacorta History

The cultivation of vines in Franciacorta goes back very far. Think about evidence of prehistoric grape seeds and mentions in the writings of Pliny the Elder. You can read more here.

The agricultural tradition of the Ricci Curbastro family dates back to the thirteenth century.  Eighteen generations later, Riccardo leads the business alongside his eldest son Gualberto who bears his grandfather’s name.

Franciacorta received its DOCG status* in 1995 and was the first Italian sparkling wine to achieve this designation. The region consists of about 120 producers. Gualberto explained at that time, the term Traditional or Classical Method was no longer used and replaced with Franciacorta as the only word to describe the wine style.

*Read about Italian Wine Classifications here.

1908 Map Ricci Curbastro Soil

There’s Something About Soil

A few years ago when Riccardo was sorting through papers, he discovered a map that dated back to 1908. It documented the research that his grandfather and great grandfather made to decide what was the best combination in terms of grafting American roots and European varieties after the phylloxera epidemic.

“Franciacorta is the stratification of great patience and a lot of research in getting always better and better quality,” remarked Riccardo with a tone of admiration and appreciation for his forefathers.  “And, we started a long time ago.”

He explains that Franciacorta has over sixty soil profiles. For this reason it is very important that Ricci Curbastro has vineyards in three different villages because of the variations in soil. Plus, the microclimates are different between the three. I suggest you watch the full video on the World Wine Web’s Masterclass Facebook page to understand more.

“There is something pretty unique in terms of characteristics: soil and climate,” says Riccardo when explaining the area, located at the foot of the Alps and north by the shores of Lake Iseo. The area has an unusual mix of climates, including Mediterranean.

Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta Brut NV
Franciacorta Brut NV (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir) © Author

The Wines

One of the ingredients of our wine is time. ~ Riccardo Ricci Curbastro

We tasted three wines: Franciacorta Brut NV (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir); Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014 (100% Chardonnay); and Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.) You can read the wine specs here.

What engages me the most about wine seminars is to hear from people who create the wines. The insights and anecdotes are a trajectory from what’s in my glass to the vineyard and history.

Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014
Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014 (100% Chardonnay) © Author

For example, I learned that the word Satèn (silk) is a name that is typically only from Franciacorta and infers Franciacorta’s past when they were producing a lot of silk, as well as wine. Silk is a perfect metaphor for Franciacorta Satèn: “When you touch a scarf you have the sensation of something that is smooth but, at the same time, it is a very strong cloth,” explains Riccardo noting that the first parachutes were made of silk. “The wine’s strength is like roundness and very good structure.”

Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay)
Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay) © Author

Not Just for Toasting

Lyn, Riccardo and Gualberto emphasized that the Ricci Curbastro wines go well with food and are not just for toasting at special occasions. Gualberto who grew up with Franciacorta at the table said when speaking of the Rosé Brut: “We’ve tried the best and worst with Franciacorta, but barbeque is always a good combination.”

Riccardo refers to the Rosé Brut as a “light red” and explained that the dryness, acidity and elegance of the wine balances with the richness of grilled meat.

We were drooling, when Lyn presented his 11:00 am “perfect pairing” – Smoked Salmon and Bacon-Wrapped Scallops. Yum and I need to hurry back into the kitchen lab!

Poolside with Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta DOCG wines.

Falling In Love

While I won’t write about it today, I suggest you watch the video and learn more about the Sustainable Winery 3E logo that is on the back label of Ricci Curbastro wines. You can also read more here.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I suffer from an extreme case of the travel bug. As I navigate through a perpetual state of pandemic-related immobility, virtual wine travel is now my preferred, #MyArtEscape.

Lyn commented on one of my Instagram posts that “Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta is the ultimate postcard in a glass.” I couldn’t agree more!

Once you’ve watched the seminar, read the Ricci Curbastro website to learn more, and drink the wines, I suggest that you watch this film: “F is for Franciacorta.” If you’re anything like me, you too will be ‘falling in love’ with Franciacorta.

Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense. ~ Helen Rowland

F is for Franciacorta produced by the Franciacorta DOCG Consortium that celebrated its 30th year this past March.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

A Very Special Thanks for the Invitation to this Virtual Event 💕

Recent mentions of Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta in the Food Wine Travel Magazine.

When the Wine Inspires the Dish

Domaine Arnauld Baillot Pinot Noir

Thinking in Reverse

Today, I’m going to talk about how a delicious French Pinot Noir inspired me to make Broiled Salmon with Beurre Blanc. Be forewarned that if you’re counting calories, this classic French dish is rich in butter and cream and will take a bit of time to prepare. Overall, it’s an easy weekend meal that’s sure to please.

I’ve reversed the order of my previous posts leaving my personal reflection about this past week out of quarantine, until last. I think it’s important, so I hope you make it there. 👇🏼

Most of the time when I prepare a meal, I turn to Google or my favorite Wine Guru for advice to find the perfect pairing. Now that I have a little bit more knowledge about wine than I did six weeks ago (I’ll get to that next week), I’m doing the opposite. Needing to practice the WSET Systematic Approaching to Tasting (SAT) each weekend, I find a quiet moment to sit and analyze the wine: it’s color, aroma, taste, and do a bit of background research on the winemaker’s website or read some reviewer’s tasting notes. Then, I figure out what dish will work.

The Domaine Arnaud Baillot Bourgogne “Haut Tartre” 2018 pairs perfectly with broiled salmon with a Beurre Blanc sauce. © Author

The Wine: Arnaud Baillot – Bourgogne “Haut Tartre” 2018

100% Pinot Noir

It’s extremely difficult to find information about Domaine Arnaud Baillot. They don’t have a website, but you can follow them on Instagram. You also won’t find reviews, but that could easily impede your visceral reaction. Despite how much you may know about wine, a simple like or don’t like is a great start. Then, you can research this area of Bourgogne (Burgundy) to further understand how expressions of Pinot Noir from here differ from other areas of the world.

I found this wine to be rich, yet refreshing. It brought back childhood memories of eating juicy summer cherries after a morning of picking at Niagara-on-the-Lake – lip smacking delicious! There were hints of strawberry, cherry candies, and dark chocolate. The wine had a lovely finish. I’d happily drink it on its own, simply paired with the summer sunset!

If you’re an expert reading my wine newbie descriptor, feel free to write a more in-depth review in the comment box below. Remember, that I’m just practicing. 😊

Domaine Arnaud Baillot is located in Beaune, the heart of the Côte d’Or. Owner and winemaker, Arnaud is passionate about the diversity of wines the Burgundy region has to offer. He and his wife Laure (grandaughter of Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat in Chambolle-Musigny) produce a spectacular range of villages and crus Burgundy wines.

You can find some of Arnaud Baillot’s wines at Wine by the Bay in Miami. (The owner, Stefano BTW is the above-mentioned “Wine Guru” and my wine mentor.)

Read how to make Salmon with Beurre Blanc Sauce.
Broiled Salmon with Beurre Blanc Sauce, Fennel Salad and Roast Potatoes. © Author

Salmon with Beurre Blanc (inspired by the Morton’s Steakhouse recipe posted on Delish.)

  • 1 teaspoon clarified butter or olive oil
  • ¾ heavy cream
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the clarified butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it softens without coloring.

Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the wine reduces and the liquid coats the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until reduced by half.

Reduce the heat to low and begin adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. Do not allow the cream to boil once the butter is added.

For the salmon, I brushed each side with olive oil, sprinkled the salmon with salt and pepper and broiled each side for about 7 minutes.

Place the Beurre Blanc sauce on the dish, top with the salmon and garnish with lemon slices.

The George Floyd protests have shown as that we need to pause.

Thinking in Reverse

Today, I’m thinking about “thinking in reverse.” My pairing menu was planned and the blog written in reverse order. Thinking in reverse may initially feel like walking backwards: it makes us uncomfortable. However, it leads to greater creativity and maybe better and long-lasting solutions. Read more here.

It’s now Week 2 of the return to the “new norm.”  

It’s also now just past one week of international protests, which is a term that I would rather say than “civil unrest.” Writing about food and wine seemed trivial last week – kind of self-indulgent, so I paused and spent the week listening and thinking.

COVID-19 reminds us that there are forces beyond our control and millions of people worldwide stopped daily life to protect each other from accelerating the pandemic’s impact. With respect to the protests, it’s time to pause and listen. We can’t reverse history, but it’s time to think in reverse.

Let’s determine what we value most and re-examine our values.

“Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.”

― Terence McKenna

Follow me on Instagram @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

The Cookie Has Crumbled: Chocolate Chip Cookies and History

Feeding Five Under 25 $

It’s now Week 3 of the South Florida shelter in place order and I’m craving bad carbs, saturated fats, salt and sugar.

I’m crumbling and probably you are too. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a hurricane that will blow into the Atlantic in a few days. This is our modern day Hiroshima — a silent and invisible cloud looming over the entire earth. We can’t just change the channel and tune it out because it’s someone else’s war. It’s a world war and we’re in it together.

That being said, I think we deserve some chocolate. If you’re home schooling the kids, the smell of yumminess baking and the reward of cookies after lunch will most certainly get them through the morning classes with ease and give you some well-deserved comfort.

I did not adapt this recipe and it’s the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe found on New York Times Cooking. Although there’s nothing original about a Chocolate Chip Cookie, with this recipe you are biting into some history (pass that DYK on to the kids!)

The History Lesson

In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, ran the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in eastern Massachusetts, with her husband. Using an ice pick, Wakefield broke a semisweet chocolate bar into little bits, mixed them into brown-sugar dough, and the chocolate chip cookie was born. In 1939, she sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (reportedly for only $1) and was hired to write recipes for the company, which supposedly supplied her with free chocolate for life. This recipe is very close to Mrs. Wakefield’s original (hers called for a teaspoon of hot water and ½-teaspoon-sized cookies), and the one you’ll still find on the back of every yellow bag of Nestlé chocolate chips.

The Recipe

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 2 large eggs

2 cups/12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I’m not sure who came up with the saying, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles” or “C’est la vie.” Whoever did though, probably didn’t live through a pandemic.

It’s impossible to shrug this off and small doses of comfort food or comforting are needed each day. Rather than mask your feelings, I suggest that you confront them. Here’s an article titled, “Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus” that has helped me put this into perspective and if you really need help, reach out to a friend or for professional help, but just remember…

“Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.” ― Catherine Aitken

If you need professional help, here are some resources:

Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $: Easy and Vegan-Friendly, Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

It’s a sunny and warm day in South Florida and the streets are empty. I ran 4.11 miles and I saw about six people and a few cars. (Please cars, watch out for pedestrians and runners – red light still means stop.)

Beaches are closed in South Florida.

Many people are struggling to live with the new norm, “working from home.” Plus, homeschooling the kids too?

Although I’ve worked remotely for years, it’s still strange to think that I won’t be driving south to Miami for meetings any time soon. I’m starting to regret all of the times that I complained about traffic.  Seriously, who misses traffic? I do.

Work Day Breakfast: One or two oatmeal bars, fresh fruit and a homemade Tumeric Shot.

Everyone needs a fast breakfast even when working from home, because no one wants to start the day with a full inbox and a sink full of dirty dishes. Because we’re experiencing a shortage of certain food items, I’ve created a Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $ blog series designed to give ideas on how to make food on a budget and with what is (hopefully) available in both your pantry and the grocery store.

Today’s recipe is Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. One bar along with fresh fruit and yogurt make a complete and nutritious breakfast. It’s also vegan-friendly. I adapted a chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe as follows:

Use an egg substitute and gluten-free flour if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°

  • 1 c Crisco
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • ½ c cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp of egg substitute dissolved in 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ c all-purpose flour; ¼ c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 c of old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ c of Chia seeds
  • 1 ¼ cup of raisins or dried fruit or combo (I used just raisins the first time and then raisins and chopped dates the second time. Craisins would be good too.)
You can mix this by hand if you don’t have an electric mixer.
  • With a mixer, combine the Crisco and sugars.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Combine the oats and Chia seeds.
  • Dissolve the egg substitute in the water and whisk until smooth.
  • Combine the sugar/Crisco mix with the egg mix and Vanilla.
  • Once combined, slowly add the dry ingredients into the Crisco/sugar/egg/vanilla mix.
  • Stop the mixer and stir in the oats and dried fruit until combined.
  • Lightly grease a 9×13 non-stick pan or line a pan with parchment paper.
  • Press the mix into the pan so even on all sides.
  • Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until golden.

Notes:

Someone asked me on Twitter if this recipe is gluten free. Since flour is used more like a binder, I think any gluten free flour would do. I’ll give it a try sometime.

Oatmeal breakfast bar(s) with fresh fruit and a tumeric shot mixed with seltzer.

If your bars crumble, save the crumbs to add to yogurt as a topping or eat them on the spot!

From someone who works from home, I know that finding free time is just as hard as when you work from an office. I put in more hours per day than I should and take the laptop from room to room thinking that I’ll just use it to read or watch videos at night. However, I end up answering emails. If you’re like me, try to leave the laptop “at the office” and spend time reading an actual book, rather than the tablet.

Find time for this recipe knowing that you’ll have a quick and nutritious breakfast for at least the next few days. Good luck and stay strong!

“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.” ~ Ian Fleming

Miami Wine Expert Receives Prestigious Vinitaly International Academy, Pin and Certification.

Stefano Campanini is one of twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past Sunday.

Miami, FL…July 2, 2019…On Sunday, June 30th, Miami-based wine educator and Wine by the Bay owner, Stefano Campanini received the prestigious, Italian Wine Ambassador pin and certification, at the New York City presentation of the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) Ambassador Course.

With the support of the ICE – Italian Trade Agency, VIA staged the Italian Wine Ambassador course at the 3 West Club from June 26th to 30th, concluding with a four-part vigorous examination: multiple choice test; a video presentation describing an assigned native grape’s history and territory; a blind tasting; and a two essay, written portion. Students are encouraged to prepare for the course with text book and tasting studies, at least two months ahead of the actual course and during the course receive theory classes, as well as taste approximately 250 wines.

“It’s an honor to be among 200 people from all over the world sharing the mission to instill passion and education to new and seasoned wine lovers,” says Campanini.

Campanini is one of twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past Sunday. Not including the most recent recipients, VIA has trained 204 Wine Ambassadors from 33 countries, making Campanini one of only three educators to have received this prestigious title in South Florida.

A native of Parma, Italy, Campanini began his career in the United States as an art dealer in New York. Foreseeing the demand for collectible, contemporary and Latin American art in South Florida with the emergence of Art Basel (Miami), he would become one of the first gallerists to open a space in the Miami Design District in 2004, followed by two moves: Wynwood and now in its current location, Little Haiti.

In 2011, he decided to merge his passion for wine, food and art by opening a boutique, retail wine store in Downtown Miami. He envisioned an intimate space where both wine enthusiasts and experts could meet socially while exploring both the lesser known and most commonly known wine regions of the world, plus learn food and wine pairings and tips on cellar management. Today, he continues classes and services from his gallery, Etra Fine Art and at other locations offering both private and public events.

With his most recent title (he also holds the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, WSET Level 2), Campanini hopes to be South Florida’s first voice in Italian wine knowledge.

“Many people don’t know that there are 590 indigenous Italian grape varieties! I strive to represent wines that are lesser known, but much higher in quality than what most people get to experience based on the limited selection available in big-box stores,” concludes Campanini. “With each bottle that you open, there’s a story to be told. I’d like to introduce people to this narrative and help them learn more about the territory, history, cultivation and culture that adds to the uniqueness of Italian wines.”

About Wine by the Bay

Established in 2011, Wine by the Bay is an award-winning wine retail store specializing in rare and collectible wines and Champagne. Named Best Wine Store in New Times (2015); One of the Five Best New Wine Stores in the Nation by Details Magazine (2012) and most recently recipient of the Wine-Searcher Gold Awards for best European, French and Overall Lists in Miami (2018.) Wine by the Bay prides itself on presenting educational events for both the wine connoisseur and neophyte. Other services offered are: staff training or strategic wine list design for restaurants; cellar curatorship and management; private cellar selection purchasing; private and corporate events.

  • Wine by the Bay
  • 6942 NE 4th Avenue
  • Miami, FL 33138
  • www.winebtb.com
  • (305) 455-9791
  • info@winebtb.com
  • @WinebytheBay #WinebytheBay

About Vinitaly

The grand Vinitaly 2019 was held from April 7th to the 10th. Every year, Vinitaly counts more than 4,000 exhibitors on a 100,000+ square meter area and 130,000 visitors from over 140 different countries with more than 30,000 top international buyers. The premier event to Vinitaly, OperaWine “Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers,” which will be held on the 6th of April, one day prior to Vinitaly will unite international wine professionals in the heart of Verona, offering them the unique opportunity to discover and taste the wines of the 100 Best Italian Producers, as selected by Wine Spectator. Since 1998 Vinitaly International travels to several countries such as Russia, China, USA and Hong Kong thanks to its strategic arm abroad, Vinitaly International. In February 2014, Vinitaly International launched an educational project, the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) with the aim of divulging and broadcasting the excellence and diversity of Italian wine around the globe. VIA this year launched the fourteenth edition of its Certification Course and today counts 204 Italian Wine Ambassadors and 14 Italian Wine Experts. For more information, visit www.vinitalyinternational.com.

It’s All Greek to Me: Greco, Genetics, Gratitude

Just when I thought I knew something about grapes, I realized that I was wrong. I’ll be forever a wine newbie, but I’m happy about that. Today, I’ll tell you why.

I’m now working on Chapter 4 of the SWE textbook, I’ve begun reading another textbook that focuses on Italian grapes, plus any other wine literature that captures my attention.  I’ve discovered that the root (pardon the pun) of my growing interest in wine is vested in viticulture (or wine growing.) However, the more I read, the more I’m stumped. Pardon the second pun.

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

G is for…

Grapes: Did you ever wonder why wine comes from grapes and not apples or cherries? For one reason, no other fruit has so many varieties that are grown commercially. And, within the varieties, grapes develop different characteristics based on factors such as soil, climate and the way they are cultivated and harvested aka “viticulture.” Then, you have to examine all of the factors involved with fermentation, aging etc. There are so many variables in the evolution of that little bundle of juice!

Image by Marissa Todd from Pixabay

Gargantuan: In Italy, there are 590 indigenous grapes for wine and more than one million vineyards. Yes, just in Italy. You can get the global picture here. It’s gargantuan.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Genetics: As you dive into the sea of wine knowledge, you may find yourself like me drowning in terminology: clone, hybrid, grafting, mutation, cross, etc. Now, the wine scholars may not appreciate my oversimplification of wine, but when it comes to genetics, I’ve broken it down to three major branches of understanding:

(a) Science: If a wine grower wants to attempt to keep producing a successful wine-making grape, reproduction can’t be left to the “birds and the bees.” Among other factors, he/she may rely on cloning or what I like to think of as the single parent, vine child. Read more about clones here.

(b) History: I’ll get more into today’s wine shortly, but genetic studies of grape varieties have disrupted some popular assumptions. For example, Italian grapes thought to have originated in Greece may in fact, not have. It could have been a marketing tactic during a time when Greek wine was thought of as superior to Roman wine. I’m not making this up. Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s most respected wine critics and journalists has presented this DNA focused argument found here.

(3) Research: Climate change and an ongoing need to manage diseases with the least amount of chemicals possible, depends upon grape genetics research while avoiding GMOs. In March, Wine Spectator wrote that the federal government is allocating 68.9 million to build a grape-genetics research lab.

Photo Credit: Author

The Wine: Fonzone, Greco di Tufo 2017

Now here’s when things get really interesting (or confusing.) Greco is a grape variety or type and Greco di Tufo is the name of the denomination in Campania. There’s a bunch of other grapes (not another pun?) that sound like Greco, but are not related, genetically speaking. Straying from the letter ‘g,’ Malavia di Lipari is apparently the exact same as Greco Bianco that’s not related to the Greco. Greco Bianco is a grape.  Greco di Bianco a denomination. And neither has anything to do with today’s wine. Got it?

The Greco grape of Greco di Tufo, is the oldest grape variety of the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. If you ignore the Jancis Robinson article referenced above, Google’s highest ranking articles say that it was imported from the Greek region of Thessaly by the Pelasgian peoples.

FACT: Foreigner didn’t sing it first! A fresco at Pompeii that traces back to the 1st century B.C. has an inscription that says: “You are truly cold, Bytis, made of ice, if last night not even Greco wine could warm you up.”

When learning about a new wine, here’s the part I love the most: how the technical data paints a sensorial picture.

The Fonzone Greco di Tufo is made of 100% Greco from Santa Paolina and harvested in early October. SOIL: sandy clay with veins sulphurous underlying; ALTITUDE: 500 m above sea level; EXPOSURE: south-west; YEAR OF PLANTATION: 1994; PLANTING DENSITY: 2600 stumps per hectare; VINE TRAINING SYSTEM: espalier; PRUNING: Guyot

A brief understanding connects your glass to its territory. Do some more research and you’ll find out how all of these conditions affect the final product.

Image by Janos Perian from Pixabay

Since we’re playing with the letter ‘g,’ I’ll go briefly into the term “Guyot.” Vines as you know when left to their own devices will run amuck. High quality grape production is the direct result of proper pruning. Guyot also called cane pruning, is named after Dr Jules Guyot, a 19th century French scientist. Simply put, all old growth is cut back to leave either one cane (single Guyot) or two (double Guyot.) Canes are shoots that have reached about one year. This process is labor intensive and can only been done by hand. This technique is used by some of the world’s most prestigious wine growing regions. Read more about pruning techniques here.

I really liked the Fonzone, Greco di Tufo. To me, it was like biting into a luscious piece of pineapple, although the wine is not sweet. Its golden hue is like a perfect summer day.

Photo Credit: Author

The Dish: Scallops in a White Wine Sauce

I wanted to make steamed clams in wine, but couldn’t find fresh clams. I felt the recipe needed to be as simple as possible:

Photo Credit: Author

Sear the scallops in olive oil and then add ½ cup of wine (I used the Greco di Tufo);

Photo Credit: Author

Remove the scallops and make the sauce from 1 ½ cups of wine, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and minced garlic; reduce the liquid by half and them add 1 tbsp of butter and chopped parsley.

Image by annca from Pixabay

G is for Gratitude

When it comes to wine, there’s an infinite amount of information out there shared through wine critics, journalists, scientists and the ever so popular, Instagram influencer. While I respect all of these positions (except maybe the latter), my study goal is not to become one of them.

I’m not interested in ratings or tasting notes other than guides to help me associate and classify my knowledge. Take some time to read an argument on this point written by my wine hero, Eric Asimov.

I am grateful for the ability to learn and totally comfortable in my place as student rather than expert. I can make mistakes and that’s okay, rely on just good judgment or instincts and process facts, but not be absorbed by them. Or, I can say that wine is yummy and leave it there.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. ~ Pablo Picasso

Until next time, swirl your glass with gratitude. A story from the earth will rise to your nose. It’s there to discover: forever a wine newbie.

NOTE: If you can’t make it to Calabria, you can find the Fonzone Greco di Tufo at Wine by the Bay.

500 Days of Rosé (by the Bay)

There’s no connection really between the rom-com and wine. Just word nerd, wine newbie (hopeless romantic) me playing. I suppose we could make up some far-fetched, metaphorical association like, look beyond the superficial…but still, there’s no connection.

Just when I thought I knew something about rosé, I realized I wasn’t even close after attending Winebow’s #RosebytheBay held at Smith & Wollensky, South Pointe Park. Members of the wine trade were invited to discover over 100 rosé wines from Europe, South America, North America, Australia and South Africa.

Credit: Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

How does a wine newbie like me choose what to taste with over 100, various shades of pink? With such sleek branding, it’s very tempting to be drawn to beautiful labels and bottle design. However, that’s like choosing a car for its color. So, I tried to select between old world and new world; a region or grape variety that I may have read about, but had not tried; and what was easiest to reach because at times, there wasn’t much elbow room. In fact, I totally missed seeing the wines from Australia and South Africa.

Some Wine Highlights

The fun part was that evening when I took a chance to learn more about what I drank and search for a good story. (If only I had each wine in front of me while reading and taking notes!)

France

As I had mentioned before, Côtes de Provence is France’s oldest wine region and rosé, although different from what we know it as today, was the first type of wine produced there by Greeks who had brought the vines to the area. At the Winebow event, there were rosé wines from at least eight other regions of France.

2017 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Gris de Gris: I chose this wine because I was attracted to its golden color and knew nothing about “Gris de Gris.” Corbières is an important appellation of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. It is made up of five grape varieties: 50% Grenache Gris; 40% Grenache Noir and Carignan; 10% Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Yves Laboucarié established Fontsainte in its current incarnation in 1971 and is one among the first to use “carbonic maceration” which simply put, is when whole grapes are gently placed in an enclosed fermentation vessel and blanketed with carbon dioxide (Ch 5 of the CSW.)  If you’re curious about Grenache Gris or Noir, see this article. Read more about Domaine de Fontsainte here.

2017 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé Jeunes Vigne: While still only ankle deep into the CSW textbook, I’ve learned that Sancerre is not a grape (and I can now avoid a future soirée faux pas), but an appellation (see the link above) located in the Loire Valley. The grape BTW is Pinot Noir — indigenous to France, but grown elsewhere too. You can read all about the wine at this link.

2018 Raffault Chinon Rosé: When the Wine Therapist (see note at the end) tells you, “drink this one,” you do. Chinon like Sancerre is an appellation and Domaine Olga Raffault is stated as being, “one of the long-time reference points for top-quality, traditional Chinon wines.” Left widowed when her children were very young, Olga would operate the wine estate with a German WWII prisoner who would eventually become the winemaker. If you enjoy a good story like me, click here. 100% Cabernet Franc. If you’re new to wine like me, you may also wish to review, Saignée (“bled”) rosé and the two other methods: maceration and blending.

Spain

2018 Viña Real Rosado: I am not very familiar with Spanish wines, so I chose to try one from Rioja and another from Ribera del Duero. The Viña Real is made from Viura: 75%, Tempranillo: 15%, and 10% Garnacha (Grenache in French.) Viura is the most important grape from Rioja. In Catalonia it is called Macabeo and in Southern France, Macabeu. Read more about this grape here and the winery here.

2018 Cepa 21 Hito Rosado: Made from 100% Tempranillo, Cepa 21 (Ribera del Duero) aims to get the most out of the grape’s characteristics and of the unique environment where they are created. They use traditional methods, but customize them to modern trends. You can find out more about this young winery led by brothers José and Javier Moro at this link.

(Side Note: Future Spanish Wine and Blog posts to come, as I’ve just booked myself a trip to Spain!)

USA

2018 Wölffer Estate Rosé: Long Island (Sagaponack) is the appellation and it is made up of: 52% Merlot, 20% Chardonnay, 13% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Riesling and 1% Pinot Noir. Read more about the estate here. This was the first time I’ve tried a wine from New York and I really liked it!

Italy

2018 Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato: Founded in 1938 by Antonio Argiolas, Argiolas is the foremost wine estate on the island of Sardinia producing archetypal wines from native varietals. Serra Lori is a dry rosato blended from Cannonau, Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo. Read more here.

2019 Pico Maccario Rosé Lavignone Rosato Piemonte: The rose (flower) on the bottle symbolizes the estate where there are 4,500 rosebushes all from the same clone and there’s one planted at the end of each vine row. Read the full story and details about this 100% Barbera wine here.

2011 Contratto For England Brut Rosé: Who can resist pink bubbles and surely, this wine must have been one of the best ones there! I think this says it all: old vine, 100% Pinot Noir, Metodo Classico aka Traditional Method, Méthode Champenoise, etc. Read more here. Someone spoil me: I’ll take ten!

2018 GD Vajra Rosabella: “Tasting the wine is like seeing a star. If you only see a star, you’ve lost the beauty of the universe,” says Aldo Vaira who made his first vintage when only 19 years old. From there, I encourage you to explore the rest. Here is the video and website at this link. Nebbiolo 85%, Barbera 5%, Dolcetto 10%

Winebow had someone making cocktails too, showcasing some of their liqueurs and spirits. Delicious!

On that delightful note, it’s best to wine-down this post.

Now two months into the CSW textbook, I’m finding that learning about wine gives me the same sensation as understanding a work of art. It begins with a visceral response, but then the true beauty reveals itself when an investigation begins. The pursuit of knowledge is infinite, or in the great words of Albert Einstein:

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.

Until next time, raise your glass and listen to what it tells you and know that at least when it comes to rosé, Summer is with you for as long as you want! (Oops, strike out paragraph 1!!)

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

My wine journey would never have begun or continue without The Wine Therapist’s (aka Stefano at Wine by the Bay) guidance. No wine passes from his hand to mine (or any of his loyal clients and friends) without an anecdote and a smile. Follow him at @WinebytheBay

Rosé from Argentina

Postscript: There’s no such thing as Rosé Season apart from marketing! Grapes (like any other fruit or vegetable) follow a growth and harvest season as it relates to its region’s climate timeline. What differentiates wines are all of the other winemaking variables like fermentation. As you can see by the release years, most probably spent more time getting from their place of origin to your table, than in a bottle!  What makes Summer a Rosé season is comparable to why you’d choose an iced latté over a hot one. It’s poolside chill that pairs well with typical summer weather dishes.

Grape Expectations: Metaphors and Correlations

It’s 81°f (27.22°c) in South Florida. With heat on the rise, my palate is definitely springing forward – grilling and chilling with a glass of rosé in my hand and swapping out carbs for arugula (my favorite leafy green), avocado and roasted or sautéed vegetables.

However, today it’s Sunday and after two consecutive, long runs, I’m ready to fall in the pot. It’s hot out though and having the oven on for three or four hours will kill the a/c bill. TG for YouTube that gives me a quick lesson on how to braise on a grill. My Weber has good temperature control and cast iron pot is the perfect size.

I’m now ankle deep into the CSW textbook (chapter 6 to be exact), testing myself each day using Quizlet lessons and flashcards and feeling a little more confident about the content. It’s not easy though and although I read and write every day for work, self-study at this level has been a struggle.

The Dish: Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta

Pappardelle is a word nerd/foodie plaything. Derived from the Tuscan dialect word ‘pappare’ which means to gobble up food, it’s like Italian onomatopoeia.  Just slurp up those tasty, wide egg noodles straight from the pot, p,p,p, pappare! Read more here.

There are many recipes for beef ragu to be found and most are similar. I chose this one. There’s something very relaxing about a slow cooked, Sunday meal.  During the week, the long prep time alone is unmanageable. However, I love taking the time to wash and chop knowing that the holy trinity of cooking, (also called mirepoix in French and soffritto in Italian) onions, carrots and celery 2:1:1, is the foundation of all things yummy. The greatest thing is that once everything is in the pot, you have at least three hours to read a book, watch a movie or take a nap!

The Wine: Gaja Sito Moresco Rosso Langhe 2014

Nebbiolo of Barbaresco — Creative Commons

Google Gaja (the family and winery name) and you’ll quickly find out that the wine I chose is on the cheaper side of the Gaja skew. And, if you’re a wine collecting aficionado, you may be turning your fine-tuned nose up at my choice. However, wine newbie me says this wine is great value wow! It’s a blend as opposed to a varietal (single named grape variety) and composed of Nebbiolo (the prized grape of the region, Piemonte), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other years or vintages when referring to wine, seem to have a small percentage of one of the region’s other indigenous grapes, Barbera.

So, let’s discuss what’s up with the Nebbiolo fascination and what goes into the name?

There’s a plethora of information about the Nebbiolo grape and the most sought after wines of the Piemonte (aka Piedmont: the region), Barolo (an appellation) aka the king of wines and Barbaresco (another appellation). There’s scholarly articles, heated debates and even a movie: Barolo Boys.

Langhe

In my pursuit of wine knowledge, here’s what I found most interesting about this thin-skinned grape. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon (red) or Chardonnay (white) that can be planted almost anywhere in the world and acquire new characteristics depending on where it has been planted, the Nebbiolo grape does best in not just its country of origin, but its specific area which is Northwest Italy. This gem loves its own soil and doesn’t develop anywhere near to as good, elsewhere.

I could go on and on, but it’s best that I leave Nebbiolo history and the wine facts to the experts. An enjoyable start can be seen in this video. Dig deeper and you’ll be amused by all of the old school and new school banter.

Creative Commons

As for the name, I’m learning that the winery is much more than a brand. Gaja has a long history and world-renowned reputation. Angelo Gaja was a bold, risk taker who broke away from the old traditions and tried seemingly blasphemous new approaches to winemaking. Angelo along with his wife and grown children manage everything together. I enjoyed reading this Wine Spectator article where he and his daughter Gaia discuss climate change and its impact on wine production.

I’m more of a #YOLO, drink-now and budget conscious wine newbie. However, if you have the means and patience to wait, certainly start your collection with one of their wines. Read more about the Sito Moresco here.

The Metaphor

Oh Canada!

My parents were immigrants. My mother at eighteen was ready to jump solo on a ship from England to Canada as part of a migration incentive program. Her Mom wasn’t so anxious and followed her, dragging two unwilling siblings on the long, Atlantic crossing. Mom never looked back. My Dad on the other hand, left his birthplace to find work opportunities in Canada. He spent his whole life wanting to return. On one of his annual visits back to his country, he died suddenly. Doing what he loved most, gardening, I have to believe that he passed happily.

I like many of you are transplants. We get cut from the vine of our birthplace and are grafted somewhere else. We thrive and survive as a different version of ourselves. Whereas we think we might not belong anywhere else, it is almost always possible.

The trilogy of grapes or vegetables in today’s dish demonstrates the beauty of blends. Each component brings color and character to the medley. We, like those components, do not lose our distinct flavor, but contribute to something richer.

Photo Credit

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ― Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

Until next time, swirl and breathe deeply into your glass. As the aroma rises, think fondly about the dirt to which the grape came from and where it will go.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

NOTE: This Blog post was inspired by Chapters 3 and 4 of the Certified Specialist of Wine Guide. Both wines mentioned are from the Langhe wine region in Piemonte. The wine I cooked the beef with was (Dolcetto) Domenico Clerico Langhe Dolcetto Visadi 2013. A very reasonable price for a good wine that I will definitely drink rather than cook with next time!