Maestro Italian Wine Course Offered in Miami: The First School Certified by Vinitaly International Academy

Miami, FL…October 3, 2019…The Italian Wine School based in Miami, Florida is pleased to announce that it will offer the first course certified by Vinitaly International Academy (VIA): Maestro Italian Wine Course certification study program.  Designed for wine industry professionals and aficionados, the eight session course will distinguish itself from other wine certifications in that it not only provides a comprehensive look at the major wine producing regions in Italy, but will delve into learning about indigenous grapes and wine regions not commonly discussed.

Italy has 500+ wine regions and to date, 590 officially recognized native wine grape varieties which sums up to more varieties than France, Spain and Greece combined.

The Maestro Italian Wine Course will provide groundbreaking materials which wine industry professionals can use when crafting their wine lists. That is a key tool in communicating to clients and will offer a new and different narrative.

 “The Maestro Italian Wine Course will expose a wealth of unknown information which they can in turn, present to their clients,” states Stefano Campanini, Italian Wine Ambassador and founder of the Italian Wine School. “Through the digital landscape, VIA is providing updates on industry developments by the minute. This will be key to crafting a broad wine list and communicating a new and different narrative. As a Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador, I must constantly be out in the field rather than just inside a textbook. It’s my objective to help people navigate through this labyrinth of Italian wine with the most current information and curated selections.”

Course Information

The Italian Wine Maestro course is the intermediate level from the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA). A number of outstanding students from the VIA Maestro course may be eligible for direct entry to the VIA Ambassador Certification Course.

The complete course consists of 24 hours of lessons and tastings and is divided in 8 sessions of 3 hours each and concludes with a written exam and tasting component.

  • Introduction: families and groups and focus on Italian sparkling
  • Piedmont’s native grapes
  • Native grapes of and Valle d’Aosta
  • Native grapes of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige
  • Native grapes of Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria
  • Native grapes of Le Marche, Abruzzo and Puglia
  • Native grapes of Lazio, Campania and Calabria
  • Native grapes of Sicily and Sardegna

The sessions included guided tastings of 85 wines representing the best producers and every region, while also exploring culture, history and regional food.

The first session will take place in January, 2020 and costs $895.00. Students who successfully pass the Italian Wine Maestro level course and wish to further their study may apply to enroll in the rigorous VIA study program held annually in Verona and abroad, wherein students pursue either the Ambassador or Expert credentials.

About Vinitaly International Academy (VIA)

Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) aims to be the gold standard of Italian wine education. VIA offers a complete educational path with standardized courses that will teach professionals and educators to master the diversity of Italian wine in a rigorous, organized manner. VIA’s main objective is to foster a global network of highly qualified professionals such as Italian Wine Ambassadors and Italian Wine Experts: in turn, they will support and promote Italian wine throughout the world. VIA’s ecosystem comprising the main institutional bodies and associations in the Italian wine industry strives to be the conduit between the leading players in the Italian wine scene and international professionals.

There are currently three levels of certification available through the VIA program:

  • Italian Wine Maestro
  • Italian Wine Ambassador
  • Italian Wine Expert (VIA’S Highest Qualification Level)

About Stefano Campanini, IWA

Founder of Italian Wine School, Stefano Campanini is one of the 216 Italian Wine Ambassadors representing 33 different countries and one of only twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past June.

Campanini ’s discerning palate was cultivated in his birthplace, Parma, Emilia Romagna named by Forbes: “Italy’s Greatest Gastronomic Treasure” and has travelled extensively in different wine regions.  He has a strong expertise in French and German wines. Campanini’s dream of sharing pleasure at the table began in 2011 when he opened Wine by the Bay. Since then, it has quickly become recognized as one of South Florida’s leading Champagne and boutique wine stores and was most recently awarded Wine-Searcher Gold in Overall and French lists in Miami.  “Wine is an education and not just a drink,” he’ll say while handcrafting a ‘tale of wine cities’ to both novices and aficionados alike.

Italian Wine School

6942 NE 4th Avenue, Miami, FL, 33138

305.857.8767, info@italianwineschool.org

www.italianwineschool.org @ItalianWineSchool

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The Accidental Wine Tasting: Donde Sánchez Cosas Ricas

It’s #FoodieFriday and what better way to recover from the post-vacay blues than to indulge in a tasty flashback?

I intentionally planned a late morning arrival time in Madrid, so I could throw in a load of laundry and go out for lunch aka tapas/early happy hour. “Que viva España!” — after spending five days in Madrid, I have concluded that it may be “five o’clock somewhere,” but in Madrid it’s five o’clock, 24 hours a day! (No joke. Go experience it for yourself.)

Like many of you, a lot of planning goes into a vacation. Some people fill each minute with an itinerary so hectic that by the time the vacation is over they’re exhausted. Me? I have a few criteria: (1) try to stay somewhere where I can experience life as a local; (2) there has to be art nearby; (3) I’m near a local and authentic food market; (4) it’s totally possible to walk to just about anywhere I’d like to be; and (5) there’s a window or terrace with a view if I want to read or must do some work.

I may talk about the Airbnb apartment in Barrio de las Letras some other time, but if you need a great place and can afford a little more than what people expect to pay for a vacation home through this popular site, visit this link.  Shout-out to Teresa who had made my first Airbnb experience a perfect one.

Mercado Antón Martín

While travel sites and YouTube place much more emphasis on the popular Mercado San Miguel (I may write about it later,) Mercado Antón Martín is a great place to experience day-to-day life in the center of Madrid. Support local and avoid the convenience and grocery stores.

Note: There’s another market called Mercado de San Antón in the Chueca neighborhood. I popped in quickly, so I can’t give any first-hand information. It seems more chic and gourmet than Mercado Antón Martín, but not as Instagram moment-touristy as Mercado San Miguel.

At Mercado Antón Martín, you’ll find a traditional market and the early morning rush of Señoras planning that evening’s meal and grocery shopping European style that is – no Costco versions of stocking up here. And then when the butcher and seafood stalls are being washed up before closing, the market transforms into a lunchtime eatery and as the afternoon progresses, you guessed it…Happy Hour!

While circling around figuring out where to stop, one unassuming stall stood out to me as looking authentically Spanish, Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica. Owner Paz Sánchez is unpretentious and very passionate about wine and food. She prefers to say,“cosas ricas” rather than gourmet, just adding to the homey atmosphere. Quality though is not compromised and she did not hesitate to open a bottle, just so I could try something on my “regions to discover” note saved on my phone.

Tip: Enjoy the social scene and be like a local who doesn’t care for a seat or table. Stand and get comfortable with elbow room only.

Then she quickly pours the wine with a little introduction, darts off to attend another customer and then disappears (if it’s even possible to disappear in a small space) to her prep counter and returns with a plate of something yummy (cosas ricas.) “Try this,” she says in Spanish. “I just made it today” and she sets down a generous serving of bacalao (salt cod) pate. Paz is so cheerful and warm that you feel like you’re sitting in her kitchen at home. She explains that she used to have a career which had her traveling a lot, but wine is her passion and she is much happier with this business. In between glasses of wine and anecdotes, she disappears again and comes back with Escabeche of Iberia Secreto. When I saw Iberia Secreto on a menu in Granada, I just presumed it was just a cute name. However, Paz explained that Secreto is a special cut of pork. Read more here.

I asked her what dish would best be paired with the Mencia and she laughed teasingly as if to say, you can’t handle bold Spanish wine like a Spaniard? However, after a pause to think, she disappears again and comes out and says, “try this” while setting down a small plate and then introduces me to aged chorizo and cheese from the same area of Northwestern Spain. To me, the partnership made perfect sense and I was anxious to wash the bites down with the wine and ask for a refill.

Note: When I return to Spain, it will be to Galicia.

Here’s what I tasted:

2015 Ignacio Marin Elements Tierra Earth

  • Grapes: Garnacha and Carinena
  • Region: Carinena
  • @bodegasignaciomarin

2015 Vina Costeira Mencia

  • Grape: Mencia
  • Region: Valdeorras
  • @costeira.es

2018 Honoro Vera

  • Grape: Monastrell
  • Region: Jumilla
  • #bodegasjuangil

Four glasses of wine later and stomach full, I felt like a true Madrileña! When I left Paz said, “Come back when I’m less busy and I’ll sit down and teach you a lot more.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t return until the day before I had to leave and that day Donde Sánchez was packed. I waved, but I don’t think she saw me because she was too busy pouring wine with a smile and preparing  “muchas cosas ricas.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~ Julia Child

Until next time, let accidents happen and lick your plate clean.

@AllegoryPR #MyArt Escape

Donde Sánchez Cosas Rica is a retail store and bar specializing in wines, craft beers, sparkling wines, vermouth, cold meats, cheeses, pate, preserves, chocolates, jams.

  • Find it on the lower floor of Market Antón Martín
  • Santa Isabel, 5 28012 Madrid
  • Tue – Fri 12:00 – 9:00 p.m.
  • Sat 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Postscript: It doesn’t cost to drink or eat well in Spain. Paz’ store is not only a great experience, but great value. She’ll introduce you to wines that don’t break the bank, but are unique and from all areas of Spain. Her homemade tapas are delicious. Eat there and/or takeaway. Check her schedule for special guests and entertainment.

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Dame un Beso on #GarnachaDay!

TGIF and Happy #GarnachaDay! Following a hurricane postponement of the Miami Home Show and rushing to get all of my work done and in place before flying to Spain, I began ignoring emails and was too busy to send what looked like junk to trash.

A quick glance at one particular email made me think it was a press pitch or sales offer. I was in fact, ignoring a politely written message offering me wine from Cariñena. A few days later and on the same day that I’m flying to Madrid, a follow-up email came through. I responded with an apology and passed up on the opportunity, quickly noting that I was on my way to Spain in pursuit of interesting wine stories.

After declining an invitation to have it sent to my hotel in Spain, to my delight the sender insisted that the wine be sent to my home so that it arrived in time for Garnacha Day, September 20th.

So, here I am on September 20th writing a little tribute. Due to the time crunch, I’m not going to be very original here, so if you need to find the source of the facts below, I heartily ask you to visit my gracious host, Vinos Cariñena (DOP) here: https://wineregiontowatch.com/

You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter @vinoscarinena

Since it will take me a while to do some further research, here are some important facts:

  • The Aragon region of Spain is the land where Garnacha cultivation began in Roman times.
Courtesy Photos Vinos Cariñena
  • The vineyards of Cariñena lie in northwest Spain, rooted in the dry rocky soils that cover a 32-square-mile plain on the south side of the Ebro River valley, halfway between coastal Barcelona and dry, inland Madrid, in the autonomous community of Aragon which was once a medieval kingdom.
  • In Aragon, there are 5 Denominación de Origens (DO) of which Cariñena is one. Can you name the other 4?
Courtesy Photo Vinos Cariñena
  • DO members had to resist the temptation to uproot their gnarled heritage vines ranging in age from 40 to over 100 years that each yielded, on average, a measly two pounds of grapes.
  • DYK? In 1932, Cariñena is the second wine region in Spain named an official “Denomination of Origin.”
  • While older vines yield less fruit, their grapes yield more complexity and more concentrated flavors than those grown on young vines.
Courtesy Photo Vinos Cariñena
  • During the ripening season, temperatures drop 30°F (15°C)  helping grapes hold their acidity levels high as they build sugars and phenolic ripeness in daytime. This results in flavor intensity and structure particularly in the appellation’s Garnacha and Cariñena/Mazuelo vines.
  • Single-varietal Garnacha wines are common throughout D.O.P. Cariñena. Old, bush-trained Garnacha vines abound here, some more than 100 years old.
  • Characteristics of Garnacha from Cariñena are: cherry, mandarin, red currant, white pepper and licorice

Need the basics? Check out this video:

The Wines

Bodegas Paniza @panizawines

Founded in 1953, Bodegas Paniza is named for the village where the winery is located, and where growers have cared for their vineyards for generations. The winery is situated in the highest elevation area of D.O.P. Cariñena to the south, at the rise of the Sistema Ibérico Mountain range, which brings cooling influences even in the peak of summer.

The flagship of the winery is almost 200 acres of old vines, ranging from 50 years in age to a vineyard first planted in 1906 with Garnacha, Cariñena, Tempranillo and Moristel varieties. These singular plots produce very low yield, highly complex fruit and are entirely hand-harvested to preserve them for future generations.

Fábula Garnacha from Bodegas Paniza | 100% Garnacha

Black cherry colour with violet bues. Intense aroma of forest fruit, especially blackberries and black cherries. On tasting it is smooth, open, fleshy and well-structured.

Grandes Vinos @grandesvinos_ca

Grandes Vinos has the distinction of working with vineyards in each of the 14 growing areas of D.O.P. Cariñena.

About one third of the company’s total production is dedicated to Garnacha, although the company is also well known for the local Cariñena variety and many others. The range of vineyard plantings allows the winemaking team to isolate a tremendous specificity of styles and to parcel-select wines for young, value seekers such as Beso de Vino, or cellar-worthy selections, including Anayón.

Beso de Vino Garnacha Viñas Viejas 2017 from Grandes Vinos | 100% Garnacha

A lively purple color with fresh and fruity aromas of blackberries, strawberries and cocoa powder. It’s easy drinking with flavors of crushed berries, cherries and a touch of toast.

Bodegas San Valero @bodegasanvalero

A leading winery since 1944, Bodegas San Valero (Grupo BSV) has the longest history in Cariñena and has benefitted from access to some of the most prominent vineyards in the region for over 70 years.

San Valero focuses on indigenous varieties which account for 70% of plantings, including 25% dedicated to Garnacha. A long history in the region brings key advantages – some 20% of their Garnacha is classified as “old vines”, ranging from 30 to 100 years of age and situated at extreme altitudes in very rocky soils. These low-yield plots are cultivated with meticulous care to produce complex wines with rich flavors and a signature minerality drawn from ancient layers of stone.

Sierra de Viento 2018 from Bodegas San Valero | 100% Garnacha

Attractive cherry red color with blue sparkles. Elegant and fine aromas with a touch of ripe red fruits over a flowery background. Fresh and tasty in the mouth with an ample and elegant finish.

I’m not sure which wine I should try first and I will also need to find a suitable pairing. To be continued…

There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction. ~ Salvador Dali

Until next time, keep your glass empty and your inbox full. You never know what tasty surprises may arise before you click delete.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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On the Route of Sultans and Saffron: Lunch, Cava and Culture with a View

I’m back from Spain and what better way to celebrate Wine Wednesday than with an authentic Spanish food and wine pairing?

Unlike Madrid, it was a challenge to find a good selection of wine by the glass in Granada. Possibly, it’s a cost consideration or because many restaurants cater to tourists who even without knowing Spanish, were able to say, “Tinto, Ribera or Rioja.” (Note that Ribera del Duero is a mouthful, so saying Ribera is good enough.) While a glass is a bargain at about 3.50 Eu, you can get a glass of Granada wine for 2.50. Even the cheapest wine is good wine, but expect only simple and pleasant juice.

Luckily, if you want a better choice, buying a bottle of wine is very affordable and if you want good food, it’s best to stray from the tourist path. In the case of Granada, that means wandering the hilly streets, turning sharp corners and getting lost. I found the best way to find a good restaurant was not to look at the menu, but see which ones were inhabited by locals.

The lower end of El Albaicín (Albayzin in Arabic) is filled with tea houses and Moroccan restaurants. While I’m sure many are great, the streets are crowded with tourists and peddlers. Head up to Paseo de los Tristes where the street opens up to a stunning view of the Alhambra. On Saturday, there is an artisan market and whether you are sipping on Cava like me or just soaking in the views, you’ll enjoy being serenaded by gypsy musicians or even more so, gentle breezes that flow between the River Darro and Alhambra set high above on one side and the hills of El Albaicín on the other. This district is worthy of its own blog post, but if you need to know more, here’s a good start. One very important thing not mentioned in this article is that in 1994, El Albaicín was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Culinary Journey: Restaurante Ruta del Azafrán

Typically, I find the dish to match the wine, but since I’m not the one cooking, the star of this post is the food. I am reluctant to say fusion because today, that seems to denote trendy experiments. Perhaps, the synonym “blending” would be more accurate. Southern Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine with international flare, while uniquely paying homage to Azafrán/Saffron – the world’s most prized and expensive spice. DYK that saffron was once used as currency? Read more here.

In a recent interview with Ruta del Azafran’s Head Chef, Antonio Martínez, he says: “The gastronomic panorama of Granada is difficult, but full of possibilities.” Martínez elaborates that gastrotourism is minimal in Granada and the majority of tourists are seeking Tapas and drinks. Read the full interview here.

Here’s what I ate for lunch on two separate occasions. (If my stomach and time allowed, I would have tried the whole menu!)

  • Milhojas de manzana y queso de cabra con reducción de Pedro Ximénez
  • Crema del verduras
  • Cous-cous de pollo
  • Tataki de atún con pickles de piña
  • Salmón a la plancha con salsa de azafrán

The Wine: Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut NV

On this trip and in pursuit of wine education, I was determined to discover wine beyond Tempranillo and regions other than Rioja and Ribera del Duero, as well as focus on modern Spanish winemaking. As mentioned above, I was disappointed not to find much selection in Granada, but fortunately as time went on, variety found me and most times by accident.

While you may not pair sparkling wine with steak, it’s a suitable pairing for starters, seafood and lighter dishes and of course, enjoyed just by itself. Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut is made from 100% Macabeo (an indigenous Spanish grape called Viura in Rioja.) Dominio de la Vega is a family winery located in the Valencian region of Utiel-Requena, within the Denomination of Origin of the same name.

Background Info on the Winery: “A high plateau of destitute clay and limestone soil, with an altitude that varies from 600 to 900 meters. The climate is continental with a great Mediterranean influence: very cold winters and very dry and hot summers with scarce rainfall. The altitude and the sea’s influence give our cava and wine their features, like their freshness and great maturity.” Read more about the harvest here.

As you may know Cava is made in the traditional method just like Champagne (le méthode champenoise.) If not, it would be labeled as sparkling wine. If you are unfamiliar with this process, a Cava specific introduction can be found here. As noted in this article, the main types of grapes used in the production of Cava are the Macabeo, the Parellada and the Xarel·lo – all of which bring their own unique characteristics to the sparkling wine.

If you are more familiar with wine, you may find this article written by Jancis Robinson quite interesting: Macabeo/Viura – the Cinderella grape? After reading it, I realized how fortunate I was to drink a wine made from 100% Macabeo and hope that in order to inspire the demand for it, you try Idilicum too.

El poema, la canción, la imagen, son solo agua extraída del pozo de la gente, y se les debe devolver en una copa de belleza para que puedan beber, y comprendan ellos mismos. ~ Federico García Lorca

The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink – and in drinking understand themselves.

Federico García Lorca was born in Granada. His works were banned during Franco’s dictatorship and he was executed by the Nationalists during the Civil War. While visiting Cuevas del Sacromonte, I was fortunate to hear an actress from Extremadura recite one of his poems .

Granada is magical. Google Maps won’t take you where you should be. The magic begins once you resign to getting lost.

Until next time, keep your glass empty and let it be filled with spontaneity. Pair it with a dish of curiosity and may it lead you to deeper understanding of both yourself and the world.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

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Memories, Movies and La Meseta

If you’ve been following my Blog or are connected with me on social (@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape,) you’ll know that I’m slowly making my way through the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) Certified Specialist of Wine Guide. I’m on Chapter 11. Don’t ask me when I’ll be done, because I don’t know. I spend my whole professional life a slave to deadlines so, I’m in no hurry and enjoy getting lost in the process.

It’s been a long time since I’ve applied myself to studying and I’m not sure even when in University, if I ever studied correctly. However, at this stage of life it just doesn’t seem good enough to memorize facts and strategize on how to pass a test.  I want to really learn wine, so going beyond the textbook is a satisfying journey. There’s so much out there: YouTube, podcasts, the internet at large, and of course, “applied” studies – Cheers!

Photo | Creative Commons

I’m fascinated by soil and climate conditions and, in the case of Spain, time spent studying Spanish film and art has become so much more meaningful. For example, in the films of Carlos Saura or Victor Erice, the use of metaphor was a means to project ideas about life under the Franco dictatorship without being censored. A desolate landscape (La Meseta,) the countryside and the forest, are symbols of Spain’s isolation from the rest of the world and a sociological emotional state. Now, there’s really no connection to Spanish wine here, but to me every time I read about a region, a scene from a movie pops into my head!

2017 Bodega Javier Sanz Verdejo
Photo Credit | Author

The Wine: 2017 Bodega Javier Sanz Verdejo

This delicious white wine is made from 100% Verdejo grapes from the Rueda DO ( Denominación de Origen.) Rueda was formed on a former riverbed of El Ebro river. As part of Castille y Léon encompasses the northern part of La Meseta Central. Whereas, Ribera del Duero is known to produce some of the best Tempranillo wines in the country, Rueda produces the region’s best white wines. Many of the Javier Sanz’s vines are 40 years old.

The Rueda region is characterized by extreme weather conditions — hot in the day and cold at night. The vines grow like bushes, close to the ground allowing the grapes to ripen at night in soil that has retained heat, but are protected by extreme heat during the day.

Isn’t nature grand?

Tasting Notes: Javier Sanz Verdejo is the best expression of Rueda and its terroir: Youthful and bright, with light shades of green. In the nose, its shows fresh and lively varietal notes of sweet grapefruit and pineapple, combined with anise and fennel as well as floral aromas. Bone-dry in the palate, its medium body is coupled with a crisp, refreshing acidity that make it perfect to drink at all times. Read more here.

The Javier Sanz Viticultor “philosophy is based on the conservation of pre-phylloxera vineyards, local grape varieties, and the recovery of varieties that have almost become extinct.”

Baked Red Snapper with tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, red pepper, asparagus and potatoes.
Photo | Author

The Dish: Baked Red Snapper

I paired the Verdejo with baked Red Snapper with pine nuts, garlic, slices of fresh tomatoes, lime zest and olive oil. On the side were roast baby potatoes and sautéed asparagus. A little bit of research, spontaneity and cooking instincts was my recipe. Oh yummy!

Some Thoughts on Modern Spanish Winemaking

In Spain, modern winemaking is focusing more on its origins such as cultivating indigenous grapes, revitalizing varieties beyond Tempranillo and showcasing regions other than Jerez and Rioja. There is a growing confidence among winemakers to produce wines that have a unique Spanish character, but moving away from traditions of being fermented for long periods in oak. Balance, freshness and quality…read more here.

During my stay in Spain, I hope to discover more modern wines and taste some that are made specifically by indigenous Spanish grapes whether that be a varietal or blend.

Just as it is important to preserve culture and traditions, I think these new ideas of creating a truly Spanish wine characteristic is exciting!

The Metaphor

It is common knowledge that grapes do well in the poorest soil conditions where they have worked hard to find water and nutrients. The growers cultivate the plants, making sure that the right type of pruning and vine training systems correspond to the climate and conditions.

Some of the most outstanding people have come from dire conditions. If things come too easy, we can take life’s opportunities for granted. It’s cliché I know, but we should give it some deeper thought every now and then.

Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.

― John Burroughs

Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and glass full of wine. There’s a tradition to keep and a life lesson to be told.

#MyArtEscape @AllegoryPR

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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.

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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!

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Catch Me If I Fall

Catch Me If I Fall

If you are fortunate to live somewhere in the tropics like me, it’s wrong to complain about the weather. However, we do and I’m going to right now. It’s October and the sun’s position says fall back, but it feels like July with no cool breeze to be felt.

I’m originally from the north, so at this time of the year my biological or more likely, my psychological clock says, store the cotton/linens and bring out the knits. My stomach says, stop grilling and eating salad and start slow cooking.

Or rather, Cook Slow

As a child I loved to go apple picking and have fond memories of tractor rides, ladders and picking apples off the ground. Yes, you don’t need a ladder to pick apples off the ground. My mother was a practical woman and she knew that windfalls were cheaper and could be stewed and the ones we could climb up the ladder to pick would be packed into lunches. Oh the smell, of stewed apples and cinnamon!

Here’s some more ways to not let windfalls go to waste.

Fall in the Pot

This evening’s recipeCider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions is a tribute to my apple picking memories. There are many versions to be found and plenty of video tutorials too. Choose the one you like best. I tried to find the origin of this recipe and although there are Italian, German and French versions, I’d like to conclude that my dinner is American and the hard cider that I chose is, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple.

True to my practical roots, I am choosing the cheapest cut, pork shoulder. You could do chops or tenderloin, but if you are cooking slow, there’s no need to spend a lot.

From just five simple ingredients, a sumptuous autumn aroma will permeate your house!

Au gratin potatoes; roast turnips; and apple cider braised pork.

Why Riesling and Why Not Red?

Once again, I gave into #TheWineTherapist’s recommendation. I’ve always preferred red over white, but according to Stefano, I’ve been cheating my taste buds by not choosing any good ones. The conclusion is, listen to your wine consultant!

On my door step with enough time to be chilled, was the 2009 Peter Jakob Kühn Quarzit Riesling Trocken. I took enough German in high school to pronounce it correctly (I hope), but not enough to understand the website, so finding information was a challenge. Here’s one review and some tasting notes on this 89 Point wine (Wine Advocate) can be found here.

Riesling is the 18th most planted varietal  in the world and 20% of all grapes are planted in Germany. The one that I’m drinking today is from the Rheingau region. Do you know what distinguishes Riesling from the Rheingau and Mosel regions apart from other areas in the world?  Hint: Slope, south, sun.

Catch Me If I Fall

This week I became a member of the Society of Wine Educators and am enrolled in the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) course. I have a year to get through a large textbook, participate in online tutorials, take notes and complete exercises in preparation for the certification exam that consists of 100 questions. Of course, theory must be supplemented with practice and I’ll be tasting my way through regions and vineyards from around the world!

I’m an art enthusiast and not a critic; love to cook, but not a chef; a wine enthusiast, but not a sommelier. When I write about art or wine, my goal is to be easily understood and, hopefully, enjoyed by many.

As I embark on this wine adventure, if my approach ever becomes unapproachable, “catch me if I fall” and send me your feedback.

We first taste to enjoy and the joy of tasting allows us to tap into our memories or create new ones.

Until next time, remember that seasons are a state of mind. While you may have to wait before wearing the sweater, nothing stops you from Fall-ing in the pot.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Continue reading “Catch Me If I Fall”

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