Category Archives: Italy

Revisiting the 2006 Cantina del Redi Vino Nobile Riserva

2006 Vecchia Cantina Vino Nobile Redi Argo et Non Briareo Riserva

2006 Vecchia Cantina Vino Nobile Redi Argo et Non Briareo Riserva

About a year ago, we tried the 2006 Vecchia Cantina Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Redi Argo et Non Briareo Riserva. I had picked it up on sale at WTSO because I remembered liking this cooperative’s wines when I first tried them during a trip to Italy in 2005. We tried the first bottle soon after it arrived, and both Nina and I were raving about it (see here). In short, the wine was really good, took quite a while to open up (we decanted it) and was a lot of fun…I finished that post by stating that I wished I had bought many more bottles to follow the wine for at least ten more years.

Last week, we opened the second bottle we have. Upon opening, the wine showed itself very closed off, almost harsh. There were a ton of hard tannins, so I decided to decant it again. After an hour, the wine showed a perfumed nose of raisins, prunes and chalk, but it still seemed quite closed. So we waited another half hour and then finally gave it a try: It showed good acidity, with prevailing aromas of leather. The tannins were gripping, leading to cherry and flower aromas (probably violets). The finish showed some bitter aromas and was definitely shortening compared to last year.

This tasting was a bit of a mystery: This bottle was way less expressive than the one we tried last year. It did not seem to me like the wine was on its way downhill. It felt more like it was asleep. I am aware that wines can go through these cycles and I wonder whether I hit this bottle at a weird moment in its development. Like I said, the aromas were still fresh enough to indicate it is not on its way out, the wine still was firm and fresh. We left some for the next day to see whether it opened up more, but there was barely any budging. Nina was very disappointed with the wine, but I have not given up hope for the next bottle which we’ll try in a couple of months…

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Guest Contribution: The LimoncellOff

Howdy, loyal readers! First, the bad news: (1) Sadly, this edition of The Winegetter won’t be brought to you by Herr Windgätter. Alas, he is too disdainful of his fans (not to mention lazy) to write himself, and so has asked me to fill in. (2) This contribution has nothing to do with wine; it’s about limoncello: “the real man’s hard liquour” as no-one in history has ever called it. Now to the good news: I, Nils Stear, am also German, and so shan’t be violating Oliver’s strict (and politically controversial) Germanophilic contributor policy (Hooray!).

Limoncello, backlit

A few months ago I decided to make my own limoncello. The process was fairly crude. But the end-product wasn’t too bad—decent, even. Then the idea hit me: wouldn’t it be fun to have a competition to see who could make the best limoncello? All I needed now were some competitors. But who? My dogs were disqualified on account of their lack of opposable thumbs (how would they peel the lemons?), not to mention their appalling taste—I mean, seriously, who pairs salmon-flavoured kibble with tapwater? That’s just embarrassing.

Dogs

How about my baby, Katharina? Her three-month-old intellect would surely guarantee my victory since (not to brag) I can already read at a four-month-old level. However, while I am merely boyishly good-looking, she is insanely adorable, an advantage sure to sway the votes of any judges in her favour. And Katharina is really more of a vermouth drinker anyway.

Katharina

What I needed, then, were competitors that combined an infant’s mental acumen with a dog’s ability to lick its own perineum. When Chip and Tri presented themselves, I knew I’d found what I’d been seeking.

Chip & Vittorio copy

And so, at a dinner party hosted by friends Anne and Tri, I presented my idea. Robin, another friend in attendance, hit upon the name: the “LimoncellOff”. It was on. Chip, Tri, and I would have five weeks to make the best limoncello we could; our significant others Robin, Anne, and Fown would judge them. The prize? Pride. And 5kg of heroin (what can I say, Chip’s a fan). But mostly pride.

It was only afterwards that I realized how foolhardy my choice of competitors had been. Tri hails from Italy’s Amalfi coast, where limoncello originates. If that wasn’t enough to have me soiling my pants, his full name is ‘Trionfatore Campioni’, which basically means ‘Winner Champions’. I was royally buggered.

So, how would I make it? The first time around I had followed a recipe from The Food Network’s Giada Di Laurentiis, which called for vodka, lemons, sugar, and water. Knowing that your average American has the palette of a five-year old, I halved the sugar, which on tasting turned out to be wise. But the vodka imparted a dirty flavour, the low alcohol content made the final product slushy (limoncello is served sub-zero), and I’d peeled the lemons carelessly, including too much pith and making the drink bitter.

This time around, I adapted my recipe from a blog called Limoncello Quest run by a man as insanely driven to perfect his limoncello as I was to beat Chip and Tri. It called for:

  • 750ml ‘Everclear’ grain alcohol (75% ABV)
  • Zest of 8 lemons
  • 1.75 cups sugar
  • 2.5 cups water

I went to absurd lengths to make the best limoncello I could, zesting rather than peeling the lemons for zero pith, and quintuple-carbon-filtering the Everclear. After it had rested three weeks, I sextuple-coffee-filtered the maceration before adding a syrup made from distilled water and white sugar.

Limoncello_Jar

To my horror, when I combined the transparent yellow Everclear with the equally transparent syrup, the mixture went completely opaque. I had bollocksed it up! Or so I thought. Luckily, I hadn’t; the cloudiness results from what’s called the “louche effect”, whereby compounds previously dissolved in the alcohol essentially “undissolve” as the proportion of alcohol decreases. Relieved, I bottled the contents and rested them once more. Finally, two days before the LimoncellOff, I filtered the product one more time and added my secret ingredient: triple-filtered lemon juice—just a touch.

My spirits were buoyed on the big night when Tri and Chip presented their produce. Whereas my own had taken on a milky golden luminescence, theirs had the brown cloudy look of a moribund animal’s effluent.

Limoncello Bottles

Finding criteria to rate the drinks is tricky, a difficulty I’m all too aware of as a philosopher of aesthetics. Still, we had to choose some to give the tasting a little structure. You can see our metrics here:

Limoncelloff Scorsheet

It was crunch-time. After dinner, and before trying our own, we sampled a store-bought limoncello to orient ourselves: Caravella, a popular limoncello in the US, bottled in Milan. It’s a decent example of its kind—fresh, lemony, but with a thick liquorice sweetness—although, oddly, it contains food colouring. At $20 a bottle, I’d recommend it to anyone not fussed about making their own. Tri’s limoncello was next. He had made the courageous, some say reckless, decision to use grappa instead of a flavourless alcohol. The result was delicious, but it lacked the clean, lemony flavour of a limoncello; the grappa’s boozy fragrance was overpowering.

Chip & Robin Laughing

Next came Chip’s. He had innovated with lemon Juice, like myself, and brown sugar in place of white. The result was a tasty and citrusy drink that left a rich, yet subtle, spice in the mouth. Finally came mine. Quite similar to Chip’s but a touch less sweet, a touch less acidic, and with a less complex palette. I could taste victory. And limoncello. The final score gave Tri the bronze, Chip the silver, and myself the lemony gold.

Final Score modificado

So, if you’re looking for a creative and fun activity, try your own LimoncellOff. And remember: when life gives you lemons, use them to knock a wine vendor unconscious and then steal her wine.

Nils laughing

 

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Impressions of VinItaly NYC 2014

VinItaly Logo

I apologize in advance that this post is text-heavy, but I don’t like taking a camera to these kind of events. I want to focus on the experience, the wines I try, the personal connections I make. I find taking photos distracts me from that. For another impression check out Anatoli’s excellent post he just published.

More often than not I have these moments where I am asking myself: How did I get here? And how do I deserve this? This year’s VinItaly and Slow Food tasting in New York was definitely one of those moments that made me appreciate my blogging and all that it has brought to my life. Before we get to the tasting, I need to give credit where credit is due:

I would never have gone had it not been for my formidable partner in crime and friend Stefano, of Clicks and Corks, who sent me an email in November telling me to see whether I could make it to New York for VinItaly. This put the idea in my head, and when I found decently priced tickets Nina and I decided to go. We stayed in Connecticut with Stefano and Francesca (of the wonderful food blog Flora’s Table), who were the most hospitable hosts you can imagine. We flew in Saturday, and Sunday we had a big dinner with fellow bloggers Anatoli (the inimitable Talk-a-vino) and his wife, Suzanne (of the great food blog A Pug in the Kitchen) and Azita (of the Persian, mouthwatering food blog Fig and Quince). As you can tell, Francesca was on a suicide mission, inviting all these fellow food bloggers to her house and cooking dinner for them….just as us wine bloggers were trying to outdo each other with our wines (Nina and I had checked a bag to be able to bring some wines). It was a competition of sorts, but tampered by the mutual respect for each other and the fun we had with the meal, wines, and company. What a night it was! Francesca truly outdid herself with her apple and speck risotto, which will become a staple for me, and her veal roast which was so so so tender. Incredible! It was wonderful meeting Stefano and Francesca again, and then meeting these online friends that I now am able to count as real world friends! Thank you all, for a spectacular evening!!

Monday morning, we braved the snow and headed to downtown Manhattan for the VinItaly NYC tasting. Let me give you a tiny bit of background: VinItaly is the largest tasting of Italian wines in the world, held every year in Verona, Italy. Not long ago, the organization decided to branch out and hold tastings in New York, Moscow, Chengdu, and Hong Kong as VinItaly International. VinItaly teamed up with Slow Wine who also brought wineries to New York for what turned out to be a great tasting experience. The tasting lasted from 1pm until 5.30pm, but there were all sorts of classes in the morning as well. While I did not manage to get into any, Nina was able to snatch a place in a tasting class on Franciacorta (Italy’s Champagne, as they dub themselves) and one on Amarone (lucky her!).

If you have never been to a tasting like this, it is hard to imagine what goes on there, so let me give you an idea: You enter a hall that has rows and rows of tables, behind which winery representatives stand, three bottles of wine in front of them. If I say row upon row, I mean row upon row: Slow Wine alone had brought 70 wineries, and VinItaly another 50. You can do the math, but that is a lot of wine. And naturally, I wasn’t able to taste them all. But I tasted a fair share: I have, just to give you one example, never had that much Barolo in my life (combined), and it was a marvelous experience. The best part to me, though, is talking to the winemakers, hearing their stories (not their sales pitches necessarily)…these tastings are a great opportunity to meet these folks, while the tasting itself is completely overwhelming. You don’t have much time to fully experience the wine, and the whole spitting is also not necessarily conducive to a full wine experience….given that notes are cryptic and hardly worth sharing, let me just share a few stories with you:

Treasure trove for Wine Century Club aspirants
VinItaly is a feast for Wine Century Club aspirants. Italy, along with Portugal and Greece, is a cornucopia of indigenous grapes that only grow in minuscule quantities and still survive. Case in point: The white grape Timorasso that I tried. The winemaker told me that total production by 23 producers is 300,000 bottles. Worldwide. That’s it. How incredible is that? I am not saying there aren’t reasons why this grape is not more popular (the wine was rather bland), but the odds of ever being able to try this grape are so low, how can I not be excited about this? We added about 30 grapes to our list with this tasting alone and are halfway to Double Membership!

Re-trying rare grapes you only tried once
In that same vein, it’s also really exciting to find several wines of a particular grape that one has only tried once in the past. Case in point: Remember my post on a wine called Lacrima di Morro d’Alba? I really, really liked that wine. And there we were, towards the end, standing at a table, glancing over, and I see the words Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and almost jump!! Massimo and Pascale, the owners of Tenuta San Marcello in the Marche region, were surprised I was aware of the grape, and my ecstatic behavior paired with their gentle humor and friendly demeanor made for quite the match. Unsurprisingly, their wines were very good and since it was towards the end of VinItaly they were my last impression there…couldn’t have asked for more!

200 year old vines?
A winemaker from Mount Etna had an eye opening revelation for me: He told me that his vines are over 200 years old. 200 years, I am not kidding you! I looked at him in disbelief and then asked how low the yield was. Because in Germany, these 120 year old vines have way lower yields. Now was his turn to look at me in disbelief: NOOOOO, the yields were super high! I just stared at him. He then pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures: His vines looked like trees, seriously. The trunks were massive, like trees. And then he smiled and explained: Yes, yields go down, but it is a curve, and after 180 years or so, yields go up again….go figure. Reason to hold on to the old vines for my German winemaker friends!

Can your face muscles be sore?
After tasting dozens and dozens of wines, mostly red, mostly young, mostly quite tannic and acidic, swishing them around in my mouth, my facial muscles got so tired that it became harder and harder to muster the force to spit the wine out in style….towards the end, I had to grab the spit bucket, hold it under my mouth, and just let it run. That was embarrassing and I will need to train my muscles more!

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