Follow me on the wine trails of Northern Italy, Tuscany and Umbria where. . .
" the sun with a golden mouth can blow . . . blue bubbles of grapes down a vineyard row" Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"The best way to learn about wine is the drinking" So says Alexis Lichine, wine authority and writer of the first encyclopedic guide to wine and spirits and I could not agree with him more. Year after year as I travel to Italy to visit my Italian family and friends, my taste for wine becomes more refined because I AM TASTING MORE WINE. If you are interested in learning more about wine, you must study about wine, surround yourself with people and places that know about fine wine and taste more wine.
The wines I have listed are from my personal tasting experiences eating and drinking at the tables of my Italian family and friends and at trattorie, restaurants, wine bars, vineyards and farms throughout Northern Italy, Tuscany and Umbria.
Cositutti's Wine Rack
I'm beginning at the end. My all time favorite wine is a dessert wine. In fact I am so enamored of it that I dedicated a whole chapter to it in my book. Vin Santo is Tuscany in a glass . . . Read More
My friend Rita introduced me to Malvasia wine. She serves it at her ristorante in the medieval village of Castel d' Arquato near Piacenza in Emilia Romagna. It is crisp and clean with light tannins and a slight sparkle with a hint of vanilla, allspice, honey and pears. Perfect as a apertivo, dessert wine and a natural for deglazing the tacchino stuffed with prosciutto and pecorino dish that I learned to make at the restaurant cooking school*.
Little known outside of Italy, the village of Castel d'Arquato is one of the most well-preserved historic sites in Italy and is on the ItayTasteandTravelSeeing and Savoring Italy Itinerary. It recently received Italy's Bandiera Arancione, a symbolic "Orange Flag" awarded by the Touring Club of Italy (TCI) to small towns and villages in Italy that promote sustainable tourism and geotourism values. Based on an analysis of 135 indicators (i.e.tourist information and services, lodging, cultural and environmental resources, hospitality, local traditions) the Bandiera Arancione designation is a kind of Italian tourism equivalent of Michelin stars. Towns included on the list must have important historical, cultural and environmental patrimony and offer tourists a quality welcome to their towns.The accommodations, authenticity and hospitality at my friend Rita's hotel and ristorante definitely raise the Orange Flag to new heights with some of the finest food and wine in the region.
Selected and Recommended:A good Italian Malvasia Bianca proved difficult to find in my area (although I known there are some good California varieties) so I substituted it with Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco, a sweet sparkling red/rose' produced in the Italian province of Asti.
*Read more about Bandiera Aracione "Orange Flag" tourism sites in Italy our company archives
Colli Piacentini Mont'Arquato Duca di Ferro Gutturnio Riserva
The Italian wines from the hills of Piacenza have been appreciated by popes and kings and those who would be including Napoleon, Michelangelo and me. Colli Piacentini Gutternio is made from two of my cousin Roberto's favorite grapes, Barbera (70%) and Bonarda (30%). It has a brilliant ruby red color with shades of purple red and an aroma of dried cherries and spice. Because it is little known outside of Italy and often overshadowed by the wines of Tuscany, this wine may not be as familiar as a Chianti, Brunello or Super Tuscan but well worth your consideration.I had this wine at an afternoon meal in the Castello di Gropparello's medievale taverna with cheese and laurel made in the castle kitchens and tortellini, pork and a chocolate semifreddo for dessert. Molto buono.
Selected and Recommended: Colli Piacenti Mont'Arquato Duca di Ferro (Iron Duke) Gutturnio Riserva . Pairs well with white meat (petto di pollo - chicken breast), light pasta dishes and cheese and is perfect for all seasons,
The Corsi di Cucina at Castello Gropparello is part of the Seeing and Savoring Taste and Travel Itinerary of Emilia Romagna.
*gutturnio comes from the Latin word "gutturnium",a globe shaped jug used to serve wine in ancient times.
Capezzana Carmignano - The Renaissance of the Medici in a Glass
Tuscan wine is more than Chianti. So I traveled outside the belt way, NW of Florence to the olive groves and vineyards of Tenuta di Capezzana near Carmignano outside of Prato. Here I have spent many a wonderful afternoon experiencing the warm hospitality of the Contini Bonacossi family at the table in the dining room of their villa eating a Tuscan meal fit for a Medici and tasting three of their signature wines. Each one was memorable in its own way and complimented the food. Well balanced, dense with spicy undertones; the Renaissance of the Medici in a glass.
Selected and Recommended: Villa d'Capezzana Carmignano and Barco Reale, a younger version of Carmignano, made with the same grapes (Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon) and the addition of Canaiolo. It is named after the historic Medici Royal property known as the Barco reale, enclosed by a boundary wall which was over 30 miles in length.
"la dolce vita" squared (to the highest degree). My high regard for this wine begins with an afternoon spend in an wine bar in Orvieto with my Umbrian friends, Luca and Luigi.
Read more as I travel Sideways in Italy. Selected and Recommended: Lungarotti Sagrantino d' Montefalco. On the label is a view of the Montefalco winery with a falcon, symbol of the area, where traditionally falcon hunting was practiced.
Prosecco from the vineyards of Valdobbiadene north of Venice, the Colli Trevigiani and Brenta Canal
One of the most memorable glass of Prosecco was part of an afternoon meal I had with my Italian cousins in a restaurant along the Brenta Canal in a town called Mira. We had a spectacular feast of scampi giganti alla griglia (giant grilled shrimp) and other assorted fresh seafood. My cousin Roberto suggested we begin our meal with a glass of Prosecco which we did. His suggestion was perfect. The other most memorable glass of Prosecco was one from the Colli Trevigiani region (high hills ) of the Veneto with my cousins in Portogruaro.
I have had many other glasses of Prosecco since then. In Italy, restaurants will often serve a complimentary glass of Prosecco before the meal . . . molto gentile! The crisp, bright taste reminiscent of citrus, herbs and melon has a mere 10.5% alcohol content making it a perfect apertivo. And remember you don't need a special occasion to drink this Italian "frizzante" sparkling wine. The star caps on a popular imported brand and the easy to open corks with a string attached on the more traditional bottles encourage you to drink Prosecco while it's fresh and young and to enjoy it often.
Selected and Recommended : Torresellamakes a good Prosecco that is readily available in the States as is the Prosecco from Santa Margherita. It would be impossible to mention Prosecco without mentioning Venice's most fashionable cocktail - il Bellini di Venezia. A true Bellini is made with the nectar of white peaches and prosecco Italian sparkling wine. Do not use champagne; it will overpower the delicate peach flavor.
The perfect peach puree to make a Bellini like they serve at Harry's Bar in Venice is difficult to find. Mario Batali makes a Bellini-like drink with with blood orange juice which is easier to find.
I first tasted this wine at an afternoon reception in the Milanese apartment of my friends Laura and Luccio and I have loved it ever since. The color of rose petals, it has been described as soft and creamy with hints of wild strawberries and raspberries. Brachetto d'Aqui is from the Piedmonte region of Northern Italy in an area known for its effervescence! Asti Spumanti comes from this region.
Selected and Recommended: Banfi Brachetto D'acqui Rosa Regale "a delicious bottle of silky rose colored bubbles".
Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Aqui D.O.C.G. by Castello Banfi, Piedmonte, Italia has been described as a "delicious bottle of silky rose colored bubbles" I like to serve it with a spring mix salad with goat cheese, cranberries and almonds. It also goes well with dark or bittersweet chocolate and is a wonderful desert wine with tarts and pies.
I first tasted this wine in March 2007 on a trip to the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. After many trips to Italy, my Italian cousins decided that it was about time for me to venture into the Sudtirol. They wanted me to see the Dolomites Mountains, visit the Ice Man, eat some Italian/German food and taste Tyrolean Gold . The urban legend surrounding the wine, Teroldego, says that it's name is the German dialect for gold of Tirol. Wine texts say that this wine takes it's name from the traditional method of cultivation in which the vines are trained on a system of "tirelle" or wire harnesses. I'm going with the urban legend because after I tasted this wine I knew I had found another Italian treasure.
In the glass the ruby red garnet color of the wine leads you into an extremely aromatic, heady aroma of spices, wild flowers and juicy red fruit. It is low in tannins, very easy to drink and food friendly. My wine memories of Teroldego include a family dinner at the restaurant of the Hotel Alpino in the Val di Fiemme. The meal was spectacular and the wine exceptional and as all good wines should be, typical of the region.
This wine is hard to find and can vary in quality. I like Zeni Teroldego Rotaliano.
Read more about our grappa tastings as we cross the Ponte degli Alpini into the town of Bassano di Grappa and the Italian Happy Hour where the fashionable Milanese enjoy pre-dinner apertivi.