Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Il Bisserino; sparkling red wine of Milano

Milano, Italy

When most people think of Milano, Italy, they think of fashion, of culture, of historical edifices. Most think of Milano as one of the great cities of Europe, enshrouded in the Autumn fogs that roll in from the coast.

But they don't think of winemaking. No, most people certainly don't think of that.

Oh it's not that the Milanese don't drink wine (they most assuredly do). The thing is that, up until the (relatively) recent past - for all of Milan's history - there was no local history of great winemaking...

For it was just in 1984 that Milan got it's first officially recognized wine producing region: colle de San Colombano, DOC. A region just south of the city, there has been wine production in these low, rolling hills for centuries upon centuries but, alas, mostly table wine (vino di tavolo). Now in the "Golden Era" of wine, technology is growing by leaps and bounds and eonophiles are quick to jump on board.

Lodi; in which one finds San Colombano
With new trellising methods, better understanding of soil compositions and infinitely cleaner methods of production, even the everyday wines of today are miles beyond what they were only a few decades ago.

Case in point, a charming little frizzante or sparkling wine from Claudio Pozzi: Il Bisserino ( Fresh, fun, bursting with fruity goodness and a savory edge from the calcareous soils of the region, this is the sparkling wine for the person who adores big juicy reds and swears they abhor Champagne.

Indeed, Claudio and his team are doing something that winemakers the world over are trying to do though not all are succeeding: create value wines with a sense of place. But Claudio doesn't come by his talent honestly, at least, not in the old-fashioned sense of the term. Claudio never grew up in the vineyards and his father never taught him how to crush grapes. He is the first of his name to enter the winemaking arena and, in fact, still maintains another career.

So then to what can we attribute this wineries competent line of wines, at reasonable prices, with a sense of joy and characteristics of skill? Well if it's not inherited skill then it must be cultivated skill~! And where do we most often derive cultivated skills from? From passion!

Claudio speaks of the wonder and beauty he derives from his new craft, of a desire to create a vineyard that works with farming practices that have a true sense of purpose rather then blindly following an organic system to "sell more labels". To call Claudio a visionary would be stretching the truth, but rather let me say that in My Humble Opinion, Claudio Pozzi is doing what I hope all winemakers can aspire to: a truly Henry Ford style of business.

 "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible"

2007 Il Bisserino Vin de Milan, San Colombano DOC
$20+ USD (the Tamalpais Wine Agency of California)
not widely available in Canada
89-90 points

vine age:   35+ years
vineyard size:   2.5 HA
altitude:    100 metres
soil:          clay silt
varietals:    Croatina 40% -Barbera 35%-Uva Rara 15%-Cabernet Sauvignon 10%
harvesting:   manual, end of September
vinification:   8-10 days maceration in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation
  • visual:   clear; deep plum garnet core with light cherry rim, small amount of tiny pearl bubbles
  • nose:    clean; moderate+ intense youthful aromas of candied cherry, blackberry, red currant, dark cherry blossom characteristics, some violets
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (red currant) acids, moderate+ (chalky) tannins, moderate- body, moderate- alcohol (13.5%), moderate intense and developing flavors that mimick the nose; candy notes are gone and replaced by savory earthy tones, warm brambleberry/saskatoon flavors, lean graphite minerality and a crisp red currant finish... almost drinks like a young Morgon or Moulin-a-Vent. Very good balance and structure, medium length
  • conclusion: already almost 6 years old, this wine is still in the prime of life and easily has another 3-5 years left but will not develop appreciably
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   much as Claudio says on his website, this wine will cosy up to a plate of cured salami and provolone cheese with delight, but I thought to take this one step further. What about prosciutto, prawn and chevre pizza? The salt of the prosciutto plays off the sweet fruit on the nose, the prawns will delight in the cherry flavors and the chevre will enhance the natural earthy tones!

Take a gander through the Il Bisserino website, or read some of Claudio Pozzi's interviews, and you will come to understand how that man came to this industry as an outsider. But, as an outsider, has no issue with "bucking the system" and throwing outdated traditions out the window. Claudio's staff are well paid, his lands are well taken care of, and his business model is sound. To me, this is the winning combination that will allow his grandchildren the luxury of learning the winemaking industry the old-fashioned way...

They'll learn it from their grandfather.

The proof my friend? As always, in the glass!

I look forward to your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Citerna Nero di Troia or Uva di Troia

I love a good deal; a good deal on a suit, a good deal on a flight, or a good deal on a bottle of wine.

I adore a good deal on a great bottle of wine~!!!

Recently I had the good fortune to win an auction for a modestly priced back-vintage of an obscure varietal: Nero di Troia which runs by the pseudonyms Uva di Troia, Uva di Canosa, Uva di Barletta, Uva della Marina, Troiano, Tranese and also Sumarello. A heck of a lot of names for a wine that 20 years ago only had a half-dozen single varietal bottlings. Period.

Well much research has gone into this Puglian grape recently, and the number of single-varietal bottlings has grown to over 80. Certainly, in the grand scheme of Italian wines, this makes it still an obscurity to say the least, but Puglia is taking interest in it's heritage. The Nero di Troia has been planted in "the heel of the boot" for centuries, but has remained a blending varietal for most of that time: this is a grape that tends towards high tannin structure and harvests late in the season. Oh, it has it's benefits as well; (otherwise I doubt it would have lasted) most notably a generous yield and resistance to many diseases, but this was a grape that needed someone to devote some time to it before it would yield it's secrets.

Secrets? Yes... Nero likes it's yields kept low, it needs to ripen fully, and loves a touch of altitude when planted. And it was the professor Luigi Moio of the University of Naples who devoted himself due to the generous benefactors Tenuta Rasciatano. And when the professor opened this door into a new and evolved version of Nero, the winery Tenuta was one of the first to reap the rewards.

Gone was the erstwhile varietal full of over-eager tannins and green herbaceous tones, and in it's place a fresh yet balanced fruit-laden wine brimming with an approachable sense of place. And all for a reasonable price.

Bravo professor~!

2007 Citerna Nero di Troia, Puglia IGT
by Alberto Longo
$10 USD+tax, Tamalpais Wine Agency of Richmond, CA
$25 CAD (not widely available)
89+ points

soil type:    loamy sand texture, mostly calcereous
vines:      single vineyard, family owned'
harvesting:   machine
altitude:    500 metres+
vinification:   cold soak maceration of 10 days usually (kept short to avoid excessive tannins)
maturation:   3 months+ in stainless steel, then 3 months+ in concrete vats, then 3 months+ in bottle
  • visual:   clean; fully intense garnet core (much like Nero D'Avola) with slight bricking to the rim after 5 years
  • nose:   clean; medium+ intense and developed aromas of drying cherries, graphite backbone, bramble fruit, dark flowers... a wine starting to speak of maturity, but in an elegant manner
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (red and black cherry) acids, moderate+ (chewy, sustained) tannins, moderate+ body, moderate+ to full alcohol (13% ABV), moderate+ intense and developed/ing flavors that mimick the nose; bright red fruit dominate the beginning of this charming table wine, a strong sense of place comes from the mineral/graphite tones that follow, which is summed up by the drying nuances of cherry and floral. Very good structure and balance, moderate length
  • conclusion:   an excellent buy for it's price (in the US), this is still a table wine - just a good one. This can cellar well for up to 5,6 or even 10 years from date of bottling but will start to lose force after 5 or 6.
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   soft like a Merlot, yet full of vigor like a Malbec, this is a wine I've not experienced before but plan to delve into as often as I can~! When you find a bottle with a few years of age, consider enjoying it on it's own, or with simple charcutterie (cold cuts and cheeses). In it's youth I would pair this with rich beef dishes such as braised oxtail stew or a beef and wild mushroom canneloni... the vivid tannins will appreciate the counter play!

In ancient times it was the hero Diomedes who conquered the legendary city of Troy. He left the smoldering ruins and crossed the (at the time) vast sea to come to hills of Puglia, settling in what became the town of Troia. Some would surmise that he would have carried treasure, and most certainly would have brought food and wine for the voyage. Maybe, just maybe, he also brought a few clippings from local grapevines.

Maybe, and maybe not, but it makes a good story. No matter what the story is behind the history of Nero di Troia, we can be assured that whilst vintners like Alberto Longo are producing quality like this, there will most certainly be a future for it.

You doubt me dear friend? The proof, as always, is in the glass!

Many thanks to wikipedia and Sally Easton, MW at for their research. I look forward to your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!