The doors of Casa Museo di Ugo Tognazzi in Velletri opened once again on the last Saturday of November, the 30th, to an exclusive night of “Amici Miei”, a creation of Gianmarco Tognazzi of La Tognazza Winery. Amici Miei (My Friends), a name borrowed from the popular movie in the 1970’s directed by Mario Monicelli and starred by Gianmarco’s father Ugo Tognazzi, is an artistic project that gives value to friendship through the combination of wine, food and music and at the same time a tribute to his father, one of Italy’s most renowned actors in the 50’s until the 90’s.
Rascioni and Cecconello is a biological wine estate on a hilly terrain with an elevation of 100 m.a.s.l. located in Fonteblanda (Orbetello) in the Maremma area of Tuscany where it enjoys a close proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It has 5 hectares of vineyards dedicated to Ciliegiolo and Sangiovese and a little bit of Vermentino. The soil has a major amount of skeletal fractions which contribute to the territorial acidic characteristic in their wine.
Fabrizio Pratesi is the result of a wine and oil making activity of the Pratesi family for five generations. The vineyards and winery are located in Lolocco, in the heart of Carmignano which has bought by Pietro Pratesi in 1875. Carmignano, about 15 kilometers southwest of Florence, is one of the lesser-known DOCG wine regions that’s located in the Tuscany region and centered on the town of Carmignano. It is located in front and far from the peaks of Monte Albano which guarantees perfect sun exposure, sitting on a hilly area and with the best altitudes of 150 to 230 meters above sea level. The soil is dominantly stony with the presence of clay makes the wines complex with great structure and elegance.
The ibex, our heraldic crest, returns to make a fine show of itself in the logo, confirming once again our solid bond with the family and origins, while the new Rottensteiner bottles, specially created for us and at our exclusive disposal for 10 years, they intend to express uniqueness and elegance. The renewed design and review of our labels are the most tangible result of this project,” declares Hannes Rottensteiner, Rottensteiner Winery’s third generation.
Thirty-year old wines that express youth and harmony bearing all three types of aromas (varietal, secondary and tertiary) in the palate don’t come around often. Needless to say, I was completely impressed. The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 1989 of Carpineto Winery came from a 3 out of 5 star vintage, a middle range climatic quality but with the aid of good vinification, the wine came out spectacularly in the evolution as it aged.
It’s not common to have a big film producer jump to being a wine producer and excel in both fields. In the case of Italo Zingarelli, the man behind the internationally popular series of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill series of films, he proved his proficiency in the two things that he was most passionate about. In 1973, he made the big plunge by acquiring the Le Macie estate in Chianti, all 93 hectares of them in which two hectares were dedicated to the cultivation of grape vines while the rest were left for olive groves.
The Boffa Family had an aspiration when they created Amalia Cascina in 2003. After acquiring an early 20th century farmhouse in Monforte d’Alba in Langhe and its surrounding vineyards, they decided to cultivate Dolcetto and Barbera. After all, they are in the Langhe hills, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Langhe is a wine growing landscape that enraptures the eyes with its soft hills filled with neatly combed rows of vines and most importantly, home to one of Italy’s finest red wines.
Founded in 1890 by Giuseppe Borgogno, Damilano is one of the oldest wineries in Barolo where the king of wines has been in production for centuries. But it wasn’t until the following generation, through the hands of Giacomo Damilano, his son-in-law, did the winery turn towards the innovation of generating quality in their wine making process. And with Giacomo’s direction, the winery also changed its name to Damilano. From 1997 until present, Giacomo’s three nephews, Guido, Mario and Paolo Damilano took over the family winery and gave renewed value to Nebbiolo, the most important red grape of the hills of Langhe in Piedmont.
The wine producing territory of Affile had a rebirth in the early 21st century. After almost half a century of a period of standstill, in 2003, the ancient vine came to limelight again, producing the first label of Cesanese di Affile DOC under the name Colle Fraggiano 2003 (now called Terrae Vulpis) by Vini Raimondo. Vini Raimondo is a small family-owned winery run by Eleonora Perez, her husband Romulo and father Giuseppe, after her grandparents started the activity.
Mario Mazzitelli, an oenologist, decided to initiate his own wine making activity in 2001 with the collaboration of another oenologist, Fortunato Sebastiano, in the province of Salerno in the Campania region of Italy. He chose a 6-hectare land that overlooks the Gulf of Salerno at Giffoni Valle Piana near Monti Picentini, the mountain range in the Campania Apennines with an average height of 100 to 300 meters above sea level. Here, he found the ideal terroir that best expresses the personalities of his wines.
The motivational quotation to stay positive, work hard and make it happen works well to push us in executing what we dream about. It was in 1983 in a wine bar in Rome when a group of winelover friends who frequently meet had this idea to make their own wine. At the center of it was Silvia Imparato, a professional photographer, Renzo Cotarella and his brother Riccardo Cotarella, both enologists.
Weingut Haderburg of the Ochsenreiter family specializes in sparkling wines. It has two plots of vineyards, the Hausmannhof which is located in Salorno is the main vineyard of the estate where the cellar and the main production line is. Obermairlhof instead is located in Chiusa in the Isarco Valley where the white wine varieties are known to produce astonishing results with a good interplay of freshness and minerality.
The South Tyrolean Wine Route, one of the oldest wine routes in Italy, begins in Nalles, goes through Bolzano, Oltradige, Bassa Atesina then to the border of South Tyrol, Salorno. With the interplay of the vineyards, monuments, and the villages, the route exudes a magnificent scenery. The majority of the wine production in Alto Adige (South Tyrol) is cultivated in this area wherein grape varieties like Merlot, Lagrein, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay find their habitat quite well. For a total surface of 206 hectares, white grape varieties dominate the number by 164 hectares as opposed to the 41 hectares allocated for the red varieties.
As you maneuver the electric cart from the winery to the higher part of the town where you pass the town’s church, go through a dusty country road with lots of green then veering to the left, a beautiful corridor of perfectly trimmed hedgerow and old olive trees and finally, to Vigna Lorenzo, the important vineyard of Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio Winery dating back from 217 B.C. bordered by ancient Roman walls and with a breathtaking backdrop of the Umbrian landscape, you wonder: can’t a winery visit be more phenomenal than this?
It is immersed in the soft hills of Gaiole in Chianti between Florence and Siena. Over the centuries the castle has changed identity and ownership from a military post to a noble country home but its original structure remained. Between noble families and military troops in periods of different wars, the castle withstood time and harsh elements.
When Ernesto Casetta speaks about his wines, you can easily get lost in his stories and the wealth of information that he provides. He has a lifetime of experiences where ups and downs in viticulture formed him into what he and his winery is now. He comes from generations of family with roots in Roero since 1725 where viticulture has always been a main activity. With an average annual production of 300,000 bottles, the first vintages in the early 1960s, then the very first export that went to Japan then succeeded by the US, and a wide range of wines, Ernesto has a lot to be look back on and see what an accomplishment the Casa Vinicola Fratelli Casetta has attained.
When Anton Börner first set foot on the land that was to become the future Omina Romana Estate, the thought of buying the land and plant grapes for wine production was immediate. So in 2004, the 80-hectare hilly terrain on the Alban hills in the town of Velletri went through a thorough process of viticulture. Long periods of studying and experimenting in the volcanic soil with predominantly of clayey with some sandy areas of the land led to the cultivation of grapes in more than 60 hectares of its area.
There are some Italian regions that I tend to favor when I have to go through a wine list. I have this usual tendency to go far away from my home region. I live at the outskirt of Rome which is inside the region of Lazio. What I am saying is that I look everywhere but Lazio. Lazio has 30 controlled designation labels, 3 of which are DOCG (Denominazione Origine Controllata e Garantita) and 27 are DOC (Denominazione Origine Controllata).
Just a few minutes away from Villa Melnik Winery, in the village of Kromidovo is Orbelus Winery. We made our way to Orbelus in the darkening sky with a beautiful yellow full moon guiding us. As soon as we approached the winery, we were all mesmerized by its peculiar shape. Right in the middle of a stretch of green hills popped out the winery shaped like a colossal barrel half-buried in the soil. It was an unexpected but aptly shaped architecture.
In Italy, landscapes can mesmerize anyone passing through the boot-shaped country from north until the southern tip. Different regions have different charming sceneries. Driving through the less trodden roads of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, you are rewarded with a scenic view of the countryside and as you reach the DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli area , it becomes more picturesque. It is like going through a travel picture you happen to see in a travel guide. Being an important wine area, the view is a patchwork of different shades of green draped softly on hills. Straight rows of vines and manicured grass on soft hills with a light gray road curving its way in the middle of the patchworks. While the sky remains bright blue, I can’t convey in stronger words how beautiful the view is. At a certain point, almost close to the border of Slovenia, I had to ask my husband to stop the car on the side of the road and enjoy the panorama 360 degrees around us. That is Colli Orientali del Friuli.
Pardi is a name that you will encounter often as you walk around the town of Montefalco. You see, the Pardi family specializes in two areas: weaving and wine making. The family, with deep roots in Montefalco started with wine making in 1919 when the three Pardi brothers, Alfredo, Francesco and Alberto, established the Cantina Fratelli Pardi.
Villa Melnik is not just a winery that makes good Bulgarian wines. It is not just another wine bottle that you open, pour in a glass and enjoy. It has something unique that makes every single drop special because behind that bottle is sheer dedication by the winemakers Nikola Zikatanov, his wife Lyubka and daughter Militza in making that wine an excellent expression of the Bulgarian terroir, in the Struma River Valley (Southwest Bulgaria).
Getting to know a place shouldn’t limit us to seeing what is in front of us. It also entails the usage of our senses of smell and taste to get a profound cognizance of why we are in that spot in the first place. When we taste the local gastronomy, it is something that is particularly unique from that place because whatever grows in that land took the characteristics of the soil, climate and other exponents that contribute to its growth. Les Garrigues is an arid land with Mediterranean climate and what grows in their land makes it specially and uniquely theirs. With a little tour of the place, get to know why this hidden gastronomic gem is a place to see, smell and taste.
The wines of Cantina Peppucci stem from the yearning of parents to raise their children well in the countryside of Umbria to commune with nature. It was in the late eighties when Piero Peppucci and his wife Luisa Giontella bought the Monastery of Sant’Antimo, an abandoned 13th-century Benedictine monastery in the middle of the countryside of Todi. Years of big work progressed in restoring it to be the ideal place that they can could finally call home.
Staying at a hotel as the first group of guests while it was still closed to the public has a surreal effect. Porta Caeli was at its opening phase when our press group was welcomed to indulge in all the facilities the hotel has to offer, including tasting the wines that were aging and the menu proposals that the restaurant was going to offer when their restaurant opens.
Collenottolo Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG and Arnèto Spoletino Umbria IGT by Tenuta Bellafonte, two wines that express elegance and the authenticity of the grape varieties in the heart of Umbria. Tenuta Bellafonte owned by Peter Heilbron, is located in a 30-hectare estate in the region of Umbria, not far from the town of Bevagna, near the village of Torre del Colle which is divided into woodlands, orchards of olive trees (mainly Moraiolo and some Frantoio and Leccino varieties) and vineyards. The vineyards occupy 11 hectares of the land between 260 to 320 meters above sea level with the cultivation of the Sagrantino and Spoletino grape varieties.
There’s a peculiar myth behind the name Scacciadiavoli. If you translate it to English, it means to banish the devils. A legend from Johaness de Ruescissa’s Trattato sulla Quintessenza says that in the 18th century, a young woman who was possessed by the devil was made to drink some local red wine by an exorcist who succeeded in dispelling the devil. This particular exorcism event gave its name to the village where the winery stands close to. In 1884, Prince Ugo Boncompagni from Rome had the winery built and he decided to call it Scacciadiavoli.
Drinking the wines of Paolo Bea tilts a lot of things that I learned about wines from my wine classes. To get to know their natural wines, you will just have to leave your bag of knowledge and thoughts outside the door and close it behind you. The best thing to do is enter with a fresh mind, to easily perceive the diverse philosophy of wine making of Paolo Bea and his sons, Giampiero and Giuseppe. Their wines are considered among the best with innumerable commendations, especially internationally where they export 80% of their production to some countries in Asia, North & South America and Europe while the remaining 20% remains in Italy. So when I went there myself for a visit, I was prepared to enter the curious world of Paolo Bea Winery.
If you are flying over Rome and landing in Ciampino Airport, then you must have seen patches of large combed vineyards around it. Riserva della Cascina is just about a kilometer from the Ciampino Airport. The winery is located inside the Appian Way Regional Park, along Regina Viarium, an ancient tree-lined cobblestone Roman road that goes back more than 2,000 years ago. The scenery, as you can imagine, is a stunning mixture of trees, vineyards, and ancient Roman ruins. Having such proximity to the center of Rome, it can easily be visited from the center of the city and it has to be one of the best ways to spend a few hours away from the urban bustle.
You know that something special awaits you as you enter the Cypress Avenue in Bolgheri lined with elegant cypress trees standing like royal soldiers, because like any cypress-lined road in Tuscany, something supremely beautiful is at its midst. My destination – Tenuta dell’Ornallaia (Ornellaia Estate), the winery where excellence is supreme, in both its wines, art and passion.
One warm and sunny September morning on the Tuscan hilltop of Cagnano, a table with a platter of local Tuscan cheese, a bowl of walnuts, freshly-sliced bread, a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, and a bottle of Poggio Cagnano Altaripa Maremma Toscana DOC 2014 was waiting for us. There was a marvelous view of the Maremma countryside from where I was seated. The gentle sloping hills with olive orchards, perfectly-aligned tall cypress trees, and patches of vineyards fill up the spectacular Tuscan landscape in front of me. It was like stepping inside a glossy photo of showcasing the life in Tuscany. That morning, I couldn’t ask for anything better than being on that chair.
One hundred and eighty years, five generations, 1876 to present. From Azienda Agricola Barzanò Barboglio to Il Mosnel and finally, simply Mosnel. It all started in in a sixteenth-century villa with vineyards and cellars that was inherited by Rosina Rosa Cacciamatta in the town of Camignone, in the heart of Franciacorta. Rosina is the grandmother of the maternal grandfather of Lucia and Giulio Barzanò, the siblings who now proudly carry the name Mosnel. It’s a family with a long history of viticulture that both brother and sister continue with great passion that their mother, Emanuela Barboglio has instilled in them.
The Swiss are keeping quiet about something. Their country is not just about superior chocolates, magnificent alps, extravagant watches and private banks. Nature gave them rich soil and excellent micro climates to tinker with so two thousand years ago, they planted grape vines that they use to make outstanding wines. They have six wine regions producing red and white wines with a current percentage of 60% and 40% respectively with the Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Chasselas dominating the grape varieties planted all over the country.
Entering the world of wine is not just about opening the bottle and drinking it. There’s a lot more to having that beautiful liquid that emanates vast variations of aromas and flavors. There is an intangible aspect that helps us understand the soul of the wine. It’s that part when you get to know the winemaker and his story. Truthfully, it’s the facet that I love most in my wines, a simple conversation of shared emotions, thoughts and goals from a winemaker to a wine drinker. In every bottle, there is a past, present and future. One morning, I got to know the person behind the winning bottles of Vino d’Artista Maurizio Pio Rocchi Petra rdg 2015 and 2016 in two consecutive years at I Migliori Vini Italiani of Luca Maroni.
If you love Italian red wine, then you must have heard or tried Sagrantino di Montefalco and if you liked it, then you must know about its leading top quality producer, Arnaldo Caprai. Arnaldo Caprai does not only have the prominence in the quality of its Sagrantino wine but it also has the notability in its role in reviving this autochthonous grape variety in Montefalco, Umbria. The Sagrantino grape has been cultivated in the region for more than four hundred years, then it went through a period of diminished activity until Marco Caprai, son of Arnaldo Caprai, focused his interest in the disappearing grape and reestablished it in Montefalco in the late 1980s.