sabato 28 giugno 2014

The wonder tree: Gianni Capovilla, the master distiller

I start this article writing with a women perspective. I was curious and I wanted to confirm my belief, so I took a sample (they didn’t know they were my “guinea pigs”) and I randomly asked some girl-friends if they like “grappa” or other types of distillates.
I have to say that most of the “not expert “women population doesn’t know exactly the difference between liquors and distilled products, my mum first of all. Once that difference is quickly explained, the answer to the question “do you like grappa and distillates in general?” it’s strictly and 99% of the times “Oh no, it’s too strong”, with a sort of disgusting expression on their faces.
But I bet that this answer would change if they try Capovilla products. I am not able to find the best word or adjective to attributte
Capovilla started his adventure in the distillation world in the ‘70s. He was working for a company operating in foreign markets, like Austria and Germany and he bought there his first still, bringing it to Italy piece by piece, since at that times the borders cross was not so easy.
From that moment he started to distil with a “serious” equipment, differently from what normal Italians were doing, preparing their products at home in an artesanal way.
The first thing he started to distil were the vinasses, realizing the first grape spirit with Merlot and Cabernet in the 1975.
In the following years he continued to study and visit only the “best practices” Austrian and German cousins, which at that time had a better knowledge of the field (in fact, not all distillers were considered as an example by Gianni; he defined most of them as “unrefined”: they used to pick up the fruit in excess, placing it in containers and generating a natural fermentation ; the distillation didn’t take place before winter).
After years of “studying” Gianni decided to distil the fruit as he learnt from the other countries but with a total different approach. The fruit is not a secondary element; it’s not the “surplus” from the harvest; it’s the best fruit ever.
The fruit picking up is a very important step for him. For that he relies on his own organic farming and on few selected producers for the fruit he can not grow on himself. Each fruit has the right moment for being picked up! Some of them give their best when over-matured, others need to be collected some time in advance.
What Gianni tries to do is to pick up the fruits of his childhood, often ignored because they are more “challenging” than others. Like the “corniola” (a fruit similar to cherries), the elder tree berries, the wild prunes. Their yeld is normally around 2%-3%, reason that justify why you need a lot of passion for that! Those fruits are maybe less appealing, but in terms of flavor they have a plus. They are simply genuine and natural!
Gianni uses discontinuous steam stills with “water-bath” system. It takes around 3 hours and a half to concentrate the % of alcohol of the vinasses (at 103°) against the average 20 minutes of those who distill at 120-130°. Keeping a lower temperature he prevents the grape seed oil from releasing the bitter hay taste which is then normally covered by the addition of sugar or synthetic products.
He actually tales 7/8 times more to fulfill the entire process then the average. Firstly the “heads and tails” are separated. Them, in the second distillation the product need to be tasted and cleaned until reaching the perfection.
All the rest is about simplicity. The bottles are little dressed. Just an home-made tier, a small card indicating the exact identity of each bottle and then the colour of the sealing wax which reminds about the original colour of the fruit used. The magic comes wheh you will taste it and discover the fruit taste at the first sip.

Nothing more is needed to be said.
Gianni is a quite bashful character. You need to meet him and I guarantee you will be enthusiast. And obviously taste his products!


giovedì 19 giugno 2014

Wine and ... chili?

Is it always possible to pair wine with food? Depending on the point of view. It's always better in my opinion to accompany your dinner with a glass of good wine rather than not, because wine is a matter of pleasure first of all.
But being a Sommelier it's my duty to say that from a "technical" point of view the relationship between the two can sometimes be very complicated.
Like a normal couple: it can not always work :)
There are some combinations that you should strictly avoid. For example it's almost impossible to find wines suitable for some types of vegetables, like asparagus, artichokes and spinach. The high concentration of tannin in the artichoke clashes with the tannins present in the wine.
Obviously the rule is not valid when those vegetables are part of a wider preparation, like for example ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach or a risotto cooked until creamy with cheese where the artichokes role is secondary.
A part from the vegetables above mentioned it's not advisable to pair wine with dishes rich in vinegar, with canned food (like tuna and mackerel) or with very sour fruit, like pineapple and citrus fruits.
And what about ice-cream? The official rules are against this combination. A soft interpretation is instead an "in-between" approach, which consider the following:
- the difference between the ice-cream and the wine temperature has to be reduced at the minimum. So it's better to choose a white wine, whose serving temperature is higher.
- the wine need to have a reasonable amount of residual sugar.
- the wine has to be drunk after few seconds after having swallowed the icecream, in order to attenuate the anaesthetic effect of the ice.
And what about chili pepper?
White wines contain an higher amount of flavonoids, substances that contrast the capsaicin, the main resposible of the piquancy in spicy food. The flavonoids properties can reduce the burning sensation that a chily pepper provokes! Plus alcohol present in the wine dilute the sensation even more. Last but not least, the carbon dioxide and the sparkling of the bubbles act as "brushes", wiping out the fire!
So what do you expect to cook a good plate of "spaghetti all'arrabbiata"?

martedì 17 giugno 2014

Champagne and nature: Manoir de Montflbert

Today I want to speak about Manoir de Montflambert, a beautiful place where to stay if you visit Champagne region, located in the “Route due Champagne”.

7 kms north-east of Epernay, 29 km kms south of Reims, close to Ay you will find this oasis of peace, ideal to relax after a daily tour in the vineyards.

It’s all about nature and relax. The rooms are so cosy, decorated with flowers and with a dash of imagination, since each one is different from the others. Taste is the common denominator, in food as well.

Their breakfast they serve is something special: everything home made and simply fresh!

In few words I would define it as a charming and elegant B&B where each detail is minded carefully and where the owners make your staying special because of that but also because of their genuine approach which makes you immediately feeling that you are dealing with farmers who work with passion.

Yes because the Lheureux Plékhoff is a family of winegrowers and winemakers, which has been doing that for over 50 years.

The family vineyards are located in more than 15 different “crus” among the most prestigious (Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Hautvillers, Mutigny, Avenay val d'or, Verzy, Chouilly, Oiry). This diversity enable them to provide their cuvées with the 3 grape varieties typical of Champagne: pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier – to ensure the characteristic blend of our House.

Their cuvées are produced and aged in their cellars, located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, which are a mixture of tradition and modernity.

The wines, elaborated according to ancestral rules, are the result of an exceptional alliance between land and men, between a “terroir” and a know-how.

domenica 15 giugno 2014

Vintage bags

As a woman I can say that I nourish myself with good food, good wine (and water when needed ;-) ), beer sometimes (unfortunately I have a weakness also for this beverage, having lived in Dublin for 3 years) and undoubtedly with good outfits. That's my motto: "Dress cool, drink cool, eat cool"!
I love vintage style, I have to say. I think that a combination of a modern look with some stylish vintage accessories is the best you can do to be really "elegant". But be careful, you have to study it properly.
First of all be careful about WHERE you buy your vintage pieces. Second-hand markets, corner markets and so on can be very tricky. You can rather pay few pennies (or euros :-)), thinking that you have done a good deal while you have instead fed your guardrobe with another unuseful "object", like a plastic old bag that you will never be so brave to use for example. It can also happen that you pay a fortune for something not even certified which might not be "real" (I mean that is just a fake or that, if not a fake, conditions are really poor). 

Remember that if old items have not been kept properly, even if branded, they will destroy themselves very quickly.
So what to do? Try to find a reliable second-hand supplier. For sure you will find one in your city. For sure he has the right network and he can tell you which markets are reliable and if the product you want to buy is really worthy.
Do not buy in Internet. You can buy second-hand accessories but not vintage ones. You need to check with your eyes in which conditions they have been kept. This could make the difference.
Finally, if you have the chance, exploit your grandma guardrobe. I have the luck that mine was really fashionable. In each occasion she had the right piece to wear, always with class!
So this post is fully dedicated to her, who passed away some months ago. Thanks to my granny I have a full collection of vintage bags, which she used to give me as a gift when she was alive, certain that I would have enjoyed them. And that's the true. I try to preserve them but I also enjoy them as much as I can!

sabato 14 giugno 2014

Why to pair Franciacorta with Kellogs? Or maybe with Fish?

Franciacorta is a sparkling wine produced with Champenois method. What does it mean? You can find thousands of definitions in the web, so I don't want to be boring. Basically the bubbles are produced through re-fermentation taking place in the bottle, like Champagne. The name "Franciacorta" comes from the Latin Curtes Francae, used to describe the "liberated" courts (small communities) of Benedictine monks released from the obligation to pay commercial transport duties on condition that they improved the land entrusted to them.
A good Franciacorta has nothing to envy to Champagne, since it reveals the same fragrancy notes, smell and flavour of bread crust.
Much less flowerly and fruity than a Prosecco produced with Martinotti method (re-fermentation process takes place in autoclave).
I have to say that I have a weakness for Champenoise method in general. And I would drink it starting from breakfast: why not to have a huge bowl of bubbles with Kellogs instead of my usual Soia drink??
Jokes aside Franciacorta is wonderful as an aperative and with medium-light plates that do not cover the wine body. Fish is ideal. In my opinion almost all types of fish until you keep the rule that the food has to keep a balance with wine.
Mixed fried fish and Franciacorta are in my opinion a perfect combination: the sparkling of the wine "dries" the unctuousness of the dish, leaving your mouth perfectly clean!

giovedì 12 giugno 2014

Vin de garage: Fabrizio Priod

It's interesting when you get to know wines which are produced by people who do it for passion, just for it. People that decide to start their adventure in wine-making just because they have a love for something that they consider special. Professional doctor, Fabrizio Priod, started the "business" in the year 2000 (if business can be defined) as an hobby; dedicating to it his free time. He loves wine&food travelling, photography and viticulture. And he has become one of the so called “vins de garage” producer.
His father left him some vineyards located in Issogne, in the Valle d'Aosta region (lower valley), which he started to take care about, producing his own-labeled bottles. Everything is about natural methods, autoctonous grapes, terroir, niche production . Using the potential of the territory where grapes are grown he creates special wines, expression of simplicity but at the same time extensive quality: the Beaucqueil (the name derives from the brook Beaucqueil name), a very pleasant wine with around 30% of Nebbiolo grapes plus other autoctonous varieties (dolcetto, freisa, cornalin, mayolet & neyret). It's interesting to know that Nebbiolo is locally called "picoutener" which means "from the soft skin", being this a charachteristics of its grapes; the Rouge Tonen, precious nectar coming from a single-variety vinification process of merlot.  
Both in vineyard and in cellar the techniques used are exclusively natural: no to weed killers, no to insecticides, no to fungicidal treatments, unless they are coherent with integrated pest control.
About the taste it’s up to you and Your taste. Full body wines for sure, both of them. I wouldn’t recommend them during an hot August night but they are more suitable to be paired with meat and quite "strong" plates (meat, seasoned cheese). Even though,

my usual recommendation  is to drink them firstly alone, to make your own idea without food interference. And to not have any prejudice because each bottle is unique and can be different from another one!



mercoledì 11 giugno 2014

Nicolas Joly

Nicolas Joly is among the leading personalities of the biodynamic wine movement. He left banking to take over his family's wine estate Château de la Roche aux Moines in Savennières. From 1981, the estate's top wine Clos de la Coulée de Serrant has been made biodynamically, and from 1984, the estate's entire range has been produced biodynamically.
What else? If you want to enter into the detail of the biodynamic world read this book. It's not an easy one, you need to be in the right mood! But it's definetly interesting!

lunedì 9 giugno 2014

Costadilà: the "glou glou" wine

The Costadilà "farm" is located in Tarzo, Treviso province, in the Costa di là suburb, where just few souls live.
It's the tipical Prosecco terroir!
The owners are Mauro Lorenzon (already mentioned in my posts) and Ernesto Cattel: they gave birth to this initiative in order to "restore" the old-style wine, using organic growing methods and cellar techniques.
Their must is the Prosecco sur lie but in this post I am going to describe their "Bianco dei colli trevigiani", a white wine, made using the indigenous grapes Prosecco (Glera), Bianchetta and Verdisio. The wine-making process involves maceration on the skins for 7 days and fermentation at not controlled temperature with indigenous yeast. The "refining" on the lees last 5 months. The "prise de mousse" takes place with spontenous fermentation inside the bottle (as per tradition) with its own yeast and sugars and last 3 months. Just a minimal quantity of sulphuric anhydride is added.

The wine has a fragrant taste (bread crust) and a mineral note. Due to the production process it has as well a slightly bitter aftertaste.
How to pair it? It's a "glou glou" wine :-) But also ideal during ordinary meals as "table wine". It's very fresh, so perfect in the hot season!

domenica 8 giugno 2014

Pairing Dr Martens to ... Clos des Amandiers 2007

Should we pair wine only with food? And what about pairing it with our mise and particolarly with our shoes?
Let's start from Dr Martens, one of the most iconic shoes in the world, born in Germany by creator Klaus Martens, the classic boot has been the footwear for rebellious youth culture and has never lost its cool aura and divisive style.
If you are so "alternative" to wear a pair of Dr Martens even in your 30s or 40s the best wine to drink is an agressive one, rich in tannins but also contradictory: try Clos des Amandiers 2007 one of the most tannic white wines on the earth. It's made from the Rkatziteli grape. It's a wine with caracther, which is all coming from its production method, typical if Georgians: long maceration followed by a maturation process in amphoras. Its yellow colour tends to the orange and the nose is firstly impacted by light oxidised notes, which gradually lessen themselves.
The hard impact is given by the strong tannins which apparently are quite difficult to cope with but can be smoothed out if you sip a glass of this wine while eating a succulent plate, creating the perfect harmony!

sabato 7 giugno 2014

Buvoli, the real pinot noir artist!

On the beautiful Vicenza hills you can discover Marco Buvoli, a genuine and passionate pinot noir producer, supporter  of natural wines and focused rigorously on limited production. He started his adventures in 1997 after buying an abandoned property with an old stone house which he renewed to create his cellar. His way of making wines is somehow philosophical, a sort of poetry. It is like an art,  seeking for perfection, dealing with a sophosticate and not easy at all grape: the pinot noir!

I have tried this limited edition bottle the L.E505 - Rosé, produced with Champenoise method (the first experiment took place in 2002). It's name come from the fact that only 505 rare examples have been realized. What Marco says about this wine?: "if you like it, don't ask me how I have made it; it's the typical luck of a beginner in this kind experiment".
So, just few information to share: the fermentation process takes place firstly in open barrique and then in steel until the "prise de mousse" occurr during spring. It lays on the yeast inside the bottle for 8 years before the disgorgement which took place in 2010. 
What he finally says is that "it's a difficult bottle, loved by those who look for the sensations that only old Champagnes can transmit. It's perfect with mixed boiled meat and meat in general and also with cheeses".

I have a special LOVE for this producer because he is able to make art with wine. And of course because his wines are not only good but definitely unique!
I had the chance to take part to a special dinner, organized in a cosy restaurant, Gourmetteria (Padova, Veneto), where they invite Marco Buvoli and they propose a different Buvoli wine for each dish.
We had some starters at the bar (nice idea to have the chance to speak with all the people and socialize) with some stockfish croquettes, mini meat tartare and veggie tempura (deep-fried with red chicory beer), accompanied by the Buvoli "4", Magnum version. The number 4 identifies the years during which the cuvè stays in the bottle after rifermentation. As per Buvoli opinion, it's ideal for starters and first courses.
Then we had some risotto of the Slow Food Presidium with stockfish, cherry confit tomatoes and polenta chips, paired with a Buvoli "Pas Dosè", with 6 years on the yeasts, topped up with a vintage wine. I had the luck to try this wine, of which few bottles are left. Finally tuna from Mediterranean Sea (the most fine part of the fish) with Buvoli Rosè Magnum (4 years on the yeasts for Magnum size and 3 for normal size).
As a dessert, a soft  focaccia with zabaglione cream and strawberries with the Buvoli Super 8. The name "Super 8" and not simply "8" it's because it stayed on the yeasts for more than 8 years but less than 9 years. Only 450 bottles produced which are almost finishing. And I tried it!!

Visit his web page and you will be impressed.

venerdì 6 giugno 2014

An alternative to Prosecco

Most of the people know very well Prosecco, not only in Italy but also abroad, becoming a fashionable "drink" which honourably compete with Champagne thanks to its easy bubbles.
But who knows Verdisio? I bet that the majority of the people not living around Treviso area (north of Italy) do not know this wine, produced by the "verdisio" grape in the hills of Conegliano, Vittorio Veneto and Valdobbiadene (Treviso province). But I can assure you that it has the same dignity :-)
It's existence dates back to long time ago, since its installation was imposed to the community of the Follina Abbey already in 1788.
It's a strong grape, adaptable to different types of soils which gives birth to light wines with a dry taste recognizable for its slighty acidulous characther (it reminds a very green apple) and a sligthly bitter aftertaste.
Wine produced with verdisio can be still, sparkling and sweet.  But the most common one is in my opinion the sparkling one!
It's curious to know that in the past the wine making process was used to combine verdisio grape with other two local varieties: the famous prosecco and the less famous "bianchetta". The wine made by this blend was locally called the "White wine of the hills" ("Il vino bianco dei colli").

I would recommend to drink the sparkling version as aperative, with light starters especially  with shellfishes. The still             version is ideal with first courses, like a seasonable veggy risotto, like for example some pasta with cherry tomatoes and       prawns. 
 I strongly suggest to try the "Gregoletto" Verdisio, laying "on its yeast". It's definitely a pleasant and natural wine, for real amateurs, whose re-fermentation process occurrs spontaneously. Bottles are closed with crown caps, the best way to preserve it.
Drink and enjoy it!