Chianti Classico Collection: Exploring the Charms of Italy’s Iconic Wine Region – Filippo Magnani

Recently, the wine world’s oldest consortium celebrated its 100th anniversary. In 1924 Chianti Classico established the first wine consortium with its headquarters in the historic Stazione Leopolda,Florence. On February 15th and 16th, a centennial celebration provided an opportunity to reflect on the collective narrative of Chianti Classico and pay tribute to the true soul of the consortium: its producers. Over 200 of them came to present a total of 773 different labels available for tasting. The annual event itself began as the Anteprima de Chianti Classico in 1993. Now it is known as the Chianti Classico Collection.

As in previous years there were in-depth sessions focusing on the Gran Selezione category, which was added 10 years ago to the existing Annata and Riserva. At the time this was a first for Italian wine and viticultural legislative history. This new group of stringent regulations account for only 6% of Chianti Classico production and result in exceptional wines that have given the international market a new quality benchmark. The initial 33 Gran Selezione labels have now grown to an impressive 213 today. They are a perfect example of the continued growth in sales and reputation of the ‘Black Rooster’ denomination. Over the last three years sales have exceeded production volumes by 4% and the average price has increased 13% since 2021.

The event also highlighted the strong presence of female figures employed by wineries in the region of Chianti Classico. This is a theme that is being increasingly talked about in the press and Chianti Classico is leading the way with more women taking on leadership roles. Currently the percentage of women employed by Black Rooster wineries is almost half (44%), many of them holding senior management roles, and when it comes to marketing and sales managers women represent the majority at 60%.

Of course, there continued to be much discussion around the fairly new additional Geographic Units approved by the consortium’s Member Assembly in June 2021. These UGA’s are now printed on all labels where relevant and distinguish 11 different subdivisions with unique natural attributes (soil composition, microclimate, position of the vines etc) and human factors (cultural background, local traditions and community ethos). These distinct units are San Casciano, Greve, Montefioralle, Lamole, Panzano, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Vagliagli, Castellina and San Donato in Poggio. The idea of showing the name of the municipality or village on the label is meant to spark both curiosity and recognition from the increasingly high numbers of consumers who would like to better understand the micro territories of Black Rooster wines.

The Chianti Classico Collection would not be complete without the Black Rooster’s other main product, Olive Oil DOP Chianti Classico. During the event participants had the opportunity to taste the most recent harvest of oils from 33 producers. The 2023 vintage is complex with aromas of fresh grass, artichokes and almonds followed by a distinct arugula and peppery quality on the palate with a long finish. As in previous years, the 2023 oils contain exceptionally high levels of polyphenols which are essential both to preserving the characteristics of the oil and providing high nutritional value.

A blend of history, wine and timeless beauty

Beyond the vineyards, the region of Chianti Classico is renowned for its picturesque landscapes and medieval hilltop towns like Greve, Radda, and Castellina. They offer a glimpse into Italy’s past with their ancient castles, churches, and narrow streets. The territory still preserves evidence of many past cultures. The earliest documentation of the existence of a wine-producing district dates back to the 13th century with the “Lega del Chianti”, formalized between Radda, Gaiole and Castellina and branded with the famous Black Rooster which, after many glorious years, became the Official symbol of Chianti Classico wine in 2005. The rooster symbolizes the spirit of the territory; strong and elegant, lively, and proud. Its crowing marking a new day.

The region itself is perched on a plateau at altitudes between 200 and 800 meters, mainly covered with forests of oak, chestnut, pine and cypress trees. Now held in the arms of its two historic capitals, Florence and Siena, Chianti Classico was a place loved first by the Etruscans, then by the Romans, and was a battlefield of bitter disputes in the Middle Ages.
It has been one of the most popular destinations for wine enthusiasts for centuries and even now producers are eager to welcome visitors offering world-class hospitality. With such a high density of wineries, the region is a true oenological paradise full of castles and ancient abbeys where fine wines are matured, world-famous wineries alongside small and no less prestigious family-run estates, traditional cellars and architectural masterpieces. Producers understand the importance of hospitality which brings great economic value, diversifies income, and creates an effective means of communicating values and enhancing the distribution of their wines. From curious wine enthusiasts to collectors, guests are drawn to the famous winemaking names of Chianti but can also discover exceptional hidden gems. Consequently, wineries work together with the tourism sector to create personalized and authentic wine and culinary experiences.

As always it was a true pleasure to once again meet so many passionate producers who exemplify the culture and philosophy of Chianti Classico.

Benvenuto Brunello 2023, Presenting the Iconic Elixir of Tuscany – Filippo Magnani

On November 28th wine enthusiasts and professionals in nine key cities worldwide gathered to celebrate Brunello Day. London, New York, Dallas, Miami, Toronto, Vancouver, Zurich, Shanghai, and Tokyo all raised their glasses in honor of Brunello di Montalcino, the iconic elixir of Tuscany. This celebration is in fact the culmination of a 10-day event called Benvenuto Brunello, organized by the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium. Although Brunello Day is just a couple years old, this was Benvenuto Brunello’s 32nd edition and marked the release of the 2018 and 2019 vintages represented by 118 producers and 310 labels. These wines were evaluated by 90 Italian and international journalists and trade professionals, several of which were hand-picked by the Vinitaly International Academy, now supported by the Brunello Consortium.

During the inaugural weekend the 2023 vintage was presented and the 32nd Leccio d’Oro prize was awarded to five restaurants and wine retailers with an exceptional list of Montalcino wines: Ristorante Veranda at the Hotel Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, The Sistina restaurant in New York, The Il Quadrifoglio in Asti, The Berry Bros. & Rudd in London and the Osteria Il Bargello in Siena which also owns the Salotto del Vino, a wine bar and shop with nearly 100 Montalcino wines served by the glass.

A Story of Visionaries – The Rise of Brunello

After almost 50 years since its DOCG status, Brunello di Montalcino wines continue to grow in popularity and gain market share worldwide. To truly understand why, one must delve into its intriguing history. Montalcino was a very important stop of the Via Francigena, a road that ran from England to Rome and, therefore, it welcomed and hosted important men of power, nobles, politicians and popes. The great wines of Montalcino were crafted to satisfy the illustrious visitors who were traveling to reach the Eternal City, and that’s why the hamlet has displayed absolute quality winemaking for centuries.

The modern success of Brunello di Montalcino started in the late 19th century and is intertwined with the vision and passion of a few key figures who recognized the potential of the Sangiovese grape in a unique terroir. One such visionary was Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, a winemaker from the Montalcino region who experimented with the Sangiovese grape, selecting superior clones and implementing innovative winemaking techniques. He was one of the first to introduce the practice of aging Brunello di Montalcino in large oak casks for an extended period.

This patient aging process proved to be the key to unlocking the full potential of the Sangiovese grape. Over time, the wine developed a deep, complex character with earthy aromas, intense dark fruit flavors, and an impressive ability to age gracefully. Biondi-Santi’s wines gained recognition and set the standard for what Brunello di Montalcino would become.

As the reputation of Biondi-Santi’s Brunello spread, other winemakers in the Montalcino region started to adopt similar winemaking practices. In 1966, Brunello di Montalcino was first recognized as a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and in 1980 it was granted the highest classification in Italian wine, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). This prestigious recognition solidified Brunello di Montalcino’s status as one of Italy’s most exceptional and iconic wines.

The Sangiovese Grape – A Match Made in Montalcino

The secret behind the exceptional character of Brunello di Montalcino lies in its main grape variety – Sangiovese. This indigenous grape has been cultivated in Tuscany for centuries, and although it is Italy’s most widely planted black grape variety, many would agree that it finds its ultimate expression in the hilly vineyards of Montalcino.

The name “Sangiovese” is derived from the Latin words “sanguis Jovis” meaning “blood of Jove,” reflecting the grape’s deep red color. It is known by other names too such as Brunello and Sangiovese Grosso. The grape has a remarkable ability to express itself in a range of styles, from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex. Sangiovese is known for its distinctive aromas, lively acidity and tannic backbone. Closely associated with Sangiovese are fragrances of cherries – both fresh and dried – as well as ripe strawberries and plums that often intertwine with appealing herbal nuances like thyme, oregano, and sweet tobacco. This flavor profile captures beautifully the essence of the Tuscan terroir. Its vibrant and refreshing acidity preserves the wine’s balance, enhances its food pairing versatility and contributes to the wine’s aging potential, enabling it to develop complexity and maintain freshness over time.

Sangiovese wines often exhibit a pronounced tannic structure, delivering a firm and grippy texture that can be attributed to both the grape variety and the extended skin contact during fermentation. These tannins not only contribute to the wine’s structure but also bestow it with excellent aging potential. With time, the tannins soften, allowing the wine to evolve and develop greater complexity while retaining its inherent elegance. This is why the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG requires a minimum of 4 years aging, including 2 years in barrel and 4 months in bottle. The Riserva takes another year of aging which includes an additional 2 months in bottle.

The Terroir of Montalcino – A Sublime Expression of Complexity

The terroir of Montalcino is a tapestry of diverse microclimates, soils, and altitudes that contribute to the distinctive character of Brunello di Montalcino.
The vineyards of Montalcino are nestled on slopes and plateaus at varying elevations, ranging from 250 to 600 meters above sea level. This diverse topography results in different microclimates within the region, allowing winemakers the opportunity to express different facets of the Sangiovese grape.

The soils in Montalcino are rich and varied, giving Brunello di Montalcino its multifaceted personality. The northern region of Montalcino has soils dominated by limestone and shale, bringing finesse and elegance to the wines. In the central part, clay and marl prevail, imparting structure and depth. In the southern areas, volcanic soils contribute to wines with power and intensity.

The climate of Montalcino plays a crucial role in the ripening of the grapes. Summers are warm and dry, while winters are mild, providing the perfect balance of sun and rainfall. The significant diurnal temperature variation during the growing season helps to retain the grapes’ natural acidity, resulting in wines with vibrant freshness.

These factors, combined with the expertise and dedication of the winemakers, shape the flavor profile of Brunello di Montalcino. The wines are characterized by their remarkable complexity, intense aromas, lively acidity, and structured tannins that contribute to their exceptional aging potential.

Preserving Tradition, Embracing Innovation – The Future of Brunello di Montalcino

While rooted in centuries-old traditions, the producers of Brunello di Montalcino embrace innovation and strive for excellence in their winemaking practices. In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on sustainable viticulture and organic farming methods. Many wineries in Montalcino have adopted practices that respect the environment, ensuring a healthy balance between vineyard management and the preservation of the unique terroir. Over half of them are now certified organic.

Modern winemaking techniques have also allowed winemakers to refine their craftsmanship further. Advances in technology have made it possible to control temperature during fermentation, ensuring optimal extraction of aromas and flavors from the grapes. Precision in oak aging has also become a focus, allowing winemakers to strike a perfect balance between the fruit purity and the subtle influence of oak.

Experiences Around Montalcino – A Perfect Blend of Culture, Gastronomy, Wine, and History

For visitors and wine enthusiasts, a journey to Montalcino offers much more than just a tasting experience. Here, you can immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage, savor delicious culinary delights, explore the ancient history, and indulge in the stunning beauty of the Tuscan landscape.

For those with a passion for culture and history, a visit to the medieval fortress that overlooks Montalcino is a must. The fortress, known as the Rocca, offers panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards and the charming town below. Inside, the Museo Civico showcases archaeological finds and artifacts that tell the story of Montalcino’s past. The main street and square are lined with boutiques, restaurants and wine shops perfect for a day of shopping, eating and wine tasting.

Gastronomy connoisseurs will find themselves in heaven as they explore the local cuisine. The traditional dishes of Montalcino are a perfect pairing for Brunello di Montalcino, from hearty wild boar ragù to Pecorino cheese made from the milk of sheep that graze among the vines.
Many wineries in the area welcome visitors, offering guided tours of their vineyards and cellars. The winemakers take great pride in sharing their knowledge and passion, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the winemaking process and the philosophy behind their wines. And of course, the tastings of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino are an absolute highlight, immersing visitors in the flavors, aromas, and history of these exceptional wines.

For those who are captivated by the natural beauty of the region, a drive through the rolling hills of Montalcino is an enchanting experience. The vine-laden landscapes, dotted with rustic farmhouses and charming villages, create an idyllic setting that begs to be explored. Hiking and biking are great ways to fully appreciate the picturesque scenery and immerse yourself in the soul of this incredible region. In fact there are two famous events that take place every year here: the Brunello Crossing for walkers and hikers and L’Eroica for cyclists. Among other scenic landscapes, both will take you through Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage site that embodies the best of the Tuscan countryside.

In Conclusion

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is not just a wine; it is an embodiment of the passion, dedication, and the magic of the Montalcino terroir. The Sangiovese grape nurtured in this exceptional climate and soil produces wines of unrivaled elegance, complexity, and longevity. A visit to Montalcino is an opportunity to experience the rich heritage, indulge in the gastronomic delights, immerse yourself in the mesmerizing landscapes, and uncover the secrets of Brunello di Montalcino. With every sip, you will taste the rich history, feel the love and respect for the land, and be transported to the heart of Tuscany’s winemaking excellence. Cheers to a truly unforgettable wine experience!

Trento D.O.C – A Sparkling Journey Through Italian Excellence – Filippo Magnani

Italy is renowned for its incredible wines, and one region that genuinely stands out is Trento. Located in the picturesque Trentino-Alto Adige region, Trento was voted “Wine Region of the Year in 2020” but it remains a hidden gem for many sparkling wine enthusiasts. Trento D.O.C wines have a long and storied history that dates back centuries. The region’s viticulture roots can be traced all the way back to the Roman Empire. However, it was during the Austrian rule in the 19th century that the art of winemaking in Trento developed a reputation for exquisite sparkling wines.

In the early 1900’s a young enologist named Giulio Ferrari recognized the geographic and climatic similarities between the Champagne and Trentino. He and other producers planted Chardonnay and began to make wines in the classic method. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were soon planted as well, and these grapes quickly began to thrive. By 1993 the region received its D.O.C status becoming Italy’s first for sparkling wine in the classic method and one of the earliest traditional sparkling D.O.C’s in the world! In 2007 the collective trademark Trentodoc was created which now includes 67 producers affiliated with the Istituto Trento DOC.

Trentodoc is also an active partner with the Institute of Masters of Wine showing that the Trentodoc brand has achieved international recognition and upholds the excellence of classic method sparkling wines. The IMW’s support ensures the knowledge of the Trentodoc territory will be shared with their students and the global wine community.

The Terroir – A Perfect Blend of Nature’s Gifts

Trento’s unique terroir, with its breathtaking Alpine landscapes, plays a crucial role in the production of these extraordinary wines. The vineyards, nestled between the Dolomite Mountains and Lake Garda, benefit from a mild and temperate climate. The cool nights and warm days, combined with the well-drained soils, create the perfect conditions for grape cultivation. The mineral-rich soils derive their complexity from both oceanic and volcanic activity over millions of years. The high elevations of the vineyards maintain high acidity in the grapes. It’s interesting to note that 70% of the region’s vineyards are over 3200 feet and 20% over 6500 feet. The region gets plenty of sunshine and the warming effects of Lake Garda which helps ensure grape maturity. These significant temperature variations contribute to the complexity and elegance of Trento D.O.C wines. Trentodoc is produced in 6 areas: Rovereto and the Vallagarina, Valle dei Laghi and Alto Garda area, Trento and the Valle dell’Adige, the Valsugana, the Val di Cembra and the Piana Rotaliana.

The Classic Method 

This meticulous process of the classic method “metodo classico” involves a second fermentation in each bottle, resulting in fine bubbles and complex flavors. A base wine is first made following the same steps as a still wine. The wine is then bottled and a ‘liqueur de tirage’ is added which is made of yeast and sugars. This eventually triggers a second fermentation in the bottle releasing carbon dioxide creating bubbles. The bottles are placed on racks angled downwards so that the dead yeasts slowly collect in the neck of the bottle. This is called ‘riddling’. The sediment is eventually removed, a process called ‘disgorgement’ and reserve wine with sugar can be added according to the ‘dosage’ which ultimately determines the sweetness of the wine. Trento D.O.C sparkling wines require at least 15 months of aging on the lees adding depth and richness to the wines. Vintage wines require 24 months of lees aging and Riserva wines require 36 months. The DOC requirements are also applied to vine cultivation and yield.

The Grapes – the Essence of Elegance

The primary grape varieties used in Trento D.O.C wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. These grapes imbue the wines with remarkable elegance, character, and freshness. Each variety adds its own unique personality to the final blend, ensuring a diverse range of flavors. Chardonnay brings acidity and a delicate floral aroma, while Pinot Noir contributes structure and fruity notes. Pinot Meunier adds complexity and brings out a rich aromatic profile in the wines. Due to the steep mountainsides in the Trentino region, many of the vines are trained using the pergola system. Vines are trained vertically straight up posts and then tied horizontally parallel to each other. This method ensures they get enough sunshine but also makes it easier to prune them. Harvesting is still done by hand. Other vine training methods are also used here such as guyot and spurred cordon.

A Symphony of Flavors

Trento D.O.C sparkling wines offer a delightful sensory experience. With their pale straw color and fine perlage, they captivate the eye. On the nose, aromas of white flowers, green apple, and citrus fruits come alive, inviting you to take your first sip. The palate reveals a perfect balance of crisp acidity, creamy mousse, and a medley of flavors, including toasted almonds, brioche, and ripe tropical fruits. The overall effect is both elegant and refreshing, leaving a lasting impression.

Pairing Trento D.O.C wines with the right food elevates the whole tasting experience. The refreshing acidity and complex flavors of these sparkling wines make them a perfect companion for many dishes. From seafood and sushi to creamy risottos and aged cheeses, their versatility makes them an ideal choice for any occasion. The fine bubbles and vibrant acidity also help cleanse the palate and enhance the flavors of the food.

Exploring A Wine Lover’s Paradise

For wine enthusiasts seeking a unique and memorable experience, a visit to Trentino will not disappoint. A short drive north of Lake Garda and you are surrounded by forest-covered hills and the dramatic peaks of the Dolomites. Trento itself is one of the liveliest towns in the Alps. Colorful facades surround charming piazzas and the castle and cable cars offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Many wineries are just outside of town. Winery visits can be combined with a trip to the lake or a hike into the nearby canyons. Most wineries offer tours and tastings that allow you to discover not only the intricacies of the region’s winemaking process but also to explore the vineyards with spectacular landscapes.

For active travelers, visiting Trentino is a sports lover’s dream. The Dolomites offer world-class biking, hiking, and trekking through breathtaking landscapes. Lake Garda offers ideal conditions for windsurfing and other water sports. If you choose to visit in the winter you can ski or snowboard out of your chalet and in less than a half hour be sipping bubbles at a local winery. Additionally, every year in November and December Trento puts on its ‘Bubbles in the City’ event which offers different types of tastings and food workshops with local chefs.

Wineries to Visit

Altemasi
Produced by Cavit one of the leading wine groups in Trentino. The name Altemasi means “high estate” and these wines come from vineyards as high as 2600 feet and are some of their most awarded wines. Cavit’s wine enoteca just outside Trento is a great place to taste an impressive array of wines from the region, both still and sparkling.
www.altemasi.it

Abate Nero
Founded in 1973 by two friends, Eugenio de Castel Terlago and winemaker Luciano Lunelli. The name means “black abbot” and is a reference to the dark robe the monk Dom Perignon wore. They started in the same cellars where Giulio Ferrari wines were once made, focusing only on sparkling wines in the classic method. They have earned a reputation for producing wines that are a stylistic symbol of the Trentino territory.
www.abatenero.it

Balter
Located in a 16th-century castle bought by Francesco Balter in 1872, the Balter family has used this special location to grow grapes since the 1960’s. They built a winery underneath the vineyards in 1990. Visitors can tour the grounds and taste their wines in a truly unique setting.
www.balter.it

Cantina Toblino
Located in the Valle dei Laghi area just north of Lake Garda this winery is a cooperative founded in 1960 by a group of passionate winemakers. The winery produces some of the region’s top wines using innovative techniques and promoting native varieties such as Nosiola, also used to make the sweet Trentino Vino Santo. Visitors can enjoy lunch or dinner at their restaurant Hosteria Toblino which serves traditional dishes with a modern touch.
www.toblino.it

Cesarini Sforza
The Cesarini Sforza Family moved to Trento 200 years ago when Count Filippo Cesarini Sforza was elected as its mayor. In 1974 they created a winery to produce high-quality sparkling wines. Two years later they were making classic method wines of national repute. Today their wines are an assemblage of six different vineyards each contributing their own character.
www.cesarinisforza.it

Ferrari Trento
Founded in 1902 by Giulo Ferrari, a pioneer in Trentino who recognized the potential of Chardonnay to produce sparkling wines that could rival those in Champagne. His vision and obsession for quality laid the foundation for one of Italy’s most prominent classic method wineries. With no sons or daughters, Giulio passed on leadership to a local wine shop owner, Bruno Lunelli in 1952. The Lunelli Family had carried on their tradition of excellence since then. Visitors can enjoy several different tastings and guided tours including that of the Venetian style 16th century Villa Margon complete with frescoes, antique furniture and priceless art. For those who enjoy Michelin-star dining experiences, the Lunelli Family also opened Locanda Margon, a 2-star restaurant just up the hill from the winery.
www.ferraritrento.com

Monfort
Four generations of winemakers have carried on the sparkling wine tradition of Monfort. In 1965 the Simoni Family bought the cellars of Palazzo Monfort nestled in the heart of the town of Lavis just north of Trento. Since 1985 they have been producing quality sparkling wines in the classic method. They offer an immersive guided tour of the cellars that also takes you through the historic streets of Lavis to the terraced botanical garden of Ciucioi.
www.cantinemonfort.com

Marchesi Guerrieri Gonzaga
Originally a monastery in the early Middle Ages, the San Leonardo estate has been the residence of the Marquis Guerriere Gonzaga for over 300 hundred years. Today the family produces still, sparkling wines, grappa and honey. The Marchesi Guerrieri Gonzaga is a blanc de blanc Trento Doc flagship wine. The estate is comprised of 50 acres of vineyards, their guided visit explores the grounds, winery, cellars, monastic garden, church, and museum.
www.sanleonardo.it

Photos: Istituto Trento Doc

CAMPANIA STORIES: AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE DISCOVERING GREAT WINES AND DISTINCTIVE TERRITORIES – Filippo Magnani

The Campania region is well-known due to the stunning beauty of the Amalfi Coast, the authentic food of Naples, and the fascinating history of Pompeii. However, a deeper look beyond these treasures reveals a region rich in viticultural history, from the urban vineyards of Naples to the pristine nature and wild soul of Irpinia, one of the most fertile wine-growing regions in Italy.

The unique region of Irpinia was the backdrop to this year’s edition of Campania Stories.  This event must not be missed by international journalists and wine professionals each yearm who come to experience Campania’s newly released wines. Organized by the Miriade and Partners press agency and managed by Massimo Iannaccone, Diana Cataldo and Serena Valeriani, this is an integral part of their mission to promote the wines of Campania throughout the year. Their Campania stories can be followed at #campaniastories and #iobevocampano or by visiting their website www.campaniastories.com.

This year 90 wineries participated in Campania Stories 2023, which started with a wine tasting and gala dinner in the castle of Gesualdo, a charming town known as the home of several poets and the origin of the marble used to make the famed statues of the Royal Palace of Caserta. Gesualdo overlooks the valley of North Irpinia, with sweeping views that reach the dormant volcano Vulture in Basilicata and the plains of Puglia. In two days over 300 wines were sampled, both red and white, with a day of touring dedicated to visiting their producers. These visits were undoubtedly the most exciting part of the entire event.

Irpinia is home to Campania’s three DOCG’s, the internationally renowned Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Taurasi with the key grape varieties being Greco and Fiano for the whites and Aglianico for the reds. The terroir here benefits from high-altitude hillsides and a diurnal shift in temperatures that helps ensure slow ripening and good levels of acidity in the grapes. Here you can find a mixture of volcanic, limestone, and clay soils. The vineyards are surrounded by forests and hazelnut orchards cultivated for generations.

The winemakers here let nature take control as much as possible. This is the case at the family winery Di Prisco, founded in 1994 just outside of Fontanarosa, renowned worldwide for its pink marble. The owner Michele Di Prisco works with just 15 hectares of vines. My favourite wine of the tour is the 2003 Taurasi; the 2003 vintage was a scorching and dry year that is now showing its best. The dark, deep, impenetrable colour was illuminated with orange reflections. On the nose, it showed jammy notes – blackberry jam – some tomato sauce notes and slightly bloody. On the mouth it was impressive with notes of molasses and dark fruit, earthy but with live grippy tannins.

Another important area showcased on these winery visits was the Sannio district, a hidden gem in Campania. This historical place has been cultivating the white grape Falanghina for over 2000 years. Roman buildings stand next to modern ones. The landscape is breathtaking, covered in vineyards, olive groves, steep slopes, and rivers, dominated by the imposing Taburno mountain. Formerly known as an area for bulk white wine production, Sannio producers along with the Consortium Sannio DOP have worked hard over the last decade to develop high-quality wines with complexity, many of which are suitable for aging.

A perfect example is Fattoria La Rivolta in Torrecuso. A century-old winery was founded from a family tradition of farming when the grandson and then pharmacist, Paolo Cotroneo, decided to plant vineyards in the late 90’s. With the help of his sisters Giovanna and Gabriella and their cousin Giancarlo they have built an estate that is now 60 hectares, with 30 hectares of vineyards located in Sannio and mainly on the hill of Taburno. The exposure and richness of soil is its defining characteristics. This is also the origin of their flagship wine, Falanghina Sannio DOP, Sottozona Taburno, a wine with green hues and a lot of personality. Nectarine, stone fruit flavours, a touch of floral notes, such as acacia on the nose, while in the mouth it shows a light salty taste and vibrant citrusy notes that dissipate with an almondy finish. This a clear example of the finest quality of local wines from Sannio.

I look forward to attending next year’s Campania Stories which has just been announced will be held in Sannio itself!

Sicily En Primeur: A Glimpse at a Wine Destination Par Excellence – Filippo Magnani

A few weeks ago, one of Sicily’s highly anticipated wine events took place in the beautiful town of Taormina, one of Sicily’s main tourist destinations, on the slope of the tallest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna or ‘A Muntagna’ as locals call it. Sicily En Primeur is an itinerant event created by the association Assovini Sicilia to introduce the wines of the most recent harvest and to highlight its member wineries as the “ambassadors and guardians of culture and territories.” Starting in 2004, this was the nineteenth edition of the event which was attended by over one hundred national and international accredited wine writers and included nine wine tours, eight hundred wines for tasting, sixty wineries and five masterclasses, hosted by Elizabeth Gabay, Master of Wine. Assovini Sicilia was founded in 1998 by Diego Planeta, Giacomo Rallo and Lucio Tasca d’Almerita. Their mission was to bring together a team of producers who shared a common goal: to raise awareness about the importance of Sicilian wine. Today the association strives to protect and strengthen its territorial identity by highlighting the cultural richness of the different terroirs as well as the stylistic interpretations of their winemakers.

The association presented its vision for Sicilian wine production, and its connection to tourism as a means to create unique wine experiences. The President of Assovini Sicilia,  Laurent de la Gatinais, described Sicily as “a wine destination of excellence, the Napa Valley of the Mediterranean, because of its variety and quality of wine, beautiful landscapes, and unique historical and archaeological heritage.”  The event also highlighted the fact that, in addition to wine tourism, the new generation of Sicilian winemakers is focusing on sustainability and the environment. Of the fifteen new producers, eleven of them are women. These dynamic young people have studied and worked outside Sicily to gain valuable skills in marketing, economics, and oenology. They share a passion for the history of their island and families, but also a strong desire to bring new ideas and innovation to Sicilian viticulture.

Layers of terroir, culture and history have created a truly unique territory

Sicily holds over 3,000 years of rich viticulture history. From the Greeks to the English, the island has been influenced by many civilizations but has managed to preserve a unique identity in its language, cuisine, and territory of wines without fully yielding to these outside influences. As a Mediterranean crossroads it has developed a rich culture that can be experienced through its architecture, cuisine, music, and art. Perhaps even more diverse, however, is its terroir and wine. In an hour you could be skiing on Mount Etna at 2,000 metres over lava and black volcanic soil, and then move to the shores of Catania to bask on the sandy beach. Other areas to the west and south are rich in limestone and clay. The island is the biggest in the Mediterranean and one of its most mountainous. This of course is reflected in the impressive variety of wine styles you can find here, from crisp, clean sparkling wines to full, deep reds and luscious fortified wines. Sicily has 1 DOCG (Cerasuolo di Vittoria), 23 DOC’s and 7 IGP’s.

The main grapes grown in Sicily are the white Grillo and black Nero d’Avola, together with the main grapes of Mt. Etna being: Nerello Mascalese and Carricante. Many local producers, including long-established families who planted international grapes like Cabernet, Chardonnay and Syrah 40 years ago, have now started to draw attention to lesser-known varieties like Nerello Cappuccio, Catarratto (named Lucido) Insolia, Zibibbo, Frappato and Perricone.

Made In Sicily: Wine tourism creates a cultural symbol of excellence

It is no surprise that the President of Assovini Sicilia compared Sicily to the Napa Valley. It is roughly at the same latitude, and for an island just slightly bigger than Massachusetts its total vine covered acreage is about 40% of that in California. In addition to the broad array of high-quality wines, it offers stunning scenery and a unique historical and architectural heritage. Some of the best-preserved antiquity sites are found across the island and are layered in with all the cultures that came after. One can visit Sicily’s largest Greek theatre in Taormina and in less than an hour be wine tasting on the slopes of Mt Etna, or visit Moorish influenced mosaics at a Normand cathedral in Palermo then spend the afternoon exploring the best Marsala wineries.  Few places offer such rich experiences with wineries so well equipped to receive visitors. Among the members of Assovini Sicilia, almost all of them have a dedicated facility for wine tourism with a cellar for tastings and over half of them offer integrated experiences from cooking classes to wellness and wine tours that interact with the landscape and culture. The most popular wine experiences offered are sunset tastings, dinners in the vineyard and a chance to join the grape harvest. One third of these wineries also have lodging facilities where wine enthusiasts can fully immerse themselves in the terroir and team culture of the winery.

During the Sicily en Primeur some fantastic wines were presented, all of which were from the Etna region, where viticulture is still manually done on its steep slopes. With an average altitude of 800 metres, wines from Etna are vertical, sharp, and crisp. It’s no coincidence that the largest producer of sparkling wine from Southern Italy is based here which is Firriato, with a total production of 200K bottles per year.