Tag Archives: Italy

THIS JUST IN: ITALY MOVES AHEAD OF FRANCE AS LARGEST WINE PRODUCER

As reported on Euronews.com (LINK), and International Business Times (LINK)Italy is now the largest wine producer in the world, surpassing France.

From IBT: Italy’s projected wine production is up 13% on the previous year and 5% on the average for the past five years, for a total output of 48.8 million hectolitres (1,289,159,610. gallons [US, liquid]), figures submitted by member states to the EU Commission in mid-September show.

Lack of rain and a heatwave have instead caused a 1% contraction of French production, which relegated the country at the second place with 46.4 million hectolitres (1,225,758,317 gallons [US, liquid]). The world-famous regions of Beaujolais and Bourgogne were among the worst affected and wine lovers with a taste for local bottles could face a price rise in the coming months, according to Les Eechos newspaper.

Italy and France have long been the sole duellists for the title of world top wine producer, both in terms of quantity and quality. However, 2015 has arguably been a particularly favourable year for the Italians after Ferrari (Trentodoc) won the prestigious sparkling wine producer of the year award.”

Spain is in third place with 36.6 million hectolitres ( 966,869,707 gallons [US, liquid]).

FOODIE PARADISE IN AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam (LINK) is a great city for food and wine. Over the past three days, with one more to go, Dorianne and I have had amazing meals. With so many pleasures and options, wine is not the only thing that they focus on in this international city, of course. There are world class beers and spirits and, of course, marijuana to salve the human need for altered states. But where the wine is the focus, they do it very, very well.

Guts & Glory (LINK) is a very small restaurant (about 40 seats inside, another 16 outside) in Amsterdam near the Rembrantplein (Square). Dorianne and I went for lunch on a Sunday. We walked into a foodie and wine haven.

The plan here is to make an entire menu around one item – fish in summer, pork in winter, beef or fowl in other seasons – and offer up to seven courses based on treatments of that item. It is summer, so we opted for three courses of fish.

I asked our server, Liselore, about the wine list and was directed to Ricardo, the sous chef and wine expert. He reviewed the list with me and suggested pairings. We opted to buy by the glass to get the best pairings with each course.

Our first course, after an amuse bouche of seaweed broth, marinated North Sea Shrimp, and deep fried Nori, was a very unusual sea bass ceviche with onions, sweet potato sauce, wheat nuts (deep fried!) avocado paste, and some crispy lime foam (yes). The wine pairing was a sparkling Pignoletto Frizzante Bio DOC `13, Corte d’Aibo (LINK), from Bologna, Italy. The dry sparkler went perfectly with the ceviche.

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Pignoletto Frizzante Bio DOC `13, Corte d’Aibo
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Amuse Bouche of Delights
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Sea Bass Ceviche.

Next, we had skate with Italian Brocollini, onions, anchovies, and other delicacies. The pairing was a Friulano Vigna del Torrione Bianco DOC ‘12 La Sclusa, (LINK), from Friuli, Italy. I had begun to wonder if Ricardo was only recommending Italian wines, but the next course settled that. By the way, the Fruliano was a perfect match for the skate dish, with little acidity, a nice oaky flavor, and more minerality than fruit in the flavor of the wine. It also had a deep golden color. A very unusual white wine.

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Friulano Vigna del Torrione Bianco DOC ‘12
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The Skate Course.

The third course was very different – a cod cake nestled in a steamed beignet with pickled cucumbers, onions, black beans and lime aioli. The pairing with this one was a Villa Wolf Pinot Noir ‘13, Ernst Loosen (LINK), from Pfalz, Germany. The German Pinot Noir, of which we had had several on our cruise up the Rhine River this past week, was one of the best I’ve had, with a bit more body than most German reds, plus a floral sense on the nose. It, once again, paired wonderfully with the cod dish. Nice work, Ricardo!

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Villa Wolf Pinot Noir ‘13, Ernst Loosen
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Cod Cake Course

The wine list (LINK) is pretty extensive for such a small place, with wines from the Old and New Worlds. Here is the team – Michael Randag, Guillaume de Beer (Chef/Owner), and Ricardo Russo (Sous Chef/Wine Guy). Not pictured is our server, Liselore Tieshers. A great group!

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Michael Randag, Guillaume de Beer (Chef/Owner), and Ricardo Russo (Sous Chef/Wine Guy).

Guts & Glory was a very good preparation for our visit to NOMA in Copenhagen later this week.

THE LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND WINE SCENE

The wine scene is Lucerne, Switzerland (LINK) is varied, diverse, and generally speaking, fairly expensive. We recently spent a few days visiting this postcard-worthy city and visited a number of restaurants and wine shops.

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Let’s begin with Opus (LINK), a wine-themed restaurant along the riverfront next to the huge Jesuit Church. We sat outdoors, where there were seats for a couple of hundred guests. The menu is Swiss and Italian with a fairly extensive wine list that is international in scope. We opted for a bottle of Swiss Rosé to go with our dinner selection, the antipasto bar, which had a nice selection of salads, meats, and vegetables. The wines here are priced for on and off-site consumption, and there were some good bargains on the list, like an Amarone for under 30 Swiss Francs (about par with the US dollar when we visited). Opus was very enjoyable and we sent some friends there on ensuing evenings.

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Another end of the spectrum is The Old Swiss House Restaurant (LINK), a revered tourist restaurant near the famous Lion Sculpture in Lucerne (LINK), just a couple of blocks off of the lake. Six of us tried to get a table one evening after visiting the sculpture and were told that they were full and referred to another very nice restaurant. So we made a reservation for the next night on the spot. So don’t go here for dinner without a reservation.

The building is historic and very picturesque, inside and out. The service is formal and competent. Eating here is like going back in time to a more formal era. There is a specials menu and a regular menu. Entrees run 40 to 55 Swiss Francs; appetizers from 14 to 25 Swiss francs – $$$$ level.

The wine list is deep, rich, and amazingly varied (and a bit disorganized). Along with the local wines of Switzerland, they have a wonderful selection of the finest French Burgundies and Bordeauxs (with about 15 Chateau Mouton-Rothchild First Growths on the list), plus some great Italians and even an Australian Penfold’s Grange (1996). These high-end wines are very reasonably priced, mostly at or below what I have seen them at retail, but still hundreds or thousands of Swiss francs per bottle. We opted for a Swiss Chardonnay that complimented my lobster over pasta dish perfectly – light, high in acidity, with notes of pear and grass on the nose, and almost no oak.

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Restaurant Lapin (LINK) is a French/Swiss place with excellent service and a warm atmosphere. It is family run (the same family that runs the small hotel of which the restaurant is a part). The wine list is Swiss and French, with some nice selections, but not very adventurous. We opted for an old friend, a 2010 La Haute-Smith Burgundy Red Blend (LINK). We visited the chateau in Pessac-Leognan (LINK) in 2013 and enjoyed their wines very much. This one did not disappoint – the Merlot/Cabernet blend was rich, lively, and laced with dark fruit. Very nice.

The Globus Department Store’s basement is a gourmet food and wine market that is simply amazing. The wine department has a very good selection of wines and spirits, with an emphasis on Swiss and Italian wines, but with selections from all over Europe. There were wines for tasting as well, and Dorianne and I tasted nice wines from Portugal and Spain, and bought a bottle of the excellent Spanish tinto from Ribero del Duoro for our upcoming Rhine River cruise.

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I am sure that we just scratched the surface of the wine scene in beautiful Lucerne during our three-night visit. As a wine lover, it is a good place to visit.

WINE ENJOYMENT SHOULD BE ACCESSIBLE AND ENJOYABLE, OR WHAT’S THE POINT?

There is a false notion that permeates wine culture at almost every level. That notion is that there is a level of knowledge that is attainable that will enable a person to know about every wine that exists. Now I know that most wine experts (a word that is past its expiration date IMHO) will say that this is not so, but it is conveyed in wine media of all kinds and by many individuals. My wine Twitter feed includes a number of people who purport to have a very deep knowledge of a very wide variety of wines. I have my doubts.

The reason that this is a false notion is that the sheer numbers relating to wine have grown so large and are so widely distributed around the globe. The California Wine Institute (LINK) has figures on its site for world wine production through 2012 – it shows 25,721,000 liters of wine produced world-wide (LINK). WineSearcher.com (LINK) shows about 3,600 wine regions in the world. There are probably around 100,000 wine producers in the world (this number is a bit difficult to nail down). The number of labels that you find in a decent wine store grows each year, with mega-stores like Total Wine and Spirits carrying upwards of 9,000 wines.

How is anyone going to know about all of these wines?

Wine Angst

For someone who is new to wine appreciation, or even for seasoned collectors, it can seem impossible. Most end up narrowing down their focus to a few regions or varietals, or even a single one. I have a friend who only drinks Kendall Jackson Chardonnay for example. Most collectors focus narrowly, some are more expansive, seeking out a wide variety of wines from various locations, vintages, and varietals. Those who focus will likely have a more in-depth knowledge of the particular area or areas of their attention. Those who explore more widely will have a more superficial knowledge of a variety of wines, regions, and varietals.

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Unless you are in the wine business, you will not have time to taste and understand the thousands of wines that are out there, or even the hundreds on the shelves on your local wine retailer’s shelves. And even if you are  in the wine business, it is doubtful that you will need to know about every region, varietal or producer. The idea that one needs to have so much knowledge can drive people away from the enjoyment of wine, and that serves no one.

My recommendation is to find your own way into and through the many types, styles, and iterations of wine. You may just have a glass or two a week of whatever is being served, or you may be an avid collector of all things from the Piedmont in Italy or Napa Valley in California, it does not matter. There are ways for you to access information about your own desires and preferences.

I tend to be an explorer. Even though I drink wine every day, blog about wine, and will be doing wine-related tours in the near future, I do not spend hours and hours pouring through information about wine. I tend to be an explorer – trying all kinds of wines from various regions – but I also have my preferences and I spend more time exploring those in greater depth as time and my wallet allow. Writers like Eric Asimov of the NYTimes work for me, because he explores a variety of wines from different places. I also enjoy Kermit Lynch, the amazing wine purveyor in Berkeley, whose newsletter (LINK)  is very informative and focuses mostly on French and Italian wines.

But you will find your own sources. I try to keep my blog as general as possible, but since I travel a lot, I write about the wines and the wine culture where I travel, so there may be some posts that do not interest everyone.

the world of wine should not be an impenetrable maze of secret or obscure or overwhelming information. It should be accessible, enjoyable, and allow each wine enthusiast to savor the experiences that he or she discovers. Whether that is a focus on First Growth Bordeaux or on trying to sample each of those 3,600 wine regions in the world, it should be an enjoyable experience, or what’s the point?

I would love to see some comments on this post – what do you think? What is your approach to wine?

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MAKING SENSE OF WINE REGIONS

A very good article from WineFolly.com with infographics on the appellation systems in the United States, France, Italy, and Spain. This is the kind of helpful information that wine buyers need to help decide what to purchase, especially when you are looking at wines with which you are not familiar. There are “click-throughs” to other information as well.

The Spanish Wine Map below is one example from the article (click on it in the article and you go to another excellent article about Spanish Wine).

(LINK TO ARTICLE)

Wine - Spanish Wine Regions Map

WINE LIST FAUX PAUX

Last night, my wife and I were treated to dinner at the Salt Creek Grill (LINK) near Princeton, NJ. We had a very nice meal and wonderful conversation, part of which was about an issue with the wine list.

The restaurant is known for having one of the better local wine lists, and they do. Lots of great choices from California, France, Italy, Argentina and other locales. There was also a seasonal supplemental list that included a listing for a 2008 Bruno Giacosa Falletto, Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy. Here is the (LINK), which I looked up after the bottle came. The wine was listed for $46.00. The 2008 Bruno Giacosa Falletto, Nebbiolo lists at $250.00+.

Now, I am no expert in Barolos, but I have never seen one for under $80+ on a wine list. The waitress came and I ordered a bottle, figuring, what the hell?

Here is the bottle that was delivered:

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Not the wine or the winery listed on the wine list. Instead, a 2008 Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo (LINK), which retails at about $50.00. Still, we got a very good price on the wine.

I told the waitress that the wine being served was not the wine listed on the wine list. She went and told a manager, who came over to the table after a few minutes. He told me that I was not getting “a Falletto” and I responded that I knew that. I told him that I thought he would want to know that the wine on the list was not what they were serving. He thanked me and asked if I would like a different wine. I said that this one would do.

So pay attention to the wine served – I did not pick it up right away before it was opened. As it turned out, all was well and we did get a very good price on the wine served.

IN BORDEAUX – LE WINE BAR

Le Wine Bar in Bordeaux, is always at or near the rankings of best wine bars in Bordeaux. There are a number of reasons for this, but Giancarlo is the main one – the co-owner and host is a raconteur about all things wine.

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Giancarlo and Dorianne on a previous visit to Le Wine Bar.

I visited Le Wine Bar tonight to talk about bringing some tour groups in for a special evening during the next year. I met with Ginacarlo Savini and Emmanuel Cadei, the owners to discuss our options. Ginacarlo handles the wine and the front of the house duties and Emmanuel handles the kitchen and all things food. We came to an agreement and our entire Bordeaux and Paris Tour Packages will be announced soon.

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Le Wine Bar – Interior.

After our meeting, I stayed around to spend some time talking with Giancarlo and sampling some wines and some of the food. I started with a glass of 2011 Chateau Beauregard, a Pomerol red blend. Very nice, smooth and excellent with the Charcuterie and Fromage Plate served up by Emmanuel. Now, the food at Le Wine Bar, basically, appetizers and platters of meats and cheeses, lean heavily to the Italian, as that is Giancarlo’s heritage.

Le Wine Bar is not a high-end fancy place. It is very down-to-earth, and features less expensive wines for the most part. But, when you look at the bottle list, it is a different story. A wide range of wines from both the Old Word and the New World are available, and at good prices.

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Le Wine Bar – Exterior.

So for my second glass (and for the third) of wine, I asked Giancarlo to give me something that he enjoys. He opened a bottle of 2012 Bevilo Toscano, a Tuscan Bordeaux-style blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. An amazing wine (apparently not available in the US) with very up-front fruit and medium tannins. Very velvety on the mouth with a long finish. The wine was noticeably better with the Italian Charcuterie and Cheese than the Bordeaux was. Coincidence?

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If you are coming to Bordeaux, put Le Wine Bar on your list. Or, you can join us on our upcoming wine tours and visit Giancarlo and Emmanuel with us. More information coming in June!

A 24 YEAR OLD BAROLO AND A RACK OF LAMB

We were invited to dinner at Richard Clark and Mary Stec’s to meet Richard’s sister, Berrie (hope the spelling is right). We took an almost full bottle of Napa Cellars Cabernet because we are leaving for a week tomorrow and did not want to waste a very nice wine. Richard was grilling a rack of lamb, and Mary was making a Greek salad, roasted squash and Chinese broccoli. Plus goat cheese and huge gigantic olives for appetizers. Nice.

So Richard tells me that a fellow that he works for regularly has given him five cases of wine.

Really?

Really.

All amazing wines – things like Phelps Insignia (early 200’s), Kistler, Caymus – you get the idea.

The Napa Cellars (smooth and very very nice) goes quickly. Richard says, go get something from the cases.

Really?

Really.

A 1990 Barolo – poured into the decanter to sit a while – it clearly need to open – swirling the decanter a lot.

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The 1990 Borgogno Barolo in the decanter & the 2008 Napa Cellars Cabernet

The wine is a 1990 Borgogno Barolo. Very tight right out of the bottle – starts to open a bit after about 20 minutes in the decanter with frequent swirling; a very tightly coiled wine. The wine is pretty close to being over – I would not keep this wine another year. But it could just be this bottle. The nose is very unusual – smoky and something else. So we go online – prices run from $88 to $295 for this vintage. Wow!

The wine has an old taste, but there is still the fruit and the balance. But that nose – smoky, leathery, but more than that; tar, flares, like that. Interesting.

A great dinner and some great wine. Can’t wait to get into those other cases!

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The Barolo.