Great afternoon spent at the Bressan’s winery in Farra d’Isonzo, Collio, Friuli. They have been making wine for 9 generations. The wines are incredible. Some of the very best of Italy. It will be an honor to bring them back to the US.










Scuola on the Road in Piglio visiting Mario Macciocca

As a natural wine importer, I always try to search for the rising stars of a region. The best producers, like Bea, Radikon, Foradori etc…. are already imported but it makes me extremely happy when I find a young talented producer whose wines can potentially become a benchmark, a cult, something that my buyers can’t get enough of.

Mario Macciocca (below) is my rising star in Lazio, more specifically in Piglio in the province of Frosinone, an area called Ciociaria. I have just visited him and I was extremely impressed. He studied Physics and Art but felt at home in the country.. “I don’t like people very much…I am at ease when in nature and when making wine” he says.


His vineyards are beautiful, completely surrounded by nature, far from factories, cities, and roads. The volcanic minerally soils are red and vines are old and can easily age up to 60 or 70 years old.Mario inherited them from his grandfather and has also just purchased more land and planted new vines.Mario mainly cultivates Passerina del Frusinate, Malvasia Puntinata, Cesanese, and Nostrano but in the vineyards he has some other crazy grapes like Uva Barese, Uva Turca, and some other funky names I can’t even remember.After taking all sorts of photos and trying to learn as much as possible in a short period of time, we left the vineyards and went to his splendid small Cantina that is 600 years old and all built out of stone right in town.





The ’14 wines were stunning.2014 was generally a bad vintage in Italy because it rained for basically the whole summer. Peronospera or rot kicked in and most producers lost everything. Mario made very little wine. Less than half of his normal production (around 5000 btls) but the quality remains very high.I have tasted the unsulphured 2014 Monocromo (Passerina+Malvasia) a couple of months ago and it was already delicious so we didn’t bother opening it. Mario just made a new white, the Terra Bianco 2014 (Passerina+Malvasia Puntinata) elevated in Acacia. An “orange” wine since it macerates for a long time but the color is more similar to gold than orange. A bit of V.A. but super fun full of ripe mineral lemony notes, good body, and a good amount of acid. A super solid wine that I can’t wait to bring to SF. We tasted my favorite. The Terra Rosso 2014, a blend of Cesanese and Nostrano made in old barriques and steel. Cesanese gives power and fruit while Nostrano adds freshness and earth. It’s the perfect wine where you can do whatever you want with it. It will go well with pretty much everything. Last was the Cesanese Civitella 2014. This is the quintessential Cesanese full of ripe fruit and power with a discreet amount of acid. With time, it turns into a more austere, complex wine…..we tasted the 2013 (I still preferred the ’14). With a lot more time (we opened a 1989), it can be surprisingly fresh and elegant.

Mario doesn’t mess around and besides 4 or 5 treatment a year of Sulphur and Copper and a very tiny amount of Sulphur in most wines, everything else is done in a non-interventionist way (native yeast, no filtration, no manipulation). What I like about his wines is that the flavors are pure and honest. They are easy to drink and alcohol level is in check. That mineral red volcanic soil is in the glass. “I just make wine like my grandfather used to do……there is no other way for me….I don’t do much……Nature does everything” he explains, “I realized that I could be part of the Natural Wine Movement and I did”, and he finishes “I hope that Natural Wine won’t just be a trend in Italy and that more and more winery realize of the importance of making wine this way”.


After the tasting we went to a local Trattoria right in the middle of the picturesque Medieval town of Piglio. Mario’s favorite place was closed, so we had downgrade. Food was still solid: an appetizer of local cheese and verdure, “sagna” (similar to scialatielli pasta) with tartufo nero e guanciale, grilled lamb, and potatoes and chicory. All washed down with the 1989 Cesanese we brought.After pre-ordering most of his inventory for SF, I left happy. Mario’s wines will probably be a big hit.

What an amazing year in Italy

It has been an amazing year for Scuola di Vino in Italy!! I have been able to become a better wine-guy, discover new-amazing producers, understand my culture better, see beautiful places and eat fantastic food. I can’t get enough of it and the more I travel, the more I realize that it’s and endless research. There is always something new to learn and I try to bring it back to the US and share it with Scuola di Vino’s friends and customers.

Amazing Lambrusco MakersDiscovering the awesome wines at Il FolicelloCon Marco BurattiBack in SFAlberto of Podere PradaroloMeeting the one and only, crazy wine-collector....FlaminioAlbengaMassimo of Il GiardinettoLa Valle dei Laghi. Trentino. Land of Nosiola and Schiava.Just above Bolzabo. Awesome Santa Maddalena. Best out there at the moment.Monte ConeroLiving in Modena

RavelloSF friendsSerralunga d'Alba, land of BaroloRomagna. Land of Sagiovese and Albana.Vermentino VineyardsDSCN1489Visiting a Myth. Lino Maga with Aran.The Magic of Timorasso ValBorberaFausto fo Rocche del Gattoin Gratena, Arezzo, land of ChiantiVermentino Vineyardsphoto 2_opt



This Friday we will welcome Giovanni of Scuola di Vino back to Ruby wine.  He will be pouring our all time favorite wines from Campania, in Cantina Giardino!
Giardino is the most influential natural wine producer in Campania, carrying the torch for organic viticulture, and chemical free wine.  Their wines are one of a kind, unique expressions of their varietal and terroir.  We get small amounts of these wines every year, and drink them almost as fast as we can pull them out of the box.

Giovanni will be pulling corks on some very special bottling for us to try this Friday night, including two limited cuvees, only bottled in Magnums.  Fiano, Greco and Aglianico.

The tasting is $10, and will go from 5 until 9pm.



Barolo Serralunga Principiano 2011 is in !!

The Barolo Serralunga Principiano 2011 is finally in. From the historic Boscareto Vineyard right below the legendary Francia of Conterno, this is textbook old-school Barolo full of Nebbiolo aromatics of dried roses, earth, and cherry with spices and minerals. Ferdinando farms organically, uses indigenous yeast, doesn’t filter, and only adds very little sulphur. This ensure a wine full of nuances, energy, and character.  It macerates for 30 days and it’s aged in large Slavonian Oak (20 HL to 40 HL) for two years and then for two more years in the bottle. It’s an important Barolo. Please email if you would like to purchase some.

Barolo Serralunga Principiano 2011   $38.00 a btl   $456 per cs 

This is Ferdinando in front of his Serralunga Vineyard


Agnanum Falanghina IGT Sabbia Vulcanica has arrived

The Falanghina Sabbia Vulcanica IGT Campania 2013 from Agnanum has finally arrived in SF. Up to two years ago, this wine had no label and was only sold to friends and restaurants in Naples. After tasting it, I advised Raffaele to create an IGT Campania so that I could bring it all the way to SF. I can now share it with my customers.

It’s a blend of Falanghina (65%), Catalanesca (20%), Moscato (10%), and the remaining 5% is a mix of Gelsomina, Caprettone, and Biancolella. All in steel. Supercool wine full of citrus, smoke, and creaminess. The alcohol level is 12%.

The name Sabbia Vulcanica means “Vulcanic Sand”. There are 4 main layers of soils at Agnanum and they are all of Vulcanic origin. The very first layer is composed of a very fine sand that almost feels like talcum powder. It dries extremely well. The second layer is composed of pomice stone and lapilli. These stones come from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1944. The third layer is basaltic rock and this is where the roots start to go in lateral way.The fourth layer is pozzolana and this is where the roots stop. We are at 4mt below the ground. This layers are responsible for the beautiful smocky minerality we find in the flavor profile of this wine.

In the last a couple of years we have seen very warm Autumns and summers with rain in Campania. This is a big issue in areas like Irpinia around Avellino or in the Sannio zone around Benevento where soils are to humid and this brings vine diseases like Peronospera for example. But here in Campi Flegrei having a summer with rain and a warm October and November is ideal. Soils dry well and they don’t fear water. Alcohol levels stay in check and Autumn heat helps with perfect ripeness.

A bit of info on the lesser known grapes that Raffaele has in vineyards besides the Falanghina which is the king of white grapes here. Some of the vines are 200 years old and Raffaele would never extirpate them in favor of more productive and lucrative Falanghina vines.

CATALANESCA: It was brought from Catalunia in Spain in the 15th century and planted on Mount Vesuvius. It’s a delicate grape not as wild as Falanghina. The grapes are large and beautiful. It brings body and structure to the mix.

GELSOMINA: Also known as Uva Cupella. The vine is very productive and takes a lot of space in the vineyard. Gelsomina brings acidity and freshness to the mix.

CAPRETTONE: Grown mainly on Mt Vesuvius national park, it is has vigorous vine that is quite productive. It adds body to the mix and discrete amount of acidity.

BIANCOLELLA: This is a grape that originates on the island of Ischia. It is prone to rot and it ripens early. Raffaele is not a huge fan since he loses most of it because it is so delicate. “It’s an old vine planted by my grandfather and I just don’t want to get rid of it”.

The cost of this awesome blend is $15 per btl + tax. Email us at for more information. If you live in SF, you can pick up the wine you purchase directly at our warehouse in Daly City and avoid shipping expenses. We are conveniently located just 3 minutes off the US 101 south taking the Cow Palace/Third Street Exit.

Sabbia Vulcanica


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After 4 months of transit, crazy port strikes, back and forth emails, headaches, rerouting through Seattle and shipping it back to SF in a refrigerated truck with extra charges…….the exciting Gaglioppos of AVita are finally here in SF.

Francesco de Franco, ex architect that “abandoned the cement business” and moved back to Calabria to take care of his family vineyards, is the most exciting up and coming producer in Ciro’. For the last 20 years, we have been exposed to very conventional and largely produced cheap Gaglioppos and to Riservas cut with Cabernet Sauvignon. But things have now changed and AVita now leads a small group of vignerons that want to make better wines in a more natural way.

AVita’s mission is to redefine Gaglioppo and give a new identity to this tiny appellation. The focus is on quality and not quantity. No chemicals are used in the vineyards and at the winery. Only sulphur and copper are used when necessary. Fermentation starts spontaneously and the elevage is usually in steel or in large used barrels. Little sulphur is used and wines are minimally filtered.

On many occasions, many of my SF buyers have mistaken these wines for Barolo. The nuances can truly be sensual and complex. The palate is also intense with a good amount of alcohol and tense tannins. The finish is always long. Francesco is truly mastering Gaglioppo and vintage after vintage, the wines just keep on getting better.

If you would like to pick up some at our warehouse, please email me at

CIRO’ ROSSO CLASSICO 2011 – $17 btl + taxes

CIRO’ ROSSO CLASSICO RISERVA 2010 – $26 btl + taxes

Thank You,


Francesco and Laura have also become very good friends. This is a recent meal we had at Nonna’s house in Tramonti on the Amalfi Coast. Nonna’s food and AVita wines go very well together.

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Agnanum – an extinct volcano

When ordering a Falanghina or a Piedirosso in a SF restaurant, you normally think of a simple refreshing fun wine that goes well with food. If you want to drink something serious from Campania, then you order a Greco, a Fiano, or an Aglianico. There are some exceptions of better versions but the above statement is the norm. On my last visit to Agnanum, I have realized that both Falanghina and Piedirosso can actually produce world class wine.

Agnanum is a small winery located in Agnano just on the outskirts of Naples in the Campi Flegrei area. The Astroni National Park, a volcanic crater filled with Mediterrenean vegetation, is next to the vineyards. The centenarian vines growing on extremely poor dusty volcanic  terrain are trained in an old Pergola system. The soils are rich of sulfur and minerals and you can even see some solfatars (gas coming out of the ground) on some parts of the mountains. The vineyards are steeply terraced but they are so delicate that every time it rains, parts of them are pretty much destroyed and need to be put together again. That’s why during rain season, some canals are dug around each vine (all by hand). Failure to do so would result in the potential loss of the whole vineyard.

It was October around noon when I visited and the heat was unbearable. I can’t imagine how hot it gets in August. Raffaele Moccia, the owner, told me that his father (who is 83 years old) works barefooted on the boiling soil even in the summer. But even if the temperatures can be extremely high during July and August, the acidity level is high and the alcohol level remains surprisingly low.

Chemicals aren’t used but only sulphur and copper that have been used there for centuries. At the winery fermentation happens spontaneously and most of the work is done by hand.Minimal amount of sulphur is used at bottling. I fell in love with the “base wines” that are made in steel. I have never had such a serious  minerally  driven almost salty citrusy Falanghina. The only other area of Italy where I found this kind of minerality is the Carso region of Friuli. As far as the Piedirosso, elegance and precision are the right words to describe this awesome wine that can easily be mistaken for a well made French Pinot Noir. Full of red smoky fruit and minerally driven. Long and smooth.

The total production is 10.000 botlles and wines have never been to the US before. I told Raffaele that I would bring his wines to SF and after helping with label approvals and FDA number the wines should be here in January.

Below are some photos of the extremely poor volcanic soils at Agnanum

DSCN1031 DSCN1033 DSCN1021 DSCN1028

Mario Macciocca and his wines

Cesanese Terra 2013 (80% Cesanese, 20% Nostrano)
In Roman times, Piglio was considered privileged to cultivate the vine. This territory known as Civitella was in fact an old Roman town. Many signs of ancient wine-making have been found like the discovery of old Anfore or wine-making tools.
Before Cesanese this area was full of Nostrano. An ancient grape that Mario Macciocca is trying to bring back to life. Nostrano was removed to plant Cesanese because it wasn’t very productive. Nostrano hasn’t been registered yet a grape variety.
The word Cesanese comes from the Latin word Cese which means “small forest”. Deforesting was necessary in order to plant Cesanese vines.
Cesanese arrives in Piglio in the 800s. The Clone arrived from Affile but found a much better habitat in Piglio.
Cesanese is a grape that generates wines that are full of strength and power. It shines in the area of Piglio which is a town under the province of Frosinone in Lazio. Piglio terrains may vary from limestone when closer to the mountains to volcanic soils in the valley. At Mario Macciocca’s winery, the terrain is a mixture of clay and rock. Cesanese prefers clay over a rock-bed. On a rocky terrain, it becomes too high in alcohol and has too many tannins and acidity. Some producers end up with wines that are 16% and therefore very hard to drink.
The Cesanese Terra 2013 from Mario Macciocca is 80% Cesanese and 20% Nostrano. It macerates for 10 days in stainless steel from a spontaneous fermentation. The 1 year elevage in wood is in large chestnut barrels (20 hl) or used French oak. The rest of the elevage is in bottle. It’s unfiltered and very low sulphur is used (30 mg).

Monocromo #1 (80% Passerina and 20% Malvasia Puntinata)
Mairo challenges himself by making a wine that is completely unsulphured. Just like in contemporary art, Monocromo which means “one color” was utilized with the desire to erase everything that has been invented or created before. A unique wine. Very extreme.
Passerina is a variety that prefers humid zones. It is vigorous and resistant. Much stronger than the Cesanese for example. It’s almost pink when it reaches full maturity and you can end up with a wine that is very high in alcohol. Picking it a bit sooner helps to save some freshness.
Malvasia Puntinata is more delicate and aromatic. It also has less alcohol. It adds flavor and aromas to the more neutral Passerina.
The fermentation is spontaneous and the maceration lasts 4 days. It’s bottled after a few momths in Acacia Tunneaux. A few months of bottle ageing follow. It’s unfiltered and it is free of sulphur.


Mario in action