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 scuoladivino@gmail.com 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

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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 Scuoladivino@gmail.com 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.

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THE WINES OF ‘AVITA ARE FINALLY IN SF!!

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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 scuoladivino@gmail.com

CIRO’ ROSSO CLASSICO 2011 – $17 btl + taxes

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

Thank You,

GP

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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SCUOLA DI VINO AT VINI VERI 2015

COME JOIN ME AND ARAN OF RUBY WINES AT VINIVERI 2015 IN CEREA (CLOSE TO VERONA) FROM 10:00 TO 18:00. FOR MORE INFO, CHECK OUT VINIVERI.NET, SOME OF THE VERY BEST NATURAL PRODUCERS OF ITALY AND MORE WILL BE THERE. BEA, CANTINA GIARDINO, CAPPELLANO, BEPPE RINALDI, CAROLINA GATTI…..TO NAME JUST A FEW. HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE. MY CELL IN ITALY IS 334-991-9604. A PRESTO. 

G.P.

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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

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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.

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Mario in action

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Cantina Giardino

On my last trip to Campania, I had a wonderful lunch at Cantina Giardino’s headquarters in Ariano Irpino with Antonio and Daniela. Food was great as usual and wines just keep on getting better. Elegance and harmony in the Sophia 2012, purity of fruit and definition in the Le Fole 2011, power and sumptuousness in the Nude 2006, wildness and complexity in the Clown 2010, and toughness and nerve in the Drogone 2008.

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It was just another confirm that Cantina Giardino has become the most exciting Campanian producer out there giving hope to a region that has some serious wine-making potentials. Their wines are slowly reaching a high status in the natural wine world at the levels of Bea and Radikon. They are happily represented in some of the top restaurants and wine-bars in SF and LA that run a cool wine-program.

Antonio doesn’t mess around: very old vines, great vineyard sites, no chemicals in the vineyards and at the winery, no manipulation, no sulphur, a manual torchio or footpressing, large barrels of chestnut mainly (some acacia and cherry as well), clay amphoras, long macerations, long elevage, no sulphur, and no filtration. He started making macerated whites 10 years ago when wine critics were not easy on him and orange wines were not trendy. He stuck to his principles and continued with his solitary work. I think that he has achieved his goal. “Vini naturali e di terriorio”….natural wines of terroir. Cantina Giardino’s wines are a work of art capturing the wild spirit of Irpinia with their smokey rustic elegance, agile acidity, and purity of fruit. They represent the future of Campanian wine-making. To top it off…..Antonio and Daniela are super sweet people and have a big heart.

These are some of my tasting notes. These wines will be available in SF in a couple of weeks.
FIANO SOPHIA 2012: “Una bomba” (A Bomb) this is how I described it. Even my mom, that doesn’t really drink, was very impressed by this Sophia 2012. The nose and the palate are full of fruit and smokey nuances. The palate is agile and elegant with a very long finish.
Grapes come from the Comune of Candida. It is foot pressed and macerated in Amphora for 6 months. 6 more months in large barrels and some bottle aging. No sulphur and no filtration. This is a quintessential Fiano.
AGLIANICO LE FOLE 2011: More fruit and easier to drink than the more angular 2010. Grapes are sourced in Montemarano where the soils are a combo of clay and limestone. Of the Irpinian crus, Antonio considers it a cooler one. 30 days of maceration. 1 year in large chestnut barrels. No sulphur and no filtration. 2 years in the bottle. I love the simplicity and the purity of the Le Fole. It’s around 12.5% alcohol and always very drinkable. I think 2011 will be a success in SF because it has a bigger fruit component that makes it very enjoyable even without food.
AGLIANICO NUDE 2006: This is a nectar. Brian from a16 is a big fan. It’s an extract of Aglianico. Grapes come from Paternopoli which is an area that is a bit warmer and there is more sand in the soil. The maceration is 60 days. The elevage in barrels is about 4 years. First in exhausted Tounneaux and Barriques, and then in 20 HL barrels. The wine is unfiltered and no sulphur is used. This is a wine that needs a piece of meat. Rich, powerful, and dense. It’s everything you want an Aglianico to be. This is basically a declassified Taurasi.
AGLIANICO CLOWN 2010: The grapes come from Montemarano. It’s foot pressed and it macerates in Anphora for 1 year. 1 more year of elevage is in large barrel. I am a huge fan of the clown. It’s the most wild red that Antonio makes. The anphora keeps thing extremely fresh and agile and I always find some cheese and mushroom notes in this wine that I don’t recall in the other cuvees. Great acid and lots of pure dark and red fruit.
AGLIANICO DROGONE 2008: One of the greatest wines from Cantina Giardino with a beautiful label of a Dragon sitting on a barrel and sipping wine. I can’t even get in SF for 3 weeks that is usually already gone. 2007 was in my opinion (Shelley agrees) the most magical version. In 2008 the large barrels were new and they give this Drogone a more modern approach. Grapes come from Castelfranci which is a zone that doesn’t have the power of Paternopoli and it’s not as cool as Montemarano. “It’s somethings in between” Antonio explains. 60 days of Maceration. 4 years in 20 HL barrels made of chestnut. No filtration and no sulphur. A big wine (not as powerful as the Nude) with great acid. Textbook Aglianico: Smokey, gamey, rich of red and dark fruit, leathery, and full of ripe tannins. Pure.

Giovanni Pagano

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IL PROSECCO COLFONDO 2011 DI CAROLINA GATTI

Il Prosecco colfondo 2011 di Carolina Gatti has arrived in SF !! Re-fermented naturally in the bottle and basically sur lee and not disgorged. This is the first time that Carolina’s wine is in the US. It’s an honor to be the one bringing her awesome juice in.

This is not “the ginger-ale of Italy” like Joe Bastianich called an industrial version of Prosecco that I poured him one night at Esca, back in the days. This is not a standard wine….where we add a bit of peach juice and the Bellini is ready. This is not a well marketed Prosecco colfondo that claims to be all natural but doesn’t taste like anything and it’s all over the US. This is a true version of Prosecco colfondo like it was made in the 50’s. Delicious, complex, and refreshing.

Carolina, who comes from a family that has owned this azienda since the eighteen hundreds, is the most hardcore, anarchic, and extreme of the colfondisti. Her equipment is “what the smurfs would use” she told me. Her vines are 80 to 90 years old average and they are trained in an old-school Belussi system where vines look almost like trees.

She has the smallest production. We are looking at 10.000 bottles. Her current vintage is 2011 ! Her Prosecco (she doesn’t call it Glera) needs time just like all great wines. It takes about 3 years for a natural protein stabilization. I have tried the 2012 but it wasn’t ready.She is not in a hurry. She is the only one that waits this long. Zero chemicals are used in the vineyards and at the winery. A very slow fermentation kicks in spontaneously. The wine stays in cement vats for over a year. It is then bottled and some of the juice from the first pressing, that was previously frozen, is used to start the natural re-fermentation.

Her Prosecco “sur lee” is slightly fizzy, rich, salty, complex, cloudy, and long. All kept in check by great “cedro” like acidity.  I like to decant it.

She is not into marketing her wines and she is not running a business. She works the land with great ethics and respect and makes great natural wine. I think that her wine will be a big success. To bad that there is so little of it.

Salute,

GP

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Best New Bruschetteria in SF…..wait….it’s Biondivino!!

photo 4 photo 3 Biondivino-the cool little wine shop owned by Ceri Smith at 1415 Green Street in SF is now serving bruschettas Wednesday through Sunday from 5 pm on. Ceri had the young owner of Troeggi,probably the best bruschetteria in Italy located in Genova, come to SF and run the bruschetta station! You can now go there and see him in action. His name is Emauele. Prices go from $4 to $10 per bruschetta plate. Wines go for $10 a glass. I had the gorgonzola and prosciutto San Daniele….and the burrata with fresh anchovies. They were perfect. The tiramisu’ that Emanuele makes is also kick-ass. While there, I was hanging out with Massimiliano-the owner of Calabretta winery on mount Etna. His wines are solid and he is a super nice guy. So…congratulations to Ceri for this great idea and I am sure that Biondivino will soon become the new hot-hang-out spot for thirsty wine-guys like me.

Learning the mysteries of Gaglioppo at ‘A Vita in Calabria


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Learning the mysteries of Gaglioppo in Calabria with Francesco and Laura at ‘A Vita winery. The wines are stunning and they are an amazing family with their 3 year old Andrea and 5 dogs. Some of the sweetest people we have ever met. It was quite an experience to be there. Gaglioppo is a crazy grape that resembles Nebbiolo in taste. It doesn’t have a lot of color and it’s actually super pale with almost a brownish note that could make you think that it’s oxidized when it actually isn’t. In the right vintage, like the 2009, and with the right maceration that can go from 4 days to 35 days, it can truly be something outstanding……very similar to a complex Piemontese but at one third of the price. Spices, dried flowers, and cherries….rustic and yet elegant….and full of warm ripe tannins. Extremely drinkable. “The maceration is key” says Francesco. “One extra day and the wine can become hard to drink” he explains while we drink the 2010 where the tannins were a bit out of control hitting you with the force of a giant wave. “I am still learning as I go” he admits “but in 2009 I just got it right”. True…the wine was incredible. From my point of view: Gaglioppo is like a crazy horse that needs to be tamed and it can be magic. It can also be fantastic as a Rose’. One of the best I ever had. Even better when you sit outside Francesco and Laura’s beautiful country house as you stare at a 180 degree view of the sea, while the wind blows constant of the secular olive trees.