Wine

Ca’ del Baio, a Piece of Heaven in Barbaresco

I finally had the opportunity to travel to Piedmont (Piemonte) this past June, and experienced the beauty of this picturesque Italian region. I visited many lush wineries in the sub-regions of La Morra, Barolo, Alba, and Barbaresco, and tasted some delicious wines. Barbaresco is a beautiful region in northwestern Italy where the Nebbiolo grape thrives in the slightly maritime climate: warmer, dryer, and milder, allowing the grapes to ripen faster. The Nebbiolo grapes are used to produce the wine that also goes by the name of Barbaresco. It is characterized by its rich flavors with notes of spices and mild perfumes with sweetness and is considered elegant and refined. The soil in Barbaresco has more nutrients and makes it less tannic than Barolo. Barbaresco is also known for Dolcetto and Barbera. 

Upon arriving at Ca’ del Baio── house of the bay horse, means a dark-horse in Piedmontese dialect, which is an inspiration for their logo──Federica greeted us with her contagious smile in her work attire. We knew it was going to be a special tour and felt a deep connection with the winery.  For four generations Ca’ del Baio has been a family affair, as is the tradition in the Langhe region. Nurtured and passed down from father to son, the vineyards surrounding the Grasso family farmhouse have been added to over time through marriage and acquisitions. 

Giulio and Luciana along with their daughters Paola, Valentina and Federica, handle all the various aspects of the business. They do it with passion and expertise, from the growing and vinification of the grapes to hospitality and wine sales. For the Grasso family, simplicity, a sense of sacrifice and the deep attachment they have to their land are pre-requisites for guaranteeing wines of quality. Today the Ca’ del Baio estate takes in 28 hectares of vineyards in the villages of Barbaresco and Treiso, both of which are in the Barbaresco winegrowing area.

All estate-grown, their wines are made from a range of highly valued varieties, some typical of the area while others are more international: the whites include Moscato, Chardonnay and Riesling, and the reds Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. Almost all the wines are varietals. The most prestigious vines – producing the Nebbiolo used to make Barbaresco – are between 25 and 40 years old, and they go into making the estate’s crus of Asili and Pora (commune of Barbaresco) and Vallegrande and Marcarini (Treiso). 

Since we were on a tight schedule, I did not have time to write my own wine descriptions, therefore, I am using the winemaker’s notes that I found on their website: Ca del Baio. I enjoyed this wine tasting tour that was conducted by Federica. She’s passionate and very knowledgeable in the world of wines. I highly recommend  you make reservations ahead of time before visiting this charming boutique winery. 

Recently, Ca’ del Baio’s Barbaresco Vallegrande 2016 received the prestigious “Tre Bicchieri”( 3 glasses), Italy’s Best Wines award given by Gambero Rosso. It’s the largest food-E-Wine Publishing House in Europe, according to their Instagram profile. 

Enjoying a tasting at Ca' del Baio

Enjoying a tasting at Ca’ del Baio

Ca' del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

Ca’ del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

 

Winemaker’s notes: The wine displays a brilliant garnet red colour with shades of orange. The intense nose releases hints of lavender, pine, rose petals, aromatic herbs, spices, and goudron (tar) notes. The wine is dry, full-bodied, and warm. It is exceptionally smooth and velvety in the mouth.

 

Ca del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

Ca’ del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright garnet red; nose intense and complex, with fruity overtones conjuring up plums and blackberries, and spicy hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnuts; taste full-bodied, soft and tannic; a big, yet very flavorsome wine.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Asili 2016

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Asili

 

Winemaker’s notes: color bright garnet red, with slight orange tinges; nose intense, with fruity aromas of marasca cherries and hints of violets. Spicy notes of black pepper, liquorice and goudron (tar); taste dry, warm and soft, showing a long, rich, smooth flavour.

Award-winning Ca del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

Award-winning Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour garnet red; nose intense, with powerful fruit, dried flowers and underbrush; taste dry, smooth and rounded, ending in a warm finish with nicely-balanced tannins.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca' del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Winemaker’s notes: the colour is a deep garnet red with reflections of old pink. The nose is an intense, fruity aroma reminiscent of raspberries, jam, and violets that give an ethereal feeling accompanied by sweet spicy notes and hints of cocoa. In the mouth, Autinbej is warm, long, persistent and slightly tannic with an aftertaste of fruity notes.

LCa del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Ca’ del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright straw yellow; nose intense and complex, ranging from flowery to fruity, with hints of nuts; taste dry, full-bodied and well-balanced, with long flavour…Chardonnay, international by nature, Piedmontese at heart.

Barbaresco wine region 

Amazing Barbaresco lineup 

While touring, Federica's dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato to taste

While touring, Federica’s dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato d’Asti to taste

I captured a picture of Ca' del Baio family portrait - Original is not mine

I captured a picture of the Grasso’s family portrait – Original is not mine

Ca' del Baio Barrel room

Ca’ del Baio barrel room

 

Ca del Baio Wine Room

Ca’ del Baio wine storage room

Ca del Baio sisters

Ca’ del Baio – the 3 sisters – photo from their website – not mine

 

The Grasso family symbolizes respect for land and passion for wine. They take pride in their work and harmoniously carry on the family’s legacy.  I am so glad that I met this tight-knit family and made unforgettable wine memories. 

 I hope you have enjoyed this article that illustrates our wine tasting journey in Piedmont, Italy. 

“Il vino fa buon sangue”  = Good wine makes good blood
“In vino veritas”  = In wine there is truth
 
Photos taken by Gina for Foodiewinelover – unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. 
Disclosure: some of the information was taken from Ca’ del Baio’s website.   

Happy Sipping! 
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

 

 

Bubbles for Every Taste Bud This Holiday Season

It’s almost mid-November and Thanksgiving is just a little over 2 weeks away. Most of you already know whether you are hosting the holidays or not. Either way, you will need some bubbles─sparkling wines─to add a festive mood to the upcoming gatherings. To make it easy for you, I have compiled a list of budget-friendly, mid-range and high-end sparkling wines to spread a little joy in everyone’s holiday season. You need to bring a gift? Think no more, because my list will cover a wide range of bubbles to satisfy your taste buds and budgets. In this article, I am featuring Champagne, sparkling wines from different regions, Cava, Prosecco, and Franciacorta. They all have one thing in common: bubbles! However, not all are created equal.

“All Champagne are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne.” I came up with this quote for the novice wine drinkers to better understand the difference.

The most exquisite of all bubbles is Champagne that can only come from the Champagne region of France. It’s labor-intensive because it requires a second fermentation in the bottle and this method produces extremely fine bubbles, making it the most expensive. There is an array of Champagne to choose from: boutique-style, well-known Champagne Houses, and internationally acclaimed luxurious brands.

Sparkling wines that say: “Méthode Traditionelle” on their label use the same method that originated in the Champagne region of France. However, the wine producers from other countries are not allowed to use the name Champagne on their labels. Sparkling wines vary from mid-range to expensive depending on many factors, including the region, terroir and the method in which they use to produce their wines.  

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine also made by the same method as Champagne but is much more affordable, and not as complex. Prosecco is an Italian bubbly that is budget-friendly and generally made by the Charmat method. The secondary fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks which makes the wine more affordable. Franciacorta is regarded as a high-quality Italian sparkling wine that is made by “Méthode Traditionelle” which mirrors Champagne.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you pay for your bottle of bubbles, what matters is the quality time you spend with the ones you love.”

Borrasca Cava
Borrasca Cava Brut

Price range: $9.99 – $10.99 for 750 ml. 
This Cava shows stone fruits, pear and citrus. It’s great as an aperitif or you can pair it with cheeses and seafood dishes. 

 

Syltbar Prosecco
Syltbar Prosecco

Price range: $19.99 – $22.99 for 750 ml. 
This Prosecco has notes of pears with refreshing flavors of citrus. With only  49 calories (per 6 oz glass), it can be enjoyed with no guilt. 

 

Schramsberg Brut Rose California Sparkling Wine
Schramsberg Brut Rosé Méthode Traditionelle California Sparkling Wine

Price range $34.99-$44.99 for 750 ml. 
Schramsberg Brut Rosé is a special-occasion sparkler with aromas of under ripe strawberries, orange peels, and cinnamon. The palate follows the nose with a touch of toasted almonds, and shows bright clean acidity with a dry and long finish. This Napa Valley wine is made by “Méthode Traditionelle” and can be enjoyed as an aperitif or paired with seafood. It is exceptionally delightful. 

Scharffenberger Sparkling Wine
Scharffenberger Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Wine

Price range: $20.99-$23.99 for 750 ml. Scharffenberger Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine is from Mendocino county, California. This wine is dry with beautiful citrus notes.

Chandon Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine
Chandon Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine

Price range: $19.99 – $22.99 for 750 ml. Chandon Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine is a great value bubbly made by “Méthode Traditionelle”. It delivers delicate aromas and flavors of cherries with a creamy texture. I visited their winery in Napa Valley and had a fabulous experience. 

Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Reserve
Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve

Price: $39.99 – $44.99 for 750 ml. Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve 

Wine Spectator review:  “A bold, powerful Champagne, reminiscent of wheat toast, pencil shavings and cherry, supported by a firm structure. Concentrated and long, it lingers with an aftertaste of biscuits with cherry jam.”

 

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut

Price range: $37.99 – $44.99 for 750 ml. 
Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut is vibrant and boasts aromas and flavors of zesty grapefruit and ginger-flavored cola. The finish is lingering. 

Dom Perignon
Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 2005

Price range: $246.00 and up for 750 ml.  – The price on Dom Pérignon varies depending on the vintage. This classic Champagne is complex with layers of flavors and can age beautifully well, for decades after its release.

“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” Dom Pérignon

Dom Pérignon - Vintage 2008
Dom Pérignon – Vintage 2008

Price range: $149.00 – $175.00 for 750 ml. Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 2008 
delivers an abundance of refreshing lemons, grapefruit, lightly toasted almonds and a hint of minerality. This vintage is still young but is drinking nicely. It needs more time to enjoy its full potential. 

Champagne Billecart-Salmon paired with lobster
Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs NV paired with lobster


Average price: $100.00 Champagne for 750 ml. Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Non Vintage is exquisite with an explosion of delicate and luxurious flavors on the palate. There is a hint of minerality that glides to a long finish. 

G.H.Mumm Champagne
G.H.Mumm Champagne

Price: $49.99 for 750 ml. This comes in a gift set with 2 embossed Champagne glasses. On the nose, this Champagne showcases aromas of ripe peach, apricot and tropical fruits, with hints of vanilla and caramel, a touch of brioche, and a drizzle of honey. Caramel flavors linger into an everlasting finish. 

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I recently asked my Instagram audience to take part in this article in order to provide you with an array of ideas.

Rupal from SyrahQueen has an adoration for bubbles, and is very knowledgeable in the world of wines. She asked me to add a Franciacorta on my list. Franciacorta is a prestigious Italian sparkling wine, and is considered to be of high-quality. It is another great example of a wine made by “Méthode Traditionelle” which mirrors Champagne. 

Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta
Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige 
The average price is $40-$45.00 for 750 ml. The bottle is transparent and packaged in clear yellow wrapping to showcase its beautiful gold color. It’s made of fine quality with notes of pears, orange peel, great acidity, and a crisp and persistent perlage. I am so grateful that my dear Italian Wine Expert friend Angela Santarelli introduced me to this beauty many years ago. 

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I had the pleasure of meeting Rupal in the spring, and she gifted me a beautiful bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne. We savored it during our epic lunch in the trendy area of Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale. I will always remember her heartfelt quote: “Friendship and Champagne. Toasting the start of a beautiful new friendship”.

Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature en 2009 paired with a charcuterie and cheese board
Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck  Brut Nature en 2009
Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature en 2009

Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature 2009
Price range: $90.00 – $99.00 for 750 ml. This Champagne is electrifying and it gives you a good jolt from the very first sip. On the nose, it delivers aromas of toasted almonds and stone fruits. This bubbly coats the palate with a creamy mousse carrying flavors of crunchy pears, hints of citrus, and framed minerality. The bubbles are tiny with lush notes of biscuit and toast. The finish is everlasting. It truly is heaven in a bottle! 

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My lovely friend and wine connoisseur Mary from PerthWineGirl in Australia recommends two producers that distribute in the USA. VasseFelixMargaretRiver Margaret River’s founding estate. Wine: 2017 Blanc de Blancs. (2016 vintage shows in the photo) The other one HowardParkWines is a pioneering Western Australian winery, the Great Southern and Margaret River. Wine: 2013 Howard Park Grand Vintage Jeté. Both are sparkling wines produced by Méthode Traditionelle. 

Jeté Australian Sparkling Wine

Jeté Australian Sparkling Wine – Photo credit Mary aka PerthWineGirl

Price: $29.00 average. 

 

Exclusive wine reviews from PerthWineGirl” This wine combines Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, giving a vibrant burst of citrus with white peach for a silky taste that bursts after some time on the palate to release an immersion of brioche and cracked grain for a texture unlike any other.”

Vasse Felix Australian Sparkling Wine - Photo credit PerthWineGirl

Vasse Felix Australian Sparkling Wine – Photo credit Mary aka PerthWineGirl

Price: $40.00 average.
Exclusive wine reviews
from PerthWineGirl: “Made with fruit from selected Chardonnay clones from the coolest sites, this wine is complex and rich. It resembles grower Champagne. Reminiscent of citrus peel, beeswax, and buttered almonds, this wine is elegant and sophisticated. Made in a Brut style, it’s versatile at the table.” 

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My friend Tiffany @prettysweetmess recommends Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Réserve. She has a great palate for simple to the most sophisticated taste in wine(s).

Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne
Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Réserve.

Price range: $34.99 – $37.99 for 750 ml. 

Notes from Wine Spectator – November 2017 “An aperitif-style Champagne, with flavors of crème de cassis, lemon curd and pastry riding a creamy mousse and framed by crisp, well-knit acidity. Drink now through 2020.” 

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I want to thank the following Insta-friends for their contributions:

Laura from @winebythebottle recommends any dry, red Lambrusco.

Robert from @wine_food_explorer recommends a Blanc de Blancs from Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards in Virginia. His notes: beautiful acidity with aromas of pear and vanilla, layered perfectly. Flavors of apple and well-balanced. Priced at $40.00

Funda from @wine_a_little_dine_a_little recommends “Roederer Estate Brut” from Anderson Valley, California. Average price $25.00. 

Patrick from pakieff64 recommends FontanaFredda Alta Langa DOCG Limited Edition, Brut Metodo classic, a typical Brut for less than $20.00. 

Now, that you have this extensive list of sparkling wines to help you celebrate the holidays, it’s time to go shopping! I am wishing you’ all a season filled with lots of bubbles to your heart’s content, love in your home, and good health to you and your family.

This article is intended for people over the legal drinking age of your country (21+ in the US).

Photos: All mine except the last 3 as stated.
Reviews: Most are mine unless otherwise stated. 

Disclaimer: Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this article is implied or claimed. 

Happy Sipping!!  

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award” 
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

 

 

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Barbera D'Alba

Barbera D’Alba

Pasta alla Norma originated in Sicily and is perfect for a small gathering. It is believed to be named after the famous opera called Norma. It’s easy and made with a few ingredients including my favorite veggie: eggplant! In this recipe, I am using whole canned tomatoes but you can use fresh tomatoes if they are in season. This is a great meal for vegetarians depending on their diet lifestyles (with or without the cheese). I served a salad with the pasta and my family ate to their heart’s content. Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen.

Level of difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Serves 6-8 as a main meal

Ingredients:
• 1 medium eggplant, chopped in medium size
• ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 – (28) ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 5-6 basil leaves cut in chiffonade, plus more for garnish
• ¼ cup pasta water, as needed
• Ricotta Salata cheese, for garnish
• 1-pound penne, rigatoni or spaghetti

Preparation:

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium-high heat, heat up oil, sauté the garlic, 1-2 minutes, add the eggplant, cook while stirring for 5-7 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes covered with lid tilted. Stir occasionally.  If the sauce is too thick, add water toward the end. (before draining the pasta). Turn the burner off.

2. While the sauce is cooking, bring pasta water to a boil. Add salt and cook al dente. You will be doing a little juggling.

3. Add drained pasta to the sauce and mix well. Serve in a large pasta bowl. Garnish with the cheese and basil.

I paired this meal with a lovely aged Barbera D’Alba from Ca’ Viola winery and it worked magically.

Other wine pairing suggestions: Nero d’Avola, a red grape variety from Sicily or any medium-bodied red wine of your choice.

Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

A Lesser-Known Wine, a Good Find from Umbria

Cantina dell’ Alunno 2012 Montefalco Sagrantino 14.5% by volume. This wine is made with 100% Sagrantino grapes.
Sagrantino is considered a rising star among Italy’s top-notched ageworthy red wines.  Sagrantino di Montefalco has attracted wine enthusiasts from around the world. In 1992, this grape variety was elevated to DOCG status, the highest-ranking category of Italian wine denominations.
Montefalco is a magnificent hilltown in central Umbria. Unlike all the other major tourist towns around Italy,  Montefalco is quiet and known for the production of its indigenous grape, Sagrantino, as well as its medieval churches. 
Sagrantino is an extremely tannic wine and is high in alcohol. The tannins are naturally found in grape skins, their seeds and stems. This natural occurrence adds bitterness and complexity to the wine. Sagrantino is bone dry and the legs are super slow which indicates a high-alcohol content. Due to the high level of tannins, this wine is packed with anti-oxidants and pairs well with meat-based dishes and gamey food.
When I first tasted it, it was so bitter, I was grimacing. I decided to decant it and used the vSpin, (you can use any decanter) but this one works pretty fast. After decanting it for about 7-8 minutes, the wine started to open up nicely. The wine is dense and the color is a dark garnet. On the nose, it boasts robust aromas of dark cocoa, cigar box, tobacco, dark fruits, and spices. On the palate, there is an explosion of bitter cocoa, cedar, moderate amount of oak, with firm tannins and a persistent finish. This is a serious wine and should be consumed with food and/or aged cheeses. I paired it with lamb loin chops and it stood up to the gaminess of the meat. It intertwined nicely with the mint jelly and the accompaniments.
Sagrantino generally reaches full maturity after 10-15 years from the harvest and is able to bottle age for more than 30 years. 
IMG_8168IMG_8166IMG_8165IMG_8169

 
This wine is definitely different from what I am used to but it was a good find! As always, I love exploring various Italian wine terroirs. If this sounds like your style of wine, I suggest you give it a try! If you’ve had this wine, I’d love to hear your experience. 

Happy sipping and happy cooking from my kitchen to yours,
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier  
2019 Winner of “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers Award” 

Discover the Splendor of Salento and its Signature Italian Wines

Puglia has become one of the hottest spots in Italy where people flock to the beach to bask in the hot sun, enjoy the local wines, and partake in the Italian culinary traditions. This region is known for its wine production, cultivation of tomatoes and artichokes, and is a major producer of olive oil.  It’s also known for its famous “cucina povera” which translates to poor cuisine because the people use simple, seasonal, and high-quality ingredients.  Orecchiette—Italian for “little ears”— a regional pasta shape, fava beans, eggplant, and an abundance of fresh seafood are part of their diet. The Puglian cuisine and the wines produced in this area intertwined nicely.

As a result of my infinite love affair with Italian wines, I have tasted hundreds of them in classes, seminars, festivals, and private gatherings. If you are a wine enthusiast like me, you would be constantly exploring grape varieties from different Italian regions.

In this article, I will focus on Salice Salentino DOC wines from the Salento area. They deserve to be recognized for their richness and signature taste. Their production is still in its infancy stage unlike the wines from other major Italian regions like Piedmont and Tuscany.

Facts and history:
The Salento Peninsula in the region of Puglia is in the southernmost part of the boot known as the heel. It is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with a sunny dry climate. The soil is fertile and the wines tend to be high in alcohol. This is due to the lack of rain in the area which creates a challenge for winemakers to craft attractive wines. The Salento area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, exquisite regional cuisine,
sun-baked vineyards, luscious wines,  and cultural diversity.

In the 1930s, the farmers would combine the Negroamaro grape, known for its earthy bitterness with the Malvasia Nera to add sweet character to the wine. This blend created a perfectly balanced wine. The rosé version followed soon after. Over time, the farmers continued to experiment and created new varieties of Salice Salentino, which now include: Negroamaro, Negroamaro Rosato, (rosé) Pinot Bianco (white wine), Fiano, Chardonnay, and Aleatico.

The Salice Salentino wines became so important in that region, that, in 1976, they were assigned the DOP: “Denominazione di Origine controllata –official quality label (DOC, “controlled designation of origin”.)

Salice Salentino owes its name to the town bearing the same name in the province of Lecce. This province is known for beautiful churches and baroque-style architecture. Lecce has been the main production of these wines for years, and is protected by a Consortium called: Consorzio Di Tutela Vini D.O.P. Salice Salentino. The Consortium was founded in 2003 and consist of 1,858 members, among them are winemakers, bottlers, and winegrowers.  The goal is to promote and ensure the protection of the territories, vineyards, ancient trees, and the indigenous grapes of the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi. The wines from that region are marketed and controlled by the Consortium to ensure the quality and the authenticity of the local grapes. Additionally, it was created to enhance and preserve this area for its great winemaking tradition.

The main grape is the Negroamaro, which translates to “black bitter” in Italian. This grape variety thrives on the terroir that combines clay and limestone soils. The Malvasia Nera is also a popular variety known for its aromatic qualities. Both grapes tend to be dark and intense in flavors.

Production and procedural guidelines:
For many years, the Salice Salentino wines have been made according to the requirements of their procedural guidelines. The entire process, from the grape growing to the final stage must take place in a specific area. It includes the districts of Salice Salentino, Veglie and Guagnano, in the province of Lecce, and Sandonaci, in the province of Brindisi, as well as some portions of the districts of Cellino San Marco (Lecce) and Campi Salentina (Brindisi).

Specific grapes are required for each single Salice Salentino wine.
At least 75% of Negroamaro grapes is required in the Salice Salentino Rosso (red) and the Rosato (rosé wines); whereas 90% of Negroamaro is required in the Salice Salentino Negroamaro and Negroamaro Rosato varieties. Additionally, local dark-colored grapes like the famous Malvasia Nera of Lecce or Brindisi can be used for blending as mentioned in the fifth paragraph.

In the Salentino Aleatico wine, (red) at least 85% of the Aleatico grapes is required, and can be blended with Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera or local Primitivo.

The Salice Salentino Bianco (white) is made 70% from Chardonnay grapes, if it does not have any other appellation. There are other types of Salice Salentino Bianco—Chardonnay, Fiano and Pinot Bianco which must contain at least 85% of the corresponding grapes.

There are also Spumante (sparkling wine) versions of the Salice Salentino on the market. This method involves natural fermentation without the addition of carbon dioxide. The Bianco, Rosato, Negroamaro Rosato, Pinot Bianco, Fiano and Chardonnay are generally used for this style of wine.

The Riserva (reserve) versions of Salice Salentino Rosso, Negroamaro, and Aleatico are aged for at least 24 months, including at least 6 in oak barrels.

The Dolce and Liquoroso versions of the Salice Salentino Aleatico are also produced and  make great dessert wines. The Dolce Naturale must have a finished alcohol of 15% and Liquoroso must have 18.5% which is like a fortified wine. Once produced, the wine is bottled in glass bottles that can have different sizes and corks, depending on the type of product.

Flavors and characteristics:
These Salice Salentino wines are enjoyed worldwide. The red ones are generally cherry, ruby or garnet-colored, and their shades become more intense as they age. The Riserva tends to have a brick color. The red wines are robust and full-bodied and can generally be classified as dry wines. The Rosso Riserva and Rosso Riserva Negroamaro have fragrant aromas of ripe fruits such as plums and cherries with a touch of spices. The sensory experience as perceived by sight, smell, and taste varies depending on the grape variety that has been used, and the way the wines are produced.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties are predominantly sweet, dense, and are higher in alcohol.

The wines from the white grapes are straw yellow in color, refreshing, and fragrant with delicate fruit notes; while the Bianco and Fiano varieties have greenish hues.

Lastly, in the spumanti made from traditional wines, yeast notes are easily detected due to the re-fermentation process.

Food & wine pairings:
In general, meat-based recipes, and complex dishes are paired with the Salice Salentino from red grapes to stand up to the robustness of the wine. Pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk also makes for a killer pairing. The Salice Salentino Rosato pairs nicely with salamis, less-intense dishes like chicken and pork, delicate cheeses, and fragrant frittatas.
The Salice Salentino Bianco goes well with swordfish and salmon, as well as a variety of seafood dishes. The bianco variety also pairs nicely with a Caprese salad using tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil from the local farms. Whenever possible, pairing food and wine from the same region is ideal, as they are grown in similar soil.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties make great dessert wines and would pair heavenly with the popular pasticciotto. This traditional dessert is known for its a flakiness, buttery short crust filled with an exquisitely rich vanilla pastry cream. There are also chocolate and pistachio versions of the filling. This dessert is also common for breakfast.

My food & wine pairing experience:
I had the pleasure of tasting the Rosalbore Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato DOP from Cantina Sanpancrazio, a beautiful rosé made with 100% Negroamaro grapes. The color is deep coral, (like I’ve never seen before) lightly perfumed with aromas of strawberries and gentle floral notes. The palate follows the nose, with luscious flavors of semi-ripe strawberries, and the tannins are soft. This wine is intense and well-structured with a lingering finish. The alcohol content is 13.50% by volume. The Salice Salentino Rosato represents a middle ground between the heaviness of the Rosso (red wine) and the freshness of the Bianco (white variety).

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

I paired this delightful rosé with a delicate frittata made with tomatoes, scallions, pancetta, and Pecorino Romano cheese. It was like the king meeting its queen (the rosé) in the quest for a beautiful romance. This food and wine combination went together harmoniously and felt like a never-ending fairytale on the palate.

I also tasted the Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP from Cantine De Falco which is made with 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera. The color is garnet, showing fragrant spices like vanilla and nutmeg on the nose, dark cherries, and plums on the palate, with nuances of cocoa, cigar box, and oak. There is a hint of sweetness in the wine that comes from the ripeness of the fruits. The tannins are velvety, and the finish is persistent. The alcohol content is 14% by volume.

In the region of Puglia, it is common to eat horse meat, and it would make perfect sense to pair this big wine with it. However, since we do not consume this type of meat in the United States, I prepared braciole, an Italian-style gourmet beef dish that is stuffed with garlic, parsley, and prosciutto and then rolled up. They were seared on medium-high heat, then simmered for a couple of hours in a rustic-style tomato sauce. The stuffed meat and the acidity in the tomatoes were a perfect match for this majestic and full-bodied wine. This dining experience was the epitome of a beautifully balanced meal.

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Braciole

Braciole

I hope this reportage on Salice Salentino wines has piqued your curiosity to explore this splendid Italian region and its autochthonous grapes. These wines are not only luscious but they are affordable. This combination makes for a win-win sensory experience. Now, that I have tasted these wines, it’s time to visit Puglia. I will dream about it, until it becomes a reality.

Happy sipping from my kitchen to yours,

Update: I won a  “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers Contest 2019” and will be receiving an award/trophy for writing this blogpost. The ceremony will be held at Rosexpo Festival  on June 22nd, 2019 in Puglia, Italy.  I am super excited and feel very grateful to the Consortium for choosing my blogpost to represent wines from Salice Salentino. I plan to visit this beautiful region and enjoy the wines and the local cuisine.

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award

Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Food & Wine Pairings, Thanksgiving Edition 2018

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

IMG_8053This is the third Thanksgiving season without my daddy, and I miss him every day.  Finally, I can say I am somewhat getting back into the spirit of the holidays. We don’t get to appreciate the beauty of autumn in South Florida, but at least, we have slightly cooler weather to make this time of the year more enjoyable. This is a period where families and close friends gather around a bountiful table and celebrate with food and wine. Thanksgiving is literally around the corner and it’s time to show gratitude to our loved ones. For those of you who are hosting, I am sure that your menu is in place but don’t forget to add this wine selection to your list. Today, I will help you pick some delightful wines to serve with your Thanksgiving feast. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. There are many reasonably- priced wines that will work wonders.

I want to keep this as simple as possible without getting technical with fancy wine terms. Wine pairing is subjective and everyone’s palate is different. Let’s not stress over which wine goes with what food. These are my wine suggestions to add a little pizzazz to your party and make it fun for your guests.

I recommend Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as basic wines for your cheese platters and appetizers, including seafood. Make sure the white wines are not overly chilled because this effect can take away from the flavor profile of the wines (herbaceous, lime, peaches, pears, oranges…) If you want to impress your guests, add other interesting whites such as Vermentino, Verdicchio, or a white Rioja. The list is endless and the choice is yours. Keep in mind not everyone has a palate for white wine, be sure to have some light to medium- bodied red wine such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, or a Chianti Classico.

White wines such as Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are classic choices for your Thanksgiving dinner. They both add sweetness (unless you pick a dry Riesling) and intoxicating aromas of spices, which complement the holiday theme beautifully.

Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc pair deliciously with vegetables such as asparagus and green beans.

Pinot Noir is an excellent red wine to pair with the turkey especially if you have mushrooms in your stuffing; it will bring out the characters of earthiness. There is a vast selection of Pinot Noir in the market. Check out some Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley region In Oregon. They tend to be more rustic with notes of cranberries, and they are on the earthy side. These wines are often compared to those from the Burgundy region. California and New Zealand also make great Pinot Noir. If you are on a budget, I recommend Josh Cellars Pinot Noir, Mark West, or Mark West Black Pinot Noir.

Since I am not hosting Thanksgiving, I decided to prepare a delicious turkey for my family last night. I stuffed it with a blend of wild, brown and red rice, mushrooms, sweet sausage and sage and served it with my delectable homemade gravy. I also made a green salad to complement the meal. This was all done in one day, and I didn’t have the time for the classic sweet potatoes. Sigh! The entire meal was paired with a luscious Chianti Classico Riserva that went together marvelously. The baked spices, dark fruits, and the oak in the wine intertwined perfectly with the allspice and the sage in the turkey. It was a Grand Slam with an explosion of rustic flavors.

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

When in doubt, you can always rely on bubbles. They’re festive and vary in prices, from the least expensive to the most sophisticated. Sparkling wines and Prosecco are fantastic choices and won’t break the bank. If you are having a fancy affair, Champagne and Franciacorta are always a good idea.

Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon

de Venoge Champagne

de Venoge Champagne

Dessert wines: Fortified wines are a great choice to pair with decadent desserts. Tawny Port pairs nicely with pumpkin and cherry pies, Muscat d’Asti with apple pies, Mavrodaphne with baklava, chocolate mousse cake with Brachetto d’Aqui.

This is not a wine tasting party, and it doesn’t have to be precise. Use this blogpost as a guideline to help you decide which wine to serve at Thanksgiving. The holidays are already stressful and there are far more important things to stress over. I am also featuring one of dad’s favorite wines called Quattro Mani, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It’s very inexpensive and has lovely hints of vanilla.
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Opus One

Opus One

Opus One is a sophisticated and complex wine, and would complement a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. It certainly would take a big chunk out of your wallet. In the end, it’s not about the money you spent, whether it’s little or a lot, what matters is the quality of time that you cherish with your family and friends.

I hope you will have some fun with these ideas and enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving from my family to yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Culinary Personality – Certified Level 2 WSET and Sommelier
Cookbook Author: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
To purchase my book, please click here: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

 

 

Opus One, an Iconic Wine

 

Opus One

Opus One

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

As my birthday is approaching, (October 26th) I thought, I’d crack open a seductive bottle of 2013 Opus One, a Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley. It’s made with 5 varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. This opulent red wine is made in the exact same fashion as a Bordeaux First Growth. The color is an intense crimson red with slow-moving legs and a 14.5% ABV.  All you have to do is, take a good whiff of it to realize that this wine is in a class of its own. The nose boasts intense aromas of cedar, chocolate, dark plums, and intoxicating spices. It has a luscious mouthfeel with hints of dark cocoa, tobacco, leather, and black pepper. The wine is dense with layers of complexity. The tannins are velvety and the finish is extremely persistent. This is a special occasion wine and I paired it with a mouth-watering rack of lamb and a delectable eggplant dish called ratatouille. The earthiness of the veggies weaved magically with this iconic wine.  A wine of such magnitude is made to age in the cellar in order to enjoy the optimal flavor profiles. However, since I have no patience, and life is passing by so quickly, I decided it was time to open it up and enjoy “Gina’s Dolce Vita” to the fullest.

The wine is perfectly balanced, and all the other elements come together harmoniously. I enjoyed sharing it with my loved ones, and it was a memorable evening. I used a decanter called vSpin to aerate it, and it opened it beautifully.

“Opus One is the realized dream of two men: Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. Together, our founders set out to create a single wine dedicated to the pursuit of uncompromising quality. This singular mission shapes every vintage, today and for generations to come.” ~ Opus One Winery

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” ~ Robert Mondavi

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

I hope you have enjoyed my delightful food and wine experience. I have recently published a cookbook that contains a treasury of recipes and some wine pairing suggestions. If you would like to obtain an autographed copy, please click on this link:  https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

CCC-Cookbook-Cover-FrontJpeg

Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust) Level-2
Level-2 Sommelier
Culinary Personality and cookbook author of: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover, LLC

Disclaimer:

Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this blog post and my cookbook is implied or claimed.

Fattoria di MonteMaggio, A Magical Boutique Winery in Tuscany

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

My husband and I recently took a spectacular trip to Italy and visited some amazing regions, rich in cultures and traditions.  One of our destinations was Tuscany and we were living our dream of “La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life). We were blown away by the beauty of the rolling hills and the lush cypress trees. Finally, all the landscape pictures we had seen were coming to life and the views were similar to that of a postcard. On the first day, we got to visit this beautiful winery called: Fattoria di Montemaggio, located in Radda in Chianti in the heart of Chianti Classico region.

It’s truly magical with a stupendous view of the valley, and well-manicured grounds. There were full-blown roses and fresh artichokes growing in the immaculate garden. Ilaria, the estate manager greeted us with a beautiful smile and gave us a tour of the vineyards. It was clear how passionate she was about her job and demonstrated a great knowledge in the viticulture and viniculture process of wine making. She gave us a little lesson about the stubborn Sangiovese grape, as I explained in an earlier post:  The temperamental Sangiovese grape variety . I pointed out to her that the ground seemed very dry and she replied: “we need to make them suffer”. Of course, she was referring to this particular grape variety.  After a tour of the vineyards and some photo snapping, it was Denis, the cellar manager, who guided the wine tasting.  We enjoyed a lovely selection of wines in the company of Riccardo, our amazing tour guide and the multi-talented Katarina Andersson. She is a translator, an educator and a wine writer at: Grapevine Adventures. The wines were luscious and of high quality which were no surprise to us, after seeing the labor of love that went into producing them. Fortunately, because of the terroir and the micro-climate, Fattoria di Montemaggio is able to grow many grape varieties such as: Sangiovese, with small additions of Merlot, Pugnitello, Chardonnay, Malvasia Nera, and Ciliegiolo.

A few months ago, I was able to get their Chianti Classico in my area and paired it with Pork Chops in Tomato sauce. It worked delightfully.  I brought back a couple of bottles from this recent trip and cannot wait to crack them open. If you intend to visit Tuscany, I highly recommend that you put Fattoria di Montemaggio on your itinerary. You will be very happy with this gem of a place.

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

The rose garden at Fattoria di MontemaggioThe view at Fattoria di MontemaggioIMG_8849The views at Fattoria di Montemaggio

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post on this beautiful winery and the enchanting photographs that I captured during my visit. My wish for you is to have the opportunity to visit this lovely place and bask under the Tuscan Sun.

Happy Travels!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Level-2 -World renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Culinary Personality, Cookbook Author and Lover of Global Cuisines

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
and by Katarina Andersson – Wine Writer

Fattoria di Montemaggio

Fattoria di Montemaggio

 

 

Gina’s Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

 

 


There are many explanations that describe the origin of this dish. Puttanesca (literally means whore’s style spaghetti) is believed to have originated in the Campania region of Italy. In 2007, when we visited the ruins of Pompeii in Naples, our tour guide Marco from Perillo Tours explained to us the story behind the name of this dish. According to him, the ladies of the evening made it to lure the men into their house by attracting them with the aroma of the sauce.  Other sources claim the ladies made it  because it was easy and quick as they were always busy and had little time for cooking.  Whatever the story, Puttanesca is a delicious and lively sauce that you can whip in no time. It’s best served over spaghetti. It is tasty but on the salty side.

 

Get the recipe in my cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

 

Warning: This dish has a high sodium content
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

Happy Cooking from my Kitchen to yours,
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur
Culinary and Global Cuisines Aficionado

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Healthier version of Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant, also called aubergine, or melanzane (in Italian) is so versatile, and by far one of my favorite veggies. I love to make it different ways, and enjoy experimenting with them. This time, I decided to make an eggless and breadcrumb-free eggplant parm, an Italian dish believed to have originated in the Southern part of Italy. The result of this dish is  surprisingly delightful. First and foremost,  make sure you pick very fresh eggplants, preferably on the day you are cooking them.  I realize that it’s  not always possible in today’s busy lives. If that’s the case, get it a day or two before cooking it. You do not want an eggplant that’s been sitting in your veggie bin for 2 weeks. I assure you, that will make a world of difference.  You want to look for an eggplant that is smooth, without any bruises, and firm to the touch. Parmigiana is a style/method of cooking, using  tomato sauce and  mozzarella cheese.

Eggplants

Eggplants

Broiled Eggplants

Broiled Eggplants

       Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplant cut lengthwise
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lots of olive oil ( make sure you have a full bottle on hand)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 basil leaves
  • 1 container chopped tomatoes 26.46 oz.  Pomi brand
  •  1/2 jar of Mid’s sauce or (about 16 oz of your favorite meatless tomato sauce)
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  •  Parmigiano Reggiano, Parmesan cheese to taste

    Preparation:
    1) Season the eggplant with salt and pepper, let them sit for 10 minutes. Place on a metal tray, drizzle them with olive oil and broil for about 7-8 minutes on each side.  Do this in 2 batches. Set aside.
    2) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
    3) In the meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, on medium-heat, heat 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Sautee the garlic for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, basil.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Turn the burner off and set aside. Cover to keep it warm.
    4) Time to start mounting the eggplant as if you are making a lasagna. Smear some sauce on the bottom of a large glass casserole (Pyrex) pan, line up the eggplant (as shown on my photo) top with sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan. Repeat once more and finish with mozzarella. Cover with foil.
    5) Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Uncover, and broil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Use a spatula. Hope you will try this delicious version of Eggplant Parmigiana. It has no breadcrumbs and no  eggs. However, it will soak up some olive oil (which is healthy, but beware of calories)

    Please check out my traditional eggplant recipe:  Chicken & Eggplant Parm recipe (chicken is optional) Notice, I use different sauce, that’s because I like to change things up. ———>  https://foodiewinelover.com/2015/08/17/chicken-eggplant-parmigiana/

    Cook’s note: Never place glass dish on the bottom of the oven rack. Use the second from the bottom.

    Wine pairing suggestions: Chianti, Chianti Classico or any medium-bodied red wine will work.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

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