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.
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.
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renown – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
and by Katarina Andersson – Wine Writer
We don’t get to appreciate the beauty of autumn in South Florida, but at least, we have slightly cooler weather to make the holidays more enjoyable. Sadly for me, this is a somber time as it’s the first holiday season without my dad around. I will pretend to be in the mood and try to get in the spirit. This is a time 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 pizzaz 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 Albarino. 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 wine such as Gamay or Pinot Noir.
White wines such as Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are lovely choices for your Thanksgiving dinner. They both add sweetness and aroma of spices, which complement the holiday theme beautifully.
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 on the earthy side. They’re often compared to the wines of Burgundy. However, if you are on a budget, I recommend Josh Cellars Pinot Noir, Mark West, or Mark West Black Pinot Noir.
When in doubt, you can always rely on bubblies. 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 is always a good idea.
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’Abbruzo. It’s very inexpensive and has lovely hints of vanilla.
I hope you will have some fun with these ideas and enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with your loved ones.
Happy Thanksgiving From My Family To Yours,
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
All the featured wines have been tasted, and the photos were exclusively taken by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover.
Hello everyone! This is probably my longest blog post to date, because it is my favorite, and most passionate subject, Food & Wine. This explains my blog name, Foodiewinelover. I have put together a compilation of my dining and wining experience on Heavenly Cheeses, Food & Wine Pairings. Please do not forget to read the descriptions on all my photos. Cheeses are among my favorite food groups, and when I’m entertaining, I love pairing them with delicious wines. There is an abundance of cheeses, and wines from all corners of the world, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough time to mention all of them. Ideally, I love pairing cheese with the wine from the same region, or country, especially when I’m having a themed party. However, there are no set rules about it, and, you can mix and match food and wines from different countries, as you please. There are hard, soft, and semi-soft cheeses. One of my favorite cheeses is Parmigiano-Reggiano, an Italian Parmesan cheese, aged 36 months, that I brought back with me from Italy. To me it’s considered the king of Italian cheeses, and has a lovely nuttiness to it. According to Giada de Laurentiis, a famous Italian Chef, it’s best if you pick it with a knife, to get into all the nook and crannies, for optimal flavors. In general, white wine is ideal to pair with cheeses because of their higher acidity content, and boost up the layers of flavors of cheeses. However, If you are not a big fan of whites, don’t fret, red wines also make a nice pairing. Ultimately, you decide what works well with your palate. I am also sharing with you some delectable food that goes with some interesting wines. Here are a few suggestions to impress your friends at your next gathering.
If you are a salmon lover, pick a lush Pinot Noir from Oregon, or one from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma county, California. They both would make great choices. For any white fish, select a crisp white wine, if you want to get fancy, try a delightful Sancerre, (Sauvignon Blanc) from the Loire Valley. If you are on a budget, stick to a nice chilled chardonnay. Spicy food pair well with an off-dry Riesling, Viognier or Gewurztraminer. Pungent cheeses such as Gorgonzola, or Blue Cheese stand up to dessert wines, port or cognac. Sauternes, a French dessert wine, with notes of apricots, is a nice complement to Roquefort cheese and Foie Gras. Let’s not forget about Ricotta cheese which is used in savory dishes such as stuffed shells. They make a great pairing with a nice Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, or any medium-bodied Italian reds. Ricotta cheese is also used as a scrumptious filling in cannolis, and goes well with a Moscato d’Asti, a lovely dessert wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. If you are looking for a match made in heaven, my friend, fellow-sommelier, Certified Italian Wine Specialist, Angela, from Constant Wining suggests pairing a cantuccini, an Italian biscotti, with Vin Santo. We had it at one of our Italian-themed wine party, and it was a major hit, and a fantastic way to end a superb evening with fun friends. Mascarpone, is an italian sweet cheese, and one of the main ingredients in the delectable dessert Tiramisu. It can be paired with either the Vin Santo, or the Moscato d’Asti.
I am posting links to some of the cheeses that I feature in this blogpost, so you can learn more about their process, origin, and history.
I attended wine classes at the United States Sommelier Association and hold a second level Sommelier certificate, but I don’t consider myself a sommelier. I don’t use that word to describe me, and prefer to save it for someone who is in the wine industry. It’s a French word, and it means a wine steward who’s trained and knowledgable in wines. I am not into fancy wine descriptions, but I can tell you one thing, after drinking and sipping hundreds of wines, I know if a wine is compatible with my palate or not. By now, my taste buds know exactly what I like. I prefer Old World wines, full-bodied, earthy with deep ruby colors, aromatic spices, cloves, black peppers, nutmeg, hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, leather, barnyard, licorice with lingering finish. I usually go for a complex wine, with layers of flavors for special occasions. At times, I also enjoy medium-bodied wines, and New World wines with floral notes. There are so many grape varietals, (varieties) from so many regions of the world, but, today, I will focus on the Sangiovese grape. It is a very difficult grape to grow because it needs warm weather, and for that reason, vintages can vary from one season to the next. It is considered one of the most widely planted red grape in all of Italy. The Sangiovese grape does particularly well in the terroir of beautiful Tuscany. However, it is a temperamental grape, that requires a lot of attention. It is not easy to keep it balanced, because of its high acidity content. It is harvested late, because the ripening process is slow. Tannins can also be rough. Sangiovese is also blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other grapes to make one of my favorite blends called “Super Tuscan”.
My tasting notes on Tenuta di Renieri: It is a blend made with mostly Sangiovese, and is from the enchanting region of Chianti. It has the Chianti Classico label, which is a highly rated, small wine-region with a DOCG designation, (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita is the highest designation in Italian wines. The wines must be evaluated by a tasting committee before they can be bottled, to assure the highest quality standards.) This wine shows unique characteristics, and bottles from that region have the seal of a black rooster to distinguish them. It’s a beautifully balanced wine with alluring nose of nutmeg spice, bursting with flavors of lush cherries, with a long finish that keeps you begging for more. Drink this vintage now through 2016.
Marchese Antinori, Chianti Classico, Riserva 2006. It’s an excellent wine, very complex with an everlasting finish.
“92 points Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate): …positively sparkles on the palate. Dark wild cherries, minerals, graphite, violets and spices are just some of the nuances that flow effortlessly… The French oak contributes an additional measure of volume and ampleness I doubt the wine truly needs given the superlative quality of the fruit in 2006. A rich fabric of minerals reappears to frame the intense, deeply satisfying finish… The 2006 is one of the finest vintages I can remember tasting. (Oct 2010)”
I hope you will pull yourself together, and pour yourself a Sangiovese! I would love to hear your experience with this wine variety. If you are not too familiar with Italian wines, just visit a large chain store, and get the help of a wine clerk. Many of them are highly trained and very knowledgeable. What I like the most about buying wine in large chain stores, if you are NOT happy with a wine, you can return it, and they will gladly refund your money, or give you a store credit. Don’t get me wrong, I also love to support the small boutique shops, as they carry some very unique wines. Just get out there, and start exploring the world of wines. There are so many of them, and so little time!
I hope you enjoyed this blogpost! Happy Sipping!
6/22/2017 Update – I recently attended the world renown school: WSET: Wine, Spirit Education Trust and received a Level 2 certificate. I passed with merit.
Hello everyone, I’m super excited to announce to you my radio segment this afternoon. The show will be broadcast on wsRadio Network. Please go to wsRadio.com and click on Studio-A (listen live) for the VinVillageRadio show at 5PM ET today.
Also, here are links to mobile apps for listening:
When it comes to wine, we all have our sense of taste, based on our palate. Wine tasting is subjective, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Often time, I do rely on descriptions when I am purchasing wine. (Does that make me a sucker for these lovely wine descriptions?) I must admit, I love the sound of: hints of chocolate, vanilla, black pepper, smoky, tobacco, leather, and so on. I simply cannot resist the temptation. Having said that, I am not always satisfied, or agree with the descriptions on some wine labels. Wine descriptions at the POP (point of purchase) are called “shelf-talkers”. They are used by companies as a great marketing tool, to lure people into buying their product. Ultimately, you, and your palate will decide what taste good. Once, I taste a wine, I know whether I will be buying it again, or not. If I like a wine, I usually take a picture of it, and share it on my social media outlets, to have on records. I also love to explore new wines, and I am constantly searching for that heavenly taste, and wonderful aromas. Recently, I stumbled upon this lovely website Wine Folly and found this amazing list of 40 wine descriptions, and their meaning. I hope you will enjoy it like I did. I would love to hear your own description, and/or give us your opinion under the comment section.
Wines with high acidity are tart and zesty. Red wines generally have a lighter color and more tart characteristics (versus “round”). White wines are often described with characteristics similar to lemon or lime juice.
An angular wine is like putting a triangle in your mouth – it hits you in specific places with high impact and not elsewhere. It’s like getting punched in the arm in the same place over and over again. An angular wine also has high acidity.
This is a very unfriendly wine. It hits your mouth and then turns it inside out. It usually means the wine has very high acidity and very little fruit flavors. An austere wine is not fruit-forward nor opulent.
This means the wine smells like poo. It’s never used anymore describing a wine, unless the wine writer is attempting to dig that wine an early grave.
Big describes a wine with massive flavor in your mouth that takes up all sections of your mouth and tongue. A big wine is not necessarily a fruit-forward wine, it can also mean that it has big tannins.
Bright wines are higher in acidity and make your mouth water. GO TO ACIDITY
A wine with buttery characteristics has been aged in oak and generally is rich and flat (less Acidity). A buttery wine often has a cream-like texture that hits the middle of your tongue almost like oil (or butter) and has a smooth finish.
The least fruit-like of all dark fruits. When writers mention cassis, they are often thinking of the seedy and gritty character of actual black currants. Homework assignment: try a black currant and report back.
A wine that is described as tasting like charcoal tastes gritty, it’s usually dry (with higher tannins) and has this rustic flavor. Charcoal is often associated with a similar characteristic: pencil lead (but less refined).
When you take a sip of wine with chewy tannins, it dries out the interior of your mouth so that you “chew” or clean the tannins out of the insides of your mouth.
Cigar box flavors are hinting toward sweetness and cedar-wood with an abundance of smoke. This is a super positive and desirable characteristic that wine writers love to use when they find a wine they wish they could just slowly sip on a leather chair.
A complex wine simply means that when you taste it, the flavor changes from the moment you taste it to the moment you swallow. As much as I love complex wines, using the word “complex” to describe a wine is a cop-out unless you go on to describe how it’s complex.
Creamy is a popular description for white wines and sparkling wines fermented or aged in oak. In Champagne, creamy is a favored characteristic that is associated with the famous bottles of bubbly…such as Krug. A creamy wine could be in part because of something called Malo-Lactic conversion. Look for creamy in chardonnay if you like buttery. Look for creamy in cabernet sauvignon if you like smooth.
The word Crisp with wine is more often used to describe a white wine. A crisp wine is most likely simple but goes really well with a porch swing on a hot day.
When a wine writer pairs down his lengthy description of flavors and characteristics of a wine into one word, he uses dense. Dense is favored for use in bold red wines such as cabernet sauvignon, Côtes du Rhône and Brunello di Montalcino but usually isn’t a positive characteristic in other wines because it implies that wine is handicapped.
A classic go-to move for a wine writer trying to describe that awkward green and unpleasant finish on a wine. They don’t want to hate on the wine, they just want you to know that if you don’t like the wine it means you don’t like earthy and you’re a bad person.
When a wine writer says elegant he means that the wine is NOT big, NOT fruity, NOT opulent and NOT bold. Off-vintages are often referred to as elegant vintages as they have higher acid and tend to have more ‘green’ characteristics. Elegant wines may taste like crap when they first release but they also tend to age better. Elegant is that retired ballerina who puts the fat-n-sassy retired cheerleaders to shame.
Wide, Big, Massive, Opulent: These are all similar synonyms of fat. Turns out fat is the least desirable of all of them because it’s flabby. A fat wine comes in and takes up all the room in your mouth and hangs in awkward places.
Flabby means the wine has no acidity. It’s a negative connotation so don’t say it to a wine maker! They will spear you with their forklift.
A flamboyant wine is trying to get your attention with an abundance of fruit. The writer picks up on this and calls it out. No joke.
Imagine the iron-laden sensation of having a piece of raw steak in your mouth that is fleshy.
This wine falls on its face unless you have it with food. It’s lacking something that eating something will fulfill. Keep in mind, wines that stand on their own are better drunk without food. doh!
GRIP or GRIPPY TANNINS
With each subsequent sip, your mouth dries up similar to how my mouth did in the Minerality Tastes Like Rocks? video. Wine with grip is hard to drink, better to sip.
Hint of = This-Wine-Definitely-Has-This-Character-Especially-on-the-Finish. Expect things like oak, herbs, fruits, soil or gym socks in the flavor when there is a hint of it in the description.
This is a rare but special occurring term used by one of the most famous wine critics, Robert Parker. Robert Parker is sure that if you are not satisfied by this wine on a hedonistic and intellectual level then you don’t deserve to drink it. This is probably true, because these words are reserved for the wines we can’t afford anyway…sadface.
Sommeliers and wine experts cringe when they hear this term while the rest of us delight. Jam is delicious and it is part of the PB&J experience. In wine, jammy indicates a wine with a cooked berry sweetness that is syrupy and often is used to describe American wines like zinfandel, grenache, cabernet franc and Australian shiraz…don’t be a hater.
Juicy like the wine was grape juice just a moment ago.
Another one of Robert Parker’s idioms that I can help mentioning. pew! pew! GO TO DENSE
Lees are an actual winemaking term describing the dead bits of yeast particles that generally sink to the bottom of a wine. Lees are stirred up once a day to make a wine have a thicker, more oily, creamy texture.
Imagine that smell of fresh wet concrete; now imagine that flavor in your mouth. If you don’t have time to lick concrete, don’t worry we did.
Oh oak! The ultimate non-grape influence to the flavors in wine. In white wine it adds butter, vanilla and sometimes coconut. In red wine it adds flavors often referred to as baking spices, vanilla and sometimes dill. There are a milieu of different countries that make oak wine barrels and wine geeks freak out over who makes the best (American v. France). We don’t vote.
This word is a baseline word to a style of wine that is rich, smooth and bold. If you are a rich, smooth, bold wine guy, “Opulent” is your word.
Refined is a subset of elegant wines. This term is often used while describing tannins in a wine. These wines have the “less is more” ideology about them. GO TO ELEGANT
Silky is the red-wine equivalent word to creamy with white wines. If you like silky for bed sheets than you will most likely enjoy silky on your tongue. GO TO CREAMY, VELVETY
A steely wine has higher acid and more sharp edges. It is the man-ballerina of wine.
A structured wine has high tannin and acid and is hard to drink. People say “structured” because they think that if you give the wine a few years, it’ll soften up and be yummy. GO TO AUSTERE.
This wine is not ready to drink. When I taste a tight wine it usually has very high tannins, hard-to-identify fruit characteristics and is hard-to-drink. This wine could benefit from being decanted (see How to Decant Wine).
Toasty is most commonly a reference to a wine that’s oak-aged in Medium Plus Toasted Oak. It doesn’t actually taste like toast (sorry to disappoint) it’s more like slightly burnt caramel on the finish.
UNCTUOUS When a wine is unctuous it is oily.
A wine that is unoaked doesn’t have vanilla, cream, butter or baking spices in it. An unoaked white wine is more zesty with lemony flavors (see Minerally), while an unoaked red wine tends to be more tart.
Lush, smooth and silky are all synonyms of a velvety wine. To imagine velvety, visualize watching perfectly smooth chocolate pouring into a mold on a Dove chocolate commercial.
Full credit is given to Wine Folly for this fantastic list of wine descriptions.
Let’s not forget the sense of smell which is also very important. While we can taste 4-5 distinct flavors, the nose can pick thousands of smells.
Use some of these descriptions at your next wine gathering, and pretend to be a wine connoisseur. Have fun!
Believe it or not, I was never into wine-drinking, until I saw the movie, Sideways. That’s when I decided to do some exploring, by ordering wine with dinner and pairing it with the food. This process took a while, but, little by little, I would acquaint myself with the various grape varieties. It didn’t take long for my palate to fall in love with this magical juice and enjoy every aspect of wine tasting. Of course, I was still in the learning stages because, I had no knowledge of the wine making process and how it went from the vineyard into the wine glasses.
Four years later, In August 2008, my hubby and I took a Mediterrenean cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We met the most wonderful people, some of them, I have kept in touch with, and became very good friends. Tonia, in particular caught my attention, because I was fascinated the way she was pairing all her meals with a wine. At that time, I was still considered a novice, and was “thirsty” to learn more about the art of wine tasting. I realize, she was pairing a different wine with each course, including the dessert. I was eager at that point, to discover more about this interesting experience.
In January 2009, I did some research on wine schools, and found out about classes held by the United States Sommelier Association, at the Cordon Bleu in my town. It didn’t take me long to sign up. There, I met the most amazing and kind-hearted people, and instantly made a connection with some of them. We had tons of fun in class and studied together for the test. Oh, how I dread that word, because it flares up my anxiety. I remember not sleeping the night before because I was too nervous, but with all the studying and the support of my classmates, I passed the blind tasting and the written test. It was a big deal for me and for all of us, after spending hours studying and sipping wine together. After earning the certificate, we would have wine gatherings at different houses and do some wine and food pairings. There was always a theme, and we had to pick a wine from a particular country/region and a dish to pair it with. Since then, we have attended some additional classes together and continue to gain knowledge in wine tasting.
It’s been 10 years since I have been sipping and savoring wine, red in particular, and I still have a long way to go. There are just too many regions and too much wine to explore. I also learned how the terroir has a major effect on the wine. The root of the word is terre, which means land/soil in French. Today, I will share with you the art of wine tasting.
You will be using your sense of sight for the appearance, smell for the nose, and taste. First, place a white paper or cloth on a table, pour about an ounce of wine in a clear glass, tilt a little and look at it. Make sure it’s sound. Next, you need to swirl it to bring out all the fragrance, then smell it, sniff it so you can get a whiff of the aromas. Please keep in mind, wine tasting is subjective and there is no right or wrong in my opinion. I may smell black pepper while someone else detects licorice.
Lastly, the best part, it’s time to taste. Take a sip and swirl it around your mouth, keep there, you will be doing an inhaling motion with mouth slightly open, repeat at least one more time, then swallow. At this point, you will determine all the flavor profiles in the wine, this can take some time for the more complex wines, as they are layered with various flavors. By tasting the wine, you will find out the acid level, the sugar content, the tannins, the length, the alcohol level. When all these are in harmony, it is said to be a well-balanced wine.
As you swirl the wine, you will notice the dripping on the inside of the glass, commonly referred to, as legs or tears. The slower the legs, the higher the alcohol content. You will also learn about the length of the wine. That is determined by how long after you swallowed the wine, the flavors remain in your mouth. The more lingering the length, the better the quality of the wine. A cheap wine is known to have a short finish, meaning, as soon as you swallow it, the taste dissapears from your mouth. I hope you have learned a thing or two about wine tasting today and enjoyed reading my blog.
There are a lot more pictures but I could not possibly share all of them in one blog. Cheers! Happy Sipping and wine tasting!
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....