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La Dolce Italia

winepour.gif (12696 bytes)MOSCATO d'ASTI

It seems like every visitor to Italy's Piemonte area falls in love with the fresh, fragrant, mildly fizzy, low alcohol wines which bear the denominazione of "Moscato d'Asti."  For years, our government did not recognize these 5.5% alcohol beverages as "wine", as the legal definition required a 7% alcohol minimum. 

Muscat grapes are cultivated from the Asti area south into the Barbaresco zone.   Winemakers crush and press the juice, holding it in its unfermented state under refrigeration.  As orders come in, they will ferment, partially, this juice to the 5.5% alcohol level, leaving the wine with a fair bit of sweetness.  This insures the freshness of the wine throughout the year. 

For some reason, it seems the best Muscat makes its way into these lightly fizzy wines.   The more bubbly "Asti Spumante" are rarely as fine. 

Currently in stock:

SARACCO $ 14.99 saracco.gif (17357 bytes)Paolo Saracco is one everyone's short list of TOP Moscato d'Asti producers.  His wine is delicious and arrives here, most importantly, in good condition.  Fresh.  Lively.  Fizzy and youthful.  We have the 2016.  Wonderful wine!!

 

 

 

MASSOLINO  $21.99
Most Moscato d'Asti comes from vineyards fairly close to the town of Asti.  Massolino's, we like to tell people, is a "Moscato di Barolo."  
That's because the fruit comes from the Barolo area of Serralunga.  When they drew up the delimited area for Moscato d'Asti, they included Serralunga since the Fontanafredda winery made so much Moscato.  
The Massolino family, whose winery is in beautiful downtown Serralunga (such as it is), makes a delightful Moscato...very fresh and fruity with some interesting herbal notes.  
If you have not tasted this one, come grab a bottle...it's very charming, not relying solely on sugar for its character.





CASCINETTA VIETTI $15.99 This brand is made by a fellow name Soria and marketed here by Vietti.  It is always quite good.   On a recent visit, I was buying some wines to drag back to Germany for Norbert & Gaby.  I called to ask if they wanted the new "half bottles" which were available.  Gaby's reply was something like, "No!  FULL-BOTTLES!   Norbert & I can easily polish off a whole bottle.  Half bottles are for wusses."
We have this wine only in 750ml bottles.






G.D. VAJRA $20.99
  It's relatively recently that this producer of elegant and very refined Barolo (and Riesling, Pinot Noir and Freisa) has been making Moscato d'Asti.  And they do a fabulous job!  Very fine, intensely "Muscat" and thoroughly delicious.  





CASCINA CASTLE'T MOSCATO D'ASTI $12.99 (750ml)
This curiously labeled bottle depicts an insect atop the rim of a wine glass or cup, drinking the wine through a straw.  
I can recall a harvest season at a Piemontese winery...the little boy arrived home, ran into the kitchen and had a serious "glug, glug" right out of the bottle of their Moscato!  Who needs a straw?  Anyway, Maria Borio makes this lovely little fizzy and it's sweet and delicious.  Tropical fruit notes along with the classic Muscat fragrances and flavors...yum.

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LA MONTECCHIA

La Montecchia is a producer in the Veneto whose owners can trace their history back hundreds of years.  Maybe even a thousand!

The property is located near Padova and you'd only be 40 kilometers from Venice here...an hour by car and you're in Verona!  

There's a rather fancy villa on the property and tourists can rent one of the three small agriturismo rental units.  If you're a golfer or swimmer, those options are open to visitors as well.

But we are more concerned with wine and happily this estate produces a really splendid Moscato.  
It's made from the Orange Muscat grape and carries the name "Fior d'Arancio."

What a dangerously delicious wine!  Here's a remarkably aromatic and fruity bubbly.  Sweet, but not heavy or syrupy.  

Currently in stock: LA MONTECCHIA "Fior d'Arancio" $16.99

 

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VIN SANTO

wpeA.jpg (8006 bytes)Most Vin Santo comes from Tuscany, though we do have one from a famous winery in neighboring Umbria.  Typically the wine is made from Trebbiano and Malvasia, though, apparently, other grapes are permitted. 


The fruit is laid out on straw mats (or hung in the house or attic of the winery) where it dries and shrivels.  Once in its raisined state, the juice is then pressed and fermented.  Aging takes place in small barrels which are stoppered with a cement covering over the bung.  The wine is then matured for 3-5 years, sometimes longer.  

 


This little cask of Vin Santo was thoroughly sealed with a bung coated in wax...and this producer will not bottle this wine until 2013 or 2015!!!


A taste of a homemade Vin Santo at a Tuscan trattoria was outstanding.  The wine was, obviously, not very old so it had retained a wonderful grapey, fresh fruit quality. 
The more traditional Vin Santo has a "nutty" character, not unlike a Sherry.   They also tend to be between 14-16% alcohol.

Some of the really top Vin Santo wines are quite pricey.  They can be extraordinary!   However, most customers are merely looking for a wine in which to dip biscotti (also known as croccanti, spacccadenti, ricciarelli and cantucci).  

Currently in the Shop:

Isole e Olena (375ml) (list $60) SALE $51.99
Outstanding!  Very fine. Very serious Vin Santo, traditionally made.



MONTELLORI 1998  Sold Out Presently
From a dear old friend who's making some fine wines in Fucecchio, not far from Lucca, we have a well-aged, beautifully balanced, sweet, nutty Vin Santo.  Highly recommended!








FELSINA SALE $39.99 (375ml)
Quite good, nutty, well-aged...long finish.






Avignonesi Vin Santo di Montepulciano ("Normale") Sold Out (375ml) 
Avignonesi Vin Santo "Occhio di Pernice"  $219.99 (375ml)  

This winery makes probably the finest, most sweet Vin Santo.  Made from Grechetto, Malvasia Toscana and Trebbiano Toscano, the wine is matured in tiny barrels of 13 gallon capacity for 10 years.  It is incredibly rich and sweet.  I have tasted this periodically and recall that each time it was so sweet, it made by teeth hurt!  It's the Château d'Yquem of Vin Santo wines.  Quite rare, too.

Even more rare is their special bottling called "Occhio di Pernice."  This is made not of white grapes, but of the Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese in English)...even more intense and deep...mind boggling...nectar.
 


A small barrel of the 2001 Occhio di Pernice...aging patiently in the cellar of Avignonesi.

 

PIAZZANO VIN SANTO  SALE $29.99 (375ml)

Piazzano's Vin Santo comes from a little estate not too far from Pisa...

We had mostly been interested in their Chianti wines, but it seems they have a delightful recipe for Vin Santo, too.

Trebbiano, Malvasia and Sancolombano comprise the blend...nicely nutty and moderately sweet.

 

 

BADIA A COLTIBUONO VIN SANTO  SALE $39.99 (375ml)

This large estate has dozens of vineyard sites (something like 180 parcels!) and more than three dozen olive groves.  

Their Chianti wines gained a certain measure of prominence in the 1970s and 1980s.  These days they're certainly viewed as a 'reliable' producer of Tuscan wines.

Vin Santo is made of a 50/50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia and it's matured for about 4 years in wood.  The resulting wine is sweet and soft, showing some candied orange notes and a bit of a nutty, oxidized sort of quality.

 

 

 

 
 
LUCIGNANO VIN SANTO  Sale $29.99  (375ml)

This wine is mostly Trebbiano with about 20% Malvasia...the juice goes into barrel and is fermented and aged for about 8 years.

Nicely nutty and moderately sweet.
 

 

 

 


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OTHER ITALIAN DESSERT WINES


Antinori "Muffato della Sala"  $59.99 (500ml) Originally this was a dessert wine made from a blend similar to that of Umbria's Orvieto.  Over the years they've refined the blend and today it is an excellent (and a relatively secret) blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grechetto, Traminer and Riesling.  At least some of the grapes are affected with botrytis, as this is wonderfully honeyed and rich.  It is even matured in French oak for several months!  

 
 




 
Banfi Brachetto d'Acqui  $19.99 (750ml)  We view this as an after dinner beverage, but I know some Piemontese who enjoy this sort of fizzy, slightly sweet red as a mid-afternoon wine.  They also pair it with some home-cured prosciutto and homemade salame. 
I'd consider this with raspberry truffles or some sort of chocolate and raspberry dessert of grand decadence.  
 


Angelo, His Sister and Mrs. Angelo.

 

CA' ROSSA "BIRBET"  $21.99 (750ml)
Just a short drive from beautiful downtown Canale is the winery of Angelo Ferrio, one of the most charismatic characters in Piemonte!

He's a giant of a winemaker, though he's a short fellow with a deep voice, perfect for radio and yet he laughs like a little kid (hee hee hee!).

They make some "serious" red wines at Cascina Ca' Rossa (the 'house' is sort of red...more pink as you can see in the photo above), but there's also a delightfully frivolous Brachetto which is vinified to around 5% alcohol, leaving a nicely sweet, fizzy red wine.  It's thoroughly delicious and tastes like summer.
There's a nice touch of rose petals and raspberries to the flavor of this delightful wine.

 

 



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CASCINA GILLI
Italy has an amazing array of sweet wines and virtually every region offers something particular to that locality.

Above, of course, we've posted notes on Vin Santo wines from Tuscany and Moscato d'Asti bottlings from Piemonte.

There's a town near Asti that is well-regarded for a particular sweet wine and the leading practitioner of the "art" of fizzy Malvasia is Cascina Gilli in the environs of Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
 
 
 
 


The wine is much appreciated by "those who know," and it's been five years since we've been able to offer this amazing wine.

The previous importer was distracted by hugely expensive Barolo's and ignored this little treasure.  We've stayed in touch with the folks at Cascina Gilli and, finally, have access to their Malvasia.


 
 
The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in reinforced stainless steel tanks and bottled with the carbon dioxide, so the wine is mildly bubbly.  The color this vintage is fairly deep and the aromas are wild:  sweet strawberries, ripe raspberries and hints of floral notes in the background.  
It's not high in alcohol, so this is dangerously drinkable, especially with fruit desserts.

It's, essentially, "summer in a bottle."

Chill a bottle for your next dinner festa and you'll soon hear the "oohs" and "aahs."

Currently in stock:  CASCINA GILLI "MALVASIA"  $17.99 


Vineyards at Cascina Gilli

 

 

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ALLEGRINI "RECIOTO"
wpe6C.jpg (8699 bytes)The Allegrini family, "the" leading family in Valpolicella, makes a small amount of a wonder "Recioto."   The grapes are dried for several months and the wine is aged for more than a year in oak.  Some people will tell you this is the "sweet" version of Amarone.  The producers in  the Veneto say this is incorrect.  "Amarone is the dry version of a Recioto." 
It's quite rare.  Some liken it to Port, given that the wine is very berryish and fruity, though lower in alcohol.  Chocolate, dried fruits or biscotti call for this wine.
Available in 500ml bottles: $51.99



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COLOSI
The Colosi name is highly regarded for its Malvasia delle Lipari wines.  Now in its third generation, the winery has about 7 hectares of vines on the tiny island of Salina north of places like Palermo and Messina.  
If we understand correctly, Colosi's father has been working with Carlo Hauner (see below).

We have a couple of wines from Colosi.  Piero Colosi's Malvasia delle Lipari, like Hauner's,  is blended with 5% Corinto Nero and has a floral, slightly nutty character.  It's sweet, of course, with lots of honeyed and apricot notes.    

Also available is Colosi's "Passito di Pantelleria," a wine of similar blend but made of grapes that have been dried or raisined.  The resulting wine is quite intense, with candied orange and nut-like aromas and flavors.   As only a few people know these wines, we usually have but a bottle or two in stock (but can usually order more rather quickly).

Currently in stock:  Malvasia delle Lipari $36.99 (375ml)
 Passito di Pantelleria  $36.99  (500ml)

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HAUNER

Carlo Hauner was, as a youngster, a painter (the artist kind of painter).

He had some success and this afforded him the opportunity to travel a bit and travel he did, finding the islands just north of Sicily to be a warm and welcoming region.  Hauner hailed from Italy's Brescia, about halfway between Milano and Verona.

In the 1970s he moved to Salina, one of the Aeolian islands near Lipari.  Hauner was intrigued by the local wine production and studied the workings of the vine growers in the area before taking the plunge and buying a modest amount of land. Acquiring the land was not especially difficult, since so many people from the area had abandoned their homeland, seeking their fortunes in far-off Australia or America.   With about 20 hectares of land Hauner set about planting the Malvasia grape and it's with this variety the region is most famed.

Soon Hauner became a major ambassador for the area, finding a receptive audience for his marvelous Malvasia delle Lipari.  His wine was lauded by Italy's top wine critic at the time, Luigi Veronelli.  Soon his wine was being exported to France, the US, Japan and Great Britain.

Hauner saw how the old-timers dried their grapes on straw mats, but he experimented with drying the fruit on the vine.  He figured out how to ferment the juice at low temperatures to retain more aromatics and brighter flavors, so he was regarded as quite the innovator.  

He also got into the business of caperi or capers...caper berries can be found bearing the Hauner label.

Carlo passed away in 1996, but the winery and its vineyards (scattered around Salina) are capably operated by Hauner's son, Carlo Jr.  

The Malvasia delle Lipari is a delight...aromatic and nicely sweet.  You'll find notes of dates and figs along with the floral, fruity qualities of good Malvasia.  
 
 

Currently in stock:  HAUNER Malvasia delle Lipari  $29.99 (375ml)

 
 
 
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PELLEGRINO
We have a wonderful example of Moscato made as a Passito wine from the Pellegrino winery.  Pantelleria is the home of this wine, some 80 miles south of where Marsala is made in Sicilia.  
 
 
The island of Pantelleria is a bit isolated and many vineyards used to be shielded from the sea breezes by rock walls.  

This is fairly sweet, with a mildly raisin-like note.  

Pellegrino Passito $28.99 (750ml)
 
 



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DONNAFUGATA
This is a wine made by the Rallo family, a familiar name to those who know some of the names associated with Marsala wines.

Donnafugata is a "new" project for the Rallo family, having been started in 1983.  

We like their exceptional sweet wine from the island of Pantelleria, called Ben Rye.  This is produced from the local Zibibbo grape (known elsewhere as Moscato d'Alessandria) and the vines produce a small crop--less than two tons per acre!  The grapes are usually harvest in August and left to dry until  mid to late September when the juice is vinified.  The resulting wine, which is costly to produce, offers an amazing fragrance of apricots, baked peach, caramel and toasted nuts.  Some people enjoy this with Foie Gras, but it's exceptionally fine with coffee or mocha-flavored desserts.   Very fine.  A bit rare.
 

Currently in stock:  BEN RYE Passito di Pantelleria  $39.99 (375ml)


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MARSALA
Though not always a "dessert wine," Marsala is one of Italy's most famous exports.  It comes from the provinces of Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento in Sicily.   The grape varieties found here include Catarratto, Grillo and sometimes Inzolia.   You'll find both dry and sweet versions, dry typically being used for chicken and veal dishes. 

We often receive telephone calls inquiring if Sherry can be substituted for Marsala, since virtually none of the home chefs in the region think of stocking the cupboard with Marsala.  In fact, the wines are not terribly similar, as Marsala is made from concentrated grapes.  Its minimum aging period for those designated "fine" is but four months, while those noted as "superiore" are a degree higher in alcohol and aged 2 years.  Those matured for five years can be called "vergine."  

Watch out for those labeled "speciali" as these are typically flavored with coffee or eggs.  We used to have some bottles of "VOV," a Marsala with eggs which is basically liquid "zabaglione."  

There's not much of a market for especially fine Marsala.  We have a special bottling from the house of Florio at a special price...  The distributor no longer offers this due to the lack of interest. 

But recently  we've had access to some seriously good Marsala.
 
 


 

MARCO DE BARTOLI  (The Marsala Winery)
de bartoli marsala superiore   Marco De Bartoli Vigna la Miccia Marsala Superiore Oro DOC - Sicilia   Marco De Bartoli   
Marco de Bartoli took over his mother's farm in the 1970s and although he could have made 'simple' Marsala wines, he took another direction and became a world famous winemaker.  But before committing himself to wine, he had a fling with race cars.

In fact, De Bartoli had two wine businesses, one making wine in the region famed for Marsala and a second cellar on Pantelleria where he's made a wine called Bukkuram.

De Bartoli passed away and today his sons runs the business, making some stellar wines.

Marco's story is remarkable and it's reminiscent of a movie thriller or pulp fiction novel, except it's not fiction.
He was born into a Marsala family, that of Pellegrino, one of the industrial producers in Sicily.  He worked there for five years.  Later he worked for another industrial winery that was part of his family tree, Mirabella.  Disenchanted with "factory" winemaking, he began dabbling in making his own wine using artisanal techniques which were no longer used by the commercial (and somewhat economically-successful) companies.

De Bartoli also used organic farming practices and "natural" winemaking.  Certainly family members must have thought he had inhaled too many fumes during his days on the race car circuit.
 
He grew Inzolia to make something called a "Mistella," the juice of those grapes with alcohol.  This was an old technique used to fortify Marsala and nobody does this anymore.  It's too much time-consuming work and too costly.  Producers find it easier to add cooked Mistella to their Marsala, feeling this is a cost-effective way to make something which doesn't require lengthy aging.
 

In the early 1990s, as if he didn't have enough work already, De Bartoli took over running the Istituto Regionale delle Vite e del Vino.  He tried to convince growers and wineries that they had to do a better job.  De Bartoli lobbied for quality and preached to a disinterested congregation the benefits of "connoisseur" caliber wines.  They didn't want to hear this sort of sermonizing and, as a result, De Bartoli was vilified by some people.

Less than two years into his stint as the Capo dei Tutti Capi of the wine bureau, the Sicilian constabulary descended upon his little winemaking establishment.  The Carabinieri demanded he turn over winery documents as he was suspected of some sort of shenanigans regarding his avant-garde, yet old-school winemaking.

How could this be?  He was making classic, unfussed-with wines.  They were far more pure than the industrial plonk which flooded the Marsala market.

The issue, as it turned out, was in labeling.  De Bartoli's "Marsala" did not conform to the day's disciplinario for winemaking.  It seems Vecchio Samperi was branded as a vino da tavola, though it had the requisite alcohol level without short-cuts to be Marsala.  Since it was not "fortified" with alcohol, it was technically a vino liquoroso, but this was a designation for an inferior wine, so De Bartoli called his as simple table wine.  The problem there was that vino de tavola can't be more than 15% alcohol and Vecchio Samperi was in the neighborhood of 17%.

Oops.  

Of course, this isn't exactly "cheating."  He was making a good quality product and his legal entanglements took something like 5 vintages to resolve.  And it took until he finished his term as head of the Istituto for this to wrap up.  The court found him not guilty of any shady shenanigans and De Bartoli was able to resume making the top artisan Marsala.

These days the problem is they're making some amazingly good wines for a world that has forgotten Marsala.  
 
******************

If you look to another part of the wine world, Portugal's Douro Valley, you find more table wines being made and somewhat less emphasis on Porto.  We predict one day, maybe a hundred or two hundred years from now, an enterprising individual will read some old wine book and say "Hey, can you imagine, in the 1900s people made sweet, fortified wines from these vineyards!"

Marsala's problem has been that its wine has been relegated to a sauté pan and very few people consider it worthy of being poured into a wine glass and consumed with food.  
The industrial producers further damaged their image by blending Marsala with other flavorings...egg yolks, for one thing!   Yes, there were (and maybe still are) eggnog-like wines called "Cremovo" which is Marsala laced with egg yolks.  And coffee-flavored Marsalas, along with some fruit-flavored ones, may have been a short-term success, but the demand for those is rather minimal.

In a restaurant you might find Chicken or Veal Marsala on the menu, but it's a rare dining spot that has a Marsala on its wine list.  
*********************

Here's the recipe for how they make wines, as diagrammed on a chalkboard in the De Bartoli cellar:

One of their secrets is, as you can see in the diagram above, the Grillo grape.  That's the original grape of Marsala, though some wineries use Catarratto and Inzolia (which had been considered more of a table grape some decades ago).  Grillo tends to retain a high level of acidity, a desirable attribute.

The De Bartoli vineyards of Grillo were planted between 1970 and 1996 and though the density of these is not especially high, yields are similar to those of good estates in France's Sauternes region.

 

 


The wine they make called Vecchio Samperi is an unfortified wine, a sort of throwback to the early days of Marsala production.  You see, in the late 1700s a British wine merchant brought the notion of fortifying the wines so they'd be more stable for transport from the region of production to London.  

Vecchio Samperi is made using the Solera system as they do in Spain's Jerez where they make Sherry.  They have older wines in the tiers of barrels and once they bottle a percentage of the bottom row, they replenish the stock from the next level.  This means the young wine is racked into the top row of barrels where it begins its maturation.  This in perpetuum system, if the wine spends sufficient time in the solera barrels, yields a wine of potent octane as a result of high sugar grapes and some evaporation the the wine when it's in wood.
 
 
We have some bottles of the Vigna La Miccia, a "Marsala Superiore," a wine made entirely of the Grillo grape and matured for 4 years in French oak.  It's not a solera-type Marsala but comes under the heading of "Conciato."  It's an extraordinary wine, fairly sweet but with a fine balance so it's not syrupy or heavy.  
We like the notes of dried apricots and the mildly nutty character here...nothing like it and if you want to show guests something they've probably not tasted previously, put a bottle of this on the table with some Gorgonzola at the end of a meal...or an Apple Crisp with a rich Vanilla Ice Cream.

We expect to have some of their other wines shortly...stay tuned.
 
Currently in stock:  DE BARTOLI "VIGNA LA MICCIA" MARSALA SUPERIORE ORO  Sale $39.99 (500ml bottle)

 

 

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VITO CURATOLO ARINI
They claim to be the oldest family-operated winery making Marsala and their story goes back to 1875 when young Vito Curatolo decided to build a winery and start producing Marsala. 
He added his mother's maiden name, Arini, to his to further distinguish himself from other producers.

They make a single vintage Marsala which attracted our attention.  It's a 1988 vintage and is a blend of Grillo and Cataratto grapes.  As the wine is fermenting, they arrest the fermentation by adding "mistella," a mix of fresh juice and high-proof alcohol.  And then they blend in some "Mosto Cotto," or "cooked" grape juice.
The wine then is put into neutral wood such as Slavonian oak and it spends a couple of decades maturing.  The 1988 was bottled just before the harvest of 2011!
The wine is deep amber in color and the nose shows notes of dried apricots and brown spices.  It's fairly sweet, so pairing it with a sweet dessert is ideal...baked apples with honey and walnuts...desserts with maple, perhaps...an Apricot Tart...you get the idea.
 

Currently in stock:  VITO CURATOLO ARINI 1988 Riserva Storica MARSALA  $24.99 (750ml)

 

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FLORIO

This is the most famous label in the US market for Marsala wines.  Though they do make some special bottlings, these are neglected by the importer and distributor as they're too much "trouble" (work, in other words) to sell.
You have to explain the wines to sommeliers and store owners and even with that, scarcely anyone comes in to a restaurant or shop looking for Marsala to put on the table.

The Florio winery, though, was the first Marsala producer of any consequence to have the name of an Italian family.  The earliest names of Marsala are that of British companies;  one is Woodhouse and the other is Ingham & Whitaker.  Vincenzo Florio launched his Marsala house in 1833 and could survive only because he had deep pockets and could withstand losing money.
The Florio family sold the winery to Piemonte's Cinzano, a vermouth specialist, in 1920.  They, in turn, sold the place in 1988 to Industria Lombarda Liquori Vini e Affini , the drinks company that's famous for its Amaretto di Saronno.
Though they acquired a wonderful cellar with a lot of history, it's not clear they view Florio as anything but another "drinks" business.



These days the request for Marsala is for "cooking wine" and $13 is viewed by many home chefs as too extravagant of an expenditure to splash in a pan.  Yet they'll spend money on the veal or chicken but want to skimp on a relatively modest purchase to make something a bit more special.

 
 But if you are preparing a recipe that calls for Marsala, please splurge for the thirteen-buck bottles of this and don't wimp out and buy some California knock-off because it's five bucks.  

We carry Florio's Sweet and Dry Marsala...Sweet for desserts and if you're making some savory dish, you'll usually want the dry.

Kapeesh?
 

 

 

 

We have some bottles of their vintage-dated Marsala called "Targa."
It's moderately sweet, with less sugar than a good Sauternes for example. It tastes of dried fruits like dates and figs.

It's usually in the range of $40-$50 a bottle, but the distributor closed out their last boxes and we have it for $19.99 until the supply runs out.

Grillo 100%.  They add their cooked mosto and some brandy to fortify it and then wine spends maybe 7, or so, years in wood.


 

 

FLORIO DRY MARSALA "Fine"  $12.99

FLORIO SWEET MARSALA "Fine"   $12.99
FLORIO 2003 "TARGA" MARSALA  Sale $19.99


Florio has a connection to San Francisco, having shipped a "tino" or vat of Marsala for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Their cellar is remarkable and contains a lot of history.

There are several plaques with the name Mussolini on them.

Mussolini, it seems, had stopped by Florio's place on more than one occasion and so there are some notations of these historical visits, not an endorsement of his politics.

The cellar sustained some damage during World War II and only a few casks of Marsala from that era are still on display.


There's a cask from 1944.


1939.

They often feature some interesting art work in the cellar near their tasting tables.

If you visit, you can take a tour and taste a few wines.

Reservations are required, but CLICK HERE to see their web page about visits.

We contacted them about visiting and were treated to the same sort of tour and tasting as they offer to the general public.  They knew, of course, that we are in the wine business and sell their wines.
Florio is owned by the DiSaranno group, the company that is famous for its Amaretto liqueur.

 

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I VINI "MACULANI"
maculan.gif (11776 bytes)The Maculan family tends vineyards in Italy's Veneto region.  They're located in the village of Breganze and make a tremendous variety of wines. 
Breganze isn't on the radar of most wine drinkers.  
It's a bit more than an hour east and north of Verona.  From Padua, you're maybe 45 minutes away While they make good Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet, their dessert wines merit special attention.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There are three very fine sweet wines coming from the Maculan's.  "Dindarello" is an Orange Muscat, the grape being "Moscato Fior d'Arancio" in Italian.  
Their winemaking secret is taking a page out of the Valpolicella winemaker's handbook.  They leave the grapes for about a month to "dry" a bit, concentrating the sugar level of the fruit.  
The resulting wine has about 10%-12%, or so, of sugar.  The acidity is relatively high, though, so it is balanced and not syrupy.
This is relatively low in alcohol (typically below 12%) and is perfect for berry and citrus desserts.  The aromas a beautifully intense, showing the Muscat, but also that orange blossom character of this special grape.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Old "Treasures" in the cellar.


Bigger and richer is the wine called "Torcolato," a blend of Vespaiolo, Garganega and Tocai.  The fruit is left to dry and is processed in January.  It is usually matured in French oak, about one-third of the barrels being new.  This can be cellared for as long as a decade, if you like.  
 
 


The biggest, richest wine of the trio is called "Acininobili," made from the same varieties as Torcolato, but this fruit is affected with botrytis cinerea.  Maculan then ages this wpeB.jpg (26026 bytes)for two years in wood and another in bottle.  This is the smallest production of the trio, accounting for something less than 200 cases annually.  Like the Torcolato, this may be cellared for a decade or so.


Photo Taken by Gerald Weisl

Fausto Maculan with my traveling companion that trip, a fellow named Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards.  Fausto is showing Randall the bunches of grapes in their warehouse which are next to a small stream (which provides humidity to encourage the growth of botrytis cinerea). 
 
 
Currently in stock: Dindarello $25.99 (375ml)
Torcolato  $44.99 (375ml)



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ANTINORI ALEATICO
Amongst its many holdings around Tuscany and Umbria, Antinori bought a property near Pitigliano in southwestern Toscana.  If you know where Grosseto is located, you're pretty close to the Aldobrandesca estate of Antinori.

They grow a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon here, but the main item of interest is their Aleatico.

The first vintage from this property was made in 1997, though I know Antinori had been offering Aleatico for many years.  I was at some friend's place in Italy and found a very ancient bottle of Antinori Aleatico in their collection of bottles!  

The wine has a marvelous perfume, being redolent of rose petals and it's moderately sweet without being syrup.  
  
Currently in stock:  Antinori Aleatico (500ml bottle) SOLD OUT  -Coming Soon!


 
 

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FALESCO ALEATICO
Since the Antinori importer is not presently offering Aleatico, we've looked elsewhere and found a really nice alternative.  It's from the Falesco winery in Lazio (not too far from Rome and virtually on the border of Umbria).

The winery is owned by the Cotarella brothers.  Riccardo is a famous consulting winemaker and his brother Renzo works for the Antinori family.

This comes from a small 2 hectare parcel in Lazio.  The wine is made entirely of Aleatico and it's given a cold "soak" with the skins to capture more aromas and flavors of this fragrant grape variety.
The wine is bottled young and fresh...a perfect partner with cherry pie, berry cobbler or pears with a raspberry sauce...you get the idea.

Sweet but not sticky sweet, this is a delicious dessert wine.

Currently in stock:  FALESCO "POMELE" Aleatico  $27.99 (375ml)

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SCACCIADIAVOLI
Please don't injure yourself trying to say "Scacciadiavoli."  

This is a winery owned by the Pambuffetti family, another nice-sounding name if you can manage to pronounce it.

"Scacciadiavoli" refers to some sort of devil-banishing or exorcism that took place in this Umbrian locale.  

The grape for this amazing wine is the Sagrantino variety, a specialty of the Montefalco area in Umbria.  This is a deep, dark, powerful red grape, making a wine which makes some Cabernets appear tame.  

For decades the "traditional" wine made of Sagrantino was this sweet, dessert wine.  The residual sugar balanced the fierce tannins and the wine was highly-prized and served at special occasions.  

Today, of course, winemakers know how to manage the tannins and the popularity of Sagrantino as a dry red table wine has skyrocketed.  In fact, it's catapulted Montefalco into a bit of an eno-tourist area.  The production of dessert wine is, today, much smaller than that of the red Sagrantino table wine.

Scacciadiavoli is one of our favorite estates in the region and we find their red wines to be of really good quality.  So, I suppose, it shouldn't be a surprise that they make a stellar example of Passito.  We have the 2003 vintage in store presently.  Delicious with chocolate desserts, particularly a flourless chocolate cake...chocolate with a raspberry sauce...etc.

Currently in stock:  2003 SCACCIADIAVOLI  Montefalco "Passito di Sagrantino"  $47.99 (375ml)
 

 

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JERMANN


The Jermann winery is one of the leading lights in Italy for its white wines.  They were one of the few producers making good quality vini bianchi ages ago.  They gained much critical acclaim for their Chardonnay and for a blended white called Vintage Tunina.

They offer half bottles of this delicious sweet wine called "Vino Dolce della Casa."   But despite being offered as a "house wine," it sells for a premium price.

It's made of the rather rare and shy-bearing grape called Picolit.   The grape is not widely cultivated as it's a pain in the ass to grow and never sets much of a crop.  But what it lacks in quantity, it can make up in quality.

Some had called Picolit "Italy's Château d'Yquem."  Well, it's not as oily as a seriously top Sauternes and we're not sure who made such a comparison, but we understand the notion that Picolit can be a remarkable wine.

Jermann's production comes to about 400 gallons in a good year.  
And it's a special dessert wine with honeyed aromatics and notes of poached pears, ripe melons and apricots.  While it's sweet, it's also balanced thanks to good acidity and Picolit's slightly bitter notes.

Currently in stock:  JERMANN "Vino Dolce della Casa"  $51.99 (375ml)

 

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If you have any special requests, please send me an e-mail and we'll see if your favorite is available.   gerald@weimax.com


WE ALSO HAVE ABOUT 40 DIFFERENT KINDS OF GRAPPA IN STOCK, PLUS ITALIAN BEER AND SODAS.
And there's Barolo Chinato, various "Amaro" bottles and more...

 


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