Italian Wine Week is largest fair ever devoted to Italian wine outside Italy

Source FocusWine.it, translation by VinoWire.

With the participation of more than 285 Italian companies, Italian Wine Week (New York, February 2-5, 2010) represents the most important event to feature Italian wine outside Italy’s orders. The conference includes a rich program and involves hundreds of American wine-industry professionals. Italian Wine Week activities have been organized by the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE) and the Regions of Calabria, Tuscany, and the Veneto. They will be integrated with an intense series of seminars geared toward the trade and specialized media. More that 20 American wine experts will participate and two of Italy’s top experts will also address attendees: Professor Attilio Scienza and the President of the Italian National DOC Committee Giuseppe Martelli.

The over-arching theme of the conference is the excellent of Italian wine and will be presented by experts during their seminars and meetings. ICE is giving particular focus to new marketing technologies. The conference is being presented to the public via a website, www.italianmade.com/vino2010, where American wine professions can access a series of important services online. Throughout the course of the conference, American journalists and wine professionals learn about new trends in Italian winemaking today: from the wines of the Tuscan coast to the evolution of Pinot Noir in Oltrepò Pavese, from the new generation of red wines from Calabria, to the wines of Apulia and Friuli.

Leading authorities from the world of Italian wine will also address the themes of quality and traceability and new computer technology that allows the consumer to access information on the provenance of Italian wines.

On January 28, the Italian Wine Union (UIV) will “preview” new technologies in a workshop on appellation monitoring, including talks by UIV vicepresident Lucio Mastroberardino and director general Francesco Pavanello. They will instruct members of the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Trade Bureau on the current regulation system and the use of traceability to protect trademarked products. The meeting will take place at the Italian embassy.

Giacosa speaks to Franco Ziliani on his controversial decision not to bottle 2006 (VINOWIRE EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW)

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“The decision of one Langhe producer not to make a 2006 Barolo or Barbaresco shocked Piedmont — and the furore shows no sign of letting up. For this was not just any old producer, but one of the Langhe’s indisputable greats. Bruno Giacosa (above, photo by Decanter Magazine) announced last May that he would not bottle the 2006 vintage, but instead sell the wine in bulk to other bottlers. ‘There is nothing at all special about 2006: it falls short in every category — nose, typicity, structure,’ he said…”

Click here to download an exclusive preview of VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani’s article on Bruno Giacosa’s controversial decision not to bottle his 2006 Barbaresco and Barolo and reaction from other top producers (Decanter Magazine, February issue).

Bruno Giacosa: no 2006 but what a 2005!

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Recently, it occurred to me that over the last year, I’ve written quite a bit about Bruno Giacosa, the great winemaker and eponymous winery that the whole world — even James Suckling! — considers one of the indisputable benchmarks of Langa wines (the French critique Michel Bettane alone does not share this view). Indeed, I’ve devoted a number of posts to his clamorous decision (made together with his colleagues) not to bottle his 2006 Barbaresco and Barolo, a vintage, he judged, not up to the the qualitative standards of his Langa Nebbiolo.

There was no way around it since it was impossible to ignore such a choice by such an important producer, however heavy his heart and however painful the decision.

Today, I think it’s important to focus on the present and Bruno Giacosa’s 2005 and 2004 Barbaresco and Barolo. These wines represent guaranteed “consolation” for wine lovers who bemoan the missing vintage and must wait for the 2007 Barbaresco to be released.

Thanks to my recent visit to the winery with the new enologist Giorgio Lavagna and Bruno’s daughter Bruna (below, with Bruno), who continues to work fervently to maintain the prestige of the winery and to represent it abroad, I had the good fortune to taste some of their top wines, the crème de la crème. This impressive, extraordinary tasting was testament to the fact that this winery continues to deliver one of the most noble expressions of Alba Nebbiolo possible.

The prices for these wines are high but their quality is impeccable, indisputable, and incontrovertible.

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Part 1: A Barbaresco Trifecta

I began with the 2005 Barbaresco Asili, one of the absolute classics from this appellation. Deep, brilliant ruby red, with great intensity and gradations. On the nose the wine is elegant, dense, seductive, with marked floral notes and breadth, with notes of prune and raspberry and a wonderful rose note as well. In the mouth, the wine is magnificent, ample and wide, meaty, with lively and impressive tannin, yet very delicate and velvety with powerful softness and character. A wine with indisputable class.

Next was the 2005 Barbaresco Santo Stefano. Compared to the Asili, the color of this wine was more intense and deep, with a nose that alternated between more wide, dense, and earthy notes and tones of underbrush, leather, minerality, and autumn. A very compact wine.

Ample, full in the mouth with tannins that still “bite,” betraying the youth of this wine and its energy, which has yet to be tamed. Persistent on the palate with the nervy character you find in truly great wine.

Anyone who loves great Nebbiolo would have called this a Trifecta: we closed the trilogy with my favorite wine of the three, 2005 Barbaresco Rabajà. Powerful, intense ruby red in color, brilliant, lively, teeming with gradations and happiness. A complex dense nose, alluring and dense, “macho” and wild in its evolution, unique with notes of raspberry and ripe prune, but also with unexpected notes of citrus, aromatic herbs, a light spiciness, and a mysterious hint of earth and soil that adds to the aromatic pleasure of this wine.

And then the mouth, my friends… Overpowering structure, thick, dense, still compact, and in need of time to expand. With time and cellar aging, this wine will reward those who wait with pure emotion delivered by vibrant, mature, solid tannin. This wine has true backbone and substance, a richness of flavor and that primeval force that leaves you speechless.

—Franco Ziliani

Stay tuned for part 2, Franco’s notes on the 2005 Barolo by Giacosa!

Minutolo: the “other” white grape from Apulia makes new inroads

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There’s good news for lovers of Apulian wine! In the land of trulli, taralli, the Castel del Monte, and orecchiette con le cime di rapa (orecchiette with broccoli raab), the field of Apulian white wines continues to grow

Don’t get me wrong. Apulia will remain a fundamentally red (and rosé) region, where wines made using Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Uva di Troia will continue to “lead the pack” and by and large represent the “aristocracy” of local production. But even though many wineries continue to work unassumingly with local white grape varieties like Verdeca and Bombino. And others persist in their production of Chardonnay: however noble a grape, Apulia delivers merely an umpteenth version of this ubiquitous grape, lacking any particular appeal, local connection, any unique quality. But are many indicators that new inroad are being made for white grape varieties.

The field of Apulian white wines is experiencing an expanding rediscovery and renewal of an indisputably indigenous variety. But grape growers have also recently introduced a grape variety that is by no means indigenous, even though its name would seem to indicate that is related to the former, even though it is not.

But enough now with this vinous riddle! I’m talking about Fiano Minutolo (also known as Fiano Aromatico) and Fiano (d’Avellino). Plantings of this grape have spread in various wine production zones in Apulia and it is enjoying a growing popularity (that I hope will not become a new trend).

Keep in mind that Fiano Minutolo (or Minutolo as it will be called once it’s been added to the National Catalog of grape varieties) has nothing to do with the Fiano that we are accustomed to, the Fiano that we know and love as one of the greatest white grape varieties of Italy, which finds its greatest expression on the other side of the Italian peninsula, in Irpinia (Campania), where it is considered “an aromatic grape that rightfully belongs with with Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, and Moscato for the similar sensations it delivers.”

The rediscovery and renewal of Fiano Minutolo is owed to its true pioneer, Pasquale (Lino) Carparelli, who, with his Vigna Rampone (now known as Valle d’Itria IGT), was the first to come out on the market with a Fiano Minutolo, and in doing so, opened the road followed by numerous other producers.

During my recent visit to Apulia, which was full of unforgettable moments, like a visit to one of the region’s cone-shaped houses, the so-called trulli, where we tasted a piping-hot focaccia baked in an ancient wood-fired oven in the trullo itself, Lino told us how he and friends who shared his passion for ancient varieties launched their project to revive Minutolo in 2000. They started by combing the Valle d’Itria (the townships of Locorotondo, Alberobello, Martina Franca, and Cisternino) for surviving plantings of the grape variety.

Initially, he planned to use the grapes in a new version of the Locorotondo DOC, with “ancient” style and aromatic character. But when he discovered that there are no fewer than 6 different varieties of Minutolo and that these were not just overlaps with grape varieties with the name “Greco,” he decided it would be better to vinify them as monovarietal wines to see their modes of expressions, their pros and their cons.

After he had identified ancient clones of the variety, he began to graft them on to vines in a 10-hectare vineyard, surrounded by trulli. The growing site lies on his estate called “I Pastini,” a term that is used locally to denote a parcel of land suited for grape-growing. It also denotes the tool used to plant the vines.

The first hectare was planted in 2001 with wild rootstock followed by whip grafting using European varieties. This was the first vineyard in the area where high-trained spur-pruned cordon training was employed. Other plantings of indigenous (but no international) varieties followed, with Verdeca (the classic local variety) planted side-by-side with the Minutolo together with Bianco d’Alessano (one of the grapes used in the DOCs Gravina, Locorotondo, and Martina Franca).

The resulting wine was Vigna Rampone. The 2008 is straw-yellow, bright, and translucent in color, with clean shades and hints of green. It shows classic notes on the nose, with intense aromatic, spicy, musky tones, slightly sweet yet savory, a marked citrus presence, white flowers, dried fruit and nectarine, very elegant and fragrant, with powerful energy.

—Franco Ziliani