Thursday, September 27, 2012

Garantito IGP: Forastera 2011 Ischia doc Pietratorcia

This time Luciano Pignataro takes the stand

One can tell from the very word, Forastera. Grapes that come from elsewhere (fuori, in Italian), i.e. forestiera. Certainly, of one were to take a broader, say American viewpoint, it would be difficult to say grapes that have been grown on terraces held up by paramine, dry masonry walls made from green volcanic rock, for more than 150 years are foreign, but Europeans are conservative. This white was introduced because, history repeats itself, it was considered superior to the delicate Biancolella that has always been grown on Ischia, Capri, and part of the Amalfi coast.

The current obsession for single-varietal wines led to its rediscovery, not as a partner, but as a soloist. The discovery was made by Casa D'Ambra a few years ago, and now Pietratorcia, the beautiful winery surrounded by olive trees, prickly pears, and Mediterranean scrub forest founded in 1966 by the Iacono, Verde e Regine families, has joined them.

Every time I visit these vineyards, surrounded by sea and sky, I feel as if I'm in an as-of-yet unexcavated archaeological site: columns, statues and pot shards stick up from the soil; the culture of the farmland that for centuries slaked Naples's thirst is very evident. There were 3,000 hectares of vineyards in 1900, and now less than 400.
Forastera interprets the Campania Style that almost all the winemakers have by now adopted: Freshness up front, savory, no sweetness. They complement the foods, the flavors, and the volcanic lands or the area that are in perpetual ferment, making the island and the nearby Campi Flegrei the perfect setting for disaster films that couldn't do a better job of bringing together day-to-day life and Hephaestus 's brutal power.
Pietratorcia's history is that of the recovery from a shadowy subculture of illegal construction and easy earnings from tourism that sapped people's will to cultivate the land, and drove them away from toil, the southern term for work. They could have fermented other people's grapes, but they decided to start from the ground up, replanting grapes at Chignole and Cuotto, while Gino studied winemaking at San Michele all'Adige.

Now the winery's primary wines are two blends, Tenuta Chignole (biancolella, forastera and fiano) and Tenuta Cuotto (biancolella, forastera e greco), in which the two foreign grapes of Irpinian origin confer, in the former, aromas, and in the latter acidity. Then there are the two single-varietal wines, Biancolella and Forastera. I decided to speak of the latter here because I want this varietal, unknown outside Campania, to enjoy the Garantito IGP limelight because it embodies biodiversity, essentiality, and elegance, and also has an extraordinary quality/price ratio.

A white wine of conviviality, to pair with the simple seafood cooking of the island, raw fish and fish carpaccio marinated in lemon juice, or pasta with legumes, especially peas and chick peas.

The winery is on the Via Provinciale Panza, 267
12 hectares.
Winemaker: Gino Iacono. 
Production: 180.000 bottles
Varietals: biancolella, forastera and fiano

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Garantito IGP: A Restaurant in Bloom? il Giglio in Montalcino!

This time Carlo Macchi Takes the Stand:

Let's say that the reader remembers La Cucina di Edgardo in Montalcino, and has the good fortune to meet Mario Machetti. Those who have done both can stop reading. I suggest everyone else perk up their ears.
In the 80s La Cucina di edgardo was one of the best places to eat in Tuscany. Edgardo was unique, and to give an example it was he who came up with the Gioco del piacere that so many members then of Arcigola and now Slowfood know well. But who cooked for Edgardo? We're coming to that.

Let's turn to Mario Machetti: not young, but blessed with a first-rate sense of wine, Mario had the best private cellar in Montalcino. I say had because in 1995 his private cellar became public, and is at the disposition of the patrons of Il Giglio. The same patrons, who in addition to selecting among wines they can usually only dream of (at "private cellar" prices) can enjoy the dishes Anna Machetti, who cooked for Edgardo, prepares for them.

To sum up: Anna cooked at La Cucina di Edgardo, while Mario loved wines, and, let's admit it, talking about wine. In 1995 they took the big step, taking over one of the oldest places in Montalcino, Il Giglio. There are records of Il Giglio dating th the early 1900s, but in the early 90s the then let things go. Anna and Mario managed the return the restaurant (which also has 12 rooms) to its former glory thanks to a cuisine based on first rate ingredients, flavorful dishes that one simply doesn't forget, and dishes that follow tradition while winking at modern balance.

Now forget all this (lest you loose the joy of making discoveries...) and imagine yourself in Montalcino, say near Palazzo Pretorio (the one with the plaques for the Brunello vintages). It's just a few short steps the the intersection where you'll find Il Giglio. The entrance leads to a small, welcoming hall with a large fireplace almost hidden by historic wine bottles. The tables, elegantly set, are to the right or in another hall to the left. I suggest you sit near a window to be able to enjoy the panorama, so beautiful it might steal your appetite as well as your breath.

You'll need your eyes for more important things, however, for example the menu. You could begin with the classic dark Tuscan crostini, or the baccalà mousse with orange salad, or the involtini made from Cinta Senese lard and faro, but I suggest you try the anchovy filets in pesto sauce, so good they'd justify swimming from Sydney to Montalcino.

Among the first courses, I'd say Pici with crumbs, cannelloni stuffed with goat's milk cheese and sauced with pigeon ragu, and tortellini stuffed with cints cenese arista. But I can't forget the faro, chickpea and mushroom zuppa, nor the classic home made tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms.

Among the seconds, don't miss the pan-cooked pigeon, or the fried rabbit, unless you go for beef braised in Brunello or lamb chops.

And then? A pause, because I imagine you full but satisfied. And at this point I'll step in for Mario, who with his son Michele is the Maitre, and perhaps exchange a few words, which may be about wines and a visit to the cellar. A cellar 9and a wine list) capable of satisfying any request, even the most unusual, when it comes to Brunello, and also features other great non-standard Italian and foreign bottles. A list by a wine lover, one who has traveled the world to taste and learn, and to enjoy the happiness of the clientele. And after the conversation, we can finish the meal. If you're like me, not a sweet tooth, the obvious choice is a selection of first rate Tuscan goat and sheep's milk cheeses. I realize many people have sweet teeth, and therefore suggest pears in Brunello, chocolate cake, or peach Bavarian cream.

You'll have a hard time getting up, not because you're weighed down, but rather because you'll want to continue to enjoy the warm hospitality, Mario's words, and perhaps Anna's smiles, as she always steps into the hall towards the end of the evening.

A brief walk in the quiet Montalcino "By Night" (the restaurant is open only evenings), will be just the thing before returning to the Giglio and climbing the stairs to one of the 12 rooms. You'll fall asleep thinking that come breakfast you'll fins Anna's cakes, and have the sweetest of dreams.

Albergo Ristorante Il Giglio
Via Saloni 5
53024 Montalcino (SI)
Tel.fax 0577848167

Average price 35-40 euro, not including wines

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Garantito IGP: The Mossio Brothers and the Great Dolcetti if Rodello

This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand:

After dedicating many Guaranteed notes to more or less renowned restaurants, I feel the need to return to the world of wine. Primarily because I'm interested in two brothers, though it would be more correct to say in the entire Mossio dynasty, which has given the Dolcetto of the Langhe shine for generations, producing superb wines from a varietal that few really understand yet. I met Valerio seven years ago at Dolcetto & Dolcetto, but hadn't seen him since, nor had I had occasion to taste other vintages of either Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli or Dolcetto D'Alba Passo delli Perdoni (they also make a Barbera d'Alba and an impressive Langhe Nebbiolo). I wanted to rectify this oversight and finally managed to go visit them in Rodello, where I had the unexpected pleasure of a vertical of Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli, from 2010 to 2005, six vintages to understand the quality and potential of this historic Piemontese varietal.

The first thing one notes upon arriving at the winery is Bricco Caramelli, which is the highest land in the area, almost 500 meters, always well ventilated, and offers a breathtaking view all the way to Alba. The rows are evenly laid out, with wooden support steaks, while the vines are trained to the guyot system, and grow on a soil consisting of silt, sand, and clay; I visited in the second week of May and the shoots were working their way up to the support wires. There's nice ground cover, which requires the Mossio brothers to manage the vineyard in an eco-compatible way, and the area they have under vine is 10 hectares (28 giornate piemontesi), which yield 50,000 bottles per year.

One need only chat for a while while walking among the rows to realize that they are driven by passion and a degree of recklessness, given that Valerio, despite his youth, has suffered a severe heart attack and continues to perform backbreaking labor in vineyard and cellar. For the more curious, Caramelli is the family name of the Marchesi di Clavesana, who were willed land in Rodello by Contessa Clemenza in 1676, including this farm, which has now been restored.

As I said, the visit also offered me the opportunity to evaluate the aging capacity of Bricco Caramelli thanks overtones a nice vertical from 2010 to 2005 (which could have gone further, but they had finished the older vintages). My general impression is that it is a wine easily capable of embarking on a long path, and though there are variations attributable to the vintages, it is an excellent Cru, one of the finest Dolcetti of all, and a wine that sets the standard. Nor should one underestimate Piano delle Perdoni, which, depending upon the vintage, can pluck a rabbit from the hat, displaying quality that easily matches Caramelli. Looking in detail...

Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2010 
This ferments for 10 days in steel, macerating on the skins, and there's no wood, nor filtration, nor stabilization to take away from the Dolcetto aromas that emerge from the glass. The most recent, this vintage is impenetrable violet ruby and has an extremely fresh bouquet with intense violets, prunes, black cherries, blackberries, balsamic accents, and developing spice. The palate gives the same freshness, a rich, flavorful wine one could call chewable, and one can foresee a happy marriage of structure and elegance.

Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2009
Dusky, almost impenetrable ruby; the nos is already more complex; there are violets, and a fruity surge of currants, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and again balsamic notes with a hint of tobacco. Though the opening of the nose is less immediate than that of the 2010 the palate churns with energy and finesse, power and elegance, savory notes, and perfect symmetry with the nose, and remarkable persistence.

Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2008
A slightly different vintage; the color is still perfect concentrated ruby, while the nose opens with vegetal accents that yield to violets, iris, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, interesting gingery accents, cinnamon, and pleasant menthol. The palate is more than convincing; there is a slight tannic bite, excellent fruit, and a delicately bitter almond laced finish.

Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2007
A hot vintage, but at this altitude, and with vines that are decades old this is not a problem: the nose opens with impressive sweetness and intensity, also because the alcohol has blended perfectly with the fruit, which once again moves towards prunes, cherries, and hints of raspberries, while there are also resiny balsamic notes, hints of pepper, and dried flowers. The palate is harmonious, once again balsamic, and still fresh and savory, and long.

Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2006
In this vintage one is really struck by the violet visible in the rich dark ruby of the wine; 6 years have passed since the harvest and it hasn't faded at all. The fruit is impressively fresh, with echoes of peach that then give way to the more classic cherries, prunes, and ripe raspberries, while there are also balsamic accents, with mature aromas of graphite and dark tobacco. The palate reveals full structure and perfect balance, with tannins that are silky and clearly show that the wine is far from reaching the end of its aging. Terrific persistence.
Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2005
Perhaps the most symbolic year, in a positive sense, one that reveals the greatness of the vineyard; despite seven years of age there are terrific floral accents blaanced by properly sweet ripe fruit that's not the least bit jammy. The vintage emerges on the palate too, with a more nervous, lighter texture that I don't dislike at all: I've already enjoyed it in many Baroli and Barbareschi from this vintage.

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Visiting Torino: The Mole Antonelliana

This Time, I take the stand:


I must confess, when I go to Piemonte it's usually for the wines, and when I do make it to Torino it's on the occasion of Slowfood's Salone del Gusto. However, Daughter C is a great fan of the Egyptians, and we therefore took her to see the Museo Egizio in Torino, one of the world's richest and most exciting collections of Egyptian artifacts.

And, when we emerged from the museum couldn't help but notice Torino's most prominent landmark, the Mole Antonelliana, a slender quadrilateral cupola whose immensely long spire seems to puncture the sky.

It wasn't planned like that, however: After the government of the newly unified Italian State relaxed the strictures on non-Catholic religious buildings in the early 1860s, the city's Jewish community asked Alessandro Antonelli to design a Synagogue for them. Construction began in 1863, but proceeded with difficulty because the he raised the cupola from the planned 47 meters to 113. Technical difficulties and cost overruns led the Community to halt construction in 1869 and apply a temporary roof to what they had.

In 1873 the City negotiated an exchange, giving the Jewish community a different area to build their synagogue, and dedicating the Cupola to King Vittorio Emanuele II. Construction resumed, with the cupola and its spire eventually reaching 167.5 meters, or about 545 feet, and thus becoming the tallest masonry structure in Europe. Alas, though Antonelli continued to work on the structure until he was past 90, using an observation basket that dangled from the center of the dome to check the work, he didn't live to see it finished. Rather, his son Costanzo completed the cupola in the early 1900s, while the decoration of the dome's interior was handled by Annibale Rigotti between 1905 and 1908.

Unfortunately, the weight of the considerably increased upper section proved more than the foundations were capable of standing (the fact that the cupola was built over a section of city walls Napoleon had demolished probably exacerbated the instability), and after a tornado ripped off 47 meters of the spire in 1953 architects wove a reinforced concrete skeleton into the structure to provide additional support.

After the restoration was completed the Mole Antonelliana was used to host temporary shows, and to showcase Torino, as it were: The observation basket Alessandro used was transformed into a glass elevator that rises quickly through the cupola, like a spider whizzing up a thread to stop at the base of the spire, where there is an ample observation deck offers an absolutely stunning view of the city.

Which, with just the occasional show, wasn't enough to draw people. So the city had an inspired idea, and transformed the cupola into the national Cinema Museum: the entrance leads directly to the elevator, where one waits about a half hour (at least, we did) and then whoosh up to the observation post; as you enter the elevator try to take a place by the glass wall, unless you are very afraid of heights, because the view as you rise through the air is delightful.

Depending upon the temperature you'll spend anywhere from 5 to a lot more minutes on the observation deck before returning to the elevator and descending to the museum, which begins with a large, fascinating section dedicated to pre-cinema animation techniques (shadow puppets, animations, dime-store viewers and so on) followed by a floor dedicated to cinematographic techniques with all sorts of cinematic keepsakes, including a black lace bustier belonging to MM, which is (from a male perspective) most impressive.

There's a ramp around the drum of the cupola with a great many poster boards and film posters, and down on the floor of the cupola are pieces of sets, including one designed by Gabriele D'Annunzio, more mementos including a set piece from Alien, and two viewing areas equipped with couches and continuous feeds; if you get tired of watching what's on the screen you simply look up at the cupola, whose lighting changes regularly, sometimes darker, sometimes lighter, and sometimes with images projected over it. Always interesting.

To be honest, though I paid the admission because I wanted to enjoy the view, I'd happily go back and spend more hours simply enjoying the Mole Antonelliana's interior. It's one of the most interesting museums (and buildings) I've been in in many years. I'll be posting photos on the blog version of the newsletter, at, so do check them out. And for more information on the Museo del Cinema, see

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi