Etna Rhapsody

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A journey from classical music to melodic Sicilian reds

At 32, Giuseppe Russo was a classical pianist and doctor of letters who knew nothing about making wine.

Now in his 10th vintage, the soft-spoken, unassuming Sicilian is one of the most acclaimed winemakers on Mount Etna—clearly the top local-born producer of Nerello Mascalese on the volcano's north face.

"For me, Giuseppe is the leader of the area," says Alessio Planeta of Planeta, the sprawling family-run wine company, which located its fifth Sicilian winery on Etna in 2012. "He has the right approach. He is like a poet."

Such high neighborly praise isn't common. But it's clear Russo's winemaking is deserving of the recognition that has spread across Italy to the rest of the world…..Read the full blog at Wine Spectator

Italy's New Wave Chefs: Enrico Crippa of Piazza Duomo (Alba)

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by Robert Camuto -- Wine Spectator August 31, 2014

Enrico Crippa starts his day on a 5-acre plot wedged in the hills of Barolo. Two full-time employees tend the land, and Crippa comes to survey and to help harvest.

But Crippa is not a winegrower. He is a cook, and, at 43, is arguably the most important chef in the Piedmont region, a rising star in a generation of Italian culinary innovators. Here in this plot between the road and a creek is his main culinary weapon—a garden supplying almost all of the greens, vegetables, fruits, wild plants and edible flowers that flavor and color his cuisine.

On a bright spring morning, he moves quickly through a series of beds and makeshift greenhouses, kneeling to snip clover, rocket, chicory, baby spinach and several varieties of mustard, basil and mint. Nearby, violets, gentian and thyme flowers wait to be plucked. "This garden does for the restaurant what Barolo does for the wine of the area," Enrico Crippa says. "It drives everything."

Brothers in Wine

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In the shadow of Cannes, a monks' island turns out soulful reds and whites

Winemaker Frère Marie stuck his nose into a glass of Syrah and grinned. Then he swirled some wine in his mouth and spat into a floor drain.

"It's velvet," the 59-year-old Frenchman with short-cropped hair and beard proclaimed, eyes sparkling.

For more than 20 years, Marie has made some of coastal Provence's most prestigious wines—served in the glittering luxury hotels of the Côte d'Azur and at the Cannes Film Festival. But while his wines travel, Marie doesn't get out much.

He is monk-cellarmaster of the Abbaye de Lérins—a Cistercian monastery on the tiny (less than a mile long), idyllic island of Saint Honorat, about two miles and a 15-minute ferry ride off the yacht-jammed Cannes coast.... Read the full blog at the Wine Spectator

The Etna Job

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Rescuing a Sicilian cru in the middle of the night

At four o'clock one morning in April 2012, a small tanker truck pulled up to what had been Ciro Biondi's winery on Sicily's Mount Etna and made off with more than 2,000 gallons of wine. The haul included the first two vintages—2010 and 2011—of a red single-vineyard cru from Biondi's ancestral vineyard known as Cisterna Fuori.

When Biondi learned the wine had been taken, he was relieved.In fact, he had organized the whole furtive operation to retrieve barrels that had been stuck in the winery after a bitter split left him on the outs with his decade-long business partners.

"It was my wine," says Biondi, 55. A boyish grin crosses his face, and he shrugs with everything from his large shoulders to his polished, shaved crown. "And nobody was looking after it!"  Read the full blog at Wine Spectator.

Tickling Pink

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What you didn't know-- or even think about rosé

If you're like me, you don't reflect much when sharing a bottle of good summer rosé. You chill, open, pour and drink.

But in Provence, the leader of fine rosé, a lot of thought goes into rosé—right down to the shade of pink that attracted you in the first place.

"Today people like rosés that are very pale that give the impression of lightness," explains Gilles Masson, one of the world's foremost rosé thinkers. "It's aesthetic—the idea that rosé should not only be good, it should be beautiful."

"Why deny the pleasure of the eyes?" adds the blue-eyed Frenchman, throwing in the obligatory reference to beautiful women...Read the full blog at the Wine Spectator. 

Soave's Free Spirit

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Cantina Filippi sits at the highest part of northeastern Italy's Soave appellation in a Renaissance-era palazzo transformed into a sort of Bohemian lair.

"Most Soave gives me a headache," says poetically named Filippo Filippi, 44, who has made 11 vintages of small-production Soave Classico crus here on a 1,300-foot hilltop in Castelcerino.

Filippi has all the elements I love to write about: an iconoclastic winemaker, distinctive wines, varied terroirs and a long history in a beautiful setting. Even better, it's hiding in plain sight in Soave—one of Italy's largest vineyard areas, dominated for more than a century by large cooperatives and high output.

The 21st century has seen the growth of a small scene of quality Soave producers, and Filippi, a bear of a man with long, silver hair and beard, represents the eccentrically colorful wing. Read the full blog at Wine Spectator.

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