Posts tagged ‘marisa cuomo’
Without further ado, here is a partial list of my choices as the best Italian whites wines of the year. A full list (along with the best reds of the year and a list of the best producers) can be found in the next issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. For subscription information, click here.
2008 CANTINA TRAMIN STOAN
This cooperative is one of Alto Adige’s finest producers, with excellent quality from the most simple whites to the most full-bodied bottlings. Stoan, named for the local stony soil, is a marvelous blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon (Blanc) and Gewurztraminer that displays gorgeous aromatics, rich concentration and vibrant acidity along with great structure and backbone. This was my favorite white wine of the year (from anywhere, not just Italy) and it is a perfect partner for a variety of foods, especially cracked crab.
2008 LIVIO FELLUGA TERRE ALTE
It begins to sound like a broken record, but each year this blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon from this esteemed Friulian producer is among the finest Italian whites. The 2008 is not as full-bodied as in some vintages (2007, e.g.), but it more than makes up for that with its gorgeous perfumes of chamomile, pear, almond and rose petals. This should offer drinking enjoyment for 7-10 years and perhaps longer.
2009 EDI KEBER COLLIO BIANCO
This blend of Friulano, Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla has in just a few short years, become one of the benchmark whites of Friuli. This is not as powerful as the Felluga wine above, but it offers as much complexity and varietal character. The vibrant acidity gives this wine backbone and structure – enjoy over the next 5-7 years, especially with shellfish.
2009 ZUANI COLLIO BIANCO “VIGNE”
Here is another gorgeous Collio blend, this comprising 25% each of Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon. The aromas jump out of the glass and the wine is all about pleasure and finesse. Try this over the next 3-5 years with a wide ranges of dishes, from risotto to shellfish.
2008 BASTIANICH VESPA BIANCO
This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit has been a favorite for years, not only for its complexity, but also its longevity, as ten-year old bottlings shine. The 2008 is not as rich as some vintages, but it is still quite lush and features gorgeous aromatics and vibrant acidity, which should preserve the wonderful freshness of this wine for many years.
2009 COLLI DI LAPIO FIANO DI AVELLINO
There’s really no mystery as to why this wine is among the finest in Campania every year; it’s a simple matter of excellent terroir combined with careful farming and winemaking. Medium-full, this has a big finish with lively acidity and a big streak of minerality. Look for this 2009 to drink well for at least 3-5 years, perhaps longer.
2009 MARISA CUOMO FIORDUVA
This Amalfi Coast white has become legendary over the past decade. A blend of the local varieties Ripoli, Fenile and Ginestra, this is a more powerful white than the typical offering from Campania. Fermented and aged in small oak barrels, the wine has pronounced aromatics of fruit (grapefruit, mango) and herb (fennel, chamomile) and a generous mid-palate with a beautifully structured finish. This should drink welll for 5-7 years and is big enough for veal or poultry, though I love it with lobster or swordfish.
Winemaking is special in every part of Italy. The weather varies, as do the soils and vineyard exposures. Then there are the grapes themselves. No one knows exactly how many varieties are found throughout the country, but the best guesses are somewhere between 2000 and 3000.
All of those factors combine to make regional viticulture quite distinctive anywhere you go in Italy. Then there is the Amalfi Coast. Known as one of the most beautiful locations on the planet, this is an area of extreme viticulture, where vintners fashion some of the most unique wines anywhere in the world from remarkable hillside plots that are often buffeted by high winds. The work is difficult, but the results are always notable and often spectacular; it is in this zone where Marisa Cuomo and her winemaker/husband Andrea Ferraioli are producing some of the most singular wines in all of Italy.
The winery and vineyards are located in the small town of Furore, located between the postcard-famous hamlets of Positano and Amalfi. Furore is not as well known as those two locations, mainly because the town is not on the coastal road, but slightly off that thoroughfare. This is, for lack of a better term, a vertical town, as the main road that winds its way through the town begins several hundred feet above vineyards and homes as it tumbles down to just a few meters above the sea. Standing on the road about halfway down in Furore offers a dazzling view; as you glance skyward, you see cars that look tiny heading down the road, while the view down to the sea is breathtaking, especially when early morning or late afternoon fog creeps into the area.
As in other zones in Campania, indigenous varieties are planted throughout the Amalfi Coast; here in Furore, Ferraioli works with white varieties such as Biancolella, Ginestra and Fenile, while Aglianico and Piedirosso are the featured red grapes. The reds from Marisa Cuomo are excellent (along with a beautiful dry rosato), but it is the collection of white wines that make this estate so renowned.
The Furore Bianco, a blend of Falanghina and Biancolella, is aged solely in stainless steel and offers lemon and grapefruit notes with the vibrant acidity of the local whites; the Ravello Bianco, made from a similar bend from the nearby town of Ravello, is similarly styled, though less concentrated than the wine from Furore.
The most complete wine made at the estate is a Furore Bianco named Fior’duva, a blend of Fenile, Ginestra and Ripoli. Ferraioli ferments part of the must in barrique and then ages the wine in similar barrels; the result is a superb white of deep concentration. There are the usual tropical and citrus flavors as well as notes of lemon custard, giving this wine a uniqueness among Amalfi whites. This is a white that is impressive upon release, but displays greater complexities over five to seven years. The newly released 2008 is one the finest examples I’ve tasted to date with impressive texture and the structure to age for perhaps seven to ten years.
One note about the vines in Furore; because of the strong winds off the sea, the pergola (overhead) training system is used. This viticultural practice, also used in other Italian regions such as Alto Adige and Veneto (especially in Soave and to a lesser degree in Valpolicella), also provides shade and lessens the amount of sunshine, which is an especially important factor in Campania. The look of these vines on these steep slopes perched above the sea is truly stunning.
If you have the opportunity to visit Furore, make sure you visit the estate of Marisa Cuomo and stop in for lunch or dinner at the Bacco Ristorante, where you can enjoy grilled seafood (octopus, shrimp et al) with these delicious whites; the earthiness of the fish providing a perfect foil for the striking acidity of the wines. You might just get a chance to enjoy a glass of wine with Marisa or Andrea, but even if you don’t, I guarantee you’ll never forget the experience, as you celebrate the beauty of the Amalfi Coast through its landscapes, food and glorious white wines!
A stunning Franciacorta, some gorgeous 2009 whites and that Vermentino Nero:
Back from another VinItaly and bursting with dozens of beautiful wines I’d like to talk about – and I didn’t even get to taste any wines from Abruzzo, Alto Adige or Sicily. Here are thoughts on a few:
Beautiful 2009 whites
VinItaly has the advantage of being the first major fair of the year where producers sample their newest wines for the press and the public; in the case of the white wines that meant the 2009s for most bottlings. However, this also meant wines that had only been bottled for a week or two, so it’s a bit difficult to reach a final decision on these wines, as they’re not quite all together yet. However, the 2009 whites as a whole showed beautifully, especially from Avellino in Campania and from Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. Among the finest 2009 white wines I tasted were the Alberto Longo Falanghina “Le Fossette” from Puglia; Monte de Grazia Bianco, a blend of local indigenous grapes from the Amalfi Coast including Peppela, Ginestra and Tenera; the Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino “Radici”; the I Clivi Verduzzo Friulano, a dry version of this grape that is normally vinified dry (I Clivi is doing wonderful things with several grapes from their vineyards in Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli – this winery will not be a well-kept secret for long) and the Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon from Collio.
This last estate is managed by Robert Princic, who at 34 years of age has become one of the most important vintners in Collio, a great white wine area. This Sauvignon is a brilliant wine, offering aromas of spearmint, bosc pear and ginger with excellent concentration, a lengthy finish and vibrant acidity. Look for this wine to be at its best in 5-7 years.
Stunning 2008 whites
There are always some exceptional Italian whites that are released a bit later than the normal wines; given the complexity and structure of these wines, they are ideal when they are initially offered some 18 months after the harvest. The finest at this fair included Bastianich “Vespa”, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit from Friuli; the exceptional Grattamacco Vermentino from Bolgheri and the stunning Marisa Cuomo “Fior’duva”. an Amalfi Coast offering made from Ginestra, Ripole and Fenile. This is as lush and as concentrated a version of this wine I have enjoyed and it should once again be in the running for one of the best Italian white wines of the year.
There are just too many wines to try at the fair, so it’s difficult to focus on one category. I didn’t try as many Amarones as I would have liked, but the two best for me were the 2006 Tedeschi “Monte Olmi”, full of ripe cherry fruit and peppery notes and the 2004 “Il Fornetto” from Stefano Accordini. This last wine is a true riserva, produced in only the finest years. This is a robust, full-bodied wine with impeccable balance and is a great Amarone from one of the area’s most dependably consistent producers – one that should be better known.
Yes, you read that right – there is a Vermentino Nero grape that is planted in tiny numbers in Liguria and Tuscany’s western coast. The bottling I tasted is from Cantine Lunae of Liguria, also the home of brillliant examples of Vermentino Bianco.
This is a rosato, as the Vermentino Nero grape does not have the structure to produce a red wine, as the winery’s export manager, Michele Gianazza, explained to me (hope you’re not disappointed, Jeremy). Che un rosato! This has a deep cherry color, aromas of bing cherry, chrysanthemum and mint and finishes very dry. What a pleasure to try this rarity!
A Stunning Dessert Wine from Soave
Ca’Rugate in Soave makes one of the very best examples of Recioto di Soave, the famed DOCG dessert wine of the area. Now comes the 2001 Corte Durlo, an amazing wine, a 100% Garganega made from dried grapes that have been aged in small barrels that have been sealed for seven years. My notes for this wine go on and on; aromas of creme caramel and dried sherry with notes of honey and mandarin orange in the finsh; I think this should drink well for 12-15 years and it could go on for 20 years! This is basically a Vin Santo; however, it is not legal to label the wine this way in Soave, so it is technically a Veneto Bianco Passito. Regardless, this can compare with the finest examples of any dessert wine produced today in Italy.
Matteo Vezzola, Winemaker, Bellavista (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A Brilliant Franciacorta
If I had to name one wine that was my favorite at this year’s best fair, it was the 2002 Bellavista “Vittorio Moretti”. I tasted through the lineup of Gran Cuvée bottlings from this producer and then was asked if I wanted to taste one more wine. When I was told what it was, I had honestly never heard of it; I’m sure I’m not alone as this is only the sixth time this wine has been made in the winery’s 33 year existence. Named for Bellavista’s owner, the wine is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero that was partially barrel fermented. The lip of the bottle has two levels, meaning that the normal crown cap used to seal the bottle ater the first fermentation cannot be implicated here; rather a cork is used and the wine is manually disgorged.
The wine itself is full-bodied, with sublime aromas of yeast, biscuit, quince and dried pear. I told winemaker Matteo Vezzola that while I didn’t mean to compare Franciacorta with Champagne, as they are two different products, that this wine reminded me of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Matteo smiled and said that my comparison was fine with him!
A brilliant wine from a brilliant producer – bravo Matteo!
For my final post of 2009, I want to salute some of the finest Italian producers of this decade. Each year in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, I list the year’s best wines and producers. I’ll be working on that shortly, but for now, let’s focus on the most important producers of the decade. There is no way I can do this with a single post, so this is part one. I’m juding not only on the quality of the wines, but also the influence these producers had in the marketplace and media and among their peers.
If Luca Currado at Vietti only made Barolo, this winery would have made the list, but there are also gorgeous bottlings of Barbera, as well as a sleek, delicious offering of Arneis. The wines are beautifully made and sell through in good order.
This family-owned winery makes the list for maintaining its traditional winemaking methods, as the great Barolos are aged in botti grandi – no barriques here. Is there a more graceful and ageworthy Barolo than the Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva?
Very modern Barolos here, aged in barrique, but amazing concentration and style. You may or may not like this style of winemaking, but you cannot help but admire the class of the offerings here.
Produttori del Barbaresco
Ultratraditional wines that show what the local terroir of Barbaresco is all about. An excellent Barbaresco normale and outstanding (often stunning) cru bottlings from the town’s best sites, including Asili, Rabaja and Montestefano. General manager Aldo Vacca is as classy as his wines!
I am saluting Gian Luigi Orsolani for his outstanding work with the Erbaluce grape, an indigenous white variety from northern PIemonte. Orsolani is the finest producer of this grape type in my opinion, crafting first-rate examples of dry white, sparkling and passito versions.
Braida – Giacomo Bologna
Splendid bottlings of Barbera d’Asti, from the humble to the sublime, especially the Bricco dell’Uccellone and the Bricco della Bigotta. Still one of the finest and most influential producers of Barbara d’Asti. Also a superb Moscato d’Asti (Vigna Senza Nome) and arguably the finest bottling of Brachetto d’Acqui. Raffaella Bologna is continuing her late father’s work in fine fashion.
This gorgeous estate in the heart of the Barolo zone has been improving dramatically for the past decade, thanks to the efforts of general manager Giovanni Minetti and winemaker Danilo Drocco. A few years ago, Oscar Farinetti, the owner of the gourmet food store, Eataly, became the prinicpal owner of the winery and has already shown his influence by introducing value-priced Barbera and Dolcetto. There are so many excellent wines produced at Fontanafredda; this is an estate that has numerous wines for a wide consumer base and any producer that wants to grow their business in the coming decade should be looking at this model.
Tenuta San Guido/Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
I am putting these two estates in Bolgheri together, as they both produce outstanding examples of local reds that not only are beautiful wines on their own, but are also known around the world. These estates, along with Grattamacco and Le Macchiole continue to be the identity for Bolgheri, Tuscany’s new light.
Bottles of Ornellaia and Masseto, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Brunello di Montalcino has been in the news as of late, and not for all the right reasons. So let’s salute Il Poggione for making Brunello the right way – the traditional way. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci has a gentle winemaking hand, as he prefers to let the local terroir shine through in his wines. I’ve tasted examples of Il Poggione Brunello from the 1970s that are still in fine shape. As for the recent controversy about the possible inclusion of grapes other than Sangiovese in Brunello, well, there was never any doubt about that at Il Poggione; so the respect for the land and the wine as seen here (as well as at dozens of other local estates such as Biondi-Santi, Col d’Orcia, Talenti and Sesta di Sopra to name only a few) needs to be saluted.
Federico Carletti has done as much as any producer in Montepulciano to revive the fortunes of its most famous wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The regular bottling is always very good, but it is the Vigna Asinone bottling is the star here. Deeply concentrated with new oak and sleek tannins, this is a modern, but very precise wine that is one of Tuscany’s finest.
Campania’s most historically important winemaking estate, this winery continued to improve after a family split in the 1980s (some of the family members established a new winery in the Avellino province) and the change in leadership from Antonio Mastroberardino to his son Piero. Clonal research became an important factor here, and today, the family is producing the best examples of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina they have ever made. Of course, Taurasi is still the most important wine here, and if today’s bottlings are not as staunchly tradtional as those from the 1960s and early 1970s, they are still first-rate and just as importantly, are not covered up by the vanilla and spice of new oak that other Taurasi producers seem to prefer these days. How nice that this defender of the local winemaking heritage is doing so well these days!
Feudi di San Gregorio
This estate made a splash with its entrance on the scene in the mid 1980s and they are still one of Campania’s most important producers. Rich, deeply concentrated bottlings of Taurasi, but even more impressive white wines, especially Cutizzi Greco di Tufo and Pietracalda Fiano di Avellino. Now there are even beautifully made single variety sparkling wines in the classic method produced from Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. Congratulations to owner Antonio Capaldo on his innovative efforts at this great estate!
Luigi Maffini is making some of the most brilliant white wines in all of Italy as his small estate in the province of Salerno, south of Napoli. While his reds made from Aglianico are nicely done, the whites made from Fiano are routinely outstanding. There is the non-oak aged Kratos and the French oak-aged Pietraincatenata, an age-worthy Fiano. There is also a sumptuous Fiano Passito, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest dessert wines in all of Italy (the 2004 is particularly exceptional).
Cantine Marisa Cuomo
This small estate, located in the town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, is set in an exceptionally beautiful seting, as the pergola vineyards cling to steep slopes a few hundred feet above the sea. Marisa and her husband, winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, are best known for the exceptional white, Fiorduva, a blend of indigenous varieties (Ripole, Fenile and Ginestra), but I think the Furore Rosso Riserva is also an important wine. This is extreme viticulture at its finest!
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
This is part two of my discussion of white wines from Campania. The last post dealt with Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. This time around, I will discuss Falanghina as well as white wines from the Amalfi Coast.
Falanghina is another of the great ancient white varieties of Campania. The name comes from the word falerna, meaning “poles,” a reference to the system used by the Greeks more than a thousand years ago of attaching the vines to stakes, rather than having the vine directly in the ground. In the province of Caserta in northern Campania, Falerna is the local name of Falanghina.
The signature of Falanghina is its vibrant acidity; this is enhanced when the grapes are planted near the coast, as with the Villa Matilde estate in Caserta (Falerno del Massico DOC) or the Campi Flegrei DOC that hugs the shoreline just north of Napoli. Yet even inland in Benevento (Sannio DOC) and in Avellino, Falanghina maintains its healthy acidity.
This is a wine with lovely aromatics; apple and pear are most common, but today, the best bottlings offer greater complexity in their perfumes, including notes of quince, acacia, white peaches and even some tropical fruits such as kiwi or guava. As the aromatics are so special, most offerings are aged in stainless steel; an exception is the “Caracci” bottling from Villa Matilde.
The best examples of Falanghina available in the United States today include:
- Mastroberardino “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Serrocielo”
- Villa Matilde “Caracci”
- La Sibilla “Cruna deLago”
These cru bottlings are priced in the $22-28 range. However there are many fine examples of Falanghina labeled as Sannio DOC or Beneventano IGT that are less expensive, well-made wines (often priced in the mid-teens); these include bottlings from Mastroberardino and Vinosia.
Feudi di San Gregorio also produces a lovely sparkling Falanghina as part of its DUBL series, which is co-produced with the French Champagne firm Selosse. As you might guess from the natural acidity of Falanghina, this is a nicely structured wine; the aromatics of pear and lemon along with a light yeastiness makes for a lovely wine.
Given its high acidity, Falanghina is ideal with shellfish.
Everyone knows about the gorgeous seaside setting of the Amalfi Coast, but few realize this is an excellent wine zone as well (Costa d’Amalfi DOC). Here growers use the traditional pergola system of training the vines; in this system, the overhead canopy protects the grapes from too much sun.
Vintners along the Amalfi Coast work with several white varieties not found elsewher; these incude Fenile, Ginestra and Biancolella. Most of the whites produced here are blends, offering lovely aromatics (most notably citrus, pear and melon) with vibrant acidity. Usually non-oak aged, most of the bottlings are meant for consumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date; they are perfect with local shellfish such as vongole, the tiny clams from the sea.
Among the best producers of white wine from the Amalfi Coast are:
- Marisa Cuomo
- Giuseppe Apicella
- Tenuta San Francesco
Marisa Cuomo, along with her husband/winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, is recognnized as one of Italy’s finest white wine producers. Their most famous wine, Fiorduva, is a powerful Amalfi blend fermented in barrique.
OTHER CAMPANIAN WHITES
There are a few other excellent areas for white wine in Campania, including the island of Ischia, off the coast of Napoli. Here producers struggle with high winds and other conditions to make white blends from varieties such as Forestera and Biancolella. Top producers from Ischia include Pietratorcia and Casa d’Ambra.
In the province of Caserta, there are a few producers working with Pallagrello Bianco; this variety is quite unique in that the aromatics are not fresh melon and pear, but more along the lines of dried herbs, flowers (such as acacia) and a distinct nuttiness. These wines remind one of Campania’s past! Look for producers such as Alois and Terre del Principe.
Finally, a white variety named Aspirinio is grown in Caserta in northern Campania. The vines of Aspirinio in the Aspirinio di Aversa DOC are trained to poles and reach as high as 30 feet off the ground, meaning pickers must climb ladders to harvest the grapes. While a dry white and sparkling version of Aspirinio di Aversa is produced, the most famous version is the passito bottling.