Posts tagged ‘oscar farinetti’

Learning about Italian Wine and Food at Eataly


Alex Pilas, Executive Chef, Eataly, New York City 

In mid-July, I was honored to co-teach an Italian wine and food class at Eataly in New York City with Dan Amatuzzi, wine educator for the store. The experience was great and I want to thank everyone at Eataly that assisted in this class.

That’s about all I want to write about myself, as this post is about learning about Italian wine and food the right way. At least that’s my opinion. What do I mean by the right way? I’m referring to enjoying a variety of Italian wines from numerous regions with traditional Italian foods.

Just look at the wines we tried in the class:  the special cuvée “Rabochon” (2005 vintage) from the Franciacorta producer Monte RossaVespa Bianco 2011 from Bastianich; Friulano 2007 “Vignecinquant’anni” from Le Vigne di ZamoMorellino di Scansano 2010 “Le Perazzi” from La MozzaDolcetto di Diano d’Alba “La Lepre” 2008  from Fonatanafredda and the Langhe Nebbiolo 2009 from Borgogno.

If you think this wasn’t the typical array of Italian wines you’re likely to taste at a class, you’re right. The wines were chosen for a few reasons, one being that they are all given a writeup in my recently published book Beyond Barolo and Brunello: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines. In this book, I have endeavored to give the reader a portrait of the true Italian wine scene and not just coverage of the most famous wines from the country.


So notice that there wasn’t a single example of Barolo, Brunello or Amarone, but rather wines that you might come across everyday in Italy. Combine that with some marvelous foods prepared by Eataly’s executive chef Alex Pilas  and you have a setting that in some ways brings Italy home. I told the students at the class that they were learning about Italian wine as the Italians do – in a relaxed setting, enjoying a glass of wine with local food.

Pesce crudo (raw fish) was served with the sparkling wine and the two whites; the acidity of these wines were an ideal match for the fish. Various styles of salumi (prosciutto di parma, soppressata) accompanied the Morellino di Scansano and the Dolcetto, while the final course was a mushroom ravioli that was paired with the Langhe Nebbiolo. I absolutely loved this match – and given the comments by the students, so did they – as the earthiness of the mushrooms were in tandem with the similar qualities of the Langhe Nebbiolo, which also happens to offer subtle notes of porcini in the aromas. You just don’t get a pairing that works as beautifully as that one did every day, so complimenti to chef Pilas!

Another note about the Borgogno Langhe Nebbiolo. I wanted to feature this offering, as this is the exact type of Italian wine that does not get the attention it deserves in the well-known consumer wine publications. Yet it is excellent and offers a sense of place – you can tell instantly that this is from Piemonte. What I love about this wine is that this is 100% Nebbiolo – the same as the much more expensive Barolo and has a lot in common with that more famous wine. Indeed, Borgogno produces this wine with Nebbiolo fruit sourced from five local vineyards that are also used by the produced for its various bottlings of Barolo. This is the type of Italian wine that everyone needs to know more about, not only because it displays lovely varietal purity and beautifully represents the land, but it is also a very reasonable alternative, pricewise, to Barolo. You’d be surprised how many of these wines exist in Italy, from Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba in Piemonte to Aglianico in Campania in the south.

Generally, Italian wine classes are often about what I call “trophy” wines; the bottles that are the longest-lived and most renowned wines from the country. I love them, but more often, I seek out the best examples of everyday wines crafted by producers throughout Italy. That’s something I think every wine lover should do, as this will be an exercise in tradition and heritage and not merely a search for the highest scores. The best wines of Italy are meant for consumption with food; they play up to the food and when it’s done right, the total is far more than the sum of the parts.

So I was thrilled to have this experience co-teaching this class to consumers who were eager to learn about pairing Italian wines and foods the right way. Oscar Farinetti, who created Eataly in Torino about a decade ago, as well as Lidia and Joseph Bastianich and Mario Batali, co-proprietors of the New York Eataly, are creating an atmosphere of helping the consumer learn about the pleasures of Italian wine and food in a relaxing, no-nonsense way. Here’s to each of them for their work and here’s to their staff for involving me in this environment.

I can’t wait for Eataly to open up in Chicago later this year, where I hope to be part of more education about Italian wine and food!

August 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

Fontanafredda – Top 100

Here is another entry in my Top 100 Italian wine producers.

Fontanafredda Estate, Serralunga d’Alba (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Fontanafredda is a remakable story of a very good producer that has become a great one in just over a decade. Owning choice vineyards may help, but it’s the people behind the scene that have elevated Fontanafredda to such heights.

Located in Serralunga d’Alba, one of the most typical of all communes in the Barolo zone, Fontanafredda is one of the area’s most beautiful wine estates, as the La Rosa vineyard (planted to Nebbiolo) is set in a beautiful ampitheater that is a focal point for lovely grounds that were once home to Emmanuele Vittorio ll, the King of Italy.

Fontanafredda owns the largest number of acreage of Nebbiolo reserved for production of Barolo, but quantity of course, does not always insure quality. For decades, the Barolos (and other wines) of Fontanafredda were always good and sometimes very good, but rarely special.

Then a few individuals saw to it that this estate would change. Giovanni Minetti, a former journalist, took over as general manager during the late 1990s and with the help of the Bank of Siena (Monte del Paschi) that owned the company, decided to upgrade equipment in the cellars as well as planting regimes in the vineyards. He then hired Danilo Drocco as winemaker in 1998, after a long stint at Prunotto, where he produced lovely examples of Barolo and Barbera for years. Drocco finished the 1998 Barolos, which received praise from wine writers throoughout Italy, with the 1998 La Rosa Barolo, receiving the coveted Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso, a first for the winery.

Danilo Drocco, Fontanafredda Winemaker (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Today, Drocco produces several cru Barolos as well as a Serralunga bottling, from vineyards owned by the winery as well as from fruit purchased from local growers. The two cru bottlings from Serralunga offer great insight into Drocco’s winemaking skills. For both the La Rosa and the Lazzarito, Drocco ages the wine in barriques for approximately one year and then swtiches the wine to large oak casks (grandi botti) after that. This blending of modern and traditional winemaking methods has its purpose, as Drocco believes the color of Barolo is preserved in the small barrels, while the large caks insure that the wines do not have too high a level of tannins or wood influence from the small barrels. “A little oak is fine for Barolo, but not too much,” Drocco explains.

Both wines are first-rate and are fine examples of local Serralunga terroir. The La Rosa is a more approachable bottling upon release and offers more floral aromatics, while the Lazzarito (La Delizia) bottling is more tannic and is released almost one year later than the La Rosa. Danilo explains this; “As Lazzarito is located at a higher elevation than La Rosa (1300 feet versus 820), the temperatures at night are cooler, which means Lazzarito needs another 7-10 days for proper grape maturity as compared with La Rosa. This extra hangtime also builds up a greater degree of tannins.” While both wines have been exceptional since Drocco took over with the 1998 vintage, the Lazzarito has definitely been the more deeply concentrated wine and the one offers the promise of longer aging potential. The 1998 is drinking beautifully now, while the 1999, 2001 and 2004 are wines that should peak in another 15-25 years.

In 2008, Oscar Farinetti, head of the cutting edge retail store Eataly, located in Torino, became majority share holder of Fontanafredda (the Bank of Siena has maintained a significant percentage of ownership), leading to a new era for the winery. New value-oriented wines, such as Briccotondo (Barbera Piemonte) and Terremora, a Langhe Dolcetto have been introduced. Improvements continue in many aspects of the company and today, the full potential of this estate is being fulfilled.

Drocco, always looking to improve his wines, has become one of Barolo’s most dedicated winemakers and stresses that his wines need to emerge in the bottle instead of being too obvious and forward upon release. “They should be like the great Burgundies that give to you sensations little by little.”

The best wines of Fontanafredda include:


  • Roero Arneis “Pradalupo”
  • Gavi
  • Moscato d’Asti “Montecucco”


  • Asti “Galarej”
  • Contesa Rosa Brut


  • Barolo “La Villa”
  • Barolo “La Rosa”
  • Barolo “Lazzarito La Delizia”
  • Barbaresco “Coste Rubin”
  • Nebbiolo d’Alba “Marne Brune”
  • Diano d’Alba “La Lepre”
  • Barbera d’Alba “Papagena”

November 30, 2009 at 11:49 am Leave a comment

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