A Journey through Italian Wine and Christmas Memories

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A Journey through Italian Wine and Christmas Memories

So this is Christmas….

While I was thinking about a Christmas theme to write about a couple of weeks ago, I realized it would be more fun to ask some wine writer and sommelier friends to tell their Christmas stories. As I am focused on Italian wine, I thus asked them to talk about their favorite Italian wine or wine region as the first part of their story. Then I asked them to talk about a Christmas memory in connection with wine, any wine memory, not necessarily about Italy. I have received some wonderful stories from my friends that I will share with you below.

My Christmas Story

To start out this article just a day before Christmas Eve, I decided to tell my own Christmas memory and talk about my favorite Italian wine for the moment. Right now, I am quite into sparkling wines made with the Champenoise method, mainly, and with native grapes from Le Marche. Especially, the Verdicchio sparkling wine Apollonia Brut Nature or Contatto Brut from Federico Mencaroni or Luna Passerina Spumante Brut from Tenuta Santori.

Regarding a Christmas memory, I always celebrate the holidays in Sweden and wine is not one of the main beverages at the Christmas Eve dinner. At least not until I lately have started to bring wine with me. The important beverage is vodka or aquavit with different spices to pair well with the heavy Christmas food of herring, salmon, meatballs, mustard baked ham, sausages, etc. The typical ‘snaps’ from my region Skåne in southern Sweden is called ‘skånsk besk‘ which is made with absinthe that you put in a bottle of aquavit together with a mix of other spices and ingredients. Normally, you let the mix soak into the aquavit for everything from a couple of days to a month or so. There is, of course, a secret family recipe for the best besk, which I am not going to reveal in its entirety here. Just that a drop of port adds to the smooth taste. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Let’s Start Our Journey through Italian Wine and Christmas Memories

Let us now continue the journey through Italian wine and Christmas memories together with Stephanie Davis, Victoria De Maio, Livio Del Chiaro, Valerie Caruso, Adriano Amoretti, Marco Gemelli, Lauren Walsh, and Jill Barth. The questions I asked them were:

  1. Which is your favorite Italian wine/wine region? And, why?
  2. Do you have a Christmas memory that links to wine?

Stephanie Davis

Champagne or sparkling wine is always popular at Christmas and for New Year’s Eve, and a great way to celebrate a fun evening. First out is Stephanie Davis, who is the founder and owner of Albarello products, a wine educator, and wine personality. Stephanie co-hosts the weekly podcast called Wine Two Five.

My favorite wine region is the one I’m traveling to next! I believe it will always be that way because I fall in love with the wine in every region I visit. Furthermore, I was engaged in the Veneto, married in Liguria, and just came back from an extended 10-year anniversary trip through Umbria and Tuscany.

Jeroboam Domaine Carneros 2006 at Christmas in 2011

Nothing says merriment and style like large format bottles of wine. On Christmas Eve in 2011, I opened a jeroboam of 2006 Domaine Carneros Brut to celebrate with friends and family. Much to my surprise, there was enough wine left in the bottle on Christmas morning to serve myself a glass of breakfast bubbly.

Victoria De Maio

Sparkling wine is a favorite at Christmas also for Victoria De Maio, a travel advisor, tour leader (Italy, of course!), blogger, writer and published author, who is passionate about Italy and all things Italian. Read her articles at PostcardZ from Victoria.

My favorite region is the region where I am traveling and enjoying local wines with the traditional, regional cuisine. Always something new to enjoy, learn and savor!

Christmas with Prosecco
Christmas with Prosecco

Bubbles, always bubbles at Christmas! When my parents were alive, we always started our celebrations with champagne. Now, with friends, I love starting with anything bubbly – last year it was “Dolce Vita” Prosecco – perfetto!

Livio Del Chiaro

Prosecco and Champagne at Christmas is what Livio likes too. Livio Del Chiaro is a sommelier and owner of the wine bar La Divina Enoteca in Florence together with Bianca Ciatti.

When it comes to a Christmas memory with a special wine in mind, I remember a Magnum of Prosecco aged on the lees from Casa Coste Piane which had been in our wine cellar for some years. It was an exciting, complex, unexpected, and very satisfying wine.
Normally for Christmas, I choose a Champagne. This year we will sip on an Alain Navarre Cuvée de Reserve. 1/3 of each of the three basic grape varieties for Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir), assembled with Riserva wines. Fresch, mineral, persistent and very enjoyable to drink. The only problem: you finish the bottle straight away!

Christmas Memory
Livio with Champagne in front of the Christmas tree

Valerie Caruso

We are now heading over to talk more about red wines for Christmas. Valerie is telling us her Florentine Christmas story from when she was there during the holidays some years ago. Valerie Caruso, DWS, CWE, FWS is the owner of Vino With Val, LLC, and the host and executive producer of the weekly wine edu-tainment podcast, Wine Two Five, on iTunes and iHeartRadio.

During a rare snowfall, a fellow wine studies student and I had just shared a bottle of Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione to celebrate the end of our first semester. It was the wine maker’s gift to us for our harvest work two months prior.

After reflecting on our time thus far in Italy, we went out for a late afternoon passeggiata above a seemingly sugar-coated city. We couldn’t get enough of Florence sotto la neve.

Christmas Memory

As the sun set, we continued our walk through the narrow streets as Christmas lights hung low between the buildings.

Christmas Memory

I’m not sure how many miles we walked that day, but the brisk cold, the lights, the stars and the feeling of never wanting that day to melt away stayed with me.

Valerie's Christmas Memory

And the next day we found ourselves here, studying, of course, like good wine students.

Christmas Wine Memory

The next week we’d board a midnight train on Christmas Eve to visit friends in Germany, France, and Switzerland to ring in the new year before starting our second semester.

Adriano Amoretti from La Cantina Social

Adriano is one-third of the Cantina Social. Together with Matteo Franco e John Murnane, they have founded a wine blog and community in December 2015, with one mission only: to make the world of wine as friendly as possible,  giving the people a chance to appreciate wine in its entire beauty even if they are just wine lovers without any formal wine education. Below you can read about Adriano’s favorite wine and a Christmas memory of his.

Cantina Social's Christmas Memory
The three friends being La Cantina Social

My favorite wine is SAGRANTINO di Montefalco. As I am a pitmaster which brings me to “work” with several types of meat and cooking methods, passing trough the direct flame of the charcoal or the indirect cooking of the American bbq, for this reason, a massive structure and tannin is the best pairing and this is my favorite wine.

I’m born in Piedmont, land of great red wines, but my parents are from Liguria, and we always spent the Christmas lunch in Sanremo. They don’t have a great passion for wine, but the first time I tried wine was with the traditional Ligurian CIMA, a medium structured meat dish filled with vegetables and eggs. I tried this dish with a ROSSESE DI DOLCEACQUA, a native grape variety from near Sanremo. It was so good, not so strong, so fruity and fresh with a good aftertaste. I was young, like 17 years old and this was my first wine and food pairing experience.

Marco Gemelli

Let us now head back to Tuscany for a while and talk about another interesting wine, namely CarmignanoMarco Gemelli is an Italian wine writer and journalist who has also been an editor of the daily newspaper “Il Giornale della Toscana”. He has his own food blog Il Forchettiere, where you can read his reviews of restaurants and much more.

Chrsitmas Wine Memory
Marco with a glass of Carmignano

It would be easy to choose Tuscany in general as my favorite wine region, but I must confess I have a particular feeling for the Carmignano area. It is one of the smallest wine areas in Italy, but very old and filled of history. For example, what we elsewhere consider international (Cabernet wine) is deeply connected to that territory since the Caterina de’ Medici period. Being an incorrigible Merlot lover, I appreciate the softness and roundness of Carmignano wines as well as their manifold texture.

Every Christmas is a good opportunity to uncork some precious bottles of wine. Usually, I choose three different wines from my cellar, based on the food pairings. Three years ago, I was perhaps able to make my personal best Tuscan triplet: a Black Label (“Balzini”), a Poggio ai Ginepri (“Tenuta Argentiera”) and Carmignano Riserva (“Tenuta di Artimino”). Every year I hope to be able to top that match, and – cross my fingers – maybe this is the right time.

Lauren Walsh

We are taking another detour to Piemonte here. Lauren Walsh is one of my wonderful followers at #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream, and she is always very supportive. Lauren says she has been a wine lover for many years but, until recently, it was only just a hobby. Within the past couple of years, she has become more serious about her wine studies and started a wine blog The Swirling Dervish. She stresses that all this is a lot more fun than her prior career in healthcare marketing!  Looking ahead, she hopes to continue learning as much as she can about wine, connecting with other people who are also passionate about it and tasting new wines from emerging regions.

Christmas Wine Memory

I just spent several months studying the wines of all 20 regions of Italy, in preparation for the Italian Wine Professional certification.  This class introduced me to so many wines I had never heard of, from regions I knew little about. If I threw a dart at the map of Italy, I could think of at least one wine from that place which impressed me. But, if I have to pick just one region, it would be Piemonte. Yes, the Barolos and Barbarescos are elegant and powerful. However, my fascination with this part of northwest Italy stems from the staggering number of indigenous/autochthonous varieties that thrive there. White wines like Arneis and Timorasso are so charming; and Grignolino, with its red cherry fruit and tickling tannins, is my current wine crush. I could probably sip on a different Piemontese wine every day for a month before I had to repeat one. I love the winemakers’ devotion to keeping all these unusual grapes alive!

Christmas Wine Memory
A bottle of Cava in Madrid on Christmas Eve

Lauren’s Christmas memory:  In 2007 I spent the holidays in Madrid by myself. It was quite an adventure, one that was made so pleasant by the management at the hotel Villa Real. On Christmas Eve day, I stayed out walking until after dark, when all the holiday lights came on. Then I went back to the hotel to order some dinner, watch a movie, and go to bed.  When I opened the door to my room, I had a wonderful surprise: a chilled bottle of Cava, and a plate of turrón, the traditional Spanish Christmas candy. Alongside was a very nice note from the staff, wishing me a Feliz Navidad. It turned out to be one of the best Christmases ever!

Jill Barth

With the last Christmas memory in this article, we are going back to Tuscany and ending with a great wine of high class. Jill Barth is a fiction as well as a wine writer, and her articles have appeared in Forbes, USA Today, Palate Express, Wine Tourist Magazine and many other magazines. At her wine blog l’Occasion, you can find more of her articles every week. Below you find her Christmas story about wine.

I’m fascinated by the variety and wealth of Tuscany, and with mesmerizing Montalcino in particular. I love the Tuscan tradition of children bringing treats to older folks during the holiday season. There is nothing more special than a delivery from a smiling face… especially if they bring a bottle of wine! Like most people, my Christmastime wish is to be with the ones I love. Last year, we hosted my friend Megan and her family in our home for a few days, just as the holiday season began. I’ve known Megan my complete life (our parents were friends before we were born) and she is the very essence of family to me. Her husband brought some wine from his collection, and I’ve kept a particular bottle that I hope to open this Christmas Eve. A Brunello di Montalcino from 2010, which was an excellent growing year, will symbolize the spirit of generosity, friendship, and abundance to me this Christmas.

Brunello di Montalcino 2010
Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2010 for Jill Barth

Wishing Everyone a Merry Wine Christmas

Now, I hope you have enjoyed the different wine stories and Christmas memories from my guest writers. There are a lot of interesting wines mentioned here as well as cute and lovely Christmas memories from different parts of the world. I would like to thank Stephanie, Victoria, Livio, Valerie, Adriano, Marco, Lauren, and Jill for their contributions and wonderful stories. This articles would not have been written without you.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to You All!

Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

14 thoughts on “A Journey through Italian Wine and Christmas Memories”

  1. What a great blog… I always wondered how other countries celebrated various holidays and what were really holidays to them too, you know? I found it interesting that wine wasn’t always the beverage for the meal.. but also thought that usually it was… very interesting indeed.

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  2. My family were not wine people. When I moved to the United States, I saw how people valued the presence of wine in most celebrations including Christmas. As I hosted a lot of parties for expatriates, I always included a note to my guest to BYOB. All those drinks get finished all the time. People can’t have enough.

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  3. I have a special champagne story rather than a wine story. I went to university in England, and I spent a lot of time traveling while I lived there. When Michaelmas term was over, I spent some time traveling with my friends through Italy and France prior to returning home to visit my family for Christmas in the States. The New Year for 2000 was coming up, so I wanted to take home a great bottle for NYE. I found this humongous magnum at a shop somewhere in Normandy. It seems like it was twice the size of any regular magnum of champagne. I had to have it. It was huge. I carried that bottle in my backpack for two weeks straight and didn’t break it, nor was it stolen (we were students staying in hostels). I honestly can’t say that I remember if it was good champagne or not – probably wasn’t since a) it was huge and b) I was a broke student, but I was so proud to serve it. That bottle got a lot of mileage before being poured at our celebration.

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