A New Year, A New Decade
Time for a new year of monthly themes in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group, where we are going to introduce a friend to Italian wine.
That means that this month we are presenting Italian wine from a point of view that will make it interesting for a newbie Italian wine lover. A sort of Italian wine for dummies. Small tips for how beginners to this wonderful Italian wine world, slowly can learn to better navigate through regions, appellations, grape varieties, and much more.
These are exciting times because more than ever wine is on the lips (both talking and sipping LOL) of people, it is a passion and interest that is traveling across boundaries of gender, class, political color, etc. Some stereotype ideas about wine are overcome paving way for a more multifaceted way of making, tasting, and experiencing wine.
These are, however, also tumultuous times when looking around in the world at what is happening for the moment. Limiting ourselves to look at it from a wine point of view, Australia is burning and lots of vineyards and wineries have gone lost together with nature in general and unique animals. Our hearts go out to Australia.
Climate change is a real threat and here to stay. Our way of living needs to change, drastically. See the interesting article What lies ahead for wine in 2020? by Andrew Jefford in Decanter.
If we move over to the US there is a lot of talk about the government’s plans on introducing 100% tariffs on certain goods such as cheese and wine coming from the European Union. Who knows what the ramifications of such a decision would be in the end.
Let’s get back to the Italian wine for beginners theme…
How can a newbie approach the world of Italian wine in an easy way then?
My fellow wine writers in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group here have written excellent and well-researched articles about Italian wine for beginners. You can find links to various articles at the end of this article.
I am, therefore, not going to talk much about wine areas, denominations, most common grape varieties, and similar. Well, I will touch upon it briefly when I discuss the three wines below. Instead, I will focus on mindsets and tips to get into the right Italian wine for beginners’ mindset.
I will discuss some of these ideas below as an ex-pat (Swedish) living in Italy.
Read on to the end to get to the part about three wines from lesser-known wine areas.
January WITH #ITALIANFWT
The theme this month, January 2020, is Introduce a friend to Italian wine in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group. As briefly mentioned above, I will be focusing on a general discussion of how to approach Italian wine for a beginner.
Then I will talk about three lesser-known wines made with native grape varieties from three Italian regions. I will go against the tide so to say by arguing that you can be brave also as a beginner.
All those of you who are interested in wine, food, and travel in Italy and to Introduce a friend to Italian wine are very welcome to read all our articles. It is always great to have new fellow Italian wine and food enthusiasts to read our writings and to add new perspectives by commenting and sharing.
How to approach Italian Wine as a Beginner
As mentioned earlier, I will talk about useful mindsets and tips for learning more about Italian wine for beginners.
What do I mean with this?
Well, let me explain. A couple of years ago I wrote the article 3 Reasons Why Wine Communication Matters as part of a challenge in the H2H Club founded by Courtney Smith Kramer and Bryan Kramer that I am a member of. It is true that it talks more about the importance of communication with a focus on storytelling. However, I believe it is important also in this context.
I divided the article into three themes: Wine is Culture, Wine is Education, and Wine is Community.
I find it relevant here because wine in Italy is culture, and not only, it is history, tradition, language, agriculture, environment, food. Probably the list could go on. Wine is intertwined with so many areas of Italian society and to approach Italian wine it is essential to be aware of this.
Now, I do not mean that a beginner in getting to know about Italian wine needs to know everything about Italy and its history and traditions. However, a good amount of curiosity and an open mind towards looking upon wine as something that goes beyond being a mere beverage is always a good mindset to have.
Education is important in this context because as a beginner you will want to study and learn more about Italian wine. There are so many sources you can use to find out more about Italian wine in English ranging from magazines (Wine Spectator, Decanter, Wine Folly, etc) to wine courses online and offline, blogs, belonging to a wine club, a tasting group, to name a few.
I believe curiosity and an open mind is of essence also in this context. Another good thing can be to think about how you like your wine currently. My two cents of advice here would be to then
- step away from Italian wines you are currently drinking often;
- step away from as many larger brands as possible;
- step away from international blends as far as you can.
…and then dig deep at your heart’s desire in Italian wines made with indigenous grapes. Dig deep in the wonderful variety of Italian grape varieties and wine areas.
We all have a certain kind of wines we like more than others. This taste can, and should, evolve over time. The more we learn and taste the more we broaden our taste in wine.
I was defined as a person with a typical international taste by an Italian friend of mine in the beginning. LOL This meant that I liked the rounder taste of red wines aged in barrique, Italian grapes mixed with Merlot or Cabernet to smoothen out the wines. My friend was, and is, more of a hardcore wine taster liking the acidity and sometimes a bit aggressive notes of a very young Sangiovese. She likes aging in steel and large barrels rather than barriques. We had a lot of fun tasting together and laughing about this.
And, do you know what?
Having the privilege to taste a lot of wine around Italy, constantly learning more, being curious and openminded, my taste is completely the opposite now. I understand the world of Italian wine better, I have learned that there is nothing more wonderful than an Italian wine where the essence of the native grape variety comes forth without being overpowered by too much oak or hidden by other international grapes.
Of course, I am not saying that I do not enjoy and appreciate blends with international grapes or wines aged in barrique anymore. Because I do. There are certainly wineries who knows how to master the use of barrique.
My thought behind this is to try and have a mindset where you immerse yourself in the uniqueness of the many indigenous grapes that Italy has to offer.
Many of you our readers are probably living in the US and you experience Italian wine by reading about it in magazines and by drinking those wines you can find in your hometown or area. If you are in larger cities, you probably have a wider selection to choose from of Italian wines.
Anyway, a good way to experience and learn more about wine is to taste together with fellow wine lovers. So, why not gather a small group of friends who are interested in learning more about Italian wine and start a wine tasting group? Then you can decide to meet once a week, once a month, or whatever you prefer and, for example, each one can bring a bottle of wine to your tasting meetings.
When you decide to travel to Italy to experience wine on the spot. There are other tips that are for another article though. Feel free to contact me if you are in Italy and want any advice about wineries or wine areas to visit.
3 Italian Wines to Stimulate the Beginner’s Taste Buds
The grape Garofanata is a native grape variety to Le Marche that has been recovered and re-evaluated by a couple of wineries in Le Marche. On the webpage of the Italian National Registry of Grape Varieties, it is mentioned to be a sub-variety of the Moscato bianco, while Ian D’Agata says it is an ‘offspring of the Trebbiano Toscano‘ (see Ian D’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, p. 509).
Ian D’Agata continues to stress that you can find wines being made with it while Luca Avenanti at Terracruda winery in Fratte Rosa in Le Marche told they were, if not the first to start producing it again, at least one of very few. In fact, according to an interview with Zeno Avenanti, the father of the siblings Maria Vittoria and Luca Avenanti, in Doctor Wine, only they and another winery close to Macerata make wine with this grape variety for the moment.
Ian D’Agata further mentions how the oenologist Giancarlo Soverchia has worked to save this and other local grapes from being forgotten. And guess where he works, among other wineries, as a winemaker? Yes, that is right…at Terracruda winery.
I will talk about the wine Garofanata – Marche Bianco IGT from Terracruda winery. I got to know Maria Vittoria, Luca, and their father Zeno thanks to Angela Santarelli a couple of years ago. I was meeting up with Angela and Holly Ballard in Le Marche and they took me to the inland of the province of Pesaro and Urbino where they were staying, to visit Terracruda winery.
We had a fantastic tasting with many of their wines on a warm August afternoon, and a lot of fun together with Luca. Since then I have also had him on my WinesOfItaly LiveStream.
Garofanata – Marche Bianco IGT is a lovely white wine from Marche that is just as valid as any other for a beginner to Italian wine to get into a piece of local wine history of Le Marche. It is a fresh wine with floral, citrusy, spicy, and herby notes. Geranium is considered to be one of its characteristic notes, thereof its name, Garofanata.
We are now heading to Irpinia in Campania, that interesting wine area in the inland of Campania close to Avellino where Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, and Taurasi wines are produced. Here, I will talk about a Fiano di Avellino from Agricola Cianciullo. It is a small winery owned by Pino Cianciullo and he actually only produces one wine: Arenara Fiano Campania IGP.
I met Pino this summer via Radici del sud when we had a tasting with a group of wine producers in Irpinia at the agritourism Tenuta Montelaura of Lello Tornatore.
Pino runs the small winery together with his brother, Michele, and they have 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of vineyard so far at 800 meters altitude. They are planning to plant 2 more hectares. Fiano is one of the major Italian white grape varieties. It has a long history and is known for its versatility as a grape. It has good aging potential. Read more about the Fiano grape and its history and traits in my article Ciak Irpinia – A Territory of the Big Wine Rock Stars.
Arenara is not a Fiano di Avellino DOCG wine but an IGT wine from Campania, however, that does not make it less interesting, on the contrary. It is a wine with good acidity, minerality, a mix of notes of white flowers, citrus fruits, a herby touch. A true pleasure in a glass also for a beginner.
And, the best thing, Michele Cianciulli actually lives in New York where he works as a wine importer. So you can find this gem there.
Last, but not least, I am taking you back to Calabria. I am here going to talk about a small winery located in Motta Santa Lucia not far from Lamezia Terme. This is also a winery I met at Radici del sud a couple of years ago, namely Le Moire winery that is owned by Paolo Chirillo.
Paolo is a medical doctor with a specialization in internal medicine who for several years worked in the medical field both abroad and in Italy. Some years ago, he then decided to return to Calabria and to start producing wine.
I was fascinated by his wines already the first time I tasted them a couple of years ago, and then I have tasted them again at Vinitaly this year. Paolo and his wife Ana Maria are focusing on indigenous grapes to Calabria such as Arvino, Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Magliocco Dolce, and then they also cultivate Sangiovese.
Arvino is a grape that is considered to get its name from the creek Arvo that is a tributary to the river Neto that has its source in the Sila mountains. Some say it is a grape that is parented with Marsigliana Nera while Ian D’Agatha argues that Arvino is the same as Magliocco Dolce ( see Ian D’Agata, pp. 328-329; 336-337). Marsigliana Nera has been considered to be another name for Greco Nero according to some and Magliocco according to others. (See more about Calabrian grape varieties in Sustainable Wines for the Curious Mind in Calabria and Viticulture – A Family Tradition at Cote di Franze in Calabria)
The wine I have chosen here is their Mute DOC Savuto 2016. This is a red wine that with its name refers to the ‘mute passion’ of Calabria and its terroir, and the Magliocco grape. Paolo told me that it is a red wine that was created to give an expression of the silence, the time that passes, and the passion put into it. It is a wine that goes against the latest trends, chatter, marketing, etc.
For the moment you can find Mute Doc Savuto via an importer in the Pittsburgh area and soon perhaps in New York also.
Mute DOC Savuto 2016 is a smooth and elegant wine with notes of ripe red fruit, licorice, spices, a herby undertone, non-invasive tannins. It is a red wine you want to drink more of. For a beginner to Italian wine, this is a red wine that gives a glimpse into the world of Calabria and its long and rich wine history.
CHECK OUT WHAT THE OTHERS IN #ITALIANFWT WRITE…
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Sips and Eats Around the Boot: A Primer to Italian Wines and Pairings”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Introducing the Diversity of Italian Wine”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Ringing in the New Year with Loved Ones and Prosecco“
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares “Sharing Lugana DOC – Winter Whites With Friends #ItalianFWT #luganawines“
- Marcia at Joy of Wine shares “The World of Italian Wine: Where Do I Begin?“
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “4 To Try in 2020: Italy’s Franciacorta, Friuli, Chianti, Mt. Etna“
- Cindy at Grape Experiences shares “Why the Wines and Food of Custoza DOC are Some of Veneto’s Many Pleasures”
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Three Noble Red Grapes that Help to Navigate the Italian Peninsula”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “What exactly IS this Italian grape?”
- Jen at Vino Travels shares “The Beginnings to Understanding Italian Wine”
- Kevin at Snarky Wine shares “Cutting Your Teeth on Italian Wines”
- Katarina at Grapevine Adventures shares “3 Grapes to Get a Beginner’s Taste of Italian Wine”
- Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Italian Wine 101 Cheat Sheet”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Italian Wine 101 – Start Your Journey Here”
- How Italian Winemakers Cope with the Coronavirus Crisis - March 22, 2020
- Salento At Its Best At Castro Wine Fest In Puglia - February 11, 2020
- Cincinnato – A Cooperative in Lazio Focused on Native Grapes - February 1, 2020