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Lunch and visit at Braida

September 27, 2011 6 comments

I went to Piedmont at the beginning of September and spent four lovely days touring the gorgeous region, tasting wines and visiting a few wineries. I arrived to Bergamo on a FRI morning and drove towards La Morra where my accommodation was. As Braida is in Rocchetta Tanaro which is on the way to La Morra, this was the first winery visited. I met Mrs Raffaella Bologna during this year’s edition of Vinitaly and during our conversation she mentioned how happy she was with her Romanian employees that were not doing just the hard labor, but also were involved in the wine-making process. So when I wrote her that I will come to Piedmont, she immediately scheduled my visit to her winery. She even went the extra mile and invited me to have a family lunch at her residence.

Braida is a beautiful village story: It all began, just as in any village story, with a nickname: Braida, which Giuseppe Bologna earned whilst playing pallapugno, a traditional Italian ball game played with bandaged wrists in teams of four. His son, Giacomo Bologna inherited both his father’s vineyard and his nickname, and the unconditional love for his land and wine.

In charge of the property are now Giacomo’s children: Raffaella and Beppe. Braida is producing the most famous and probably the best Barbera d’Asti: Bricco dell’Uccellone. Until the late Giacomo Bologna stunned critics and connaiseurs alike, his barriques aged single vineyard Bricco dell’Uccellone, Barbera d’Asti was considered as merely the coarse, everyday dinner companion for many northwestern Italians. While studying the techniques of the best French winemakers in the late ’70s, Mr Giacomo Bologna learned how malolactic fermentation in wood could soften Barbera’s strident acidity and add tannins that the grape inherently lacks. He realized that, if used wisely, barriques would not only add subtle flavors to Barbera, but also polish its rustic edges.

tasting room

different view of the tasting room

At the 1985 edition of Vinitaly, the country’s largest annual wine show, Bologna launched his Bricco dell Uccellone 1982 and within five days all 9800 bottles were pre-sold. Other producers noted the wine’s success and soon a wine-making revolution started.

Braida’s reception and wine shop

Although most Barbera d’Asti is consumed within the first 3 to 5 years, Bricco dell’Uccellone has great aging potential. The property covers 56 ha and produces DOCG wines: Barbera, Moscato and Branchetto and DOC wines: Grignolino, Monferrato Rosso, Langhe Bianco and Langhe Chardonnay. Their wines are sold all over the world.

entrance door to the tasting room

Just like in Bordeaux where there was an early harvest this vintage, in Piedmont they faced the same situation. Mrs Bologna mentioned that they already started to harvest on Sept 2nd and that hectic times were further expected. Usually they pick gradually the different varieties, but this vintage she was expecting to have almost all 8 different varieties picked over a very short period of time.

Raffaella Bologna

One of the walls of the winery is decorated with some very cool pieces of painted oak.

Together with Mrs Bologna, we did a full tour of the winery, visited the cuvier, the barrels and aging room, the tasting room while she was explaining the wine-making process for all their wines. Oddly enough, their barrel aging room is located on top of the cuvier(where the stainless steel tanks are), therefore is pretty difficult – not to say impossible – to use gravity when transferring the wine into the small oak barrels. However, they do have a large industrial elevator in the winery and use it to transport the wine on the upper floor, where the small oak barrels are, not needing to use pumps in the process.  They use different types of oak barrels including new French and Slavonian.

At the end of the tour we had a lovely lunch and tasted some very interesting wines in her spacious living room.

I experienced delicious traditional Piedmont’s dishes that went very well with the wines tasted. Some of the highlights of the meal were for appetizers: grilled red and yellow bell peppers with salted anchovies on top that pair very well with the barrel aged Chardonnay and roast-beef with brown sauce and vegetables that prepared the stage for the red wines.

With appetizers we had 3 white wines all Langhe DOC: Re di Fiori 2010 (100% Riesling Renano), Il Fiore 2010(70% Chardonnay and 30% Nascetta, an indigenous Piedmont grape, semi-aromatic with good longevity) and an 8 months barrel aged late harvest Chardonnay – Asso di Fiori 2009. The Re di Fiori 2010 has good freshness and vivid aromatics, Il Fiore 2010 has good freshness and floral aromas mixed with minerals, is clean on the palate and has a nice length. Both wines have a welcoming 12% alcohol level.

The white wine I enjoyed the most was Asso di Fiori 2009. Buttery, smoky and oaky characters steal the nose, continued with very pleasant richness and creaminess on the palate. This full bodied wine has plenty of seductive flavors: vanilla, citrus fruits, butter and a touch of minerality, is well balanced, while the finish is medium plus long. Overall an elegant wine. (90/100)

The three red wines we had were by far the most interesting part of the tasting. We had three different interpretations of the same Barbera d’Asti grape from three different vintages.

2005 Braida Bricco della Bigotta was my favorite of the reds. Already having some age compared to the other two(2006 and 2007), this wine was matured for 18 months in Slavonian and French oak barrels. The deep red colored wine has a gorgeous nose of truffles mixed with sweet fruit, vanilla, liquorice and violets, well developed and intense, with bright acidity and well structured on the palate. Spicy, intense and smooth, with a medium plus finish. A great wine coming from an underdog 2005 vintage. 14.5% alc (91-92/100)

2006 Braida Bricco dell’Uccellone has a deep dark red-purple color and was aged in new French oak barrels for 15 months, followed by 12 months in the bottle. 2006 was a great vintage. The nose is more restrained, but has depth and complex aromas of small red fruits, vanilla, spices and liquorice. Very well structured and more intense on the palate, it needs a few more years to open up, but there is great potential here. Red and black fruits, spices and vanilla are the dominating flavors on the palate. The finish is medium plus long. 14.5% alc (90-91/100)

2007 Braida Ai Suma is a late harvest Barbesa d’Asti aged for 15 months in French oak and another 12 months in bottle. Intense deep red – purple color. A rich and developed nose with strong aromas of red fruits, cocoa, vanilla and spices. Massive concentration on the palate, this wine resembles the structure and the mouth-feel of an Amarone. The alcohol is in the same registry: 15.5% but very well balanced. Intense flavors and a very persistent finish. A wine that will last long. (92/100)

We had a traditional dessert with a Brachetto d’Acqui 2010(5.5% alc) – Brachetto is the grape variety, a sweet red wine that resembles a Moscato d’Asti. Perfect pairing with dessert.

Just before leaving the winery I asked Mrs Bologna if she allows me to see their private wine collection especially because during lunch we discussed about enjoying older vintages and her preference in terms of wines. She also mentioned about some of their own 30-40 years old wines she recently tasted and her preference for old Burgundy as well. Also it is common for wineries, and not only with local ones, to exchange wines between them therefore I saw a lot of famous Italian wines in her cellar. Her husband is in charge of the International expansion of their products and is now studying to become a Master of Wine(MW) in London. I got the chance to take a small tour of their private cellars filled both with Italians and French fine wines.

Gaja Barbaresco 1978 magnum

I thanked my host for all the kindness she showed me and the great wines and lunch we shared and continued my trip further in Piedmont. Next visit was at a traditional producer from Barolo.

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Categories: Italy

(Pub) Participanti la PROVINO

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Producatori de vin din Republica Moldova si-au anuntat participarea la Festivalul PROVINO – Vin. Arta. Gastronomie, organizat la Iasi in perioada 3 – 6 noiembrie 2011. Festivalul este promovat in Republica Moldova  de agentii companiei POLIPROJECT Exhibitions Ltd.

Vinarte, producator de vinuri celebre, participa la Festivalul PROVINO – Vin. Arta. Gastronomie de la Iasi. VINARTE, producator cu o traditie de 13 ani pe piata din Romania, si-a anuntat deja prezenta la Expozitia PROVINO. Compania Vinarte detine in portofoliu trei dintre cele mai celebre vinuri romanesti – “Prince Matei 2001” (medaliat cu aur la Campionatul Mondial de Merlot din Elvetia ), “Sirena Dunarii” (medaliat cu aur la “Premiile de Excelenta Vinul.ro”) si “Castel Starmina- tamaioasa Romaneasca 2009” (medaliat cu aur la concursul „Strugurele de Aur” din 2010). In afara acestor vinuri care au facut senzatie si in strainatate, Vinarte prezinta in cadrul festivalului PROVINO merlot-ul Prince Matei, Cuvee d’excellence Riesling si Sauvignon blanc, alaturi de vinuri din gamele “Castel Starmina”, “Villa Zorilor” si “Colectie cu Soare”. Vinarte exploatează 335 de hectare de vie pe trei domenii: Castel Starmina (Vanju Mare-Mehedinti), Castel Bolovanu (Samburesti-Olt) si Villa Zorilor (Dealu Mare-Buzau). Compania a investit pana acum peste 10 milioane euro, atat in partea agronomica cat si in tehnologia centrelor de vinificatie. La Samburesti a achizitionat un centru de vinificare – Bolovanu si a preluat in asociere 60 de hectare de vie.

Categories: Pub

Tasting wines from Gonzalez Byass

September 16, 2011 3 comments

Mr Oscar Bayo explaining the sherry concept

On THU evening I attended a private dinner organized by Cramele Recas at Mesogios restaurant in Bucharest where I tasted some wines produced by Gonzalez Byass. The purpose of this unexpected tasting was the visit of Gonzalez Byass Regional Sales Director – Mr Oscar Bayo in Romania. Aside from Recas representatives and Mr Bayo, the other participants were Vali Ceafalau from Vinul.ro, and two other wine bloggers: Nicusor Cazan and Razvan Jurca. The atmosphere was friendly and Mr Oscar Bayo did a good job explaining us the history of the company and gave full details about the wines we tasted.

The company Gonzalez Byass has been established in 1835 in the Jerez region, it is still a family owned business and it is now at the 5th generation. They produce wine in different regions of Spain: Rioja, Toledo, Jerez, Somontano, Penedes and Cava.

We started the tasting with a dry sherry Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco served with appetizers. Sherry is made from 100% Palomino grapes. After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy and reaches 15% alcohol. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco has a pale yellow lemon color and a sweet-sour nose dominated by aromas of bitter fruit seeds, brown sugar and almonds. The pairing  with olives is perfect. While on its own you can feel the alcohol, in the company of olives the wine blossoms. Mr Bayo also recommended serving sherry with sea food dishes, sushi and most types of cooked fish. We had our sherry with a crab salad and Jamon Iberico, but for me the olives were the best pairing.

Next wine was a young Tempranillo coming from a selection of the best vines of their Plot 23, fermented and kept for 9 months in stainless steel tanks, than aged for 6 months in new French and American oak. The wine is designed for every day drinking and is made to emphasize the fruity character. Finca Constantia Parcela 23 Tempranillo 2009 is a ruby red-purple colored wine, with a big fruity nose, showing initially some strong volatiles, medium bodied, with red fruit jams and hints of coffee on the palate, smooth and mellow tannins, and a medium fruity finish. (82/100)

The second course of the meal was grilled tuna with rice. The wine served was a Rioja and the iconic wine of Beronia winery: III a.C. Gonzalez Byass owns about 20 ha of vines in Rioja, but controls another 840 ha through long term contracts. That’s about 10% of the entire Rioja region. Beronia III a.C. 2008 is a blend of 92% Tempranillo, 4% Graciano and 4% Mazuelo coming from 55-60 years old vines and aged for 15 months in new French oak.

The wine has a dark purple almost opaque color. The wine is made in a modern style. The nose is youthful and developing, very fruity and oaky, with rich aromas of black and blue fruits: blackberries, cranberries, black cherry, mixed with spices: cloves and cinnamon. Opulent in the mouth with plump fruit, this full bodied wine has a rich texture, concentrated, with velvety tannins, well balanced, with lots of waves of black and blue forest fruits washing the palate and the cheeks with a sweet sensation. The additional flavors of black tea leaves and coffee give this wine a good complexity and stop it from being just a massive fruit bomb. The finish is long and intense, with a refreshing mocha and black tea bitterness. This is a massive, almost body-builder wine. (90/100)

Third course of the meal was a mix of grilled octopus and king prawns on a bed of stewed tomatoes. A traditional style Rioja wine was served: Beronia Reserva 2006. A blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, the wine was aged for 18 months in mixed American and French oak barrels. Beronia produces a Reserva each vintage and a Gran Reserva only in the best vintages.

Beronia Reserva 2006 is a more traditional wine and has a red ruby-maroon color. A classic Rioja nose, youthful, but developing, still fruity, with hints of dry tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet red fruit and coffee bean. Medium bodied, juicy, with classic aromas, red fruit, earthy and tobacco palate, and good grippy tannins. Well structured with a medium plus finish and vanilla in the aftertaste. A true expression of classic Rioja. (87/100)

The highlight wine of the night was, for me, the Beronia Gran Reserva 2001. It was a great match for the earthy aromas of the octopus. Blend of 88% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano and 4% Mazuelo, aged for 24 months in mixed American and French oak barrels. 2001 was an exceptional vintage for Rioja.

2001 Beronia Gran Reserva has a ruby red color with a brownish rim. A well developed and maturing nose, complex, exhibiting both primary and tertiary aromas of red fruit, brown sugar, a bit salty – anchovies like aroma, grilled bell pepper, game and coffee. The wine is in a point where the primary aromas will gradually start to fade away, so if you like primary sweet fruity aromas in your wine, it is recommended to start drinking this wine. Firm tannins with good grip on the palate, with flavors of vanilla, balsamic notes, spices, red fruit, well balanced and complex. Medium plus finish with good freshness and spicy. (90-91/100)

The dessert was accompanied by a Nectar Pedro Ximenez Dulce having 370 gr of sugar per liter. Death by sweetness. An oxidative dark brown color(the wine spent about 9 years in American oak following the Solera system). A rich nose with intense aromas of figs, caramel, dried fruits, dried grapes-sultanas, nuts and spices. Unctuous on the palate, velvety mouth-feel and a long and persistent sweet finish. One glass of this wine and is enough. A bit too sweet for my taste.

Before leaving, we also sampled a glass of Lepanto Pedro Ximenez Solera Gran Reserva: entirely produced in Jerez from 100% Palomino grapes, it spends its first 12 years in barrels that previously contained Tio Pepe and its last 3 years in barrels that previously contained the best Pedro Ximenez Noe. (36% alcohol)

Gonzalez Byass has a large portfolio of products – we counted together with Mr Bayo about 94 distinctive products in their catalog – but there is quality and attention to details for all of their products.

* The products of Gonzalez Byass are imported into Romania by Cramele Recas

Categories: Spain

(Pub) Festivalul PROVINO – Vin.Arta.Gastronomie

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Intre 3-6 Noiembrie Compania ABplus Events organizeaza Festivalul PROVINO – Vin. Arta. Gastronomie ce va avea loc la Centrul Expozitional Moldova in Iasi. ABplus Events organizeaza targuri si expozitii in constructii la nivel national din 1997. Printre brandurile dezvoltate in timp de ABplus Events se numara CAMEX Expozitia Nationala de Constructii si Instalatii, Forumul Regional in Constructii Construct Week, Conferintele nationale de arhitectura RIFF, GIS, INGLASS, revistele ConstructionNews.ro si DecoNews.ro.

Targul va avea pe langa spatiul clasic cu standurile participantilor, alte cateva sectiuni speciale care merita toata atentia:

– SALONUL ROYAL WINES, adresat connaiseur-ilor, este un spatiu dedicat expunerii si degustarilor de vinuri premiate. In cadrul sau vor participa companii ce au in portofoliu vinuri premiate in ultimii 5 ani la concursuri internationale desfasurate sub auspiciile Organizatiei Internationale a Viei si Vinului (OIV). Accesul vizitatorilor se va face pe baza biletului achizitionat la intrarea in salon.

– SALONUL VINURILOR RARE ROMANESTI, destinat expunerii si degustarilor de vinuri rare romanesti, este dedicat companiilor expozante ce au in portofoliul lor soiuri de vinuri rare, produse in podgoriile din Romania. Accesul vizitatorilor in aceasta zona se va face in baza unui bilet achizitionat la intrarea in Centrul Expozitionat sau a unei invitatii.

– WINE&GASTRONOMY, zona de entertainment unde vor avea loc show-uri gastronomice si degustari. O zona special amenajata, unde companiile expozante vor realiza zilnic degustari de maxim 3 soiuri, in prezenta unui public de cel putin 50 de persoane. Producatorii vor alege intre 1 si 4 tipuri de vin din fiecare soi – soiuri albe, soiuri rosii, soiuri roze, vinuri efervescente.

– ART&MUSIC, eveniment conex al Festivalului PROVINO, desfasurat in doua muzee iesene, unde vor avea loc expozitii de arta si concerte de jazz, blues si muzica veche in compania unor vinuri bune.

– Standul Partenerului Strain este spatiul unde vor expune companii din industria de profil din tara partenera- cel mai probabil Germania, si vor avea loc degustari de vinuri, spectacole, momente artistice si show-uri gastronomice traditionale.

Festivalul PROVINO se adreseaza atat publicului larg cat si publicului specialist. Festivalul va reuni reprezentanti ai segmentului HoReCa, producatori, importatori si distribuitori de vinuri nationale si internationale, precum si companii din industria viniviticola si domenii conexe-accesorii, servicii si publicatii pentru industria vinului.

In cadrul Festivalului va exista un Wine Shop: zona in care publicul vizitator va putea achizitiona vinurile prezentate. Spatiul dedicat zonei Wine Shop este situat in zona de iesire a publicului vizitator din incinta Centrului Expozitional Moldova, pentru a facilita achizitionarea vinurilor.

Pentru mai multe informatii referitoare la programul complet puteti vizita direct pagina targului aici.

Categories: Pub

A trip to Piedmont

September 13, 2011 1 comment

I recently spent a short vacation in Italy at the beginning of September and I had the chance to discover the beautiful landscape of Piedmont. Planned as a short part of my vacation, I stayed for about 4 days in La Morra and visited the area around. The view is spectacular: high hills completely covered by tall but perfectly alined and trimmed vineyards, most of the hills having some type of castle/fortification built on top of it from older times.

The grapes grown in the area are, for whites: Chardonnay, Riesling and some other local varieties, and, for the reds, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba(for Alba region) and Barbera d’Asti(for the Asti region), and Nebbiollo – the king grape of Piedmont used to make Barolo and Barbaresco. The traditionalists use only Slovenian oak for aging in medium size and big barrels, while the modernists use strictly new French oak barrels. A Barbaresco is aged for 2 years: 1 year in oak and 1 in bottle, while a Barolo is aged for 3 years: 2 years in oak and 1 year in bottle. A Riserva is aged for an additional year in barrel.

Most of the Barolo’s I tasted were 2006(a spectacular year for Nebbiollo and Barbera, with good structure) and 2007(a year with better freshness and designed for earlier drinking). Everybody recommends drinking a Barolo when it is at least 10 years old – I can understand why: most young Barolo’s have huge tannins that demand aging. However, Barbera d’Alba – aged for 1 year in oak, is a more approachable alternative in its youth and can be drunk while waiting for Barolo to age.

Just like in France where there is an early harvest this year, in Piedmont growers experience the same pattern: an earlier than usual harvest. All of the properties I visited started to harvest already almost 10 days in advance. The Dolcetto’s were the first to be picked.

I made some prior appointments to visit a few wineries and tasted some really interesting wines, both traditionalist and modernist styles. I visited the areas and cities of Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, Barolo, Monforte d’Alba and drove around Turin, Asti and the rest of Piedmont. My itinerary looked as following:

– day 1: visit at Braida di Bologna Giacomo Cantina Winery – famous for its Bricco dell’Uccellone made from Barbera d’Asti, and I was also invited to a lovely family lunch by Raffaella Bologna(Braida’s owner) at her residence.

– day 2: visit at G.D. Vajra with wines from Barolo and Serralunga d’Alba(Luigi Baudana).

– day 3: visit at Cavallotto – a traditionalist in Castiglione Falletto.

– day 4: visit at Luciano Sandrone – a modernist in Barolo.

I will write separate posts about each winery I visited and the wines tasted over the following days. Overall, Piedmont is a great place to visit, with amazing food – even the most humble Trattoria offers a 3-4 courses meal, the wines at restaurants are reasonably priced(20-30% mark-up) and really good. In about 2 weeks time the truffles season kicks off and that is really the best time to go visit Piedmont.

Categories: Italy
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