The Winey Soul goes to Lake Garda

July tickled us with a super sunny weekend last week and finally summer has arrived. And it is just perfect, especially when I mean to write an article about those gorgeous rosè wines that would flood our glasses as soon as the first rays of spring weather start showing u!
I know what you’re thinking right now: “oh no, not another wines-to-drink list please!”
Nope.
Today you’ll travel with me to Lake Garda – a place I love and in which I have made some of the best memories ever. This is the biggest fresh water lake in Italy, 50km long and in some points over 300mt deep. Its influence on this region’s climate conditions is evident: the water temperature is colder than the air’s in summer and warmer in winter, therefore mitigating both the summer heat and the harsh winter days. There are two main winds that blow here: “Peler”, from north to south in the morning, and “Ora”, in the afternoon. As you can easily imagin, these are are very good conditions for viticulture and that is why I want in fact to introduce you to a wine region of this area: please meet the Valténesi. An off the beaten path region, which is slowly emerging and, in my humble opinion, should finally get the attention it deserves.
Valténesi is a hilly territory on the western side of the Garda Lake where viticulture is known since the pre-Romans times. The indigenous grape variety here is called Groppello, a thin skin grape with a blue-purplish color – it’s pretty much the equivalent of what Sangiovese is in the Chianti area: a true reflection if its terroir. The DOC allows the production of a red wine (Valtenesi DOC) and a rosè wine (Valténesi Chiaretto DOC), which is made with a very special method called “Molmenti”. Basically, the skin contact period is very short, in some cases not even an hour, and then the wine is racked off during the night to help maintaining the typical freshness of this rosè. That’s why this wine is also called “the one night wine”. Thanks this short maceration the color of the wine is very pale, in that Provence fashion that is now so dear and appreciated by the public. That’s not the only thing they have in common though, because the Valténesi Chiaretto has also a unique style: it’s refreshing, fragrant, vibrant – thanks to the maritime climate and a well timed harvest that allow acidities to stay high – but also sapid and saline. It’s an elegant wine that shows the strength of this territory through aromas of roses and red wild fruits and a round and balanced sip. There’s a constellation of producers in this area and some of them are getting a pretty good reputation: some of the most famous are Ca’ dei Frati and Ca’ Maiol, but also smaller producers like Olivini make interesting wines. Mattia Vezzola, chief oenologist of Bellavista, here runs “Costaripa”, the family winery in which they also produce some very good traditional methods sold under his own name – that I was lucky enough to visit a few weeks ago. And then one of my favorites in the area, Cascina Belmonte: a small sustainable winery with a modern approach to viticulture and agriculture, where biodiversity reigns soverain and every detail is studied and reasoned to impact as little as possible on the environment. And all of this without compromising on the quality of the wines. What would you want more?
Can you you already picture yourself sipping Rosé on the shore of the Lake at sunset? I totally do!

Need any touristic tip? Here you go:
Vittoriale degli Italiani: definitely the place I love the most, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been there! This Villa used to be the poet D’Annunzio’s retreat on the shores of Lake Garda, near Gardone Riviera – just a little north of Salò. Art deco, eclectic tastes, beduin tents, fountains, waterfalls and even a real, entire, military ship lying on a hill… you can’t miss a visit!

Riva del Garda: the largest town in the northern part of the lake and the ideal base for GardaTrek, three loop trails between lake and mountains. It is close to some mountain bike trails and it is also possible to do some pretty cool lake dives.
Salò: the second-largest town on the Lombardia side. It is famous for having been the headquarters of the Repubblica di Salò, the seat of the Fascist government at the end of World War II. This charming town has the longest lakeside promenade

Sirmione: an ancient town that sits on a peninsula, home to Grotte di Catullo (the ruins of a vast Roman villa), the Scaligero Castle, that stretches into the lake, and its thermal baths. In summer, Sirmione swarms with tourists so to enjoy it at its best the perfect moment would be off-season.

Skin Contact

It’s harvest time and summer is gone leaving the pace to autumn. No, I’m not excited about autumn arriving at all with its cold temperatures and the following winter, but about harvest… yes I am! It reminds me a lot of when I was a child and grandpa used to harvest his vines of “uva fragola” (Concord or Fox grape in english) to make his “home-wine” and dad was bring home some bunches every day: they were so good I still get my mouth watering just thinking about it. But the best day of all was when the must was ready and grandpa was bringing it home for us to taste it: it was delicious and a feast of pleasure for the whole family, us kids included! One day I asked him: – “Granpa, why is this must so red?”

“It’s the skin contact that makes it so”

“Skin contact? Like you put all the grapes together close to each other and they become a color?”

“Mmm… Something like that, yes”.

Ok, that was maybe a bit naïve, but I was just 5 years old!

Thinking about it now, though, I really like that image of grapes becoming the red color in the process as a metaphor. Skin contact is the way the must became so red back then, but it is also the way we understand we like someone, isn’t it? A caress on our body of the one we like makes us shiver and even an accidental touch can give you chills; it is the smell of that special person on you for the whole day; it is desire; it makes you crave for more. It is red, it is passion and it all relates to that: skin contact. When you like someone, what’s the thing you want the most? You want them close; you want them next to you, holding your hand; you love feeling their body near when they snuggle up to you and you just don’t care if that’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world; you want the touch of their hand on your face when you’re falling asleep. I know for a fact that grandpa use to love it at least as much as I do nowadays: the thing I remember the most of my grandparents is that they were always – and I really mean always – holding each other’s hand when they were together. And I totally get that: when you’re physically close to someone you tend to feel happier because your body releases dopamine, serotonin – both of which boost your mood – and oxytocin, which is also known to be the chemical that creates bonds and grows affection and intimacy. And as far as I’m concerned, cuddling makes me sleep better. All of this from something so apparently simple as skin contact.

Bottom line? Red wine will be your perfect cuddle!

Cheers to that!

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Wine of the day:

It can only be my grandpa’s Fragolino: I really wish I could literally take it out of my good memories to taste it again, but I guess that won’t be possible.

To me, it tastes of childhood memories, strawberries and a fireplace.

Choices: my time for reds!

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you need to make choices. Regardless of how important they are or what they are about, they always take you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes we indulge in situations – even when we don’t like them too much – just because we’re too afraid (or lazy, or scared, or uncertain, you choose) of the changes that making a choice would involve – because they always happen and the worst part is that we can’t foresee what’s going to happen next. But: is this really the worst part? I’m not that sure… the worst part, to me, is actually making your call, or taking a position, or speaking up for yourself with a clear mind, and all what comes next – in the end – is only the result of your decisional process. So, the next question is: does right and wrong exist when it comes to choices? If I think of all the decisions I have made in my life, from the easiest ones to the most difficult, I belive I can identify the golden rules that worked for me:

  1. don’t overthink (which sounds quite like a joke said from me, a natural overthinker!): take your time, sleep on it, talk about it with your closest ones, go dancing, go walking, see your friends, you can even try crying a few tears if it helps releasing the stress, but don’t focus all your energies and attention on that issue,  it would only make you see things worse or bigger than they are;
  2. no fear: of any kind. No wrong decisions can be made and no panic on the consequences. Only you know what’s inside of you and what led you to that specific choice you’re about to make, so don’t fear other people’s judgment (easy to say, not always so easy to cope with though)
  3. a glass of wine always helps (just one!!)… better if red! And here, my choice is easy: Dolcetto d’Alba is what I find really comforting when I need to make a decision!

Ok, I must admit this looks very simplicistic and that it takes a bit of effort to face some situations. But we still have one last option, which I was told a few years ago by someone wise: “If you’re uncertain and you can’t decide just pick a side and flip a coin: when it will be about to fall on the ground you will know for sure what you’re hoping for”…and that is just so true! Have you ever tried?

So, now: guess what I’m gonna drink tonight??

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Wine of the day:

Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2015, Roagna

Ruby red with purplish reflections, on the nose is fruity, black cherry and black currant mingle with forest floor and hints of oak. Medium bodied, with chewy tannins: I find incredibly soft for a Dolcetto, with a nice acidity in the finish.

Here you’ll find the tech sheet of this beautiful wine!

Grow baby, grow!

July has arrived and these long, warm, sunny days are a real energy boost: summer has always been my favourite season among all, even when temperatures rise up to sticky 40°. I love the feeling of the burning sand under your feet and the salty aftertaste of the sea when you go swim, or walking through the vines and see all those beautiful bunches growing day by day, that from veraison turn slowly to their final colour: a beautiful reminder of how things in life change naturally. It is so fascinating to me, I find it a perfect metaphor. Nature moves at its own pace, follows its seasons and its rithm and so does life. Veraison could be seen as our teens: the moment in which we start showing our colours, even though we still need the “nutrients” from the vines – our adults and support – in order to ripen fully and become (hopefully!) grown-ups. I must admit I know “aged” grown-ups who are still in their veraison and would need a futher ripening period, though… but let’s leave that for another post!  Cheers!

veraison

Red sparkling life

It’s being quite a hectic month this June, both workwise and personally. In the long working days I’m spending travelling around I get to meet so many people, new and known. I’m going to places that mean something to my personal life for many reasons and, even though I’m there for work, this gets me thinking a lot – which might not be a good thing, for the “over-thinker” I can become at times. What am I thinking about? About relationships, mostly. I don’t mean only romantic relationships, though.
Is our past our present? How easy or difficult is it to let go? These are just some of the questions that popped up in my mind and that I’m trying to find an answer for. I strongly believe that our present is like a cuvée of all the different vintages of life – bad ones included, it goes without saying – and of course they all affect the glass that I’m holding in my hand just now.  It seems a complete mess and  when you taste it, it feels a bit awkward: it is like a sparkling Shiraz from Australia, with happy bubbles, oaky notes and gripping tannins. And you know what? it’s funky! But hey, do you really expect life to be the way you’d want it to be?? No, hell no, but this wine summs it up perfectly: bubbles from the happy time, tannins from the diffucult moments, oak as some memories you’d like to forget and sweet, jammy red fruits that help you remember that you’ll aways find some good. There it is, the answer I gave to myself, all in just one glass of wine.
Life is awsome because you never know what’s going to happen next. And that funky bubbly red might end up becoming your favorite. Or maybe not, so you’ll try your best to find something different, that suites you best. That’s what happened to me, at least. People come and go, you get hurt, you can also hurt others – and this happens in every kind of relationships. Every sip after the first one has a slight different taste and slowly you get used to it: the tannins in a sparkler won’t feel too strange anymore and you understand that this wine is just like every other. Taste it deeply, take notes if you need them, make your own evaluations and then make your choice: take or toss?

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Wine of the day:

Deakin Azahara Sparkling Shiraz

Australia, Victoria

Nose: quite intense, with red fruits and chocolate

Palate: Plums, liquorice and ground white pepper, berries and spicy notes

 

 

Thank you for the patience!

I find it curious how one of the things I like the most, wine, requires such a huge amount of patience: a quality that isn’t one of my strong points, I must admit. I mean: i am the one who is made fun of in the office because at times I can be polemical or have a short temper. But as it often happens, to me at least it does a lot, opposites attract and wine became both a great passion and some sort of school of patience. There’s so much about that: from the vineyard, the lovely grape juice might take 10, 15, 20 years before being ready to drink (think of some old school Barolo). And in the vineyard, you need to wait a whole year, following the vine’s life cycle – and you can do nothing about it, but being patient. Or else: If you want to get to the higher education level, patience must be your best allied: it will take years to get there and, most of the times, not on first try. You need patience to taste a wine, to learn how to do it without feeling completely lost or the only one who doesn’t smell a thing (we all were there, right?!). The most important part of this, though, is that patience isn’t a passive waiting; it is, instead, a continuous call to action toward your goals, no matter what they are. .

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Wine of the day: 

Rocca di Montemassi 2008

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah

I haven’t tasted it yet, I’m waiting for the right moment, so be patient. The tasting notes will come!

Blending people 

Sunday morning: finally some well deserved relax! Woke up late, had a nice, smooth, long breakfast and then what I love the most: a good book – about wine, for a change! And I can’t help thinking of my last trip, of the amazing group I was with: amazing professionals, but amazing human beings as well. They were one of the best blend I’ve ever had… and I had quite a few in these last years! During all the long preparation days before the events I often look at those lists of names, wondering how they will get along and if they will. It’s pretty much like assemblage for Champagne and you feel a little chef de cave who’s working on the best cuvée, blending these varietals from different countries and different vintages. Apparently difficult, but it can turn out in a perfect vintage wine, just like 2003 for Dom Perignon: tough, but someone had to do it, right?! 

Mine is a privileged point of view and it is fun to see how the people involved in the trips, who are strangers to each other in the beginning, become real friends after just a few days. We all play in the same field, with the same rules, and from that starting point it’s easy to connect and get closer. And when after quite a long time they tell you that they’re still in touch and thank you for the experiences they shared together, you can only think of that perfect blend that was Dom Perignon 2003.

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Wine of the day:

Dom Perignon 2003
Floral on the nose; well structured, with a gritty minerality on the palate; hints of brioches, as well as vanilla, peach and lemon; long finish with salinity. Elegant and complex, it’s a wine that has a real physical presence 

Wonderlust 

I’m on one of my wine trips on these days. In this occasions, for entire days I’m surrounded by top sommeliers from all over the world and wine journalists or bloggers: can you imagine what our conversations sound like? Wine, wine every moment, wine in its every possible form of discussion, to the point that when you hear a man saying “sexy”, you can be pretty sure he’s talking about wine… and it’s not even boring! I must admit, this is my favorite moment of the year!

Getting together with such an international crowd is an amazing possibility to learn a lot from their experiences about different tastes in different countries, new points of view and networking, which we all know how important it is. One thing we all have in common is this big passion we share that, as a matter of facts, makes us all come together on a common ground and, from there, it allows us to go further developing ideas, tastes, pairings, and friendships.

I love the energy that almost everyone shows when discovering terroirs and cultures other that theirs. I don’t think you get this feeling in other industries as well, but I guess it’s quite hard to find.

I’d call it “wonderlust”, in the sense of a desire of always wanting to know more, to taste more, to get deeper into the subject and I always have the almost physical sensations of it growing inside!

It is pure sparkle, it makes me smile just like Champagne does… and guess how much we smiled yesterday night?!


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Wine of the day:

Perrier Jouet Belle Époque 2007

Clear pale yellow color with a fine perlage, medium intensity on the nose with white flowers, orange and lemon hints; intense on the palate, with a high acidity and white flowers notes.

To smile for!

Vintage magic 

The Mille Miglia is a world-famous memorial car race that takes place in Italy every year, from 1927, with only a few years in which it didn’t run. Cars drive through an open-road circuit from Brescia to Rome and back, for total of more or less 1600km, 1000 Roman Miles – and that is where its name comes from. All the cars participating in the competition must be older the 1957. Last night I was there when some of these cars made their parade in the historical city center of Vicenza. When you see them passing by it feels like you’re going back in time: the cars, Maserati, Ferrari, Bugatti, Aston Martin – only to mention some – are perfectly maintained in their body and engines. I find it magical, just like when you enter one of those historical, dark cellars that smell of mould and humidity, open a bottle of an old vintage wine and find out it is still in a perfect condition. It does feel like magic.

There’s a lot of work behind one of those bottles, we all know that, just like there is in maintaining in perfect conditions vintage cars. The secret, I believe, as in many things in life, is just passion and love.
Can you imagine yourself driving a vintage car like one of those of the Mille Miglia through the Tuscan hills of Chianti, stopping somewhere sunny for a pic-nic, pretty much lost in the middle of nowhere, and opening an old vintage Chianti Classico Riserva? Wishful thinking?!

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Wine of the day:

Chianti Classico Riserva 1986, Castello d’Albola

1986 wasn’t the best of vintages; the wine results a little weary, but still fine one and with a good expressiveness of its territory.
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La Mille Miglia è una famosa corsa di auto d’epoca che si svolge annualmente in Italia dal 1927, ad esclusione di alcuni anni. Il percorso è un circuito che da Brescia arriva fino a Roma e ritorna di nuovo alla città di partenza, percorrendo circa 1600km – 1000 miglia degli antichi romani, da cui il nome della manifestazione. Tutte le auto che prendono parte a questa competizione devono essere state messe su strada per la prima volta in anni precedenti al 1957.

Ieri sera ero presente mentre alcune di queste bellissime auto sfilavano nel centro storico della mia città, Vicenza. Quando ti passano vicino, sembra quasi di tornare indietro nel tempo: Maserati, Ferrari, Bugatti, Aston Martin – sono per citarne alcune – in condizioni perfette, sia nella carrozzeria che nei motori. Io lo trovo quasi magico, un po’ come quando ti trovi a scendere in quelle vecchie e buie cantine storiche, che hanno quell’odore unico di muffa e di umidità, apri una vecchia annata e scopri che in realtà è ancora in condizioni perfette. Sembra magia, per davvero.

Sappiamo bene tutti quanto lavoro ci sia dietro ad una di quelle bottiglie, esattamente come nel mantenere perfette quelle auto d’epoca. Il segreto credo, come in tutte le cose della vita, è solo passione e amore.
Riesci ad immaginarti alla guida di una di quelle auto d’epoca e mentre percorri la tua strada sulle colline del Chianti, decidi di fermarti in un prato soleggiato per un pic-nic e apri una vecchia annata di Chianti Classico Riserva? Non sarebbe un sogno?

 

Mom in a glass

Sunday it was “mother’s day” here and, just like every year, we spent it together and, just like every year, she was moved almost to tears when I arrived at her place with a flower bouquet for her. And, I mean: isn’t it just like the bare minimum?? I’m not a mother and I believe I can’t even understand what this means; the stories she tells, or those of my girlfriends who already have kids, let me grasp something, but being one is a completely different story.

Our relationship has grown and evolved with time, also thanks to the – physical – distance that separated us for a few years when I was living abroad. Those years were crucial in giving ourselves a completely new balance: not only as mother and daughter, but as two adult women able to talk, to open up and to listen to each other, capable of understanding and criticism as well.

This evening I was on a tasting for work and, among the many wines we tasted, one in particular reminded me of her: a single grape Primitivo, velvety, warm, persistent and softly tannic. It’s a perfect description of her: warm, welcoming, persistent in her presence, severe at times, but with a hint of sweetness.

As of today, whenever I’ll drink that wine again it will be like having mom in the glass… surely reminding me to drink responsibly!

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Wine of the day:

Sasseo 2015, Masseria Altemura

Ruby red colori; blackberry and blueberry on the nose; medium bodied, elegant tannins, with herbal notes and red fruits on the palate, long finish.

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Domenica era la festa della mamma e, come ogni anno, l’abbiamo trascorsa assieme e, esattamente come ogni anno, si è emozionata quasi fino alle lacrime quando mi sono presentata a casa con un mazzo di fiori per lei. Che poi, dico: un mazzo di fiori è davvero il minimo sindacale per tua madre! Io non sono mamma e credo di non poter minimamente capire che cosa si provi; i suoi racconti o quelli delle amiche che hanno la fortuna di esserlo già mi lasciano intuire qualcosa, ma viverlo è sicuramente tutta un’altra storia. 

Il nostro è un legame che è cresciuto e si è consolidato nel tempo, in parte anche grazie alla distanza – fisica – che ci ha separate per alcuni anni quando io vivevo all’estero. Quegli anni sono stati decisivi nel darci un equilibrio totalmente nuovo: non più solo come madre e figlia, ma finalmente anche come due donne adulte capaci di ascoltarsi, di aprirsi l’una con l’altra, di capirsi e di criticarsi se necessario.

Questa sera, per lavoro, mi trovavo ad una degustazione e, fra i molto vini che abbiamo assaggiato, uno, in particolare, mi ha fatto pensare a lei: un Primitivo in purezza vellutato, caldo e persistente; tannico, ma con dolcezza. Lei è esattamente così: calda, accogliente, persistete nella sua presenza; a volte dura, ma con dolcezza.

Da oggi, ogni volta che berrò quel vino sarà come avere un po’ di mamma nel bicchiere… probabilmente quella che mi ricorda sempre di bere con moderazione!