With the heat tipping the thermometers at 107 degrees in Midtown, RalloWines.com refuses to let the heat spoil fine wine. Although Victor can’t personally deliver every order during inclimate weather, RalloWines.com is willing to go above and beyond to make the customers happy.
Puglia is the peninsular high heel of Italy’s boot. It faces the Balkans and has attracted invaders and visitors since the Greek era. It was part of what the Romans called Magna Graecia (“Great Greece”). Many of Puglia’s prominent cities were Greek colonial settlements, most notably the port of Taranto, which was Sparta’s Tarentum. It is hot in Puglia, but the land is cooled by breezes from the Adriatic and Ionian Seas that surround it. The hills are open and low, and the vast, fertile plain of Salento is second only to the Po Valley in size and productivity. Since the days of the Oscans and Messapians, before 650 BC, agriculture has been Puglia’s leading business.
Puglia’s annual wine production is 722,000,000 liters (over 80,000,000 cases), making it a close second to Veneto in terms of regional yield. Although there are more DOC zones than anywhere else in the south, only about 10% of Puglia’s wines are DOC. Reds, including fashionable rosés, account for about 70% of Puglia’s viticultural output.
The Table of Puglia
The Pugliesi eat well, prospering from the best of the Mediterranean diet. Although Puglia often plays third fiddle to Campania and Sicily for the highest culinary honors, it should not. For pizza, pasta, cheeses, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and desserts, Puglia merits lofty ratings. The DOP bread of Altamura may be Italy’s best. Local hard biscuits, such as taralli and frisedde, are sold worldwide. Burrata cheese rivals the more famous buffalo mozzarella for delicacy and fresh, creamy softness. Also well known are DOP Canestrato and Caciocavallo. The mussels of Taranto are superb. Pizza, calzoni, and focaccia are wonderful, even if they are overlooked and underrated. Lampasciuoli, a bitterish bulb, and ruca (aka Rucola) are regular ingredients in Puglian soups and stews, as are fava beans. There is a wide variety of pasta shapes. Most famous are orecchiette (shaped like an ear), usually served with cima di rapa (bitter turnip greens) and local olive oil. Olives from Cerignola or the DOP Bella della Daunia are world class.
Lamb and kid are the preferred meats. The sea offers not only mussels, but also oysters, seppie (cuttle fish), calamari (squid), ricci (sea urchins), and all manner of fish, large or small, always fresh and tasty. Leave room for desserts, especially pastries, such as bocconotti (crescent-shaped shells filled with cream and jelly).
Vines and Wines
The Pugliesi love generous reds and dry, delicate-to-rich rosés. Still a leader in selling bulk (sfuso) wines, Puglia is increasingly home to vintners who bottle their best product for international markets. And their best is very good – and getting better with every vintage.
To understand the wines of Puglia, I like to divide the slender boot into four sections, North A and B, and South C and D. North A is high in altitude and influenced by Abruzzo and Basilicata. Reds dominate, with Bombino Nero, Montepulciano, Aglianico, and Sangiovese leading the way. Particularly noteworthy is DOC Castel del Monte, a blend of dark grapes highlighted by the Uva di Troia (aka Nero di Troia). This is a tannic, fragrant, long-lived wine, elegant and rich. Uva di Troia must be tamed by microoxygenation, oak aging, or both. It has the power and class to stand beside the famous red wines of central and northern Italy. There are also DOC white and rosé versions of merit.
North B is centered on DOC white wine villages, such as Gravina, Locorotondo, and Martina Franca. Local white varietals, including Verdeca, Bombino Bianco, and Bianco d’Alessano, are the primary blending grapes. Locorotondo and Martina Franca are picturesque towns, known for their distinctive conical-shaped houses, called trulli.
South C is the low-lying hilly area around Taranto. This is home to outstanding DOC Primitivo di Manduria. The Primitivo is linked genetically to the all-American Zinfandel and produces dry and sweet reds of excellent quality. The other outstanding area for Primitivo is Gioia del Colle, not far from Bari in North B. The generous, early ripening Primitivo is of mysterious origin, with Hungary, Croatia, and Puglia claiming its birthright. There is no mystery attached to its growing popularity worldwide.
South D contains Puglia’s most legendary wineries and its most important village wines. There is a mix of co-ops and privately held, family wineries. DOC reds from villages like Brindisi, Leverano, Copertino, Squinzano, and Salice Salentino are usually fashioned from Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera grapes. In particular vintages, Riserva versions will improve in the bottle for a decade or more, provided that they are cellared properly.
Recently there have been successful plantings of international varietals. Most of these are IGT reds. We should repeat that the DOC and IGT rosés of Puglia are outstanding. Rich, luscious dessert wines are made from Primitivo and Aleatico. The fragrant, aromatic Aleatico may be a mutation of Moscato, and grows also in Tuscany, Lazio, Elba, Corsica, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, where the locals enjoy sweet red wines.
The popularity of the wines of Puglia has been enhanced by tourism. It is not so much a haven for Americans, but Europeans, particularly Italians from the north, love the beaches of Ostuni and the hiking trails of the Gargano peninsula.
This is the first post in a short series highlighting the unique culture, cuisine, and of course wine from each of the 20 regions of Italy. We’ll go through the regions in alphabetical order, starting with…
The Abruzzesi are often described as forte e gentile (strong and gentle). This may also be said of their wines and food. Abruzzo is the land of abbondanza (plenty). The residents are hearty eaters. From Adriatic seafare to dried pasta to game from the Apennines, the diet of Abruzzo takes advantage of the bounty of its territory. There is also the gargantuan panarda, a magnificent banquet featuring more than 30 courses, with generous wines to wash it all down.
Abruzzo’s average annual production is 345,000,000 liters (about 38,300,000 cases), 20% of which is DOC/DOCG. A bit more than 55% of its wines are red.
The Table of Abruzzo
Italy’s leading cooking school is located in Villa Santa Maria, in the hills of Abruzzo. It is responsible for the placement of many chefs on cruise ships and in hotels and restaurants throughout the world. Abruzzo is one of the leading producers of pasta asciutta (dried pasta). Local homemade pastas include maccheroni alla chitarra (guitar pasta), a sort of square spaghetti formed on the metal strings of a wooden device that resembles a guitar.
DOP Zafferano dell’Aquila (saffron) is probably the world’s most costly and highly prized culinary ingredient. Local DOP olive oils are among Italy’s finest. Often the olive oil is spiked with hot peppers, called peperoncino or diavolicchio (devilish). The Abruzzesi love piquant flavors. They called their hot-pepper olive oil olio santo (holy oil).
The brodetto (seafood stew) of Pescara is legendary. Polpo (octopus) and coda di rospo (monk fish) are typically served in rich, spicy sauces. Meats include game, lamb, and kid. Vegetables and legumes abound, with chicory, beans, lentils, and cardoons all grown in the foothills of the Apennines. Such ingredients form the basis for a healthy springtime soup called virtú. Cheeses include pecorino and scamorza, which can be served fresh or grilled.
The generous cuisine is topped off with a bevy of desserts, pastries, cakes, and gelati. Abruzzo is a leading producer of festive confetti, celebratory sugar-coated almonds traditionally offered at weddings.
Vines and Wines
Abruzzo’s wines are relatively easy to understand. Most DOC wines are red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Most are reasonably priced and perfectly complementary to a great variety of foods. I think, however, we should dig a bit deeper.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo’s DOC applies both to reds and a fruity, cherry-colored rosé called Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. The Abruzzesi generally prefer a dry rosé to a white. The DOC zone is quite expansive geographically. The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the hills of the Teramo province—north of Pescara, near the border with Marche—has long been considered to be the best wine of the region. The area’s red and Riserva wines have earned the designation of DOCG Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Termane. Generally, the producers in the north are smaller, family-owned estates, whereas in Chieti and in the hills south of Pescara, large co-ops dominate. There is an emerging category of elite and expensive DOC/DOCG reds that rival and often surpass their Tuscan, Umbrian, and Marchegiani counterparts. There are several notable sub-zones, such as Casauria, Vestini, and the Sangro River Valley. Taken collectively, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo covers the soft, dark, rich style and taste that the wine world seeks. No matter what the price, it is steadily growing in popularity and prevalence.
Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC can be based on the Tuscan Procanico clone or that of the native Abruzzo. Some wineries produce Trebbianos of size and depth of flavor, but most are delicate, crisp whites to be enjoyed young. IGT Terre di Chieti offers affordable Pinot Grigio that can compete in quality with those from Veneto. At the boutique level, there has been a resurgence of classy, dry IGT whites from the indigenous Pecorino vine.
International varietals such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, Riesling, and Chardonnay are planted throughout the northerly DOC Controguerra zone. Also available there are Malvasia, Moscato, red Ciliegiolo, and white Passerina. This is a zone for dessert and sparkling wines, but on a small scale. The traditional dessert wine of Abruzzo was Vin Cotto, a rich, sweet wine, cooked down in copper pots and aged for a long time. Although outlawed by the Ministry of Agriculture, some wineries still produce a bit for family use.
Summertime is here, and RalloWines.com has two refreshing Summer white wines to kick off the season: Pieropan Soave 2008, and Jermann Chardonnay 2007. These are two delicious white wines with great value; we personally taste and evaluate every single wine before it goes on RalloWines.com. Among dozens of wines we review that never make it to our site, we bring you two more amazing wine that you can buy at a great price just in time for Summer.
Take a look at the video reviews, or jump to RalloWines.com to read the full review and buy these wines.
Jermann Chardonnay 2007
What are some of your favorite Summer white wines?
Hello and welcome to VictorRallo.com! This is the home of the new online wine community and sister site to RalloWines.com. Watch all our wine reviews, travel videos, video recipes, and read articles from Anthony “The Professor” Verdoni.
Here’s the full release on our launch:
Victor Rallo Launches New Online Wine Community
New wine community will educate consumers with reviews, videos and food pairings while offering hand selected Italian wines for purchase at great prices.
(Red Bank, NJ) Victor Rallo, restaurateur, wine aficionado and entrepreneur, launches www.RalloWines.com to create a destination where passion for food, wine and travel is celebrated. Consumers seeking an education on creating the perfect marriage of food and wine will find solace at RalloWines.com which features unique video presentations of wine reviews and complementary foods.
Breaking the mold of creating another online “wine store”, Victor Rallo raises the bar by teaming up with wine expert Anthony Verdoni, aka “The Professor”, to feature world class wines and meals that create a harmonious presentation that consumers can replicate at home.
Speaking about the new project, Victor Rallo commented, “Consumers are flooded with choices at their local bottle shop. Often the best buying advice that is provided is a score from a third party website that consumers have to trust. Consumers are looking to raise their education on wine but not as a score. Consumers want to learn how to match a good wine with meals that they can cook in their home. ”
RalloWines.com will provide the “know how” to prepare great dishes that complement a wine that is featured each week on the website. Weekly videos will feature Rallo and Verdoni as they review the featured wine from different viewpoints; Rallo representing the consumer and likeminded “foodies” and Verdoni representing the structure and flavor profile of the wine. The balance of their perspectives is what makes visiting RalloWines.com a worthwhile investment of time.
Each week a wine will be featured on RalloWines.com and consumers can purchase the wine at significant savings. The goal of the website is to build an educational foundation for consumers looking to increase their knowledge of wine and food pairing.
To that end, the website will only sell wines that have been personally reviewed by Rallo and received his seal of approval. According to Rallo “Consumers don’t need another online wine store, they need an online wine experience that is practical, helpful and without pretense.”
The first wines to be featured on RalloWines.com are the Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2007, and the Agricola Punica Montessu 2007.
For additional information, visit www.RalloWines.com.
About Victor Rallo
Growing up in the restaurant business, Victor Rallo is a lifelong expert on food and wine. Both of his restaurants, Basil T’s and Undici Taverna Rustica, have received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence multiple times and Undici boasts the largest all-Italian wine selection in the state of New Jersey.
Victor has mastered the art of pairing food and wine, having visited Italy’s top vineyards and tasted the best in Italian cuisine. During his travels, Victor has befriended many of Italy’s most prominent winemakers including Antonio Caggiano, brothers Andrea and Dario of Pieropan winery, and the maker of the world renowned Sassicaia wine, Sebastiano Rosa. Victor’s travel videos, photos and articles highlight many personal tours, tastings, and even a special visit from Sebastiano Rosa at one of Victor’s restaurants.
Victor also hosts the Accademia del Vino wine lecture series, giving attendees a taste of the wine, cuisine, and culture from a specific region of Italy in each session. Victor brings a unique and practical perspective to the table with his hands-on and forward thinking approach to food and wine.
About Tony Verdoni
Anthony Verdoni’s career is a combination of academic pursuits and business interests. He enrolled in a Doctorate program at Tulane University, having received an A.B. in Curso Classico from Saint Peter’s College in 1964. He eventually returned to St. Peter’s to teach Classical Languages and Literature for 20 years. His knowledge of antiquity and Italian culture helped establish him as an expert in Italian wines. Members of the wine trade call him “The Wine Professor.”
He started in the wine business in 1971 as a part-time sommelier in a restaurant. He has since held many positions within the wine industry including a wine buyer for two department store chains, VP and National Sales Director for American BD Company, VP of Marketing Italian Wines for Winebow, and has worked with many Italian wineries in developing their brands in America.
Mr. Verdoni feels his greatest challenge and satisfaction have come from launching new Italian wines in America. He has received awards and commendations from the American Wine Society, the Culinary Institute of America, and was recently awarded a lifetime achievement by The Italian Trade Commission recognizing his work in popularizing Italian wines in the United States.
Mr. Verdoni is currently consulting for restaurants and distributors throughout the United States, conducting wine dinners, seminars, restaurant training programs – and, as always, helping people discover the wines of Italy.