Tag Archives: anthony verdoni

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Vic Rallo & Axel Heinz at the 2014 NJ Wine & Food Fest

Vic Rallo, Axel Heinz of Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia and Tony Verdoni talk about wine, food, and Italian culture at the NJ Wine & Food Fest! From the estate to the grapes, learn more about what makes the wines of Ornellaia something truly unique. Look for more videos from the NJ Wine and Food Fest panel coming soon!

Russian Titanium Corkscrew

The Russian Titanium Warhead Corkscrew

In 1995 I gave a lecture-tasting for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Wine Educators. After the talk, a gentleman approach me to thank me for clarifying the laws which deal with the wines of Italy. Then he said that he had something interesting that he would like me to have.

He handed me a small, metal object. When he saw the confused look on my face, he told me his story. He was a nuclear scientist and had participated with the Russians in dismantling some of their nuclear warheads. They were searching for applications of the titanium used in the weaponry. He suggested corkscrews. A Russian counterpart, also an enophile, thought that was a superb idea.

So, among other objects, tiny, functional titanium corkscrews were created, and I was among the recipients. It is lighter than air and durable beyond imagination. It is completely unreliable as a wine opener, but I keep it as a good luck charm. A dysfunctional corkscrew is a better device that a functional nuclear warhead. I guess we can conclude that they  have beaten their nukes and turned them into corkscrews — or something like that.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Wines: Planning for the Big Day


The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest wine sales day of the year in the U.S.A. Wine shops bring in extra cash registers. Be prepared to make sound selections for your friends. Thanksgiving is the finest hour for you to please and to impress your guests with an assortment of exciting wines. When you write out your wish list, keep some basic factors in mind:

I. Guest considerations: Aunt Lucy drinks wines once a year (maybe twice) and thinks dry wines are sour. Provide her with an off-dry wine; a German Dornfelder, a Lambrusco Amabile, a Moscato. Uncle Ethan doesn’t drink at all. For him, how about an autumnal apple cider? Hot shot Louie gulps only hulking, oaky, high alcohol Cabs with 98-point ratings. Although such wines overpower turkey, you should do what you can to make him happy.

II. Turkey: Since domesticated turkeys are mutations of wild turkeys (game birds), Pinot Noir works best for me. It doesn’t have to be a lordly Burgundy at an aristocratic price. How about a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Oregon?

When paired with turkey, light white wines leave me with a metallic, bitter aftertaste. I suggest trying a fuller, oak-aged California Chardonnay or a rich Pinot Blanc or Pinot Grigio from Alto-Adige, Friuli, or Alsace.

III. Festivities: Make Thanksgiving sparkle with a Champagne toast. Or it could be a Prosecco or a Cava, but top shelf only. Your guests deserve the best.

Beaujolais Nouveau has just arrived! Salute the new vintage. We are all obliged to try the new wine, at least once. Actually, once is enough for me. Look for Californian or Italian versions (Vini Novelli), but these may be harder to find.

IV. Other foods to be served: This is where the fun ascends to a higher plain. With hors d’oeuvres, antipasti, pasta, vegetables, root or otherwise, there is an opportunity to show dozens (well, quite a few) of various wines. Try a rose from Provence.

V. Save room for dessert and dessert wines: I like Vin Santo with pumpkin pie. You don’t have to like what I like, but keep the party going.

VI. Really special wines: If you’re feeling inspired, break out a large format or an old vintage you’ve been saving. Why are you saving it? Thanksgiving with friends and relatives is the reason why.

VII. Ask your wine shop owner and clerk: What do they recommend? More importantly, why?

VIII. Other beverages: Check your stocks of beer, spirits, soda, etc. for the malcontents.

IX. Bring out the cots: Everyone will need to take a nap. No one leaves hungry. No one leaves drunk. If necessary, no one leaves.

X. Post-nap activities: Play cards, watch football games, make turkey sandwiches, tell the same stories which you have been spinning for the past 20 years.
Next week, I’ll let you how I made out. Let me know how you did. Happy Thanksgiving!

Fattoria Lavacchio Puro

The First Organic, No Sulfites Added Chianti Available in the USA: Fattoria Lavacchio Puro

The First organic Chianti with no sulfites added available in the United States is Fattoria Lavacchio Puro! This delicious organic wine from the Chianti zone of Tuscany has no sulfites added, and will be available to the public this September.

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James Suckling

James Suckling Tastes 100 Point Wine with Victor Rallo

James Suckling and Vic & Verdoni Taste 85 Sassicaia

Vic & Verdoni Join Suckling to Put 1985 Sassicaia to his

100 Point Test at Private Undici Taverna Rustica Tasting

James Suckling Tastes 100 Point Wine with Victor Rallo, Anthony Verdoni

While at Wine Spectator, James Suckling served his first 100 Point review of Tenuta San Guido‘s 1985 Sassicaia. When Vic & Verdoni asked Suckling to put this 100 Point to their own test years later – the trio of wine aficionados where unanimous in their results; The 1985 Sassicaia deserved the 100 Points then, and would score a grand 100 plus now.

For years Victor Rallo and Tony Verdoni have traveled the world in search of unique Italian wines. Its their passion for wine that brought them together with world renown wine guru, James Suckling. Upon their first meeting, which came together at New Yorks Standard Hotel this past January, the trio new they had common ground in their passion for Italian Wines. Rallo, who showed up at the meeting with a messenger bag filled with his 3 favorite wines.

Many may find it unusual to lug close to $10,000 worth of wine in their briefcase – but if you asked Vic why, he would quickly tell you, “It’s James Suckling man. What else do you bring a man with a love of great wine.”

James was more than impressed with the precious cargo and suggested he extend his trip to conduct a private tasting with Vic and Verdoni on Superbowl Sunday at Rallo’s infamous Undici Taverna Rustica Restaurant in Rumson, New Jersey. Well and the rest as they say is history – but fortunately for wine lovers around the world-the entire tasting was captured on video.

To view, James Suckling and Vic & Verdoni Taste 85 Sassicaia, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MawXdooKBEc

James Suckling

The Waring Pro Cordless Wine Opener is on RalloWines.com

The Waring Pro Cordless Wine Opener is now for sale on RalloWines.com!

The Waring Pro Cordless Wine Opener is the wine tool for wine enthusiasts and professionals alike. Easy and efficient, this electronic opener can free even the most stubborn cord, and makes opening bottles of wine effortless. Comes with charging stand, foil cutter, and can open up to 80 bottles on a single charge.

  • Brushed stainless accents
  • Rubberized handset
  • Removes up to 80 corks with one full charge
  • Removes synthetic corks with ease
  • NiMH battery pack and charger included
  • Rechargable base unit
  • Removable foil cutter
  • Limited Five Year Motor Warranty

The Regions of Italy: Basilicata


Basilicata is sometimes called Lucania. This name is taken from an ancient tribe, the Lucani, who inhabited the region before the Greeks and Romans. Viewed by the rest of Italy as somewhat isolated and backward, Basilicata offers one of the country’s best and historic reds, DOC Aglianico del Vulture. The most illustrious zone for wine is in the foothills of an extinct volcano, Mt. Vulture, near the northern town of Rionero in Vulture.

The region is sparsely populated, ranking 18th in population among Italy’s 20 regions, with most inhabitants residing in either Potenza or Matera. It touches both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas. The image of the region as simple, poor, and honest is shattered by the seaside resort of Maratea, where jet-setters in the know gather to sample the local food and wine.

Basilicata ranks 17th in wine volume, with an average annual production of 40,000,000 liters (about 4,400,000 cases). About 6% are classified as DOC. Red wines account for approximately 80% of the region’s output.

The Table of Basilicata

Basilicata offers a panoply of vegetables, often served with pasta spiced with red pepper flakes. Meat is used sparingly. It is usually lamb or pork. The thin sausage, luganiga, named for the Lucani, highlights excellent salame and soppressate. Cheeses include DOP Caciocavallo Silano and butter-filled Manteca from the Podolica breed of cows, and DOP Pecorino di Filiano from sheep milk. The peppers from Senise and beans from Sarconi make their way into hearty soups and stews. There are many noteworthy mineral water fonti (fountains) throughout the region. The locals also use whole-wheat grain (grano) in a range of soup, stew, and even dessert recipes.

Vines and Wines

Although there are two new DOC zones, Matera and Terra dell’Alta Val d’Agri, we have not yet seen much from them. They utilize both native and international varietals, mostly reds. The Primitivo from Matera exudes promise. The climate here is cool, even downright cold, with snow in the winter. IGT whites, based on Fiano, Greco, Pinot Bianco, Incrocio Manzoni, Müller-Thurgau, and Gewürztraminer, are rare but compare very favorably to the fruity, dry whites of the north.

DOC Aglianico del Vulture is another story. The Greeks brought the Hellenico varietal to southern Italy (known variously as Magna Graecia, or “Great Greece,” and Enotria Tellus, or “the Land of Wine”) around 650 BC. Through the years, Hellenico evolved into Aglianico. It loves the black, volcanic soil around Rionero, Barile, and Venosa, and yields a deep ruby, classy, complex dry red which will develop in the bottle for a decade or more. Aglianico is considered to be the noblest varietal of the south, placing it alongside central Italy’s Sangiovese and the north’s Nebbiolo. Like DOCG Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and DOCG Barolo Riserva, DOC Aglianico del Vulture Riserva must be aged at the winery for a minimum of five years. There are also dry, old-vine versions, plus sweet and sparkling types that are savored by the locals. The Roman poet of wine, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known to us as Horace, was born within the DOC zone, in the town of Venosa. The Aglianico, like Horace’s romantic last rose, is traditionally the last grape harvested in Italy.

The Regions of Italy: Apilia (Puglia)


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.

The Regions of Italy: Abruzzo

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…

Image via http://big-italy-map.co.uk


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.