Tag Archives: the wine professor

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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!

Napkin Notes

Napkin Notes

During our recent two-week trip thru Tuscany and Sicily, we shot approximately 30 segments for the upcoming PBS series, Eat, Drink, Italy with Vic Rallo. I must say it was hard work, but we did eat and drink very well. While I was cooking, Tony was either on the couch or comfy chair taking a nap, or looking in on the filming of the recipe and cooking segments for the show. But while we were eating, he continually took food and wine related notes on napkins.  Tony is an expert in all things Italian, especially wine, and is involved intimately in the show when we interview wine makers and winery owners, or are simply talking wine. And like all great Italian wine lovers, the food is just as important to Tony as the wine. Unlike any other country in the world, Italian wines and food are meant to go together. This is the way it has been for a thousand years or so, and like his Italian predecessors, Tony loves the beautiful marriage food and wine creates. As we traveled thru Italy, Tony created a book of napkins on which he scribbled his notes. Below is his review of the food and wine we drank and ate on our last trip transcribed from his napkin notebook.

La Forza,

Vic Rallo

What follows is an account of how we wined and dined throughout Italy from October 13-24, 2012 while shooting, Eat Drink, Italy with Vic Rallo.

Your first observation may be that we were on the wrong side of gluttony. Actually, our meals were served over a time period of 2-3 hours each, occasionally more. Much of the time we spent planning our next shoot with Allison, our fixer, Mark and Mario, who manned the cameras and set up the lighting, and Massimo (aka Max), the sound man. They joined us for just about every meal. We would all joke about the “light” lunch which we had requested. Several times we ate food which Vic Rallo had prepared. There was always the opportunity and temptation to overdo things, but it would have been counterproductive and unprofessional to do so. We are always professionals; well, almost always.

We drank the wines of the producers whom we visited. This is not a bad situation, since we were forced to taste the wines of Nozzole, Tenuta Sette Ponti, San Felice, Castello di Ama, Tolaini, Badia a Coltibuono, Nardi, Casanova di Neri and Fattoria di Magliano. Often we tried older vintages, dating back to 1970. At restaurants we always ordered local wines. Two whites stand out in my memory: Donnafugata Damarino 2011 in Sicily and Mancini Vermentino di Gallura DOCG 2011 in Fiumicino, near Rome’s airport (well, Sardinia is almost local to Rome).

You will note the shift in gears from Tuscany to Sicily. You can get excellent seafood in Coastal Tuscany, but we were mostly inland in Montalcino and Chianti Classico with only one short side trip to the Maremma. We were offered beef from the Chianina breed, Tuscan prosciutto, wild boar and beans – special, local white beans of Zolfino cooked in fresh olive oil and sage, and served with lots of salt less Tuscan bread. It was enough to make us all mangia fagioli (bean eaters).

Sicily offered us fish and crustacean of every type, shape, and form. You feel that you are dining as the ancient Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians did on timeless, fresh seafood. You had to leave room for desserts: cannoli, cassatta, exotic melons and fruits, such as fichi d’india, prickly pears that bloom out of local cactuses. I noticed a special glow in the eyes of Mark Ganguzza, our producer. His family is of Sicilian origin.

Which do I prefer, Sicily or Tuscany? I’ll take them both; you will, too. They both sing of the food culture of Italy, which changes every 10 kilometers. The message is always the same: local breads, local olive oil, local recipes, local materie prime (prime ingredients). “Zero Kilometers” is alive and well throughout Italy.

Tuscany, October 13 – 20

Saturday, October 13, Lunch with Giovanni Folonari at Mangiando, Mangiando Restaurant in Greve, Chianti.
Chianina Beef Tartar
Risotto with Porcini (Rice with Porcini Mushrooms)
Peposo (Stewed Beef with Black Pepper Sauce)
Stracotto (Beef Stew)
Pollo Cacciatore (Chicken Hunter’s Style, Tomatoes, Herbs)
Ricotta with Candied Fruit

Saturday, October 13, Supper with Antonio Moretti at Sette Ponti near Arezzo, Tuscany.
Mozzarella di Bufala (Water Buffalo Mozzarella)
Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Tuscan Prosciutto
Rosticceria di Pollo, Collo di Maiale e Pane (Roasted Chicken, Pork Necks and Bread)
Fagioli (Beans)
Ice Cream – Zuppa Inglese Flavor (Trifle Ice Cream)

Sunday, October 14, Lunch with Antonio Moretti at Sette Ponti near Arezzo, Tuscany.
Crostini al Fegato di Pollo (Toast with Pureed Chicken Livers)
Pappardelle al Sugo di Anatra (Ribbon Pasta with Duck Sauce)
* Boneless Chianina Prime Rib
Fagioli (Beans in Olive Oil)
Insalata Verde (Green Salad)
* Ice Cream – Cassatta Flavor (Cannoli Cream Ice Cream)

Sunday, October 14, Supper at a Pizzeria in Arezzo, Tuscany  with Stefano Maggini.
Calamaretti (Fried Baby Squid)
Zeppoli (Fried Dough Balls)
Calzoni e Pizze

Monday, October 15, Lunch at San Felice, Castlenuovo Berardegna, Tuscany.
* Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with Cacio Cheese and Black Pepper)
Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Finocchiaro

Monday, October 15, Supper at San Felice, Castlenuovo Berardegna, Tuscany.
Chianina Beef Tartar
Potato Gnocchi with White Meat Ragu, Pistachios and Raspberries
Cinta Senese Suckling Pig
Orange Puff Pastry with Burrata Mousse, Chestnuts, Orange Sorbetto and Chocolate

Tuesday, October 16, Lunch at Castello di Ama, Gaiole,Tuscany.
Fusilli Pasta with Pesto and Tomatoes
Chicken in White Wine
Melanzana – Ratatouille Style

Tuesday, October 16, Supper at Castello di Ama, Gaiole, Tuscany.
Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato Soup, Olive Oil, Bread)
* Farro, Porcini and Ceci Soup (Grain, Porcini Mushrooms and Chickpeas)
Peposo (Beef Stew with Black Pepper Sauce)

Wednesday, October 17, Lunch with Lia Tolaini at her estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany.
Assorted Panini (Sandwiches)
Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Olives
Castagneta Torta (Chestnut Pie)

Wednesday, October 17, Supper with Lia Tolaini at her estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany.
Prosciutto Sticks
Chicken Spezzatino and Polenta (Chicken Stew)
* Ravioli di Zucca con Burro e Salvia (Pumpkin Ravioli with Butter and Sage)
* Tiramisu

Thursday, October 18, Lunch at Badia a Coltibuono with Emanuela Stucchi-Prinetti, Gaiole, Tuscany.
Zuppetta di Pesce e Spinaci (Fish Soup with Spinach)
Crostini of Zucca, Finferli, Cheese and Fegato (Toasts with Pumpkin, Chanterelles,
Cheese and Liver)
Patate Arrosto con Pesto (Roasted Potatoes with Pesto)
Terrine, Pate, Prosciutto, Finocchiaro (Finochiaro is Fennel Salami)
Insalata Mista (Mixed Salad)
Fagioli (Beans in Olive Oil)
* Pears Poached in Red Wine

Thursday, October 18, Supper at Badia a Coltibuono with Emanuela Stucchi-Prinetti, Gaiole,Tuscany.
We ordered from the menu. I had:
Cabbage Soup with Pancetta (Bacon)
* Veal Cheeks with Potatoes and Finferli (Chanterelles)

Friday, October 19, Lunch at Silvio Nardi with Emilia Nardi in Montalcino, Tuscany.
Prosciutto and other assorted Crudi
Cinghiale with Onions (Wild Boar)
Assorted Cakes

Friday, October 19, Supper at Casanova di Neri in Montalcino, Tuscany  with the Neri family.
Antipasti of Speck (Smoked Prosciutto) and Cheeses
Bistecca (Grilled Steak)
Fagioli (Beans in Olive Oil)
Pappardelle with Capriolo Sauce (Pasta Ribbons with Wild Roebuck Sauce)

Saturday, October 20, Lunch with Agostino Lenci at Fattoria di Magliano in the Maremma, Tuscany.
* Crostino of Radicchio, Pignoli, Grated Parmigiano and Olive Oil
Crostino of Chicken Livers
Crostino of Diced Tomato and Olive Oil
Cinghiale and Polenta (Wild Boar)

Sicily, October 20 – 23
Saturday, October 20, Supper with the Asaro family at Da Vittorio in Porto Palo, Sicily.

Caponata with Swordfish (Eggplant Salad)
Polpettine di Pesce (Fish Balls)
* Spatola al Agrodolce (Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce)
Gambero Rosso Crudo di Mazara del Vallo (Raw Shrimp, similar to Ceviche)
* Neonati Fritti (Fried Small Fish)
Insalata di Cozze e Polpo (Mussel and Octopus Salad)
Spaghetti con Gambaretti e Pistachio (Small Shrimps and Ground Pistachios)
* Spaghetti al Ricci (Sea Urchins)
Desserts, including Cassata Siciliana and Cannoli

Sunday, October 21, Picnic Lunch with the Asaro team in an olive grove near Partanna, Sicily.
Caponata (Eggplant Salad)
* Fresh Ricotta
Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Olive Tapanade
Olive Salad
DOP Black Bread
DOP Vastedda di Belice Cheese
Bottarga (Tuna Roe)
* Busiate Pasta Trapanese (Small Fusilli Pasta with Almonds, Tomatoes, Basil)
Salsiccia al Forno (Grilled Sausages)
Fichi d’India (Prickly Pears)
* Fragoli Fruit (Looks like a Lime, tastes like a Strawberry)
Pepper Biscotti
Cucidati Cookies (Holiday Cookies)

Sunday, October 21, Supper at London Ristorante in Menfi with the Asaro team.
Couscous Trapanese (Sea Food and Couscous)
Carpaccio di Pesce Spada (Raw Swordfish)
Pesce Spada Affumicata (Smoked Swordfish)
Insalata di Polpo (Octopus Salad)
Arancino di Riso e Pesce (Rice and Fish Balls)
Gamberi Crudi (Raw Shrimp)
Triglie Fritte (Fried Fish)
* Smoked Tuna and Yellow Melon
Spinach and Cheese in Filo Pastry
Spatola Agrodolce (Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce)
Ricciola al Olio (Fish in Olive Oil)
Cozze al Vino Bianco (Mussels in White Wine)
* Occhiata e Calamari (Assorted Sea Food)
Sorbetto Limone (Lemon Sherbet)

Monday, October 22, Lunch in Sciacca, Sicily with Vincenzo Recca at Ristorante del Faro.
Alici al Olio (Sardines in Olive Oil)
Spatola Agrodolce (Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce)
Cozze Marinara (Mussels in Tomato Sauce)
Polpette di Gamberi (Shrimp Balls)
Polpo in Umido (Steamed Octopus)
* Spaghetti con Le Sarde (Sardine Sauce)
Spaghetti con Ricci (Sea Urchins)
Pesce Spada con Pommodoro e Cipolle (Swordfish, Tomatoes, and Onions)
Sarago Grigliato (Grilled Fish)
Giri (Beet Greens)

Monday, October 22, Supper in Castelveltrano, Sicily  at the home of Nino Asaro, with his family.
Panella (Chickpea Squares)
Arancini al Sugo di Carne (Meat Sauce Balls)
Arancini al Formaggio e Prosciutto Cotto (Cheese and Ham Balls)
Salsiccia Pasqualora (Easter Salami)
Caponata (Eggplant Salad)
Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Vastedda di Belice DOP Cheese
Scamorza Affumicata (Smoked Cheese)
Ricotta Salata al Forno (Baked Cheese)
* Spaghetti Macco di Fava (Fava and Pea Sauce)
Salsicce al Forno (Grilled Sausage)
Tortino di Patate (Potato Tart)
Braciola con Carote e Cipolle (Stuffed Beef Rolls with Carrots and Onions)
Fichi d’India (Prickly Pears)
Melone Giallo (Yellow Melons)
Casadelle (Sfogliatelle Fritte – Fried Stuffed Pastries)
Pignolata (Struffoli, Fried Dough Balls with Honey)
Mostaccioli (Pastry)

Tuesday, October 23, Lunch at Antica Focacceria di San Francesco in Palermo, Sicily with Tommaso Asaro.
Arancini al Ragu con Piselli (Meat Sauce and Peas)
Arancini al Ricotta e Prosciutto Cotto (Cheese and Ham)
Pianini di Panella (Ceci – Chickpeas)
* Pianini di Milza (Spleen)
Sfincione (Local Flatbread/Pizza)
Involtini di Melanzane (Stuffed Eggplant)

Tuesday, October 24, Supper at Pisicchio Ristorante in Fiumicino, Rome.
Cozze e Vongole in Vino Bianco (Mussels and Clams in White Wine)
Fried Fish Balls
* Moscardini Fritti (Fried Baby Calamari)
Shrimps with Lettuce and Mayonnaise
Salmone Affumicato con Ricotta (Smoked Salmon with Ricotta)
Alici al Olio (Fresh Sardines in Olive Oil)
Salmone Affumicato con Radicchio (Smoked Salmon with Radicchio)
* Spaghetti con Vongole Veraci (Spaghetti with Clam Sauce)
* Tagliolini con Frutti di Mare (Thin Homemade Pasta Strips with Mixed Seafood and
* Sorbetto di Limone (Lemon Sherbet)

Everything we tasted was fresh, local and excellent. I have inserted an asterisk (*) in front of dishes that I thought were extraordinary.

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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The Rigions of Italy: Emilia-Romagna


The lifeline of Emilia-Romagna runs along the Via Emilia, an ancient Roman road that was constructed to connect what is now Milano with the Adriatic port of Rimini. Traversing it from west to east, you have the Po plain to your left, flat as a pancake, and the hills of Piacenza, Bologna, Imola, Romagna, and, finally, Rimini on your right. Somewhere just east of Bologna, near Castel San Pietro Terme, there is a hypothetical line that separates the Emiliani from the Romagnoli. To me, Emilia seems better linked to the north; that is, to the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. Romagna is closer to central Italy, with connections running south to Marche, Tuscany, and Umbria. At any rate, it is one of Italy’s most interesting regions, where we can safely say, “Si mangia bene”; in plain English, “You eat well.”

Emilia-Romagna’s annual wine production is 606,000,000 liters (about 67,500,000 cases), placing it fourth among Italy’s 20 regions. Red wines account for about 60% of the production, with approximately 33% classified as DOC/DOCG. The region’s flagship wine, Lambrusco, has proven to be both a blessing and curse. Fizzy and popular, Lambrusco has achieved unprecedented success outside of Italy. For many years, almost all exported Lambrusco was sweetish and the heir apparent to Sangria. Very little was of the DOC caliber prized locally by the Emiliani. Lambrusco dell’Emilia IGT still sells well internationally, but it is a far cry from the bygone days when Riunite alone accounted for over 12,000,000 cases depleted annually in the U.S. More serious versions, like DOC Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, match up quite well with the fleshy mortadella, prosciutto, zampone, coppa, culatello, and other rich foods of the region. If you can, try the dry version.

The Table of Emilia-Romagna

The recipes of the region date back to noble courts, joined to the royal house of France. Pellegrino Artusi copied and published these recipes almost two centuries ago, earning himself the title of Father of Italian Cooking. He is revered today in Forlí, in eastern Romagna. The ingredients of Emilia-Romagna are sought out and copied worldwide. To the mortadella (aka baloney) of Bologna and prosciutto di Parma, we must add Parmigiano-Reggiano, the king of Italian cheeses; aceto balsamico, the supreme balsamic vinegar of Modena; thin tagliatelle pasta; and stuffed tortellini. Flatbread piadina is not to be missed. Consider yourself lucky if you get to taste the zeppoli-like crescentine with prosciutto and soft, local squaquerone cheese, a tasty, satisfying appetizer.

Pasta is more widespread than polenta or risotto. In the winter, try tortelli di zucca (pasta stuffed with pumpkin) or, throughout Romagna, formaggio di fossa, a pungent cheese that is aged underground or in caves and is later served with honey or jam. Butter presides over olive oil, but global warming and the desire for healthy cuisine has caused a rebound in local olive oil production. The Bolognese ragú, made with tomatoes, herbs, spices, and several chopped meats, is universally enjoyed. It is no accident that Bologna is nicknamed “La Grassa” – that is, “the Fat Lady” – or that it has become known as the clear culinary capital of Italy.

Vines and Wines

Many of the wines in northwestern Emilia are made in a fresh, frizzante (crackling) fashion. The hills of Piacenza are linked to Oltrepó Pavese in Lombardia, where this refreshing, fizzy style is preferred. The rich, tasty foods of the area are complemented by frothy whites based on Malvasia and local Ortrugo and lively reds based on Barbera and Bonarda. One dry, firm red of importance, also based on Barbera and Bonarda, is Gutturnio. This wine dates back to the Roman era.

The DOC appellations apply to specific, delimited hillside zones. Examples include the hills (colli) of Piacenza, Parma, Bologna, and, continuing into Romagna, Imola, Faenza, and Rimini. Gutturnio, for instance, is DOC Colli Piacentini; that is, DOC Hills of Piacenza. Most of the DOC wines are single varietals of excellent quality. Although Emilia-Romagna has some of Italy’s largest bottlers and cooperative wineries, high-standard DOC production is dominated by small, family-run estates. These are hard to find in the U.S., but worth a search.

In Emilia, varietals include not only Barbera and Bonarda, but also Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lambrusco, Chardonnay, Malvasia, and Sauvignon. A local white varietal of charm and style, just waiting to be discovered, is the Pignoletto, which has a classico DOC zone in the Colli Bolognesi (Bologna Hills). Young and fresh, either fizzy or firm, Pignoletto graces the tables of many of Bologna’s best eateries. As they say, “Mortadella e Pignoletto, matrimonio perfetto!” – “Mortadella and Pignoletto form a perfect marriage!”

The DOC hills in Romagna are home to a different group of varietals, including Sangiovese and a superb local Trebbiano, called Trebbiano di Romagna. Sangiovese di Romagna DOC has official superiore and riserva designations, many of which rival the more famous Chiantis. The off-dry red Cagnina has potential in the U.S., where we say that we like dry wines but continue to drink the not so dry.

White Pagadebit, produced in the Bertinoro area, is pleasant whether dry (secco) or semi-sweet (amabile), firm or fizzy. Enjoy Pagadebit young. It is a wine that helps winery owners “pay the bills.” There is also a trend in Romagna toward the more marketable, international varietals. The reds, especially those blended into Sangiovese, are showing great promise. These are IGT wines, one of the most important of which is IGT Rubicone.

Romagna takes deserved pride in its only DOCG wine, Albana di Romagna. In 1987, it became Italy’s first white DOCG. It can be made dry (secco) or semi-sweet (dolce, amabile), but seems to shine most brightly as a dessert wine. Made from dried grapes (passito), DOCG Albana di Romagna Passito rivals the very best of Italy’s other regions.

Terlan Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg 2006 Now on Sale at RalloWines.com

Arguably one of the best white wines to recently have come out of Italy, the Terlan Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg 2006 makes it’s appearance on RalloWines.com. Take a look at the video review, and full written review below with Victor and The Professor Anthony Verdoni.

Verdoni –

Terlan Pinot Bianco Riserva “Vorberg” 2006 Alto Adige D.O.C.

You may recall Robert De Niro in The Deerhunter, holding a gun and saying, “This is this.” Well, Vorberg is Vorberg. It is like no other Pinot Bianco in the world. Pundits compare Vorberg to the wines of Alsace, even to White Burgundies, but Vorberg has a character and personality of its own.

It reflects altitude and the sandy, gravelly minerality of the vineyard’s soil. You feel the fruit of sunlit days in the Dolomites and the crisp acidity of its cool nights. I have never tasted a more complex Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc). Vorberg brandishes floral notes, pear flavors, and nuances of honeyed almonds. The vinification – including fermentation in large casks, with aging on the lees for a full 12 months – adds to the silky creaminess of the wine.

In the great 2006 vintage, fewer than 3,000 cases were produced. Only about 300 cases come to the U.S. Subtract the 1 case that I intend to buy and there are only 299 left.

This is a great wine. It is a Riserva – an official designation applicable to Italy’s finest reds and just a handful of white. Vorberg is outstanding with cheeses and spicy seafood. I would serve it chilled, in place of a red, with poultry, pork, or veal. You can enjoy it now or throughout the next decade. Vorberg is not inexpensive – it cannot be – but it is worth every penny.

Overall quality: 95

Victor Rallo Jr. –

Terlan Pinot Bianco Riserva “Vorberg” 2006 Alto Adige D.O.C.

Today Tony and I tasted a white wine that we both consider the best wine white or red that we ever reviewed. And we are not alone, the 2006 Terlan “Vorberg” Pinot Bianco was given 3 glasses by Gambero Rosso, and received 90+ points from The Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator.

The Wine Spectator’s James Suckling writes, “To say that an Italian cooperative winery produces some of the best white wines in its region, if not the whole of the country, may raise an eyebrow or two. But having recently blind-tasted the white wines of Cantina Terlano, from the Alto Adige region in Italy’s northeast, I have no doubt that this is the case.”

This is a wine for serious wine drinkers and wine lovers; it is complex, creamy and viscous with great fruit and acidity. I would serve this wine to lovers of white Burgundy, California Chardonnay or Alsatian whites, not because it is similar to these wines but because the wine has complexity, character and it’s own DNA like these other great white wines.

On the palate the flavor profile changes the longer it sits in your mouth. At first I taste ripe pear and apple and then as I begin to swallow the wine I get butterscotch and honey on the back of my tongue; this wine is a treat. Unlike many white wines that are aged in oak, in which the oak totally overpowers the delicate white varietals, Terlan’s oak treatment totally and unselfishly compliments the beauty of this bright, golden hued pinot bianco.

Tony and I ate a mildly spicy chicken and Italian sausage dish with this wine and it held up to the food in all regards. Buy it now because only 300 cases are imported to the US market, or you will say, Vic told you so.

Overall quality: 94

The Regions of Italy: Campania


Campania is, and has been for almost three millennia, one of the world’s most important culinary and cultural capitals. The Romans called it Campania Felix: happy, lucky, or fertile Campania, with the implication that it might be all three. The name Campania itself denotes fields. It was the breadbasket of ancient Rome. The region’s central city is Napoli (Naples), which was ancient Greece’s Neapolis, or New City. Today, travelers frequent the Amalfi Coast and the islands of Capri and Ischia. They buy, or at least admire, local cameos, wood cuttings from Sorrento, and Capodimonte ceramics from Naples.

Campania accounts for 107,700,000 liters (almost 12,000,000 cases) of wine per year, about 60% of which is red. This level of production places it ninth among Italy’s 20 regions. Almost 10% of Campania’s wines are classified as DOC/DOCG. In the past two decades, there has been a vast expansion of IGT wines. It is safe to say that Campania is experiencing a resurgence in wine quality, recalling a golden era when its Falernian and Caecubean wines were the rage in ancient Rome.

The Table of Campania

Campania has forever been a center for alta cucina, from the Greek and Roman eras through the on-going periods of external regal dominance, which peaked in the 19th Century, when the Spanish Bourbons held sway in Caserta. The flip side is that Campania is also known as a champion of festive street food, providing the common man with treats ranging from flat breads to seafood to desserts.

DOP olive oils from Cilento and the hills around Salerno and Sorrento are hearty and generous. The most precious and oft-counterfeited pommarole (plum tomatoes) are DOP San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino, grown within sight of Mt. Vesuvius.

The pizza of Naples is arguably the best on the planet. Ingredients are all local, including the San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala, a soft, fresh cheese made from the milk of local water buffaloes. Cow’s milk fiore di latte (“flower of the milk”) is less illustrious, but quite tasty. Other cheeses include DOP Caciocavallo Silano, provolone, and scamorza. Sometimes cheeses are smoked; occasionally they are grilled. The popular parmigiana recipes, which use grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on veal, chicken, and eggplant, among other canvases, did not originate in Emilia-Romagna, but in Campania. Pizzaiola-style cuisine, with tomato sauce atop meats like steak and veal, is very Neapolitan. Coastal folk prefer fish and crustacean to meat. Seafood pasta dishes, like spaghetti alle vongole veraci (spaghetti with clam sauce), are favorites worldwide. The inland hill residents do not consume much beef. They choose rabbit, poultry, lamb, and pork, as well as sausages and salami made from pork. Vegetables are served throughout the region. The breads of Campania are crusty and hearty.

Naples is known for its sweets, some of which include ricotta or mascarpone cheeses. Feast days call for special confections, such as zeppole di San Giuseppe, cream-filled puff pastries offered on March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph, Italy’s Father’s Day. Easter means that it is the time for pastiera, a festive sweet cheese cake. Christmas is incomplete without struffoli, small, deep-fried dough dumplings coated with honey. Campania is known for its gelato (ice cream), sorbetto (sherbet), and granite (flavored ice crystals). Neapolitan coffee is strong and satisfying. Limoncello, a liqueur made from lemon skins, comes from Capri and the Amalfi Coast.

Another important recipe is mozzarella in carrozza, pieces of bread fried in butter with anchovies and mozzarella. A favorite is spaghetti alla putanesca, or pasta “harlot-style.” After all, even women of the night are occasionally compelled to prepare a quick supper for their families before hitting the streets. This dish’s spicy sauce contains tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, olives, capers, and flakes of red pepper. Historically, the people of Campania have travelled the globe offering their culinary specialties to cultures far and wide. The first ice cream parlors, in Paris, were opened by Neapolitans and Sicilians, another adventuresome breed. There is a joke told that, when the Americans landed on the moon in 1969, they found a pizza stand manned by Neapolitans.

Vines and Wines

Campania may be the most improved region in the past two decades for DOCG, DOC, and IGT wines. Wines are produced in each of Campania’s provinces, as well as on Capri and Ischia. There is great respect for native varietals, some of which date back to the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan eras.

The most important wines come from the hills of Avellino. They are DOCG Fiano di Avellino, a white made from the native Roman Latino grape; DOCG Greco di Tufo, another white made from the Greek Greco grape; and DOCG Taurasi, a lordly, dry red made from the Greek Aglianico grape. The Roman writer Pliny spoke of all of these grapes. He noticed that bees were attracted to the sweet fruit of the Latino vine. He renamed it vitis apianum, the vine of the bees. Through the centuries apianum became afiano and, finally, Fiano. All three of the Avellino wines are rich and satisfying, ranking in the highest echelon of Italy’s top wines. Taurasi is referred to as “the Barolo of the south.”

The Falanghina takes its name from Falanga, the stake used to support the vine. The Greeks taught vine training to the Romans, who had allowed grape plants to spread out on the ground like a bush, as strawberries and other berries do. Falanghina produces fresh, crisp dry white wines. It grows well throughout almost all of Campania from the coast to the slopes of Benevento, in both DOC and IGT zones.

Around Caserta you can find the distinctive Asprinio grape. This ancient white vine is trained in the Etruscan manner; that is, it grows straight up into the air to heights of 45 feet. The grapes must be harvested on ladder. DOC Asprinio di Aversa is a dry white that is perfect with local seafood. There are also sparkling versions.

Ischia and Capri produce DOC whites based on local Biancolella, Forestera, and Falanghina varietals. The DOC reds are blends dominated by the Piedirosso, which means “red feet,” due to the vine’s red stems. Locals call this ancient grape Per-e-Palummo, or “pigeon’s foot.”

Vesuvio is now a DOC zone. Rosé and red wines are generally blends of Piedirosso and Aglianico. The DOC white may contain Falanghina and Greco, but it is usually dominated by the Coda di Volpe, whose cluster looks like the tail of a fox. Legend has it that when God drove Lucifer from heaven, the fallen angel snatched a piece of paradise and dropped it in the Bay of Naples. Upon seeing the beauty of the bay, Christ wept. His tears fell onto Mt. Vesuvius and grape vines sprouted up, giving rise to the wines of Lacrima Cristi del Vesuvio.

The top wines in ancient Rome were Falernum and Caecubum, from the hills of Capua in northern Campania, where many aristocratic families built their summer palaces and cottages. Today, a few families continue to produce white DOC Palermo del Massimo, from Falanghina, and red DOC Falerno del Massico, mostly from Aglianico.

Other areas of interest and promise are DOCs Campi Flegrei, costa d’Amalfi (especially Furore and Ravello), Galluccio, Sannio, Sant’Agata de’Goti, Solopaca, and Vesuvio, as well as IGT Irpinia and Terre del Volturno. A few producers are blending international varietals with the historic native ones, an experiment that is meeting with great success.

The Regions of Italy: Calabria


The toe and instep of Italy’s boot is comprised by the region of Calabria. It differs from the rest of the south insofar as the Calabresi do not make a lot of wine. Many types date back to the Greco-Roman era. The climate is affected by breezes from both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. There is abundant sunlight. The lofty massifs of Aspromonte and Sila are cool and help form an attractive microclimate that stretches from Savuto and Donnici in the west to Ciro and Melissa in the east.

Calabria’s annual wine production averages 80,000,000 liters (almost 9,000,000 cases), about 5% of which is classified as DOC. It is no overstatement to say that the color of wine in Calabria is red, as reds account for more than 85% of viticultural output. Among Italy’s 20 regions, Calabria ranks tenth in both size and population and 16th in wine production

The Table of Calabria

Calabria is a major supplier of olive oil, with DOP zones in Bruzio, Lametia, and Alto Crotonese. Certain forest areas are noted for porcini mushrooms. If you enjoy Earl Grey tea, you might be surprised to learn that the citrus Bergamot (DOP Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria) hails from Calabria. Calabria rivals Spain as a producer of Clementines.

Pork and pork sausages are highly prized. Four cuts have earned the DOP: capocollo (head/shoulders), usually spicy; pancetta (belly), similar to bacon; salsiccia (sausage); and soppressata, similar to hard salami. Seafood abounds, swimming the gamut from tuna and swordfish to anchovies and sardines. Vegetables, with the Mediterranean triad of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants leading the charge, make their way into soups and onto pastas. The coastal town of Tropea is noted for its red onions. The most important cheese is DOP Caciocavallo Silano, from cow’s milk. Ricotta is used in many recipes, both in desserts and as an accompaniment to pasta. Pastries and citrus peels are renowned. Amarelli has been making licorice confections since 1731. There is even a licorice museum in Rossano Scalo.

Vines and Wines

Many DOC and IGT wines are made exclusively from or based on the Greco Bianco grape. Examples include white versions of DOCs Cirò, Lamezia, and Melissa. Sometimes whites are blended into the strong reds and rosés to soften them. One dessert wine of class and merit is DOC Greco di Bianco, from the coastal town on Bianco, not far from Reggio Calabria. Also of note from the same town is Mantonico di Bianco, from the Mantonico grape. Both of these are interesting dessert wines, made rancio; that is, pleasantly oxidized, like a sherry.

Rosés are frequently offered as DOC variations of the more famous reds, such as Cirò, Lamezia, Melissa, Donnici, and Savuto. DOC Savuto is a red blend that utilizes both red and white varietals. DOC Lamezia red employs not only the local Gaglioppo and Magliocco, but also Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, which thrive in the hills of Mt. Etna in eastern Sicily. DOC Pollino is a fresher, dry red blend based on the native Gaglioppo and Greco Nero.

Calabria’s best known wines are the red DOCs Cirò and Melissa, named for two villages in the low-lying hills along the coast of the Ionian Sea just north of Crotone. Of the two, Cirò is the more famous and historic. Cirò is a maritime red wine with a Classico sub-zone. It is descended from Krimisa, an ancient Greek red wine drunk by victorious Olympic athletes. Athletic and philosophical cults were popular in Calabria and in neighboring Basilicata during the 5th and 4th Centuries BC.

Cirò Rosso is made primarily from the local Gaglioppo grape, which is probably related to the Aglianico. Modern technology has transformed the wine from a high alcohol, early oxidizing, almost orange-hued wine into a richer, softer, more deeply ruby-colored red. Riserva wines must be aged at the winery for at least two years and have the potential to improve for a decade or more with proper cellaring. The best red Cirò wines are complex, exuding Mediterranean and tropical flavors, such as figs and dates. Some of the finest wines here and elsewhere in Calabria are IGT blends of native Gaglioppo and international reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Their potential is promising enough for us to entertain a “Super Calabrian” designation, preferably with a straight face and a full glass.

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.