The setting of several Shakespearian works, the Veneto also delivers great performances in its vineyards, offering a range of wines that star in both casual and refined settings. In each of the three principal wine categories, the Veneto provides a fairly famous offering that essentially defines its respective genre. The leading sparkler (Prosecco) and red (Amarone) of the Veneto region provide a consummate study in contrast, with the distance between the two placing them at opposite ends of a broad stylistic spectrum. The dominant presence in the sparkling category is Prosecco, a light and simple Charmat-method sparkler derived from the eponymous grape. While mass produced, the DOC status for the crafting of Prosecco, Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, is well suited to the production of sparkling wine. Simplicity is, perhaps, its hallmark virtue, though more substantive versions are produced in the prime vineyard areas of Cartizze.
The Veneto’s most well-known still white wine is Soave, a designation that has been compromised through both viticultural and vinification methods and the enlargement of the zone. While it was originally a blend of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave (both aromatic varieties), changes in DOC regulations permitted the introduction of a more mundane strain of Trebbiano (Toscano) as well as Chardonnay, thereby precipitating the widespread production of a fairly vapid wine. However, Soave bottlings that pair Garganega with Trebbiano di Soave tend to offer a substantive flavor profile. While Soave is not the only white DOC, the others, Lugana and Gambellara, primarily involve the same varietals. The former (which is shared with Lombardia), privileges Trebbiano di Soave, and some bottlings realize a substantive aromatic presence. With respect to the latter, Garganega exercises its dominance, as it represents a minimum of 80% of the blend. The category also includes several varietally labeled wines that are fairly simple in character.
Valpolicella is, in many respects, the red counterpart to Soave, as its image has suffered from mass production. However, unlike Soave, it operates a stylistic hierarchy: Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Superiore and/or Ripasso, Amarone della Valpolicella, and Recioto della Valpolicella generally comprise the grape trio of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. Valpolicella Classico (Classico denoting a wine made in the inner, superior Valpolicella zone) is the simplest expression of the Valpolicella quartet. At the Superiore level, Valpolicella must achieve higher alcohol content, receive longer aging, and display more body and structure than the simple Valpolicella. To realize these qualities, many Superiore are treated via one of two techniques: “governo alla Toscana” or ripasso. Under the “governo alla Toscana” method, producers blend the finished Valpolicella with a small percentage of Amarone remaining from a previous batch. Others employ the ripasso method, enriching the Valpolicella wine through direct contact with (or passing through) the Amarone’s lees.
Whatever the degree of extraction realized, however, a Valpolicella Superiore offers but a modest suggestion of Amarone, the intensity and depth of which is achieved through the appassimento process. During this regimen, during which winemakers spread out carefully selected grapes in single layers to dry on straw or plastic mats for 60 to 100 days. During this time, the grapes lose a substantive amount of water weight, dramatically concentrating their sugars. Thereafter, the raisined grapes are crushed and fully fermented into a dry, full-bodied wine marked by high alcohol. The Veneto’s drama is at its most intense in Recioto della Valpolicella, the sweet member of the Valpolicella quartet that dates back to the Romans, who are credited with having developed the appassimento process. The sweetness derives from an arrested fermentation, a procedure that stops the conversion of sugar into alcohol, thereby leaving residual sugar. It is in this mode that the unexceptional Soave finds an empathetic medium, achieving a substantive upgrade in a reserved sweetness.
While Valpolicella may seem to dominate the red wine landscape, winemakers outside Verona are achieving notable success without relying on Italy’s own, privileging Bordeaux’s famed triumvirate of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. In fact, it is believed that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot actually hold a fairly traditional place in zones such as the Colli Berici and Colli Euganei.
With the sudden change in temperature here in New York, it feels like we are in the midst of summer and leaves me yearning for a crisp glass of Rosé! The two wines that I am highlighting today are very different in style, but both are equally extraordinary. The first is a pressed, still, bone-dry wine from the region of Bandol, France that is produced from Mourvedre and Cinsault; it is incredibly fresh, aromatic and food friendly. The second is produced from 100 percent Pinot Noir and crafted in the rare method of Saignee in Champagne, France; it is the perfect accompaniment to seafood and the warm temps. Try these extraordinary wines, and I am sure they will bring a smile to your face.
Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rosé $29.99
A completely dry Rosé that goes through full malolactic fermentation and is bottled unfiltered, produced from 70 percent Mourvedre and 30 percent Cinsault, coming from vines have an average age of 20-25 years. The wine has an orange-tinged pink color with an intense nose of blood orange, red currant and spice as well as beautiful floral overtones. It is tightly wound with great grip, enticing minerality, and wonderful complexity. This is a perfect expression of the Bandol terroir and a terrific accompaniment for the table.
A beautiful, brilliant, bright pink color with an incredibly fine mousse, on the nose it has a gorgeous nose of red berries, candied cherries, strawberry and light floral aromas. It is powerful yet refined, and is incredibly intense on the palate, with wonderful texture and alluring flavors that leave you wanting more. This is the perfect wine for food, and it can be served with everything from light game to scallops and lobster.
Soter 2011 Rosé $24.99
The Rosé season is upon us, and if you are already an enthusiast exploring the refreshing shades of pink, you might be getting ready to uncork a bottle from Provence to go with some grilled shrimp for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Not a bad choice, but our very own state of Oregon offer a unique expression to the category – a Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer blend from the Soter estate in Williamette Valley. Tony Soter is the seasoned California vintner behind the highly regarded Etude label, and the former consulting winemaker to some of Napa’s most iconic estates: Stag’s Leap, Shafer, Dalla Valle, Araujo, and Spottswood. More than a decade ago, he left Napa Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon for the Willamette Valley and Pinot Noir, making a huge impact on the region in just a few years. Not only has Tony created some of the country’s finest Pinots here, but also his small production Brut remains one of America’s most sought-after sparkling wines for the trade and those “in the know,” and his Rosé completes the trifecta, offering one of the most unique takes in the country. The small addition of Gewurztraminer gives the wine an aromatic lift with classic notes of lycee, but it also lends some body and depth to complement the Pinot Noir. IWM is one of a handful of merchants to offer the 2011 Rosé, a vintage that includes Gewurztraminer, for one of more unique Rosé experience.
Tenuta Petrolo 2005 Galatrona $113.85
Each fall when the white diamonds of Piemonte are unearthed for the ultimate umani tasting experience of truffles and Nebbiolo, there is always a foodie or oenophile that comments to me, “Man, I wish I can bottle that truffle note.” Me too. Well, white truffles and olives are exactly the tasting notes that can be found on this 2005 Galatrona – and in the ten years I have been with IWM, I have never seen or tasted the intoxicating note so pronounced in a wine; sure you get it an old Barolo and Pinot, but a Merlot from Tuscany? There is no doubt about it, the region has established itself with Pomerol as a reference point for the noble varietal, especially in the pioneering Super Tuscan hamlet of Bolgheri where Masseto and Messorio continue to impress critics and collectors alike. But, here on the Tuscan coastline the heavier clay-based soils often give way to a more internationally-styled Merlot that is incredibly rich and dense. Head inland going towards the region of Chianti and the higher altitudes and limestone driven soils can contribute to a more classically driven Merlot. That is exactly what Luca Sunjust, proprietor of Tenuta di Petrolo, accomplished with the mature 2005. And while Galatrona can be fairly pricey commanding $130 from the highly acclaimed vintages of 2006 and 2007, the tip here is enjoying this wine with some maturity and appreciating the tertiary notes that develop with age – truffles, olives, cocoa, leather, and more – for a memorable experience. This wine comes with eight years maturity with perfect provenance. Purchase an aged Masseto or Petrus and you will feel a monetary pinch; Galatrona 2005 offers some relief, acidity and a unique taste of truffles for one of the great interpretations of Merlot.
When most people think of a Super Tuscan, they envision grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot growing across Tuscan hillsides. What you may be surprised to learn, however, is that these international grapes are not necessary in order for a wine to be deemed a Super Tuscan. The term itself relates to any wine does or did not meet the blending criteria or process of the DOC or DOCG region in Tuscany it comes from; therefore it is required to take on a broader designation. This explanation brings us to Montevertine.
In 1971 Sergio Manetti produced the first vintage at Montevertine. Chianti, however, at the time had rulings requiring certain processes and certain grapes in order to receive the designation. But Sergio’s heart had only room for Sangiovese at the time, and his wines could not be designated as Chianti. What followed was the birth of his wine “Le Pergole Torte,” one of the finest examples of Sangiovese to be produced, year in and year out.
That being said, Le Pergole Torte usually runs about $100 a bottle—not what most would consider an everyday wine. This is why I was so excited last week to see that we received Monteverinte 2011 Pian del Ciampolo. I immediately signed myself up for a bottle of this new release, hoping that the excellence of the flagship bottling would remain in the everyday selection.
I was not disappointed. The Pian del Ciampolo was wonderfully vibrant and showed incredible character for a wine that’s just over $30. The wine itself is mostly Sangiovese with a touch of Canaiolo and Colorino (two local grapes) mixed in for good measure. This wine had backbone, yet it managed not to be overly acidic. Bright cherries were prolific on the nose and carried over to the palate as well with lively zip.
Needless to say, I was impressed and I wanted to share my experience with all of you. This is an everyday bottle that you should own oodles—yes, oodles—of to enjoy today, tomorrow and years down the road.
Google “cicada recipes” and you get 254,000 results. This seems like a high number until you consider a) the Swamageddon is scheduled to hit this weekend and b) most of the recipes come from one University of Maryland cookbook. Put in this perspective, and that triple-digit number seems too small.
So many cicadas, so few ready recipes. For those who have been hibernating, not unlike the cicadas themselves, the East Coast, specifically the greater New York area, is set to be hit with the largest population of cicadas in the past seventeen years. These insect members of the Arthropoda family (the same family that holds shrimp, crawfish and lobsters) hibernate for almost two decades, waiting until the fashion that has gone out of style returns, and then they make a grand appearance.
Relatively harmless, cicadas can be noisy. Mostly what they are is big. And therefore, peoples in many parts of the world eat them. Happily. While Americans commonly feel revulsion at the thought of eating a bug, insects are pretty commonplace at meal times in Africa, Asia and South America. In specific, cicadas are called “desert shrimp” in West Africa, and they’re considered local delicacies in pockets of the American South.
“Swarmageddon” sounds apocryphal. University of Maryland entomologist John Raupp, putting it in a more upbeat light, says, “The greater New York metro area is going to rock with cicadas,” which just makes it sound like LCD Soundsystem at MSG. But the thing to remember is that while cicadas may be plentiful and loud, they’re also around for a very short time—by July, they’ll be gone.
In this respect, you can think of cicadas as the ramps of the insect world: a seasonal delicacy to be treasured, consumed, enjoyed and then abandoned. But unlike the rather staid ramps, cicadas appear in a wide variety of recipes, from tacos to cookies, from pizza to adult beverages, from sweet pies to savory quiches. They’re flexible, crunchy, nutritious, gluten-free and coming for you.
As Jenna Jadin stands as the cicada recipe auteur, having written “Cicada-Licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas.” She observes in her downloadable cookbook, “If you have ever eaten a crawfish, lobster, crab, or shrimp then you have already eaten members of the class Arthropoda, of which insects are a part. So popping a big juicy beetle, cricket, or cicada into your mouth is only a step away.” Perspective is everything, and if you’re ready to eat cicada, Jadin suggests eating tenerals, the newly hatched cicadas, or the pregnant mothers; however, other recipes exhort the crunchy charms of fully formed adult cicadas. However you enjoy your cicada, the world is your arthropod. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to shellfish; then you should definitely say no to cicada.
Jardin’s cookbook tends to the Asian and Southwestern style of cicada preparation, offering recipes for Shanghai Cicadas, Cicada Stir-Fry and El Chirper Tacos (the Village Voice offers an alternative taco recipe). But you can find lots of recipes that seem to replace beloved protein standards with cicadas. There’s fried chicken style cicadas, and there’s cicada and Portobello mushroom quiche. There’s even cicada chocolate chip cookies and cicada ice cream; presumably you could make cicada cookie ice cream sandwiches and double your fun. (Many of these recipes can be found on this Huffington Post feature; Gizmodo offers a breathtakingly comprehensive look at cooking cicadas; and the New York Daily News offers recipes for pizza, jello and tacos.)
The question then becomes how to pair your cicada-based dish with wine. If you’re going for an Asian or Southwestern-inspired dish, IWM Portfolio Manager Garrett Kowalsky suggests a nice Riesling to stand up to the spiciness, perhaps Frecciarossa Riesling Gli Orti 2008, and if you’re going to dish up some cicada pizza or pasta, he suggests, “Something Tuscan. You need the wine to have the muscle up against the tannins in the red sauce.” Maybe a nice Chianti Classico?
Francesco Vigorito takes a slightly different tack. He says, “For the Asian dish I’d probably go with something sparkling and fruity like a Prosecco or something rich and aromatic like a Gewurztraminer.” Francesco expressed doubt at the idea of a cicada pasta dish. “They’d probably get soggy,” he said.
Given that cicadas can be treated like crab and shaped into cakes or battered and deep-fried, you’d likely want to keep Lambrusco in mind. Ideal for summer lunches, this slightly bitter fizzy Red makes an exceptional partner to seafood and, one would presume, insect.
Of course, the wine pairings do more than merely enhance your cicada dishes. Drink enough, and you might forget that what you’re eating is a great big bug.
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