Italy

Da Caino Ristorante celebrates rich tastes of Maremma

Da Caino Ristorante celebrates rich tastes of Maremma

Finding the minuscule mountain hamlet of Montemerano is no mean feat—although the front desk staff of the nearby luxurious Saturnia spa resort can literally draw you a map. Once you get there over a series of winding country roads, you'll have to park in the flat space below the village. Walk up the narrow stone streets to find the glowing open door of Da Caino Ristorante (Via Canonica, 3; +39 0564 692 817; dacaino.it). It's worth every scintilla of the effort. Chef Valeria Piccini (left) is a tireless and inventive champion of Maremma cuisine, which she interprets in an elegant modern style. A chemist by training, she is a self-taught chef who took over the kitchen of Da Caino family restaurant from her mother-in-law in...Read More
Wine from a stone: Sassotondo thrives on tufo

Wine from a stone: Sassotondo thrives on tufo

Stone cities, stone Etruscan tombs, and vineyards bursting from soil of broken stone. The slightly porous gray rock known in Italian as “tufo” (“tuff” in English) consists of compressed ash from a long-extinct volcano. It is the stone that pokes through the ground throughout the highlands of the eastern Maremma. The monumental medieval cities of Pitigliano (above) and Sovana are either carved from tufo or built from blocks of it. Near Sovano, Etruscans left impressive tombs carved into a tufo hillside. Winemaker Carla Benini embraces the red volcanic soils, crafting wines of surprising depth from some of the grapes indigenous to this corner of the Maremma. She and her husband, documentary filmmaker Edoardo Ventimiglia, settled on this land outside Sovana in 1990 and have spent...Read More
Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Maremma Toscana DOC: Tuscany’s next great wines

Every wine lover knows Tuscany. Most of us cut our teeth on Chianti Classico, grew up to relish Brunello and Barolo, and pad our birthday wish lists with Bolghieri's “Super Tuscans.” But while everyone seems to know Tuscany, until recently only the Tuscans seemed to know the southwestern coastal region of the Maremma. That's changed in a big way, as some of Italy's most powerful family wine empires have taken a stake in the Maremma in the last few decades. Even local winemakers refer to the Maremma as the “California of Italy.” They continue to respect tradition, but they also prize innovation. Of Tuscany's patchwork of 40 DOCs, or named wine regions, none is more dynamic than the Maremma Toscana DOC (www.consorziovinimaremma.it/en/), established in 2011....Read More
Consider Mionetto Prosecco for the Easter table

Consider Mionetto Prosecco for the Easter table

We don't need a lot of persuasion to pour a glass of Prosecco. The bright, fruity wine—especially when it's produced with very little residual sugar—can be extremely food-friendly. Here in the U.S., we tend to treat Prosecco as an apéritif. The wine is native to the Veneto and Fruili-Venezia Giulia, and the Venetians and Friulani think of it as a wine to drink anytime. We agree. So this spring we tried out the most readily available Proseccos from Mionetto (usa.mionetto.com/us), an important producer in the village of Valdobbiadene and also the largest Prosecco importer in the U.S. We're told that Mionetto effectively introduced the wine to the mass market in America in 2000, so our hats are off to them for enriching American tables. Prosecco...Read More
Prosecco loves Parmigiano, prosciutto, and potato chips

Prosecco loves Parmigiano, prosciutto, and potato chips

Nothing quite catches the magic of candlelight like a glass of sparkling wine. Now that we're approaching the longest nights of the year, we're turning to a variety of sparkling wines after sundown. Of course, the fact that fizzy sips are associated with the holidays doesn't hurt—though we're not sure why anyone needs an excuse to drink sparklers. Prosecco is a natural for snack time. Made with Glera grapes in the Veneto near Treviso, it's probably the most accessible and affordable sparkling wine out there. The brut level of dryness happens to be perfect with some other northern Italian standbys—chunks of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and rolls of thinly sliced prosciutto. Inspired by the caffès onVenice's Piazza San Marco, we've added some plain salted potato chips...Read More
Christmas lasagna with Brolio Chianti Classico

Christmas lasagna with Brolio Chianti Classico

As readers of our last post know, we've been exploring Chianti with dishes for the Christmas season. Our last post highlighted a Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva with roast pork. But we're also fond of Brolio's basic Chianti Classico, which sells for about two-thirds the price of the riserva. The wine is intensely ruby red, with a more open nose than the riserva. Floral notes of iris and violet mix with red fruits and woodsy aromas. With less barrel aging, the wine is more loosely structured and the tannins are very soft. Typical of Brolio wines, though, it shows a slightly flinty minerality that we quite enjoy. With apologies to Italy, we decided that this wine would drink well with a French-influenced version of lasagna. Our...Read More
Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Long ago, we used to buy a well-made Chianti Classico from an anonymous cooperative for a price low enough to make Charles Shaw blush. When we wanted to treat ourselves to a better wine, we would step up to a Brolio Chianti. We didn't have a lot of money and we never went wrong trusting the Ricasoli family to make an excellent Chianti at a fair price. Chianti has come a long way since Baron Bettino Ricasoli came up with the original formulation in 1872. That recipe called for a minimum of 70 percent Sangiovese and allowed a couple of white grapes in the blend. The rules have been rewritten extensively and now even allow 100 percent Sangiovese as well as blends with Bordeaux grape...Read More
Luce wines turn toward the future

Luce wines turn toward the future

As one of the first super Tuscan wines, Luce was the joint vision of the Marchesi de' Frescobaldi and the late Robert Mondavi. Blending the Montalcino clone of Sangiovese with Merlot, they created a red with supple vigor and friendly tannins that was immediately met with popular and critical success. More than two decades have passed, and Luce remains a powerful alternative to the best Brunello di Montalcino. In recent years, however, the Tenuta Luce delle Vite estate has branched out with a more approachable and affordable second level wine called Lucente. They are also changing the way they age their Brunello. When Luce's technical director, Stefano Ruini, passed through Boston recently, we sat down to taste the latest releases and discuss changes at the...Read More
Sweetest season calls for wines to match

Sweetest season calls for wines to match

North Americans used to love sweet wines. We used to love them so much that we became ashamed of our preference for residual sugar. For the last few decades, every casual wine drinker on the continent would insist, “Oh, I only drink dry wines”—as if that preference made them more sophisticated. Leaving aside the fact that residual sugar in a wine can be a highly subjective experience, anyone who always insists on bone-dry wines is really missing the boat. So it's a pleasure to see that Piemonte-based Italian wine giant Zonin (www.zoninusa.com) is bringing the full line of its Castello del Poggio wines to North America as part of its “Hello Sweet Life” campaign. Since Zonin took over the estate based in Asti in 1985,...Read More
Zucchi oils exemplify art of blending EVOOs

Zucchi oils exemplify art of blending EVOOs

To blend or not to blend? We'd like to believe that the world's best olive oil is pressed in Jaén province in Spain from Picual olives. That's the oil we like on a Caprese salad made with fresh mozzarella and garden tomatoes. But more than a thousand cultivars of Olea europaea trees grow around the Mediterranean basin, and most are used for making oil as well as for cured and brined olives. Which really are best? Every Spaniard, Italian, Greek, or French person believes that the best oil comes from the family olive grove. They are right because it's a matter of taste. Surprisingly, most olive oils are blends. They might be blended at harvest from groves with many cultivars. They might be blended after...Read More