Vendemmia: Italian Harvest Time

“Vendemmia” in Italian means “grape harvest” that magical time of year when we begin the process of turning grapes to wine. It’s not nearly as simple as it might seem and even the most basic process of how becomes a difficult decision. Collecting grapes by hand, a costly but frequently used process, ensures only the ripest and healthiest grapes for are selected. Though cost effective, a mechanical machine is less able to distinguish between the best grapes for picking and those that are better left on the vine.

For tourists to Italy, the harvest can be a marvelous time to visit. Foodies who enjoy tastings and experiencing new flavors, a trip to Barone Pizzini Winery is an incredible treat as they are able to witness the birth of the wines, truly from the very beginning.

13015163_1232481653443698_3428064028085785388_nMany factors can influence the harvest and its final product. For example, the President of the Franciacorta Consortium and manager of Barone Pizzini Silvano Brescianini shared that the number of grape bunches and weights would be lower this year because of a sharp drop in nighttime temperatures during the flowering phrase. The grapes themselves are only picked at certain times of the day and even the smallest-seeming details can have a noticeable impact on the flavors of the wine cooler temperatures lead to a more appealing acidic balance in the final product.

If you are interested in traveling to Franciacorta, consider a visit during the harvest time  it’s a unique, unforgettable experience to witness and possibly even participate in the creation of wine.

What’s Behind a Glass of Organic Wine?

Ecological wines have gotten a bad rap for a long time. They’re part of what’s seen as a hippie movement, sometimes including a move to screw-top bottles (the horror!) and boxed wine. It’s no surprise that the wine world is in a tizzy over ecological wines as the next frontier in winemaking. The world of food is experiencing a similar upheaval; a recent return to “natural” processes away from highly processed food products has forced manufacturers to reconsider everything from their product offerings to advertising schemes.

The contradiction that we face as a society is apparent from the get-go. Dave McIntyre, of The Washington Post recently pointed out that we are delighted to purchase a tomato from the back of a pick-up truck at a farmer’s market but reluctant to look at organic wines for sale just one truck over. The image of Lucille Ball stomping on grapes in that memorable episode of “I Love Lucy” seems to dominate the public perception of how eco wines are made in someone’s backyard where too many pairs of less-than-clean feet stomp the grapes into wine.

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But in actuality we find that these eco wines do beautifully in blind tests with wine critics. While the processes covered by the “organic” wine certification are still in flux in the U.S., the reviewers used generally more positive words to describe the wines and the author noted that he himself found many of the eco wines more lively in taste.  Classifying a wine as organic is an expensive process as well, he points out, and that means that some of their products can get lost in the mix.

A winery like Barone Pizzini in Franciacorta takes specific measures to ensure that its wines are certified as organic and as the winery has grown, so has its influence on the wine industry. While some may still confuse eco labels with hippie tastes, the sophistication and liveliness of a sip of Barone Pizzini’s star products is enough to make everyone reconsider their previous assumptions. Grown on  47 hectares of carefully cultivated land, each of Barone Pizzini’s wines feature their own unique blend of traits and characteristics.

Save the Date & Join the Franciacorta Festival: September 17-18

Every year in September, the Franciacorta Festival brings a dynamic weekend of must-do activities to locals and visitors alike.

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This year’s festival will come the weekend of September 17th and 18th. Guests may choose to spend the weekend relaxing, sipping wonderful local sparkling wines and enjoying the local scenery and hospitality!

Barone Pizzini joins the Franciacorta Festival and celebrates biodiversity with a special tour of the winery and vineyards. The guided visit includes:

  • Walk in the vineyard with an expert of wild herbs
  • Guided tour of the cellar
  • Tasting of three Franciacorta paired with a degustation menu made with wild herbs

The cost of the special tour is 29 and reservation is required.

Nearby wineries offer tours and comprehensive tastings of their offerings. For those who wish to stay in town, the streets will be full of tasty street food options and famous chefs will be preparing dinners to celebrate the festival. Art and musical performances will be front and center and children are included as well with hiking and cycling options.

The location in Franciacorta is perfect for a quick weekend trip from Milan, Florence or even further cities like Rome, and the local vineyards are ideal spots when considering both quick overnight trips and longer says. Franciacorta is not only a place for a weekend getaway but even planning family events like a wedding or family reunion in the area- a beautiful natural backdrop to a memorable visit for everyone.

Who knows- the beautiful scenery, the extraordinary sites to visit and of course, the delicious wines, an annual trip to Franciacorta for the Festival might become a tradition for your family and friends!

Seeking the Tuscan Sun? Meet Poderi di Ghiaccioforte, Barone Pizzini’s Youngest Tuscan Brother

Tuscany is synonymous with all things Italian for many English-speakers and travelers. The colors are iconic: rich wheat-brown fields, brilliant blue skies, the pristine rows of cypress trees that seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. These are all symbols of one of the crown jewels of Italian regions.

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The Maremma region is bordered by the southwestern Tuscan cities of Livorno and Grosseto and to the south, Viterbo and Rome. The Poderi di Ghiaccioforte vineyard lies in this Maremma in Scansano, a nearby Etruscan site. The Sangiovese grape is grown on two distinct plots with different soils that come together for a unique-tasting wine: Pian del Dado which faces east and features a medium-textured soil and Colonna-Aquilaia which faces north with a clayey-calcareous soil.

At this moment in time, the vineyard features three special wines for your consideration. The first is Rosso dei Poderi Maremma Toscana Rosso IGT. Perfect for an aperitivo with friends (imagine a platter of meats and moderately-aged cheeses), this soft and finely textured wine is a perfect companion.

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The Morellino di Scansano DOCG is a full-bodied wine, named for the black breed of horses that pulled carriages so long ago. This is a star wine that highlights all the reasons why Sangiovese grapes are so sought-after in Italian wines.

The Estatatura Toscana Rosso IGT was named for the vast relocation of city-dwellers to Grosseto during the summer months. Indeed, its flavors are the essence of summer- ruby red with hints of violets, the fragrance of blackberries, wild cherries, raspberries and herbs and a broad and mellow taste in the mouth. This is the Riserva wine from Poderi di Ghiaccioforte’s selection and one that is sure to delight all who get a sip.

 

What do you like about Morellino di Scansano?

What are the differences between Prosecco and Franciacorta?

Absolutely everyone loves bubbly. It’s the ultimate celebration wine that perfectly matches all foods, from bruschetta to tiramisù and even popcorn. It makes for an elegant hostess present at a dinner and even for those nights when you just feel like unwinding before settling down to eat. The world of Italian sparkling wines can be difficult to navigate with hundreds of different labels available, so where does one begin? Which labels are the best? What are the important differences between Italian sparkling wine styles?

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Two names that get tossed around a lot when speaking about Italian bubbly are Prosecco and Franciacorta. Indeed, many people actually confuse Prosecco and Franciacorta. It’s understandable, as both have distinctly Italian names. However, this recent article by VinePair demonstrates a few key differences between them, such as the grapes themselves, the production methods and when the wines should be consumed.

Barone Pizzini and all quality Franciacorta wines are made in the Franciacorta method, also known as the traditional method or metodo classico. This is the time-intensive method by which the greatest sparkling wines in the world are made. Prosecco is made in the less expensive Charmat method.

Barone Pizzini is one the pioneering wineries that produces Franciacorta in Italy. To find an authentic Franciacorta, all you need to do is look for the Barone Pizzini label as a helpful starting point.

Two other important considerations: Prosecco should be consumed immediately, while Franciacorta needs time to reach its peak flavor, from a few months to two years. Furthermore, Prosecco is produced in different provinces of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions, while Franciacorta is produced only in the province of Brescia, near Milan in the Lombardy region.

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So have no fear the next time you find yourself perusing the aisles of your favorite wine store for something to gift your host or even just a new addition to your own wine collection. The store’s selection might seem daunting, but armed with this useful information about Prosecco and Franciacorta wines, you’ll know how to zero in on the perfect bottle of Italian bubbly!

Wine Additives? No, Thanks! Discover Pievalta Winery’s Biodynamic Viticulture

Many winemakers use chemical additives to create a more complex structure to their wines. When done correctly, the results can be excellent. But there is another way. The Pievalta winery uses biodynamic viticulture that its founder, Alessandro Fenino, adopted from his experiences as an organic farmer.

Working exclusively with natural preparations including organic and vegetal compounds, Fenino says that he is able to encourage the growth of a fertile humus that will help revitalize plant growth. He does this by changing the way that he treats the soil, tilling between every other row and then ploughing it at the end of the harvest season. The rows are then planted with legumes that are worked back into the earth in the spring as a cover crop. Using “horn manure”, the humus is formed, which gives fertility to the soil using microorganisms. The vineyards are also sprayed with horn silica, and only copper and sulfur are used to protect vines from disease.

The result of Pievalta’s efforts is a certification by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture that the wines are free of pesticides, fungicides and insecticides. There are many ways to grow wine, and this return to the earth and soil is a special way to celebrate the particular flavors of the Verdicchio grapes.

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Credits: Wine Folly

Minerality in Wines: What Does it Mean?

Lettie Teague’s wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal on minerality in wines is a must-read.

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Credits: Wendy Macnaughton – “Minerality”: Drilling Down on Wine’s Buzzword

A new go-to word in the world of wine, “minerality” in wine for Teague is a wine that has flavors of slate or wet stone, even a slight bitterness. Sometimes minerality refers to the soil of the terroir, others say it is not a scientific term but an artistic term.

Teague gathers several “minerally” wines together and finds that she can describe them as fresh, lively with lots of acidity and “even possessed of an energetic buzz.”  

Indeed, the wines from the Pievalta winery capture just these same qualities in their bottles. As founder Alessandro Fenino says, “we don’t transform grapes into wine. We simply accompany the fruit as it becomes wine. We let the grapes express themselves freely.”

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Tasters new to Pievalta’s wines will find that their best selections follow Teague’s advice to the letter- fresh, with hints of citrus, herbs and the almost chalky taste from the limestone-rich soil where the Verdicchio vines are grown.