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.

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A great series on Castelli di Jesi by @WalterSpeller (@JancisRobinson)

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Above: A view from the Pievalta winery.

In case you missed it, we wanted to share a wonderful and highly informative series of posts by wine writer Walter Speller on Castelli di Jesi, its varied growing zones and macroclimates, and tasting notes from some of its leading wineries.

Walter published this in-depth profile of the appellation late last year on JancisRobinson.com, where he posts regularly on Italian wines and appellations.

“Pievalta’s young but very talented winemaker, Alessandro Fenino…” writes Walter, “told me he looks for elegance in wine, and no wonder. As a winemaker originally trained in making metodo classico wines, for him it is all about balance.”

Click here to read Walters five-part series, a must-read for Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi lovers.

Alfonso Cevola aka @ItalianWineGuy contemplates Franciacorta

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Above: Wine writer and Italian wine industry veteran Alfonso Cevola has had Franciacorta on his mind. Alfonso was the winner of the Vinitaly International Prize for 2013.

Barone Pizzini general manager and Franciacorta Consortium vice president Silvano Brescianini has asked the blogmaster to share the following post with readers of the Barone Pizzini-Pievalta blog: “Franciacorta vs. the World“, by Italian wine writer and industry veteran Alfonso Cevola aka @ItalianWineGuy.

In it, Alfonso writes:

    Franciacorta, ah Franciacorta. If you were to ask most Americans they wouldn’t be able to tell you what it was, let alone where it came from. Perhaps in Denmark or Singapore the educated masses there know better how to distinguish this sparkling wine in a bottle, but most of the world is still painfully ignorant…

    Franciacorta is like the tall gangly middle child, nestled between her older sibling Champagne and the cute youngest child, Prosecco. While the eldest has had more experience and is wiser to the ways of the world, and the baby is cute and cuddly, Franciacorta’s beauty often goes unnoticed.

Click here to continue reading this thought-provoking and insightful post.

Study finds pesticide residue in majority of French wines tested

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Last week, the French research laboratory Excell published the results of a study of pesticide residue in more than 300 French wines.

Here’s the write-up from Decanter magazine:

A study of more than 300 French wines has found that only 10% of those tested were clean of any traces of chemicals used during vine treatments.

Pascal Chatonnet and the EXCELL laboratory in Bordeaux tested wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages of Bordeaux, the Rhone, and the wider Aquitaine region, including appellations such as Madiran and Gaillac.

Wines were tested for 50 different molecules found in a range of vine treatments, such as pesticides and fungicides.

Some wines contained up to nine separate molecules, with ‘anti-rot’ fungicides the most commonly found. These are often applied late in the growing season.

‘Even though the individual molecules were below threshold levels of toxicity,’ Chatonnet told Decanter.com, ‘there is a worrying lack of research into the accumulation effect, and how the molecules interact with each other.

‘It is possible that the presence of several molecules combined is more harmful than a higher level of a single molecule,’ he said.

Click here to continue reading.

Franciacorta expert Franco Ziliani reviews Barone Pizzini & has kind words for the Extra Brut

In case you don’t know Italian wine writer Franco Ziliani, he’s one of Italy’s leading wine critics, its top wine blogger, and is widely considered the leading authority on the wines of Franciacorta today. He is the author of Vino al Vino, one of Italy’s most popular wine blogs; Le Mille Bolle Blog, a site devoted to Italian sparkling wines; and he also authors a column for the website of the historic food and wine guide Cucchiaio d’Argento.

Our translation of his February 4, 2013 post for the Mille Bolle Blog follows.

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I won’t add much here but will invite you instead to read a post that I devoted last September to Barone Pizzini in Provaglio d’Iseo and its wines.

Well known today as the first organic winery in Franciacorta, the estate began experimenting with organic farming in 1998. In 2001, its vineyards — 47 hectares including 25 separate parcels scattered over the townships of Provagliao d’Iseo, Corte Franca, Adro e Passirano — were granted organic certification. Its vineyards are scattered over some of the best growing areas in Franciacorta thanks to their exposure and the subsoils.

The winery’s handsome cellar, which I visited recently, reminds the visitor of Italy’s historic rational architecture style. Wines were first produced there in 2006 and 2007 and in 2010, the winery’s offices and salesroom were also opened onsite. The estate produces a range of Franciacorta and its wines are solidly reliable and impeccably well made. But most importantly, they’re very pleasing to the palate.

I liked the non-vintage Brut, made primarily from the estates 2010 vintage (80%). It was an earnest wine, round on the palate, enjoyable, approachable but not banal, and better than the entry-tier Brut from many well known houses.

The 2009 Satèn, only recently disgorged (October 2012) and soon to be released, showed beautiful intensity in its color, a vibrant straw yellow. It was round in the mouth, with creamy flavors and a nice salty finish.

I liked Brut Rosé 2008 so much that I’ve decided to write about it on another site where I celebrate the unique qualities and greatness of rosés. Its cuvée includes 80% of brilliant Pinot Noir. I also liked the Bagnadore 2005 and I promise to review it here shortly.

Today, I’d like to direct your attention to another Franciacorta that’s part of line produced by the winery, whose general manager, Silvano Brescianini, I’ve known for at least twenty years. I met him back when he was a talented chef at XXVII Miglio di Erbusco (and then later at San Domenico in Imola and San Domenico in New York). Who would have thought that he’d have such an outstanding career (having served as winery manager and vice president of the Franciacorta consortium)? My goodness, Silvano, you’re such a big shot! (I better keep this red-headed A.C. Milan fan on my good side!)

The non-vintage wine is made from grapes from the 2008 harvest, 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Nero, fruit sourced from the vineyards Ciosèt, Troso, and Prada, with a yield of 90 quintals per hectare, aged on its lees for 24 months. It’s the winery’s Extra Brut, which the estate recommends serving as an aperitif paired with Parmigiano Reggiano, crudo, consommé, culatello, and other encased charcuterie.

If it were up to me, I’d like to see what the wine could do when paired with a wider range of dishes, like the fantastic menu at a Franciacorta restaurant that I love, the Dispensa Pani & Vini in Torbiato di Adro, where you’ll find a maestro and genius in the kitchen whose name happens to be Vittorio Fusari (another old friend). Likewise, I wouldn’t mind pairing it with the cuisine of Stefano Cerveni, a world-class chef, at his wonderful Due Colombe al Borgo Antico in Borgonato di Cortefranca

There were no ifs, ands or buts about how much I like this Extra Brut (my favorite category above all others). It was brilliant gold in the glass, with fine and cohesive bubbles. An earnest nose, focused, very dry, with notes of salted almonds, citrus, white fruit, white flowers, and a nice touch of minerality that helped to give the wine a complex and elegant bouquet.

I liked the wine even more in the mouth. It was focused, masculine, assertive, full of life and energy, rich with flavor, expansive, nuanced, and insistent. The salty finish tasted of almonds as it lingered on the palate. Balanced and playful but not cute or flirty. It’s a Franciacorta that takes the field and shows you its unique personality. Maybe you like it and maybe you don’t (but how the hell could you not like this wine?). But all will agree that this unique entry stands apart from the rest.

A fine Franciacorta that I recommend you try without hesitation.

—Franco Ziliani
Le Mille Bolle Blog

About this blog…

In 2012, Barone Pizzini and Pievalta general manager Silvano Brescianini asked American wine writer and blogger Jeremy Parzen (author of Do Bianchi) to curate a web media program for the winery group’s two brands.

The Barone Pizzini-Pievalta blog is devoted not only to the wineries, the wines, and the people who grow, raise, and bottle them, but also to the appellations themselves and to the culture and ethos — contemporary and historic — that has produced them.

The curator’s hope is that this blog will become a resource for trade and consumers alike.

No wine is made in a vacuum: the authors believe steadfastly that understanding the origins — the whys, the hows, and the whens — and the context of a given wine is just as vital as is tasting the wine. And they believe that a deeper understanding of a given’s wine context in the universe of wine enhances the sensorial experience and enjoyment there.

To contact Silvano, please click here.

For Jeremy, please click here.

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