Saturday, February 9, 2013

2013 Vinitaly Slow Wine US Tour Showcase of Italian Wine

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

MIAMI BEACH--A dazzling array of Italian wines were presented at the Vinitialy -Slow Wine US Tour 2013 in the fabulous rooftop ballrooms of the Miami Beach Resort & Spa. With views spanning the stunning aqua-marine ocean, white sand beaches and the panorama of Biscayne Bay, more than 40 Italian wine producers were on hand to personally pour their stunning Prosecco's, Super Tuscans and Sangiovese blends that affirmed both the desirability and pre-eminence of Italian wine in the U.S. market.
Among the standouts at the tasting, which was accompanied by a lavish buffet of Italian cheeses, salumi and appetizer specialties, was the new Prosecco offered by Banfi. "This is going to be a dominant force in the marketplace," said the brand's local marketing representative. "It's coming in at under $13 a bottle. Considering the outstanding flavor and the price, it will make a definite statement." The beautiful light straw color, peach and vanilla aroma and persistent, tiny bubbles spoke well for this new entry. The flavor was especially appealing, with a balanced of acidity and fruit that sat well on the palate and went perfectly with the light, springtime fare offered on the buffet.

Maco Tessari of Azienda Agricola Ca'Rugate, located in the Valpolicella north of Verona, Italy, offered a spectacular array of new vintages, ranging from dry, but fruity  whites, to hearty reds. I had the privilege of visiting his cooperative just days prior to the Miami tour event and was pleasantly obliged to experience his wines once again. 
Gerardo Cesari of Cesari, the wines of Verona was a similar re-acquaintance. The label is well-known among U.S. connoisseurs and his latest vintages are no disappointment. 

The day was capped by an opening-night celebration at dei Frescobaldi Miami Beach-Ristorante, Wine Bar and Lounge in the Astor Hotel and Washington in South Beach. The first US. culinary venture by the famed Frescobaldi wine family, the expansive facility dominates the entire groundfloor.  A focus is the luxurious garden lounge and bar where the main activities of the Gala Opening took place, presided over by proprietor Piero Benini, who poured Frescobaldi Mormoreto Chianti Classico with a sumptuous array of house specialties that perfectly complemented the wine. A later sampling of the restaurants appetizers and entrees in the restaurants' stunningly designed dining room, complete with celebrity photo portraits and showcase wine cellar, made for an evening worthy of any Grammy or Oscar nominated star, who I'm sure will make their way to this lavish eatery in one of the showplaces of South Florida.

The latest research data affirms Italy's pre-eminence in the world of wine. According to Wine Opinions, Italy leads in the USA with an increased market share of imported wines in the first nine months of 2012 by 7.2% over the previous year. Italy dominates over of France and Australia in volume of all imported wines sold in the USA for the last quarter of 2012, both in terms of absolute numbers and percentages for the purchase of each of the four age groups analyzed: Millennials (ages 21 – 35), Generation X (36 – 47), Baby Boomers (48 – 67) and those over 67.
The USA, country with the largest number of wine consumers, is expected to gradually increase its consumption of wine by 2.4% per year until 2016. In terms of overall consumption, the United States is followed by Germany, France, UK and Italy. Some 100 million adults drink wine at least once every 2 - 3 months in the USA with 57% belonging to the category of "core drinkers", ie those who drink wine at least once a week. The "Millennials" (21-35 years old) are most active in this market, consumption habits show they tend to be less casual and more "core drinkers."
The research also showed that the most popular Italian wines are red. In the second half of 2012, Italy was on top of this list before France and Spain. The beautiful country also ranks second in the category of white wines and rosé with 35% of the amount of bottles sold, behind France (46%). 62% of Italian red wines between $20-50 dollars were perceived as "excellent" by respondents, in comparison to 57% for French wines and 51% for the Spanish. The statistics affirm the reasons to love Italian wine, but the best way to arrive at your own conclusion, is to buy a bottle and try it in the privacy of your home, or favorite restaurant. Buono Appetito!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Anteprima Amarone: History of a Successful Wine

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

Marano, near Verona, Italy--This tiny medieval village nestled in the foothills of the Lessini mountains in the northernmost town of the Valpolicella wine region near Verona, is the home of Giuseppe Campagnola, one of the prime producers of Amarone wine since 1907. Hillside vineyards hug the slopes of the valley as the grapes struggle to gain nourishment from the gravelly limestone soil that is literally a stone's throw from the famed marble quarries where the greatest Renaissance sculptors and architects mined the raw materials for the grand creations of palaces, cathedrals and statuary.

Entirely owned by the Campagnola family for four generations, the winery is headed by Giuseppe Campagnola, General Manager, and his father, Luigi Campagnola, President. Amarone della Valpolicella Classico is the primary wine produced here and is the pride of the family and its traditions.

Amarone is a unique wine in both its flavor, texture and method of production. Made with indigenous Corina Veronese, Corvinone Veronese and Rondinella varieties, the means of vinification are as steeped in tradition as the name of Amarone itself.

Grapes are hand-picked and go through a rigorous selection process at harvest. Then, they are submitted to an ancient drying process that predates the Romans.  Originally laid out on wood pallets, the grapes are now laid to rest in plastic bins, that provide a neutral surface, free from the possibility to mold, mildew and pests that are the byproduct/hazards of wood. The grapes are dried for 90-100 days, during which time they lose 35-40% of their weight. Vinification then begins. Soft-pressing of the grapes releases the concentrated juice to stainless steel tanks, where it is allowed to macerate an additional 30 days on the skin to intensify flavor and color.  The wine is then refined and  aged
for in oak, with 60% going to large Slovenian Oak barrels for two years and 40% going to smaller, new French oak barriques for 18 months. The wine is then blended and aged in the bottle for 6 months.

The outcome is a wine rich in color, texture and flavor. Intense, ruby red, with a violet edge, the wine is almost luminous. It has a depth of flavor and aroma that reveals intense aromas of black cherries, toasted almond and vanilla, nutmeg and cardamom. Hints of tobacco leaf and cedar persist at the edge of the aroma wheel, making it a perfect accompaniment to strong,mature cheeses, such as those so prevalent in the region and locally produced sausages and salumi and game meats. Grilled, aged steak is another flavor enhancement that comes to mind.  This is a big wine with a great deal of character which matches the depth of pride and history of the Campagnola family, the Valpolicella and the historic greatest of Amarone wine. The 2009 vintage caps a decade of growth for Amarone, which has gone from near-obscurity  outside its native region, to become one of the most appreciated wines in the world.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Anteprima Amarone 2009 Presents a Red Wine Steeped in Pride, Prestige

Amarone wine is a driving force in Italian economy, culture and lifestyle

Story and Photo Gallery by Dwight Casimere

VERONA, ITALY--A spring-like sun bathed the snow-capped hills surrounding this jewel-box of a city, where the Capulets and the Montagues fueded and Renaissance kings wielded their sovereign swords in wealth and oppulence. More than a hundred producers of this Ruby-red liquid corollary to the Michelangelo marble mined in the majestic hills that comprise the Valpolicella, and a coterie of wine journalists, distributors and afficionadoes, descended upon the Pallaza della Gran Guarda in this most romantic of cities.

Amarone is the life's blood of northeastern Italy. It is one of the most prestigious wines of the world. Produced from indigenous grapes, with names that harken back to days that predate the Roman Empire; Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella and ancient production methods which include the traditional natural drying of the grapes, or "passita", and traditional fortification techniques combined with modern technologies and fermentation processes, it is a wine of distinction.

Valpolicella is  nestled in a lattice-work cradle of four separate valleys, the lush, fertile landscape is anchored by a large lake and punctuated by a veinous confluence of rivers and canals. The snowcapped Lessini mountains from which they descend are a climatic contradiction to the perfect growing conditions that exist below. Warm winds  caress the vines, even in the dead of winter, with olives, cherries and wild rosemary intermingled with the vines, creating a cornucopia of rich flavors and colors. 

Each valley has its own river. Roads replace rivers during the dry season, but it flows when the melting ice of the glaciers in the Lessini mountains nourish the fertile valleys below. The ancient towns add to the scenic mix. Mazzano, Torbe, Crosarea, Moron, San Peretto, the names literally roll off of the tongue. The only hint at the richness of the land and the vine. Historically, Valpolicella is known as "the splended country" and a tasting of the more than 200 wines assembled at the tasting tables at the Palazza della Gran Guarda in central Verona, across from the ancient Arena, is a testament to the dedication and artistry of the winemakers assembled there. 

A brilliant sunshine greeted our party of journalists as we arrived at the Hotel Bologna in the heart of Old Verona across from the historic Arena and just a cobblestoned street walk to the central Plaza Erbe, near where the statue of Dante towers over the square. Shedding our winter coats, there was opportunity to explore the winding mews and flagstoned walkways and enjoy views of the river and its timeworn bridges. The final day brought a special treat, a billowing, rare snowfall fell upon the hills and vineyards of the Valpolicella creating a fantasy atmosphere.

Over the next several days, the producers will showcase their wines at Anteprima Amarone 2009. Ready to be put to the world market over the next several months, these wines are the product of one of the most successful decades in the Valpolicella's history. Production and quality have increased, as have the number of partnerships. 

 wine’s success is measured also by its capacity of getting the economy of its territory of origin grow. This is what Amarone della Valpolicella has done in the last decade and what Anteprima Amarone next January 26th and 27th is analysing and celebrating. Protagonist of the tastings will be Vintage 2009, ready to be put on the market and, to celebrate this special edition of the event, all participating producers will present their best vintage of the last decade. Several aspects of this growth are the subject of seminars and roundtables that will be the topic of "Anteprima Amarone: history of a successful wine" According to the President of the Consortium for the Tutelage of Valpolicella, Christian Marchesini "This is our most successful year to date and a real chance to prove to the world that we have the resources fo grow our local economy. " Alessandri Bianchi, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Verona, was equally enthusiastic at the Grand Tasting that preceded the opening night dinner for the two-day extravaganza.  Giovanni Mantovani. CEO of Verona Fair and of Vinitaly International was on hand to answer questions and preside over at the round table at the Auditorium of Gran Guardia. This "golden decade" of the Amarone della Valpolicella culminated in the presentation of the 2009 vintage, conducted by the Vice President of the Consortium, Daniele Accordini, followed by a private press tasting, featuring the top wine writers of the world. To celebrate this special edition of Anteprima Amaronem the media were treated to a series of tours of the wineries of the region where they were able to interact with the producers one-on-one and taste the noble products of their labors and monitor production techniques first hand in the lush beauty and historical grandeur of this picturesque region. Anteprima Amarone is the result of the sponsorship of the OIV, International Organisation of Vine and wine, of Banca Popolare di Verona and the Chamber of Commerce of Verona. For more information, visit