Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wine of the Week- Epsilon, Ca' Di Rajo Sparkling Wines of Italy

Ca' Di Rajo poised for major U.S. wine release in June

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

SAN POLO DI  PIAVE (Treviso), Italy--Luca Ortoncelli speaks with the enthusiasm of the father of a newborn. His Ca' Di Rajo winery located in the Piave river valley near Venice in northern Italy, is set to embark upon a new marketing relationship that will  bring his wines to the finest restaurants and wine shops in Chicago and beyond.

Already renowned for its Prosecco Superiore, which comes from the Valdobbiadene in the northern border district of Treviso, Ca' Di Rajo is fast gaining a reputation for its Red wines, particularly Raboso Piave, made from a vine variety that is considered the pride of the eastern part of the Veneto. But it is Prosecco that has given Ca' Di Rajo its fame and its latest endeavor will set the wine world on its ear. It's called Epsilon. The fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, it is a word that evokes mystery.

In June, Ca' Di Rajo will arrive in Chicago for the kick-off of a national tour promoting its new line of sparkling wines that will feature a unique packaging that will attract the eye and act as an invtitation to the delightful sparkling wine inside. Designed to attract a wider audience among millennials, the wines are entitled Epsilon. It comes in three varieties,  Pink, White and Gold, each with a distinctive flavor profile. The wine inside is Prosecco, the sparkling liquid gold of the north. Luca Ortoncelli best described the wine in his own poetic words.

"The man who made this wine, you can tell that wine is in his heart." The wines will sell for about $24 and offer flavor profiles of Brut (bone dry), Extra Dry (slightly sweet) and a Rose' colored wine called Epsilon Pink, which is semi-sweet in taste. "The wines are terrific as party wines to drink alone, but they also go with food. Summer salads, seafood, especially oysters and soft, ripe cheeses and creamy desserts." The attractive packaging will also make the wines an exciting offering for bottle service in clubs and restaurants. "That's where we expect to get a lot of attention. When people see this bottle, they think of fashion and luxury. Yet, its an afforadable luxury that anyone can enjoy."
Ca' Di rajo's Luca Ortoncelli with his new Epsilon sparkling wines

The vineyards at Ca' Di Rajo
The 15th Century tower that comprises the Ca' Di Rajo winery and (Below) Luca Ortoncelli in the vineyards near one of the twin towers at the winery

Dwight Casimere in the vineyards and a closer look at the ancient tower

The church at Ca' Di Rojo dates to the 15th Century. Ancient frescoes were discovered under the plaster on the walls

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Vinitaly 2014 a vintage year for the industry

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

VERONA, Italy--Vinitaly 2015 will go down in the record books as the largest in history. With more than 150,000 visitors from 140 countries. The attendance numbers were up 20 percent over last year. More than 2,600 journalists from 46 countries covered the four-day event and, thanks to an increase of 34% in investments dedicated to incoming promotions and cooperation with the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, the Italian Trade Agency-ICE and the Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies, the number of foreign buyers also increased, according to Ettore Riello, President of Veronafiere,  the exhibition site of Vinitaly.

Visitors from the Far East and Mexico also grew this year, with new entries from Africa, particularly Cameroon and Mozambique, among new guests at Vinitaly. North Africa even performed well with Egypt rebounding with a strong presence. Tunisia and Morocco also made impressive showings for both wine and food at Sol and Agrifood, the showcase for food products, olive oil and wine.

The U.S. and Canada account for 20 per cent of international visitors, but Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the German speaking countries, dominated with 25 per cent in overall attendance.  The United Kingdom took third place with 10 per cent attendance. France, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Russia rounded out the top eight positions in attendance with European Union countries Poland and Romania rounding out the top 10.

 Due to the success of business contacts made at this year's Vinitaly, many high-end private sector companies have already signed three-year renewals for upcoming editions of Vinitaly. There was a festive mood throughout the event with a revived view of optimism for the industry.

Massive pavilions occupying hundreds of square feet of floor space replicated Castellos and Villas of many wine estates. Among the most impressive was the pavilion created by the Prosecco Superiore sparkling wine producers from Conegliano Valdobbiadene, which presented more than 100 sparkling wines and a unique opportunity to taste the wines of 14 smaller producers. A series of intensive tasting seminars, such as  'The ABC of Conegliano Valdobbiadene,' a tutored  tasting and general overview and 'The Rive:expressions of the territory and its biodiversity, '  also explored the unique terroir of Prosecco Superiore and the meticulous production methods that make this one of the most delicate and flavorful sparkling wines of the world. Prosecco Superiore  is quickly gaining world dominance in this beverage sector.

Banfi presented one of the most impressive pavilions with a massive booth that replicated Castello Banfi. A commanding view of the convention floor added to the heightened sense of drama surrounding the tasting of its latest releases of high-end 'Premier Cru' level wines under the skillful tutelage of Lars Leicht, head of Banfi's Cru Artisan portfolio and Castello Banfi's Montalcino-Italia Ambassador Luciano Castiello.

Cantine Ferrari of Trentino presented its magnificent Perle sparkling wine, which  a classic example of the methodo traditionale, a complexity of taste and refinement of texture to rival that of the finest Champagne. Ferrari Chairman Matteo Lunelli and Marketing and Finance Director Alessandro Lunelli on hand to personally present this jewel of a sparkling wine.

Sicily was well represented with a dazzling array of new vintages from Donnafugata. Owner and production manager Antonio Rallo and co-owner and  Chief Operating Officer Jose Rallo and their father, Giacomo, who co-founded the winery with his wife, Gabriella, a visionary woman in the Italian wine industry, personally pouring their new releases.

Arnaldo Caprai celebrated the wines of Umbria, particularly its signature Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2010 "25 Anni" at a wine pairing lunch at Caprai's pop-up restaurant in a huge airstream ooutside the Umbria Pavilion, hosted by winemaker Marco Caprai and featuring award-winning chef and TV personality Gianfranco Vissani. A number of celebrity chefs attending Vinitaly took time from their own appearances to attend the luncheon to honor their friend and colleague. This was just one of the star-studded highlights of Vinitaly 2015 in which the real star was Italian wine itself.

Galas and lavish wine dinners filled the evening hours in villas, restaurants and castles in the misty hills above the beautiful romantic city of Verona with the bas relief of its ancient buildings casting their shadow against the darkening crimson sky of eventide.

The Cena Di Gala (Gala Dinner) at Allegrini Villa Della Torre announced the Italian Signaturre Wines Academy, a major educational and research initiative uniting the efforts of Allegrini, Arnaldo Caprai, Feudi San Gregorio, Fontanafreda, Marchesi De' Frescobaldi, Planeta and Villa Sandi. All of the principals were on hand, as well as their superb wines, which were served at dinner.
Allegrini's Villa Della Torre estate

The dinner buffet at Villa Della Torre

Lamberto Frescobaldi  President of  Marchesi De' Frescobaldi
Marilisa Allegrini with guest Giovanni Montovani, Director General of Vernafiere
Celebrity chef Gianfranco Vissani
Below: Marc Taub, President and CEO,Palm Bay International, with his son at the Villa Della Torre Gala

Francesca and Alessio Planeta, owners of Planeta winery in Sicily

The nighttime view from the bridge at Villa Della Torre
Below: Leonardo Frescobaldi of Marchesi de' Frescobaldi

Below: with Lars Leicht of Cru Artisan-Banfi and Banfi co-CEO Cristina Mariani-May
The replica of Castello Banfi at Vinitaly

A festive moode prevailed at Vinitaly 2015
 Donnafugata's Jose Rallo with her father Giacomo Rallo
Below: the impressive pavilion for Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Prosecco from the Cartizze district

A view from atop the floor of Vinitaly 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015


Opera Wine: A Showcase for Italy's Finest Wines from 100 Great Producers
Presented by Wine Spectator and Vinitaly Presents

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

VERONA, Italy---Italy's wine stars were out in full force for Wine Spectator and Vinitaly Presents' Opera Wine. Now in its fourth edition, Opera Wine is a gala presentation of the top wines from 100 legendary producers as selected by Wine Spectator Magazine, the leading recognized authority on wine and Vinitaly, the world's largest festival and conference of wine. Opera Wine was the formal prelude to Vinitaly 2015, which attracted a record number of participants this year.

Producers were on hand to personally pour their elite selections, to the delight of a sellout crowd at the Palazzo Della Gran Guardia in the heart of the ancient city center of Verona, which is dominated by the massive and historic  Arena, site of this summer's annual Verona Opera Festival.

 Opera Wine's 100 Great Producers outside the Palazzo Della Guardia in Verona
 Character actors represent Verdi's  opera 'Aida,' the centerpiece production of Verona's Opera Festival
 Dwight Casimere with Marilisa Allegrini of Allegrini Wines
 The ancient Arena in the Piazza Bra of central Verona

 Marchesi de Frescobaldi President and winemaker  Lamberto Frescobaldi with the company's marketing ambassador of 20 years, Alessandro Lunardi
 Wine writer, film maker and sommelier Charlie Arturaola (r) with his winemaking friends at OperaWine (Below) Some of the 'beautiful people' at OperaWine

 Veronafiere, the setting for Vinitaly
 Dwight Casimere with Wine Spectator Executive Editor Tom Matthews (center) and winemaker Paolo Bosoni of Cantine Lunae
 A face in the crowd at Vinitaly 2015  and  (Below) Giovanni Folonari of A and G Folonari Tenute with Cantine Ferrari Chairman Metteo Lunelli (r)

Antonio Zacchero, Carpentino Winery

 Robin Shay, Brand Manager  to Allegrini wines
 Francesca and Alessio Planeta of Planeta wines of Sicily
Dwight Casimere with Paolo Bosoni, Lunae Bosoni

 'Aida' at Opera Wine
 Jacopo Biondi Santo with his son , Tancredi. Two generations of Biondi-Santi wines, the inventors of modern day Brunello di Montalcino wine.

Vinitaly Managing Director Stevie Kim presides over the OperaWine news conference

Among the presenters, Allegrini Azienda Agricola  of the Veneto region, Arnaldo Caprai of Umbria and Donnafugata of Sicily.

Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International moderated the news conference announcing this year's initiatives for Vinitaly 2015 which included Enolitech Expo, an on-site promotional tool devoted to the wine and oil sectors and Sol and Agrifood, a showcase for the Dairy, Snack Food and Produce industries. This year's was the 49th edition of Vinitaly with 4,000 exhibitors and 155,000 visitors, among them 56,000 guests from 120 countries. For more on Vinitaly and its international and US events, visit vinitalyinternational.com.