Bibemus: In Italy (and Veneto) We Trust

Last night our Italian tasting group (Bibemus) got together at Bottega Restaurant for an ode to Quinteralli and also give thanks to the many other great producers from Veneto.

These are the wines served last night:

1. Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico 2009
2. Ca’ Rugate Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico 2010
3. Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico 2009
4. Ca’ Rugate Rio Albo Valpolicella 2010
5. Le Vigne di San Pietro Valpolicella 2009
6. Romano Dal Forno Valpolicella Superiore del vigneto Monte Lodoletta 2001
7. Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2001
8. Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2007
9. Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2001
10. Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Monte Sant’ Urbano 2001
11. Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Capitel Monte Olmi 2001
12. And the mystery wine: Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella 2000

And the highlight? Well pretty easy answer. The Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella 2000.

All the wines looked fantastic last night. The bracket of whites showed each wines distinct personality and illustrated the quality of each vineyard site. For me the Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico 2009 was the best wine of the bracket. Whilst it is a worked style and you have to be in the mood to enjoy it, last night showed why for me it was the best white. It was beautifully textured, powerful, had the perfect amount of acidity and finished with layers upon layers of beautiful fruit. You cannot really ask for much more in a white.

Moving onto the reds, all the wines showed well except for the Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Capitel Monte Olmi 2001 which was corked.

It must be noted that whilst I enjoyed the sheer quality of the Romano Dal Forno Valpolicella Superiore del vigneto Monte Lodoletta 2001. It is not a style I like. I found it forward, modern, sexed up and a caricature of Valpolicella.

The Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2001 on the other hand was as perfect as one could ever ask for in Valpolicella. Truly amazing with seamless fruit and loads of complexity.

We finished with the Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella 2000 that was textbook Amarone and again close to the perfect wine.

Drinking the wines of Veneto and saluting the great man Giuseppe Quintarelli capped off the best Bibemus dinner to date. I can’t think of anything better than drinking great wines with great friends and saluting one of Italy’s greatest winemakers.

Sometimes don’t worry about the food and wine match: it is all about the wine…

Yesterday was a scorching day in Melbourne. A top of 38 degrees Celsius with a minimum on 26 degrees. Not the ideal BBQ weather but with air conditioning the only hard part was the BBQ outside.

We started off with some Champagne to begin with before moving onto Chilli Prawns and the 2011 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling. This is one of my favorite Rieslings: great when young but also ages an absolute treat. This wine was singing last night and was the perfect match to the prawns. I would have been happy to stop at that and just eat Prawns and drink Riesling all night.

Next we moved onto some grilled Dory on the bbq match with some salads and in most instances the Riesling or aged Chardonnay (of if thinking Italian a bottle of Etna Bianco) would have worked well. Instead we had an aged bottle of Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2006. This is one of my favorite Chianti’s from the 2006 vintage and it was drinking true to form.

It was also a perfect match to the fish. Whilst the fish was grilled, it still had some pretty strong flavors and the hint of age from the Chianti meant that they actually worked really well together. Fish and Chianti is not something I would normally match together, but on a hot Melbourne night, with the air conditioning on max, it worked out to be almost the PERFECT match.

Huxtaburger = Melbourne’s best burger?….

I have been hearing many great things about the burgers at Huxtaburger and today I finally had the time to go there and try the burgers. I rode my vespa into Collingwood, parked at the front and ate for me, the best burger in Melbourne.

The bun was soft and moist and the meat tender and delicious. The burger was not too big, nor too small, rather just perfect.

This place was pumping and whilst we had to wait a little longer than most burger joints for our meals, they were definitely worth the wait. Will be making Huxtaburger a regular pit stop in the coming months.

May I have your attention please? Would the real Ezio Rivella please stand up?…..

‘The Real Ezio Rivella’?

May I have your attention please?
May I have your attention please?
Will the real Ezio Rivella please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Ezio Rivella please stand up?
We’re gonna have a problem here

I am not sure in today’s world if there is a man that polarizes the Italian wine community more than Ezio Rivella. There has been two great blog posts by Franco Ziliani at Vino al Vino and also Jeremy Parzen at Do Bianchi which will give you all the background information on this uproar.

This is my view on the Ezio Rivella.

For me the big question is do we really know Ezio Rivella? Who is the real Ezio Rivella?

Is he the one who represents 250 wineries as President of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino?

Or as a free man, without any tie to any organisation or company?

According to the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino:

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino was founded in 1967 after the recognition of the D.O.C., as a free association of producers with the intention of safeguarding a wine whose prestige was asserting itself more and more. It has during the years embodied an instrument of scrupulous and responsible self-discipline, bringing together old and new, small and large estates, in such a way that the wise consolidated customs became a common strategy for qualitative success. The Consorzio safeguards and promotes all four Montalcino denomination wines: Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Moscadello di Montalcino andSant’Antimo Doc; the remaining part is planted with Igt.

Now tell me, when Ezio Rivella tells producers from Barolo and Barbaresco who attended  Strada del Barolo that “Tradition is a ball and chain. At best, it serves as historical anchor.” Is he talking on behalf of the President of Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino? Or as a free man, without any tie to any organisation or company?

For me, if you hold such a title THEN every comment you make must be on behalf on the Consorzio. It is like Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia going to Italy and stating to the Italians that ‘Australia should not recognize the rights of women’ then coming back to Australia and stating the opposite.

As president you represent the whole Consorzio. From large producers to small. To traditional producers to ultra modern. You must respect all positions and work on outcomes for the benefit of all. Not a small minority.

If I was a traditional Brunello producer, I would withdraw my membership and support of the Consorzio. Does Ezio Rivella work for all of the Consorzio or just the select few that benefits from his outrageous statements? Whichever, these sort of comments tarnishes the image and reputation of Italian wine and no good can be made of it.

Le Moire Vino Calabrese on the way to Oz….

After delays due to the snow and shocking weather in Italy, our container of Southern Italian reds has finally left for it’s voyage to Australia. I am so excited to showcase Calabrian wines made from native varieties in Australia.

I think the next ten years are going to be fantastic for the wines of the South of Italy. Our climate in Australia is not disimilar to that of the south so hopefully we get some of our local producers planting these varieties in Australia. It will be fascinating to compare the two.

The reason why I love Friday nights…

Pretty simple really. Once I walk out the door on a Friday night I know I have a couple of days with my family. We eat, drink and spend time together without the frantic craziness of our Monday to Friday lives.

Normally we order some takeaway and enjoy a good bottle of wine. Takeaway for us last night was wood fired Pizza’s from our new local Firechief which is just down the road.

We started with a half bottle of Louis Roederer NV before moving onto a bottle of Salvatore Molettieri Vigna Cinque Querce Taurasi 2006 which was spectacular. I opened the bottle Thursday night just to have a quick look at it and also give it some air. With 24 hours, open in the bottle this wine was mind blowing. Can’t wait to show it in Oz in a couple of months time.

Last night’s Hoddles Creek Estate Winemaker dinner….

Last night I drove up to our vineyards in the Yarra Valley for a dinner in the barrel room of our winery to drink and listen to my twin brother Franco (who runs the Estate) talk us through a number of back vintages of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and one freaky Cabernet Sauvignon

The last dinner we had in the barrel room was a massive success and it illustrated just how well the wine ages. My idea of work at Hoddles is cooking the bbq during vintage and visiting Franc and the boys do their stuff outside of vintage. Nights like last night are a great way to show the talents of Franco and our site.

Again all the wines looked fantastic, but the real surprise packet was the 2006 Hoddles Creek Estate Cabernet Sauvignon which has developed beautifully. Franco thinks we can make this wine once every ten years so whilst it is not viable in a commercial sense, it is a joy when we produce a wine like the 2006.

When is Italian beer not Italian beer? It is not as silly as it sounds…

It is like asking to go to Venice in Italy and instead been flown to the Venetian in Las Vegas. It is not the same.

It is hard to believe that it was a year ago this month when we launched  #brewedunderlicencefreemarch to highlight that in Australia, we were being duped into buying Peroni Nastro Azzurro thinking it was Italian, but it was actually made in Australia.

Well fast forward a year and we have made a massive difference. Numerous articles have been published to inform the Australian public, especially Max Allen who wrote a brilliant piece in the Weekend Australian Magazine highlighting this issue nationally.

Sommeliers and wine merchants have been as fantastic in making sure that they only carried beer from around the world that was brewed in their country of origin.

Today if you go to Grossi Florentino, Il Bacaro, Sarti, Caffe Cucina, Becco, Merchant, Circa or any of Melbourne’s best restaurants, you will find them serving #realitalianbeer made from the country it originated from.

So #brewedunderlicencefreemarch is all about drinking your imported beer of choice, from the country which it has originated from. So Kirin from Japan, Stella from Belgium, Becks from Germany and most importantly Peroni from Italy.

Remember this is how the #realperoni movement started….

Being of Italian heritage, I love all things Italian. I ride a Vespa which I restored from Italy. I drink wine made in Italy, and importantly I like to drink beer brewed in Italy. I also love drinking Australian wines, German Riesling and so on. So much to my dismay, a few weeks ago, I ordered my favourite beer in the world, a Peroni from an Italian restaurant wanting to start the evening off on a good note. However when I tried the Peroni it tasted different. More like drinking a Crown Lager than the Peroni I have come to love.

Bizarre! How can a Peroni made and brewed in Italy taste like Crown Lager? Well after examining the bottle, it was revealed that this had been brewed under licence by Coca Cola! What shocked me is that I had no idea that my favourite beer in the world, is now made in Australia!! I felt cheated, like I had caught my wife in bed with another man!!
I posted this on twitter and much to my surprise over the space of a few days, fellow Peroni lovers had also been caught unaware by buying what they thought was the genuine Peroni brewed in Italy but had been given an Australian equivalent that tasted to us, Peroni lovers, as something totally different from the original.

We started the hash tag #realperoni on twitter for fellow Peroni lovers and the response has been phenomenal. In the space of a few short weeks, people had been going to restaurants and wine stores and asking first where the Peroni was brewed before buying it. If they were told it was imported and the ‘brewedunderlicence’ Peroni was served, they were sending it back.

The aim of the movement is not only to encourage people to buy and drink imported beer from the country it originated from but also educate people who might be thinking they are drinking Peroni from Italy, Becks from Germany but have been given these beers brewed in Australia. Why is this big deal? Well they taste different. They are not the same product, it is different. It is like asking to go to Venice in Italy and instead been flown to the Venetian in Las Vegas. It is not the same.

If I want to buy Peroni, I want Peroni.

Not a beer brewed in Australia, using Australian water and ingredients.

It is easy to check if your imported beer is made in Australia. Beers under licence in Australia have an Australian barcode which signifies that it is Australian made. So the Australian Peroni has a barcode that starts with 93. The genuine Peroni has a barcode starting with 80 which signifies it has been brewed in Italy. The back label should also mention if the beer has been brewed under licence in Australia or made in the correct country of origin.

We must remember to do things for ourselves, not others….

Dear Anthony, I read with great interest your interview Blog Ziliani, in addition to them my most sincere congratulations on your work, I wanted to ask you some information.

We are a small viniculture ……., and we do our best to bring the best of our quality in our bottles. Lambrusco and produce still wines from native grapes such as Malbo Gentile.

As is seen in the Australian market Lambrusco? If the Vinitaly will be very happy to have them taste our wines, if you want to know something we do not hesitate to contact us.

With the hope of not having disturbed Yours faithfully.

Since Italy’s top wine blogger, Franco Ziliani published an interview on his website I have had over a dozen emails from wineries from Italy contacting me about the possibility of distribution in Australia for their wines via Mondo Imports. This I think is a fantastic thing. They are on the front foot, ready to look for new markets abroad and push their wines front and center in the eye of ‘us’ importers of Italian wine.

However, for some, the past actions of many have tainted the image of their wines and in a tough environment world wide, their job is even harder through no real fault of their own. Lambrusco, Frascati and to a limited extent Chianti have all had their images tarnished by poor decisions made twenty and thirty years ago.

The mind does not forget, generations of drinkers still think that Chianti is the wine in the Raffia bottle. That Lumbrusco is cheap, sweet and fizzy. That Frascati is the wine you drink and pour over your salad. All these massive generalisations exsist because more than a decade ago, the image of a grape variety or style was modified to suit the palate and images of the international market.

I love Chianti, but it is one of the hardest wines to sell in my portfolio. I love Lambrusco, but haven’t dared import it. Same goes with Frascati.

Wineries in Italy and all around the world must remember that your decision today, will not just affect you tomorrow but also the day after. The year after. The decade after. There is no such thing as a quick fix. You must stay loyal to your ideas and beliefs and not take the short road to success. For the majority, it is a small minority that taints the image for so many and it is today that the minority is now working so hard to bring the image of Chianti, Lumbrusco and Frascati back to where it should be.

Let this also be a lesson for the emerging regions, styles and varieties. In regards to Italy,  the next decade will all be about the wines of the south and importantly Calabria which will finally get it’s time in the spotlight. For me Calabria is the final frontier for the rebirth of the south.

Last year I wrote a blog post about this and for me it is a good reference point to remember that whilst the road to importing and success is long, you must always stay true to your ideals and beliefs. The same applies to the image of Calabria and the rest of Italy. Be careful on how you promote your region and wines as it will have a lasting effect for generations to come.

Do not make wine to please markets, make wine that is a reflection of yourself, your place and your varieties. I do not want to drink Cabernet, Syrah or Chardonnay from Sicily, Puglia, Tuscany or any other Italian region. I want to drink the grape varieties that have lived for centuries on your land and that illustrates your region. These are the wines you should be showcasing to the world and these are the wines that success will be built on for generations to come.