Sometimes it is easy to turn our back on tradition. Why make Salami when you can buy it from any deli anywhere in Melbourne (and the rest of the world for that matter)?
Because sometimes tradition and quality are impossible to beat. When the two combine, it is worth holding onto our traditions. Every year a group of ten mates of Italian heritage (and one blow in who has married an Italian girl) get together for a weekend of Sausage action. We call ourselves Next Generation Wog Council (NGWC) and it is a lot of fun.
We do everything by hand and to say that it is rewarding is a big understatement: nothing beats the feeling of eating Salami that you have made.
This year I missed the event as I was in Puglia judging but the boys were good enough to make my quota and this is some of my stash hanging in a mates factory. It should be ready in a few months and I can’t wait to see the end result.
This week we have had a number of containers of Italian reds, all from the south of Italy. Wines from Puglia, Basilicata and Sicily have all landed with some new wines from my trip to Italy in March.
One of the wines I have been waiting for the most, is a Nerello Mascalese from Sicily. My family are the agents for Passopisciaro from My Etna and their 2009 Etna Rosso is off the charts. It has developed a real cult following and gives you a great insight into Nerello Mascalese.
Well this week we have landed another Nerello Mascalese but from a different part of Sicily. The estate was set up by Valentino Sciotti (the man behind Gran Sasso and Pipoli) and like Gran Sasso, he has crafted some amazing wines from the young estate.
This wine sell for $20 a bottle and will give people a great insight into just how good Sicily and Nerello can be. Like with all Valentino’s estates from the south of Italy (for example Pipoli from Basilicata and Lucarrelli from Puglia) it gives a great snapshot of this indigenous grape variety.
“The winning labels represent the wines that best interpret the characteristics of the native grapes they are produced from and those the judging experts found more interesting.”
After a fantastic week spent at Borgo Egnazia in Puglia for Radici del Sud 2012. The winning wines from the competition have been announced. Unlike most competitions Radici has a national jury made up of ‘wine lovers’ and an international jury made up us so called ‘experts’.
Whilst the national jury is labelled as ‘wine lovers’ in reality it is made up of the best sommeliers, restaurant owners and journalists that are based in Italy. It should really be called the ‘domestic experts’. The international jury was made up of wine writers/bloggers and importers from different international markets.
Below are the names of those judging on both panels.
Gruppo assaggiatori Internazionali:
Tom Maresca: wine writer e autore di famosi libri collaboratore di Decanter USA
When locals want a taste of Lazio beyond Rome’s borders, they flock to the Spanish Steps’ Palatium. The restaurant is a chic change from Rome’s traditional, checkered-tablecloth trattorias. It’s also slightly pricier (pastas are around €10, mains €15), but justifiably so: run by the Lazio Regional Authority, Palatium showcases more than 1,000 Lazio products in delicious, traditional dishes with a twist, such as ricotta-and-mint ravioli. Book in advance. The Guardian
If you are ever going to have a bad meal in Rome, it will be at the Spanish Steps. Tourists outnumber locals 20 to 1 and every restaurant knows that no matter how bad the food is, they will do a roaring trade with the number of tourists in the area.
Hence, on my way back from Radici I had one night in Rome before flying out. As per normal, I like to stay near the Spanish Steps as it is a great place to stay and see all the historical sites which makes Rome such a magical place. However, sleeping and eating well is not something that is normally possible in the Spanish Steps.
Well thank goodness for twitter and the help of @vinoroma in finding Enoteca Palatium for me: it is the best place I have eaten in Roma hands down. Amazing meal in every sense.
Palatium. Via Frattina 94, a 5-minute walk from the Spanish Steps. I’ve sung the praises of Palatium elsewhere before, and with good reason. A foodie favorite, Palatium is run by the Lazio Regional Food Authority — which, while it might not sound sexy, means that all of the ingredients are home-grown in Rome’s Lazio region. The menu, which changes frequently, features Rome favorites with a twist, like ricotta-and-mint ravioli. The prices are great for the quality, with pastas around €10 and mains €15. Just keep in mind that this isn’t your traditional, checkered-tablecloth trattoria (photo above). +39 06 69202132, reservations recommended. Open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday. Revealedrome
All products and dishes are based on the local Lazio cuisine and of course all the wines are from Lazio. Every dish I ate was spot on and the wine matches worked brilliantly. I left all the selections up to the waiters and they treated me like a local: the perfect way to eat when you are in Italy.
“I drop into Palatium, the enoteca run by the local Agricultural Marketing Board. Here, one can catch up on the local food and wine scene (seasonal regional food, lots of small bites, some of Lazio’s best wines). Recently opened, it’s in Via Frattina among all the designer shops, so just perfect to unwind after shopping, and a little softer on the credit card.” Michael Trembath, Italian wine importer, Trembath & Taylor
Unlike most of the restaurants in the Spanish Steps, Palatium was choc full of locals, which is always a good sign and once some of them found out that I import Italian wine into Australia, well as per every Italian I have met, they all had THE best suggestion on what I should look at.
If you are in Rome and staying near the Spanish Steps, then this restaurant is a must to eat at. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
And the great thing about Rome, the after dinner walk is always is pretty memorable. If I had to pick my most admired building in the world (old or young) it would be the Pantheon. No matter what time of the day I visit it, it always bowls me over. As they say, ‘they don’t build them like this anymore’.
Yesterday afternoon was an interesting session at Radici del Sud 2012, it included for me the best wine I have tasted during the whole competition, but also a number of wines which underwhelmed. Aglianico is one of my favourite wine styles. When it is right, it makes some of the best wines on the planet.
When it is smothered in oak, it becomes dull and boring, like so many new world wines that taste of coffee and vanilla. During the class of Aglianico’s yesterday, those producers that did get it right produced wonderful wines, that stood out like beacons compared to many of the other wines.
It was interesting that for me, it was Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata which were able to producer better, more variety correct wines than Campania. It seems there is an international influence on Campania which is hopefully a fad as it is robbing many wines of their indigenous style.
In today’s final morning session we look at Taurasi so hopefully Aglianico from Campania can get back on track with this bracket.
With all the judging sessions of Radici nearly finished, it has given many of the judges a fantastic insight of the wines of the south. The best examples are as good as any of the best wines made in the world today. However, as with any region that is just starting to make a name for itself, many producers are unsure what style they should be aiming for and in future it will be interesting if each region can as a whole, make wine that highlights the advantages of using native varieties.
For me, it has not only been fantastic in trying so many diverse wines from the south, but also meeting so many people who are passionate about the wines of Italy and especially the wines of Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily. With this much enthusiasm and knowledge, it is good to know that the south is in good hands.
Cellar with food and coal to view the subtitle of this place behind the garden of the church of San Domenico. It is the fruit of the passion for wine, that of Gregory Barletta, and kitchen by Stefano D’Onghia gained after an intense experience in such prestigious kitchens of Italy. The kitchen is an interpretation of Stephen faithful to the traditions, with minor reinterpretations and impeccable quality of raw materials. Appetizers that vary according to season, from fried olives with wild onions, mozzarella from the eggplant flan of creamed cottage cheese. Then burnt wheat orecchiette with mushrooms and tomatoes cardoncelli whipped the provolone. Finally, the meat: filet of ass cheese fondue. Good desserts and wine growing, but already with a good presence of local wines.’ Puglia is Served 2012
Last night we visited the town of Putignano to have dinner at the amazing A ‘Crianz’ www.acrianzputignano.com The restaurant whilst small and unassuming from the outside, cooks some of the best food in Puglia. I was blown away, especially by the antipasto. The stuffed Zucchini flowers with goats milk ricotta were the best I have ever eaten.
All the food was matched with wines from producers of Primativo Gioia del Colle and they all worked very well. Again the standout wines during dinner were the wines of Fatalone with his 2011 Bianco and 2005 Primativo Riserva absolute standouts. Unfortunately his wines are not in the competition as they were entered last year, but I am sure if they were there, they would have done very well.
Whilst it is 35 degrees outside in Puglia, we are inside Borgo Egnazia in an air-conditioned room judging whites from Southern Italy. For me the standout was the white variety, Malvasia Bianco. Fragrant, textured, good minerality and acidity. The perfect style for the south.
The best wines have been exactly what the south should be making, and this is their strength. They can make wines that are complex and interesting at prices the north of Italy and most of the rest of the world for that matter cannot achieve.
In the afternoon session, we finished judging the rest off the whites with the real highlight being some of the Fiano’s from Campania. The best examples will age gracefully for many years to come.
Most disappointing for me were the Rose from Puglia. There were a few shining examples but there were many that were either industrial or poorly made. The 2011 vintage was not a great year for Rose from Puglia and I think it showed in the wines. The best examples were light in colour, savoury with plenty of acidity and drive through the palate. This is the style that for me, needs to be developed in Puglia.
One of the most fascinating parts of the program has been the discussion between Italian journalists and those guests from other countries. A lot of lively debate has taken place about the wines we have tried in previous sessions. There are many strong viewpoints, plenty of hand waving and overall, it has been fantastic to hear so many varied and positive views about what should take place in improving the wines of southern Italy.
Well you might think that after close to seven hours of trying wines of the south of Italy that you might reach a stage where your palate and brain has had enough, but it has been so amazing how diverse and fantastic the wines from Campania, Sicily, Basilicata, Puglia and Calabria.
There are many great producers here with the best wines showing both elegance and power, and beautiful balance. Today it was two Calabrese producers that really shone through.
Two Ciro producers, Du Cropio and Ippolito 1845 are making some fantastic wines from Galliopo in Calabria. They are have fantastic power of fruit and tannins, but are in perfect balance and I can see both wines ageing gracefully for many years to come.
The reputation of Southern Italian wines are positively growing and it was producers like Du Cropio and Ippolito 1845 that are now showing just how good the varieties they grow can be and this benefits not only Calabria but the whole of the south.
Yesterday afternoon we spent meeting some more producers who are competing in Radici del Sud. In the afternoon bracket it was the reds which really shone. This 2008 Taurasi from Feudi di San Gregorio was close to the best wine of the afternoon. Balanced with poise, with equal amounts of fruit and tannin. It is a wine that will live for a long time.
After our afternoon tasting session finished we headed out to a local winery called I Pastini in Locorotondo who makes fantastic whites from native varieties. His estate was typical Southern Italian with centuries old buildings standing in the middle of each paddock.
On the property are many Trulli houses dating back to the 17th and 18th century. All original and all in fantastic condition. In Australia, these houses would be priceless.
After our winery visit we headed a short distance for dinner at Masseria Aprile, an impressive property with it’s own church and beautiful buildings.
We had the local chapter of the Slow Food cook for us and the food, which never seemed to stop coming, was truly amazing. There was close to twenty dishes with the highlight for me being the meat cooked over coals.
Anthony D'Anna: Italian wine importer and merchant in Australia