Tag Archives: Italy

Etna: A region of extremes…

For those that think of the wine growing region of Mount Etna has a warm climate, will be in for shock when you visit. High altitudes, an active volcano and snow falls make Etna one of the worlds most intriguing wine regions. 

I love Etna and it’s wines. These photo’s from the winery we represent, Passopisciaro were taken over the weekend and shows the level of snow fall that can happen on Etna.


A long time between drinks….


Well it has been a while since my last post on il vino da tavola. When I look back it has been a crazy year. I don’t think I will experience to many like that in my working life.


Consider that Mondo Imports continues to grow not only in the amount we import (roughly 100 containers a year from Italy) but also creatively with many new wines we make ourselves in Italy. Whilst doing this, we have rebuilt (without losing an hour’s trade) our food and wine retail hub Boccaccio Cellars.

Already we have had great feedback from our customers and media about the new Boccaccio. With online foodie publication Broadsheet listing it amongst the ‘best speciality Italian grocers’ in Melbourne.


Pity the fool who turns his nose up at Boccaccio’s IGA branding. “Fifty years and still going strong,” the D’Anna clan likes to say, but really, its Boccaccio Cellars isn’t simply maintaining; it’s improving.

 Freshly refurbished, the new store is striking. A mural of the eponymous Boccaccio – the 14th-century Italian writer, poet and imbiber – is an appropriate introduction to the acres of produce inside.

 Boccaccio likes to boast of its 3000 wines. Many are from Europe courtesy of the D’Annas’ sister operation, Mondo Imports. But the family actually got its start in the 1960s delivering fresh bread, spaghetti and oil to the crowds of Italian migrants pouring off the boats into Melbourne’s growing suburbs.

 The D’Annas still deliver – Australia wide these days – but its Balywn store is a mecca for hungry Melburnians. It’s a Mediterranean-influenced grocery, delicatessen, butcher, green grocer and bakery.

 The in-house cheesemongers, Bernard and Jery, almost steal the show with their ridiculous array of European products, which include Tete de Moine from Switzerland and Reypenaer gouda from the Netherlands. Still, the gents are beaten out by what more or less amounts to a refrigerated installation-wall of prosciutto imported directly from Parma. Good luck leaving without any.


1030–1050 Burke Road, Balwyn

(03) 9817 2257


With this now complete and going great guns, I can focus ( well almost!) on doing what I love best, importing and selecting wines of interest from Italy.


We are lucky to have great staff in each department with four cheesemongers, three bakers, two Swiss butchers and a team of seven running our Italian built deli. With the retail arm in great hands, it means one thing: more wines from Italy!

Via Rotella Toscana Sangiovese 2014
Via Rotella Toscana Sangiovese 2014

Our latest project has been a $15 Toscana Sangiovese made exactly how I think Tuscan Sangiovese should taste like.

Campbell Mattinson on Via Rotella Toscana Sangiovese 2014
Campbell Mattinson on Via Rotella Toscana Sangiovese 2014

Respected wine journalist Campbell Mattinson, had this to say about the wine and we expect to import around 60,000 bottles of our Sangiovese next year which is a great start.

Good to back on my blog and hopefully it won’t be as long between posts in the future!!


Anthony D’Anna

Off to Italy… See you in Roma…

The first thing to do when you arrive in Roma...
The first thing to do when you arrive in Roma…

This afternoon I am off to Italy for my annual buying trip for Mondo Imports. Like every year, this trip is jammed packed. Thousands of kilometers of driving before and after Vinitaly, with lots of producers visits from the middle of Italy to the top.

Discussing the Australian market with a group of Italian wine lovers in Italy.
Discussing the Australian market with a group of Italian wine lovers in Italy.

For those wineries that I cannot physically visit, I will use Vinitaly as an opportunity to see familiar faces and see what is planned for the year ahead. After seeing the wineries we import, we will then use Vinitaly to see what else we can discover.

As per normal, I will post regular updates about what I have been doing and the people we have visited.

Off to Italy and my thoughts on how far we have come…

Salvatore Molettieri Vinitaly 2012
Salvatore Molettieri Vinitaly 2012

It was not that long ago, that the thought of trying to sell Italian wine in Australia that was not Chianti or Pinot Grigio was like the trying to convince the majority of the wine drinking population to drink something so foreign that you might as well just throw money (and wine) down the drain.

How times have changed it as I am about to head off on another buying trip, with so many of my bases covered with fantastic producers (Fatalone, Passopisciaro, Lamoresca, Salvatore Moliettierri, Paolo Saracco, Piero Benevelli, etc) it is a sign of just how far Australia and the rest of the world has come in appreciating wines that are just a little bit different.

Different in that they are not mainstream items, grown in mainstream area’s. Don’t get me wrong, there will also be a market for Chianti (as there should be) as it is one of the great wines of Italy, but it has been so refreshing to see so many other great wines gain acceptance by those that buy and drink wine. If there wasn’t such a diverse variety of wine from all over Italy being drunk in Australia, I doubt I would have had the patience or even the stamina s\to be an importer of Italian wine.

Photo via http://www.vendemmia.ca
Photo via http://www.vendemmia.ca

When I hear people tell me about the amazing wine that had from Mount Etna made from an obscure variety called Nerello Mascalese, or email to say that they drank a wine from Puglia called Fatalone that was like no other Primitivo that they had ever drunk before: that is what gives me the energy and motivation to follow the path we have chosen.

Importing wines of interest from regions like Southern Italy is all part of our journey in wine. Why would I want to follow the path and stick to the mainstream. As mentioned previously, I love mainstream, but I also embrace the thought of something different.

Something different on this trip to Italy might be importing a new winery from Puglia that focuses solely in indigenous whites grown in different ‘crus’ around Puglia. Or it might be to import another winery from Calabria that focuses on long forgotten ancient grape varieties that have grown in the region for a thousand years before.

Whatever I import, I will bring you along for the journey when over the next few weeks.

Awesome Italian summer white: Giuseppe Quintarelli Bianco Secco 2010


I love the wines of Guiseppe Quintarelli and when I get the time, my aim is to put together over a ‘dozen of his wines over a time span of a dozen years’ with my fellow Quintarelli wine loving friends just to illustrate what a master he was. In his passing and in the future I think he will be (if he is not already now) recognised as one of Italy’s greatest forward thinking and most talented winemakers. He was able to think outside the square when most could only look in.

This wine, whilst made from primarily the Garganega grape which forms the basis of Soave, also includes smaller percentages of Sauvignon Blanc and Soarin (believed to be related to the Hungarian ‘Tokay’). and whilst not as ‘great’ or as complex of Quintarelli’s Amarone’s or Valpolicella’s it is a deserving wine under the great man’s label.

On the fourth day of being open, it is still as fresh and vibrant as day one and I would love to see this wine in four or five years time. Killer wine from a legendary producer.

Forza Campania: a stunner from Nanni Cope….


Over the next couple of months, Campania will be front and centre in my line of thinking. Next month I am presenting two dinners on Campania for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival with good friend Naz Fazio and importer of this stunning wine. I am also heading to Campania in early April to visit the producers that we import via @mondoimports and also touch base with a growing band of friends who call Naples home.

When it comes to native varieties in Southern Italy, Campania has been leading the charge since the early 1990’s. Recently it has been great to see other regions like Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Basilicata follow suit and this is where my interest lies with these regions. I love native varieties grown in the region they originate in. The Nanni Cope TERRE DEL VOLTURNO IGT 2009 is exactly that wine and it is one of the best wines to come out of Campania for a very long time.

This wine is a blend of Pallagrello Nero 85%, Aglianico 12% and Casavecchia 3% and shows how good the grape variety Pallagrello Nero can be. Whilst it has similarities to Aglianico, it is more feminine, delicate and structured slightly different on the palate. Awesome wine and a real highlight for the red wines of Campania.



Nanni Cope’ is the fruit of the inner passion of Giovanni Ascione for wine, as well as of
his encounter with a unique vineyard at Castel Campagnano, in the upper region of
Caserta, Campania. It is a beautiful, unpolluted area, with vineyards alternating with
woods, highly draining sandy soils, 25% slopes, and daily draughts, throughout the
year. The Taburno and the Matese massifs are nearby, the sea is about thirty kilometres
away, and the middle course of the Volturno river flows in the neighbourhood.
Vigna Sopra il Bosco spreads over a 6.2 acres surface at about 700 feets above sea
level, mainly exposed to the north-west. The plants are aged over twenty years on
average. The main grape is Pallagrello Nero, a late variety with a thick skin, austere,
characterized by ultra-fine tannins, which produces wines of strong personality. Its
rows, directed from the east to the west, also include Aglianico, which contributes to the
wine’s structure and acidity; both varieties are complemented with a very small share of
Casavecchia from own centuries old ungrafted vinestocks, in the region of Pontelatone.
Vigna Sopra il Bosco is a true obsession. The plants are registered one by one and the
whole vineyard is divided into sectors subject to different pruning, foliage management,
surface management, and harvesting approaches.

The whole agronomic philosophy is aimed at minimizing interventions. The use of
herbicides or pesticides is utterly excluded. Harvesting is performed row by row,
sometimes plant by plant, based on the desired maturation level, over a period of time
that spans from the end of September to mid-October. The grapes are selected bunch by
bunch and blended, without distinguishing between varieties, however at equal
maturation stages.

Winemaking occurs under constant temperature control, with minimum two-week
maceration and malolactic fermentation in new 500-l french tonneaux, where the wine
matures for one year, followed by bottle ageing for about eight months. The entire
process is aimed at pursuing maximum elegance. No overriping, no over-concentration,
but only the purest expression of two noble varieties, grown on soils that are perfectly
suited for high-quality vine-growing.

Giovanni Ascione, Nanni Cope’ as a child and forever in his heart, first developed his
passion for wine as a young man in France, when he was a manager in a multinational
automotive company. After a long and successful career in several companies, he
became management consultant, providing strategic support to organizations of various
sizes and in a wide variety of sectors. Meanwhile his mad passion for wine made him
travel through the world and write about unique places, people, and wines, also as a
contributor to major guides and specialized magazines. He tastes two thousand five
hundred wines a year on average, and never stops travelling, confronting with others,
trying to discover and taste new things or enjoy the utmost emotion of a great wine.

– Pallagrello Nero 85%, Aglianico (clones VCR 23-VCR11) 12%, Casavecchia 3%.
– Vigna Sopra il Bosco, over 95%, in the Village of Castel Campagnano, district of
Monticelli. Average age over 20 years. Varieties Pallagrello Nero and Aglianico.
– Vigna Scarrupata, about 5%, in the Village of Pontelatone. Average assumed age
120 years. Variety Casavecchia.
2009 harvest: from September 26 to October 9.
2009 yield: 34 hl/ha (13,7 hl/ac).
2009 production: 7,500 750ml bottles and 120 Magnum bottles.
Alcohol: 13.30%.
Ph: 3.45.
Non reducing dry extract: 31,3 g/l.
Total polyphenols: 3,220 mg/l.
Net volatile acidity: 0.49.
Total sulfites: 75 mg/l.
Collection: in cases of about 16 kg (35 lb) each.

Wine-making technique: manual selection, soft crushing, fermentation and maceration
in steel vats at a 27°C (80.6°F) maximum temperature, wish short manual pump-over;
maceration differentiated according to the properties of the individual grape varieties,
for a total of 14 to 19 days; malolactic fermentation in 500-l new french tonneaux;
maturation in new casks (50%) and old casks (50%) for 13 months; bottle fining for at
least eight months.


The worst thing to forget when going on holidays? My wine glasses….

East Gippsland, Victoria
East Gippsland, Victoria

Last week I spent a relaxing week on the beach in East Gippsland in Victoria doing very little. It was great to spend time with my wife and kids and also my extended family eating simply and drinking a lot of different wines.

It was a great week away and probably the hardest part of the holiday was actually trying to fit in, strollers, pillows, suitcases and lot’s of kids gear. In all this mayhem, I left behind my most treasured possession: my wine glasses. One of the most annoying things about drinking wine in restaurants is the quality of glassware. And even on holiday’s I pack my glasses so I can enjoy the wines that I drink.

PLUMM Vintage Red b wine glass.
PLUMM Vintage Red b wine glass.

Even relatively cheap Italian wines like Gran Sasso and Lucarrelli deserve proper wine glasses. My glass of choice at the moment is the PLUMM Vintage Red b glass which is a Burgundy shaped glass. I use this glass for nearly all the wine I drink, Champagne included and for me, it is the best all round glass on the market.

When on holidays or at home in Australia, I try and make sure that I am surrounded by good glassware.  If you drink wine regularly at home then my tip is to find a glass type or style that you like and make this your ‘go to’ glass whenever you open a bottle.

I know when it comes to Italian wine, this ‘Burgundy’ styled glass is perfect for almost every wine style in Italy. The only exception you could argue might be Chianti Classico but I wouldn’t say Sangiovese as I prefer drinking Brunello out of my burgundy glass. As you can see from the photo above, a lot of Italian restaurants/wineries serve their wines out of a similar shaped glass as the Plumm Vintage Red b which I use at home.

Off to Southern Italy tomorrow….

Talk about no rest for the wicked. Tomorrow I am off to Southern Italy for Radici del Sud 2012 and today I am packing as many orders as I can fit in for @mondoimports. Most of the wine going out today to restaurants and retail is from Southern Italy which is fitting.

I can’t wait to see what wines I will try and people I will meet: all with a common goal of lifting the profile of the wines of Southern Italy around the world.

I am also excited about the food I will eat. Southern Italian cuisine is only now getting the recognition it deserves in Australia and at Radici, the food component of the festival has been given almost equal weight. Good wine, good food and being in Southern Italy is my idea of heaven.

During my time in Italy I will be blogging and tweeting daily about my travels. Via twitter you can follow me @anthonydanna

Speak to you next when I land in Italy….

Back in Oz: So many highlights from a fantastic trip in Italy….

Risotto alla Amarone

After 30 hours on a plane it is great to be back home with my family in Australia. I had such an amazing trip, so many highlights. Most days I left my apartment/hotel room at 10am and did not return until after 1am. Tasting lunch, tasting dinner was the agenda most days. Tiring but to try so many great wines with so many great people was an unfortgettable experience.

The cellars of Castello Monsanto

A visit to Castello Monsanto to see Laura Bianchi is always a highlight. We tried amazing back vintage wines (like 1977 Il Poggio Chianti Riserva) and then the stunning current vintage 2009 Chianti Classico and 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 with owner Laura Bianchi.

Denise and Massimo Benevelli

Catching up with Denise and Massimo Benevelli from Piero Benevelli in Monforte, Barolo is always high on my agenda in the Langhe. I tried every wine Massimo has made from 2007 to 2011 and the quality of the wines coming through blew me away. From his stunning entry level 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo to his Monforte Barolo’s and his yet to be released Barolo Riserva’s, the quality was as good as any of the ‘big guns’ I tried at Vinitaly.

Gaia Gaja in the cellars of her family winery

And seeing Gaia Gaja in her own domain, in the vineyards and cellars of Gaja was a special treat. Gaia is so gracious, focused and knowledgeable that is quite easy to understand that Gaja will be a force in Italian wine for many decades to come. There is no such thing as good luck, just hard work, and Gaia and her family are a perfect example of this.

I have a very busy eight weeks coming up before a return to Italy in June.