New Year’s foods and Alfonso’s Rape of Prosecco

January 2, 2013

black eyed peasGeorgia P (left) had her first black-eyed peas on New Year’s day, a classic southern tradition observed here in the Parzen home.

Each year, Tracie P makes the peas, simmered with bacon, and serves them with sautée cabbage and cornbread, which she bakes in her grandmother Georgia’s cast-iron skillet (Georgia P’s namesake).

Georgia was more interested in a beautiful pear that we had ripened for her dessert. But it was a thrill for us to watch her taste black-eyed peas for the first time.

Our New Year’s Eve celebration was tame but cozy, with a wine selection that was as predictable as it was delicious (Billecart-Salmon to toast the new year and 2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco for the meal).

cast iron steak pan

I was supremely geeked to grill steaks on the new cast-iron ridged, pre-seasoned griddle that Tracie P got me for Christmas (it’s a flat griddle on the other side). Just look at those scores!

garlic spinach sauteed

Of course, no steak is complete at our house without a side of wilted spinach that has been sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil with garlic and chili flakes.

classic american baked potato

I actually make bacon bits for our baked potatoes, one of our favorite culinary rituals.

mashed baked potato

Tracie P employs the “Bourne protocol” to her baked tuber.

Happy new year, everyone!

In other news…

prosecco col fondo colfondo

Above: Prosecco, “col fondo,” lees-aged and undisgorged, the way it used to be (and the way it is produced by a handful of young producers who have revived the classic style, once in vogue but now eclipsed by “big” Prosecco).

I highly recommend Alfonso’s recent post, the “Rape of Prosecco,” his dissertation on the “perversion” of the Prosecco appellation.

“Many of us were struck by the harshness of the act that one man perpetrated early one morning in December in Montalcino,” he writes, referring to the act of vandalism that destroyed six vintages of one of Italy’s most coveted wines.

“It was horrid, indeed. But the systematic dismantling of tradition in the Veneto, from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, on the gentle slopes that humankind has lovingly nurtured — that is tragedy of legendary proportions. Culture, tradition, quality, values — all receding like the arctic ice in the Polar zones.”

I’m not sure what prompted him to post this on the eve of the New Year’s celebration.

But I wholeheartedly agree with him and the Gramscian spirit with which he writes: “Enormous growth year after year has people chasing after more and more profit, pushing the land, changing laws, reducing the Veneto to a mere factory for the whims of folks who no longer want to spend money on Champagne and sparkling wine of character.”

Chapeau bas, Alfonso. (Read his post here.)


@ZanottoColFondo at Spicy House, best pairing for Asian imho

October 7, 2012

Move over Josmeyer, Prosecco Col Fondo (in this case, Zanotto) is the new Riesling when it comes to pairing with Asian cuisine imho. Its refreshing saltiness and crunchy mouthfeel just take it over the top… Dinner last night at the excellent Spicy House in San Diego…

dan dan noodle

eggplant and green beans

twice cooked pork with leeks

beef rool

thanks again, Mary, for taking such good care of us! :)


What is Prosecco Col Fondo (Colfòndo) @biondivino?

August 13, 2012

We’ll be tasting Riccardo Zanotto’s Prosecco Colfondo in San Francisco on Friday, August 17 at the amazing Ceri Smith’s Biondivino from 6-8 p.m.

The following post was originally published in March 2011 and provides some background on what exactly Prosecco Col Fondo is…

I’ll be at Sotto in Los Angeles tomorrow and Wednesday nights (August 14-15). Hope to see you in SF or LA! Thanks for reading…

Above: Until the 1970s, before pressurized “autoclave” tanks were introduced into the appellation, most Prosecco was double-fermented in bottle “on its lees.” The resulting wine was gently sparkling, cloudy, and still had the “fondo” (sediment) in the bottom of the bottle. Even when I lived and worked in the Veneto in the 1990s, it was a lot easier to find Prosecco “col fondo” (with sediment) than it is today. The traditional glass for Prosecco is the one pictured above.

Tracie P and I got to experience so many great tastings on our recent trip to Italy but none was more thrilling than our appointment with the Colfondisti, a loosely gathered group of Prosecco producers who have returned to the fondo (i.e., the bottom, pun intended) of their tradition, producing bottle-fermented, lees-aged Prosecco — the way their grandfathers did it and the salty, crunchy, utterly delicious way that Tracie P and I like it. The event was organized by an old friend of mine and colfondo bottler, Riccardo Zanotto (who knows me from my coverband days, when I spent three summers playing 6 nights a week in a zone that some call the “Sinistra Piave,” the left bank of the Piave river).

Above: The village of Rolle (not Passo Rolle, the mountain pass, btw) lies at the epicenter of the Prosecco appellation. Nearly equidistant from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Most locals would argue that Conegliano is where Prosecco was born as an appellation, even though Valdobbiadene has eclipsed its sister village. Our tasting was held in a home in the center of the village.

We tasted five bottlings of sparkling Prosecco, from different vintages. And then we tasted the new Prosecco (still), by one of the producers, from the 2010 vintage — in other words, wine that had yet to be double-fermented.

Bele Casel 2009 Prosecco

Luca Ferraro’s wine is made in Asolo (a more recently authorized Prosecco appellation, not far from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene series of valleys). Among the colfondisti, some serve their wines torbido (literally, turbid or cloudy), while others serve theirs limpido (limpid or clear). Luca is a torbidista, who prefers the sediment in the wine. Very fresh nose, clean, and with some savory notes. Some yeasty notes in the mouth, dominated by good white fruit. Balanced acidity. (Luca is extremely active in social media, he speaks English well, and his wines are present in the U.S. market.)

Cantina Gatti 2009 Prosecco

Carolina Gatti’s wine was the one that reminded me the most of the Prosecco I used to drink in the late 80s and early 90s: it was super salty and crunchy. Some citrus notes and lots of savory on the rich nose. Lighter in the mouth with salty and strong citrus notes. Bright, bright acidity the way I like it! Carolina is also very active in social media and she authors a wonderful blog called Rabosando.

Above: “Zuel” denotes “sella” or “saddle” in local dialectal inflection and it is a topographic designation that applies to the many “saddles” or gentle hills that shape the appellation. In case you were confused, there’s a saddle “di qua” (over here) and another saddle “di là” (over there).

Costadilà 2008 Prosecco

Ernesto Cattel is perhaps the most savvy marketer of the colfondisti and his wine has good representation in some of the bigger U.S. markets. He is of the limpido persuasion (although we always mix up his wines when we drink them at home). If you follow along here, you’ve seen his wine on my blog before. His wine was perhaps the most balanced, very clean on the nose and the mouth, good acidity and good saltiness balanced by honest fruit. He’s done a lot to document the origins of Prosecco Colfòndo but unfortunately his work is not available online. According to Ernesto, it was the legendary Venetian oste (tavern-keeper) Mauro Lorenzon who popularized the term colfòndo (with sediment), giving producers their battle cry in the face of the industrial and commercial autoclave production that now dominates the appellation and brand. Ernesto will be releasing an orange-wine, skin-contact Prosecco from the 2009 vintage.

La Basseta Casa Belfi 2009 Prosecco

Maurizio Donadi is a locally based enologist who makes Prosecco Colfòndo as a labor amoris. He currently experimenting with Effective Microorganism ceramic chips (above) as a means of controlling unwanted aromas and flavors in unsulfured wines. I liked his wine a lot but it may not be for everyone (you have to be careful not to ingest the chip!). Very nice citrus and white fruit nose and mouth. Very clean and with good acidity. Very interesting to talk to Maurizio and taste his wines with him. As you can see above, he is of the torbido persuasion.

Zanotto 2009 Prosecco

I’m so glad to have reconnected with Riccardo and I love his wines. A highly successful businessman (in the furniture business), he makes this wine out of passion and he’s just one of those folks whose generosity of heart and happy spirit can’t help but rub off on you. He bottles wine that his uncle grows in family-owned vineyards and his wine — served limpido — was probably the most elegant of all the wines we tasted. Beautiful nose, very fresh and very clean, fantastic balance of white fruit and savory notes. I could drink this wine every day.

And the still 2010 Prosecco, you ask?

You’ll just have to be like Tracie P and me and go to Rolle to taste it!

Special thanks to Enrico who hosted the tasting in his home in Rolle.


Prosecco, lies, and videotape: the real story behind the new wave Prosecco

January 11, 2012

Above: Until the 1970s, before pressurized “autoclave” tanks were introduced into the appellation, most Prosecco was double-fermented in bottle “on its lees.” The resulting wine was gently sparkling, cloudy, and still had the “fondo” (sediment) in the bottom of the bottle. Even when I lived and worked in the Veneto in the 1990s, it was a lot easier to find Prosecco “col fondo” (with sediment) than it is today. The traditional glass for Prosecco is the one pictured above.

Alan Tardi is one of the great wine writers and restaurant professionals of our generation. I had the chance to meet him a few times when I lived and worked in New York and I’ve greatly appreciated and admired his work (especially this wonderful 2006 article on Asprinio).

But he gets it wrong in today’s New York Times article on Prosecco and its (relatively new) DOCG, “Prosecco Growers Act to Guard Its Pedigree.”

Maybe it was not Alan but his editor at the Dining section who hand-crafted the title (a “pedigree” for Prosecco?). But it was certainly Alan who wrote the oxymoron “sophisticated prosecco.”

The Italian wine writers scratched their head incredulously when then-agriculture minister and native of Treviso where Prosecco is made, Luca Zaia, effortlessly pushed through legislation creating the Prosecco DOCG.

Does a humble wine like Prosecco — and by its very nature, Prosecco should be a humble wine — deserve to be elevated to the status of wines like Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino? asked pundits like Italy’s top wine blogger, Franco Ziliani.

Yes, it’s true, as Alan notes, that the new DOCG (which went into effect in April 2010) gives the wines raised in Conegliano and Valdobbiadene a bureaucratic distinction that sets it apart from Prosecco grown in Friuli, Piedmont (yes, Piedmont), and Australia. But this DOCG was just one of many that were created before Common Market Organization reforms went into in 2009, shifting the power to create new designations from Rome to Brussels. It’s one of the many examples of political spoils that Zaia lavished on his hometown before his boss Berlusconi was forced out by the international community.

And yes, it’s true that the biggest names in commercial Prosecco — Adami and Ruggeri are among those that Alan tasted for the piece — are making “heirloom” vintage-dated and vineyard-designated wines, as well as low-sulfur and even lees-fermented wines.

But these products are the result of attempts by the Prosecco industrial complex to appeal to the hipster sommelier crowd.

In fact, excellent col fondo Prosecco has been produced for many years now by an ever expanding group of small growers (see this post on our col fondo tasting last year). This is the bona fide new wave of Prosecco.

Costadilà is one of those wines and has been available in the U.S. for a few years how. And Coste Piane, which has also been available here for many years, has been making and marketing true Prosecco for as long as anyone can remember. More recently, col fondo producer Bele Casel has shipped its wines to North American shores.

Above: The village of Rolle (not Passo Rolle, the mountain pass, btw) lies at the epicenter of the Prosecco appellation. Nearly equidistant from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Most locals would argue that Conegliano is where Prosecco was born as an appellation, even though Valdobbiadene has eclipsed its sister village.

And on a technical note, in Italian and Veneto dialect (including the dialect of Treviso), rive is the plural of riva, which does indeed denote hillside or slope (analogous to costa in Prosecco parlance). The rive system doesn’t denote a single growing site, as Alan implies: it denotes a series of slopes set apart for their topographical designation.

While I’m not a fan of Ruggeri, there’s nothing wrong with a glass of any of Adami’s wines. But they don’t represent real Prosecco. They are an expression of the consumerist hegemony that has choked my beloved trevigiano since the 1990s when Prosecco became a brand in the U.S.

I know I’m splitting hairs here and I remain Alan’s loyal admirer.

His oversights are harmless in the big (commercial) scheme of things and not nearly as bad as those in a Times piece this week in which Eric Pfanner ingenuously believes that a Paris wine shop owner is affected by Robert Parker’s “downgrade” of a 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

    I have no intention of second-guessing Mr. Parker, who has been tasting, and championing, the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape for decades. But the change in his score for the 1998 Beaucastel highlights the challenges of encapsulating something as complex, subtle and capricious as a fine wine in a single number.

The moment of truth has arrived: it’s high time that we begin questioning the wisdom of Robert Parker’s rating system! It’s enough to make you think that the editors at the Times Dining section only recently discovered bread and butter…

O, Eric the Red, where art thou? O, Solomon among wine writers!


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