Italian Winery Designations Project: masseria #TermOfTheDay

Masseria (suggested by Shelley Lindgren) is the latest entry in my ever expanding Italian Winery Designations Project. If you have a winery-related term that you’d like me to include, please let me know in the comment section.

italian horse

masseria, country house, estate, from the post-classical Latin mansus, mansum, mansa, meaning dwelling, house, homestead, or manor (from the Latin manere, to remain), akin to the French mas and the English manse.

The term masseria (pronounced mahs-seh-REE-ah) is used primarily in southern Italy and most widely in Puglia to denote a country estate.


azienda, landed property, estate, domestic work, from the Spanish hacienda, from the Latin facienda meaning things to be done from facere, to do.

The term azienda means business and is used to denote a company or firm in Italian. An azienda agricola is a farming business; an azienda vinicola is a winery (a wine business).

ca’, see entry for casa.

cantina, literally cellar or cool place to store perishable goods and by extension tavern, probably from the Italian canto meaning angle or corner from the Greek kampthos, bend or angle.

The word cantina has a wide variety of applications in Italy (often used for restaurants and food stores, as well as wineries) and can be found across Italy to denote wine cellar.

casa, literally, a building, house, or habitation, from the Latin casa, a small house, cottage, hut, cabin, shed.

The term casa is used throughout Italy as a winery designation and is often abbreviated as ca’, as in Ca’ del Bosco (it’s important to note that it’s often erroneously abbreviated as Cà [using the accent grave diacritic], when in fact the inverted comma [‘] denotes the elision of the final two letters, often derived from a dialectal locution). A casa vinicola (pronounced KAH-sah vee-NEE-koh-lah) is a winery/négociant.

cascina, farm house or other structure used to house livestock or farm tools, from the late Latin capsia meaning case or receptacle.

It can also denote a structure used to store cheese and other dairy products. The term is used primarily northern Italy and especially in Piedmont to denote a farmhouse or winery or dairy farm.

fattoria, farm, from the Latin factore, literally maker, from facere meaning to do.

You find usage of fattoria generally in Tuscany where it can denote a winery or a farm, keeping in mind that most wine-producing estates in Tuscany also grow olives and other crops.

podere, country estate with farm house (according to the Zingarelli dictionary), akin to the Italian potere, meaning can or to have the ability to do, from the late Latin, potere, from the Latin possum, meaning to be able, have power.

The term is used today primarily in Tuscany where it denotes, literally, a seat of [agricultural] power, hence the late Latin origin of the word, potere, literally power or possession (who also share kinship with the Latin etymon). According to the Cortelazzo etymological dictionary, the word first appears in the Middle Ages in northern Italy.

poggio, hill, from the Latin podium, meaning an elevated place, a height.

As Virgil wrote famously, Bacchus amat colles, Bacchus loves hills. The usage of poggio in Tuscany is documented dating back to the thirteenth century and the term appears in Dante. There are many related words like poggiolo, poggiuolo, and poggione.

ronco, literally a growing site on a hill used for farming, from the Latin runco, meaning to weed out, root up; to weed, clear of weeds, akin to the Friulian dialectal term ronc.

To my knowledge, ronco is used exclusively in Friuli. Akin to the Italian roncola or pruning hook, it probably comes from the past participle of the Friulian runcar (to clear of weeds, runcà, in other words, a site cleared for planting.

tenuta, a [land] holding or property, past participle of the Italian tenere, from the Latin teneo, meaning to hold, have, or keep.

Tenuta is a term that you see applied across northern and central Italy. Its relation to the pre-industrial age, when land ownership denoted nobility, is clear.

vignaiolo (plural vignaioli), vine tender or grape grower, derived from the Italian vigna, meaning vine, from the Latin vinea, vineyard, from the Latin vinum, wine.

Pronounced VEEN-y’eye-OH-loh (plural VEEN-y’eye-OH-lee), vignaiolo is used to denote a winery that uses estate-grown fruit in the production of its wines.

Carbonara: a clue to understanding its origins?

best carbonara recipe

Above: My wife Tracie P’s Carbonara. As Charles Scicolone would say, I am truly blessed.

Italian cuisine is a world cuisine.

Even in its most perverse expressions (Olive Garden?), it is immediately and unmistakably recognizable.

And while French haute cuisine remains one of world’s benchmark for fine dining, Italian gastronomy is perhaps the world’s most widely embraced culinary tradition. Consider the fact that pan-Asian cookery is only now beginning to find a solid foothold in Europe whereas pseudo-Italian restaurateurship and Italian food products have been wildly popular in Asia for decades now.

One of Italian gastronomy’s greatest strengths is its ability to assimilate other culinary traditions and foods.

Where would Italy be without tomatoes, a New World fruit that first made it to the country during the Renaissance and only became popular after the second world war?

Where would Italy be without corn, a New World grain that became widely cultivated there during the nineteenth-century famines?

Where would Italy be without Norway’s salt cod, a food stuff that came into fashion in Italy during the Renaissance when land-locked principalities needed readily available fish to meet the Church’s rigid dietary restrictions (which prohibited meat on many days of the year)?

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How Italians eat hamburgers (Italy’s hamburger mania)

italian hamburger

Above: as far as Italian hamburgers go, my personal favorite can be found at Vittorio Fusari’s amazing Dispensa Pani e Vini in Franciacorta, where the Brescians’ already healthy appetite for beef has been augmented by the burger craze. Vittorio’s is unconventional but utterly delicious.

It seems that Italy has come along way since Katie Parla’s often fruitless search for a great burger in Rome in 2011.

If, like me, you follow Italian food blogs like Dissapore, Puntarella Rossa, or Scatti di Gusto (whose editor Massimo Bernardi also pulls the strings at Dissapore), you know that the last two years have seen an explosion in Italians’ maniacal passion for hamburgers (#NotHyperbole).

best hamburger italy

Source: Puntarella Rossa.

Just when we though we’d never hear another lament about Italy’s hamburger obsession from Joe Bastianich (who has complained that hamburgers are the only thing that guests at his newish restaurant, Orso in Friuli, ever talk about), the Italian hamburger mania has reached a new zenith with an article on “how to sink your teeth [addentare] into a hamburger” and the “perfect hold” for a hamburger, published yesterday by the Italian national daily La Stampa.

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Houston, we have a wine storage problem…

best wine storage houston texas

From the petroleum-set dick-waggers to the average punters, wine storage is big business in Texas, where the out-sized Texas heat is not the only issue that wine lovers need to deal with.

The larger problem is the bi-polar temperature swings that we have here (excuse the pun). On Tuesday, for example, our day started at roughly 30° F. and by mid-afternoon, the temperature in my home office, where the sun beats down as the day progresses, was 75° F.

My post today for the Houston Press offers some basic rules-of-thumb and our not-so-unique approach to dealing with our home wine storage issues (we keep our long-term aging lots in a wine storage facility in San Diego where rental lockers cost a lot less thanks to milder weather and there is greater accessibility for the middle class thanks to a more demotic wine culture).

The post is Texas-specific but I think you’ll find that the observations/recommendations are universal, especially if you’re an average punter like me.

Houston, we have a problem…

No regrets, coyote: great wine is for drinking & Ermitage de l’Orée is what we drank for our anniversary

chapoutier oree hermitage

I can’t stop thinking about the wine that Tracie P and I drank on Friday night for our fourth wedding anniversary: Chapoutier 2010 Ermitage de l’Orée (a heartfelt thanks, once again, to the overly generous collector who gave us this stunning bottle).

It was so rich and decadent in its texture, so unctuous in its dried stone fruit flavors, but equally vibrant with zinging acidity.

What a thrilling bottle of wine!

I was reminded of the bottle last night when a wine friend from Chicago, a high-powered attorney, messaged me asking me last-minute advice on where to take a client for dinner in Austin (they ended up at Trio, for the record).

“Contemplating infanticide of the 06 [Rougeard] Poyeux,” he wrote.

I love and deeply respect my friend and his superb wine knowledge and experience.

But I loathe the word infanticide (and I know that he was egging me on in camaraderie): I believe that wines are for drinking and that their potential (their “drinkability zenith,” as it were) is defined more by the company and the occasion than an abstract notion of when this wine will “drink” at its best.

Our exchange reminded me of an image in my mind from many years ago. I was in the home of a Siena baker (Contrada della Chiocciola) when he was visited by a wealthy Milanese businessman who had a second home in Montalcino. When the gentleman arrived, the baker — so moved by the presence of such an illustrious visitor — opened a bottle of current vintage Biondi Santi on the spot and poured it for us in bistro glasses. It was tannic and tight, frugal with its fruit, and it never tasted better…

best fried chicken austin texas

Yes, you can chart the linear development and evolution of wine but if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?

The De l’Orée certainly could have had many fine years ahead of it.

But on Friday night it paired magically with Tracie P’s breaded and fried chicken cutlets, garlic mashed potatoes, and wilted spinach drowned in extra-virgin olive oil.

After dinner, we lingered over the last glass, trading notes on the aromas, which seemed to intoxicate us more than the flavors or alcohol in this expression of 100% Marsanne.

I could have stashed this bottle away. Or I could have decanted it and expedited it.

But all I wanted to do was to drink it with you, Tracie P, my gorgeous wife and mother to our beautiful daughters.

Our fourth anniversary and the close of the year of marriage that delivered our second child merited a truly special bottle.

There was nowhere else I wanted to be. And I can’t stop thinking, joyfully, about that moment.

No regrets, coyote…

NY Times mea culpa & Nossiter’s new film “Natural Resistance” debuts

new york times olive oil cartoon

Above: a screen shot of Nicholas Blechman’s half-hearted mea culpa. I’ve copied and pasted the text below.

I’m still feeling sick over Nicholas Blechman’s sensationalist, fear-mongering olive oil cartoon, published recently by the New York Times. And I’m feeling even worse about his half-hearted mea culpa, which now appears at the very end of the cartoon (image above, complete text below).

As my friend and colleague Pete Danko pointed out yesterday on the Facebook, the retraction was longer than the original piece!

Why, on earth, did the editors of the Times op-ed page invite someone like Blechman to write about olive oil? He’s a supremely talented and wildly successful illustrator and editor, no doubt about it. But I can’t find any credential that points to his would-be authority on gastronomy.

The bottom line, as one reader pointed out, is that if a bottle of olive oil costs so little that it seems too good to be true, it probably is…

Just have a look at olive oil authority Tom Mueller’s post on a flight of olive oils he tasted from the Trader Joe’s selection.

There is plenty of adulterated olive oil out there. But high-quality bona fide olive oil is also widely available to us here in the U.S. (San Giuliano from Alghero, Sardinia is our house olive oil; it costs about $14 at our local gourmet market for a 750 ml bottle).

In other news…

nossiter film natural resistance

Jonathan Nossiter’s new film, Natural Resistance, will debut this weekend at the Berlin Film Festival.

It chronicles the bureaucratic and political obstacles and challenges faced by four Italian grape growers and winemakers — La Stoppa (Colli Piacentini), La Distesa (Castelli di Jesi), Pacina (Chianti), and Cascina degli Ulivi (Alessandria) — as they pursue their dream of growing grapes without chemicals and making wines without additives.

In bocca al lupo, Jonathan! Or better yet, in culo alla balena!

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Furor in Italy, Mueller disavows himself of NY Times olive oil cartoon

best italian olive oil

Above: ribollita, “twice-cooked” Tuscan bread soup drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Italy’s community of wine and food writers, Italian olive oil producers, and Italian politicians are still reeling in the wake of Nicholas Blechman’s sensationalist cartoon, “Extra-Virgin Suicide: the Adulteration of Italian Olive Oil,” published by the New York Times on January 24, 2014.

In an editorial published today, the editors of Il Parlamentare, a weekly magazine that covers politics in Italy, write: “This is how the New York Times ‘makes fun of Italy.'”

The cartoon erroneously reported that up to 69 percent of Italian olive oil is adulterated. And although the cartoon was later amended, it also incorrectly reported that oil from other countries could be legally labeled as “Italian” despite the provenance (see below).

[Today, the final panel of the cartoon reports that “an earlier version of this graphic contained several errors,” including those cited here.]

The cartoon was purportedly based on data gathered by journalist Tom Mueller, who authors the blog Truth in Olive Oil. He is also the author of a Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil (Norton, 2013).

On January 29, Mueller appeared before the Italian parliament’s Chamber of Deputies (akin to our House of Representative) to answer questions about his research. During his appearance, he disavowed himself of the cartoon, which made explicit reference to his work.

“There is no connection to me,” said Mueller of the cartoon, “nor is it my work.” It is made up of “humorous images that incorporate fact but also — and above all — include glaring errors. They reflect a biased approach that ignores quality and focuses only on fraud.”

According to the Italian national daily Corriere della Sera coverage of his appearance before the chamber, he expects the Times to publish a retraction.

On January 31, Italian blogger Olga Mascolo published an interview with Mueller on the popular food blog Dissapore.

The following is an excerpted translation of the interview (to my knowledge, Mueller has only made these comments in Italian and they have not been published in an English-language forum; translation mine).


“There are two principal errors” in the cartoon. “The first is approximation. I wrote 200 pages on this subject documenting the problem of olive oil adulteration. But I also brought attention to those who are doing good work… The overwhelming majority does good work. There are just a few rotten apples who make life difficult for everyone.”

“In regard to the New York Times, it’s a cartoon, fifteen panels that give the impression that all of Italian olive oil is evil. But that’s not the case. The fact that such an authoritative newspaper has reported this makes it all the worse. This is not Home Simpson making silly declarations.”

“In particular, there is a vignette that claims that 69 percent of Italian olive oil is adulterated. That’s not the case. The figure is based on a California study that shows that, at most, the oil is not extra-virgin. But that doesn’t mean that it is adulterated.”

Sources: Dissapore; DiVini (Corriere della Sera).


The following line in the New York Times cartoon was amended in a subsequent version:

“Bottles are labeled ‘Extra-Virgin’ and brand with the globally respected ‘Made In Italy.’ (Oddly this is legal, even if the oil does not come from Italy.)”

The current caption reads as follows:

“Bottles are labeled ‘Extra-Virgin’ and brand with the globally respected ‘Made In Italy.’ (Oddly this is legal, even if the oil does not come from Italy — although the source countries are supposed to be listed on the label.)”

Source: Intravino.