Ridiculously good things I’ve eaten in Puglia and Franciacorta tasting January 21

I am buzzed to announce the first Franciacorta Real Story tasting of 2016, which will take place in Miami on Thursday, January 21. Click here for details. And honestly, Miami is a market where I don’t have a lot of contacts so if anyone can give me a hand in spreading the news, there’s a bottle of Franciacorta in it for you! Thanks and please join me if you can!

burrata ravioli recipeIt may seem glamorous and super fun to be on the road with a bunch of coolio wine writers in Italy. In fact, it means very early mornings and late evenings for me keeping up with all my work back home.

Having said that, this trip has been a lot of fun and it’s a truly simpatico group of folks with whom I’m glad to spend some one-on-one time.

Yesterday, my friend and client Paolo Cantele (who sponsored the trip) treated us to a private dinner at his family’s winery. Those are burrata-stuffed ravioli, above, topped with baby shrimp and broccoli raab. Unbelievably good. They prompted a lively discussion of the tabu of mixing seafood and dairy. I can’t reveal the name of the chef because Paolo doesn’t want to risk offending other local chefs. But man, he just friggin’ killed it last night.

Below is a snap of the homemade orecchiette with meatballs we had for lunch as we tasted through the wines at the winery (yes, they traditionally serve pasta with meatballs here in Puglia).

They were made by a famous local pastmaker aptly called L’orecchietta. I can’t share the website because it’s been hacked by an online prostitution page.

It was a game-changing dish, for reals.

I now have literally 10 minutes to shit, shower, and shave (as we used to say in my rock ‘n’ roll touring days) before heading downstairs to meet the group. We’re touring vineyards and Pierce’s Disease-affected olive groves today.

More to come… stay tuned!

orecchiette recipe

A mozzarella backwater in Caianello (Caserta province, Campania)

caianello mozzarellaHonestly, I can’t tell you why the small town of Caianello, about 30 minutes north of Naples on the autostrada heading south from Rome, is an epicenter for artisanal mozzarella production.

All I do know is that Tracie P and I stopped there a few years ago when we traveling in southern Italy with our then one-year-old daughter Georgia P and Tracie was pregnant with Lila Jane.

Tra had a case of hunger pangs and so we literally took the first exit we could find. And it was only by chance that we stumbled on to this mozzarella backwater.

caianello caseificioYesterday, when our group of wine writers made a lunch pitstop there, the lines at the (evidently super famous) Caseificio La Pagliara were just as long as the last time. And so we headed down the road to the Bottega dei Buoni Sapori for simple sandwiches of moreish plastic cheese and delicious bread.

If you ever make the same journey, I highly recommend it.

Today, we’re in Lecce, Puglia where we’ll be heading out to taste with my good friend and client Paolo Cantele at his family’s winery…

A FANTASTIC trattoria in Trastevere (Rome) and a Befana to burn

Notes from the eternal city…

best trattoria trastevere romePosting in a hurry this morning for Rome before our group of writers heads to Salento for wine tasting, eating, and touring for three days.

But just had to share the tip: dinner at Tavernaccia in Trastevere last night was phenomenally good. No website but here’s the Google place page.

Not only did we eat one of the best spaghetti alla gricia I’ve ever had but we also had what we unanimously declared the best roast suckling pig in history.

Excellent wine list with lots of natty Friulian.

Thank you to Hande and Theo for turning us on to this amazing place. Some of us cried… it was that good. And the price was ridiculously affordable.

befana italy burnThis morning, my college-days buddy Steve shared this photo from Prato della Valle in Padua (my old stomping ground).

That’s the Befana, the witch who comes on the night of January 5 each year to bring children presents or lumps of coal. She will be burned later today, sweeping out the old and welcoming the new year.

Here’s the Wiki entry to learn more (really interesting to read up on the tradition’s origins, btw).

That’s all I have time to post this morning. Stay tuned!

The future of Italian wine…

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Song of Solomon 2:15

english name marche marchesIn his predictions for “The Wine Stories That Will Shape 2016” published by PUNCH a few weeks ago, Jon Bonné included Italy… but only as an afterthought.

Actually, Italy is an after-afterthought in his view of the international vinous landscape.

“Greece,” he wrote in the last paragraph, “after years of being patted on the head, will rise from its economic muddle to become a serious contender to Spain and Italy.”

That’s all the space he devoted to one of the world’s largest producers of fine wine.

In the light of Italy’s uninteresting status in the global enonarrative, you might think that it’s time for all of us Italian wine bloggers to hang it up and call it a day.

But respectfully, I beg to differ with Mr. Bonné.

And my appetite for compelling Italian wine stories has already been whetted in 2016 by Mr. Cevola’s post yesterday, “What Will the Next Ten Years Hold for Italian Wine in America?” Whether you’re an Italian wine lover here in the U.S. or an Italian winemaker, I highly recommend it to you.

But the story that sticks in my mind this morning as I prepare to board a flight for Rome (my first trip of many this year) doesn’t have anything to do with indigenous or exogenous grape varieties, organic and biodynamic grape growing, or the world’s expanding and unquenchable thirst for Italian bubbles.

No, it has to do with the birth of a child in Verdicchio country (one of the coolest undiscovered categories in Italian wine today in my view).

In November of last year, a child was born to our dear friends Silvia and Alessandro in Maiolati Spontini (Ancona province in the Marches or Marche as the region is known in Italian).

Even in a time when consumption of wine is declining rapidly in Italy; a time when 70 per cent of Italian wine is exported and it’s virtually impossible to survive as a winemaker unless you are selling most of your products in foreign markets; a time when Italy’s economic and cultural challenges are so great that the nation seems locked in an unshakable malaise; a time when the country’s negative birthrate continues to dip even lower

Even in these trying times for Italian winemakers, there are those among them who look to the future with hope in their hearts and minds.

In the Marches, when a child is born, family friends fasten decorations like the swan above to the parents’ house. They won’t remove them until the newborn’s family invites them all over for a celebratory meal. It’s a local tradition, as Silvia explained in an email she sent me a few weeks ago.

Biodynamic farmers, Silvia and Alessandro grow grapes for wine and olives for oil without the use of chemicals or additives. They advocate for wholesome living and sustainable consumption. They count their carbon footprints down to the weight of the bottles they ship their wines in.

They’re confident that there is a future in what they are doing.

And from where I stand, there couldn’t be a more compelling story than their newborn son Cesare and the tender grapes they grow.

Happy 2016, everyone! Thanks for being here. I’m leaving today for Rome and then heading to Salento with a group of some of my favorite writers. I’ll see you on the other side… Stay tuned for more and new boring stories from Italian wine country.