Scenes from a (Southern) Italian restaurant… @SottoLA

Pour it, swirl it, smell it, taste it, touch it, kiss it! IT’S FINALLY HERE! The 2008 Cirò Classico by ‘A Vita, made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes, by my friend, the inimitable Francesco Maria De Franco (whom you may remember from the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Project).

You can taste it with me tonight and tomorrow night at Sotto in Los Angeles.

BTW, the abbreviation on the label “F 36 P 27” refers to folio (page) 36, parcel 27 — the vineyard’s listing in the Italian government’s official registry of growing sites.

The year isn’t over yet but I’m going on record: Francesco’s wine is “my top wine for 2011.”

We still don’t have his top-tier wine but I believe that both this and his Rosso Classico Superiore (which I retasted this month in Brescia at the VinNatur table at the European Wine Bloggers Conference) are destined to gain entrance to the pantheon of the greatest wines of Italy.

I love it that much! (And wanted to share this second photo so that you can see the bright color of the noble, tannic wine.)

Sotto was hopping last night and I was psyched to debut a bunch of new wines, including the ‘A Vita and three new wines from Alois (Campania)… more on those later…

There is so much good shit on the menu at Sotto but I just can’t resist Chef Zach’s pizza margherita.

If you happen to be in LA tonight or tomorrow night, come down and I’ll pour you some wine and spin you some wine tales!

Cirò: Italian grape name and appellation pronunciation project


This morning finds me in Southern California on my way to Sotto in Los Angeles, where I’ll be working the floor tonight — pouring and talking about the wines — and introducing my good friend Giampaolo Venica tomorrow night, when we’ll be hosting a dinner in his honor and featuring his wines.

The wine list at Sotto is devoted almost exclusively to Southern Italian wines and so it seemed a propos to feature the appellation of Cirò (Calabria) for this week’s episode of the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project.

That’s Cirò winemaker Francesco De Franco, above, who appeared here previously for the pronunciation of Gaglioppo (and who made one of the most original contributions so far).

In the wake of his Gaglioppo performance, a lot of readers — many of them women — wrote me to tell me how endearing Franco is.

But I regret to inform you that my camera simply doesn’t do justice to this man’s charisma. Like his wine — ‘A Vita (Life) is the name — Franco is one of the most vibrant and electric personages of the Italian wine world today. I was thrilled to finally meet him in person at the Radici Wines festival the week before last in Apulia and I can’t recommend his wine highly enough.

The wines are scheduled to make their North American debut this fall.

But in the meantime, his moving image, as seen through my lens, will have to suffice…

Thanks again, to everyone, for all the support for this ongoing project. And thanks for speaking and drinking Italian grapes!

Gaglioppo: Italian grape name and appellation pronunciation project


The inimitable Francesco De Franco (above) first appeared on my blog when I wrote about his use of social media to battle the evil forces of the globalization and industrialization of his appellation, Cirò in Calabria. Even though I’ve never met Francesco, I know we’re going to become friends: anyone who writes “I am trying to avoid that a wine unique and inimitable becoming a wine without soul” is a friend of mine!

I finally got to taste his wine in February in Italy when my good friend Riccardo (one of Francesco’s distributors in Italy) gave me a bottle. (We shared it over dinner in Quarto d’Altino with Tracie P’s high school friend from her Singapore days.)

Man, I was BLOWN away by how good this wine was… It entirely changed my view and impression of what Gaglioppo can be. While most producers are spoofing their Gaglioppo to be richer in body and color (à la californienne), Francesco lets the real, honest fruit shine through in this gorgeous wine… The best news is that Francesco’s wines should be hitting North American shores in the fall. I CANNOT WAIT to put this on the list at Sotto!

I wrote to Francesco, asking him to send me audio/video of his pronunciation of Gaglioppo (another tough one for Anglophones because of the palatal lateral approximant gli, as in Aglianico).

I’m not sure that Francesco is destined to be remembered as Italy’s 21-century Chopin, but I LOVE what he did for the video… and I can’t recommend his wine highly enough to you…

Postcard from Cirò: “I am trying to avoid that a wine unique and inimitable becoming a wine without soul.”

Francesco de Franco (above), owner, grower, and winemaker at ‘A Vita in Cirò, left the following comment on my post Soylent Merlot: the Montalcino Syndrome infects Calabria. Please have a look at the thread and add your voice to the chorus if so inclined.

I am a small wine producer from Cirò. I together with other producers (Tenuta del Conte, Acting, Crapisto, Arcuri etc.) am trying to avoid that a wine unique and inimitable becoming a wine without soul.

We are not conservatives or traditionalists, we want the wine of Ciro speaks of the terroir. I am totally with Cevola is a matter of pride and style. I am convinced that the Gaglioppo grape may make an elegant and surprising wine.

I believe it.

—Francesco de Franco