Taste with me tomorrow and next Wednesday…

Taste with me tomorrow evening at Ciao Bello in Houston, where I’ll be leading a tasting of Italian wines together with Chef Bobby Matos who will be preparing pasta table-side and sharing Italian cooking tips with guests. Should be a super fun event and evening…

Next Wednesday, I’ll be presenting one of my best friends in Italian winemaking today and producer of some of my favorite wines, Giampaolo Venica, who will be leading a wine dinner featuring five of his wines (including his Magliocco from Calabria and four of his family’s legendary white wines from Friuli) at Sotto in Los Angeles.

Hope to see you there!

Malvasia two ways: grape name pronunciation project


As ubiquitous as Malvasia (mahl-vah-ZEE-ah) may be in Italy (and in Europe), it is unfortunately one of the most mispronounced grapes beyond Italy’s borders.

For today’s episode of the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Project, I have created two videos: 1) Malvasia pronounced by a Tuscan speaker (Valeria Losi of Querciavalle); and 2) Malvasia (Istriana) pronounced by a Friulian speaker (Giampaolo Venica of Venica & Venica). Note the more nasal vowel system in Giampaolo’s pronunciation and the more rapid scansion of the ampelonym. Valeria’s vowels (ah) are more open and even speaking at a normal pace, she pronounces the grape name more slowly.

Video by Alfonso Cevola.

That’s a view of Giampaolo’s land from his top growing site, Ronco delle Mele. Giampaolo will be joining us at Sotto in Los Angeles on Wednesday June 22 for a winemaker dinner where we’ll be pouring 4 of his Friulian whites and his Magliocco from Calabria. Details to follow…

Southern Italian is sexy…

Above: Giampaolo Venica has become a good friend. When we’re not talking about wine, we talk about Pasolini and his legacy in Friuli (where Giampaolo and his family live). His Terre di Balbia is 100% Magliocco raised in Calabria (how about that, wine geeks?), one of my favorite wines of 2011. See notes here. I’ve just confirmed that he and I are going to be hosting a dinner at Sotto in Los Angeles on Weds. June 22.

The SOUTHERN ITALIAN SIX-PACK is live over at Do Bianchi Wine Selections, featuring wines from the list I’ve authored for Sotto in Los Angeles.

Villa Matilde 2009 Falanghina
Benanti 2008 Etna Bianco Bianco di Caselle
Benanti 2007 Etna Rosso Rosso di Verzella
Gulfi 2009 Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Terre di Balbia 2009 Balbium Rosso
Pietracupa 2007 Quirico

For details and to order, please click here.

Tocai Friulano Bianco: the basics

Above: “This is a 45-year-old Tocai Friulano vine that I have kept so that I could try to make a late harvest wine. We picked this vineyard in October. As you can see, there is some botrytis.” Sent to me this morning by my friend and Friulian winemaker Giampaolo Venica (Collio).

The following post is my abridged translation of the entry on “Tocai Friulano Bianco” in Vitigni d’Italia, le varietà tradizionali per la produzione di vini moderni (Grape Varieties of Italy, the traditional varieties for the production of modern wines) by Antonio Calò et alia, Bologna, Calderini, 2006. This is the first in an educational series on the grape varieties of the Colli Orientali del Friuli, posted in conjunction with the COF 2011 aggregate blog. Tomorrow, I’ll post an appendix to the present post on the EU litigation and resolution that led to the grape variety’s official name change (today, it can only be labeled as “Friulano” when shipped outside Italy’s borders).

Synonyms (documented and/or otherwise plausible): Cinquien, Malaga, Tocai bianco, Tocai italiano, Trebbianello, Blanc doux, Sauvignon à gros grains, Sauvignon de la Corrèze, Sauvignon vert, Sauvingonasse.

Erroneous: Sauvignon, Tocai, Tokai, Tokay, Tokaj, Furmint, Pinot grigio.

Origins (Historical Notes): grape variety cultivated in the Veneto and Friuli, principally in the provinces of Gorizia, Udine, and Venice. Professor Dalmasso was the first to propose the attributive Friulano to distinguish it from other possible synonyms. How it arrived in the Veneto is not known for certain. It’s possible that it was imported from Hungary (Perusini, 1935), although it bears no resemblance to the grape varieties of that region. According to documents cited by Dalmasso (1937), a grape called Tocai was cultivated in the Veneto as early as 1771. Tocai Friulano Bianco has recently been identified as Sauvignonasse, a variety that has all but disappeared in France but is widely cultivated in Chile (see Calò et alia, 1992).

Environment and cultivation: variety with high and constant production levels, susceptible to humidity but relatively tolerant of lack of water. It thrives in calcareous subsoils with median fertility and with training systems that offer greater exposure (Guyot, Casarsa, Cordone Speronato [i.e., cordon-trained, spur-pruned]).

Sensitivity to Disease and Other Issues: the bunches are particularly susceptible to rot, Esca, Peronospora, and powdery mildew. While the vines are not particularly sensitive to leafhoppers, they are sensitive to mites and moths.

Alcohol Content: 9.5-14.5%
pH: 2.8-3.8
Acidity: 4.30-7.40 grams per liter

Tocai Friulano Bianco produces a wine that is yellow and straw-yellow in color with greenish hints. Delicate, pleasant aroma, dry, fresh, softy, and velvety, typically with a slightly bitter note of almond and hay. It can be low in acidity and therefore is often blended with Ribolla.

The variety is used exclusively for vinification, for the production of wines intended for consumption within one year or with short aging times. The principal appellation for which Tocai Friulano Bianco is used are as follows: Bagnoli Bianco, Rosato e Spumante, Bianco di Custoza, Breganze Bianco, Colli Berini-Tocai Friulano, Colli Euganei Bianco, Colli Euganei-Tocai Friulano, Colli Euganie Fior d’Arancio, Gambellara, Garda Orientale Trebbianello, Lison Promaggiore-Tocai Friulano, Lugana, Piave-Tocai Friulano, Valdadige, Corti Benedettine del Padovano, Riviera del Brenta.

Translator’s Note: Oddly, Calò et alia omit the Colli Orientali del Friuli as one of the principal appellations where Tocai Friulano is used (an oversight?).