Ciliegiolo: Italian grape name pronunciation project (and a fun post about Lambrusco)

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Before I left for Greece, Wine Parkour requested an episode of the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project devoted to the ampelonym Ciliegiolo.

So I reached out to my friend and excellent producer of Morellino di Scansano Gianpaolo Paglia, who graciously agreed to video himself pronouncing the grape name. (You may remember Gianapolo for the excellent meal he and I shared last year in Maremma and for my posts about his decision to sell his barriques and his declaration that he would no longer age his wines in new small French oak cask; click here for the thread.)

I wouldn’t exactly call Gianpaolo the “Dustin Hoffman” of Italian wine but you will definitely walk away from this video knowing how to pronounce Ciliegiolo (not an easy one for Anglophones)!

In other news…

However jetlagged today, I managed to churn out a fun post this morning for the Houston Press on Lambrusco. My editor there has been very generous in letting me create my “wine as exegetic tool” posts (read “wine as a pretext and excuse to study culture”). Have you ever visited Emilia-Romagna? Then you’ll know what I’m talking about!

To barrique or not to barrique (and red wine with seafood in Maremma)

The 2009 Morellino di Scansano by Poggio Argentiera paired stunningly well with this medley of seafood and noodles at the Oasi in Follonica. It’s not uncommon to pair red wine with seafood in the Maremma, where Sangiovese is expressed as a lighter and more gently tannic wine than it is in places like Montalcino and Chianti.

Picking up where we left off in September… Following my afternoon with Gaia Gaja at her family’s Ca’ Marcanda winery in Bolgheri, I traveled down to the seaside town of Follonica where I had one of the best meals of my trip at the Oasi with winemaker Gianpaolo Paglia of Poggio Argentiera.

Gianpaolo and I have a lot of friends (and colleagues) in common and it was great to finally meet him in person and share not just a meal but a truly amazing meal together. (It was Gianpaolo’s son who gave Muddy Boots his nickname “Strappo,” I learned that evening.)*

Above: Gianpaolo began “weaning” his wines off barrique aging following the 2007 vintage. That’s the 07 Morellino di Scansano Capatosta in the glass. Note the dark color of the Sangiovese.

Gianpaolo and I had been in touch earlier this year after Mr. Franco Ziliani posted a great story and interview about Gianpaolo’s bold decision to stop barrique-aging his Sangiovese (and I re-posted it here).

I asked Gianpaolo what precipitated his decision to abandon barrique aging and the answer was simple.

“One day, I realized,” he said, “that I wasn’t drinking my own wines anymore. And so, I called my business partner and vineyard manager and asked him, ‘do you drink our wines at home?’ When he told me, ‘honestly, no, I don’t,’ I realized that I was no longer enjoying my own wines, however successful they were commercially.”

Above: Gianpaolo’s 2009 Morellino, which we tasted from cask, as we say in wine parlance, was aged in traditional large casks. Note how bright the wine is in the glass.

In fact, to my knowledge, Gianpaolo’s never had trouble selling his wines. Quite the opposite. This new era of his wines, he explained over the course of our delightfully long dinner, was part of an evolution for Italian winemakers.

Back in the 90s, when scores became so important and winemakers were trying to reach the American market, he said, it was only natural that we looked to that style as a model. Barriques were part of larger movement that included a number of changes in Italian winemaking (stainless steel, temperature control, and a cleaner, more precise and more concentrated style). This new phase isn’t so much as a step back as much as a “natural evolution,” in his words. He wasn’t apologetic and he was most sincere. I really admired him for his candor and I really appreciated his effort not to put a spin on this (as so many do).

Above: Chef Mirko’s moray eel was unbelievably delicious that night. Like many of the great restaurateurs of the Maremma, Mirko is first and foremost a fisherman.

And the best news? The 2009 Morellino was SUPERB with the seafood pasta above (whereas I, personally, wouldn’t have paired the richer, more concentrated barriqued wine from 2008 or 07 with it). Chapeau bas, Gianpaolo!

As one of my heroes, Danny Meyer, likes to say, if it grows with it, it goes with it!

* Gianpaolo’s children are perfectly bilingual (his wife is British). When they met Muddy aka Terry, one of Gianpaolo’s sons began calling Terry “Strappo” after making the homonymic association Terry, to tear (as in to tear a sheet of paper), strappare (Ital. to tear), strappo (a tear).

One of the best fish dinners I’ve ever had in Italy

Last night I was treated to one of the best fish dinners I’ve ever had by Giampaolo Paglia (you may remember him from a recent post here). The restaurant was the Oasi in Follonica, a seaside venue where you can rent beach chairs and tents by day and lunch and dine on the freshest of fish. I was completely floored by the quality of the materia prima and chef/owner Mirko Martinelli’s deft hand. Follonica may not exactly be on the conventional tourist’s radar: should you be willing to make the detour, I can assure you that you will be rewarded by Mirko’s magic.

Raw sea bream with tomato, fried basil, and salmon roe.

Sargo with mushrooms and black truffles over creamy polenta. THIS DISH WAS INSANELY GOOD!

The combination of the lightly fried shrimp and the moray eel (see the photo at the top) was truly SUBLIME. The texture and flavor of the moray was ineffably delicious.

Gianpaolo’s skin-contact Ansonica Bucce (bucce = skins) was my favorite pairing of the night. (When I have time down the road, I’ll recount our conversation about Gianpaolo decision to abandon his barriques.)

Tracie P will tell you that I rarely eat dessert but how could I resist?

Chef Mirko, left, with Gianpaolo… simply amazing dinner… I can’t wait to bring Tracie P here…

Life after barrique: “I started to love my wines again”

Here’s what winemaker Gianpaolo Paglia (below) had to say about my post on his decision not to age his wines in barriques anymore.

Thank you very much Jeremy for translating part of Ziliani’s post on my decision. I’m very glad to see that this has stirred an interesting conversation on Italian blogs about the current state of the art of Italian wines and their future. I think that we are now in the position to devote our efforts to a better knowledge of our land, our vineyards, our techniques of production, or in other words, our terroir. For the last decade I’ve been on a learning curve, of which barriques and a certain style of wine were part, now I feel I have to move further to find the true expression of my land in my wines.

It’s going to take time, because nothing is fast when it comes to agriculture, but I’m sure I’m on the right path. How do I know it? Simply because I started to love my wines again.

Basta barriques: a conversion of Constantine?

Earlier this month, Maremma producer of Morellino di Scansano and Syrah Gianpaolo Paglia (above, winemaker and owner of Poggio Argentiera, with his family) authored a short post on his blog entitled simply Basta barrqiues, enough with barriques.

In the post he informs his readers that he no longer intends to age his Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo in barriques, small new oak French barrels.

He explains: “In the last 10-15 years, the world of wine has changed. And, above all, my (and our) tastes have changed. This is no disavowal of the past, no repudiation. It’s very simple: one evolves, as a person and as a company.” (translation mine)

Yesterday, Italian wine blogger extraordinaire Mr. Franco Ziliani, who has long exhorted a more moderate use of barrique aging among Italian winemakers, posted an interview with Giampaolo.

Here are a few passages I found interesting and have translated from Gianpaolo’s answers:

    In certain wines produced with barriques, there is an excessive sweetness. However much this can be viewed in positive light, I find that it tires the palates. Complexity and nuance tend to be lost, trumped by a certain creaminess in the taste of the wine. Generally, I believe that it is more difficult draw out the character of grapes like Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo, where a certain angularity and backbone form the basis of their identity. And then there’s also the drinkability factor: I’m tired of drinking overly invasive wines.

    I can tell you that making wines that will be enjoyed by people who make wine makes much more commercial sense than trying to interpret the tastes of the market. My impression is that we tend not to fully appreciate people who buy wines and drink them. This is probably due partly to a lack of awareness and partly — and perhaps mostly — due to our lack of courage.

    There are wines that seem excellent to us but we consider them “difficult” for the market. But, then again, we discover that the market is very open to good wines, real wines, expressive wines. I see this every day, especially since I began to sell wines beyond the wines I produce.

I’m excited to taste the new vintages of Poggio Argentiera and I really admire Gianpaolo for the honesty and forthrightness of his blog and his words (he is, btw, probably the top Italian winemaker/blogger and his use of social media as a tool to promote his wines is world-class).

One of the most vocal opponents of barrique aging of Sangiovese I know is my friend Charles Scicolone, who began drinking Nebbiolo and Sangiovese in the 1970s. “They’ll crucify me on a cross made of barrique,” he likes to say humorously.

It’s too early to tell but could Gianpaolo’s declaration be an early sign of a conversion of Constantine? Let’s hope so… Chapeau bas, Gianpaolo!

In other good news…

It seems that Mr. Ziliani has returned from his blogging hiatus.

Worth reading: Google Earth, terroir, Italian women in France, and an interesting take on the war of rosés

From the “I wish I would have thought of that” department…

My life in Italian wine began twenty years ago when I first visited Bagno Vignoni near Montalcino and began tasting some illustrious and not-so-illustrious bottlings of Sangiovese thanks to my friend Riccardo Marcucci.

While the single-vineyard system of Barolo and Barbaresco offer the Nebbiolophile a legend by which to navigate the terroir of those appellations, lovers of Brunello di Montalcino have little guidance in negotiating its various and highly diverse subzones.

My friend Alessandro Bindocci of Tenuta Il Poggione has unlocked some of the mystery behind one of the Brunello subzones, Sant’Angelo in Colle (the southernmost growing area in the appellation), in a series of posts entitled Understanding Brunello Terroir Using Google Earth. The most recent post is particularly fascinating: I’ve downloaded and installed Google Earth and it’s amazing to use it as a tool in understanding the unique macroclimate of Sant’Angelo, just as Alessandro suggests in his post. Damn, I wish I would have thought of that!

In other news…

However chauvinist and intrinsically bourgeois, the flier for yesterday’s Paris tasting of natural wines produced by Italian women winemakers is utterly irresistible. Did I hear someone say “movie rights”?

Click the image above to view in detail (hosted at Arianna Occhipinti’s blog).

Lastly…

While nearly everyone was relieved yesterday to see the EU drop plans to alter way rosé is made, Tuscan winemaker Gianpaolo Paglia offered some interesting insight in a comment over at VinoWire:

    I’m a wine producer. I’ve never made nor I do intend to make rosé wine in the future. I’m saying this because I wouldn’t want to be accused of having a vested interest in what I’m going to say now: can someone explain to me why a rosé wine made with the saignée method (salasso, in Italian) would be by default better than a blended rosé? Isn’t Champagne the only wine in EU always been allowed to be made that way and has that consequently resulted in the production of poor quality, but premium priced, Champagne wines? Are all the rosé wines made outside EU, largely produced by blending white and red wines, worse than the worst EU wine made with the saignée method?

    I confess my ignorance, but I don’t see the point in this “battle for quality agro-food heritage and wealth.” To be honest, and perhaps even a bit rude, all this nonsense looks to me [like] a lot of political rubbish.

Thanks for reading!