Archive for the ‘Italia ti Boglio Bene’ Category

A hidden Italian treasure in the heart of Lima

December 14, 2010

My 13th day in Lima and after a wonderful first week of eating great and  drinking better (wine) I fell to the dreaded sickness that afflicts visitors: stomach infection from drinking tap water. Actually, didnt drink it but used tap water ice cubes to make a ceviche, which comes to be the same. Or perhaps worse.

I will leave those laments aside for now and as I recover for my next round of culinary and wine adventures let me tell you about this little place, a bakery-restaurant called Levaggi, which has been around for decades. It sits on a corner of downtown Petit-Thouars avenue, the cross street is Manuel Segura* in the traditional Lince district, a lower middle class neighborhood which has become a must see because of its market and surrounding area packed with affordable, good-quality eateries. Chifas (chinese food restaurants) and ceviche places are everywhere, as well as criolla (peruvian) food and anticucho (spicy meat brochettes) street vendors.

Levaggi started as a bakery only, like many other Italian run bakeries in old Lima. Later they added the restaurant section, which proved to be a great idea. The restaurant is unpretentious in its decoration and retains an air of old times, with its counters and food exhibitors packed with pastries, breads, hams, sausages, home made pasta and bottles of wine. Servings are massive and fairly inexpensive. Although the menu is mostly peruvian, there is a section dedicated solely to Italian dishes. Their basic menu pasta is homemade fettuccini, which you can have with tomato sauce only for 8 soles (approx. 2.50 dollars), accompanied with a basket of bread and butter, dessert and a hot drink. Or you can switch to marinara or pesto sauce for the same price. You can have meat or mushrooms on your sauce or go for ravioli (I recommend the vegetable version, yummy) or other Italian pastas.

Prices for set menus can go up to 25 soles (9 dollars) for fancy dishes or for large servings or generous servings of meat. Worth trying their ossobuco, lomo saltado (peruvian stir fry version) and their butifarras, sandwiches made with house cooked ham.

Wine is a must in an Italian restaurant and they have a modest but competent selection. Nothing outstanding but good enough for this kind of meal. The house wine is an italian Rosso but you can have Chilean Clos de Pirque out of a box. This latter one is pretty good value. Then they have Farnese‘s Merlot, Sangiovese and Montepulciano. They even have a special with two glasses of wine and a set menu for 14 soles. Pretty reasonable, although if you are likely to want more (wine) it is better to go for the half liter caraffe for 15 soles.

There are a few Italian bakery restaurants like this in Lima, all of them worth checking out not only for the food but  also for the experience, to feel that air of the past trapped behind their swing doors, whirling through hanging hams and freshly baked loaves of bread. Look for Cordano, near the main square, Queirolo both their downtown and Pueblo Libre locales or the old Carbone sandwich house, again in old downtown.

*this area is half way between Miraflores district and old Lima downtown

Di Majo Norante

September 18, 2010

What a great winery this is. Located in the Molise region of south central Italy (if you know Italian geography by its boot shape, Molise would be located on the lower part of the calf).  Wines have been made in the area since the times of the Romans. Which is not to say much in a country where wine is as much part of the national identity as Calcio (soccer), funny shaped pasta and bodacious, sultry divas like Gina Llollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale.

I don’t know about you, but I love a beautifully packaged product. I hate putting on my table wines with tacky labels. And if that is the wine I have, then it goes in a decanter. But with labels like the ones offered by Di Majo Norante, well,  I have them on my table and discuss and appreciate them with friends. Maybe they can try next a picture of Gina or Claudia on the label of a full bodied wine. Just kidding. But, no, seriously.

Di Majo Norante’s products in Vancouver are available both through LDB and private stores. With prices hovering over the 15-24 dollar range they offer excellent quality for the money. The Sangiovese Terre degli Osci IGT 2008 has merited a 90pt score by Antonio Galloni (www.erobertparker.com) no small achievement for a wine under 15 dollars. Great label, dry and mellow wine, with red fruit and a bit of leather.

Prugnolo is made of Montepulciano grapes. A great match to pasta dishes, meats or cheese. Taut, firm and structured with good balance between acidity and dark fruit. Which sounds like any other wine but trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Price?  22-25 dollars.

Ramitello is a blend of Sangiovese and Aglianico grapes. I think in a post waaay back I said Montepulciano and Aglianico. My mistake. This one has a fullish, mellow body made interesting by that ashey, raw mineral quality of the Aglianico variety.

A visit to the winery’s website www.dimajonorante.com shows that they make a number of other red wines and a selection of whites. Until recently the Contado Aglianico was available in Vancouver. Heard was quite good. I would like to try their renditions of Falanghina, Greco and Fiano. Particularly interesting to me is the Apianae, a sweet white made with Moscato grapes. Hopefully the importers, Stile Enterprises, will bring some of these products to our wine thirsty city.

 

Kicking your Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc Addiction: Italian Whites

April 21, 2010

Wine addiction? No worries, we all have been there. I hit rock bottom when for a while, I refused to drink anything but Kendall Jackson Chardonnay ($22.99) which is very good by the way, keeping its quality consistent through the years. When I thought I was on my way to rehabilitation wham! I stumbled upon Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs and the Jackson Estates “Stich” kept me semi-comatose for a while, with its charming fruit and exciting acidity.

However, a true wine lover must be an explorer. So I went back to the wine roads of the world, wide and long and branching off at every turn. There was Greece with its refreshing, intriguing Moschofilero, Argentina with its potent Torrontes and France with its Rousanne-Marsanne-Viognier blends. I decided to go Italy. No regrets. Here is what I found.

Poggio al Tesoro 2008. Bolgheri Solosole IGT Vermentino. $29.99. Tesoro means treasure. Solosole goes for “only sun.” This wine honors both its monikers. Rich, deep and audaciously citrusy.

Primo V Prosecco 2008. Treviso. $22.99. Your buds will dance to the lemony, bright, chalky music of this sparkling darling.

Plozner Tocai Friuliano 2008. DOC Friuli Grave. Very fragant nose, a bit grassy and mellow on the palate. Loved the finish, a tad almondy-bitter.

Verdicchio di Matelica Vigneti del Cerro 2008. “Belisario”. $17.99. Stupendous Verdicchio. Fresh, minerally and with a large acidic footprint. Don’t look further for your next salmon barbeque white. Where can you buy it?

Feudo Arancio Grillo 2006/07. Sicily. $16.99. Mango leads the tropical fruit charge, followed by a refreshing palate with slightly creamy texture. When you get tired of Grigio ask for Grillo.

Of all five, for quality vs value I recommend the Belisario Verdicchio di Matelica. If there is only one you could taste before trashing your monthly wine budget, that would be the Plozner Friuliano. If you do, get some good quality Prosciutto, perfect Italian match.

Chi Veddiamo!

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico DOCG

March 19, 2010

 Fonterutoli

Chianti Classico 2005

DOCG

375ml. $23.99. 

Wine house Mazzei 2005 Chianti Classico is a truly impressive effort. A distinguished nose, bursting with dark fruit, tar, stone. This full bodied wine leaves on the palate imprints of sour cherry, charred mineral and very active, dust-like -almost effervescent- tannins. The acidity is beautifully leashed here, never getting out of control. There is a pleasant bitter cherry background, mouth drying, leading to a persistent finish supported by a dense fruit aftertaste. Perfect for a dinner for two; this half bottle’s price tag is fully justified.

Aglianico: Volcano in a Bottle

November 6, 2009

For the average wine consumer, Italy, with its twenty wine regions and scores of commercially grown grapes –mostvulture-blog little known and with hard to remember names- can be plain down befuddling. Even for those who have tasted Chianti, Valpolicella or Sangiovese, these are seldom first picks when they go wine shopping. Like in every other sphere of thought and culture, wine is full of stereotypes and myths, and –unfortunately- Italian wine is plagued with them. “They are too acidic”, say some. “I can’t stand the strong tannins”, complain others. “Only good with food”, is what most say.

The reality is that, even myself, used to be in one of the groups above, or in all of them. It takes tasting more than a few Italian wines to realize that the myths above are not only false; they come from perceptions born out of tasting one or two wines from one or two regions only. Many people never go beyond Chianti and Valpolicella, usually low quality versions served as house wines in restaurants. More adventurous consumers go for ITP blends. These, the Indicazione Geografica Tipica wines, are made from international varieties (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah) sometimes blended with Italian ones, and can be just delicious, full bodied, powerful wines on their own right.

ITP wines have gained international recognition, but the heart of Italian wines resides in the indigenous varieties. Most of the well-known ones are grown in the north: Nebbiolo, found in Barolo and Barbaresco. Chianti’s Sangiovese or Valpolicella’s Corvina. But there is one variety that stands tall in the south: Aglianico. “The Nebbiolo of the south” as they call it, is like the true Nebbiolo, a grape that yields wines that can be big, sometimes massive.

The variety was taken to Southern Italy by the Greeks, although DNA analysis shows that its lineage cannot be traced to anything that is cultivated today in Greece. The name is believed to be a distortion of the word “Ellenico”, Italian word for Greek. Most Aglianico is cultivated in Basilicata (the region between the tip and heel of the Italian boot) and in Campania (the front side of the boot’s ankle). Some vineyards can be found in Molise and Puglia and, to a lesser extent, in Australia and California. In Basilicata the grape enjoys DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controlatta) status, with the most prestigious wines coming from the volcanic soils around Mount Vulture. In Campania the grape has its own DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controlatta e Garantitta) based on the Taurasi appellation.

In the vineyard, Aglianico prefers volcanic soils, as mentioned above, and seems to benefit from relatively high altitude (400-500m). The dark skinned berries ripen incredibly late, a fact that has limited the quality of wines made from early harvesting. Aglianico wines, when well made, can deliver a powerful sensorial experience that rivals or bests that of most other big reds. An intense nose of tectonic force is a hallmark of good Aglianico. Chocolate, plum and spice are common. In the palate the combination of these flavours with the indomitable character of its tannins makes a lasting impression. Due to its high acidity and “ferocious tannins” (as described by Jancis Robinson) , Aglianico wines benefit from cellaring and will make the absolutely perfect match for grilled meats, roasted lamb and game.

Fiano MandraRossa my New Favorite Budget White

October 29, 2009

Produced and bottled in Sicily, the 2008 MandraRossa Fiano is a delicious white mandrarossa_fiano_lab_smwine, with a nose reminiscent of the lemon tree orchards that grow on the legendary island. The aromatic nose is decidedly lemony, as is the palate, slightly oily, of a very nice texture indeed. The flavor spectrum includes ripe white peach and a brushstroke of fine herbs.

This wine was a perfect company for a plate of Pasta Vongole. (Click on link for recipe). I have checked out several online recipes but I find that my favorite is the very basic one with just a few ingredients.spaghetti-alle-vongole11

At 15.99, this is wine to pay attention to. The 2007 version won a ‘Great Value White Wine’ gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, considered the world’s largest wine competition.

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon: The Reds

October 24, 2009

Scary. Looking at my calendar I realize that the next IVSA event is scheduled for November 9th! So, before I get a glut of new wine notes to comment here, I will go back to those I had in the September event. And since I already posted notes on the whites I enjoyed, let’s now visit the tintos I found memorable. You may notice that mostly I am covering Italian wines but given the size of the IVSA event and the number of products (and the number of people you stop by to say hi and chat) there was little room for anything else.

• Let’s start with one of my favorites of that busy evening. Enoteca Bacco brings a truly delicious Negroamaro varietal, the 2006 Verve IGT from Salento. Pure expression of fruit, direct and ample, with dark overtones and really fun to drink. Not surprisingly, a previous incarnation of this wine, the Verve 2004, collected gold medals left, right and center. Battle the incoming November blues with Verve matching grilled blue fish like mackerel, sardines or spicy dishes (click on links for recipes). Just under 30 dollars, this listed product is available at LDB stores.

Tempus Malbec 2007. Under 18 dollars, I fully enjoyed this uncomplicated, fruity, filling Malbec brought to us by MKR Importers. A no brainer for roasted beef, grilled meats, sausage in a bun with friends, etc. Just make sure you don’t eat your friends. Ha ha.

• When I had the Anghelos IGT 2006 I did understand the reason for the name: Angelic. I recommend this wine with absolutely NO reservations to those who enjoy a balsamic nose followed by a meaty, fleshy chunk of fruity acidity and elegant tannins that do not let go. Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano and Sangiovese are blended in this superb broth hailing from the Marche region. Soft enough to accompany a Pasta Fagioli (pasta and beans in tomato sauce) but will stand up to an Osso Bucco. Wine Quest importers hit it right on the nose with this vino tinto. Under 40 dollars, this is the kind of wine you want to kick off the cool part of the year in full form.

Fontanabianca means “white fountain”, which is the name of the winery that makes the Sori Burdin 2004 Barbaresco. This broth is potenza (potence) in the full meaning of the term. Nebbiolo grapes in grand style, with a tremendous aromatic profile and an equally tremendous body and tannic structure. Robert Parker, in his flowery-paralegal style calls this wine “authoritative”. I don’t know how a wine can be authoritative but I surely like the adjective here. Close to 90 dollars, granted not a wine for everyday consumption, but make sure you have a bottle around for that special occasion. And give me a shout when you do; I’d love to have this tinto again.

Di Majo Norante is a producer that always delivers quality at affordable prices, without compromising the quality and more importantly, the sense of terroir. Their Sangiovese and Ramitello are good examples of this, but here I want to mention the Prugnolo del Molise IGT 2004. A delicious, easygoing yet flavorful Sangiovese. Light and playful but balanced and structured enough to be taken seriously. This product, brought by Style Wines retails for less than 22 dollars.

•The last two wines are both represented by Liquid Art Fine Wines. The Tenuta Sette Ponti ‘Crognolo’ IGT 2006 is a Sangiovese Merlot blend from Toscana. At around 40 dollars a bottle, it merited a 92 pt score by Wine Spectator (08/31/08). Full bodied, concentrated, tannic, warm, with cherry and earthy aromas and flavors, this is a delicious, powerful wine.

I closed the night with the Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC, 2006. I knew it would be my last tasting of the night. The lights had already flickered off a couple of times and the Liquid Art reps were already putting their gear away. I could not but ask for a second pouring, being late and feeling like I deserved a break. I savored every drop of the Cristia. Elated and in awe, I only jotted down

depth suavidad elegance long red fruit rocks beautiful alcohol integration A

Enough said.

Hasta la proxima.

Dessimis Pinot Grigio: Not Business as Usual

June 9, 2009

A sixty-one dollar bottle is not everyone’s idea of a Pinot Grigio to cool down these late spring warm Dessimis-PinotGrigio
afternoons. Not mine, that’s for sure. In fact, this wine was offered to me at a blind tasting, and my first reaction was “E-W! cheap oaky chard”. It was oaky indeed, very much so. Very thick, almost syrupy, by Italian Pinot Grigio standards. The more I drank however, the more I was attracted to this deep colored broth (again, by Grigio standards). Deep lemon, almost gold, with tremendous legs, witness to a whopping 14% alcohol, high level not just by Grigio standards. On the nose, the oaky whiff overwhelmed everything at first impression. Then, suddenly, a high note of fruit -ripe peach- hit a spot on my nose and stood there, hanging, unwavering, until a bit of tropical fruit took over. The body was foreseeable full, and more tropical fruit appeared, together with lemony touches. The finish was long, very long, even compared to other white grape varieties that normally outplay Pinot Grigio on this quality. Should I say that it greatly improved after an hour or so? Should you get together with two or three others and buy a bottle, just for the sake of it? (meaning, wine). Most definitely. Those pesky Italians know well what they’re doing. Cheers.

Product: Dessimis

Variety: Pinot Grigio

Vintage: 2006

Winery: Vie di Romans

Origin: Friuli Isonzo DOC, Italy

Alcohol: 14.0%

Price: 60.99 (Everything Wine

Bocca di Lupo, massive Aglianico

May 31, 2009

Bocca di Lupo is Italian for wolf’s mouth. Which seems appropiate when applied to this ninety per cent bocca di lupoAglianico – ten percent Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Castel del Monte in Pulia, Southern Italy. This wine is a statement of power that doesn’t exclude finesse. Aromas of dry blue berries and oak notes followed by a manly body, full, substantious and non-apologetic. Plenty of rounded tannins lead to a very satisfying finish. I don’t know if a wolf’s mouth tastes and smells like this, but if it does you will see me kissing wolves in the mouth for some time.

Product: Bocca di Lupo

Variety: Aglianico del Vulture

Vintage: 2003

Winery: Tormaresca

Origin: Castel del Monte, Italy

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 44.99 (www.everythingwine.ca)

Il Bruciato, a Red Blend by Antinori

May 21, 2009

Il Bruciato is an italian expression for “the burned one”, which probably refers to its outstanding aromas of toasted oak barrel. A powerful blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah by famous Italian winery Antinori. This Bolgheri DOC wine brings a inca-whitetremendous nose with barnyard, almost poopy character, dark red fruit in compote, dancing over a framework of old furniture notes. The medium-plus body reveals high acidity which is balanced by an impressive array of flavors in which black berry predominates. The tannins are a bit rough but they don’t negate the overall satisfaction this broth can deliver. The finish is long, with tones of dark berries and a brushstroke of vegetal. Il Bruciato is one of those wines not to be missed.

Product: Il Bruciato

Variety: Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah

Vintage: 2006

Winery: Antinory

Origin: Bolgheri, Italy

Alcohol: 14.0%

Price: 34.99 (Everything Wine)