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2 Nov

Bressan in Friuli – The Wine, the Food, the Passion

16 Oct

Awesome! Lori and my visit to Bressan was one of the highlights of our research trip to Northern Italy. Fulvio Bressan, the winemaker is quite a character and his wife Jelena is his partner in their way of life, which is about making great wine and finding “balance”.

Fulvio is a man of many details and with reasons for what he does (for more on that, see companion blog Bressan in Friuli – “Ingredients” for Making Great Wine ”). He is passionate about life and winemaking, and lives life on his own terms. He is opinionated, but at the same time has logical reasons for his viewpoints. We personally agree with their philosophy which resonated with us during the visit. They don’t (won’t) provide wines for evaluation by the so-called “pros”. At times, Fulvio hasn’t allowed wine critics/writers to visit his winery and taste the wines. Fulvio said that the two wine evaluating groups in Italy are run by “mafias”, not to be believed or trusted.

Fulvio studied in France, Bordeaux, with the director of Margaux his mentor. He told Fulvio that he “must think like a vine” in order to make great wine. Fulvio also spent time in Burgundy and loves Pinot Noir. He says that 8 or more clones are needed to make good Pinot Noir – he uses 10. Napolean brought Pinot Noir to Friuli, so it’s been in Friuli a long time, not to be considered “international”.

Lori, Jelena, Mr. Pink, Fulvio

Fulvio will not sell his wine to those who want it for the wrong reasons, such as because it’s famous or because it’s the right price. In our opinion the Bressan wines are special and deserve appreciation. As Fulvio said, he makes wine the way he wants to, and if others like it, fine, if not, fine as well. Lori and I love it.

In the winery we had a spectacular barrel tasting of Pignola 1997, from acacia barrels, complex on the nose and the palate and very long. It’s still “young”, with significant tannins. Pignola is even harder to handle than Pinot Noir, but it’s a passion of his, the “Friulian Barolo”. Next was a Pignola from the same year but from a white cherry barrel. As Fulvio said, it’s “too arrogant”, with a little sweetness on the nose. Then he blended the two Pignola’s together in the glass and Voila!…even more wonderful than the first one. Wow!


Fulvio’s father appeared (in a hot pink shirt – see pic), and it was apparent where Fulvio’s passion comes from…..”he’s a philosopher”. Even without a language in common, the father was charming and expressive. He invited us to lunch and insisted that we choose whether to have fish or meat with the pasta. We chose fish…he went off to make lunch saying that everyone should be ready to drop everything and come to lunch when he called…which sort of happened. Lunch was outside under a canopy in a pleasant little area (see picture of Lori,

Lunch at Bressan

Jelena and Fulvio), with much food and a continuation of wine tasting (actually, drinking, since it was lunch).

The pasta with fish was fabulous, paired first with Carat 2006, a field blend of Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia, golden in color, since that’s the color of the grapes. Fuvio says the field blend gives a different result than blending wine from the grapes separately….blending causes a reaction that changes the taste. Carat is macerated with the skins to give it more flavor and body, which requires healthy grapes. This wine’s complexity and flavors evolved in the glass, hard to explain, as are all the Bressan wines we tasted. A plate of tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil and spices, and another plate of “pepperoni” (roasted orange peppers, also in oil and flavored) were simple and delicious as well. The father makes his own prosciutto (he was a butcher for 40 years), and

Two Prosciutto’s, Lori and Bressan Wine

he served two types, both tender and delicious ( in the picture with Lori and 2 Bressan’s).

The second wine with lunch was Pinot Noir 2006, which Fulvio makes because he loves Pinot Noir and wants to make it “the right way”. This is a Pinot to be experienced first-hand, unlike any we’ve had. The nose is mindful of Pinot Noir, yet has an earthiness and other magical qualities on the nose and in the mouth that, again, are difficult to explain. As Fulvio pointed out, this wine goes with all the foods.

Next was a peppery Schioppettino 2006 that paired wonderfully with desserts. We loved both a special bitter dark chocolate with grainy sugar and a dried sweet orange peel, from a friend in Sicily. Fulvio called the importer and gave us contact information for us to be able to get these products….stay tuned.

After lunch Fulvio took us back into the winery for one more wine, Moscato Rosa, a rare and hard to grow grape that we’d experienced in the Alto Adige for the first time as a dessert wine. Fulvio said that if one waits one day too long to pick, the vines fall down and the crop is lost….he did that one year and his father, who usually wants to pick before Fulvio chooses to, “broke his legs” for a year. This Moscato Rosa is dry, with elegant nuances of rose petals and orange peel. “One more thing” he said and he led us back into his wine bins and pulled out a dust covered 1997 Pignolo and a 2003 EGO Cab Franc/Schioppettino (50/50), Fulvio’s signature wine, which in fact he signed….looking forward to drinking them. What a great experience….we left having new friends (see “family pic”)!

For more on Bressan, go to     http://www.bressanwines.com/

Bressan in Friuli – “Ingredients” for Making Great Wine

16 Oct

The philosophy/approach to wine and life at Bressan (Friuli, Italy) includes always striving to make better wine. In principle, this is simple…grow good grapes and turn them into good wine. On the other hand, many details go into making great wine. During our visit to Bressan, Fulvio explained many things they do that not only are different from most wineries but also make a lot of sense. What follows is a few of the things we gleaned during our visit, for those of you who are interested in some of the arcane details of wine making.

The winery has been in the family for 300 years. Bressan has land in the Collio (“ponka” soil with calcium) where we visited, and other land with iron in the soil (”ferrettizzato”), which Fulvio says is good for red wine.

We walked among some Pinot Noir vines (see picture of Lori and Jelena between vine rows) and tasted the fruit….the seeds

Lori and Jelena in the Vineyard

were brown, indicating the grapes were almost ready to pick…the seeds shouldn’t taste green. They use both sensory and scientific means to decide when to pick the grapes.

As you can see, grass is not allowed to grow in the rows between the vines because after 4-5 years it becomes a carpet that absorbs water, keeping it near the surface. This would cause the roots to grow toward the surface, which would be dangerous to the vines in a dry year. The roots should be encouraged to grow deep into the ground. Also, Bressan trims the vines early before the grapes grow, so there’s no need to green harvest…”do it right the first time!” Also, the vines live longer if the harvest is kept small….it takes up to 25 years for a vine to produce good grapes, and their vines are up to 120 years old.

To protect the plants, they use natural types of sulphur and copper that only are on the surface of the leaves. In contrast, most wineries use systemic materials that are absorbed into the plant/vine, into their “blood”. Also, they do all the picking by hand, selecting the grapes to be used in the wine as they pick….”It’s stupid to divide it into two steps, picking and then selecting later.”

Their vines have only two branches, one with the grapes for the current year, which will be removed after the harvest and the second one for grapes the following year, with a new branch kept for the ensuing year. Every 5 years they put horse manure in the ground in the middle half way between the rows….it trickles slowly in either direction to fertilize the vines over time.

The ceiling in the winery is painted (by hand) with products from macerated grapes. Bressan uses only indigenous yeast, and the yeast in the paint on the ceiling promotes the generation of the desired. The painting is done by hand since spraying would kill the yeast.

They use stainless steel for fermentation, as wood breathes too much – in typical winemaking a dried barrel from a previous year will cause a reaction if used to make more wine. He feels barrels are a vehicle for oxidation, and uses a saline solution in new barrels to season them. He also uses glass lined cement containers instead of barrels for some of his wine. On the other hand, Fulvio believes wood barrels can be used to add/influence the taste in a wine. For instance, he uses a specific type of cherry barrel for his unusual Pignola wine, and uses acacia barrels mostly for white wine (acacia is used in making sauternes). Mulberry barrels are versatile, finding use in both red and white wines. Silk was once produced in Friuli, with Mulberry leaves the food, so barrels were plentiful. Not any more; Fulvio has barrels made especially for Bressan. The wood for the mulberry barrels is cut with an axe along the direction of the grain…cross-cutting with a saw would close the grain. Fabrication of the Stainless Steel tanks is with cold welding to eliminate possible effects from hot welded metal, and the feet of the tanks are insulated to prevent galvanic effects….talk about attention to detail! The result is great wines!

For more on Bressan, go to     http://www.bressanwines.com/

Manincor Wine Estate, Alto Adige, Italy

2 Oct

Our recent visit to Manincor was impressive, to say the least. (for more information, go to http://www.manincor.com/default_en.asp). The wines are clean and precise with a beautiful elegance and complexity, just like Michael, the owner and winemaker who spent 2.5 hours with us explaining his approach and philosophy. He strives to be in harmony with life, and does everything biodynamically and sustainably.

All the grapes are harvested by hand and the vineyards are managed with nature in mind. For instance, insects are encouraged to live in harmony in the vineyards. This is depicted by symbolic ants on one of the walls at the winery (see picture).

Their quest towards harmony has many aspects. For example, a tall cement/gravel wall (Michael could have sold for “good money”) next to his underground winery provides a thermal mass to help keep the rooms at the right temperature without using electricity. During dry weather, water is trickled down along the wall to increase humidity, again without using electricity. This is just one of the many ways Manincor is organized to make the most natural and efficient use of the environment.

Manincor also makes some of barrels for winemaking. They harvest oak from a forest they own, and make oak barrels. The picture shows both a trunk of oak as well as oak slats that are drying for later use to make barrels.

Manincor also purchased new unlined cement tanks to have a means of supplying oxygen to wines in a way similar to oak but without the wood. Although Michael uses oak in some of the wines, the cement tanks provide another tool to make wines precisely the way he wants. He can let wine evolve naturally, without the influences of wood on the taste.

Art is a part of their culture, and they support a local artist who uses recycled materials (see picture, with vines and the background)…reminding us of our local friend and artist Madi Lord.

At the end of our visit Michael poured us 14 Manincor wines, a real treat. Unlike most tastings, we liked all of the wines (brief notes here).

  1. Moscato Giallo (yellow) – floral & lovely (already at our store, Pairings Wine and Food)
  2. Riserve della Contessa –Pinot Binaco, Chardonay, Sauvignon Blanc – bright and delicious, already at Pairings
  3. Eichhorn Pinot Bianco – sunny green apple notes, with intense minerality and persistence
  4. Tannenberg Sauvignon Blanc – delicious, intense minerality, kiwi and kumquats
  5. Sophie Chardonnay with a hint of Viognier, SB, and Semillon (as seasonings), lovely nose with complexity; will age well; nice persistence; named after Michael’s wife.
  6. La Rose de Manincor – 6 red varietals – lovely in the mouth – delicious;
  7. Kalterersee Keil – strawberry, red cherry, almond notes, elegant – nice persistence
  8. Reserva del Conte Lagrein-Merlot-Cabernet– beautiful on the nose, fresh luscious red fruit; (at Pairings)
  9. Lagrein –powerful red and black fruit nose; full, black pepper, nice tannins
  10. Cassiano a blend of 5 reds; fragrant red fruit on the palate; hints of pepper; black fruit and minerality –elegant and layered – can age 6-10 years;
  11. Mason Pinot Nero  – pretty on the nose and in the mouth
  12. Mason di Mason 2009 Gran Cru (1 hectare) – only in some years – longer – pretty and full on the nose – fresh and long.
  13. Canstel Campa Merlot (hint of Petit Verdot and Cab Franc) –“dense”; beautiful full bodied black fruit on the nose; delicious, balanced, complex and long;
  14. Le Petit Manincor- Petit Manseng–late harvest, apricot notes – balanced sugar & acidity

Michael also made stellar restaurant recommendations. One was for lunch at Gretl Am See near the winery, which overlooks the same lake we saw from Manincor. The other was “Zur Rose”, where we had a nice dinner the next night.

Anna Maria Abbono

17 Sep

Our visit to Anna Maria Abbono was one of the many highlights of our research trip to Northern Italy. We’d met Anna a couple of years ago in the Boston area and brought several of her wines in to Pairings…her Barbera is our favorite in the store and her Dolcetto’s have been impressive as well.

Anna’s winery is located near Dogliani, in the Langhe area of Piedmont, on a dead end road up Imagehigh where the view is spectacular. It’s wonderfully quiet and the life is a balanced multi-culture. They grow hazelnuts and have geese and various vegetables. Anna is in the fourth generation of a small family winery and where they continue to develop new wines. Their small Imageproduction of 70,000 bottles includes 10 types of wines (see picture of Lori behind the wine bar) because they like to experiment. They’ve bought some property in the Barolo area, so in the future we can also drink Barolo from Anna.

The wines are grown sustainably, exceeding requirements for organic. For instance, their wines are very low in sulfates (a preservative in all wines), 40ppm where the organic requirement is being under 80ppm. This low level eliminates the headaches that Anna gets from many other wines. It was interesting to hear her talk about sulfites and how whites tend to need more than reds since the tannins, acidity and alcohol in reds are natural preservatives.

We started with a new line of white wines, which make sense because of the high altitude, large daily temperature changes and wind. One is Nechetta (yes, that’s the grape), which we never heard of before this trip and a Riesling, very unusual for the area…both fresh and nice….and they’re still experimenting with these wines.

Next was an unusual rose of Nebbiolo, lovely and fresh with big acidity and notes of strawberry rhubarb. The grapes are pressed and the skins immediately removed because of the tannins in Nebbiolo.  This rose was complex on the palate and long, and changed in the glass as we sipped.

San Bernardo is a special single vineyard Docetto that Anna makes only in the best years….awesome! The line-up of wines is excellent, but this was Ray’s favorite. Before leaving, Anna Maria gave us two bottles of this, one perhaps to drink during the trip…we’ll see. I hope you will have the chance to try this wine (at Pairings or elsewhere).

The 2007 and 2009 Dolcettos, the Barberas, the  Cado (this means gift) Langhe Rosso (Barbera and Nebbiolo),  and her Nebbiolos are impressive as well. Perhaps we should have a (blind?) tasting of her reds?


After going through the wines Anna brought out three cheeses and salamis for lunch and we continued the wonderful friendly visit with Anna and sipped some wine. We especially liked trying cheeses from very nearby. Bra, a hard cheese from the town of Bra a few kilometers away, a Morazano, like the Robiola due Latte we have in the store but firmer, and a Castelmano which was crumbly and assertive at the same time.  The graciousness and hospitality is definitely something we try to emulate in the store – great reasons to travel to learn about wine, foods, and how to live life.

Awesome Mourvedre!

31 Jul

We had an awesome pairing of 6 Mourvedre’s (see picture of part of the group) with a lamb, caramelized onion and blue cheese pizza (among other food pairings). For some reason hard to fathom, Mourvedre is not very Imagewidespread, but is truly impressive. Any of you who like powerful, dark (and even brooding) wines with dried plums, truffles, leather, etc. will love this wine. We started with 2011 rose from Chateau Pibarnon which was quite lovely, and full. Someone averred that with his eyes closed he might think it was a red. This is a rose that can age (we had a very fine 2005 recently). The next was a monastrell (the Spanish name for mouvedre) which, though inexpensive, got better and better over time and was deemed the best value. The rest of the wines are higher in price, and all were wonderful in their own way, evolving in the glass as we sipped them. The Pibarnon from Bandol is a classic, with great complexity and layering; the Tablas Creek (Paso Robles) started earthy and opened up wonderfully. The Boislauzon, an unusual Chateauneuf de Pape of 100% Mourvedre, was powerful and yet balanced. The L’Aventure is different from the others, more of a blend with oak treatment, and very powerful. The rest of this blog was prepared before the tasting, and is on Mourvedre and the wines tasted.

Information on Mourvedre

One of the most difficult wines to pronounce, Mourvèdre (moor-VED-ruh ). is native to Spain, where it is known as Monastrell, originally from the Spanish town of Murviedro, near Valencia. Even more confusing, when it first arrived in CA, it was known as Mataro.

Mourvèdre was brought to Provence in the late Middle Ages, where it was the dominant varietal prior to the phylloxera (similar to aphids) invasion at the end of the 19th century. The phylloxera invasion was particularly devastating to Mourvèdre. Whereas most of the other Rhône varietals were easily matched with compatible rootstocks, Mourvèdre proved difficult to graft with the existing phylloxera-resistant rootstock. Thus, when the vineyards were replanted, most producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape chose to replant with varieties that were easier to graft, such as Grenache. For decades, Mourvèdre was found almost exclusively in the sandy (and phylloxera-free) soil of Bandol, in Provence.

Compatible rootstocks for Mourvèdre were developed after World War II. Shortly thereafter, Jacques Perrin of Château de Beaucastel led regeneration efforts in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and made Mourvèdre a primary grape in the red Beaucastel wines. Chateau Boislauzon is one of the only CdP’s that are 100% Mourvedre. Château de Beaucastel was also instrumental in bringing Mourvedre to Paso Robles (along with other Rhone varietals).

Mourvèdre is a late-ripening varietal that flourishes with hot summer temperatures. In the vineyard, Mourvèdre is a moderately vigorous varietal that does not require a great deal of extra care. The vines tend to grow vertically, making Mourvèdre an ideal candidate for head-pruning (the method traditional to Châteauneuf-du-Pape), although vines can also be successfully trellised. When head-pruned, the weight of the ripening grapes pulls the vines down like the spokes of an umbrella, providing the ripening bunches with ideal sun exposure.

Wines made from Mourvèdre are intensely colored, rich and velvety with aromas of leather, game, and truffles. They tend to be high in alcohol and tannin when young, and are well-suited to aging. The animal, game-like flavors present in young Mourvèdres can be so strong that they are occasionally mistaken for the bacteria Brettanomyces. In a well-made Mourvèdre, these flavors should resolve into aromas of forest floor and leather with aging.

Chateau Pibarnon 2011 Rose, a blend of 65% Mourvèdre, 35% Cinsault. The production is mostly direct press (80%), with the remainder (20%) made by the saignée (“to bleed”) method.

Altos De La Hoya 2008, Monastrell, Jumilla, Sp Good power with surprising elegance and structure; Aroma – bright red fruit   Taste – fruit, black tea, soft tannins; Steven Tanzler 91

L’Aventure Estate Côte à Côte 2006

 40% Mourvèdre estate, 30% Grenache estate, 30% Syrah estate. 700 cases produced. Deep ruby and garnet circles describe the color, while explosive red fruit aromas and spice dominate the nose. Hints of ripe blueberries and black cherries, along with acacia and graphite add complexity to this polished wine. Full bodied with a very long finish. Cellar for 10 -12 years.   Parker 96 “Another superstar in the L’Aventure portfolio, it possesses an inky/purple color along with a sumptuous, sweet bouquet of roasted meats, blackberry liqueur, creme de cassis, licorice, and chocolate. Dense and full-bodied with fabulous intensity, opulence, and flesh, but no hard edges, it will provide immense pleasure over the next decade”.

Tablas Creek, 2005

This wine is composed of Mourvedre 90%, Syrah 10%, from Paso Robles, CA. A powerful nose with barnyard and truffles; smooth in the mouth, with plums, black fruit, leather and long length. Tablas Creek says: “a classic nose of roasted meats, plums and spice. Juicy and full in the mouth, it features lingering notes of plum, currant, coffee, chocolate and leather, with a long mineral finish”. Peak maturity now and over the next 3 years Steven Tanzler 91


Château de Pibarnon, 2005

About 95%  mourvèdre, the rest Grenache. Mourvedre ripens late and performs best in the warm Mediterranean climate of Bandol. At Pibarnon, to ensure perfect maturity, the grapes are often picked 10 days later than is customary in Bandol. The upshot is a wine that compares favorably with great names from the more prestigious vineyards in France. When young, Pibarnon Rouge displays a massive floral bouquet with black cherries and spices. The firm acidity of the Mourvèdre gives good definition and a solid foundation for long term development. With time the wine mellows, exhibiting a harmonious elegance and wonderful heady flavors of truffles, wet leaves and cinnamon. Wine Spectator 95

Chateau Boislauzon, 2006

The wine, the 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape Le Tintot, shows meaty bacon fat notes intermixed with blueberry, truffle, and fresh mushrooms. Dense, tannic, and long, it should age effortlessly for 20 or so years given the fact it is all Mourvedre. I am not so sure producing a 100% Mourvedre wine in Chateauneuf du Pape is going to be well-accepted in the marketplace, but it is a small cuvee and certainly impressively done. Robert Parker  92 -94 points.