20 Jan 2013

Not what you think (Avellino, Italy)

One of the many things I've learnt on my journey has been to not make assumptions about things, wine or otherwise, the best thing is not listen to white noise or demons and angels on shoulders. This is one major reason I prefer to ignore a lot of wine critics and marketing hype as they can tend to cloud my judgement and enjoyment of things, in essence by not reading ‘professional’ assessment of wines or wineries, nor by reading much on wineries’ websites. What I have preferred to do is to visit a winery and establish my own impression and feel for the philosophy, approach and practices and then determine what I feel is important and good about the winery whilst avoiding the negative and generally unimportant things. A perfect example of an assumption I made was about the region of Campania, which I didn’t have the chance to visit when I was here previously, simply passing through from Puglia on the way to Sicilia when I stopped for a night in Napoli before boarding the ferry to Palermo. Not unlike every other region in Italy Campania has it’s own wine history, traditions, grape varieties and styles which it is deservedly proud of, but I was very wrong in my generalisation of this region as being warm and Mediterranean like much of southern-Europe. In fact it has a more continental climate thanks to the elevations and weather patterns provided by the mountains so close to the coast. On the only occasion that I had to visit wineries in Campania I chose to do so in Avellino which according to Jacopo Cossater is where some of the best white wines of the south come from, and I met with the two largest and most important representatives of the entire Campania region; Feudi di San Gregorio and Mastroberardino.

A model of the only thing to survive the 1980 earthquake in a nearby village, the abbey

15 Jan 2013

Polarising (Umbria, Italy - Day Three)

I have had the pleasure of meeting a great many people who work in wine over the course of my journey who have all imparted wisdom to me, and I hope that I have given some small amount in return as this is the essence of wine communication, that in travels in two directions. Most of the people have been hosts at wineries that I have visited, but a few of them I either met also visiting wineries or simply in unconnected situations, like a woman who consults business strategy and communication to small wineries in Italy whilst having lunch in Beaune, France. Someone I met whilst in Sicily was a wine journalist and blogger originally from Verona but now living with his recently married wife in Perugia. At the time he was making a much smaller version of my own journey in the south of Italy, including Campania, Calabria, Molise and Abruzzo. His name is Jacopo Cossater and he not only contributes to the most important wine magazine in Italy and the most visited wine website in Italy, but he also regularly writes on his own site enoicheillusioni. We met whilst visiting one of my favourite winemakers in Italy, Arianna Occhipinti, and shared some discussions over several meals whilst in Sicily. I was thrilled to catch up over dinner with Jacopo and his lovely wife Laura with my parents when we visited Perugia, and even more so when he invited me to visit a few of his favourite producers around Perugia in Montefalco and Spoleto. Regretfully I forgot to bring my camera so the images in this post have been taken with many thanks from the websites of the producers in question.

Vines are only outnumbered by olive trees here

10 Jan 2013

Continuing traditions (Soave, Italy)

Due to a few inconveniences both good and bad I lost at least seven days of potential visits whilst I was in Italy. Some of these interruptions were for holidays, including Easter which I spent with wonderful family friends in Milano, and who my parents and I also spent Christmas with last week. Other inconveniences were due either to the inability to find wineries thanks to inaccurate directions or addresses, or to wineries not replying to my emails. A final inconvenience was Vinitaly held in Verona, which was a fascinating insight into the world of trade shows but not a particularly good way to learn about wines and regions as not only are you simply tasting wines in a convention centre but the hosts are also extremely distracted with countless other things and therefore not able to give the best introduction to their winery. Whilst I was in Verona I did manage to visit a few producers in Valpolicella which is to the north of the city extending from the east to the west, but there are a number of other areas in Veneto that were left unexplored, including the highest volume DOCG, Prosecco. I had the chance to join a group from Australia for dinner in Verona at the invitation of their Soave producer, and being familiar with their quality I was thrilled to have the chance to take my parents there on my return.

The castle sits overlooking the village of Soave