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Ask Sid: Determine by the Italian wine label whether hillside grapes are used in the wine?

October 9th, 2019
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Question: Can you determine by the wine label whether or not the grapes in an Italian wine come from a hillside site?

Answer: If only it was that easy. You can’t. However there are clues you should look for especially in Piedmont where you see those “top of the hill” indicative words like BRICCO (as in Barolo Bricco Boschis from Cavallotto), BRIC (as in Barolo Bric del Fiasc from Paulo Scavino) or SORI (plus a southern exposure as in Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo from Gaja).


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Bologna: Underrated Food Adventures

October 7th, 2019

bologna italy food wine restaurants travel

One of our favourite cities for a holiday is Bologna Italy. It is the most populated city of the Emilia-Romagna region (ahead of Parma & Modena) but much more. A lively rather small university town that is so perfect for covered walking with overhead protection from sun, rain, snow, wind and other weather elements. In fact there are some 40 kilometres of these unique porticos including the 666 arches of the invigorating uphill walk from the Cathedral of Bologna to the hillside Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca. Lots of historic sites and tourist attractions to keep you busy. However the main draw for us is the continual exploration of their still underrated but special food scene. Long known particularly for their salty salumi cured meats like mortadella and salami (including more coarsely ground sopressata) change is definitely coming. Pasta especially Tagliatelle with Bolognese meat sauce is still prominent and delicious but newer exciting menu ideas are emerging too.

Enjoyed an 11 night stay this September in Bologna and impressed again at the amazing quality of the restaurants and the still outstanding values for both meals and wines with top service included. Share a Top Ten of some highlights for you:

1. Traditional style places with bargain prices:

(a) Trattoria Anna Maria – Check out Tortellini en brodo but use the smallest worst wine glasses ever.
(b) Osteria Dell’Orso – Popular student hangout crowded for cheap pasta Bolognese.
(c) E’Cucina – Excellent for meat, fish or veg plus included water, vino, bread & coffee.
(d) Sfoglia Rina – Good Lasagne verde & Grimigna pasta with sausage at Community table.
(e) Tamburini – Right in downtown centre cool deli for lunch buffet with octopus salad.
(f) Pasta Naldi – via del Pratello 69 for freshly made pasta take away
(g) Pizza MozzaBello – via del Pratello 65 daily specials.

2. Places to be among the stylish crowds include the many food shops between Le Due Torri & Piazza Maggiore especially on Via Orefici & Via Pescherie Vecchie. Check out Eataly nearby.

3. Fico Eataly World – a newer Italian immense free agri-food supermarket/food fair on outskirts easily reached by Bus #7 for 7 euros return. There are processing factories, restaurants, markets, outdoor animals and lots to see and learn about but no one is there.

4. Great coffee – Caffe Terzi, Forno Brisa, and Forno e Risto Pallotti breakfast.

5. Outstanding gelato – Fav chocolate best ever at Cremeria Cavour, plus Santo Stefano, Galliera 49 (delicious intense nocciola), Il Gelatauro and of course Grom.

6. Market produce – Mercato Delle Erbe 25 via Ugo Bassi. Two useful lunch spots Banco 32 with posted website daily changing fish menu & Altro with change of pace fresh market cooked vegetables.

7. Super Grocery Store – PAM on via G. Marconi & Riva Di Reno.

8. Bologna is on major rail lines for day excursions to Modena, Parma (take bus 23 to last stop Parceggio Est and tour the Parmigiano Reggiano dairy followed by their tasty lunch at Caseificio Ugolotti), and Firenze – Must have world’s best Grand Cappuccino at Caffe Rosana, visit Mercato Centrale, wood fired pizza at Gustapizza, and two best gelato places of treasured Vivoli (best chocolate orange) and Neri (best passion fruit).

9. LA TRECCOLA via Mascarella 75. Newly opened but so impressed with quality ingredients and cooking talents plus ideas of Chef Di Matteo and Maitre d/Sommelier Paulo that we dined there for 2 dinners. Innovative Maltagliati pasta with pumpkin, Linguine with dried salted cod baccala, delicate light gnocchi, fresh fish, and their own home made digestif of limoncella, basil, or fav one rich chocolate. Smart wine buying too included remarkably fresh lovely bottle of 2018 Falanghina white from Puglia (not from the usual Campania region) for a steal at 17 euros and local Romagna Sangiovese red from Nicolucci for only 16 plus their excellent 2018 Tre Rocche Sangiovese Superior with some wood aging for 19. Wow! A place to monitor for deserved future recognition. Go now.

10. TRATTORIA VIA SERRA via Luigi Serra 9 (behind central Train Station). Outstanding lunch enticed us back for a dinner as well. A must as Chef Tommaso Maio & Manager Flavio Benassi are doing fantastic culinary adventures here. Wonderful dishes like salted cod with cauliflower, succulent stuffed thigh of guinea fowl, tortellone di ricotta with butter-sage, cylindrical shaped caciotta with fresh porcini mushrooms. Value 2016 Aglianico Campania for only 22.50 euros. Delightful charming service by Emmanuella. What a fantastic Trattoria!

Have you been to Bologna or do you have another food destination in Italy you would share?


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Ask Sid: What is Pignoletto?

October 2nd, 2019
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pignoletto wine italy region

Question: What is Pignoletto?

Answer: A grape variety grown mainly in central Italy around the Emilia-Romagna region. In the sub-area of the Bologna hills the Pignoletto Classico in 2011 received DOCG certification with tighter vineyard production restrictions. It is producing some increasingly popular less expensive white wine of the same name in several styles including still and frizzante. The herbal floral aromatics together with apple fresh acidity and a slightly bitter finish pair well with their seafood, pork dishes and pasta ragus.


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Top older Bordeaux vintages relative bargains drinking well at maturity

September 30th, 2019

The classified growths from Bordeaux of the 2016 & 2015 vintages are in the marketplace showing impressive quality and cellar worthiness. Tempting to buy. However the prices still remain very high and most of these wines will develop further complexity with patience for more time in bottle. For current use it is prudent to consider buying proven mature vintages of properties that are drinking well presently and are more reasonably priced than their current releases. Though proper storage can be an issue with bottle variation there are good finds available from a variety of sources that ship world wide including Benchmark Wine Group in Napa, JJ Buckley, K&L, Envoyer Fine Wines, Vins Rare and many more. All of this was brought into acute focus after two recent dinners featuring older Bordeaux wines.

Firstly on September 17 a horizontal of the 1989 vintage at 30 years of age. Always brilliant to start with exciting Krug bubbles though 1998 somewhat atypical finesse year with highest chardonnay at 45% (balance of red grapes pinot noir 35 & meunier 20). First flight started with a mystery wine of Vieux Chateau Certan showing iron-paper notes of Pomerol so different Right Bank terroir character from all the Left Bank that followed. Surprise was the dark young impressive Meyney solid St Estephe value even if slightly rustic compared with concentrated big needing time Montrose. Palmer is a buy that challenges 1983 for complex quality and so elegantly styled flowery perfumes on both bouquet and palate. Second flight found Pichon Lalande dark colour well balanced a winner over browning Baron and stellar cedar Pauillac bouquet of often underrated Mouton. Both P-L & Mouton made much better wine in 1989 over their 1990. Buy 1989. Third flight featured classy big always expensive Latour but your scribe left wanting more ripe plums and not as delicious for now as Palmer & P-L.

Secondly on September 23 a cellar treasures selection of Bordeaux from the eighties and nineties. Unusual order as unanimous WOTN was served first of all with again reliable vintage 1989 for outstanding no rush Lynch-Bages (much preferred over tannic 1986). Not such a bad idea as it gave you a high standard reference initially to compare all wines that followed plus the privilege of going back to it. Next perhaps the best drinking one currently was the fragrant intense Rausan-Segla 1990. Others all enjoyable currently too with unctuous full Clinet 1995 Pomerol, and dark drier slumbering Grand Puy Lacoste 1996. Next flight less dramatic but delicious supple mature Cantemerle 1983 (better than their 1982), surprising lovely subtle Pavie-Decesse 1982 under former J-P Valette management chalky limestone soil higher up the hill than Pavie, and easy simpler softer one dimensional Pichon Baron 1985.
Mature Bordeaux is unique to itself and can be a real joy to experience – especially with food! Consider using some of your wine budget to buy older readier now bottles to enjoy currently.


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Ask Sid: Wine grape & cheese with the same name both from Italy?

September 25th, 2019
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pecorino italy grape cheese

Question: Is there a wine grape and cheese in Italy both with the same name?

Answer: Yes indeed. That would be Pecorino! It is a white wine grape variety grown in the Eastern coastal regions of Italy. Pecorino is also the name of an Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk from the Italian word “pecora” meaning sheep.


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