Italian wine

Old Mar 6th, 2010, 05:16 PM
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Italian wine

Instead of getting my act together and making reservations for some of the sites for our two week trip to Italy, I am drinking a nice glass of red and mulling over the best way to make the most of our two week one on one time with Italian food and wine. My knowledge of Italian wine is a bit limited, but I am looking forward to changing that. DH does not drink (but does not mind at all being the designated driver till death do us part), so I will be mostly drinking by the glass. From some of the posts here, it looks like enotecas are common, so I think that will not be a problem. Any advice from you well-traveled oenophiles? Restaurants, enotecas, or particular wines that I should not miss? Any places with good tasting menus and wine pairings? I was hoping to visit some wineries, but that will have to wait for our next trip. We will be in Rome, Florence, and Venice. I favor old world style reds, but I am not at all set in my ways.
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Old Mar 6th, 2010, 07:28 PM
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Will you have a car? Are you planning to visit any of the wine towns/areas such as Montalcino, Montepulciano or Chianti.
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Old Mar 6th, 2010, 07:36 PM
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Opps. I see your DH is driving. I would stop in Montalcino for the Brunellos and Montepulciano for the Vino Nobile. I like Enoteca Osticcio in Montalcino. The views are fabulous and you can do Brunello flights. Order a bruschette sampler to go with it.
http://www.osticcio.com/
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Old Mar 6th, 2010, 08:13 PM
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I just realized my reference to a designated driver is very confusing. Sorry about that. We will not have a car on this trip. Day trips are a possibility, but we will spend most of our time in the cities I mentioned.
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Old Mar 6th, 2010, 08:35 PM
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B-R-U-N-E-L-L-O

Nuff said on that topic
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Old Mar 6th, 2010, 09:00 PM
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I agree that in Florence you should take advantage of the wonderfl selections of Brunello and Vino Nobile available. However when you are in Venice, try the wines from the Veneto/Friuli-Venenia Giulia region. If you like reds, the region offers wonderful Amarones and Valpolicellos as well as really nice Bardolinos. Even if you don't care for whites, try the region's specialty Ribolla Gialla, which I don't believe is available in the U.S.
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Old Mar 6th, 2010, 09:01 PM
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Nero D'Avola from Sicily is fabulous!It is on almost all of the Rome restaurants and wine bars that I visit everyweek.Decent bottle starts at about 15 euros at a restaurant.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 01:33 AM
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I much prefer Chianti to Brunello, but the real point is that best experience of Tuscan wine is as part of meal-eating, rather then visiting a winery or doing wine tasting. There are wine producers who have restaurants in Firenze -- Frescobaldi and Anitori jump to mind -- and the staff can be very knowledgeable.

David Downie has just published a guide to the Food and Wine of Rome that you should invest in. It's more about authentic Roman food than it is wine, but that is how it should be. I was just reading the other day (elsewhere) about a Roman restaurant on the Appian way, Ostaria Antica, which serves wine made at its own vinyards.

You say you favor "old world style reds," so bear in mind that Montalcino and Montepulciano owe their present fame as wine destianations to having altered the historic wines of the region to be more like French wines and California wines to appeal more to tourists and certain key wine critics.

One of the problems in Venice is the difficulty of finding of authentic local cuisine, in which it might make sense to drink traditional local wines, and the high mark ups on wine in the best Venetian restaurants. You might read up on bacari and cichetti as a way of getting closer to how Venetians have used wine historically.

You can spend a lot of money on wine tours and wine tasting and still miss the revelation of being in Italy and drinking Italian wine as accompaniment to Italian food. Everywhere you go, if you encounter English speaking staff and owners in restaurants, you should try to engage them on the subject of the local wine and how to order the best meal in the house with the wine best suited to the meal. In my experience of Italian restaurants, their is great professional pride in what they do, and they are pleased to share what they know with curious visitors.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 03:10 AM
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If you are going to Venice you could visit the Amarone centre ( journey but not far) where the wines just go on and on. Now its not calle the Amarone centre (well the wine is not called Amarone either but hey) so you may need to surf a bit
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 03:17 AM
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The Brunellos and Chiantis and Vini Nobili get a lot of attention due to the name/fame factor, but not everyone (myself included) is a fan of the Sangiovese grape, from which these 3 wines must be made.

Many wine makers in the area are now crafting excellent wines that are different blends of grapes, often called Super Tuscans (since they don't adhere to the Brunello/Chianti/Nobili blending rules). It's perfectly acceptable to have your own taste preference.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 03:19 AM
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Montalcino (Brunello) and Montepulciano (Vino nobile di) were famous as wine destinations long before some of the biggest producers were caught last year or the year before for using Merlot grapes in their Brunellos to get the "jammier" taste favored by some visitors and certain American wine critics. None of the small producers has ever used anything but 100% Sangiovese grapes. And the Supertuscans touted by those same critics a decade or more ago are as dead as the dodo bird now.

Except for a few high-end restaurants, Italian restaurants do not do "flights" and "pairings".

Brunello or Vino nobile di Montepulciano are fine to accompany a bistecca alla fiorentina (or the boar dishes of Tuscany). They would be overkill to accompany Roman or Venetian cooking, and no Italian in his right mind would think to do it.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 03:38 AM
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The New York Times just featured an article yesterday about a visit to a popular tourist destination winery in the val d'Orcia, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, that produces a mainstay "supertuscan", so the term persists but more importantly, so does the practice and so does the legacy of creating a touristic Tuscany modeled on French wine tourism.

"high-end" restuarant would not be my description of Frescobaldi in the historic center of Firenze, which serves meals fairly priced (in line with other restaurants in the center) and offers "flights" of wine, and has a knowledgeable staff.

http://tuscanytonight.com/Pages.php?...baldi-Wine-Bar

I don't think anybody was suggesting pairing red Tuscan wines with Roman and Venetian dishes, were they?
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 03:43 AM
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And here are a number places that are not "high end" restaurants where you can eat well and sample a variety of wines to go with your food.

http://italianfood.about.com/blrev.htm#fuorip
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 04:16 AM
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Frescobaldi is higher-end than most. I was referring to an earlier post in this thread that said only "Brunello" (in hyphenated all CAPs).

Sure, lots of not high-end places let you buy wine by the glass, and many places will suggest pairings if asked, but "tasting menus with wine pairings", as requested by the OP, are only found at the (very) high end.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 04:31 AM
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I think that the Brunellos are overrated for the price and they must be aged a long time. The Brunello Rosso a younger version and cheaper is very good especially with pasta. The Vino Nobile is excellent but still the sangiovese grosso grape but grown on different side of hills facing the sun different. The Chiantis are a combination of too many grapes for my taste. Try the delicious whites from Friuli...my personal favorites.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 04:51 AM
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Thanks for the clarification, zerlina.

It's hard for me to judge prices in the center, but in Frescobaldi I think you can avoid spending a fortune eating and drinking "flights". But I encourage the OP to check the posted menu. Cantinetta Antinori almost specializes in modest meals and wine by the glass, but again, check current practice.

I do agree that tracking down tasting menus with wine pairings in Italy's big cities will land you in the very high end restaurants. But perhaps the link I posted has some information on places to drink wine by the glass, benefitting from the advice of knowledgeable staff, where one can eat a full meal and not just cold snacks, as in an enoteca.

And I offer this recommendation from the Apicius school in Firenze:

Caffe' Italiano
Via Condotta # 56R
Phone #: 055 - 29 10 82
Small, old-style cafe'. Downstairs you can have espresso "Italian Style" (standing) and good small pastries and sandwiches. Upstairs, you sit down and may get wine by the glass (rare in Florence) and a selection of two pasta dishes and/or a dish of three different samples of vegetable casseroles. Good selection of homemade desserts. Magazines, books and newspapers available. One dish and a glass of wine are about 12-15 Euro.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 05:32 AM
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cornelius;

You mean Rosso di Montalcino, correct?
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 07:01 AM
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Speaking generally, you will be more likely to find enotecas in the smaller wine towns that have been mentioned, Montalcino and Montepulciano. The big cities do have wine bars, or at least I knoew that Florence and Rome do.

My comment on Frescobaldi is that we stopped by for drinks early one evening before dinner, and felt, for whatever reason that we never determined, quite unwelcome. When we entered through the restaurant and I said (in Italian) that we wanted drinks only, we were gestured toward the back. Once there (that area also has a separate entrace to the street), we were ignored for the few minutes that we stood there. As I recall, it was a small area, with few seats anyway (and none free for us). So we left.

In the Oltarno, we had drinks at Le Volpi e l’Uva,
Piazza dei Rossi 1, a quiet little piazza. I would think the owners there would be happy to discuss wine. They had some nice cheese and other plates, as well.
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Old Mar 7th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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Zeppole, I completely agree with you that the best wine experience is as as part of a meal.The best, more memorable meals I have had all had a good wine complementing good food. Since I do not know Italian wines that well, I will definitely be asking for advice on wine choices during our visit. I am happy to read here that most restaurant staff are likely to be helpful. One of the things I love about wine (besides just drinking it) is that I am always discovering new wines, vineyards, regions. Also, it is such a personal thing. It is interesting to hear what the wine critics have to say about a particular wine, but all that really matters is whether you like it or not.
Thanks to all for the information and advice. I am making a list of wines to try and places to go.
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