Italian wine

Wine Discoveries: Summer Wine Bargains from Italy, France & Uruguay

Planet Wine Shop, my local wine go to in Alexandria, had a great tasting for their usual Wine Wednesday…Summer Wine Bargains. I don’t know about you but I tend to go through more wine  in the summer (it’s hot and I love sitting on the balcony at sunset), so it helps to discover great wines under $15.

Wednesday’s tasting included Italy, France and Uruguay.

  • Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2010, Dolomoti, Italy, $14: nice crisp northern Italian
  • Domaine de Laxé Côtes de Gascogne Blanc 2011, Côtes de Gascogne, France, $12
  • Vignerons de Buxy Buissonier Rosé 2011, Burgundy, France, $15: big cranberry and red currant flavors
  • Domaine Laurent Gauthier Chatenay 2007, Chiroubles, France, $12: from very old vines, big pepper notes
  • Bodegas Carrau Tannat de Reserva 2010, Los Violetas, Uruguay, $15

My two surprise favorites from the tasting were…

Domaine de Laxé Côtes de Gascogne Blanc 2011

  • Variety: 60% Colombard, 40% Ugni Blanc from France
  • Aroma: Bright citrus
  • Taste: Refreshing acidity with hints of exotic fruit
  • Price: $12
  • My thoughts: Very interesting wine coming from extreme southwest France. Ugni Blanc is one of the grapes used to make Cognac and I don’t see it in wine a lot. The combination of grapes made a nice unique discovery. Perfect for the summer heat.

Bodegas Carrau Tannat de Reserva 2010

  • Variety: 100% Tannat from Uruguay
  • Aroma: Red fruit and spice
  • Taste: Vanilla and caramel
  • Price: $15
  • My thoughts: I haven’t tried many wines from Uruguay but this one is fantastic. I’ve also tried a few bad Tannat wines so it was a pleasure to taste this one. Tannat is originally a southern France variety and makes a very tannic wine. Made in Uruguay, it is lighter in body but full of flavor. The Carrau family wine business started in Spain in 1752 and added Uruguay in the 1930s. Nice red wine for when it’s slightly cooler, say low 80s. I’d like to try some more of their wines too.

Cheers to summer wine bargain discoveries

Fancy Food Show Wine Discoveries: Italy

The last wine discovery from this year’s Fancy Food Show in DC was an Italian gem in Puglia, Tenute Girolamo. They were the perfect find as I was hosting #Winechat the following evening on Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot and one of my favorite wine regions.

Tenute Girolamo is located in the Valle d’Itria between the villages of Martina Franca, Locorotondo, Cisternino and near Alberobello. The Girolamo family has 50 acres cultivated at high density (12.300 vines per acre) which give more than 600,000 bottles of wine per year. They make four IGT (typical geographic indication Italian wine classification) wines…Pétroma, Pétrakos, Iérai Pétrai and Capo di Gallo.

I met Inge Host with AZAA representing them at the show and tasted 3 lovely wines from the Capo di Gallo label. Unfortunately they are not yet distributed in the U.S. but can be found in Europe.

Their website describes Capo di Gallo as “a precious wine which has the excellent qualities of the Puglia wines you can purchase for a good price. Capo di Gallo is done with a selection of Primitivo’s grapes together with other vines of our vine land, but the peculiar taste is given by the 6 months spent in barrels. This wine is deep red colored and the flavor is sweet and complex which perfectly matches the fruit aftertaste.”

The wines we tasted…

  • Tenute Girolamo Capo di Gallo Fiano: Fiano is a classic white found in the region. The wine is straw yellow in color with an herbal & floral nose plus honey on the palate.
  • Tenute Girolamo Capo di Gallo Negroamaro: Negroamaro is one of the two classic red grapes from the region. This wine is full of cherry, leather and pepper.

and my favorite…

Tenute Girolamo Capo di Gallo Primitivo

  • Grape Variety: Primitivo
  • Aroma: Sweet berry and tobacco
  • Taste: Medium bodied soft fruity berry jam flavors with nice spice and tobacco notes
  • Thoughts: Primitivo is the native king of Puglia grapes. This wine, like most, is an intense violet color. It’s a great example of a Primitivo wine!

For more on Puglia wines, visit my #Winechat recap. And here’s a photo from Tenute Girolamo’s website that truly captures the beautiful Valle d’Itria wine country.

Saluté to Italian wine discoveries thanks to the Fancy Food Show!


Fancy Food Show Wine Discoveries: Italy

I made some great wine discoveries from Greece and Italy at the DC Fancy Food Show. The first Italian discovery was Tenuta i Fauri from the Abruzzo region.

This winery is in the Chieti province in Abruzzo’s center. Their thirty-five hectares of vineyards sit among hills that drop to the sea. Photos on their site are gorgeous and their wines were very tasty!

Valentina Di Camillo, her family’s winery started by her father Domenico Di Camillo, was tasting in the Italia section of the show. They have 12 wines in their portfolio, available in Europe and in the U.S. (CA, MA and new to NY).

Our tasting included the following 4 wines, all made with the region’s signature grape…

  • Alba Rosa, Rosato IGT Colline Teatine: This rosé is a blend of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes creating a lovely wine with black currant and strawberry.
  • Ottobre Rosso, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC: The lightest body of the reds had nice caramel and cherry notes. After 8-10 days maceration, the wine then spends 12 months in stainless steel tanks.
  • Santa Cecilia 2009, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC: This wine is 85% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and 15% Sangiovese creating a more elegant wine with cherry, vanilla and cocoa hints.

and my favorite was their…

Rosso dei Fauri 2007, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC

    • Grape Variety: 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
    • Aroma: Violet and cherry
    • Taste: BIG cherry, violet, licorice & dark chocolate notes
    • Thoughts: This is a lovely BIG wine! 2007 was a very bright and sunny season. You can taste it in the bold cherry notes. It was also very interesting the way the body of each red wine and the intensity of flavor increased from the Ottobre Ross (12 months in stainless) to the Rosso die Fauri (aged 36 months before bottling).

Saluté to new Italian wine discoveries!

Puglia, Italy on #Winechat

On last night’s Twitter #Winechat (join each Wednesday at 9pm ET), I guest hosted with a focus on Puglia. The heel of Italy’s boot is a very interesting wine region, one I discovered last summer on our week long visit. Following are the wines I opened for last night’s wine chat, facts and details I shared on Puglia as a wine region and many wines, and lastly links to more articles I’ve written about Puglia!

Enjoy and thank you to everyone who joined last night (#winechat was trending but the end)! For more details on #Winechat, visit host Life of Vines. I look forward to hosting again soon.


  • Tenute Girolamo Capo di Gallo Fiano is straw yellow color, herbal & floral nose + honey on the palate. Tenute Girolamo is a winery I discovered at the Fancy Food Show in DC this week. They are not yet distributed in the U.S. but are in Europe.
  • Tenute Girolamo Capo di Gallo Negroamaro is cherry + leather + pepper!
  • Tenute Girolamo Capo di Gallo Primitivo is classic berry + tobacco.
  • Tenute Rubino Saturnino Rosato Negroamaro ’10 gorgeous pink 100% Negroamaro, scent raspberry & violet; round,crisp. My favorite wine from my trip to Puglia last year. This wine won the gold medal at Consours Mondial de Bruxelles international wine competition in May 2011 in Luxembourg. Rosé, as the head of Tenute Rubino Luigi Rubino says, is an ancient cultural tradition in the Salento region of Pugli
  • Tormaresca Neprica named for the 3 grape combination 40% Negroamaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon was more a sweet sour cherry with hints of vanilla.


  • Puglia (also known as Apulia) is located in southeast Italy the heel of Italy’s boot. Today Puglia is largest producer of wine in Italy. (some dispute on this fact last night so I’m looking into)
  • Puglia wine dates back to Phoenician times. Greeks named it ‘Enotria‘, Wineland.
  • Often called ‘the wine cellar of Europe’, for ‘plonk’ (or bad wine), as it used to send most of its production to rest the of Italy/Europe for blending.
  • Last decade seen great changes as wineries realized making/bottling quality wine for sale could be more profitable in the long run.
  • Red wine is king here (rosso) but you’ll find white (bianco) & rosé (rosato). Rosato was my biggest surprise & some great ones!
  • Climate is very warm & sun extremely strong so grapes produce a wine high in sugar thus strong in flavor and high in alcohol. Benefit from the cooling winds that blow off the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
  • Grapes are grown in 3 ways: pergola (overhead canopy which I saw most often), bushes & cordon-trained (traditional vines on lines).
  • The vineyard yields are quite high, about four to five times that of other regions.


  • Wines are DOCG (controlled guaranteed denomination of origin), DOC, IGT (typical geographic indication), Vini da Tavola(table wine) in Italy.
  • Classifications growing in Puglia…now 4 DOCG, 29 DOC, 6 IGT. Salice Salento most famous (DOC) w/ highest concentration of quality wines.
  • Salento reds are mostly Negroamaro grape & wines from this region can only use local grapes, whites mostly Malvasia Bianca.
  • Other well known DOC: Castel del Monte (Nero di Troia main grape), Brindisi (Negroamaro), Manduria & Gioia del Colle (Primitivo).
  • My fav region visited was Valle d’Itria IGT, heartland of whites, & beautiful towns like Locorotondo (city of white wine), Alberobello and Ostuni.
  • Here’s an interactive map of Puglia wine regions from @MTVinoPuglia.
  • Six total IGT designations include Puglia, Daunia, Murgia, Valle d’Itria, Tarantino and Salento.


  • Primitivo is native king of Puglia grapes. Name comes fr its early ripening. Identical to California’s Zinfandel (which comes from Croatia), its heavily exported for its structure.
  • Primitivo is intense violet color wine w/ strong fruity scents (cherries in liqueur, berry jams), spicy notes, sweet tobacco.
  • Negroamaro is other native red. Means ‘bitter black’ makes strong wine w/ minimum 13% alcohol & no less than 2 years of aging.
  • Negroamaro wine is dark red in color w/ scent of cherry, leather & pepper & taste that’s warm & powerful.
  • Other reds: Nero di Troia (Uva di Troia brought by Greeks 2k yrs ago), Aleatico di Apulia (sweet dessert wine), Malvasia Nera, Aleatico di Apulia (used for sweet dessert wine), Montepulciano and Cabernet grapes.
  • For whites native Bombino Bianco (also comes in red, Bombino Nero) is crisp and fresh, golden in color with a scent of ripe fruits.
  • Other whites: Malvasia Bianca (elegant balanced w/ scent of iris, pineapple, vanilla), Fiano, Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, Greco, Charddonay and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Here’s an overview of all the grape varieties.


  • Wineries combo of small farmers Cantina del Locorotondo (coop of 700 farmers) & big ones like Leone de Castris & Tenute Rubino.
  • Cantina del Locorotondo is a 700 farmer coop…makes 18 wines, 3 sparkling, 1 grappa, 1M bottles/yr. It’s just outside town of same name, the City of White Wine. The Cantina Sociale of Locortondo was formed by a group of farmers back in 1930, the first of its kind in Puglia, to promote their wines. Their great work was rewarded in 1969 when Locorotondo was made a DOC. Met Oronzo Mastro.
  • Cantina del Locorotondo: We had a great visit to the Cantina and tasted 10 of their 21 wines. We brought home a bottle of two favorites, Cummerse Rosé (100% Pinot Nero IGT Puglia, crisp, refreshing and a light fruit taste) and Casale San Giorgio (Negroamaro and Primitivo IGT Puglia, a nice round and curvy red). Although we didn’t try Locorotondo’s specialty sparkling, we brought home a bottle of Locorotondo DOC PrimoSecco (60% Verdeca, 35% Biaco d’Alessano, 5% Fiano).
  • Leone de Castris near Lecce one of most award winning wineries in Pugla, in biz since 1665 started bottling in 1925.
  • Love Leone de Castris Salice Salento Riserva Red DOC ’07, 90% Negroamaro 10% Malvasia Nera, smooth blackberry, cherry, spice.
  • Tenute Rubino does Negroamaro, Primitivo, White & Black Malvasia, unique Susumaniello, I also liked Giancola (White Malvasia).


  • Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, first captured my attention several years ago when I saw pictures of Alberobello‘s fairytale-like trulli, white houses with conical roofs, on the cover of Italia!
  • Puglia is a region of rural farming and as the land between two seas, the Ionian to the west and Adriatic to the east, its lined with coasts of beaches and cliffs. Its history dates back 8,000 years. The first settlers of note were the Greeks who settled here in 750BC…their influence can be seen across the region. At times you feel like you’re in small Greek villages. The Romans built the Apian Way in 190BC running from Brindisi (one of the two big ‘cities’ of the region) to Rome making Puglia the gateway to the East. Today Brindisi still serves a major ferry terminal to Greece.
  • The Valle d’Itria‘s (Itria Valley) rolling green landscape chalked full of fairytale-like trulli and pergola style vineyards is home to three of the unique towns we visited this trip. Home to Alberobello, Ostuni (white city because of its white washed architecture), Locorotondo\
  • Locorotondo, located in the center of the Valle d’Itria, is the cutest little white washed town sitting on top of the hill and is designated ‘burgh più belli d’Italia,’ one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Its also known as the’ city of white wine,’ cite del vino bianco, so we had to visit! Records have wine mentioned dating back to 1195.
  • Trulli (singular trull) The limestone buildings date back to the Middle Ages and served as peasant homes. The conical roof which makes them famous is made of grey stones called chiancarelle. With few windows and a round base, they stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The name Trulli comes from the Greek word ‘tholos’ which means dome although Trullo, the singular version of the word, means silly in Italian. icon_smile.gif   You’ll see many roofs painted with symbols which is said to keep evil spirits away.
  • We stayed at the lovely Masseria Torre Coccaro. Masseria are old fortified farmhouses of Puglia… many have been turned into bed and breakfasts or to five star hotels like this one.

For more on Puglia, here’s my series of articles…

Puglia: Exploring the Heel of Italy’s Boot

Puglia: Exploring the Unique Towns, Part 1

Puglia: Locorotondo, the City of White Wine

Puglia: Exploring the Unique Towns, Part 2

Puglia: Itay’s Largest Wine Producer

Puglia Cuisine: Home of Orecchiette Pasta and Burrata Cheese

Puglia: The Rosé Had Me at First Sip!

Puglia: Masseria Torre Coccaro, Our Home Away from Home 

Summer’s Last Rosés: Cantina del Locorotondo Cummerse


Tonight’s #Winechat Wines are Open!

I’m guesting hosting #Winechat tonight on Twitter at 9pmET. We’re sipping and discussing Puglia, Italy. Here are the five bottles I have for the evening to compare and contrast.

  • 3 wines from Tenute Girolamo not yet in U.S. …Capo di Gallo Fiano, Negroamaro & Primitivo
  • Tenute Rubino Saturnino Rosato Negroamaro 2010
  • Tormaresca Neprica
Tomorrow I’ll share more details on the wines AND all the details from the Twitter chat.