Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Brief of History of Pizza

Pizza is one of the most popular dishes in the world and comes in many forms. For example, one could find pizza with pineapple, French fries, würstel or bacon. The globalization of pizza has caused a homogenization and standardization of the production process, which has changed a lot during the last few decades. The industrialization of pizza has also led to the loss of knowledge about traditional pizza making. Therefore, there is the urgent need to safeguard the technique and skills of the Pizzaiuolo internationally. In this regard, the intervention of UNESCO is fundamental to preserve this ancient tradition. 


THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM "PIZZA"

The origin of the term “pizza” is debateable. It may derive from the Greek word “plax”, indicating a flat or flattened surface. Some scholars argue that it derives from the Latin verb “pinsere”, meaning to crush or grind. Indeed, during Roman times, the bakers were called Pistores ("Pasta and Pizza", La Cecla, 2007).

Modern pizza, which featured tomatoes, was born in Naples in the 18th century and, at that time, there were two main types of pizza: Margherita and Marinara. The former is made mozzarella, basil and tomatoes; the latter with garlic, oregano and tomatoes. 

Pizza used to be eaten by poor people on the streets during weekdays. At that time, it was not well seen by the middle classes and by those coming from outside of Naples ("Pizza: A Global History". Helstoski, 2008).

Pizza Margherita

Photo by the author taken at "Napoli on the Road" pizza truck in London


FAMOUS PIZZA CITATIONS

The Tuscan writer Carlo Collodi, famous for his book The Adventures of Pinocchio, described pizza in the following way: “The blackened aspect of the toasted crust, the whitish sheen of garlic and anchovy, the greenish yellow tint of the oil and fried herbs, and the bits of red from the tomato here and there give pizza the appearance of complicated filth that matches the dirt of the vendor” (cited in Helstoski). 

In 1831, Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, defined pizza as“a species of most nauseating cake covered over with slices of pomodoro or tomatoes, and sprinkled with little fish and black pepper and I know not what ingredients” (cited in Helstoski). In fact, in its infancy, pizza was a sort of popular “fast-food”.

PIZZA A OTTO

This is confirmed by the fact that in Naples there was the “pizza a otto” customary system, which allowed people who could not afford to pay for pizza immediately to reimburse the merchant eight days later. The first pizza kitchens were created between the late 17th and early 18th century in Naples. They were places were “the dough was worked and cooked and passers-by could buy a pizza” (La Cecla).

THE FIRST PIZZERIAS AND PIZZA MARGHERITA

One of the first pizzerias was “Zi Ciccio”, which dates back to 1727. Other famous historic pizzerias of Naples include Capasso, Port’Alba, Da Pietro, Ntuono, Da Michele and Sorbillo.

By the end of the 19th century, pizza became popular also among aristocrats. One of the most influential pizza enthusiasts was the Queen Margherita of Savoy. According to some accounts, the Queen visited Naples in 1889 and Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Raffaele Esposito was asked to prepare three different kinds of pizza. The Queen chose the pizza topped with tomato, basil and mozzarella as her favourite. This particular pizza, soon to become known as “Pizza Margherita”, represented Italy quite well, as the colors of the ingredients (green, white and red), were the same of the Italian flag.

The origins of the “Pizza Marinara”, on the other hand, are humble. According to legend, hungry Neapolitan Marinari (i.e. sailors) ate for breakfast a type of pizza that eventually took their name.

Pizza Marinara

Photo by the autor taken at "Napoli on the Road" pizza truck in London


PIZZA AND EMIGRATION

During the course of the 20th century, Italian migration led to the spread of pizza worldwide, especially to North America (e.g. in Montreal, as shown in the video at the end of this post!). 

Given the simplicity of this dish, Italian migrants could easily replicate it in foreign countries introducing new ingredients and adding new flavours. 

In the United States, pizza became a very popular fast food. Many pizza outlets gained success in the second half of the century and pizza quickly became a global and cosmopolitan dish, no longer synonymous with Neapolitan food and culture. In fact, it adapted to the cultures where it was introduced. 

THE GLOBALIZATION OF PIZZA

Pizza quickly became a ready-to eat meal as frozen pizzas allowed consumers to prepare it quickly and enjoy it at home. So, the preparation and consumption of pizza has changed dramatically in the last century. 

Many pizzerias now make use of electric oven, instead of wood-fired oven, also due to legal restrictions that forbid the construction of new wood-fired ovens. Also, consumers often eat pizza far away from the place of production. In the last few decades, however, there have been several efforts to promote and safeguard traditional Neapolitan pizza.

PROTECTION OF THE NEAPOLITAN PIZZA

In 1984, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) was created with the purpose of promoting and preserving the traditional way of making pizza, which involves artisanal work by the Pizzaioulo and the use of wood-fired oven. This association created a disciplinary that sets rules on how the traditional Neapolitan pizza is made and asked for its legal protection from the European Union (EU).

In 2009, Neapolitan pizza became a TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) product according to the PGS (Protected Geographical Status) framework adopted by the EU law to protect traditional food products. 

In 2011, another association named Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani lobbied the Italian ministry of agricultural, food and forestry policies to have “The Traditional Art of Naples’s Pizzaiuoli” in the UNESCO’s representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity to raise awareness about this ancient tradition worldwide.

On December 7th, as we have seen in the previous post, the traditional art of the Neapolitan pizzaiuolo has been finally included in the list, also thanks to campaign #pizzaunesco.



P.S. A few years ago I have had the chance of interviewing a pizziauolo who came from the province of Avellino (Italy) to Montreal (Canada) after World War II. From his insight, we can understand the way he adapted the Neapolitan tradition to the local culture to develop a successful business.





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Friday, December 8, 2017

From History to Heritage: The Art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Becomes UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage

Yesterday the art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo has become recognized as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage in the latest meeting of the organization in Jeju, South Korea. After years of being left on a waiting list, this candidature has finally become accepted after a long and seemingly never ending process, which saw also the participation of a worldwide petition (#pizzaunesco) that has obtained two million signatures: a noteworthy achievement. I have been researching on the topic of pizza as Unesco's heritage since 2014, for my thesis of Master at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, which I then presented at an international conference on food heritage at an international conference at the Sorbonne University of Paris in 2015. 

Let's have a look at what happened historically with the candidature from the missed opportunity in 2011 to the official recognition and victory in 2017.  

#PizzaUnesco and Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Davide Civitiello in London




#PizzaUnesco in London


THE CANDIDATURE


In 2011, Italy’s decision to include “The Traditional Art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli” in the list of candidates for UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage was featured in newspapers such as the British “The Guardian” and the Canadian “The Globe and Mail”. Coldiretti, the most important Italian association representing Italian farmers, supported the application and noted that the traditional way of making Neapolitan pizza was in risk of extinction and that many pizzerias in Italy made use of imported cheap ingredients from China (Kington, 2011).


The Italian ministry of agriculture Giancarlo Galan was in favour of the candidature and asked for more collaboration from the Neapolitan authorities. He noted that the tourism department and the municipality of Naples did not reply to the various requests made by the ministry of agriculture to prepare the candidature for Neapolitan pizza making. So, he was deeply disappointed by the lack of administrative support at the local level (“Galan: ‘Pizza nel Patrimonio UNESCO, ma Comune e Provincia Assenti’”, 2010).


The Italian ministry of tourism Michela Brambilla stressed the importance of preserving the tradition: “To propose a candidature to UNESCO means identifying a symbol in which all Italians identify. Surely this is the case of Pizza, not the same can be said about the Palio di Siena”(Torriani, 2012, own translation).

The traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli seemed like the ideal candidature, although there was some scepticism because the Mediterranean diet had just been inscribed in the ICH list.

The candidature focused on the figure of the Pizzaioulo: his work by hand, the longlasting rising of the dough, the use of wood-fired oven and the use of natural yeast, without use of chemical agents. The major association that supported the candidature was the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, whose aim is to protect the figure of the Pizzaiuolo internationally.


The president of the association, Sergio Miccù, said that the inscription of “The Traditional Art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli” would have raised the visibility of traditional pizza making internationally and favoured the development of tourism in Naples. He also observed that we live in a world where everything can be copied and it is all highly mechanized. Pizza, which was born as a popular fast- food, was easily imitated in the various countries of the world where it was introduced. So pizzas today often have very little to do with the Neapolitan tradition (Miccù, S. personal communication, February 10, 2014).

Given that traditional Neapolitan pizzamaking can only done by hand, it should be considered an art, which has been passed down from one generation to the next. Furthermore, Miccù noted that pizza represents a very important part of Neapolitan culture and identity: “Quando dici Napoli, dici Pizza. Quando dici Pizza, dici Napoli (When you say Naples, you say Pizza. When you say Pizza, you say Naples)”. In fact, Neapolitans eat pizza very frequently and consider it the most representative dish of the city.

The community of Neapolitans was deeply disappointed by the decision of the Italian Commission for UNESCO to choose Cremona’s traditional violin craftsmanship instead of the traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli in 2011, also given the international popularity of pizza. Rosario Lopa, president of the committee for the protection, promotion and valorization of Neapolitan pizza said: “A vital opportunity for the development and valorization of the gastronomy was lost, both for the image of the city and for new occupational opportunities” (Torriani, 2012, own translation). In another interview, he also noted that Neapolitan associations and institutions did not cooperate well in the making of the proposal. Indeed, there were divisions and disagreements within the community of Neapolitans involved in the UNESCO candidature (“Pizza Patrimonio dell’Umanita’: L’UNESCO dice ‘No’”, 2012).

#PIZZAUNESCO

As I explained during my presentation at pizza chain RossoPomodoro in London during the #PizzaUnesco tour in 2015, recognizing this tradition can help preserve this ancient tradition, which could disappear due to the expansion of global, mass-produced and cheap pizza. Also, Unesco's safeguarding can ensure that the traditional art is promoted around the world and that the figure of the Pizzaiuolo gains international reputation.

#PizzaUnesco Tour in London in 2015


The international petition to have the traditional art of Neapolitan pizzaiuolo being recognized by UNESCO has achieved notoriety thanks to the hard work put by the Fondazione Univerde (led by Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio), Coldiretti (Italy's largest farmers' association), the associations of pizza makers and the many pizza ambassadors around the world that have supported the application. It was definitely a crucial development that has significantly helped to have the candidature being finally recognized at the Jeju Meeting of 2017.


Myself at Coldiretti Stand for the #PizzaUnesco Petition in 2015

CONSIDERATIONS ON GASTRONOMIC HERITAGE

The addition of gastronomy to the UNESCO's intangible culture heritage list list can be seen both as a positive development and a problematic one. The fact that since 2010 there have been an increasing number of culinary practices recognized by the UNESCO is clearly a good step towards safeguarding gastronomic heritage. However, commercial interests should not override the purpose of the convention, which is safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.

The traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli is a gastronomic tradition that represents intangible cultural heritage has been righlty included in the representative list of ICH of humanity. Instead, vague and broadly defined food practices should not be included because they merely reflect the political and economic interests of the countries, but they do not have special symbolic and cultural meaning for the communities to which they are associated.

CONCLUSION


The inscription of a gastronomic tradition in UNESCO’s representative list fosters economic development, so it is not surprising that there is a lot of lobbying involved in the nomination of food traditions. However, there should be a greater focus on the cultural importance given to the gastronomic traditions by the local communities. By setting clear criteria for enlisting food traditions and empowering the local communities, UNESCO can make major improvements in the way gastronomic heritage is identified and protected.

The fact that the traditional art of the Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo, which so much represents the identity and culture of Naples and is an important part of the Italian cultural heritage, has been included in the UNESCO list is an crucial step in the right direction. Our hope is that this cultural recognition will not used for merely making profits by large chains and putting UNESCO logos outside pizzerias, but rather defend, promote and preserve this cultural tradition, which is in risk of extinction due to the popularity and development worlwide of fast-food pizza chains.

To read about the inscription of the traditional art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo into the ICH list check out UNESCO's website.

P.S. In the following post I will have a look in depth at the history of pizza. So, stay tuned!

#pizzaunesco

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Volcanic Interview #5: Eva Cartwright

Eva Cartwright, importer of Hungarian wines in UK and owner of the Somlo wine shop, tells us about her #govolcanic project, Hungarian wines and the potential of the volcanic wines business. 

 

When did you become interested in volcanic wines?


I was born and raised in one of the most characteristic volcanic wine regions of Hungary, Somlo. I have a wineshop/winebar here. Having had the honour to be John Szabo MS’s local guide on Somlo during his research for his book on Volcanic wines in 2014, the idea of developing this niche further started to form in me. In 2015 it crystallised into #govolcanic - a project collective name, also a summarising hashtag I invented. I started to develop a UK sales- project for the wines I have already been working with - extending the niche to my entire country - then hopefully next year to Central European Region also.

What kinds of styles of wines do you import?


The main governing factor is volcanic soil. Quality over quantity and uniqueness in terms of varietal, style, region is also a common characteristic across the portfolio. These latter criteria also allow for some wines not necessarily or strictly only from a volcanic vineyard of a predominantly volcanic region. These are sometimes to either contrast their lava-based fellow wines or to show a geological feature equally unique to the volcanic background. For example I have an Eger kékfrankos that is from a volcanic region but this particular wine is from a 100% limestone plot. I also have Raspi wines from Sopron from such a singular and unique schiss-based growing area that some wines from here; display more minerality than the most brutal lava-based ones.

Do you see a growing interest in London for volcanic wines?


Absolutely. People love it. The appeal is extremely and unusually wide, too. Finally a wine-niche that can interest the husband who is ready to try something unique after years of the same Chablis, the wife who is amazed by the visual scenery of these ancient extinct volcanoes and already plans her next family holiday there, and also the kids who are fascinated by the science behind the concept and can be kept entertained for hours with rock-samples alone. Also the over-hyped hospitality sector of London is desperate for new and unique ideas, tastes and hidden treasures. I can confidently say that - thanks to John’s book-launch timing also - #govolcanic is an absolute hit, in the right place, at the right time.

Why did you decide to focus on Hungarian volcanic wines?


I am from a volcano - pretty much predestines my inclination. Also, I am totally and utterly in love with Somlo and its wines - I literally feel sick if I have to be away too long from them. I believe with a passion that Somlo is one of the world’s most unique terroirs. Once you taste wines from this tiny, mere 400 hectares small hill, you will be able to pick them out from a 1000 others. The people, the view, the almost entirely indigenous grapewine population all adds to the magic of this place.

Do you plan to extend your portfolio to other volcanic wine regions ?


Yes. I plan to go over the border of current Hungary next year. My slogan already says : “..from the ancient vineyards of Old Hungary” - under old Hungary I mean the country of the Austro - Hungarian Empire and the centuries before, up until the end of WW I, when our country was broken up and shrunk to its current area.

For info about the UK based import company check out  https://www.witnessmountainwines.uk/
For info on the Hungarian wine shop click here http://somloi.hu/en/index/
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sapori Soavi: A Special Foodie Day in the City

Living in Soave, the small town in the Veneto region that makes some of the world's best white wines, I often come across festivals and events that are food or wine related.




While going for a coffee this morning I have seen a whole range of producers and artists in the main street (via Roma), and all offering interesting products to the tourists and locals alike for the local event "Sapori Soavi" (ie. meaning both pleasing flavours and taste of Soave, thus playing with the words). 

Cheese and wine are two of my favorite products and I could not resist to buy wines (a Recioto - the sweet wine- and a Soave) when I found the stand of the family Casarotto, which recently won an award for their Soave at the Merano Wine Festival.  I have met Celeste Casarotto in Merano indeed, and I was really moved by his passion for his job and his genuine and authentic character. 



At the cheese stand I have found a farm from the Lessinia area making outstanding cheese of different styles. I have tried the one whole milk and the one with rosemary, which was divine. Heated a little bit on a frying pan it gives its best. I really pleasant discovery, with the herbal character being a very good fit and not overpowering the flavor of the cheese itself.  I look forward trying it with the Soave wine by Casarotto.






Moving to the "artists' section" I have met really nice people working in traditional way and making hand-crafted objects that are no longer common nowadays. I am glad the traditions are being kept alive and hopefully the new generations will keep those running.





To sum up, today Soave was filled with good food and nice people. That's all you need to have a beautiful day really! 

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

An Indigenous Grape In Risk of Extinction: 10 Key Facts About the Saccola Grape Variety

A few days ago I have been harvesting the saccola grape in the Illasi valley, in the Veneto region, in a volcanic hillside area at 600 metres of altitude and discovered many things about this unique volcanic grape. Only a few plots of this grape are left and the Consortium Lessini Durello is involved in a project aimed at identifying and evaluating the potential of this rare grape variety. Let's have a look at 10 key facts about saccola:





1. It is an extremely rare red grape variety

2. Historically present in the Durello area

3. Climate: temperate humid climate with rather hot summers

4. Certain historical data regarding its origin date back to 800's

5. Terroir: hill and low mountains

6. Soils of volcanic origin

7. Taste profile: aromas of mulberry and raspberry

8. It has great ageing potential

9. Large and round grapes.

10. Nowadays vineyards are found sporadically and semi-abandoned




This grape can lead to long-lasting and very good wines, so it would be a shame if producers no longer invest on it. I know there are some drawbacks (i.e. productivity and manual labour). Indeed, harvesting this grape on steep slopes, I have noticed how hard it is to work the vineyards. Also, its low yield led many local producers in the past to rather focus on international varieties as merlot. However, being an important part of the local viticultural heritage, it is important to avoid its extinction and the work being carried out by the local community and the consortium is of vital importance. Hopefully in the next years we will see Saccola wines being appreciated and sold even outside the Veneto region.
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

#Harvest2017: Experiencing the Harvest in Soave and Sharing it on Instagram

Instagram is the social media par excellence dedicated to the sharing of multimedia material. Compared to all the others (Facebook, Snapchat etc.) it is the most used channel to express emotions and sensations with photos and videos of short duration.


Although the owner is the same as Facebook – the American billionaire Mark Zuckerberg – Instagram is different for the focus on the images, offering also the possibilities to share "stories", videos that remain online for 24 hours. From a personal experience, I can assure you that, thanks to Instagram, this year I was able to share the harvest in Soave and also the good moments often spent along my friend Fabien Laine (expert on Food & Wine videomaking). In fact, it was a unique experience, which allowed me to better understand how social media work.




With the help of a drone we went to the discovery of the hills of Soave and the valley where they make Durello. We tried some excellent Durello made with traditional method, nothing close to the cheap sparkling wine present in the supermarkets. 

The drone is actually a nice "toy", which has the advantage of exalting, at a glance, unique landscapes. But those who drive it must be careful not to lose sight of it because, otherwise, the cost of professional equipment is around 1000 euros and even beyond. 

This was my first harvest. I had a lot of fun, but at the same time I understood the hard work behind it: sweat, team spirit and a lot of passion. I could see and appreciate all this at the Mainente winery in the centre of Soave. Davide showed us the process of production of the Recioto di Soave, obtained by drying up the grapes. 



It was also exciting to visit the Gini winery, where the family management, the know-how acquired and the beauty of the old vineyards on a steep hillside are an exceptional combination. We tasted in the vineyards the "Vecchie Vigne 2014": an experience at 0 KM that has no price.  



The “Festa dell’Uva” (grapes’ feast) in the cities Soave and Monteforte-probably less known outside Veneto’s borders- are very engaging events during which experts examine with precision the quality of the grapes determining the winners of the harvest in progress. 


Un post condiviso da Giuseppe De Cesare (@foodtravelculture) in data:

Going back to the theme of social media, I must add that for a wine blogger the use of hashtags, the interest expressed by the followers for wine and the quality of the photos are the most important elements of the success of a post on Instagram. We must above all know how to convey the feelings of living a unique moment, like the harvest, which must be communicated in all its intrinsic beauty and vivacity. Through the images one can try to give an idea of what happens, but obviously my suggestion to everyone is to live it firsthand, just to "breathe" the wine, to use the words of the winemaker Luigi Moio.



Un post condiviso da Giuseppe De Cesare (@foodtravelculture) in data:

For example, a video published on Instagram and shot at the Cantina Fornaro, managed by the young Damiano-who showed the first winemaking processes- offers a clear and concrete idea of how wine is made. It is therefore very useful material also from an educational point of view. 






This harvest has not been easy: some producers have seen a loss of up to 40% of their harvest. Going around the Soave vineyards, I have understood the difficulties that producers must constantly face, including the problems of constant drought and frost, which cause major losses. So, while in some areas the grapes were perfect, in other vineyards nearby there were few grapes and of low quality, mainly because of the drought. At Cantina Del Castello, where I actually did the harvest and were I was welcomed by a wonderful staff, they were lucky enough to have among the best grapes of this year. Excellent quality, despite the difficult year. 

In volcanic territories of higher altitudes, such as that of Sandro De Bruno, the frost was devastating. During a visit to his vineyards, held with other members of the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS), I understood how much passion there is behind the work of the producers and how difficult vintages like this are dealt with so much sacrifice and hard work to preserve quality. Fortunately, we still have many producers that, like Sandro, make volcanic wines of high quality. Wines that are savory, fresh and mineral. Definitely, they are in my top 5 of volcanic wines!


Cheers to all of you and, in particular to the producers of Soave. In the next post I will talk about Saccola, an indigenous grape variety from the Veneto region which I have been harvesting in the last few days!
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#Harvest2017: A Soave Esperienze di una Vendemmia Condivisa su Instagram


Instagram e’ il social media per eccellenza dedicato alla condivisione di materiale multimediale. Rispetto a tutti gli altri ( facebook, snapchat etc.) e' il canale piu' usato per esprimere emozioni e sensazioni con foto e video di breve durata. Sebbene il proprietario sia lo stesso di Facebook – il miliardario americano Mark Zuckenberg – Instagram si differenzia per il focus sulle immagini offrendo in piu’ la possibilita’ di inserire le “stories”, video che rimangono online per 24 ore. A livello di esperienza personale posso assicurare che, proprio grazie a Instagram, quest'anno ho potuto condividere appieno la vendemmia a Soave e anche i bei momenti trascorsi in compagnia dell' amico Fabien Laine (esperto di videomaking sul food & wine). In effetti e' stata un'esperienza unica, che mi ha permesso di capire meglio come funzionano i social media. 






Con l'aiuto di un drone siamo andati alla scoperta delle colline del Soave e della zona del Durello. Quest'ultima produce, in particolare, un ottimo spumante con metodo tradizionale, da non confondere con alcune bottiglie a prezzi "stracciati" presenti nei supermercati. Il drone e’ in realta'un bel “giocattolo”, che ha il vantaggio di esaltare, in un colpo d'occhio, paesaggi unici. Ma chi lo guida deve fare attenzione a non perderlo mai di vista poiche’, in caso contrario, il costo di apparecchi professionali si aggira sui 1000 euro e oltre. 

Questa e' stata la mia prima vendemmia. Mi sono divertito molto, ma allo stesso tempo ho capito bene il lavoro duro che c’e’ dietro: sudore, spirito di squadra e tanta passione. Ho potuto vedere e apprezzare tutto questo alla cantina Mainente che ci ha ospitato. Davide ci ha mostrato il processo di produzione del Recioto di Soave, ottenuto con l’appassimento delle uve.






Entusiasmante e' stata anche la visita alla cantina Gini, dove la gestione familiare, il know-how acquisito e lo spettacolo delle vecchie vigne in forte pendnza collinare rappresentano un connubio eccezionale. Proprio tra i vigneti abbiamo degustato il “Vecchie Vigne 2014”: un'esperienza a "Km 0" che non ha prezzo. 






Le feste dell’uva di Soave e Monteforte - probabilmente meno conosciute al di fuori dei confini veneti - sono manifestazioni molto coinvolgenti nelle quali esperti viticoltori esaminano con perizia la qualita’ delle uve determinando i vincitori della vendemmia in corso. 



Un post condiviso da Giuseppe De Cesare (@foodtravelculture) in data:

Tornando al tema dei social media, devo aggiungere che per un wine blogger l’uso degli hashtags, l’interesse espresso dai followers per il vino e la qualita’ delle foto costituiscono gli elementi piu’ importanti della buona riuscita di una condivisione su Instagram. Bisogna soprattutto saper trasmettere la sensazione di vivere un momento assolutamente unico, come la vendemmia, che va comunicata in tutta la sua intrinseca bellezza e vivacita’. Attraverso le immagini si puo’ tentare di dare un’idea di cio’ che accade, ma ovviamente l’invito da fare a tutti e’ di viverla in prima persona, proprio per “respirare” il vino, per usare le parole dell'enologo Luigi Moio. 




Ad esempio, un video pubblicato su Instagram e girato presso la cantina Fornaro, gestita dal giovane Damiano -che ha mostrato i primi processi di vinificazione – offre un' idea chiara e concreta di come si fa il vino. Si tratta quindi di materiale molto utile anche da un punto di vista didattico.





Questa vendemmia non e’ stata facile: alcuni produttori hanno visto perdere anche il 40% del loro raccolto. Facendo un giro per i vigneti di Soave ho capito le difficoltà che i produttori devono costantemente affrontare, inclusi i problemi legati a costante siccita’ e gelate, che causano grosse perdite. Cosi' mentre in alcune zone le uve erano perfette, in altre vigne poco distanti si producevano poche uve e di bassa qualita’, soprattutto a causa della siccita’. Presso la Cantina Del Castello, dove ho fatto la vendemmia e dove sono stato accolto da un staff davvero formidabile, sono stati fortunati perche' hanno avuto tra le migliori uve di quest'anno. Qualita' eccellente, infatti, nonostante un'annata difficile.    

In territori vulcanici di piu' alta quota, come quello di Sandro De Bruno, sono state le gelate ad essere devastanti. Durante la visita nei suoi vigneti, svoltasi con altri membri dell’associazione italiana sommelier (AIS), ho capito quanta passione c’e’ dietro il lavoro dei produttori e come annate difficili come questa vengano affrontate con tanto sacrificio e la volonta’ di preservare sempre la qualita'. Per fortuna abbiamo ancora tanti viticultori che, come lui, producono vini vulcanici di elevata qualita’ e grande bevibilita’. Vini che rimangono sapidi, freschi e minerali: sicuramente nella mia top 5 di volcanic wines! 




Salute a tutti e voi e, in particolare ai produttori di Soave!

P.S. Nel prossimo post parlero' invece della Saccola, vitigno autoctono del Veneto che ho raccolto proprio qualche giorno fa!
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Soave Preview Part II: Minerality and Volcanic Wines

As you might recall, one of my previous posts has been about a tasting that happened at the Soave Preview from the 18th to the 20th of May. During this event, journalists and wine experts from around the world gathered to try the latest vintage of Soave and debated different issues. This year two of the main topics were volcanic wines and the concept of minerality, discussed by a panel led by international wine experts such as winemaker Salvo Foti, journalist Alessandro Brizi and Master Sommelier John Szabo.

The Volcanic Wine Tasting at the Soave Preview


It is clear that volcanic wines and minerality are now two recurring trends in the wine industry, so some companies are trying to find new ways to express minerality in the glass. In this regard, chemistry and technology could help to give mineral sensations. However, it all starts in the vineyards and they cannot be merely done in a lab with any grape.


The volcanic wines tasted during the panel offered exactly the feelings expressed by Salvo Foti. For example, in a white wine from Canary Islands, the Listan Blanco of Bodega Suertes Del Marques, one could find some of the highest expressions of minerality.

Panayiota Kalogeropoulou (export sales and hospitality director of Sigalas winery in Santorini) said that volcanic wines share 'energy'. Actually, this is a recurring theme on the Internet. Winemakers, it appears, are also very energetic and excited about making wines on a volcano.



Popocatepetl, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave.



During the event, it has been often pointed out that the term minerality is often misused to describe wines that are not particularly good nor with particular characteristics. However, the definition that I like most about mineral wines is the one offered by Etna’s winemaker Salvo Foti, who notes that minerality is the feeling obtained when acidity and sapidity get together. Try a small slice of green lemon and then put some salt in the mouth. That’s a clear feeling of minerality. It is a pleasant sensation that is long lasting, not too sweet nor acidic.

Salvo Foti introduced another interesting point: "Before minerality comes humanity". Indeed, the human element is fundamental to consider when analyzing the quality of a wine, without forgetting that wine is a man-made product and also a cultural one. Szabo, instead, said there are some scientific elements related to minerality and that it is hard to find studies on the topic, especially because they are expensive and hard to conduct.



Volcano with lava flowing. Photo courtesy of Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave


In conclusion, mineral wines exist and play an important role in the world of oenology. Some of the best are definitely made in volcanic soil. Now it's time to use a common vocabulary for this often misunderstood word. I would suggest starting from Salvo Foti’s mentioned simple and clear definition.




P.S. Check out the video below featuring Panayiota Kalogeropoulou's speech at the Soave Preview!




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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Volcanic Interview #4: Thomas Grundmann of Co-op PicoWines, Azores

Thomas Grundmann is the Coordenador-geral of Co-op Pico Wines, the largest wine producer in the Azores. He is managing both the day-to-day business and winemaking processes. In this interview, he tells us all about the fascinating history of Azores wines, Pico Wines, export and much more...



When did viticulture start in the Azores?

Viticulture started here on the Azores ca. 500 years ago, middle of 15th century with vines brought in by monks from South Italy and Greece. It was the time of the little ice age in Europe and people were looking for new regions for growing vines.


What are the main grape varieties and trellis systems?

Due to the remote situation of the Azores quite some indigenous varieties developed: on the white side we are growing nowadays mainly Arinto dos Açores, Verdelho, and Terrantez do Pico – genetically different from the varieties with the same name on the continent or in the case of Verdelho, thought as originated from the Azores and found all over the world now. Black grapes are mainly Merlot and Syrah, to a lesser extend indigenous Saborinho and Cabernets. There is hardly any trellising as such, most vines growing in a traditional style as bush vines, protected in little stone squares (“currais”) of 10-20m2 surrounded by walls of 1-1.5m of lava stones. Being exposed to a maritime climate, really strong winds and rain showers are a permanent threat to the viticulture here.




Were the fortified wines of the Azores widely exported overseas like Madeira wines back in the 17th century?

Fortified, liquor wines – and its erroneous to call them sweet wines, they can be everything from very dry to sweet, from 4g/l to 120g/l of (residual) sugar – were exported as far as USA, Canada, London, Hamburg, St. Petersburg. Export routes followed Madeira wines or fortified Sicilian wines, indeed they were sold quite often as Madeira wines.




How did phyloxera change viticulture in the islands?

Phylloxera (and a bit earlier powdery and downy mildew) hit the islands hardest by ca. 1860-70, earlier than in other European regions, and rapidly decreased yields. Vineyards were abandoned, and some tried to save a bit with American hybrids, like anywhere in Europe. Unlike anywhere in Europe, these hybrids play until today an important role in our viti- and viniculture. Since 1950 large efforts were undertaken to recover and replace abandoned vineyards with noble and indigenous varieties, red and white.



How do the volcanic Terroir and the climate influence the wines?

The Azores are mainly a cool climate region, dominated by a maritime climate and vines growing mainly on and in rocks (basaltic lava). Wines are influenced in a way that they can be characterized by their salinity and minerality, high acidity, and fine floral and/or fruity flavours.

What is altitude of the highest vineyards in the Azores?

Most vineyards are situated starting directly at the coast line in a strip of up ca. 500m from it. Altitude isn’t really given, 5-150m max.




When was PicoWines founded and how did it change since its inception?

The Coop-Picowines was founded in 1949. Initially producing the once famous liqueur/fortified wines, over decades still table wine got much more important. Nowadays 90% of our wines are table wines, of them 70% whites. Starting from 8 members in 1949, we are counting now 250 members, and still growing. Lots of EU and government funding went and is still going into the local viticulture, attracting more and more people and their investments. Picowines was and is the by far largest producer and plays a most significant role in the Azorean wine world. New products are arising, like our PetNats, traditional sparkling wine, and improved reds and fortified wines.




How much Azores wine is exported and what are the main export markets?

Exports were low the last decades as all wine can get sold locally due to raising tourist figures. Since two years now we try to internationalize in Central Europe (wines available via www.compiri.com), Scandinavia (via www.nbgroup.no/momentum-wines.270422.no.html), USA (via www.jmoniz.com) and Canada. Our exports should be this year around 20%. Our goal is it to achieve a healthy mix of one-third in local, export and direct tourist sales.


#volcanicwines #volcanicinterviews

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Azienda Agricola Sassotondo: A Volcanic Gem in Tuscany

"Tell me in a world without pity 
Do you think I my askin's too much 
I just want something to hold on to 
and a little of that human touch 
just a little of that human touch"

-Bruce Springsteen, Human Touch


We arrive in Sovana, near Pitigliano, Tuscany's best volcanic wine area. The path to the Sassotondo cellar seems more difficult than expected. Luckily, Edoardo told us beforehand patiently the way, by phone. Even the GPS seems to get lost in this volcanic corner of the world. The entrance is beautiful and scenographic ... I would say very beautiful, yet simple.

There is a large sign: Sassotondo. All around, perhaps with an intentional and subtle message, you see only stones. I then found out that the name of the company comes from a large round stone on which Edoardo's daughter used to play, as a child.




As soon as we get out the car, a dog barks at us. You notice that he does it just for duty. It is clear that he's nice and welcoming. Edoardo calls him to the order and leads us straight into the underground cellar: a spectacular tufo cave. Here the temperature, in contrast to the outside heat, is perfect for refining the wines. It is impressive to observe and imagine - thanks to Edoardo's explanations - the geological effects that various eruptions have had along the walls of the cellar.






Edoardo Ventimiglia moved to Sovana in the 90s together with his wife, Carla Benini, an agronomist from Trentino. It was an important life choice for both of them. Carla was a business consultant while Edoardo followed the footsteps of his grandfather, Hitchcock's first cameraman, in Rome. Their decision was to leave everything behind to start an exciting (and at that time still pioneering) wine project, what would then become the current Sassotondo winery and farm. Thanks to the entrepreneurial tenacity of Carla and Edoardo, today we can appreciate Pitigliano wines (an appellation not always up to its potential) that best reflect this volcanic terroir.

The original idea, since 1994, has been to produce top-quality organic wines and, since 2007, also following biodynamic principles.

In a nutshell, the winery has the utmost respect for the environment with a small production from 12 hectares of vineyards. Authentic wines, made by independent vintners.






Edoardo mainly deals with business activities of the winery. He told us about his recent experience at the Orange Wine Festival in Slovenia, during which his orange wine was a great success. Small wonder, given the high quality of the wines.
After the visit to the wine cellar - where we also see a great amphora to refine the Ciliegiolo - we head to the tasting room.






In my opinion, the wines of Sassotondo represent the perfect concise definition of the "vins du terroir". They feature high minerality, concentration and structure: characteristics that only a volcanic terroir can offer. Thanks to a production philosophy of "minimal intervention" - that is to say, attentive agronomic care in the vineyard, minimal winery interventions, marginal use of sulfur and strictly handmade harvest - the wines are truly unique. It rarely happens, as in this case, not to spit the wine during the tasting.





Ciliegiolo has hints of cherry and plum, but also nuances of black berry fruits, such as blackberry. Smooth and fresh in the mouth, it's really a pleasant wine. The rosé, which has an excellent quality / price, stands out for its freshness and sapidity. The white Isolina -made up mostly of Trebbiano, with some Greco and Sauvignon - remains my favorite. Long persistence, mineral and complex, with notes of menthol, sage, yellow peach and citrus. Really excellent.





After the tasting we meet Carla, who greets us warmly. She was in the fields. There is always work there. The activities that Carla and Edoardo carry with the support of the oenologist Attilio Pagli - a key figure in Tuscan enology - is really noteworthy.

I therefore invite you to discover this volcanic gem of Pitigliano closely, where the human touch - to say it using Springsteen's words - really has high value and overtakes everything else.

Only in this way will you be able to understand and appreciate the work behind these excellent wines. Get ready for your trip: it's worth it!
Maybe - once you arrive in front of the great sign "Sassotondo" - listen to Springsteen's words reminding you of my tasting review of the Isolina 2016.

Have a good trip and enjoy the tasting!











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Azienda Agricola Sassotondo: Una Gemma Vulcanica in Toscana

"Tell me in a world without pity 
Do you think I my askin's too much 
I just want something to hold on to 
and a little of that human touch 
just a little of that human touch"

"Dimmi, in un mondo senza pietà 
pensi che sia troppo quello che chiedo? 
Voglio solamente qualcosa a cui aggrapparmi 
e un po’ di quel tocco umano 
solo un po’ di quel tocco umano"

-Bruce Springsteen, Human Touch


Arriviamo a Sovana, nei pressi di Pitigliano, la zona vulcanica toscana per eccellenza. Il percorso per la cantina Sassotondo sembra piu' difficile del previsto. Per fortuna, Edoardo ci aveva spiegato con pazienza, via cellulare, la strada. Anche il GPS sembra perdersi in questo angolo vulcanico del mondo.


Bello e scenografico l'ingresso...Aggiungerei bellissimo perche' e' senza fronzoli.

Campeggia una grande scritta : Sassotondo. Intorno, forse con un voluto e sottile gioco di sottointesi, solo sassi. Scopriro' poi che il nome dell'azienda deriva proprio da un grande sasso tondo su cui giocava, da piccola, la figlia di Edoardo.




Appena usciamo dalla macchina un cane ci abbaia. Si vede che lo fa solo per dovere d'ufficio. Si intuisce che il "quattrozampe" e' simpatico e accogliente. Edoardo lo richiama all'ordine e ci conduce subito nella cantina sotteranea : una spettacolare cava di tufo. Qui la temperatura, in contrasto con la calura esterna, e' perfetta per affinare i vini. E' impressionante constatare e ricostruire - grazie alle spiegazioni di Edoardo - gli effetti geologici che le varie eruzioni hanno avuto lungo le mura della cantina.

Edoardo Ventimiglia si e' trasferito a Sovana negli anni '90 insieme alla moglie Carla Benini, agronoma trentina. Per entrambi e' stata una scelta di vita importante. Carla era consulente aziendale mentre Edoardo a Roma seguiva le orme del nonno, primo cameraman di Hitchcock. La decisione finale e' stata di lasciare tutto per seguire un appassionante (e all'epoca ancora pioneristico) progetto vitivinicolo. Cio' che sarebbe poi diventata l'attuale azienda vitivinicola ed agricola Sassotondo.

Grazie alla tenacia imprenditoriale di Carla ed Edoardo, oggi possiamo apprezzare vini di Pitigliano (una denominazione non sempre all'altezza del suo potenziale) che rispecchiano al meglio questo terroir vulcanico. L'idea originaria, fin dal 1994, e' stata quella di produrre vini di qualita' a conduzione biologica e, dal 2007, anche seguendo principi biodinamici.

In sostanza, si tende al massimo rispetto per l'ambiente con una piccola produzione proveniente dai 12 ettari di vigneti. Vini autentici, fatti da vignaioli indipendenti.



Edoardo si occupa prevalentemente della parte commerciale. Ci ha raccontato della sua recente esperienza all'Orange Wine Festival in Slovenia, durante il quale i suoi "orange" sono andati letteralmente a ruba. Non ci meraviglia - in effetti - data l'elevata qualita' dei vini.
Finita la visita alla "wine cellar" - dove vediamo in bella mostra anche una grande anfora per affinare il Ciliegiolo - ci dirigiamo verso la sala degustazione.



Secondo me, i vini di Sassotondo rappresentano la definizione perfetta e - se volete didascalica - dei "vins du terroir". Sono infatti dotati di grande mineralita', concentrazione e struttura: qualita' che solo un terroir vulcanico puo' offrire. Grazie a una filosofia produttiva che gli inglesi amano definire di "minimal intervention" - vale a dire attenta cura agronomica in vigna, minimi interventi in cantina,  utilizzo marginale di solforosa e vendemmia rigorosamente a mano - si degustano vini davvero unici. Raramente capita, come in questo caso, di non espellere il vino durante la degustazione.




Il Ciliegiolo ha sentori di ciliegia e susina, ma anche sfumature di frutti a bacca nera, come la mora. Morbido e fresco in bocca, e' di gradevole beva. Il rosato che, tra l'altro, ha un ottimo rapporto qualita'/prezzo, stupisce per freschezza e sapidita'. Il bianco Isolina - base Trebbiano, con parte di Greco e Sauvignon - rimane tuttavia il mio favorito. Lunga persistenza, minerale e complesso, con note di mentolo, salvia, pesca gialla e limone. Davvero eccellente.





Finita la degustazione incontriamo Carla, che ci saluta cordialmente. Era tra i campi. Li' il lavoro non manca mai. L'attività che Carla ed Edoardo svolgono con il supporto dell'amico enologo Attilio Pagli - figura fondamentale nell'enologia toscana - e' davvero degna di nota.

Vi invito, dunque, a scoprire da vicino questa gemma vulcanica di Pitigliano, dove il tocco umano - "human touch" per dirla con Springsteen - prende davvero valore e il sopravvento su tutto il resto.

Solo così si potrà capire e apprezzare il lavoro che sta dietro a questi vini di pregio.
Preparatevi al viaggio: ne vale la pena!
Magari - arrivati davanti alla grande scritta "Sassotondo" - ascoltate i versi e la musica di Springsteen ricordandovi della mia recensione dell'Isolina 2016.

Buon viaggio e buona degustazione!













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